The Project Gutenberg eBook of Heart of Oak, vol. 3, by William Clark Russell
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Title: Heart of Oak, vol. 3
A Three-Stranded Yarn
Author: William Clark Russell
Release Date: June 18, 2020 [eBook #62419]
[Most recently updated: April 16, 2021]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.

Title page

New books















XX.   Startling News 1
XXI.   Mr. Moore sails 27
XXII.   The Photographs 50
XXIII.   The Ship seen on the Ice 76
XXIV.   The Brig 'Albatross' 100
XXV.   At Sea again 128
XXVI.   The Ice 159
XXVII.   Coronation Island 185
XXVIII.   Mr. Moore ends his Story 217

[Pg 1]



Sir Mortimer received the news of the loss of the ship whilst he was in Paris. He had sent his foreign address to the office in the Minories, always hoping to hear from, or of, his daughter, and Mr. Butcher wrote to him, unknown to me, and perhaps to Mr. Hobbs.

He at once came to London: he arrived in the afternoon. The bank was closed and he drove to my rooms, where he found me. He was very pale and looked ill, but whether he had disciplined his mind during his journey, or was a person of more fortitude than I had[Pg 2] imagined, his behaviour was almost calm compared to what I had expected to find it on our first meeting.

'When we surrendered her,' were almost his first words after holding me by the hand and struggling as though with his tears, 'I had a feeling we should never again meet. I ought not to have permitted her to take so long a voyage. She was too delicate, her health was too poor, she was too used to have comforts'—he could not proceed for some moments. He then said, 'She was my only child. I am now alone in the world,' and, casting himself into a chair, he hid his face and gave way.

'I will not believe there is no hope,' I exclaimed, and, sitting down beside him, I repeated all that I had gathered from my talk with the boatswain Wall, with whom I had conversed for above a couple of hours on the previous day, having brought him to the bank by a letter and taken him into a private[Pg 3] room, where, with my father, I had closely questioned him, getting all that his experiences as an old seaman could reveal of the chances a shipwrecked company had in those seas where Marie had been abandoned.

Sir Mortimer listened to me with passionate interest, dwelling upon every syllable, catching me up if he did not clearly understand. Sometimes his eyes brightened, as with a little struggle of hope, but often he shook his head.

'Consider,' he exclaimed, 'the "Lady Emma" was dismasted July 2.' (I had all necessary notes of dates and the like in my note-book.) 'The crew left her on the fourth. This is October 5; you cannot believe that the helpless hull has continued to float in such frightful seas as run off Cape Horn all this while.'

'I don't say so. I don't dream it. God forbid, indeed; for that would put an end to all chance of our ever seeing Marie again.[Pg 4] But may we not believe that she was fallen in with long ago?'

'Why have we not heard? There has been time!'

'No. Suppose the vessel that rescued them was proceeding to Australia. We might need another three months to hear.'

'Oh, but think!' he exclaimed, 'a dismasted hull, utterly helpless; the horrors and perils of ice close to, a wild sea continually running—she has not the strength to meet such sufferings; they will have broken her poor heart. Oh! Archie, she has been taken! She is dead! We shall never see her again.'

He had made up his mind to this, and I daresay his comparative calmness rose from his resolution to accept the worst at once. Though he knew little or nothing about the sea, he could not listen to my version of Wall's story without regarding the wreck of the 'Lady Emma' as hopelessly complete as any in the maritime records. He said that the[Pg 5] mere circumstance of the 'Planter' cruising and finding nothing was of itself a death-blow to hope.

'And what is there to hope for?' he exclaimed, rising and moving about the room with something of feebleness. 'We are to wait; but for what? This sort of waiting in grief breaks down the intellect—the mourner goes mad. In my youth I knew a woman whose only son had been drowned in a shipwreck. She would not believe it; she hoped on; and ten years after his death saw her on the beach with her eyes fixed upon the sea, gazing, with a joyous welcoming face, at the apparition of her child whom, in her craziness, she beheld approaching her in a boat. Oh no!' he cried with a sudden, most moving, passionate wringing of his hands, 'Marie has perished; she is lost to us! Why did not the good God hinder me from sending her away? They told me that nothing could save her life but a voyage, and[Pg 6] I, who would have given my life for her, despatched her to her death!'

I could not bear this, for I, too, was heartbroken. I grasped him by the hands, and then he became silent, after looking in my face.

But still, as I have said, his behaviour throughout this meeting with me, even when the first horror and shock of the news was renewed to us both by this our first meeting, was calmer than I had expected. He stayed in London that night, and next day accompanied me to the City, where he had an interview with Mr. Butcher. We then drove to a street out of the West India Dock Road, where Wall lodged.

The substance of Mr. Butcher's talk was that ships homeward bound from the Australias frequently touched the latitude the hull had been left in; there was, therefore, reason to hope that Captain Burke and the ladies had been rescued by one of the many vessels[Pg 7] which every year were navigating those seas. He said he had spoken to several captains of experience on the subject, also two or three underwriters of long standing, and on the whole their opinion was, Burke and his companions would be preserved.

Wall had nothing to add—no further conjectures to offer. He went very fully into the story of the dismasting of the vessel and her abandonment, and answered with intelligence the questions Sir Mortimer put to him about Marie, how she looked, if she had picked up, if he (Wall) considered she was strong enough to outlive the horrors and sufferings of her situation, supposing the hull to be encountered within a reasonable time—say a week—from the date of the men's quitting her.

Sir Mortimer went to his home by the seaside next day. I promised to visit him on the following Saturday, but fretting had done its work—I was too ill to travel. I was [Pg 8]ceaselessly haunted by the vision of the hull, white with snow, brilliant with ice, clouded with the foam of beating seas, wearily rolling with my dear one, with my Marie, alone in her. Somehow I could not think of her as associated with the Burkes. She was the one, the solitary, figure in the gloomy interior of that tempest-tossed fabric, as I witnessed the vision awake and in my dreams. I was aware that Mrs. Burke had been a most devoted servant, a faithful and honest nurse and friend to Marie, but I had got it into my head that her husband had lost his reason, which would drain his wife's sympathies from my sweetheart; and then, again, realising the misery of a time spent in such a hulk, under such circumstances, I could not suppose that poor Mrs. Burke would in her distraction take heed of more outside her husband than the doom that every hour brought closer.

So the vision of that wreck was always present to the eye of imagination, waking or[Pg 9] sleeping, with one figure only in the maimed and beaten fabric.

On the morning of October 20, I went to the bank, having resumed work there two days before. My father had not arrived. I went into my private room and sat down with a heart of loathing at sight of a pile of letters which it would be my business to read and deal with.

I had hardly broken the first envelope when a clerk entered and said that a Mr. Norman, an old customer of the bank, wished to see me. I supposed he had called on business, and after reading the letter I held, I opened the glass door and bade Mr. Norman step in.

He was a merchant doing business with Natal and Cape Colony. He at once said, without offering to sit:

'I have not called on business, Mr. Moore. I heard of your trouble, and grieve to find it but too visible in your face. This morning I[Pg 10] received a batch of South African newspapers, and met with an account, which—I don't know, I'm sure—it may be ill-advised on my part——' He broke off, and his hand went nervously to his side pocket.

I looked at him inquiringly, wondering what his Colonial newspaper account was about.

'I think,' said he, his hand still nervously twitching at his breast-pocket, 'that where sorrow is speculative the sooner expectation is ended, one way or the other, the better. This may signify nothing'—and now he produced a newspaper—'and yet it may tell everything.'

He was proceeding; I extended my arm abruptly, feeling a sickness at heart, for now imagination leaped to the very height of fear—I believed I was to read something which would prove that Marie and her companions had perished.

But Mr. Norman must needs open the[Pg 11] paper himself; and, in order to find the passage, he required to put on his glasses. The piece of intelligence in the journal ran thus:—

'Cape Town, August 10. Arrival of the schooner "Emerald." A strange discovery! Romantic action on the part of the captain! The three-masted schooner "Emerald" arrived yesterday from the west coast of South America. When in lat. 58° S., long. 48° W., the body of a female was seen floating upon the water. Its appearance was so lifelike that, the weather at the time being quiet, the captain ordered a boat to be lowered, and the body was brought on board. The master (Goldsmith), on inspecting the corpse, was convinced by its appearance that it was the remains of the wife of a friend of his. She had been bound round the Horn to join her husband at Monte Video. Feeling persuaded of this he caused the body to be placed in a cask of spirits, with a view to carrying it to[Pg 12] Cape Town, his first port of call, that it might have decent Christian interment; also that the husband should, if his wife did actually prove to be missing, be able to procure the exhumation of the corpse for identification.

'The body is described as that of one who in life must have been singularly prepossessing and genteel in appearance; the hair is of a dark amber or gold, the eyes of a light blue or grey, height about 5 ft. 6 in., of a figure that had apparently been full of grace and beauty. No rings were on the hands. Captain Goldsmith conjectures that the rings, including the wedding ring, slipped off the fingers through shrinkage of the flesh by immersion. Owing to the condition of the body, it has been found impossible to form an opinion as to the length of time it was in the water; it is judged, however, from the appearance of the clothes, which were in a fair state of preservation, that the period could not have exceeded three days. The[Pg 13] body was attired in a thick serge dress, and a warm jacket, trimmed with a rich fur, of which but a little remained. One garment only was marked: namely, with the letter O, which Captain Goldsmith believes stands for Ollier, his friend's name. The remains will be buried to-day. A romantic mystery nevertheless survives, and it remains to be seen whether Captain Goldsmith is right in his conjectures as to the identity of the poor nameless remains of one who in life must have been "exceeding fair," found floating far south of the stormiest headland in the world.'

I read this very slowly, and when I had come to the last word I read it all over again. Mr. Norman's eyes were fixed upon my face. I fell into deep thought, and was silent for many minutes, with my gaze rooted upon the paper. I then pulled out my pocket-book, in which I carried the memoranda I had collected from Mr. Butcher and Wall, and compared[Pg 14] the date of the dismasting of the 'Lady Emma' with the date of the discovery of the body. The 'Lady Emma' was dismasted July 2, the body was seen and picked up on July 10; the situation of the 'Lady Emma' when the crew abandoned her, according to the 'Planter's' log-book, was lat. 58° 45´ S. and long. 45° 10´ W.; the body was picked up in lat. 58° S. long. 48° W.; the minutes and seconds, if any there were, were probably omitted in the newspaper report, or Captain Goldsmith may have given the situation in round numbers.

Be this as it may, there could be a difference of but a very few miles between the spot where the body was found, and the spot where the hull was deserted by the sailors.

'It is extraordinary!' I exclaimed, fetching a deep breath.

'I hope it may not prove conclusive news,' said Mr. Norman. 'But if the body brought to Cape Town be that of the poor young lady, the fact ought to be known to you if only to[Pg 15] spare you from the heart-sickness of deferred hope.'

'Dates and places correspond,' I exclaimed. 'The description is true. She had dark amber hair. Her height might be as it is here stated.'

'And then there is the letter O,' said Mr. Norman, observing that I paused.

'How am I to find out if among the clothes she took were such a dress and jacket as the body was found clothed in?'

At this moment my father entered. He immediately observed that I was deeply agitated, and glanced from me to Mr. Norman. The latter bowed, then turned to me and, begging me to keep the newspaper, and to command his services in any direction in which I could render them profitable, withdrew.

I handed the paper to my father, who read the account with a face of astonishment and dismay.

'Is it credible?' he cried. 'Is it a hoax, d'ee think? Or some story vamped up, for—for—? [Pg 16]But,' he cried, turning his glasses again upon the paper, 'they name the ship and her captain, they give dates, they say that the body was to be buried on that day,' looking at the date of issue. 'Is it conceivable that a body would float, apparelled as this woman's was?'

'If the story is no lie, then a body thus apparelled was found floating,' I answered.

'You had better send the paper at once to Sir Mortimer,' said my father.

'I'll run down with it, but first I'll see Mr. Butcher and Wall. How am I to find out if Marie had a serge dress and that sort of jacket?' I reflected, and then said, 'Father, I must have the whole day, I cannot work, I wish to satisfy myself by some inquiries before seeing Sir Mortimer, and then I may resolve to go to the Cape.'

He gazed at me with mild astonishment, then put his hand caressingly on my shoulder, and told me I should go where I pleased and[Pg 17] do what I liked; he advised me, however, not to act precipitately; the Cape was a long way off! What good could I do there, even supposing the body brought to Cape Town by the schooner should prove to be Marie?'

'What good? I must know; I must make sure! Supposing it is Marie—but it might be another.'

'The body is buried.'

'Yes; but I would get an order for its exhumation. It was buried with a view to disinterment should the man whose wife was to join him at Monte Video arrive in Cape Town.'

I had heard Mrs. Burke talk of some of the shops Marie had completed her outfit at. Her old nurse had herself attended her in most of her shopping excursions before the sailing of the ship, and after exchanging a few further sentences with my father, I left the bank, called a cab, and was driven to a dressmaker's near Cavendish Square.

[Pg 18]

Here, however, I could not learn that Marie had ordered a serge dress; but on inquiring at a shop in Regent Street, I discovered, with much pains—they were very busy and very slow—that Miss Otway had, on a day towards the close of March, purchased a jacket trimmed with fur; the fur was described; and certainly the 'garment,' as the shopman called it, corresponded with the brief description of the jacket that had been found on the body of the woman.

I could recollect no other shops; but hoped that Sir Mortimer might be able to tell me if a serge gown had been included in Marie's outfit. This should have been, and no doubt was, known to Marie's maid. But the girl, on the departure of Miss Otway, had gone, I had some recollection of hearing, with a family to Germany.

In this same day I drove to the offices of Messrs. Butcher and Hobbs, and had scarcely entered the place when Wall came in, greatly[Pg 19] to my satisfaction, as I particularly desired his opinion. Both partners were present, and on my showing them the Cape newspaper they called Wall to us and we thoroughly talked the matter over. To the seaman, who was somewhat illiterate, I read and re-read the newspaper account.

'It's wonderful!' he exclaimed. 'Most sartinly it answers to the young lady. I've heered of females lying afloat like that. 'Taint so long ago that a woman was picked up alive arter washing about for thirty-six hours on her back.'

'But how can the body be Miss Otway's?' said Mr. Butcher, 'if the master of a schooner recognises it as a Mrs. Ollier's?'

'The coincidence would be quite too extraordinary,' said Mr. Hobbs. 'Mr. Moore,' he added, with one of his depressing bows, 'it would give me far more pleasure to take a cheerful view; but consider—the body of a lady is found floating much about the place[Pg 20] where the hull was abandoned; the description, as I understand, answers to that of Miss Otway'—he said no more, but buried his hands in his pockets with a very gloomy shake of the head.

Mr. Butcher, however, inclined to the belief that the body was the person's the schooner's skipper took it to be. He wished to believe Miss Otway alive; he was by no means for despairing; whilst they were talking of this body, Miss Otway might be actually on her way home. What did Wall think?

The honest seaman faltered; he saw that Mr. Butcher wished to cheer me up, but there could be no doubt he was of Mr. Hobbs's mind. They were all three agreed, however, that it was a puzzling, most wonderful thing.

'There's nothen for Mr. Moore to do,' said Wall, who, having been admitted into this council, considered himself at liberty to talk out, perhaps thinking he was expected to do so. 'Let him give the lady's portrait to some[Pg 21] respectable man who'll go by steam, afore it's too late, and view the body and settle it.'

'To whose satisfaction?' inquired Mr Butcher, looking at me.

'Not to mine,' I exclaimed. 'I must decide with my own eyes.'

'In them warmer climates,' said Wall, 'ye've got to bear a hand in jobs of that sort.'

Mr. Hobbs admonished the man with a frown.

'Surely, Mr. Moore,' exclaimed Mr. Butcher, 'you would be able to identify the young lady by the wearing apparel they removed, and are, of course, preserving at Cape Town?'

I told him I had ascertained that morning that a jacket answering to the one found on the body had been sold to Miss Otway.

He looked very grave at this, and I saw Mr. Hobbs exchange a glance with the seaman. Soon after this I thanked them for their sympathy and patience, and took my[Pg 22] leave. I could think of nothing but the story of the body found at sea, and next morning went by an early train to the little seaside town where Sir Mortimer lived. As I drove from the station I passed by the ravine down which Marie and I had gone for a stroll upon the long, hard platform of sands one afternoon in the keen grey month that preceded the April she sailed in. It was October now—six months later; what had happened between? The blue sea ran up to the sky in a trembling, silken slope streaked with long gleams. I remembered how Marie had checked me in our walk to look at a passing sail, and how together we had watched the glimmering white square of her fade like mist in the evening gloom. Many gulls wheeled over the water. I saw them flying past the edge of the cliff, and remembered how Marie had paused and looked up to admire the marvellous grace of the windward flight of the birds then on the wing—perhaps those I now caught a[Pg 23] glimpse of. An ocean life of many months had stretched before her, and whilst we walked I had noticed how she was letting the spirit of the sea sink into her, finding in the coil of the breaker, in the flight of the birds, in the shadowy distance of the horizon, a meaning she had never before heeded, only, perhaps, that she might enter with a little spirit into a scene of life from which I knew her very inmost soul shrank.

Sir Mortimer was at home; he was in mourning. The sight of his sombre figure and ashen countenance, of resigned but settled sorrow, startled and even shocked me. It was like a confirmation of fear, an assurance that Marie was dead and that hope must end. My visit was unexpected, and whilst he welcomed me he held my hand and stood looking at me in a posture of eager, sorrowful inquiry.

Presently, when we were seated, I pulled out the paper and pointed to the story of the discovery. He was a high-bred, fine-looking[Pg 24] old gentleman, and I see him now as he sat holding his glasses to his eyes, the paper trembling in his hand, and his face slowly taking what the Scotch call a 'raised' look as he read. He turned, dropping his glasses and letting the paper sink to his knee, and said in a voice a little above a whisper:

'What is this?'

'What do you think?'

'You don't believe it was Marie?' he said.

'If we are to think that, she is dead to us!' I exclaimed. 'But if it was not Marie, whose was the body that was picked up by the schooner close to the spot where the hull had been abandoned?'

He stared at me, drew a deep breath, and referred again to the paper.

'Have you seen that seaman—the boatswain—I forget his name—upon this?' he asked.

'Yes; and the two owners. But what can their opinion be worth? How could their[Pg 25] ideas help us, Sir Mortimer? Read the description of that body, the dark amber hair, the looks which in life must have been those of a refined——' I faltered, controlled myself, and went on: 'I have discovered,' and I named the shop where I had obtained the information, 'that Marie's outfit included such another jacket as the body had on. Can you remember if she took a serge dress with her?'

'Two or three,' he answered quickly. 'They were of dark blue. Two she had. A third was added at Mrs. Burke's suggestion. What was the colour of the dress described here?'

He looked; but no colour was named. I got up and paced about the room.

'I have made up my mind,' I exclaimed. 'I will go to the Cape. If it be Marie—but I must make sure at all costs. The suspense, the waiting, the not knowing whether she lies dead at Cape Town, whether she has gone down in the hull, whether she has been[Pg 26] rescued, carried to a distant port, and is lying ill, so that months might elapse before we should get news of her—all this I could not bear! I am already half mad with the grief of it. I will go to Cape Town,' I cried, 'and see with my own eyes, and settle expectation, so far as that body is concerned, one way or another, for ever.'

[Pg 27]


I think, I will not be sure, that the date on which I returned to London from this visit to Sir Mortimer was October 26. In the year 1860 sailing ships bound to the Australias and the East Indies frequently, many of them regularly, touched at the Cape; small vessels, such as brigs and barques, also traded to that colony. There was steam communication, however, then. I believe the first of the steamers of the Union Steamship Company was despatched three years earlier, namely, in 1857.

Be this as it may, since steam was to be got I was resolved to have nothing to do with what the sailor calls tacks and sheets. A [Pg 28]sailing ship might keep me four months upon the ocean in her struggles with head winds and failing catspaws. On the other hand, the Cape, by steam, was to be reached certainly within forty days. But having made up my mind, I found there was no time to lose, that is, if I resolved on steam; for, on reaching London, I learnt that the next Union steamer was the 'Cambrian,' sailing from Southampton on November 6.

It was this obligation of despatch, perhaps, which hardened me in my resolution. I meant to sail by the 'Cambrian' and there was no leisure for hesitation, no time for second thought. Not, indeed, that I was not passionately resolved; I had been so from the hour of clearly understanding that I must proceed to the Cape and procure the exhumation of the body if my mind was to be set at rest one way or the other. I mean, if I had been obliged to wait a month, say, for a sailing ship, I might have found myself troubled, my [Pg 29]resolution a little unsettled, by the counsels of friends.

My father, for example, fully sanctioned my going, but advised me to consider how it would be with my memory if, when the coffin was opened, I recognised the body as Marie's.

I answered I had thought over that, and knew it would prove a terrible ordeal. But it must be worse with me if I stayed at home, never stirring to find out if the body that lay in Cape Town cemetery was indeed that of the girl I loved.

'Suppose she is drowned,' I reasoned, 'I should not believe it for months, perhaps years. No man could persuade me she was dead. Time alone must convince me. But how long should I allow myself? Meanwhile I must live in expectation. My life would be a torment of suspense. But by going to the Cape I shall satisfy myself at once.'

'Yes,' said my father, 'but you will only[Pg 30] be able to satisfy yourself that Marie does not lie buried in Cape Town if, when the grave is opened, the remains should prove another's.'

'It will satisfy me to know that, at all events,' I exclaimed.

'Will they let you exhume the body?'

This staggered me somewhat; but I replied I would take my chance of it. The corpse had been brought to Cape Town, and there buried with a view to identification. The case was extraordinary; and when the Colonial authorities heard my story they would not refuse to let me disinter the remains.

Several friends offered like objections. One suggested I should ask that the clothes should be sent home, and submitted to the inspection of those from whom Marie bought her outfit; the shopmen would know their own wares. If they asserted the clothes had been sold by them—had at any time passed through their hands—there would be something solid to go upon; I could then sail for the[Pg 31] Cape and confirm by inspection what to most would pass as a foregone conclusion.

