Part 5 out of 9
had a good start, and, if the wind held, might hope to be clear of
the Channel in twenty-four hours. "You will see Eddystone
lighthouse about four bells," said he.
"Shall we go out of sight of land altogether?" inquired his
"Of course we shall, and the sooner the better." He then explained
to the novice that the only danger to a good ship was from the
While Tadcaster was digesting this paradox, Captain Hamilton
proceeded to descant on the beauties of blue water and its fine
medicinal qualities, which, he said, were particularly suited to
young gentlemen with bilious stomachs, but presently, catching
sight of Lieutenant Fitzroy standing apart, but with the manner of
a lieutenant not there by accident, he stopped, and said, civilly
but smartly, "Well, sir?"
Fitzroy came forward directly, saluted, and said he had orders from
the first lieutenant to show Lord Tadcaster the berths. His
lordship must be good enough to choose, because the doctor--
"Brought to, sir--for the present--by--well, by grief."
"Brought to by grief! Who the deuce is grief? No riddles on the
quarter-deck, if you please, sir."
"Oh no, sir. I assure you he is awfully cut up; and he is having
his cry out in my cabin."
"Having his cry out! why, what for?"
"Leaving his wife, sir."
"Oh, is that all?"
"Well, I don't wonder," cried little Tadcaster warmly. "She is,
oh, so beautiful!" and a sudden blush o'erspread his pasty cheeks.
"Why on earth didn't we bring her along with us here?" said he,
suddenly opening his eyes with astonishment at the childish
"Why, indeed?" said the captain comically, and dived below,
attended by the well-disciplined laughter of Lieutenant Fitzroy,
who was too good an officer not to be amused at his captain's
jokes. Having acquitted himself of that duty--and it is a very
difficult one sometimes--he took Lord Tadcaster to the main-deck,
and showed him two comfortable sleeping-berths that had been
screened off for him and Dr. Staines; one of these was fitted with
a standing bed-place, the other had a cot swung in it. Fitzroy
offered him the choice, but hinted that he himself preferred a cot.
"No, thank you," says my lord mighty dryly.
"All right," said Fitzroy cheerfully. "Take the other, then, my
His little lordship cocked his eye like a jackdaw, and looked
almost as cunning. "You see," said he, "I have been reading up for
"Oh, indeed! Logarithms?"
"Of course not."
"Why, 'Peter Simple'--to be sure."
"Ah, ha!" said Fitzroy, with a chuckle that showed plainly he had
some delicious reminiscences of youthful study in the same quarter.
The little lord chuckled too, and put one finger on Fitzroy's
shoulder, and pointed at the cot with another. "Tumble out the
other side, you know--slippery hitches--cords cut--down you come
flop in the middle of the night."
Fitzroy's eye flashed merriment: but only for a moment. His
countenance fell the next. "Lord bless you," said he sorrowfully,
"all that game is over now. Her Majesty's ship!--it is a church
afloat. The service is going to the devil, as the old fogies say."
"Ain't you sorry?" says the little lord, cocking his eye again like
the bird hereinbefore mentioned.
"Of course I am."
"Then I'll take the standing bed."
"All right. I say, you don't mind the doctor coming down with a
"He is not ill: I am. He is paid to take care of me: I am not paid
to take care of him," said the young lord sententiously.
"I understand," replied Fitzroy, dryly. "Well, every one for
himself, and Providence for us all--as the elephant said when he
danced among the chickens."
Here my lord was summoned to dine with the captain. Staines was
not there; but he had not forgotten his duty; in the midst of his
grief he had written a note to the captain, hoping that a bereaved
husband might not seem to desert his post if he hid for a few hours
the sorrow he felt himself unable to control. Meantime he would be
grateful if Captain Hamilton would give orders that Lord Tadcaster
should eat no pastry, and drink only six ounces of claret,
otherwise he should feel that he was indeed betraying his trust.
The captain was pleased and touched with this letter. It recalled
to him how his mother sobbed when she launched her little middy,
swelling with his first cocked hat and dirk.
There was champagne at dinner, and little Tadcaster began to pour
out a tumbler. "Hold on!" said Captain Hamilton; "you are not to
drink that;" and he quietly removed the tumbler. "Bring him six
ounces of claret."
While they were weighing the claret with scientific precision,
Tadcaster remonstrated; and, being told it was the doctor's order,
he squeaked out, "Confound him! why did not he stay with his wife?
She is beautiful." Nor did he give it up without a struggle.
"Here's hospitality!" said he. "Six ounces!"
Receiving no reply, he inquired of the third lieutenant, which was
generally considered the greatest authority in a ship--the captain,
or the doctor.
The third lieutenant answered not, but turned his head away, and,
by violent exertion, succeeded in not splitting.
"I'll answer that," said Hamilton politely. "The captain is the
highest in his department, and the doctor in his: now Doctor
Staines is strictly within his department, and will be supported by
me and my officers. You are bilious, and epileptical, and all the
rest of it, and you are to be cured by diet and blue water."
Tadcaster was inclined to snivel: however, he subdued that weakness
with a visible effort, and, in due course, returned to the charge.
"How would you look," quavered he, "if there was to be a mutiny in
this ship of yours, and I was to head it?'
"Well, I should look SHARP--hang all the ringleaders at the
yardarm, clap the rest under hatches, and steer for the nearest
"Oh!" said Tadcaster, and digested this scheme a bit. At last he
perked up again, and made his final hit. "Well, I shouldn't care,
for one, if you didn't flog us."
"In that case," said Captain Hamilton, "I'd flog you--and stop your
"Then curse the sea; that is all I say."
"Why, you have not seen it; you have only seen the British
Channel." It was Mr. Fitzroy who contributed this last observation.
After dinner all but the captain went on deck, and saw the
Eddystone lighthouse ahead and to leeward. They passed it.
Fitzroy told his lordship its story, and that of its unfortunate
predecessors. Soon after this Lord Tadcaster turned in.
Presently the captain observed a change in the thermometer, which
brought him on deck. He scanned the water and the sky, and as
these experienced commanders have a subtle insight into the
weather, especially in familiar latitudes, he remarked to the first
lieutenant that it looked rather unsettled; and, as a matter of
prudence, ordered a reef in the topsails, and the royal yards to be
sent down: ship to be steered W. by S. This done, he turned in,
but told them to call him if there was any change in the weather.
During the night the wind gradually headed; and at four bells in
the middle watch a heavy squall came up from the south-west.
This brought the captain on deck again: he found the officer of the
watch at his post, and at work. Sail was shortened, and the ship
made snug for heavy weather.
At four A.M. it was blowing