But my answer was, it was not very conceivable that those who held the clothes would part with them; it was no case of suspected murder, so as to admit of the introduction of the machinery of the law; moreover, if I waited, the remains would become unrecognisable. It was already a question how far the climate would admit of an identification of them. The body arrived at the Cape August 10; this was the close of October. December would have come before I landed; and December is the burning midsummer of South Africa.

But herein, as in all the rest, I was prepared to take my chance. I felt a secret reluctance in one direction only. It shocked me even in imagination to think, if the remains should prove Marie's, of the memory I must return home with and be haunted by to my death-bed.

[Pg 32]

On November 5 I travelled to Southampton, and on the following day embarked in the steamship 'Cambrian' for Cape Town. I had said good-bye to my friends in London and went on board alone. Never did passenger tread a ship's deck with heavier heart than I. The vessel was full of bustle and confusion; she was taking out a large number of passengers who, with their friends, filled her fore and aft, overflowing the saloon, and crowding the raised deck or poop.

It is at such a time as this, and amid such a crowd as littered the 'Cambrian's' decks, that you learn what real loneliness is. I looked around me and saw not one face I had ever met before. There was much surging and elbowing of figures in the gangway, a constant dragging here and there of baggage, shouts from the ship to the shore, from the shore to the ship, with stewards dodging and shoving in and out, officers of the steamer[Pg 33] twinkling and flitting in the finery of the merchant service.

I contrasted all this noise—threaded by strange groaning rumblings down in the bowels of the metal keel, as though the giant, steam, lying imprisoned, was beginning to mutter in his impatience and shake his chains—with the peace on board the 'Lady Emma' when I mounted her side with Marie and her father and Mrs. Burke. All was quiet there, the masts pointed their crossed and knitted heights silent in the breeze as a tree that sleeps in the dead calm of a summer's night; about was spread a shining scene of river abounding in life and colour, in gliding and in stately motion; but the ear was not vexed.

However, it would not be long before the 'Cambrian' was under way, and, indeed, whilst I was seeing to my baggage in my berth, and taking a view of the bedroom I was to sleep[Pg 34] in for thirty-five or forty days, I heard noises and felt a vibration which satisfied me we were about to start.

The vessel was something less than nine hundred tons; she was fitted with a saloon, on either hand of which went a range of sleeping berths, and the amidships was filled with a long table. She was rigged as a schooner, with a couple of yards on each mast, and sat with a promise of swiftness in her posture, her bow being yacht-like and sharp, dominant, that is, with a good spring, whilst the run of her vanished in a very pretty mould of stern.

She would be laughed at now; side by side with the Cape white giantess of to-day, thrashing from the top of the North Atlantic to the other bottom of the South Atlantic in a trifle more than a fortnight, how meanly would she show! even as a pinnace or steam launch in the shadow of the man-of-war that owns her. No splendour of internal fittings;[Pg 35] nothing rememberable in the form of smoke-room or bath-room. And still my heart swells with the memory of that little iron steamer, which long since ceased, save as one of the countless spectres of the deep, the true and only phantom ships of the sea.

It was a bleak, dark November day when we started; a strong wind blew, and the sky was thick and near with rolling snow-clouds. We passed along Southampton Water in a squall of sleet, and though imagination was never an inactive quality in me, yet then, more keenly than at any previous time, was I able to realise the significance of Wall's story of the dismasted hull, the high foaming seas of the great ocean past the Horn, the mountains of ice rocking their lofty summits in the smoke of flying flakes.

It was blowing fresh in the open, clear of the Isle of Wight; the little steamer pitched and sprang and made vile weather of the spiteful snap of that November Channel surge.[Pg 36] She drove the most of us to our berths, and for four days I was a prisoner, stupidly sick and helpless. Then I stepped forth feeling well again, and making my way on to the poop found a fine day, a swelling sea, a rattling breeze astern, before which the vessel, with bladder-like canvas swelling hard from her yards and black funnel pouring smoke over the bows to the horizon ahead, was bowling and rolling, with an occasional kick up astern which drove a shock and vibration of exposed screw through the length of her.

Abreast on the right was a little ship under full sail braced sharp up, tearing through the seas; the red flag of England stood like a board at her mizzen peaks. She was apparently bound home. The water swept in sheets from her steering stem, and every flash of the white brine was magically spanned by a rainbow. She was painted black, and to my land-going eye exactly resembled the 'Lady Emma,' though the[Pg 37] practised nautical glance would doubtless have witnessed plenty that distinguished her from the other. I watched her with fascinated gaze, and in deep melancholy, as she swept through the brilliant curls of sea, clouding her path as she dived and scoring the rolling blue astern of her with an arrow-like line of light.

Just such sailing as that had Marie described in the fragment of journal we had received. She had named the sails, flung with dexterous pen the very sheen of the lustrous rounds of canvas upon the vision of the mind, painted the picture of the deck, the dark wet length of plank gleaming along the sobbing scuppers at every roll, sailors hanging in the rigging with marling-spikes and coils of small stuff, or stitching on spaces of canvas in the sun, the mate walking the weather side of the deck, her own dear self seated under a short awning talking with her old nurse about the home she was leaving, about the countries[Pg 38] she was to visit. I caught my breath with a spasm and turned from the beautiful picture.

We were a great number of passengers for so small a vessel. When the fine weather came and the people got their stomachs, no more hospitable scene at meal-time was ever afloat than that saloon of over thirty years ago. There is plenty of finery at sea in this age; but the picturesque is almost dead; it flourished then. Much of the old Indiaman, the old Caper and South Spanier survived in the early steamer. You found this in colours and fittings, and in rig; for, none of us yet making cocksure of the cub of the engine-room, a fabric nigh as spacious and wide as that of the sailing ship was reared to draw from the wind the help the propeller might refuse.

This little steamer, too, would go along in an ambling way when it was fine, like any large ship with the wind on the quarter, taking the wide heaves of the deep in a[Pg 39] procession of curtseys whilst she fanned the sky with her squares of canvas. I see again the dinner-picture of a fine afternoon: a row of well-dressed people filling the long table; the captain bland and watchful at one end; someone trembling in brass buttons at the other; the claret-coloured light of the setting sun ripples in polished bulkhead and makes rubies of diamonds on moving hands; every shadow sways with slow grace, and the large round cabin windows deepen into dark blue, or glance out in crimson light as the vessel softly rolls them from sea to sky.

My place at table was at top, on the captain's right: a seat of distinction, but a matter of accident so far as I was concerned. The commander of this steamer, to give the worthy skipper a sounding name, was a kindly hearted seaman named Strutt, who had used the sea for many years in sailing ships, and had much to tell about the ocean life. One of the passengers was a retired shipmaster[Pg 40] who, I understood, was making the voyage to the Cape to seek some waterside berth in South Africa; he was a Newcastle man and had been bred to the sea in the coal trade; such was his contempt of steam he could find nothing in his rude and quaint dialect vigorous enough to dress it in. He sat within three or four of the captain on the left and they often argued, and their speech was my diversion.

I remember one day, shortly before we made the island of Madeira, that these two men got upon the subject of Polar expeditions. The captain said that the discovery of the North Pole would be as important to navigation and science as the discovery of America was to civilisation. The other replied that the North Pole was of no use to any mortal man. What was it? An imagination. Nothing you could see, or sit upon, or lean against. At this a great many people laughed.

[Pg 41]

A middle-aged lady sitting at a little distance on my right begged that the North Pole would not be mentioned; she had lost a promising nephew in consequence of it. He had sailed in one of the expeditions and had fallen into a deep hole beside the ship when she lay upon the ice, and, marvellous to relate, though the body of the poor young man was not discovered until six weeks afterwards, it was so perfectly fresh, the face so lifelike, the colour on the cheeks so exactly as in health, that all wondered he did not speak and smile.

'There's no perishing in ice,' said the retired shipmaster in a deep voice, 'once dead, ye keep arle on. Sir John Franklin was to be found. Nought was wanting but the right sort of men to look for him. He's somewhere up there still, just as he died, poor chap, hard as a statue, him and the rest of them, saving those they fed on.'

'What's the action of salt water on a[Pg 42] body?' said an old gentleman sitting five or six down on the opposite side.

'It drowns,' replied the retired shipmaster.

'I don't mean that,' said the other, 'does it preserve as ice does?'

'No, sir,' answered the shipmaster. 'The sea sarves a drowned sailor as the crimps sarve the live ones. It strips him, and when he's naked it tarns to and kicks and beats him till his mother wouldn't know whose child it was.'

'Not always,' exclaimed the old gentleman with emphasis.

The retired shipmaster leaned forward to see him, but made no reply.

Then the captain, at the head of the table, exclaimed: 'I knew a man years ago who had penetrated far north in a whaler. They were frozen up for a spell, hard bound in white ice, with hills to the horizon, till the season came and they broke adrift, the piece they were on floated round a point and gave[Pg 43] them the sight of a little barque stranded on a slope, her topmast was standing, sails furled, everything in its place—she looked as if she had gone ashore the day before. They boarded her and found by her log and papers she had been in that situation eight years. But that wasn't it,' said he with a glance down the double line of listening faces turned his way, one of the most eagerly attentive of which I observed was the old gentleman's. 'In the cabin they found five frozen men, they looked to have died without a groan one after the other, every man in the act of doing something, none guessing that the forefinger of the grinning king was on his heart. One sat with a pipe in his hand, another leaned on the table as though he was meditating, a third lay back in his chair, his eyes on the skylight as if he heard a noise on deck. That's what cold will do,' said he.

Something at this point diverted the conversation, and the subject was dropped.

[Pg 44]

When I left the table I went on deck; the west was still full of warm splendour, the sea ran heaving in deep blue folds to an horizon crystalline in the delicate sweep of it against the east, on whose violet slope—that looked to thrill with the depth of its own hue as the blue of the calm trembles under the eye—a large star was flashing.

I lighted a cigar, sunk in thought over the talk about the ice. If the body should not prove Marie's, then, supposing the hull had got locked, how long would she be able to support life in the bleak dark cabin? I had often asked that of myself and of others. I asked it again now, and whilst my mind ran upon the dinner talk Captain Robson, the old retired Newcastle shipmaster, stepped up to me.

They did not allow you to smoke on the poop; I stood in what would be called the gangway, and Captain Robson came along with a great meerschaum pipe in his hand,[Pg 45] stuffing the bowl with a queer kind of granulated tobacco which he pulled out of a little sack.

'This is Zooloo mundungus,' said he with a hoarse, shouting laugh; 'I am learning to like it. They say it is arle a man can get on the coast yon,' and he hove up three stout chins in a measured nod in the direction of the sea over the bows.

'Are you going to take charge of a ship?' said I.

'I'm going to seek a job,' he answered.

'Were you long at sea, captain?'

'Ay, was I? Since I was twelve. D'ee ken,' said he, broadening his accent for my entertainment, 'that I'm the original laddie of this yarn: A boy was holding a candle in the North Sea for the skipper whilst he overhauled his chart. "Eh, sir," says the boy, "if they did but ken war we was at home!" "If we kenned oursells," says the skipper, "I'd ne'er heed a dam!"'

[Pg 46]

'You seem to know a good deal about the ice,' said I.

'I knew too much about most things,' he answered, puffing. 'If you was to turn to and pump out my mind, more'd come up than what the poets call sparkling brine.'

He looked to right and left to observe if he was overheard, and I guessed he was a wag who liked the laughter of many.

Just then four Italian emigrants began to sing together on the forecastle; their voices swelled in a pleasing concert; the rude harmonies of the engine-room, dim and deep, as interpretable as human voices, so articulate was the metallic clangour, mingled with the music the singers made without vexing the ear.

I listened, then looked at Captain Robson, whose round face was staring deafly seawards.

'Captain,' said I, 'figure a dismasted hull in sixty degrees of south latitude and nothing of land nearer than the South Shetlands. When she was abandoned there was plenty of[Pg 47] tall ice on the horizon in points, on both bows and astern. What's to become of that wreck?'

'Are ye speaking of the "Lady Emma"?' said he.

I started and exclaimed, 'Oh, you've heard of her loss?'

'I've known Jim Hobbs, one of her owners, ever since he was a boy,' he answered. 'A little while afore I left London I met him at a luncheon party and we talked that loss o'er. Loss! Well, ye've not to call it that yet, neither. The skipper and two females remained aboard, Hobbs told me. The crew was quick in desarting. There was twelve foot of stump forrard, Hobbs said; they should have given the capt'n a chance. With less than twelve foot of stump when I was a boy, good prizes have been blowed under jury canvas into safety. But when steam came in,' said he, turning to send a gaze of contempt at the funnel, 'the sailor went out. Let the master of the "Lady Emma" have had[Pg 48] a collier crew of my time aboard, and they'd ha' made no more of the loss of all three masts—twelve foot of stump and the bowsprit remaining, according to Hobbs—than a dog of his tail.'

'What chance do you give the hull?' said I.

He viewed me with an arch lift of his eyebrows, as though his smile at the instant were in them only.

'I'll answer you as I answered Hobbs that same question,' said he, after discharging a number of puffs; 'she'll be heard of again. I don't care about the ice. Dismast your ship and she'll wash round an object. I'm not speaking of a dead-be shore leagues long. Plant an iceberg close aboard a hulk and she'll wallow clear. It's the height of spar, the weight of rigging, plenty of surface of stowed sail for the wind to shoulder, that keeps a vessel helpless in her drift when she's not under command.'

[Pg 49]

'But if she strikes she's gone, masts or no masts.'

'She'll swim for her life. It's like striking out clear of your clothes.'

'You give that hull a chance then, captain?'

'I give her this chance: first, as to the ice; she's a naked swimmer, light as a cask, with the wind for a buffer 'twixt her and the ice, and a backwash of sea which she'll make the most of. And then this: if a whaler falls in with her and she's sound they'll tow her clear. She was worth thirty-two thousand pounds, ship and cargo, when she left the Thames. There's sights of grease, mon, in that money.'

He ended this talk by giving a loud laugh and walking a little way forward, where he stood, pipe in hand, listening to a German Jew and his wife who were singing a duet.

[Pg 50]


It was three or four days after this conversation with Captain Robson, a soft, blue glowing afternoon, the sparkling heaves of water lifting south along the course of the steamer, with a pearly feathering of the salt foam going straight as the metals of a railway astern where, in the distant blue air, hung the slowly dissolving shadow of the island of Madeira quitted by us that morning.

Many had gone ashore; we were now a thin company aft, the poop and saloon almost yacht-like with room and comparative privacy.

The name of the master of the steamer was Captain Strutt. I had been having a[Pg 51] short chat with Captain Robson on the quarter-deck whilst the skipper of the steamer was on the bridge talking with the first mate; I went slowly aft and got upon the poop, and whilst I was there, looking over the side into the exquisitely pure liquid recess of ocean on the port-beam, with some orange star of sail glowing in it, whilst all between the burnished swell was working in glassy swathes rich with the gleams of the splendour in the south-west, Captain Strutt joined me.

'Robson,' said he, with a face of amusement, 'is a comical old gentleman. In my boyhood they called that sort of thing a sea-dog. It's a dying type. The skipper who wears the hat of the London streets and comes on deck in galoshes when the men are washing down, decays apace. We should take a long look at Robson, for when he is gone we shall not easily behold his like again.'

'His is a dry old mind,' said I, 'tough as[Pg 52] sailor's beef, with the pickle of his experiences.'

'He was telling me last night, Mr. Moore,' said the captain, 'that you're interested in the loss of the "Lady Emma."'

'I have asked him, as a seaman, questions on the subject,' said I.

'I read the account of her being dismasted in one of the papers,' he exclaimed. 'It was made a bad job of, I thought, by three people being left aboard the hull, two of them women. D'ye ever see the "Shipping Gazette"?'


'In a number of it a week or two before we sailed, there was a strange piece quoted out of a Cape paper.'

'A strange piece?' I exclaimed, scarcely understanding the expression. 'Had it anything to do with the "Lady Emma"?'

'Why, no,' he answered, leaning upon the rail and looking with a seaman's level, steady[Pg 53] gaze at the orange-coloured sail on the horizon, talking carelessly, in evident intention to amuse me merely, 'a large three-masted schooner picked up the body of a woman much about the parts where the hull of the "Lady Emma" was washing about. The master took it to be the corpse of the wife of a friend of his, and put it into brine or spirit to preserve it for Christian interment ashore. A queer item of cargo, little relished by the jacks in the schooner, I warrant ye! And yet handsomely done, too, on the part of the master, if you think of it; for suppose one dear to you drowned, what would you give that the remains should be buried with a memorial atop? That's always the feeling along-shore, even amongst the humblest; they'll offer pounds reward for the body. It's sentiment—and only to bury it in earth after all; as if this,' said he, waving his hand, 'wasn't the freshest, the most spacious, the most splendid of all cemeteries, every white[Pg 54] curl of sea a tombstone, and God's voice in the wind to keep ye sleeping and comforted.'

I listened in silence, but intently.

'The schooner carried the body to the Cape,' he went on, 'where of course it was promptly buried after they had photographed the poor thing.'

'Did they photograph the body?' I exclaimed.

He whipped upon me quickly, struck by my tone, no doubt, and eyed me keenly. He witnessed a change of face, and perhaps a sudden pallor, but took no further notice, lightly saying:

'Yes, the body was photographed, and a couple of the pictures are aboard.'

'In this steamer?'

He again looked at me; then, directing his eyes round the poop, said:

'Do you see that old gentleman sitting in the easy chair near the skylight?'

It was the old gentleman who some days[Pg 55] previously had asked Captain Robson at the dinner table what was the action of salt water on a body, to which the north-country skipper had drily answered, 'It drowns.'

'Has that man photographs of the body?' I exclaimed, staring at the old gentleman with nervous tremors running through me, shaking the very voice in my throat, so sudden and unexpected was this.

'I can tell you his story; he makes no secret of it,' said the captain. 'His name's Hoskins; he is Mrs. Ollier's father. He is going to the Cape to make sure that the body's his child by opening the coffin, if the authorities will permit it. But he's in no doubt; he showed me the pictures; the master of the schooner, knowing him very well, sent two by steamer. He says they're the portrait of his girl. She had been stopping at Santiago with her sister, a married woman there; and was bound round to Monte Video to join, or await the arrival of,[Pg 56] her husband, who sailed from the Thames in August in command of the ship "York"—what's there in this?—Mr. Moore, I hope this matter——'

He began to stutter, and was full of concern, seeing me suddenly lean against the rail, breathing hard with oppression with a face which I might guess by my emotions alarmed him. But guessing that my agitation would speedily take the eye of the many who were walking or sitting about the deck, I asked, after pausing a minute to recover myself, if I could be alone with him for a little while, on which he at once conducted me to the chart room or some sort of interior dedicated to him as commander, but not a bedroom, furnished with a horsehair couch, a clock, and the several instruments and conveniences for navigating a vessel.

He hooked the door, leaving it a little way open. Without preface I told him that Miss Marie Otway, only daughter of Sir[Pg 57] Mortimer Otway, was my sweetheart; she had gone a voyage for her health in the 'Lady Emma'; soon after the news of that ship having been dismasted reached home, there arrived the extraordinary tale of the body of a woman having been picked up in the latitude and longitude the hull was in when abandoned by the crew; the description of the body, I told him, was that of Miss Otway, and my only motive in making the voyage to the Cape was to examine the remains, if the exhumation would be permitted.

He listened with deep interest and a countenance of cordial sympathy.

'Now, sir,' said he, 'I can understand your motive in questioning old Captain Robson.'

'If the body be not Miss Otway I shall want to know what chance she's had aboard that hull. Robson's an old sailor, and I've drawn a little hope out of his talk, providing——'

'Well,' said he, gathering my meaning[Pg 58] even from my pause, 'I should say, sir, that a man would know his own child. Old Mr. Hoskins assured me, whilst telling his story, with the tears standing in his eyes, that the portrait sent him was the likeness of Mrs. Ollier, his daughter. That being so, it's reasonable you should ask questions about the wreck.'

'Would Mr. Hoskins show me those portraits, do you think?'

'Show them? Why, yes, sir. When he hears the story, he'll be glad to be of use. If you'll stop here, I'll go and manage the matter out of hand for you.'

I thanked him and he departed.

I continued alone for some time with my mind tormented by anxiety and expectation. Though old Mr. Hoskins declared the portraits to be his daughter's, yet he might very well be mistaken, too. I waited in dread. The distress of expectation and suspense was complicated by the fear that the action of the[Pg 59] sea, the convulsion and agony of drowning, had so wrought as to make a cheat of the face: to the old man it was to be his child, and to me it was to plead dimly as Marie out of its shrunk, ghastly looks! How should we decide then? Indeed, none might ever get to certainly know who it was, and I should go home fancying I had viewed the face of my beloved in death, and fancying, too, for months to come, that she had been rescued and, by the many strange crosses of travel and adventure, detained, but that she was coming and I should hear.

Thus I sat, my mind in anguish, starting up sometimes to pace the few feet of charterhouse deck, then flinging myself down miserable and mad with thought.

A canary suddenly sang loudly in a cage under the clock; in every plank was the pulse of the engines, like a tingling of blood in veins; from over the side came a note of stealthy hissing, subtly threading the noises[Pg 60] of the deck like someone in a theatre low hissing through the voices of the actors.

In about twenty minutes the captain arrived with Mr. Hoskins. He brought the old gentleman in and hooked the door ajar.

Mr. Hoskins was a fresh-coloured old man, white bearded, with intensely black eye brows curling like moustaches over his glittering black eyes; he was dressed in black. I had observed in him a patient way of looking, of speaking; his voice was a little tremulous with time—he was probably sixty-five years of age.

He held a large envelope which, on entering, he put down on top of his hat, and making me a bow slowly, he exclaimed, in the broken tones of his years:

'It is truly extraordinary, sir, that you and I should be going to the Cape on the same errand, in the same ship.'

'Truly indeed,' I answered. 'The captain has told you my story?' and here I looked at[Pg 61] Captain Strutt, who answered 'Yes. Those are the portraits,' and he pointed to the envelope.

I glanced at the package as at a sheet or veil which conceals a face you love which your heart shrinks from beholding in death.

'She's not your young lady, sir,' said Mr. Hoskins, slowly extending his arm to take up the envelope. 'She is my daughter. My niece instantly recognised the likeness.'

He sighed heavily, seating himself with a slow movement, whilst he put the envelope upon his knee to draw a spectacle case from his pocket. Meanwhile he spoke:

'She was twenty-four years of age and had been married three years. Her husband took her to Santiago and left her there with her sister. She was to have joined him at Monte Video—but you have heard, sir, you have heard?'

I bowed, trembling with impatience, and still cold at heart, spite of his words, with the[Pg 62] dread that had been mine since I heard of those photographs. He put on his spectacles, and, laying his hand upon the envelope upon his knee, looked at me with magnified eyes.

'It is very wonderful,' said he, 'that your young lady should have been left in a wreck close to the place where my poor child's body was met with.'

Captain Strutt, with a sudden fidget of his whole figure, said, 'Mr. Hoskins, will you show Mr. Moore the portraits?'

But the old gentleman must first look at them himself. He pulled them out and surveyed them with a countenance of mourning, one in either hand, his underlip working garrulously, and again and again he sighed, till, lifting my eyes from the portraits to his face, I saw that his cheeks were wet. Then, but with one of his patient gestures, he put the pictures together and extended them to me.

I looked first at one, then at the other; the[Pg 63] likenesses were not Marie. I could allow for the changes caused by drowning, by immersion, by the month-long action of spirits or brine; and still, with a wild throb of joy that half choked me, I saw that the likenesses were not Marie.

They were two dreadful portraits of one face, dreadful to look upon; one in profile, the other full, the body manifestingly having been turned to confront the camera. The whiteness of the face in the pictures was as shocking a part as any: the cheeks were so sunk you would have thought she had sucked in her breath, with horrid scorn, a living woman, when the lens of the instrument was turned upon her. They had swept her hair off her brow for a clear view of the face; I supposed it was pale hair by the look of it, but it was not Marie's—it was not grown low on the forehead as hers was; the eyebrows were not hers—they were too thick; the ears were too large for Marie's, and, which [Pg 64]convinced me absolutely, the shape of the nose was not my dear one's; no wasting by the action of rolling water, no shrinkage by long immersion, whether in brine or spirits, could work any structural change in the nose.

I have those dreadful photographs in my mind's eye now, I cannot express their ghastliness. It was not only the forehead rendered naked by the manner in which the hair had been swept back by the artist, nor a more terrible sort of blindness in the droop and rigidity of the upper lids than anything to be imagined in death's cold glazing of the balls of vision, nor the meaninglessness in the look of the mouth, as though it had been some wild man's carving of a grin on an idol, neither human nor yet of the beast most sickening. The deep and subtle horror I found in that face was there through fancy of the terrific ocean solitude it had floated in, the icy surge that had tossed it, the pitiless stars which had looked down upon it, the roaring[Pg 65] blasts of sleet and hail which had thundered over it.

I put the pictures together with a shudder and a face contorted by the pain and imaginations of the sight, and in silence handed them to Mr. Hoskins. Both men waited for me to speak. I stopped to fetch a few breaths, then said:

'This poor girl is not Miss Otway.'

'She is my daughter!' exclaimed the old man, again holding up the pictures to view them. 'Oh, my poor child!'

The canary began to sing loudly; the silencing of it enabled Captain Strutt to turn his back upon us. It was indeed moving to see that old man with his wet cheeks and talking inarticulate underlip, looking at the two portraits. He placed them in his pocket after a minute or two, then, pulling off his glasses, smiled faintly at me and said:

'The grief is mine, you see, sir.'

[Pg 66]

'And still mine, Mr. Hoskins,' I replied. 'Since that is your child you certainly know where she is, and therefore what has become of her; but what can any man tell of Miss Otway? She was dear to me, aye, even as she was to you,' said I, pointing to the breast of his coat where the pictures lay. 'We were to have been married—oh, pray think, sir! the news they brought home, the last news of her, told me of her as abandoned with two companions in a dismasted hull in the wildest ocean in the world—amongst the ice—heavenly God!' I cried, springing to my feet, am I to believe her as that poor girl is—but never to know—never to be sure that it was so—that it is so?'

And now I know that the sight of those portraits had wrenched me to the very soul, by speaking of Marie as she might be. This, with the reaction; for it was not my sweetheart who lay at Cape Town. I had felt an instant's joy on the discovery; that was[Pg 67] past and it was as before—black uncertainty troubled and thick with a hundred shapeless fears and fancies.

'It's a great pity,' said Captain Strutt bluntly, 'that you didn't know Mr. Hoskins had those pictures. You could have gone ashore at Madeira and got home some time before we arrive at the Cape.'

'Pray what may have convinced you that my poor girl, as described in the papers, was Miss Otway?' said Mr. Hoskins.

I gave him all the reasons: the description, tallying feature by feature, point by point in hair, stature, refinement of features and the like; the letter O on the garment; the serge dress and fur-trimmed jacket. The old gentleman lifted his hands and his gaze with one of his patient gestures and look, now of surprise.

'It is more than remarkable,' he cried; 'it exceeds belief.'

'Your daughter was married and therefore[Pg 68] wore a wedding ring,' said Captain Strutt. 'That ring's commonly a tight fit.'

'It was no doubt as Captain Goldsmith wrote,' said Mr. Hoskins, 'the water shrivelled the fingers and the ring slipped off.'

'Miss Otway wore rings,' said I; 'the lady had none. Therefore its having no rings proves nothing. Plunge your warm living hand into ice-cold water, and your tightest ring will wonderfully slacken.'

'True,' said Captain Strutt. 'And still, Mr. Moore, if I was in your place, I shouldn't rest satisfied with the evidence of those portraits.'

'Oh, but Mr. Hoskins and I are agreed,' said I. 'He recognises his child and I know that it is not Miss Otway.'

'It's my intention to exhume the remains—a sorrowful task—if they'll grant me permission,' said Mr. Hoskins. 'Since you must now proceed to the Cape, then, if it would satisfy you to look into the coffin when it is opened, you will be very welcome, sir.'

[Pg 69]

I thanked him, adding, however, that I could not be more satisfied than I was. And so, after some further conversation, we quitted the captain's private room.

I might have supposed this discovery of the body not being Marie—and I was as convinced of it as though I positively knew she was alive—would have comforted me, helped something towards the cheering of my spirits; instead, I seemed in my heart as much depressed as if the portrait of the dead girl had been hers. This was because, had I known she was dead, the worst would have been reached. But now I was to make a weary journey to the Cape to no imaginable purpose. I was to linger there till a returning steamer sailed, then measure all these leagues of water afresh, to arrive home as ignorant of her fate as though I had never set foot out of London.

During the rest of the passage, which was absolutely uneventful, I held much aloof[Pg 70] from the people; I was too low-spirited to join in their conversation and amusements; I begged the captain and Mr. Hoskins to allow my trouble to remain their secret, and they very faithfully obliged me. Captain Strutt would often pace the deck for half an hour at my side, and in such quiet walks our talk nearly always concerned the 'Lady Emma.' He by no means gave me the encouragement I had got from old Robson; he told me honestly that it was as likely as not the three had been taken off the wreck, but advised me not to hope too much in that way after I returned to England, 'because,' said he, 'the news of such a rescue is bound to come to hand soon; things are not as they were forty years ago; you have the telegraph and the steamer and the newspaper. They were wrecked in July,' said he. 'If it was my business, I'd allow eight months, then, hearing nothing, I'd give them up.'

He flatly differed from old Robson's[Pg 71] notion of the comparative safety of a dismasted hull amongst icebergs. 'How,' he exclaimed, in a grave wondering voice, 'could any sailorman talk such stuff? It's like his prejudice against the North Pole. What's to hinder a dismasted vessel from being flung against ice, and hammered to pieces? I don't talk to dispirit you, sir, but my reasoning is, if a loss must be a loss, then for God's sake let it be made and have done.'

The 'Cambrian' entered Table Bay, December 13. It was early in the morning, but the sun was already high, and when I went on deck and looked around me, I beheld as flashing and noble a scene of blue water and mountain as this earth has to show. The atmosphere was brimful of white and even splendour, so that the azure of the sky looked cold in it. Wonderful to my eyes was the sight of a gale of wind so local in its fury that freshing confines of the torn water, curved like a line of beach, this side being smooth[Pg 72] and glittering, softly fanned with a little air out of the west, where the white light was so lustrous that the leaning sails of the Malay boats flickered in it with a look of frosted silver.

Afar, and marvellously clear cut in their hundred miles of distance, loomed a range of lofty mountains; the fierce wind was blowing out of a glorious white mist which veiled, with falling and ascending draperies of vapour, the greater bulk of the tawny mass on the right; but so marvellously brilliant was the atmosphere through which the gale was rushing, the sense of distance vanished, the huge steep lifting and disappearing in its splendour of mist, drew close, I saw the curves of the cloofs, every wrinkle of broken rock, and patches of the bush, though it was all miles off and high in air. The white houses spread like toys of ivory to the base; and the wide waters of the bay, full of the gleam of the brushing westerly air, and rushing in froth[Pg 73] under the shriek and lash of the gale, where the breast of blue rounded to the town, were framed by a sparkling snow-white beach, past which the swelling country showed in reds and greens till the sight died upon the phantom blue of distant heights.

There were no docks in those days, nor can I recollect that they had begun to build the breakwater. We brought up in the splendid weather outside the thrashing storm, but it seemed we were to be kept aboard till the south-easter had blown itself out. Many ships, a few very large and fine, lay straining at their anchors, some within and some without that spray-white sheet of foul weather. I stood at the rail looking at a little barque which lay within easy hail of the voice; Mr. Baynton, chief officer of the 'Cambrian' approached to look at a boat that lay close under alongside. But his seaman's eye went quickly to the barque, and turning to me, he said:

[Pg 74]

'That's what they call a spouter.'

'A whaler?'

'Yes. She looks it, sir. See the boats at her cranes. What sort of daylight filters through those greasy grimy scuttles in her side, I wonder? She is an American, and draws decently; three years out by the looks of her, fresh from parts where its always too hot or always too cold, and with how many barrels aboard, ha! It's said no seaman thinks anything of a man as a sailor who's learnt his trade in a greaser. For my part I look upon 'em with respect and admiration. What Jack of us all sees the like of their seafaring? Let alone the weather, and that touches the extremes. What magnificent work in boats! what nerve and determination! To think of one of those egg-shells,' said he, nodding at the boats at the whaler's cranes, 'being in tow of a rushing mountain of stinking black flesh, shooting blood and brine sky high, every thrash of the tail a[Pg 75] Niagara drench of rearing white water—ha!'

He sucked in his cheeks, blew them out again in a low whistle of admiration, and walked off.

I did not land till four o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Hoskins, when we parted, put his card into my hand, with an address at Cape Town upon it, and begged me to let him know the house I put up at, that he might communicate in case I should think proper to confirm the revelation of the photographs by an inspection of the remains.

[Pg 76]


I was advised against the two or three bad hotels in Cape Town, and whilst in the ship had obtained the address of a boarding-house. It was a comfortable big Dutch-built house, low, without chimneys; it stood in a garden full of moon-lilies, and many lovely flowers, the fairest of them scentless. Here I found a colonel from India for his health, a Dutch couple, and one or two others. From the stoep of this house you saw the grand mass of Table Mountain, seemingly close to; the shadow of its noble bulk seemed to fill the heavens and swell with sensible, usurping presence into the far reaches of the country. I had travelled in mountainous parts in[Pg 77] Europe, but never before witnessed such a tyrannous domination as this. The colossal ramparts caught up the whole prospect whilst you looked in a swinging sweep of their length, till 'twas all mountain with the steam-like vapour shredding away from the boiling whiteness atop, and the houses clustering into the base like things of life shuddering back into the giant refuge.

Such were the fantastic notions I got of the thing as I sat, cigar in mouth, on the stoep of the boarding-house on the first night of my arrival. The full moon was shining over the bay. I saw through the trees a space of the silvered waters, with the black figures and lines of ships anchored in the trembling glow, spotting it with their riding lights. The breeze was falling in sighs down the steep and troubling the vegetation into the shedding of some perfume upon the night air; the tinkling of the crickets spread low, like a noise of fairy bells, over the land, surging up in the warm, damp[Pg 78] breeze and dying. I heard a band of music in the distance, but the mountain shone upon by the moon and now radiant at the summit with snow-white mist, looked the tranquility of its great face into the night, and the peace of its sublime silence dwelt like a spirit everywhere, to the very height of the stars, down to the waters trembling under the moon.

This rest was grateful and exquisitely refreshing after the ceaseless motions of the ship and the senseless chatter of the engine-room. And yet, though I was but just arrived, I now, after my first meal ashore for many days, sat alone, considering what I should do.

I had learnt at table there were ships in the bay homeward bound, also I was aware and had been long aware that I must wait a month for the next Union steamer to England. I could not, however, bring myself to endure the prospect of sailing home. The voyage by steam had already proved unendurably long; and now I might take shipping under a [Pg 79]topsail, make a passage of two months to the line, lie in a month-long trance upon the burnished swathes of the molten silver swell of the Doldrums, then wish myself dead in six weeks of tempest to the Scillies, with a long flounder up Channel to round off all.

Therefore, on this the first night of my arrival at Cape Town, I resolved to return by steam, taking anything in that way which might come from the Indies, or, failing that, then the monthly Union steamer.

The colonel came out of the house with a long cheroot in his mouth, and sat down by my side. He was a man with bland manners, and a sarcastic voice. He talked contemptuously of Cape Town and its people, and cursed the indisposition that had driven him into such a barbarous hole, where you were distempered by bad cooks, poisoned by dreadful smells, maddened by the horns of the coloured costermongers. I was in no temper to hear him and was glad when he got up and strolled off.

[Pg 80]

Here was I, thousands of miles from home—for what purpose? I was no nearer to Marie! Would she ever be heard of? Was she alive? I looked up at the full moon and asked of God if its splendour rested anywhere upon her.

But then—but then—and my heart ached again as I reflected; it was in July that her ship was dismasted and last heard of, and this was December, almost the middle of it—five whole months! And the hard part was that I should have to live through another interminable period of expectation before reaching home, where alone I must hope to get news. Why, even whilst I sat there, with the two Atlantics between England and me, she might have arrived, or they might have got news that she was coming, and thus was I sure to go on thinking and hoping until I returned—when they would tell me they had heard nothing!

My thoughts went but seldom and lightly[Pg 81] to the body of the girl who was resting in her grave somewhere past those trees yonder. She was not Marie. I'd look upon her if the coffin was lifted and Hoskins invited me; but she was not Marie! The wonder and pity of her to my mind now that I had seen the photographs lay in the coincidence of her discovery, and in the ghastly vision of her floating figure—so young and fair as she had been—a fancy of ocean loneliness I could somehow realise better here than at sea, maybe because of the height the lofty shadow of the mountain sent the stars to, its blotting presence widening the scene of heaven by exciting imagination of the magnitude of the hidden slope going over and past it to Agulhas and to where the ice was.

After this, for two or three days, I went about alone, struggling with a mood of depression that discoloured everything I beheld. It robbed all grace of freshness from the beauty and the splendour of the sights[Pg 82] which lay about me. My favourite haunt was the waterside, where I'd stand watching the Atlantic comber form, huge and polished, out of the silken swell, arching and rushing onwards in a sparkling bravery of foam and sunlight; but my thoughts were always with Marie, and again and again I'd catch myself sighing as I brought my eyes away from the remote blue distance pass Robben Island.

It was on the fourth day of my arrival, in the afternoon, that strolling slowly under the shade of an umbrella from that part of the waterside close to where the docks now are, I met the colonel who lodged with me in the boarding-house. He turned from gazing at the bay under the sharp of his hand, and approached me.

'Were you ever aboard a whaler?' he asked.

'Never,' I answered.

'That ship yonder's a whaler,' said he pointing.

[Pg 83]

'Yes, I know,' I replied. 'I had a good look at her from the side of the steamer—we lay within a biscuit-toss.'

'I went aboard of her this morning,' said he, causing me to stop by halting and looking towards the vessel as though he would have me observe her whilst he talked. 'She is well worth a visit. Half of her crew are Kanakas, and the remainder Yankees, and a wild, queer, hairy lot they are. The captain's a Quaker, a strange, tall, formal fellow, buttoned up, lean and yellow, and thee's and thou's you; most unlike a seaman of any I ever saw. He was very civil though, mighty communicative. I sat an hour in his little cabin and 'twas as good as going awhaling to hear him. Such an array of harpoons and lances, decks dark with the mess of blubber boiling—'trying out' the captain called it. If you want to agreeably pass an hour and forget that you're in a land of smells and noise, visit her.'

[Pg 84]

I answered it was probable I would do so.

'Not that she's a nosegay,' said he, with a short, sarcastic laugh, 'but there's nothing Malay in the odour, nothing Dutch. The captain related an odd incident that happened whilst he was off the Horn, a bit south of it I think.'

Here he stepped out and I strolled by his side, pricking my ears, for there was a magic in the name of Cape Horn that never failed to arrest my attention.

'She'd been fishing in the South Seas and finding no quarry was coming into this ocean. She was running before a strong gale of wind off—I forget the name of the island; it lies south of the Horn. The land, coated with ice, stretched along their starboard beam; the captain had no notion he was so close in. He was looking at the land through his telescope when, in a sudden flaw that thinned the weather out into a momentary brilliance, he[Pg 85] caught sight of a large dismasted ship upright on her keel upon a huge projection of ice that fell sheer to the wash of the surf. He reckons the height of cliff on which that hull was poised about thirty feet. How devilish odd! You can figure ships in many situations, but how in ghosts are they going to cradle themselves on an elevation of thirty or forty feet?'

When he said this I stopped dead; a fancy then, at that instant, flashed into me in pang after pang as though every drop of blood in my veins was living fire. It brought me to a stand just as if I had been paralysed, or struck by lightning.

Presently looking at him and rather gasping than speaking, I said:

'A dismasted ship, was it? On an island south of the Horn, did he say? Why, my God, I wonder—I wonder——'

'What's the matter? What's there in this to—— I hope I—— Catch hold of my arm!'[Pg 86] exclaimed the colonel, staring at me with astonishment. 'What's it—sunstroke? Not under your umbrella?'

And he directed his aquiline nose and keen blue eyes right up into the sky; then put his arm through mine, and we walked slowly, he meanwhile surveying me askant with every mark of amazement.

After going a little way, during which I thought I should be unable to command my tongue or collect my wits, so heart-staggering had been that leap of fancy in me, I said:

'You have given me an extraordinary piece of news. I am deeply interested in a ship that was abandoned in a dismasted state in the neighbourhood of the Horn.'

'By gad! then,' said he, halting me with a violent, nervous pull at my arm, 'you had better go aboard and get a description at first hand, for the whaler's here to refresh only; she's been in the bay a fortnight and sails to-morrow.'

[Pg 87]

Without exchanging a word I walked, almost ran, to the waterside.

A number of boats lay rippling close in to the beach. A couple of Malay or Africander boatmen seeing me coming jumped into one of the little craft, and in a few minutes I was being rowed in the direction of the whaler.

It was about half-past four o'clock in the afternoon; the light of the high South African midsummer sun fell on the water in a blaze that made one think of a sky-wide bolt of flame; the scorching heat steamed to the face off the surface in tingling red-hot needles; there was not a breath of air; along the polished surface, breathing with the swell of the sea, slipped the small thunder of the distant surf. We drew close to the whaler and I read her name upon her counter 'Sea Queen, Nantucket.' Her sides were blistered and honeycombed with heat and conflict; her cabin scuttles or windows, in a row of three above her green sheathing, stared in their dirt[Pg 88] blearedly across the water, like the eyes of a blind man; a number of seamen of several dyes of complexion and queerly attired overhung the bulwark rails.

She was a little ship of about four hundred tons and looked to be dropping to pieces with use, so deeply was she seamed, so ill were her masts stayed, so rusty and pale was her rigging, so worn and ragged the complexion and suggestion of the canvas heaped clumsily and negligently bound. When the boat was alongside I looked up at a copper-coloured face covered with black prickles of hair, and asked if the captain was aboard.

'Ay,' was the answer.

'I wish to see him on very particular business,' said I.

The man stared stupidly and lounged off.

'You gittee on board, boss,' said one of the boatmen. 'You hab welcome allee same as other gents,'

I took the man's advice, and putting my[Pg 89] foot on to the shelf or projection of main channels, sprang and gained the deck in a jump from the bulwark rail.

There were probably twenty men lounging forward in every imaginable posture, smoking and talking; they were black and yellow and some were of the white man's bronze, long-haired, beards goat-shaped, the figure of them striking, with grass hats, dungaree trousers, brown shanks, and shirts of several dyes exposing their furry breasts. They took no notice of me whatever. The decks were dark with dirt: insufferably heaped up with caboose, boats, casks, pumps, and some midship arrangement for boiling blubber. A smell of greese hung cold and nasty in the atmosphere.

I faced aft, and was moving that way when a tall figure rose through the deck from under a sort of wooden hood which yawned at the wheel. I instantly guessed him the captain by the colonel's description; he was[Pg 90] lean and hollow, with high cheek bones and a clean shaven face, yellow as any of his men forward, buttoned up in an old frock coat, and he wore a grey wideawake, the brim turned down. His eye came to me without any expression of interest; I judged by his manner his ship had been much visited.

I went straight up to him, and lifting my cap asked him if he was the master of this barque.

'I am,' he replied, with the usual American drawl.

'I have come off,' said I, 'to speak with you on a matter of the deepest interest to myself. I just now met a gentleman who told me that south of the Horn you sighted a large hull, high and dry upon the ice. Last July a ship named the "Lady Emma" was dismasted and abandoned by her crew who left three people aboard: the men quitted her much about the spot where you sighted the wreck. One of the people remaining in her[Pg 91] was Captain Burke, her commander; the others were his wife and a young lady named Miss Otway. I was engaged to be married to that young lady, sir, and came here, having arrived from England on the thirteenth, believing that a body which had been found at sea and brought to Cape Town was Miss Otway's. It is not so. The remains are not hers. God knows but that, if the hull you sighted be the "Lady Emma," the three may be living—aboard—in a hopeless state! Will you tell me all you can recollect of her appearance and situation?'

In speaking I had insensibly worked myself up, and ended with my voice broken by agitation. He looked me steadily in the face, and when I had ended, after a minute's silence, said:

'Friend, follow me into the cabin, and I'll tell thee all I know.'

He led me down a narrow staircase with a little brown, gloomy interior, whose [Pg 92]equipment, glorious as was the day outside, was barely revealed by the light that struggled through the frame of dirty glass overhead. The shaft of mizzenmast pierced the deck and was ringed by a number of polished harpoons which glanced in the gloom with the blue gleam of the razor. A squab square table was set in the midst of this cabin, and on either hand it was a locker, rugged and jagged, as though generations of whalemen had cut up plug tobacco upon the lid.

The captain told me to sit down, and with a stride or two of his long legs vanished inside a small berth abaft the mizzenmast. He reappeared, holding a volume which proved to be his log-book: this he placed upon the table and sat down in front of it.

'What might thy name be?' he asked whilst he turned the leaves of the book.

'Mr. Moore,' I answered.

He fastened his eyes on the page, and after reading awhile, said:

[Pg 93]

'We sighted the ship on the ice on the morning of October 13. It had been blowing a hard gale all through the night, but it slackened down airly in the morning and we put her before it; but so high a sea was running that had I seen that thar hull full of men I could have done nothing for them.' He ran his finger along the page and continued: 'The latitude in which that wreck lies is 60° and the longitude—I'm giving it thee by thy Greenwich time—will be 45° 28´ W.'

I pulled out my note-book and entered these figures.

'Though,' he went on, 'she looks to be lying on ice, it's land that cradles her. It's what's marked down as Coronation Island, and's the westermost of the South Orkneys. She lies plain in sight of the sea, onless the ice since then has come together and blocked her out.'

'Did you get a good view of her?'

'Ho, yes; I had her clear for ten minutes,[Pg 94] watching for smoke for a signal; and I then gave the glass to the mate, who likewise looked till the run of the land hid her.'

'Will you describe her as you remember her?'

'Ho, yes. She was black, a lump of a ship she looked; wal, I daresay all seven hundred tons. What was the burthen of thy vessel, Mr. Moore?'

'Six hundred,' I answered.

'Ho, wal, we was a good ways off, and that thar hull might as wal be six as seven hundred tons.'

'Was she clean dismasted?'

'Clean?—wal, my mate arterwards said there was a stump of foremast standing. I didn't observe it.'

'But it must be the ship—the "Lady Emma" herself!' I cried, almost shouting in my excitement. 'When her masts went over the side, twelve feet of the foremast remained.'

[Pg 95]

He nodded gravely; but his long, hollow, yellow face reflected nothing of my emotion, no more than had he been a sheep.

'Did you see nothing whatever to hint at there being life on board?' I exclaimed.

'Nothin',' he answered; 'she hung betwixt thirty and forty foot high above the wash of the sea, on a big ledge of ice, with the white cliffs going up behind her. Haow she so perched herself beats all my going a-fishing; onless the ice jerked her up into it, for when them bergs are took with convulsions their tricks are queerer than their shapes by su'thin', and that's a fact.'

'You saw nothing to hint at life on board?' I repeated.

He shook his head with solemn emphasis.

'Your mate saw nothing?'

Again he wagged his head.

'Captain, tell me—you are an old hand—could people support life in that craft as[Pg 96] she lies there, supposing her to have been stranded since July last?'

'No, I reckon.'

'But would not the people on seeing your ship pass have made a smoke, have shown some signal, that you could report life as helpless there since you could not rescue it?'

'Wal,' he answered, 'supposing folks aboard, thee's not to reckon they'd be always keeping a look-out. It's mighty cold down thar, an' they'll be mostly sitting under hatches, an' if they've been thar since July, as thee says, they'll have growed a little tired, I guess, by this here time of watching for su'thin' to happen.'

'Is she accessible?'


'Is she to be got at by the people of a ship sighting her, or sent to her?'

'There was a mighty biling of water all along under where she was,' he answered.[Pg 97] 'Thee'd need a quiet day; but quiet days are to be had, bar the swell. Folks have landed afore and they'll land again. Ho, yes! If thy friends are locked up in that thar hull, they're to be got out of her.'

'Suppose her there since July; will you believe she has been boarded and the people released?'

'Why,' he answered, 'if she's been lying fair and square, clear in sight as she now is, since that month thee names, it's more'n likely the folks are out of her. But no vessel was ever put by herself in the situation of that craft. I reckon she's been worked up into it arter having lain ice-locked, which may sinnify that for months she's been hid, so that for all we're to know that thar hull may have been the first that passed close in with the island since the ice broke away and exposed her.'

I listened with a feverish passion of attention, devouring every syllable his drawling tongue dropped.

[Pg 98]

'Have you a chart of that island?' I asked.

He nodded gravely and stood up.

'I'm temperance aft, here,' said he. 'I can offer thee nothing stronger than lemonade.'

I was too violently agitated to thank him decently, and stuttering out an awkward acknowledgment, begged him again to let me see the chart of the island. He took the log-book with him to his berth, and returning, spread before me a chart representing a considerable expanse of the seas off the Horn. My sight was now used to the gloom; when he put his finger upon the place where he had seen the wreck I bent close, and observed that he indicated an indent in the tracing marked Palmer's Bay.

I entered this in my note-book and asked if he would sell the chart. He couldn't spare it, he said, but added I might easily furnish myself with what I wanted in that way at Cape Town.

[Pg 99]

My spirits were in such a tumult, my heart beat so wildly, the pulses of my head throbbed so, there was so much feverish confusion of mind and brain, I could scarcely rally my wits to the task of further questioning him; I seemed, indeed, scarcely able to understand him. I cannot express my amazement, the emotions that swelled my heart. 'Twas as sure as that I lived that the hull seen by this man was the 'Lady Emma,' and even whilst I bent over the chart, whilst I lifted up my eyes to look at him, the thought of the measureless distance at which the wreck lay, of Marie perhaps being at this very time alive in her; then the imagination of her having been rescued long since, then the fancy of the hull as a huge coffin in which my dear one lay frozen and dead; all this, I say, worked in me like a madness; I was beside myself, and I pored upon the chart panting, the sweat streaming from my brows, my hands cold as stone.

[Pg 100]


I remained, nevertheless, in the cabin of the whaler until the captain grew impatient and showed signs of wishing to be rid of me, on which I thanked him, shook hands, and was rowed ashore.

I drove to the boarding-house and there found the following letter—

'Mowbray: December 17, 1860.

'Mr. Hoskins' compliments to Mr. Moore. He has obtained leave to open the grave and will, with Mr. Moore's permission, call for him in a closed carriage at five o'clock to-morrow afternoon.'

This gave a new turn to my thoughts. My first humour was to decline the invitation.[Pg 101] It was not Marie who lay in that grave, and I did not like the thought of the memory the sight would create. But after reflecting awhile, I resolved to attend, a glance would give sinews to the confirmation of the pictures. Sir Mortimer would also wish that I should take every measure to satisfy myself as to the identity of the remains.

Having written an answer, I went downstairs and sent it to the post by a servant, by which hour dinner was ready and I took my place. Five of us were at table, including the lady of the house, who carved. The colonel sitting opposite me almost immediately asked what news I had got of the ship seen on the ice. I had made up my mind to talk, partly because it did me good to do so, partly because I never could tell what hints and news might follow upon free speech.

I answered that the dismasted hull the captain of the whaler had seen was the 'Lady Emma.'

[Pg 102]

'Does he think there are people locked up in her?' cried the colonel with excitement.

A Dutch gentleman (I will call him Pollak) who sat next him inquired with civil curiosity what we were talking about. On which I put down my knife and fork and plainly related the story of the voyage of Marie Otway for her health, the dismasting of the ship, her abandonment by the sailors, the reason of my visiting the Cape, and I told him how I knew by the photographs that the body which had been brought to Cape Town was not Marie's; but I said nothing about the opening of her grave; I judged that Mr. Hoskins would not be pleased to find a gaping crowd in the cemetery at such a time.

They listened to me with deep attention. All saving the colonel had heard of the arrival of the schooner with the body; indeed—which was extraordinary—the Dutch gentleman was one of a few who had been present when the remains were taken out of[Pg 103] the cask. I had passed several hours a day since my arrival in this man's company, and now learnt for the first time that he had seen the body.

It was no season, however, for questioning him, and the conversation of the table went to the wreck seen by the captain of the whaler.

All could have observed in my manner that I was deeply stirred; I could scarcely eat; I felt thirst only. The colonel talked fluently, but not serviceably; but I listened with kindness, for I was grateful to him for the accident of this astonishing discovery.

After dinner I went on to the stoep to breathe the fresh air and smoke and think; I hoped that the others, remarking the state of my mind, would leave me alone; they did so; the colonel, the Dutch gentleman, and two others, who arrived after dinner, drinking coffee at a table at the other end of the verandah. Their conversation flowed in a low hum, but[Pg 104] that it concerned the topic we talked over at dinner I knew by the occasional looks one or another directed my way.

At last the Dutch gentleman, Mr. Pollak, came from his party and, pulling a chair to my side, seated himself. He said, speaking with an excellent English accent:

'I have thought as I saw the body you would wish me to describe it. It was not to be spoken of at table.'

'The photographs were ghastly pictures,' said I.

'Ach, Gott!' he cried, with such a roll of his eyes under the lids as made them balls of porcelain. 'But how should anyone—the handsomest—appear who was five weeks in spirits after having been drowned and lifted out of the sea? And still her hair was long and fair, and fine, and there was a shadow of beauty in the mask of her face—all saw it. It breathed like a perfume from a dead flower.'

[Pg 105]

'She was not Miss Otway,' said I.

He described every feature, and I continued to shake my head.

'No, no,' said I, 'she is not Miss Otway. The girl I want is in that ship on the ice; yet—is she there?'

'Well, it must be found out,' said he.

'I shall go about it to-morrow.'

'Mr. Moore,' said he, after a short silence, 'you are a stranger in Cape Town. I have many friends. If I can be useful, you will, I beg, command me.'

I thanked him and said I had brought a few letters of introduction, but, conceiving the purpose of my visit ended when I viewed the photographs, I had called nowhere. I slightly referred to my position in London—that is, as a partner in my father's bank—and added that the manager of a South African bank, whose headquarters were in Cape Town, had been a senior clerk in my father's office, but that I had not visited him.

[Pg 106]

'Would not the British admiral who is at St. Simon's Town,' said he, 'send out a ship of war to search for the wreck?'

I replied quickly, 'No, I must go myself,' and added, 'You may not have had experience in the ways of British officials.'

He smiled and answered. 'The admiral might give you leave to go in the ship he sent.'

'I can tell you exactly how it would be,' said I. 'I go to the admiral and the admiral demands the log-book of the whaler. The whaler has sailed, the admiral requires full particulars of the wreck before despatching one of his ships to a perilous part of the world; full particulars can be obtained only in London. By the time the British admiral sees his way the hull, when sought, has disappeared.'

He smiled again, stroking his chin.

'When I left the whaler,' said I, finding it eased my heart to talk, and pleased with[Pg 107] his plain sympathy, 'I had formed a resolution. It may be, sir, that you are able to help me in it.'

He bowed.

'I intend at once—that is, to-morrow, if to-morrow will provide me with the opportunity—to hire a vessel and sail for Coronation Island as promptly as she can be equipped and victualled.'

'Ah,' he exclaimed, 'that looks like business. It will be expensive——'

I interrupted him with an exclamation.

'Yes,' he exclaimed, a little ruefully, 'that should not be thought of; it will be a marvellous, noble thing to save the life of your young lady and her companions. How can I help, now?—let me see. I am acquainted with most of the leading merchants here; I believe that my friend Mr. Vanderbyl is expecting a consignment from our Australian port. Perhaps the vessel has arrived. I will inquire. If it is the same brig that[Pg 108] was here last spring she will be the very boat for you. Her name is the "Albatross." Did you observe a brig painted white amongst the shipping when you went on board the whaler?'

'I did not.'

'If she comes with the same captain and can be hired, he will be your man; Captain Christopher Cliffe, a little clever, honest, sober sailor. I know him very well. He was second mate of a ship I sailed to England in. Well, I will inquire and see what is to be done, and you also will inquire. But the "Albatross" is your ship, sir—a clipper. She slides like a knife through the sea, and should put you abreast of the hull as quickly as steam.'

'But she is not yet arrived.'

'She is due.'

'She will need time to discharge her cargo?'

'If she is in the Bay,' said he, 'she should[Pg 109] be able to sail with you in a fortnight, and that is as quick as gold itself shall let you be in this climate.'

I was excited by his praise of the brig, and, standing up, I asked him to accompany me to the waterside, and search the Bay with his sight for her. But he had an engagement, so I stepped forth alone, there still remaining a long evening of daylight.

I made my way to the same place I had embarked from that afternoon, and looking at the scene of Bay which glowed like the sky with the evening splendour, stretching out from my feet, and brimming into gold trembling into purple to the white beach abreast, which ran in a curve flashing like light against the lip of the brine, I counted no less than twenty-two ships riding to their anchors: vessels of all rigs and of several nationalities, and, as though heaven were on my side in this time of trial and grief, I saw what I guessed was the vessel I was here to look for.[Pg 110] She lay, curiously enough, immediately astern of the whaler—a milk-white figure, slightly swaying on the satin-smooth heave, with wet green gleams trembling along her as she lifted her metal sheathing.

I said to a coloured waterman who stood near, pointing to the brig:

'What brig is that, do you know?'

He answered immediately, 'De "Albatross," boss!'


'From Sydney, boss.'

'When did she arrive?'

'Two yastardays, boss.'

But it was not wonderful she should have escaped my observation; in going and coming from the whaler I had thought of nothing but what I was to hear and what I had heard; and earlier my sight, often as it wandered to the shipping, never paused to distinguish.

I saw no more of my Dutch friend till next morning, when, at eleven o'clock, whilst I[Pg 111] was making ready to drive into the town and inquire about the brig 'Albatross,' a servant knocked on the door, and said Mr. Pollak was below with another and wished to see me. I at once descended.

His companion was a little man, almost a dwarf; his nose was as long as Punch's, his mouth much like that puppet's, wide and thin, with the look of a smirk in the curl of the lips at either extremity; he wore little slips of grey whiskers; his eyes were deep sunk, grey and kindly, and he blinked them with a nervous fury when he dodged a sort of sea-bow on Mr. Pollak introducing him. He was almost bald, and was perhaps fifty-five years of age, much curved in the back, his shanks slightly arching out. Mr. Pollak called him Captain Christopher Cliffe, and introduced him as master and part-owner of the brig 'Albatross.'

'I know,' said the worthy Dutchman, 'that time is precious to you. I am glad we have[Pg 112] found you in. I cannot stay. But I will leave Captain Cliffe behind me to talk with you.'

And picking up his hat he nodded and went out.

I asked the little man if Mr. Pollak had told him my story.

'Enough,' he answered, 'to make me understand there is reason to hurry.'

'The whaler "Sea Queen,"' said I, 'lying just ahead of you——'

'She sailed this morning,' he interrupted.

'She sighted a hull high and dry on the ice of Coronation Island, New Orkneys,' said I, pulling out my note-book to give him the date. 'That hull, when she was made a raft of by the loss of her masts, was abandoned by the crew in latitude 58° 45´ south, longitude 45° 10´ west. Three people were left in her—one of them a young lady, dearer to me than my heart's blood. The "Lady Emma" is as[Pg 113] surely the hull that was seen by the Yankee as that you who hear me are alive.'

'You think to find the people still locked up in her?' said he, blinking and snapping his lips with many convulsive grimaces.

'I mean to find that out. Is your brig for hire?'


'When will she be ready?'

'I hope to have the remaining cargo out of her by Monday next; she's then at your service.'

'Have you a crew?'

'I'll get a good 'un when you're ready, sir.'

'What's the tonnage of the vessel?'

'One hundred and seventy register.'

'What'll be the cost?'

'Thirty shillings per ton a month, we finding everything, or fifteen shillings per ton a month and you finding everything.'

[Pg 114]

I put down the figures, and said, 'How long is it going to take the brig to arrive off the island?'

He talked a little to himself, blinking and grimacing absurdly, and replied, 'Call it a month.'

'I should like to see the brig, Captain Cliffe.'

'At once, if you will, sir.'

I sent for a cab and we drove to the waterside. He talked freely when he was out of the house and driving. I found something very honest and diverting in this little man's looks and manner of speech. He had an amazingly brisk and nimble mind, I thought; I got at that in a very little while. He went behind my questions, fetched a number of new possibilities for hope to feed on out of the scheme of the search, and heartened me vastly by his clear view and statement of my wishes and plans—that is, he said that the hull sighted by the whaler was beyond all question[Pg 115] the wreck of the 'Lady Emma'; everything tallied—colour of sides, situation, time, down to the very stump of foremast. Then, since three were abandoned in her, why shouldn't they still be aboard? Of course it was my duty, he said, to sail right away. Who wouldn't, to deliver his young lady out of such a scene of horror? But humanity was in it too. The hull was to be searched for and overhauled, and I was quite right in reckoning that if I left that job to the British Admiral the hulk would have disappeared, or the people inside have perished into statues of ice, before the official mind had settled what to do.

'Not unlikely,' said he as we drove along, 'the parties have been taken out; sealers and whalers are constantly moving about those waters; but we aren't to think of that. If they're gone, so much the better, for then they're safe elsewhere; but it's your business to consider that they're still there and to fetch 'em.'

[Pg 116]

Thus we talked, and as we rowed to the brig we continued to chat, he entering very fully into the cost and character of the equipment we should require, the time we should occupy, supposing them alive in the hull, whether we returned with them to the Cape or headed for the nearest South American port.

My spirits rose under the influence of this man's conversation. His practical mind put everything so clearly that in imagination, even whilst we made for the brig, I had realised my hopes—I had rescued Marie and her companions—we were proceeding home!

The brig did not show so milk-white when close to as from the beach; rusty blood-like stains lay dried in scars under the bolt heads and other metal projections, but her figure gained in beauty when approached. I am no sailor, but when I ran my eye over her moulded shape, observed her keen entry, the swan-like curve of her run lifting to an elliptical[Pg 117] stern, with a swell of white side that made me think of a polished heave of sea, I would have wagered there were few swifter vessels of her rig and tonnage then afloat. A lighter or something of that sort was alongside receiving cargo; a man in a cloth cap and half Wellington boots was perched on the rail close to where the cargo was going over the side; he made notes with a pencil in a little book; three or four coloured men were winding at a winch. I had caught, whilst in the boat, the clinking noise of the pawls slipping over the sheet-calm water in a sort of music that wanted but the accompaniment of a hurricane lung or two to furnish out a fine ocean concert. The man on the rail touched his cap when we gained the deck.

'That's my mate, Mr. Bland,' said Captain Cliffe. 'He's a good seaman. I can recommend him.'

I sent a glance of curiosity at the sailor,[Pg 118] guessing if I hired this brig he would go with us; he had the face of a sheep, dark eyes set far back close against his ears, a thick black beard, and a weather-tanned skin, filled with the holes of small-pox. An ugly man indeed! Yet you saw honesty and intelligence like a light of good humour in the expression of him.

Captain Cliffe took me round the decks of the little craft first of all. I had no eye for points of marine equipment, yet noticed a smart little galley with red tiles on the floor, a seat athwartships, and a small array of saucepans, kettles, and the like, all very clean. The windlass looked small, so roomy was the forecastle. The captain then took me aft to the companion, which was painted green, trotting by my side, of the height of a boy, from time to time looking up into my face to observe if I was pleased.

I halted in the companion and asked how many boats he carried; he answered two, and[Pg 119] pointed to a long-boat stowed near the galley, this side of it, and then to the water astern, where a small boat was floating.

'We ought,' said I, 'to go well provided with boats of an exact form and strength for passing through the breach of the sea. The waves break heavily under the hull, the whaling captain said, and we must be prepared for a high surf the whole length of the coast.'

'You're quite right, sir,' said the little man. 'But if we come to terms you've only got to commission me, and whatever's needful I'll see to. For instance, there's a height of ice cliff, and grappling irons 'll be wanted. And we should carry a few lengths of rope ladder. It isn't as though we had to find her. We know she's high and dry. Make the worst of it and call it fifty feet above the wash. That's sure unless the ice had shifted her. And we've got to be provided with machinery for entering.'

[Pg 120]

Thus speaking he descended and I followed.

The companion steps were almost up and down; on the right, at the bottom of the ladder, was a sleeping berth, a sort of cupboard with a sliding door like a smacksman's bedroom; on the left was the main cabin, a larger interior than I expected to see. It was well lighted by a frame of windows overhead and round scuttles in the walls, and furnished with a table, locker seats, and a few camp stools. Forward was a brightly polished brass fireplace. Three small berths were bulkheaded off this living room, one of which the captain told me was a sail and boatswain's locker, and the other a bread and store locker; 'but we can clear 'em out,' said he, 'when they come to be wanted.'

I was satisfied, and then and there resolved to hire this brig and sail quickly for that far-off ice-clad island. I sat down on one of the lockers and asked the captain to take pen and[Pg 121] paper, and we talked about what would be required, making notes, and reckoning up the expenses till I bethought me of my engagement with Mr. Hoskins. And with reluctance and a hearty handshake took my leave.

I was rowed ashore, and on the way to the boarding-house called at the bank whose manager had been my father's clerk. He was astonished and delighted to see me; he had known me, indeed, ever since I was an Eton schoolboy. I had no time on this occasion to enter fully into the cause of my being at the Cape; my immediate purpose was served when he assured me that I was welcome to draw upon the bank to the amount I wanted.

At five o'clock Mr. Hoskins drove up to the boarding-house, and we at once started for the cemetery. He was alone in a closed carriage, and was dressed in mourning as deep as man's apparel will express grief. I, too, had been careful to clothe myself in black. I had not seen Mr. Hoskins since the arrival of the[Pg 122] 'Cambrian,' and his voice and presence carried me on board again, renewed the quiet incidents of the passage, and returned me in imagination to Southampton on that memorable day of my departure. He was pale and melancholy, and his spirits seemed depressed with thought of the distressing ceremony we were bent upon.

'I am sorry now,' said he as he drove along, 'that I solicited permission to inspect the remains. The photographs were perfectly convincing, and still I felt it—I feel it—my duty to make as sure as opportunity admits. Captain Oilier will expect me to tell him all that it was in my power to learn. Nor, perhaps, should I feel perfectly satisfied to erect the monument I intend for my poor child without looking into her coffin to see that it is she herself who will be under it.'

I answered that this melancholy undertaking was even less needful to me than to him; but that, like himself, I saw the [Pg 123]necessity of confirming my own opinion by every possible testimony, for the peace of my own heart as well as for the satisfaction of Miss Otway's father.

We then talked of my chances of finding Marie in the hull upon the island, and I told him how I had hired the brig 'Albatross' and intended myself to sail in her as soon as she discharged her cargo and was ready for sea, which I hoped would be about the close of the following week.

I saw little of the scenery we were driven by; we passed a number of gigantic aloes on the roadside; the hard-blue mountains, towering into the heavens with keenly cut skylines, with great spaces of their sides lustrous with the trembling and delicate foliage of the silver tree, wound with us as we wound, or shadowed us as we drove; they were an eternal presence, like the cloudless blue over them.

Whilst Mr. Hoskins was telling me how he contrived to obtain an order for the [Pg 124]exhumation of the remains, we arrived at the cemetery where we alighted, and my companion conducted me to the grave whose situation he was exactly acquainted with. A number of persons were beside the grave, two were sextons armed with mattocks, or spades, the others were strangers and remained so to me; but one, I believe, was a medical man, and another a government official. They raised their hats to us, and after the exchange of a few commonplace greetings, decorously attuned, the diggers went to work.

The body had lain in this grave since August—four months. The heat thrilled in a sort of surging wave that closed upon the respiration with a sense of suffocation whilst we stood watching the diggers. I shuddered at the idea of looking. I had come to Cape Town conceiving that this body was Marie's, I now knew it was not hers; nevertheless, I guessed that the aspect of the dead face, at rest and out of sight under the cleaving[Pg 125] spades, must become a memory that would be inseparably associated with Marie's image, whether I was to behold her again or not, and my spirits shrunk as I stood watching.

The soil was red, and the diggers turned it cheerily. Mr. Hoskins talked in a low tone apart with one of the strangers; that man was probably an undertaker or connected with the firm of buriers. Many rich strange flowers and plants glowed like jewels or glanced like snow upon or about the graves round about; it was a big tract of ground, all the sculptures, and monuments of several sorts showing at a distance sharp as carvings in ivory through the hot rare blue atmosphere.

The group of us were the only living occupants of that field of sleepers. Doubtless the order had gone forth for all to be excluded till the coffin had been reburied. They came to it at last; it was raised with some trouble, a plain black box, and placed upon the edge of the grave, and without an instant's[Pg 126] loss of time the person with whom Mr. Hoskins had been conversing, unscrewed the lid—and we looked.

I had expected to behold something that was to shock the sight, and create a memory of pain and disgust; instead, there lay before us, her head pillowed, her arms peacefully crossed, the form of a young woman whose face, through chymic changes explicable only by the pen of science, had filled and freshened in complexion to an aspect easily supportable by the most nervous or sensitive eye. The flesh was discoloured; in the pictures it had shown as an ulcerous ghastly white; but here, in this coffin, the face was far more defined and distinguishable in lineament, I may even add in expression, than in the photographs. I could almost understand my Dutch friend's reference to a shadow of beauty lurking in this dead mask of countenance. The hair was very fair, and beautifully abundant, but it was not the hair of Marie, the hands were[Pg 127] not Marie's. Now that I looked upon her I observed that she resembled Marie to a less degree even than the pictures expressed the likeness. I shook my head and drew back a pace, covering my face, the sight was pitiful—I could not bear to look beyond a moment or two. I thought of that form in the loneliness of the ocean off the Horn, and then again I was agitated by a violent reaction in my spirits; for though I had been certain it would not prove Marie, yet I knew not what I was to behold either, what tragic, heart-subduing surprise that coffin might have in store for me, and I shrunk back, shaking my head and hiding my face.

Mr. Hoskins viewed the remains in silence, then sobbed, and I looked at him. Our eyes met across the coffin, and exclaiming, 'It is my daughter, Mr. Moore! It is Charlotte; the wife of Captain Henry Ollier,' he sank upon his knees and folded his hands in prayer beside his child.

[Pg 128]


I had arrived at Cape Town on December 13, and on the 26th of the same month the colonial brig 'Albatross' lay in Table Bay, waiting for me to go aboard in order to sail. This was surely what the shipowners would call 'prompt despatch'!

On the morning of the 26th I said good-bye to my friends in the boarding-house and drove to one of the jetties where Captain Cliffe awaited me. I was accompanied by the colonel and Mr. Pollak. A considerable crowd had assembled to see me embark; the story had leaked out; it was in the papers that I had come to the Cape to identify the body brought from sea by the 'Emerald,' and[Pg 129] that, being satisfied it was not that of the girl I was in search of, I was going to the New Orkneys in the hope of finding her locked up in a wreck described as corresponding in every material detail with the hull of the 'Lady Emma.'

It was an extraordinary romance; Mr. Pollak had assured me that all Cape Town was talking about it. For the first time in my life I was made to understand the inconvenience and discomfort of publicity. A number of ladies were in the crowd, and they thrust most unceremoniously forward to catch sight of me. When I got into the boat the crowd good-naturedly cheered; I did not feel easy till the oars were dipping and the boat under way, for the crowd was bringing others, and as we rowed from the jetty I saw some men and women running towards the water.

Mr. Pollak and the colonel went on board with me. It was a rich glowing day, a number of white steam-like clouds were[Pg 130] circling above Cape Town, but low over the water, brushing it into a wide sheet of rippling blue splendour, a hot fresh breeze was blowing; it swept straight down the Bay, with a brassy light in the air that made you think of the wind as coloured by the yellow glares of the sandy land it had travelled across.

Mr. Pollak had on several occasions visited the brig; the colonel had not before viewed her close; he was greatly pleased and hummed a tune approvingly as he accompanied me about the decks. One detail of furniture, his own suggestion, he lingered over; it was a bright brass cannon mounted on the quarter-deck.

'He'll do for you!' he exclaimed, slapping the breech of the piece. 'That should fetch an echo loud enough to awaken the dead.'

A little further aft stood a mortar, with its round mouth gaping at the sky.

'What's that for?' asked the colonel.[Pg 131] 'Isn't the gun noisy enough to alarm 'em if they're aboard?'

'It is my idea,' said Mr. Pollak. 'Suppose it should be impossible to scale the slope and reach the ship; here is an engine that will throw you a ball and line which anyone on board may catch and pull ladders up by.'

'Good!' exclaimed the colonel.

We then examined the two fresh boats which Captain Cliffe had purchased on my behalf; they were large, strong, handsome whale-boats, strengthened by iron beams or girders under the thwarts; and made lifeboats of by a quantity of cork fenders carefully laced or otherwise seamed along the sides.

'These,' said I, 'together with rope ladders hooked for scaling, and grappling irons, form my machinery.'

'It is all you will need,' said Mr. Pollak, 'and I am sure everyone must pray that God will bless and prosper your noble voyage.'

[Pg 132]

I took the worthy Dutchman's hand and thanked him with a silent grip.

At that moment the windlass began to clank; immediately a hoarse voice bawled out a song whose burthen was caught and flung in thunder into the air by the seven or eight hearts who bowed and rose at the windlass handles.

'Come, Mr. Pollak; come, colonel,' I exclaimed; 'there's time for a bumper.'

I called to the captain to send aft the lad who was to wait upon us in the cabin, and descended with my friends. A magnum of champagne was opened, and we filled and drank to the voyage. I obliged Captain Cliffe to come down and drink. He cried through the skylight that he durst not leave the deck for above three minutes; I told him to come, and the two gentlemen toasted the little man, who delivered, with several grimaces, a brief sailorly speech, full of hope, then rushed on deck.

I bade Mr. Pollak good-bye with a full[Pg 133] heart. The colonel followed him into the boat, which put off, and then hung by on her oars to watch us. At this time the anchor was off the ground, and the crew were making sail on the brig, whose bowsprit, with a white pinion of jib swelling from it, was rounding, finger-like, in a slow, pointing way for the open; the sheep-faced mate stood on the forecastle shouting orders; a sailor was at the wheel; Captain Cliffe crossed the deck from left to right, looking up and around, moving swiftly, a doll of a man, grimacing and blinking at every pause in his nimble trot.

Some of the ships round about had got our tale, I fancy, or at least the scent of our errand; since from most of them we were watched by many heads above the rail. Presently the brig's stern was to the wind, her topsails filled, the lighter sails glanced wing-shaped to the yard-arms to the drag of the gear; I waved my hat from the quarter to my two friends, and they flourished a last[Pg 134] farewell. My voyage, strange as any that had ever been undertaken in this world, was begun!

We were the only ship at that time leaving the Bay, and I think our lonely going must have given a certain majesty and nobleness to the figure of the vessel in the eyes of those who watched us, with the significance of her dangerous, surprising, romantic mission going along with her. I don't know what my own sensations were: I was sensible perhaps of a little triumph of spirits at this getting away so quickly, and then there was the feeling that I was in action, that no time was being lost; and yet there was a heaviness at my heart too, the chill of doubt, a frosty dread that the errand would prove profitless, and that if God suffered me to return home it must be as a mourner for Marie.

But we were sailing through a wide, shining scene of commanding beauty, lofty and gloriously coloured, and the influence of[Pg 135] it, I don't doubt, rescued me from the dark mood imagination might have raised. The breeze blew hot, but the sweetness of flowers and fruit was in it, and the scent of the land was brisk with the salt of the sea. In a very little while the seamen had clothed the brig from the main-royal yard to the waterways, and as she floated onwards, now slightly curtseying to a small breathing of swell, the mountains went with her, and the ships astern closed into clusters past the tail of our mirror-bright line of wake. The mountains towered on our left; Cape Town vanished, and we softly drove with a noise of fountains on either hand past rich curves of shore on whose margin the huge Atlantic comber formed and fell in snowstorms with white houses beyond the foam like models in ivory shining amid the greenery.

And all the time we were alone! This was the wonderful feature of our departure. I could not see the smallest boat in motion.[Pg 136] The water was like a great lonely lake, and the silence on the face of the mountains was in the wind, in a presence that seemed to compel isolation for us, hushing all life off the face of the bay down to where the ships were lying too far off to trouble the sense of solitude.

The crew were now occupied in coiling away the rigging and clearing up the decks, and I had an opportunity of viewing them. All were white men; there were eight, together with a cook and a boy to wait upon us aft, making with captain and mate twelve of a company, which was plenty. Cliffe had told me he would not ship a certificated second mate; the man who went as boatswain would relieve the mate and stand a watch. That man was a wiry, middle-aged seaman; he wore a spread of grey whisker scissors-trimmed, close to his face, and dark eager eyes which he rolled quickly as a monkey; he sang out briskly, and sprang[Pg 137] about the decks. Little Captain Cliffe, observing that I watched the man, came and stood beside me and spoke up softly to my ear:

'I engaged that chap because of his knowledge of the ice. He told me he was seven years whaling in the Pacific and Southern oceans. He is the most wonderful jumper I ever heard of.'

'So old as he is?'

'Forty-five or thereabouts. Men of that sort soon lose the reckoning of their birth. I don't allow their mothers ever enter 'em. They're always the age that suits 'em to be. But look what a life it is, sir! the iron it will put into a young 'un's hair! the kinks it'll run into a young 'un's back! All the hard life and the bad food works out through a man's pores after a few years, bows him down, and hardens in his face with a crust of years. He's a marvellous jumper that, sir. Tell ye what he did—and it astonished me—there[Pg 138] was a horse and trap standing close beside where we were talking. He turns on a sudden and sings out, "Captain, did yer ever see this done?" and putting his feet together and clenching his fists he bent his knees, let go of the ground like and shot as a bolt, clearing the horse till you could see half the length of his own legs of blue sky 'twixt his feet and the animal's back.'

He gazed up at me, blinking and grinning, and added, 'I allow, should it come to any awkward climbing jobs, we'll find that covey handy.'

I lingered a little to watch the brig and the coast. The swell was coming straight out of the wide sea, but the breeze still followed fiery and splendid with the light of that land; the little ship bowed softly; the long heave under the bows did not stop her; she floated with erect spars, her yards square, the canvas breathing like human breasts as her bowsprit rose and fell; yet a glance[Pg 139] astern showed me she was already whitening the water.

At every look, the high land, purple and hard in that noontide brilliance, yielded new features. It was towering now on to Hont Bay, with a trend which made a mighty shoulder of it as it sounded towards Simon's Town and the Cape of Good Hope: the towering terraces were on our port quarter with Robben Island to starboard, and ahead was the glittering breast of the Atlantic with the sea-line hard-carved against the faint silvery blue. I looked for a sail, but nothing broke that measureless run of horizon; the junction of air and water had a wild loveliness, indescribable, thanks perhaps to the violet of the brine that washed the light azure; though the fear and mystery of beauty I found in it then doubtless came of the thought of what lay hidden from me hundreds of leagues deep beyond that slope of airy silver. Had we been a ship of ancient explorers the field[Pg 140] of ocean could not have shown more barren than my eyes, exploring its recesses under the sharp of my hand, found it.

Some seamen came aft to spread an awning. They eyed me askew; of course they knew the brig's mission, and perhaps thought me a little mad; but it would be all one to them; there is worse to be suffered at sea than a cruise off the Horn in the midsummer of this side on such wages as they had signed for, in a tight well-built brig. In fact, they rolled about their work with a sort of rollicking carriage that made one reckon they had entered upon the voyage with jolly hearts as on a yachting jaunt, secure from all danger and dirt of cargo; only it was as likely they'd come on board a little merry with Jack's custom of farewell.

I now went below to see to my berth and arrange my traps; but came to a halt at the cabin table, to lean upon it and think. This interior was wholly unlike the 'Lady Emma's';[Pg 141] yet the skylight, the lockers, and several trifling details of cabin furniture brought to my recollection that day in the Thames when I had said good-bye to Marie in her cabin, alone. What had been her sufferings since? If she was in the hull she had been imprisoned at this date for five months, and by the time we got to her six! For six months she would have been locked up in a motionless hulk, high perched upon a savage island, heavily faced with ice, with a thunder of surf far down for ever in her ear, and always the same white, desolate, fierce prospect of frozen cliffs and rolling ocean. Would it not have killed her? I clasped my hands in the torment of the thought. Should I be making this voyage to a remote ice-girt island merely to enter the wreck and behold the remains of my Marie as I had looked into that coffin in Cape Town beholding another?

I passed into my own berth, a small but comfortable box, and after busying myself for[Pg 142] half an hour, during which I had recalled my mind to something of its former composure, I re-entered the cabin and found the table laid for dinner. The little sea parlour looked cheerful with this hospitable setting. The heel of a windsail buzzed in the skylight. There had happened a little shift of wind whilst I was below, for the brig leaned over and I heard a smart hissing—the seething of foam sliding past; it was as cooling a noise as the sound of a hard shower of rain on a dusty August day at home.

I stepped on deck to take a look; the land was melting into a vast roll of shadow astern and on the port quarter, filming down to the Cape end; the breeze hung steady, only it came fresher, more fiery and sparkling out here in the wide ocean, we had changed our course by two or three points, bringing it somewhat abaft the beam; I saw no cloud, nothing but a glad race of flashing bright blue seas ridging from an horizon that rose into a[Pg 143] dome of untarnished blue in the midst of which was the sun, making a dazzling plain of a great surface of water in the north.

Captain Cliffe came to the compass-stand whilst I stood looking at the card; I felt his little blinking eyes were upon me when my sight went to the hollow canvas, and to the sea-smoke that from time to time blew away in little puffs from off the lee bow when the brig stooped with a sheering plunge shouldering a knoll of the blue brine into a long roar of foam.

'This is good sailing,' said I.

'It beats steam anyhow,' said he, turning to look at the race of wake astern.

'What's the speed?'

'Nine,' he answered with a convulsive grimace of triumph, 'and I understand they never could get more than seven out of the steamer you came out in.'

The mate walked in the gangway; I saw but one man forward. The captain told me[Pg 144] the crew were at dinner. But whilst I stood first one man and then another came up through a little hole in the fore part of the brig, and in a few minutes half a dozen of them were sprawling and lounging in the shadows the canvas made upon the forecastle, smoking, but scarcely speaking for heat and loathing of movement.

I could not forbear a smile when I reflected that to all intents and purposes I was veritably the owner of this white brig sweeping south-west, and the master of those people yonder. What would my prosaic friends of the City think of such an adventure as this I was upon? But put Marie by my side, or bid me know for a God's-truth that she was safe, and I'd have sworn there was nothing in this wide world of delights comparable with such sailing as this. Sickness had been cured by the 'Cambrian.' The heave of the deck, the slant of the hull, the feel of the speeding of the fabric of white cloud through the sun-bright [Pg 145]gushing of wind were as a buoyancy of spirits; you did not heed them, yet they worked like wine in the blood. I wanted but peace at my heart, the tranquility of conviction, to have tasted a perfect happiness in this glorious Cape noon of flashing ocean, of rushing brig and wind filled with the music of the strands.

My reverie was disturbed—for Cliffe stood silent by my side—by the sight of the boy coming along with the cabin dinner, and presently the captain and I were seated at table.

This was my first meal aboard, and I often laugh silently when memory returns me the image of my little skipper sitting behind a roast fowl, blinking and stretching his lips at it, then rising and lurching over it, being too short to carve it sitting. He saw amusement in my face, for on beginning to eat he said he often lamented that he had come in at the tail end of his family when nearly all the height had been served out. He was the last born,[Pg 146] and arrived when not very many inches were left. He had a brother six foot high, and his mother was a big woman. He told me that he once dined with a company of people when the Queen's health was proposed and everyone stood. His neighbour requested him to stand up as the Queen's health was being drunk. He answered he was up. These were the sort of mortifications, he said, to which little men were subjected.

After a bit, talking always as I now did on the subject of the 'Lady Emma' and our chances of finding Miss Otway alive in the wreck, I asked if the boatswain of the brig—that jumping seaman who had been whaling seven years—had ever sighted the New Orkneys?

'I didn't think of asking,' he answered, 'but I'll soon find out, sir.'

'Would you object to his coming here?'

'This is your ship, Mr. Moore.'

'I'd like to ask him some questions.'

[Pg 147]

He at once told the boy who waited on us to send Bodkin aft. In a few minutes the man came; by this time we had dined, but the captain lingered to hear what this boatswain had to say before he went on deck to send the mate to his dinner.

'I've been telling this gentleman,' said the captain, leaning his little figure against a stanchion and discharging a whole broadside of grimaces at Bodkin, who stood staring at us and around him, astonished at the summons, 'that you've been a-whaling seven years in the Pacific and Southern Ocean.'

Here Bodkin lifted his hand to his forehead in the seaman's salute to me.

'Know anything of the New Orkneys?' said the captain with nervous abruptness like the briskness of a bird.

'Well, sir, bin off 'em again and again.'

'Sit down,' said I. 'Boy, give Mr. Bodkin a glass of sherry.'

Bodkin put down his cap and sat; he had[Pg 148] evidently been called from some heavy work, and his face and hairy arms bare to the elbows, and his well-baked throat naked to the iron-grey hairs upon his chest, shone with sweat. He took the glass and tipped down the wine.

I then said, 'Do you know that we're sailing to the New Orkneys?'

'Oh, yes. I signed for that run.'

'Is our errand known to you?'

'It's to search for a wreck, ain't it, sir?'

'A wreck with live people in it,' said Captain Cliffe. 'I made that clear, didn't I?'

'Then I hope we shan't find 'em,' said Bodkin.

'What!' shouted Cliffe with a hideous face.

'For their own sakes. Who'd lock a dog up there?' said the man, running the length of his wet bare arm along his streaming forehead ''Tain't imagined here, with the pitch[Pg 149] 'twixt the seams like suet, and the paint-work blistering into scabs. I've been off the larger of them islands five times. Yer wouldn't know 'em from icebergs, 'cept for here and there a piece of naked black rock showing where ice hadn't formed or snow couldn't keep a hold of.'

'Could a boat land?' I exclaimed, scarcely bearing to hear him when he talked like that.

'Why yes, sir. This time of the year—watching a smooth—'tain't always what they calls weather down there; but it's b—— cold.'

'Were ye ever ashore on them islands?' inquired the captain.

'No, sir.'

'Did your ship send a boat ashore?' I asked.

'The last time I was off them rocks a boat was sent and she came back again; they was nearly capsized, and that was all they did.'

[Pg 150]

'Describe the land,' said I.

His recollection, however, was not very clear. He talked of tall ice cliffs and of a huge dim mountain far inland; and of peaks and projections showing and disappearing amidst storms of snow.

'Is there much ice about the island?' said I.

'Plenty,' he answered. 'The biggest berg I ever see in all my life was close in with that land, third time I wur off it.'

'Suppose the hull of a ship was on a ledge of ice, thirty or forty feet above the wash of the sea; she was lying plain in sight of the ocean'—I named the date on which the skipper of the whaler 'Sea Queen' had passed her—'would you expect to find her still exposed, lying in full view?'

He looked at me with a working mind, his words being too few to help him quickly; then said, turning his eyes upon the captain:

[Pg 151]

'All things considered, I allow it's more'n likely she'd be smothered up.'

'What's to smother her?' cried Captain Cliffe.

'The congregating of bergs,' answered the other.

'Is that all ye know of ice?' exclaimed the little man. 'Haven't you heard that ice fetches away from the main and works north this time o' year?'

'I'm asked a question,' said the man with a note of sullenness in his voice, 'and I'm expected, I suppose, for to speak the truth, being sent for. All I know is there's nothen so shifting as ice, and therefore nothen so smothering.'

'But the hull's ashore on an island,' I exclaimed.

'That's not going to stop the ice from a-blocking of her out,' he answered.

'I'm afraid you won't get much [Pg 152]encouragement out of this man,' said Captain Cliffe, turning and grimacing at me.

'Yer see, sir,' said Bodkin, directing a languishing look at the decanter of sherry in the hands of the boy as he went to the pantry, ''tain't only the chance of that there hull being hobscurified by the congregating of ice right in front of her; she lies under slifts which are constantly a-going to pieces and tumbling down in thundering lumps.'

'Then,' said I, 'I take it, Mr. Bodkin, that you, who have had plenty of experience of the ice down south, give me little reason to hope that we shall find the wreck whole or the people abandoned in her alive?'

He rolled his monkey eyes briskly at this, fretting first one cropped grey whisker and then the other with the palm of his hand.

'I allow,' he answered after a silence, during which little Captain Cliffe viewed him as sternly as his nervous distorting affection permitted, 'that your chance is as good as any[Pg 153] chance at sea hever can be. But I don't mind saying,' he added, standing up, catching hold of his cap and revolving it, 'that our number is agin your luck.'

'What's that?' exclaimed the captain.

'Let the gent count us. There's thirteen souls.'

'Go forward,' said the captain, 'and get on with your work.'

The man, with a civil flourish of his hand to his brow, left the cabin.

'There's no fool like Jack fool,' said Captain Cliffe.

I confess, however, that when I reckoned up to myself the number of people on board and made No. 13, I felt a little uneasy. I said nothing to the captain, but the thing weighed upon me. It was perfectly natural that at such a time I should be superstitious; certainly a good omen would have heartened me: why, then, should not so unlucky a circumstance as that of thirteen forming the[Pg 154] number of us in the brig prove depressing? I was so weak in this way that I had serious thoughts of ordering Cliffe to tranship one of the men at the first chance that offered. Also, the boatswain Bodkin's description of the island, his talk of the cliffs, of ice-splitting and thundering down in blocks, worried me by exciting new apprehensions. I was sorry I had sent for the man. I had come from the deck to my dinner in tolerably good spirits, and when I returned on deck I felt as melancholy as ever I had been in my gloomiest hour aboard the 'Cambrian.'

The mood lasted for the remainder of the day, so that, spite of the noble sailing breeze, this, my first start in search of Marie, seemed as inauspicious as though the scheme had failed in the first breath of it. But after a long chat with Cliffe in the evening I grew cheerfuller. The sun was sinking in splendour: the dark blue sea ran in frothing lines; the brig was sailing swiftly, heeling[Pg 155] down and smoking onwards as though, like something living, she blew the breath of life in steam from the nostrils of her hawsepipes as she fled. Every hour of such progress shortened the term of expectation; all might yet be well; I could not but reflect that, until the worst was known, the best might most rationally be hoped for. I had come to Cape Town thinking to find my sweetheart dead; it was not she that lay there. Though we should board the wreck and find nobody in her, still I should have a right to believe that the three had been rescued, and perhaps at that very time were at home in safety.

Thus I reasoned with myself after my talk with Cliffe in the evening and was somewhat easier at heart, which indeed in this whistling evening, merry with progress, spacious with the splendour of the setting sun, and the distance of the eastern seaboard faintly flushed, might have been at rest but for the gloom of the silly superstition of thirteen!

[Pg 156]

About this time, a little before it fell dark, whilst looking towards the forecastle where most of the crew were smoking and talking, I saw a man come out of the hatch, hugging something to his breast. The sailors jumped up and pressed around him. Hands were outstretched to what the fellow held, and I heard some laughter. Cliffe was below. The mate Bland was walking near me abreast of the skylight. He bawled out:

'What have you there, my lads?'

On which the boatswain Bodkin, snatching the object from the hold of the man, held it high, shouting:

'Here's good luck to the brig "Albatross;" and now there's fourteen all told.'

I started, and saw it was a cat he held. It was black as coal.

'Bring it here,' I cried.

He came, the others grinning as they stood in a huddle looking aft. It was a young cat, and it mewed as the man [Pg 157]approached with it. Cliffe came on deck at that moment.

'Where was it found?' I asked, stroking the thing as it lay mewing in Bodkin's hands.

'In one of the men's hammocks, sir.'

'It's a cat!' exclaimed Cliffe with a grimace. 'Who brought it aboard?'

'No man owns to it,' responded Bodkin.

'But who would bring it aboard if it wasn't its own legs, Mr. Moore?' said Cliffe, turning to me. 'D'ye know I'd ask for no better stroke of luck in all my seafaring days than this same beast's presence,' and he advanced his little hand and tickled the cat's head.

'There's fourteen of us now, sir,' said Bodkin, with a darting roll of his eyes.

'Fourteen and a stroke of luck besides, eh?' said I with a foolish laugh of good spirits spite of myself.

'Go and give it something to eat and see[Pg 158] that it don't jump overboard,' said Captain Cliffe; and whilst the boatswain walked forward handling the cat tenderly enough and talking to it, the little skipper with a snap of his eyes and a voice of conviction exclaimed: 'That cat's squared the yards, Mr. Moore. We shall find the wreck, sir, and do your business.'

[Pg 159]


On the morning of January 29, 1861, Captain Cliffe at dinner told me that our position by dead reckoning—he had not been able to obtain an observation for two days—was latitude 58° 30´ S., longitude 45° W. I pulled out my note-book on hearing this and started violently.

'Good God, Cliffe!' cried I, 'do you know that we are within a mile or two of the place where the "Lady Emma" was abandoned by her crew?'

'Is that so?' said the little man after a pause, closing his knife and fork. 'But it's true all the same: I'll back my runs for the[Pg 160] last two days, log-reckoned as they are, right, longitude and latitude, within ten mile.'

It was bitterly cold, and when I had come below so dense a fog overhung the sea that the main-yard was out of sight from the wheel. The brig was lying hove to under small canvas, a large smooth Cape Horn swell was running out of the sallow thickness, and the little vessel was rolling horribly, falling into the hollows and swinging to the summits, now on her beam ends, now on a level keel, now with a dip forward that seemed to make her all stern, now with a drop aft that shook the cabin with a hollow roar, every motion being so abrupt, and exaggerated, that it was almost impossible to walk, to stand, even to eat, the plate flying from your hand, whilst the boy waited with a broken head through a fall down the companion ladder.

We had passed several icebergs on the previous day, during a very thick morning and afternoon, when the sky had been dark with[Pg 161] driving cloud, and the strong wind white with snow, and throughout the night a sharp look-out had been kept for ice; but since daybreak it had been as dense as it was now with an awful silence all round: nothing had once broken the amazing, oppressive stillness upon that sea, sallow as the fog, labouring in volumes of brine soundlessly, saving a strange, fierce noise of blowing heard close upon the bow, though nothing was to be seen there. Cliffe said it was a whale, and I might have guessed that by the sight of the boatswain Bodkin springing with an amazing jump into the fore-shrouds, and leaning away from the ratline he grasped with pricked ears, staring as out of love for his old sport into the choking wool the breathless air was filled with.

I was as anxious and restless on account of the ice as any man aboard, though I was no sailor: Cliffe had said it didn't follow, though a hurricane blew, that the smother would clear. I knew that ice must be about: for[Pg 162] still we had headed south after passing many bergs, and if wind came and gave us a drift without clearing the ocean for us, we might be foul of an ice mountain ere the mass of it was fairly shaped to the sight within toss of a man's cap.

But I forgot our situation for awhile when Cliffe told me where we were and I looked into my note-book. Deep love, deep grief, consecrated to my heart this scene and place of silent hills of water. Here the 'Lady Emma' had been abandoned; here, if the horizon had been visible, then, within the compass of it Marie had been left with her two companions in a dismasted hull amid such floating ice as during the past few days I had gazed at with fear and amazement: from this point the three in that mere raft of ship had drifted—the vessel on to the ice of Coronation Island; that, undoubtedly, she had been seen, described, reported, but her inmates—had they been taken out of her? Or were they frozen[Pg 163] corpses in her? Or were they living, within reach of a day or two's sail from the place of ocean Cliffe had found us in that day?

A fire glowed in the little brass grate. The cabin was snug and warm enough with the companion doors closed; but I speedily grew restless after Cliffe had gone on deck. I asked the mate when he came down to dinner how the weather looked.

'Thick as muck, sir.'

'Any signs of wind, Bland?'

'None. But there's no trusting the next minute.'

'Any ice near us, think you?'

'The boatswain's been a snuffling and says he can hear the noise of the beating of water. Nary man else do, though. Them whalemen are so clever they can thread needles with their toes. They can smell grease in a field of grass.'

Here he began to munch, and I let him eat.

[Pg 164]

I put on a thick coat and went on deck. The brig's arrest on the smoke-thickened water, when one thought that if it would but clear and the sun flood the south with the sparkling splendour of the South Afric parallels from the mastheads of the brig the loom of the huge dim hill past the cliff where the hull was lying might be seen—this, I say, was maddening. I never could have imagined so dense a fog out of London. It was thick as soup, of a sort of dirty yellow, as though charged with the soot of a city of factories. The dripping wet of it froze as it gathered, and our shrouds were swollen with the glazing, as much of the brig as could be seen was beautiful and novel with fantasies of ice. The topsail clapped in the blankness overhead like shells exploding there: but you could not see it. That was the only noise saving an occasional long sobbing wash of water when the brig heeled straining from the yearning send of the swell.

[Pg 165]

I held by a backstay, Cliffe standing beside me, and rolled my eyes around the sallow blindness, till all of a moment I heard a very faint moan like the noise of a sea running into a cave: it sounded afar, and yet not far either, as though something stood between the cause of it and us.

Cliffe heard nothing, though he grimaced in the direction I indicated, and dropped his head on his shoulder to hearken.

About this time the mate came up from his dinner. I asked him to listen, suspecting that the noise I had heard was the sound of sea upon ice. After a pretty good spell of silence the three of us listening with all our might, Bland said:

'Sometimes if ice is near and can't be smelt or seen, it may be heard. If you fire off this gun,' said he, putting his hand upon the brass piece, 'and ice is by, it'll answer.'

'Try it,' said I.

He promptly went below and returned[Pg 166] with the necessary ammunition; where our powder was kept I never inquired. He and Cliffe loaded the gun, the skipper snapping grimace after grimace with nervous excitement.

'Are you all ready?' said I.

Bland said 'Yes,' and then shouted to the men forward to stand by to listen for an echo and note its bearings. The forms of the seamen loomed in mere smudges in the fog as they lurched to the rolling bulwarks to hearken.

'Fire!' cried I.

The piece blazed and thundered, lighting up the fog like a volcanic upheaval with a wild crimson glare as though it was the night itself the powder flashed against. But stunning as the roar was, it was not so deafening but that I, for one, caught an echo stinging back through the thickness on the starboard hand like a slap of tall becalmed topsail against a mast.

[Pg 167]

'Hear it?' shouted a voice forward.

'We were answered yonder,' I cried, pointing.

'Ship ahoy!' at that instant came in a hoarse but clear, thin, far voice out of the blankness on the port bow.

'Good God, we are hailed!' cried Cliffe. 'Bland, answer. Your lungs have got more carrying power than mine.'

'Hallo!' shouted Bland, going to the side in a spring, and sending his voice in the direction of the hail in a deep, roaring, melancholy note.

'What ship's that?' came back distinct but remote, so wonderful was the hush, so burnished the swell. We made answer, and then roared Bland:

'What ship's that?'

'The "Helen MacGregor" of Hull, twenty months out. What's wrong with you, that you're firing guns?'

[Pg 168]

'All's right with us,' bawled Bland. 'Any ice about, d'ye know?'

'Not used my eyes since daybreak,' echoed the far, thin, hoarse voice.

It was strange to hear it, to look into the thickness and see nothing, to know that a ship was there, and listen to a man talking on her! But conversation all that way off was not to be kept up long.

After remaining twenty minutes on deck I felt the cold so severely that I returned to the cabin. After I had been below about half an hour the brig heeled sharply on a slant of swell without recovery as before, whence I guessed it had come on to blow suddenly. In fact, I might have known it by the noise of feet overhead and the gushing and hissing of water in motion, shouldered off in foam. I wrapped myself up and went on deck and found the brig lying down close hauled under the canvas she had been brought-to with early in the morning—a reefed maintopsail and[Pg 169] foresail; she was looking up for a tall, black, full-rigged ship that was lying with her topsail to the mast on the weather bow as though waiting for us.

The scene of ocean was wonderfully grand at this hour: it was not blowing hard, yet the wind out of the heads off the ridges it made, and the swell was rolling now in furrows of foam. The fog was broken up and sailing off in compact masses with the wide white-lived heave of sea gleaming and glancing through the foundations of vapour, till you looked to see the stuff rock as though afloat. Lanes and openings stretched in all directions, and I did not know where to direct my eyes first, so noble, wild, and startling was the picture of that tall black ship showing in a wide, clear space, her canvas waving in squares of light in the framing of the sallow smother, whilst on the starboard quarter hung a stately incomparable spectacle of iceberg, a giant mass, the height[Pg 170] vaster to the imagination because the fog showed you bits of it only—in one place marble white cliffs staring through a passage of vapour, a little further on, a gray pinnacle piercing the stuff which streamed off it like torn rag. And now I could hear, but faintly, the noise of the sea breaking along its base.

We had passed a good deal of ice during the week; but this was the place where the 'Lady Emma' was abandoned; that white vapour-clothed mountain took a significance none other had. I thought of it as ice that had been seen by Marie's own eyes. It was as a revelation, too, of the savage, forbidding, tremendous scene of desolation the brig was bound to, with myself in her, dreaming, hoping, praying to Almighty God I should find my sweetheart in the hull alive.

Many large white and grey birds flew out of the vapour into the openings; they glanced against the marble-like abrupt and vanished. In the midst of a wide flaw right abeam to[Pg 171] port, another tall berg was floating. It, too, was a sight of terror and awful beauty, with a look as of frozen foam about the brows of it where the fog was flying, the vapour whitening out to the shadow of the ice as though moon-smitten, whilst low down on the right arched a piece of marvellous architecture, like a Titanic Gothic doorway, through which every swell of the sea flashed, bursting into a terrible fury and dazzling brightness of foam.

I looked on in silence, keeping the shelter of the companion, whilst the brig under her little show of cloths broke her way to windward, helped by the tall black ship whose drift was towards us. After some waiting we were within hailing distance. She was just such another whaler as the 'Sea Queen,' but bigger by a couple of hundred tons, worn and weedy, rolling dark decks at us with a glimpse of a black-roofed galley and smoking chimney. She was rich with ice device: fathoms of[Pg 172] thick crystal hung from her tops, catheads, bowsprit and quarters; a dull light sank down her glass-like rigging as she swayed. A crowd of men viewed us over her rail, and a man stood awaiting us beside the mizzen rigging, an arm wrapping a backstay, and his figure like a bear's with fur to his heels.

'What southing are you from?' shouted Cliffe, who, dwarf as he was to the sight, had something bugle-like in the clear, small penetrating note of his throat's delivery.

'Sixty-one, sighting Elephant Island. Nothing to the south'ard of it,' shouted back the man in the bear-like coat.

'Been off the South Orkneys?' cried Cliffe.

'Just caught a sight of the north-west point of Coronation Island? 'Twas blowing hard, and the weather coming on thick,' answered the other.

The two vessels rolled at a distance apart not wider than a wide street: each man's[Pg 173] voice rang through the wind in distinct syllables spite of the splashing and groaning sounds and the howling and whistling aloft when the brig's spars sheared to windward on the slope of the sea. When I heard the whaleman speak of Coronation Island, I thought my heart had stopped. I wanted to speak, but could not.

'How was the ice?' bawled Cliffe.

'Plentiful to the south'ard and west'ard.'

'How was the ice about the New Orkneys?'

'More'n ye'll want if you're bound there,' was the answer.

'D'ye know that land?'

'Ay' was the answer that was accompanied by a significant ironical flourish of the arm.

'Where's a man's chance of getting ashore?'

The whaleman seemed to address another, probably the mate, who stood a little distance from him.

[Pg 174]

'There's some landing-places on the south side,' he presently called. 'There's shelter there from the westerly winds. But you must see to your ship, for the ice is plentiful and dangerous.'

'The wreck lies on the north side of the island,' I called to Cliffe.

'Is there no landing on the north of the island?' shouted the little fellow.

The other answered, but the words were lost in a sudden blast or squall of wind which blew betwixt our masts in a shriek like a locomotive's. A moment later I saw the skipper of the whaler, as I presumed the bear-coated man to be, motioning to his crew and heard him, but faintly, shouting; thereupon the ship's topsail-yard was swung: the man brandished his fist in a farewell to us, and whilst we still lay as though hove, with the weather leech-rope of our band of topsail shaking at every smoking plunge of the brig's head, the ship heeled over, and gathering way,[Pg 175] broke the seas off her lee bow with glaring heaps, and melted into a swollen smudge in the heart of a body of vapour when our crew were trimming sail for the course to the New Orkneys.

The rolling ocean, sallow still, was thick in many places with fog. We saw now that ice lay all about us. There was scarce an opening in the vaporous folds that was not filled with a berg near or distant, a dull, pale, motionless mass; the vast island that had been off our starboard quarter when the wind broke up the thickness, we had now brought on to our port bow, and were slowly passing; its loom was more like a blue shadow of land in the dull yellow light of that Antarctic afternoon, summer as it was, than ice: yet it was a vast berg stretching west and east: its westermost point was nearest and hung like a mass of foreland, wild with the vapour that flew smoking off its face and points, and with the leap of the surf at its base in lofty columns[Pg 176] of foam, whose heads the wind swept off in clouds.

I stood beside Cliffe under the shelter of a large square of canvas in the main rigging: oilskinned figures watched on the forecastle; we drove very slowly; the running rigging had been seen to and carefully coiled down ready for instant handling should a sudden cry from the forecastle compel a shift of helm. I saw many birds flying in the hollow seas, and turning to mark the bearings of a small berg which had come and gone and come again on the starboard bow, I observed slowly swinging past about a half-acre of the giant kelp of this part of the world, a huge seaweed, glancing black in the whiteness of the froth, and hissing like shingle as the salt shot through it.

'Now that we are under way again,' I exclaimed, 'I am realising that the end of this cruise is at hand.'

'Were it all clear water and fine weather,'[Pg 177] answered the little man, 'we should be off the island by noon to-morrow.'

'What distance do you reckon it?'

'Eighty miles.'

'That ship we have just spoken makes me believe the hull has been sighted again and again.'

'Why, perhaps so,' he answered, 'but not of necessity.'

'She was off the island, close enough to see the rocks.'

'And who's to say that she's not the first that's been off that land this six months—close in with the coast, I mean? Depend upon it, Mr. Moore,' he went on with his face full of earnestness betwixt his grimaces, 'you're doing the right thing for your own peace of mind, and in the cause of humanity....'

'Oh, it goes higher than humanity, man, higher than humanity,' I interrupted.

'In finding out for yourself,' he continued, 'whether the hull's the wreck of the "Lady[Pg 178] Emma," and whether the captain, and his wife, and your young lady are still aboard——'

'By heaven, yes, then!' I exclaimed; 'Only to think of her as being on board, and perishing there for the want of my coming to her help! Whether she's there or not, Cliffe, it was the right thing to do, as you say, and even in that thought I find a sort of comfort. Shall you heave-to when it comes on dark?'

'I'm for shoving on, sir, but we'll take no risks.'

'None, though the job of heaving the land into view should fill another month.'

And still expectation and excitement so worked in me, I felt ill with the conflict. I was up and down ceaselessly till the dusk blackened the scene out. The cold drove me below, restlessness forced me above again. It was always the same picture, the rolling and plunging figure of the brig, gleaming with barbs, and spears, and motionless pennons of ice: the glare of her band of topsail dingy[Pg 179] against the ice beyond as she swung it through the howling sweep of wind: the quick dazzle of froth recoiling in thunder from the thrust of the bows: the large grey swell coursed by the breaking surge, and to right and left, and ahead and astern, the shadows and clear shapes of ice, some with brows in the flying scud, some table-like and flashing like sunlight as the seas charged them and burst, one showing a hatchet-like edge till our rolling brig, opened it into a coast of marble that vanished in a haze of mist and spray.

Happily, after it had been dark about an hour, the brig still blowing forward under reefed topsail and foresail, whilst I sat in the cabin warming myself, drinking some hot brandy and water, but always with ears straining to catch a cry on deck, Cliffe came below, and gave me the good news of a shift of wind into the north-west, with a scanting of it, and a plenty of starlight, and the Southern Cross looking almost upright.

[Pg 180]

'What does that signify?' said I.

'Nothing,' he answered with a cheerful grimace. 'Except, that as the Southern Cross is upright at midnight on one day only in the year, the sight of it almost on end now is interesting.'

'When is it actually upright?'

'On March 26.'

'D'ye know, Cliffe,' said I, getting up, meaning to take a look round, 'that it's comforted me sometimes to think of that symbol of God overhanging these waters. It should be a sight to freshen a man's faith in a time of distress.'

'Strange to find it hung up down here where they're all heathens,' said Cliffe.

'Much ice?'

'No more than there was, sir.'

I went on deck. The dusk of the night was hard and clear, and I observed a keen blue in the trembling gleam of many of the stars. But though there was no wet in the air, I had[Pg 181] never felt the cold so bitter as on this night. The sight of the nearer of the ice mountains in the gloom under the light of the stars was marvellously fine and awful; some shone with a light of their own; it was the snow upon them, I suppose, that made that sheen. I noticed, however, that though the sea was covered with these faint and pallid masses, there was plenty of sea-room in the lanes and highways they made. A startling and alarming part was the crackling and crashing noises which came from them, and shortly before I was driven below by the cold, an island on the port quarter, wan as a cloud touched by a corner of moon, vanished; it may have shown in another shape by daylight; it had overset and perhaps rose flat and invisible in that light. But the spectacle was wonderful: it made a deep impression on me. Cliffe who saw it bid me listen, and sure enough after a little there came slanting through the wind such a prodigious noise of hissing and seething that, but[Pg 182] for knowing what made it, you would have looked in its direction for the foaming waters of a sudden gale.

There was to be little rest for the crew that night. Cliffe informed me the men had been told that all hands would have to stand by throughout the dark hours, ready to jump to the first call if the brig was to remain a brig. A seaman was stationed on each bow: a third aloft on the foreyard: the mate and the boatswain were to relieve each other every two hours in keeping a look-out on the forecastle. A man was stationed aft ready in a breath to help at the helm. The galley fire was kept burning all night, and hot coffee, and at longer intervals small drams of rum, were served out to the crew.

The chief peril lay in the smaller blocks of ice floating on the water; they were hard to see before they were dangerously close to; and yet, comparatively small as they were, any one of them was big enough to knock a[Pg 183] hole in the brig's bottom, and founder her out of hand.

Right through the night we held on. At first the cries of 'Ice ahead,' 'Ice on the port bow,' 'Starboard your helm,' and the like, alarmed me; but I presently got used to them, nor indeed were they so frequent as to be terrifying; once only, that is, in my hearing, was a cry raised as for life or death in a sudden passion or panic; then it was an immense flat ragged-edged piece of ice under the bow; a swift turn of the helm sent the brig clear, giving us a sight of the stuff alongside, and the brave little ship ploughed her way onwards.

Happily, it was midsummer, and the night comparatively short. The dawn was fair and rosy, and the sun rose upon a dark blue sea, frothing far as the eye could pierce, and magnificent with ice. I cannot express the gorgeous scene of colour that sunrise called into being. In all directions the ice lay in a hundred shapes, some of the islands sparkling like[Pg 184] prisms; I beheld floating cities of porcelain, enormous shapes in alabaster, figures of marble, monstrous and grotesque as those huge forms of rock which stand in a congregation of Titans at the base of some of the precipitous heights of Table Bay.

But though there was plenty of ice in the south, there was an abundance of room too for our passage; the mate came down from the fore royal yard with a telescope slung on his back and said he saw no barrier; he thought, but would not then swear, he could make out a faint shadow of land. If he was right, then the mountain that centres Coronation Island was in sight! The breeze was fresh out of the north-west, with a high following sea, and soon after the sun was risen and Cliffe had taken a long look round, he ordered sail to be made. The foretopsail was loosed, reefs shaken out, and cloths piled upon the little vessel to the topgallant yards; then, like something alive and released, the little ship fled southwards.

[Pg 185]


But it was not till next day that we had the land in view, and then it was ten o'clock on February morning, making it a few days above a month since we had sailed out of Table Bay. As on the previous day, so on this, the sun shone brightly, with even some comfort of warmth in its light. Many great clouds of a milk-white softness were sailing into the east; the wind was fresh out of the west, but though the sea ran briskly, with a shrewd vapour of salt in the shrill fling of the frothing curls, it was not a hollow sea; it rolled the brig in stately measures, but she was now under small sail, the ice being very plentiful and the sea crowded with bergs of all sizes,[Pg 186] whilst right ahead were tall cliffs of ice backed by a blue shadow of mountain rising into a silver faintness where the eternal snows upon it sparkled and died out from the sight in the deep blue.

I was beside myself with excitement and wretched with distress of expectation, dread, and hope. That height of white cliff right ahead, broken in the foreground by pale floating islands, its face discoloured in places as though the ice that masked the rock had broken from the black and savage rampart, was Coronation Island, and on the port bow, looming distant but immense, were the mountains of Laurie Island.

Our anchors were at the cathead, ready for letting go in case of sudden need; the men hung about on the look-out for ice, ready in an instant to trim sail. We were sailing towards the island through an avenue of bergs: clear water sparkled from the thrust of our stem to the very wash of the distant[Pg 187] surf, with no other obstructions than here and there a lump of the crystal stuff lifting sullenly with the swell, flashing gloriously, and so proclaiming itself to the sight when the sunbeam smote the foam that poured off it.

A chart of the islands lay upon the skylight, and every few minutes I would be dropping the telescope to look at the chart, to gather from the tracing the point of coast we were heading for. The whaleman had said that the wreck lay on a ledge in Palmer's Bay, and Cliffe and I were agreed that that large indent was between the two towering shadows, to the right of the taller peak that soared a thousand feet higher than Table Mountain.

The icebergs obstructed the view. The line of coast was studded with them: yet every moment I was sinking my sight through the lenses into each opening betwixt the bergs. The brig's progress under her small[Pg 188] canvas was about four knots and a half; I'd glanced for a moment at some stately frozen pile majestically rocking and slowly veering by, then put my eye to the glass afresh. My very soul was now loathing the sight of the ice. The largest of the islands was no longer an object of splendour and sublimity, but of horror and heart-weariness, charged with a spirit of desolation that subdued me to a sort of numbness of mind if I looked long: it seemed to stonefy the very principle of life in me, as though there was a horrid magic in its bald white stare to look a man into craziness, and emptiness, and into its own frozen lifelessness.

But now, as we approached, the features of the land began to steal out into a brilliant keenness wherever there was space for them to show betwixt the floating ice, and on a sudden, whilst I was looking through the glass, the motion of the brig slided a seaborne hill away to the left, and exposed a[Pg 189] front of cliff that lay with a shadow upon it as though it was a sort of ravine, at the foot of which, though I instantly guessed it would lift to some height above the sea as we got nearer, lay a black speck. I looked again, and cried out wild with excitement:

'Cliffe, I have the hull! I have the hull!'

The little man came headlong to my side, and put his grimacing face to the telescope.

'Yes! I see it, I have it!' he shouted. 'Just as reported—high above the wash—fair in the heart of the Bay. It'll be all plain sailing now. Lor, but there ought to be no difficulty in boarding her.'

He returned the glass to me: I levelled it afresh at the instant that the corner of a big heap of berg floated right into the field of vision.

It needed another hour of careful sailing to expose the hull anew: then through the glass I saw her clearly. She lay, a large black hulk of ship, upon a projection of ice[Pg 190] that was at least thirty feet above the sea. I made out her bowsprit, and the stump of her foremast. The cliffs soared sheer and abrupt at the back of her to a great height. Even at that distance it was not hard to guess that, after having stranded, she had been lifted by some earthquake dislocation of ice into the posture she rested in. Suppose the sea clear, she must have been visible to passing ships for leagues.

The seamen were congregated in the bows, leaning over the rail, Bodkin amongst them pointing eagerly. The mate roared to them to keep a bright look-out, they then scattered, but the sight of that wreck had brought them heedlessly together as one man. Cliffe's glass was not a powerful one, yet the hull in the lens lay within half a mile, and I saw her plainly. She had her head towards the cliffs, and sat very nearly upon a level keel. A great portion of her starboard bulwarks were gone. She was a mass of ice under her stern:[Pg 191] looked to be fixed there to her bed of white pillars. The sun shot sparkles into her as we advanced, and still she showed black, as though the ice that coated her was as glass. Nothing moved: I strained my vision till my brain reeled and the object swung in the glass and was eclipsed: Cliffe looked, he saw no smoke nor signs of life any more than I.

'If there's anyone alive aboard her,' said he, 'now's our time for letting them know we're here.'

'Right,' I answered, speaking with my teeth almost set; 'do what you will, Cliffe; do what is for the best.'

He called to Bland and a man, and they fetched a number of blank charges for the cannon. The little skipper left the gun to the mate's handling, himself taking charge of the brig, which needed exquisite watching and management, so crowded was the water here with loose ice.

[Pg 192]

'Let fly fast as you can load, Mr. Bland,' said the captain; 'fire six rounds.'

As he spoke came a cry from the forecastle: 'Lie close under the port bow, sir!'

Thus was it, thus had it been, saving that now the pack stuff had thickened perilously.

The gun was fired; it made a noble thunder, and roared in dying echoes from near ice crag to ice crag. Again it was fired, yet again; all this while the brig was rolling forwards with her helm going up and down to the cries from the forecastle and to the gestures of the little captain.

I stood at a backstay with a levelled glass steadied against it, and in the moment of the third explosion I saw smoke rise feathering from the deck of the hull; still watching, my breath so thick and difficult it was as though a hand was upon my throat, I marked that the smoke thickened; but I could not see the red of the flame, nor the figure of the person feeding it. I daresay I was as white as any[Pg 193] corpse when I stepped over to the captain and, putting the glass into his hand, said: 'There is life there.'

'There's smoke arising from that wreck,' shouted someone forward.

'We're here for some purpose, then, anyway,' cried Cliffe with a small oath, letting fall the glass to his side with the most extravagant grimace I had ever beheld in him.

One saw the smoke easily now with the naked eye; it rose black against the whiteness past it, curled featherwise, and blew scattering against the face of the cliff. I levelled the glass again and saw the figure of a man walking toward the stump of the foremast; I watched him; in a few moments a square of colour rose to the summit of the mutilated spar, where it blew steadily; it was a large English ensign, Jack down.

Bland let fly a fourth gun.

'Stop it!' roared Cliffe, 'we are seen! Hoist the ensign and dip it thrice.'

[Pg 194]

The colour soared to the trysail gaff end; it blew out large on the bight of the halliards when it was dipped, and was easily within the observation of the man on the hull. When I looked through the glass once more I saw a second figure; it was upon the hull's quarter, where the rail or bulwarks rose to a height that hindered me from perceiving how it was clad. I asked Cliffe to look; he steadied the glass, and answered with a snap of his whole face, and a voice high-pitched with delight:

'As God's my hope, Mr. Moore, it's a woman!'

The glass so shook in my hands that I could not use it; I took a few turns, then looked again. The figure watched us from the same place, but I could not tell whether it was a man or a woman. If it was a woman, then it might be Mrs. Burke. I wanted three figures to make sure of Marie; I saw but two; where was the third?

I strained my sight at the telescope with a[Pg 195] heart of fever, half strangled by conflicting passions.

The figure that had hoisted the colour went to the side of the other, and they both stood watching, nothing visible of them above their waists. It was blowing a fresh breeze, and before this time Cliffe had taken in certain canvas; I think the brig was under topsails only, the foresail hauled up and hanging in its gear; the vessel drove slowly with an occasional crackling noise of ice along her sides when she sheared through some thin sludge stuff you could not see till you were in it; fortunately the drift ice that had threatened a thick surface just now had loosened here and tossed scattered; as we advanced moreover, we found that the icebergs which had looked to sit close in with the coast rode with a good offing; the sea was covered with these floating islands off that part of the island marked Foul Point; the eastern horizon was also like a terrace of ice, but the face of the cliffs[Pg 196] from Foul Point down to where the land rounded into Lewthwaite Strait was fairly open.

All this while the sun shone brightly and with warmth. The sea streamed in a glorious dye of violet; we rolled slowly onwards till we were within about three-quarters of a mile of the coast and right abreast of the wreck. The helm was then put down; the main topsail laid aback; the gun again fired, and the ensign dipped. It was now about noon.

By this time I had made out that one of the figures was a woman; I saw but two persons. Who the woman was I could not tell, fierce as had been the struggle of my vision to resolve the glimmer of her face into lineaments.

When the brig had been brought to a stand, Cliffe called a council. We had ample sea room. The nearest floating ice lay about a quarter of a mile distant on the port[Pg 197] quarter; the smaller blocks were not numerous, nor was there weight of sea to make them dangerous. All along the base of the ice-clad cliffs the water was pouring in a thunder of boiling surf; it was not the breakers but the great breathing swell of this mighty ocean which worked all that noise and fury along the cliffs' foot. The white brine sometimes shot twenty feet high, though it blew but a moderate fresh breeze, and the surge ran small.

Cliffe, myself, Bland, and the boatswain Bodkin came together at the companion hatch to consider. We had swept with the glass the line of coast from the beach under the hull to as far as we could see on the right, and beheld nothing but lofty coils of frothing combers raging in surf; there was no chance for a boat anywhere that way. The left presented a like scene, saving that there was a point in Palmer's Bay that, cruising eastwards, shut out the view of perhaps a quarter of a[Pg 198] mile of the water it enclosed. Upon that point our eyes were fastened.

'We must lower a boat,' said Cliffe, 'and find out how the land lies past that arm of land.'

'It's the only sheltered bit along the whole boiling, I allow,' said Bland.

Bodkin, putting down the telescope, exclaimed:

'She lies about forty feet high above the wash. The ice is broke and irregular from the water to where she sits, and I reckon a man might walk upon it if there's a landing-place round the point. But I won't swear to it till I'm close in. Ice is deceitful stuff. Capt'n, there'll be nothen to say till we've taken a look round. 'Tis certain there's to be no getting at the hull from the bottom of the height she rests on, even if the boat could land there.'

'Then lower away, Mr. Bland, as quickly as possible, and be off and back with a report,[Pg 199] that we may make up our minds what to do before it falls dark.'

Whilst some hands were getting one of the whale-boats over, others were busy with the deep-sea lead: but we were away, pulling for the shore, before they sounded. I went in the boat, taking the telescope with me. She was a five-oared boat; Bodkin pulled stroke; one of our smartest seamen was in the bows. The fellows bent their backs, and the buoyant little craft, swift of model with the whale-hunter's lines, flashed over the blue ridges; often I sought to bring the glass to bear upon the two figures watching us; to no purpose. The mate would not let me stand up, and I put down the telescope in despair.

'That vessel,' said the mate, 'never berthed herself like that. She's been chucked right up by the ice, and 'twas sudden too, bet yer heart, Bodkin.'

The picture grew amazing as we advanced. The cliffs behind the hull rose to[Pg 200] about two hundred feet; I call them cliffs, they were a solid, precipitous, rugged face of ice, how deeply sheathing the black rock of the island no man could tell: the whole stretch of land resembled a gigantic iceberg. The hull lay upon a huge block, the top about forty feet high; it projected in a wide ledge, then fell sheer. You might know it had been snapped from some parent monster by the smooth side it showed to the sea, so clean cut to the eye, it might have been done by the chisel and hammer of a giant big as the blue shadow of mountains beyond.

My eyes were fixed on the wreck, and on the figures standing at her bulwark rail. Now again I tried to bring the telescope to bear: the jumping of the boat made the effort useless. All in a minute one of the figures sprang on to the bulwark; flourished his arms, and then motioned frantically towards the part of the bay concealed by the curve of the ice.

[Pg 201]

'Hail him, in God's name!' I cried. 'Try him with your voice, Mr. Bland.'

The mate stood up and roared, the full volume of his lungs trumpeting into the inshore wind like a soldier's call, the sweep and lift of the whale-boat to the summit of a large swell helping.

'How many are there of you?'

'Two,' came back the answer, dull through the roar of the surf but distinguishable.

'Who is the other?'

The men were now resting on their oars, the boat sinking and lifting in the sea that was great and hollow for so small a fabric; we were within a pistol-shot of the base of the cliff on which the hull sat, but so high perched was the craft, so bewrapped the two people, I could not make out their faces. The man held up his hand as though he had not heard.

The mate roared again, 'Who is the other?'

[Pg 202]

'A young lady.'

'Is it Miss Otway?'

He brandished an assent, and his figure stiffened in a posture of amazement.

'Is that her alongside of you?'

Again the figure flourished an affirmative.

'Then here's Mr. Moore come to take her home,' thundered the mate.

When he said that, Marie—for it was she—leaned forward: she was motionless whilst you might have counted twenty; she then stretched out her arms. I pulled off my hat and flourished it, that she might know me among the crowd we made in that boat, then lifted up my hands to her. But even had my voice possessed Bland's carrying power I could not have called. There, high above, upon the rail of the wreck, flanked by towering walls of ice, stood, with arms outstretched in appeal to me, the figure of my beloved. I had thought to find her dead—she was there;[Pg 203] I had thought to find her lying in an African grave—and there, on that high-poised wreck she stood in silent appeal. For weeks and weeks I had been mourning for her, asking of God that I might behold her, seeing her in my dreams, a frozen corpse upon the deck of that hull there: and now she stood up yonder, alive, full in sight.

The boiling of the surf ran a maddening noise of thunder round the bay. But one saw what the man, whoever he might be, had frantically pointed to. The water was smooth from the end of the point to away round for some hundreds of paces. The sea could not get at the frozen beach there: it flashed at the point, and recoiled in clouds.

'Put me ashore,' I exclaimed, 'I can climb those crags. Look how they wind to the ledge: Bodkin will help me. I must go on board that wreck.'

'Sit down, I beg, sir,' exclaimed the mate, catching me by the arm as I toppled half-delirious. [Pg 204]'Tumbling overboard's an easy job. Your eyes deceive you; you could no more climb those rocks than jump ashore from where you sit. What d'ye say, Bodkin?'

The man had already and quickly made up his mind. He glanced at the fall of crags of headlong abruptness in places, huge and nodding, yet so blending in their whiteness with the whiteness they stood out on as to cheat the unpractised eye with an appearance of easy road-way, and answered firmly, 'There's no mortal legs and arms as is a-going to carry a man to the wreck by them rocks.'

'Why did the man motion to that landing-place?' I said.

The mate turned his sheep-eyed face round the bay, and answered, 'He didn't know who we were. He was afraid that boiling,' said he, pointing to the surf, 'would drive us away.'

'How is the wreck to be entered?' I[Pg 205] asked, looking up and waving my hat, and then again stretching forth my arms.

'It's a sailor's job. Have no fear. We'll get 'em out of that,' answered the mate, and standing up he hailed the man. The other flourished his arm. 'We're here to take you off,' bellowed Bland, 'and we'll do it. Don't take any notice of our leaving you. It won't be for long. D'ye hear me?'

'Ay, ay!' came the answer, feebly through the ceaseless thunder.

It tore my heart to look up at the wreck, as we pulled away, and see Marie there, sundered from me by that curse of roaring foam, inaccessible, to be come at only by patience, naval skill, efforts which might have to be again and again repeated, always perilous. I cannot express how marvellously strange this ice-ramparted bay looked, with that wreck cradled on high, like a huge model in glass, tinted black, smoke lifting still cloudily from her deck, and the red inverted[Pg 206] flag streaming like a square of fire against the marble white beyond. Many large pieces of ice floated in this sweep of water: but they showed plain, and the boat went securely. One piece was almost a berg: a miniature island. Here and there the sea broke over it. It was almost in the middle of the bay, and exactly abreast of the wreck. I observed that Mr. Bland ran his eye curiously over it as we pulled past.

Who was the man on the hull that had answered us? He was not Captain Burke. My sight had not distinguished his face, yet I should have known him by his voice had he been Burke. Three had been left, so Wall the boatswain reported: Burke and his wife, and Miss Otway; I saw but two. The man had said there were two only: one was Marie: where were the others, and who was that stranger?

We arrived alongside the brig, and with little difficulty I got aboard. The pull had[Pg 207] occupied so short a while there had been scarce time to talk: but in any case the hurry and wildness of my spirits, my deep agitation, amazement and delight, mingled with dark wonder and jealous alarm, must have held me mute.

Cliffe impatiently awaited us: Bland and Bodkin came on board, leaving the men in the boat. Bland immediately said:

'We must get them out with a cradle. There's no other way.'

'No landing, then, round that point there?' said Cliffe.

'Ay, sir, but the rocks are not to be climbed by anything wanting hoofs and horns.'

'Who are they?'

'One's the young lady,' said the mate.

Cliffe spun round and stretched his hand to me.

'I do congratulate you,' he cried, convulsing his countenance. 'It's a noble[Pg 208] errand nobly rounded off. Hurrah!' and in a sudden ecstasy he pulled off his hat and whirled it three or four times over his head. He then cried, 'But two only? The third ain't dead, I hope?'

'Captain Burke and his wife are not there,' said I.

He grimaced at me, and said, 'Who's the man, then? But asking questions won't get them out of it. What d'ye propose?'

As he spoke he whipped out his watch: as it lay in his hand I saw the hour; the time was two, we had therefore a long afternoon of daylight before us.

'We must take the mortar in the boat and communicate with it,' answered Bland. 'There's a big piece of ice to anchor the boat to,' said he, pointing to the lump I had observed him look at. 'We shall want a cradle.'

'A cask 'll answer,' said Cliffe.

'Better have both boats in the water,' said Bland.

[Pg 209]

They exchanged further remarks to this effect, but I was no sailor and could not follow them. No time, however, was lost. In less than half-an-hour both boats were alongside, rising and falling singly under the lee of the brig. In one boat was the mortar, with a complete apparatus of gear and cradle for connection with the wreck. The cradle consisted of a large cask cleverly slung, and so contrived as to slide along a line when the rope attached to it was pulled. We were nobly favoured by the weather. The send of the swell was as steady as the tick of a clock: the seas ran short and small, with a rich sunny feathering of foam that made a wonder of the ice, so tropic was it with the blue overhead where floated a few large white clouds of a coppery effulgence of swollen breast.

We got away by a quarter to three, one boat in tow of the other; the wind and seas helped us, and we quickly entered the bay. We were of the same number as before, and[Pg 210] the same people. We drove with lifted oars to the former talking place, and Bland hailed the man, and, with his loudest roar, told him we were going to fire the end of a line to the wreck and send him a tackle by it for a cradle. Did he understand?

The man responded with a peculiar flourish of his arm, and Bland instantly said to me, 'He is a sailor.'

I had no eyes save for Marie. She had showed on a sudden at the rail on the quarter as we entered the bay, and stood as still as a statue watching us. Before Bland hailed I kissed my hand and flourished my hat to her, and extended my arms; and she then stretched her hands, lifting them immediately afterwards.

The surf held us several hundreds of feet away from the beach: the hull stood about forty feet above; no cry I was capable of could have reached her through the noise of the trembling combers; but the wind, [Pg 211]however, was brilliant, and Marie's form stood clear cut against the white background; nevertheless, I could not distinguish her features.

The boat, with the other in tow, now pulled for the lee of the large mass of ice that lay floating abreast of the wreck. The water swung foamless and quiet under the shelter of this block. A couple of men jumped out, and between them carried an anchor to some near crevice, in which they half sank it. Thus were the boats solidly secured.

The mortar was then loaded: I saw the man on the wreck turn as though addressing Marie, who immediately withdrew and disappeared. When all was ready, Bland with many wild gestures and flourishes signalled to the man to stand by. Our seamen were deeply interested and greatly excited, particularly Bodkin, who had the handling of the mortar.

'Fire!' roared Bland.

The uncouth piece exploded in flame and[Pg 212] smoke. Coil after coil of the heap of small stuff of the thickness of lead-line standing beside it flew off into the air.

'He has it!' bawled a man.

'Pay out now, pay out!' cried Bland. 'Light out handsomely, my lads. It may come as too much dead weight for one man, which'll be a bad job if winch is froze.'

'It's for his life, and that's a three-manpower, aye, though yare should be just out of horspital too,' exclaimed a seaman.

'Pay out. Ease him all you can, lads,' shouted the mate.

The man had got hold of the end of the line, and was dragging it inboard hand over hand, bringing to him as he hauled the end of a stout rope, to which a little block was attached with a line rove through it. This was the gear the mate was calling upon the seamen to pay out handsomely. He was but one man to three, and the tackle and rope must needs grow heavier and heavier as its[Pg 213] smoking steaming up-curving bight lengthened. I watched almost breathless; if the man's strength failed before his end of the rope came to his hand what should we do? We could not assist. Now indeed I saw it would be impossible for any one of us to scale those rugged crystal boulders and cavernous ruins of ice which yet from the level of the water painted a practicable ascent from the sheltered curve of the bay where the sea was silent.

Foot by foot the sailors veered out the gear, and hand over hand, with admirable endurance and patient courage, the man on the wreck hauled the stuff in: till on a sudden one of our men called out, 'The lady's helping,' and I caught a glimpse of Marie past the man, dragging as he dragged.

'It's all right!' after a long pause, exclaimed Bland, letting out his words in the note of a deep-chested sigh of relief, and a hearty cheer sprang from the lips of the seamen.

[Pg 214]

'He knows what to do. He's a sailor!' cried Bodkin.

He had vanished behind the bulwarks, but quickly reappeared signalling to us with a flourish, whilst Marie stood as before, motionless, watching.

'Now get it taut, for God's sake!' cried the mate. 'In with the slack.'

The men toiled on, and dragged till the bight of the rope was clear of the water: the gear then described a curve from the stump of fore-mast to the boat.

'Now clap on the watch tackle.'

A machinery of blocks and lines was applied to the rope, which tautened to the strain till the mate cried 'Belay! If we don't mind our eye we shall start the wreck!'

Then swiftly, but without hurry or confusion, the empty cask was got over the bow and slung to a bowling or traveller.

'Haul out!' cried the mate, and nimbly, with quick steady pulls, the cask was run up[Pg 215] the rope. It travelled smoothly. The man sprang on to the bulwark rail and received it, and, putting his hand on the edge of it, jumped in.

'By thunder, no, then! The lady first, or you stop there!' groaned the mate, his face suddenly dark with disgust and temper, and the others looked along the rope to the cask with frowns eloquent of curses. But in a moment the man got out, and I said, 'He was testing it.'

We now saw him, in the sharp white light the air was brimful of, help Marie on to the rail: he put his hands under her arms, and carefully sank her into the cask; then, pulling off his cap, flourished a signal of 'all's ready' to us. Instantly, one end of the line was slackened away whilst the other end was hauled upon, and the cask travelled towards us.

'Stand by to lift the lady out,' bawled the mate, whilst the cask was still coming. 'Into[Pg 216] the bows two of you. Mr. Moore, you'll keep your seat, I beg sir, till the lady's in the boat.'

The cask came sliding to the drag of the line down to the very stern of the boat: there it was water-borne, and began to roll and leap with the boat: but strong hands were ready, and in a minute Marie was lifted over the gunwale, brought right aft, and seated beside me.

[Pg 217]


I took her by the hands and looked her in the face, and brought her to my heart, and a sob shook me as I kissed her. For some moments she merely pronounced my name, straining from my grasp to look at me. There was something wild in the light of her soft eyes then. Maybe the passions and sensations which in a sudden surprise of meeting would have forced us into transports had abated; we had long both known that we were near to each other, she that I had come to rescue her, I that she was alive on that wreck up there. But for all that, and as long as they were bringing the man from the wreck, it remained a sort of unreality, a mission too marvellous[Pg 218] to have been fulfilled, a hope too daring, too defiant of death itself and all the terrors of this barbarous, savage scene, to have been humanly possible.

A wonder, too, lay in her beauty and healthful looks. My imaginations of her state, now as lying in her coffin at Cape Town, now as dead of the cold in that same wreck we had brought her from, had coloured to me a ghastly portrait of my memory of her; or, even when figuring her alive in the hull, I conceived her bloodless, gaunt, sunk-eyed, a sad, heart-sickening spectre of herself. Instead I found her fairer, healthier, plumper by a hundredfold than she had shown when she left England. She was dressed in furs: her hat was a turban of sealskin; her hair was a little wild, but its dishevelment was a grace.

When at last I began to speak to her, it was in mere ejaculation, a babble of joy and devotion—that I should have got her;—that I should be holding her after months of fearing[Pg 219] and of believing that she was dead; that God should have directed me through thousands of leagues of sea to this lonely scene of ice; and so on, and so on; whilst her speech was little more than exclamation too. For, put yourself in our place and judge how it would go with your heart, and tongue, till use had softened amazement and incredulity, sobering the flow of feeling into a gentle language of passion and pleasure.

Meanwhile they were bringing the man to the boat. The cask travelled safely to the bows: he sprang out with the assistance of a man's hand, and then stood on a thwart looking about him for a minute with a face of ecstasy.

Now it was I grew a bit rational, and said to Marie:

'Who is he?'

'Mr. Selby. His conduct has been noble. Oh, Archie, his manly treatment of me, his patient care, the encouragement, the encouragement!'

[Pg 220]

'Jump on to the ice there, two of you, and get that anchor,' sung out Mr. Bland.

'Where's Captain Burke?' I said.

'He was drowned months ago—months ago.'

'And his wife?'

'I found her frozen to death and dragged her into the ship's kitchen and watched beside her, and then I was alone in that wreck in a heavy, rolling ocean for a week till he came,' and she looked towards Selby, 'sent by God, for without him—alone up there—oh, think, Archie!'

As she said this she put her hands together and her face whitened like the ice; her eyes rolled their pupils out of sight, and with a little moan she fainted.

I held and pillowed her, groping for and finding a flask of brandy in my pockets. She continued in a dead faint until, the anchor having been got, the boats were clear of the bay close in with the brig.

[Pg 221]

Selby sat in the bows. I never addressed him: I could think of nothing but the lifeless figure I clasped. She came to just as we drew alongside the vessel, and my gratitude, when she fetched a breath, and opened her eyes, was scarcely less than that I had felt when I knew she was on board the wreck. In truth, so fixed was her trance, I had believed her dead.

She was helped over the side by Cliffe and others. The brig showed a low side when the gangway was unshipped, and Marie was handed on deck easily and without risk. I followed. She was very weak, yet could walk leaning on my arm, and thus supporting her I took her into the cabin. Then it was I strained her to my heart again, kissing her, blessing her, thanking God for suffering me to discover and rescue her.

It would be idle to set down what now passed between us in this first half-hour of our being alone. Our hurry of speech, the tender[Pg 222] interruption of caresses was as a printed page broken into sentences without sequence. Looks will give continuity to meaning when the tongue is still, but how to describe those passages of eloquent silence?

We had both of us a thousand things to ask and answer, and often we'd break off to gaze at each other, scarce realising even yet that we were together, and that the end of my heaven-directed quest was come. By the time we had settled down into sober talk, sitting hand in hand in front of the glowing brass stove, whilst the boy in obedience to my orders was preparing the table for dinner, it was about five o'clock; they had got way upon the brig; she was heeling over, and I guessed that Cliffe was pressing her, getting every inch of northing that was to be clawed out of the bow surge whilst it was daylight. The afternoon was glowing with more than tropic splendour; indeed, never had I observed such mellow richness of glory under the line,[Pg 223] or north or south of 23° as I had noticed in this Antarctic sunshine whilst in the bay. But however delivered—whispered at times—sometimes interrupted by tears, by sudden impassioned embraces, as though nothing even now could be true but the presence and reality of the long months of her imprisonment; but however brokenly uttered, I say her story was known, and her relation persuaded me that in the person of Mr. Selby lived one of the finest characters that ever graced the manliest of all the callings. My love, my joy—though my spirits seemed to know no other passions whilst I held her and looked at her—did not extinguish in me for long whilst we conversed the cold dark dread that lurked in the thought of her having been locked up with Selby for months. But whilst I listened the jealous fear, the gloomy dislike for the extraordinary association vanished. My heart grew hot with admiration and gratitude. She told me of her joy at[Pg 224] the sight of him, when, after being alone for a week in the dismasted hull of the 'Lady Emma' with no other companion on board than the dead body of Mrs. Burke, she groped her way from her berth to the cabin and found him lying asleep on a locker. She told me how he had comforted her and raised her spirits by every hope that a sailor could invent. She instanced many fine subtle, delicate traits of conduct; I was impressed by the refinement and native exquisite breeding of the man whilst I listened to her. I witnessed the gentleman, the nobleman of nature's own handiwork, in all she told me of him. Without his inspiring companionship her spirits would have sunk, her heart must have broken. He fetched and carried, cooked, and toiled for her comfort; he devised a dozen schemes to divert her. Every day he promised that a ship would come to take them off. He never lost heart. Often he would sing with a sailor's notion of brightening her melancholy.

[Pg 225]

No one intruded upon us, saving the boy; but our talk was not to be overheard by him, sitting as we did close together beside the fire. And all the while I was admiring the improved sweetness of her looks, the plumpness of her cheeks and throat, the firmer, clearer tones of her voice, and what shone to my sight as a soft gay light of health in her eyes.

'Is it the ice,' said I, 'that has worked this miracle of change in you? Or were you looking even better than you now do before your shipwreck?'

'I cannot tell how I look,' she answered. 'What I have suffered I know.'

She talked of the Burkes, and wept when she spoke of her old nurse. She said she believed Captain Burke committed suicide; his end was sudden; he did not need to go upon the bowsprit to hang up the lantern—a height of foremast stood; he went on a dangerous errand, she thought, meaning to die, and his[Pg 226] getting his wife to accompany him into the bows might have signified no more than lunatic cunning.

Whilst we conversed the boy came down and asked if he should put dinner upon the table. We had forgotten time in talking and I jumped up and took Marie to my berth, which was to be resigned to her. I then went on deck to make Mr. Selby's acquaintance and to bring him into the cabin to dinner.

The wind was on the beam, a steady pouring breeze, and the heeling brig was washing onwards, but warily and under little canvas; I had been misled by the angle of the deck. The ice rode lofty and glaring about us on all sides in huge groups; and masses of the stuff littered the ocean directly in our path; the utmost vigilance was needful.

I stood a moment in the companion-way, looking at the island we were leaving astern. It was already some miles distant, and the wreck invisible. The far inland mountain[Pg 227] hung solemn and sublime in the blue air with the majestic loneliness of it. You thought of it as lifting its height at the extreme end of the world, and the melting of its shimmering peak into the silver azure was such a blending as made the shadow seem as high as the heavens themselves.

Cliffe stood in earnest talk with Selby. I regarded the man awhile before he saw me. He was dressed in the plain clothes of his calling; doubtless he made good his wants out of Captain Burke's wardrobe; he was rather short and very broad-shouldered; his hair was black, and of a true cast-away man's length, falling and curling in plenty down upon his back as though it had been a woman's; he was of a sallow complexion and newly bearded as though used to shave when all was well.

When I went to him with my hands outstretched, he faced me with a smile, and then it was I saw a wonderful spirit of goodness[Pg 228] and kindness in his countenance. I had never before witnessed a man's nature so plainly pictured in his looks. I will not admit that I was prejudiced in his favour by what Marie had told me and found a soul of candour and good humour where perhaps I should otherwise have seen nothing but an average sailorly countenance. No matter what the causes which should have brought this man and me acquainted; let me have met him how, when, where you will, one glance would have persuaded me that he was a heart of oak. You saw a manly simplicity and gentleness in every line. His eyes looked at you full, yet gently, with a charming, winning frankness; his smile was a grace, there was something sweet in it: and yet he was by no means good looking. His face was overcharged by the length of its aquiline nose. His mouth, too, was out of proportion, his eyes were something too deep set and close together to please; nevertheless when he turned, smiling to receive me, I found[Pg 229] a beauty in his looks that was far above all gift of flesh.

I held him by both hands, but in what terms I thanked him for his goodness to Miss Otway I'll not set down, because they must needs look cold and insufficient, when in reality the tribute lay in that part that cannot be communicated on paper, I mean in the tone of voice, the expression of countenance, the clinging pressure of the hands.

He said, 'It's been a bad time for her, sir. The beginning was the hardest. That week when she was alone, washing about here, much where we now are, in the winter time when it was nearly all night, and nobody else aboard but the corpse of Mrs. Burke, would have killed a lady of less spirit.'

I broke in by asking him to step below with me. Cliffe said he would remain on deck and watch the brig. I took notice that as in making for the island, so now, a keen look-out was being kept. Hands were stationed in the[Pg 230] bows and on the foreyard; the rigging lay ready for instant use. Two men were at the wheel.

Selby stopped and looked at the island astern. The whole soul of the man seemed to rush into his face as he gazed, colouring it with memory and a passion of gratitude and pathetic joy. He breathed deep and said. 'Thank God, I've seen the end of it! Seven months is it, sir? The sufferings of the sea will make a year of a week. It seems as long as a lifetime.'

He sighed again, or rather fetched a breath as of relief and ease of heart, and followed me into the cabin.

Whilst we waited for Marie, he explained how it came about that the hull was shelved forty feet above the wash.

He said when she first took the ice she was beaten a considerable distance by blow upon blow of foamless swell, rolling into the shelter out of the heavy weather beyond; she[Pg 231] lay on her bilge. He could not express the misery they suffered from the angle her posture sloped her into; till, early one night, a noise of thunder roared through the cabin as though the whole island was splitting to pieces; shock followed shock. These volcanic throes went on for hours. He expected every moment that the hull would be crushed to powder. Sometimes they felt the fabric under their feet swept upwards. It was pitch dark on deck; nothing was to be seen; but the uproar of splitting ice was at moments deafening. He said he could compare it to nothing but to being in a boat betwixt two line-of-battle ships when they were firing their whole broadside artillery at each other.

It might have been about four o'clock when the hellish commotion ceased as abruptly as it had commenced; at this hour the hull was, as she had been for some time, resting on an almost level keel. At break of day he went on deck, and was amazed to find the[Pg 232] sea lying open, but at a considerable distance below; the great ice peninsula whose bay had been the salvation of the hull had broken away and become a majestic island, nodding stately upon a high sea about a quarter of a mile distant. The wreck rested upon a wide ledge with a sheer fall of ice, smooth as though chiselled, to the wash of the surf. How it had befallen he could not tell. Perception had lain entirely in sensation and bearing.

When Marie came out of her berth I was struck afresh by her improved looks. I turned to Selby and said:

'This lady sailed for her health. Such distresses, such trials of mind and body as she has suffered, should pinch the face as fire wastes wax, and she looks so much better that her father will scarcely know her!'

'I told Mr. Moore,' she said, 'that I don't know how I may look, but that I am alive[Pg 233] and with him again,' said she, stealing her hand into mine, 'is wholly owing to you.' Then raising her voice, heated into a higher clearness by emotion, she exclaimed, 'In the presence and hearing of my betrothed, I thank you with my heart of hearts for all your goodness to me, for your hundred acts of noble unselfishness, for the splendid courage and faith which supported us both through the awful time that is now ended.'

He bowed to her in silence.

'Mr. Selby,' said I, grasping him by the hand, then putting my other upon his, and so holding him, 'Miss Otway has spoken her gratitude; my own I have already attempted to express. The profession of the sea has produced some splendid characters; but it seems to me that you are one of the finest compliments that nature ever paid to your calling.'

'I thank you for your kind words, sir,' he said, with colour and embarrassment, 'and[Pg 234] for yours, Miss Otway. I felt very sorry for you when I found you alone on that dismasted hulk, and I swore to myself I would so act that, come what might, if you were spared, you should be able to say of me, He was a man.'

I could have hugged him!

We seated ourselves and all our talk ran upon the hull, and upon my own adventures. I particularly noticed Selby's respectful manner to Marie. That was as satisfying to every instinct within me as though I had shared their imprisonment. It was not a thing he just put on; it sat with the unconscious ease of an old and fixed habit. I heard it in his voice, I marked it in his manner of attention when she spoke; in twenty subtle ways it was expressed as something abiding; it was, in short, the man's, the seaman's, and the gentleman's recognition of her claims as a woman and of her station; I knew it had been with him from the beginning, and I loved him[Pg 235] from that moment with a heart unshadowed by the faintest anxiety or misgiving.

I asked him how they had managed for food.

'The hold was full of good things, sir,' he answered. 'We did not stint ourselves, Miss Otway,' said he, smiling.

'Mr. Selby cooks charmingly,' said Marie. 'I shall never forget the delicious dishes of broth you used to make for me.'

'The ship's cargo,' said he, 'consisted of a quantity of articles of potted food with drink enough in stout, brandy, and whiskey to fill the half of London with uproar and murder.'

'We had biscuits as big as bricks,' said Marie. 'I used to make bread and milk with them.'

'Milk!' I ejaculated.

'Preserved milk, sir,' said Selby. 'I found some hundredweights of the stuff.'

'But your fuel?' said I.

[Pg 236]

'There was about twelve ton of coal in the forepeak when we got on the ice,' he answered. 'I never reckoned upon a long stay, the young lady was to be kept warm, and I was a bit extravagant at the start. Then as the days passed and nothing came along, I began to stint, with the result that I've left about half the stock behind.'

'Did nothing heave in sight?'

'Oh, yes, sir; but never close in. I must have consumed half the cargo of theatrical scenery, and pounds worth of patent fuel and India-rubber in burning flares at night and making smokes by day. I reckon the smoke was taken for something in the volcanic line. For a long time the ice hid us from the sea. The island whose rupture threw us aloft drifted away and gave us a clear view for a bit, but others came cruising along with the stream of the tide, if it was not the wind that brought them, and one moored itself right abreast—grounded, I allow—it stuck so long.

[Pg 237]

'The whaler that reported you,' said I, 'was close in enough to get a good sight of the wreck.'

'I did not see her,' he answered. 'I must have been below when she passed.'

'It was cruelly cold, Archie,' said Marie. 'Weeks would pass without my going on deck. Oh, how I loathed the sight of those cliffs of ice! And then the ceaseless boiling of the surf.'

'I caulked the cabin into a middling warm living room,' said Selby, 'yet the cold would creep through. Water that had been boiled and left to stand on the table within the sphere of the heat of the stove, as I could have sworn, would take a mask of ice. I cleared the cabin to give Miss Otway walking room. The exercise helped her. It gave her a little spirit as well as warmth. I didn't care to see her sit drooping hour after hour beside that little stove.'

'At such times you sang?' said I.

[Pg 238]

'Well, coming below after taking a look round, and seeing her like that, I'd tune up my pipes, certainly,' he answered. 'It was unpleasant to have to keep on answering her question with a "No, there's nothing in sight."'

Thus ran our talk, and again and again whilst we conversed, I'd see Marie stealing looks around her of delight and amazement, and often when our gaze met, an expression of solemn joy would light up her face. For months she had lived in the cabin of a motionless ship; now the life of the ocean was in the fabric, whose deck her foot rested on. She was as one who had been called from the grave to renew life, and love, and health. It was a miracle, and I saw the marvelling of her spirit in her eyes whenever she looked at me.

'I'll go and take a look round,' said Selby. 'I hope Captain Cliffe will make me useful.'

He rose, respectfully bowed to us, and went on deck.

[Pg 239]

I drew Marie to the stove and sat beside her. From time to time as we talked, we heard the sharp warning cries of the look-out men on deck re-echoed by Cliffe and the mate aft, accompanied sometimes by a hurried tread of feet when the braces were handled. But we were together, too happy, too much engrossed, to heed what passed above. Through the hum of our talk—our continuous talk—for how much had we to tell each other?—ran the shrill sound of salt water seething; the boy came below to take some dinner on deck to Captain Cliffe. He then cleared the table, and Marie and I were alone again. The sunshine blazed red upon the skylight, faded slowly, the glass grew grey, then blackened, and a star flashed in a cabin window as a reel of the brier brought the bright spark with a leap into the orifice.

'I remember,' Marie said, 'when I found Mrs. Burke lying dead on the deck of the hull, that I fell upon my knees in the agony[Pg 240] of my distress and terror, and cried out that I was alone, asking what I should do—what I should do? And now I am with you,' she cried, throwing her arms round my neck and sobbing slightly. 'But what a time has lain between!'

*         *         *         *         *

At this point Mr. Moore ends his narrative; he doubtless considered that the interest of his strand of the story ceased at the rescue of his sweetheart.

It had been arranged that the brig should return to the Cape of Good Hope, whatever might be the issue of her search; the little vessel, with ceaseless vigilance, was navigated clear of the ice into open waters, and under warmer skies, and thanks to strong westerly winds which chased her day after day, she anchored in Table Bay in a little more than three weeks from the hour of hoisting in her boats and making sail from Coronation Island. The lovers' reception at Cape Town was a memorable incident, and is still talked of by old people there. They stayed until Miss Otway had provided herself with a wardrobe, then embarked in a Union steamer and safely arrived at Southampton on the morning of May 1, 1861.

[Pg 241]

Mr. Selby was presented by Sir Mortimer Otway and the banking firm of Moore, Son & Duncan, with an interest in a ship of thirteen hundred and forty tons, amounting to half her value, and four months after his arrival in England, he sailed in command of her on her second voyage to Bombay.


[Pg 242]


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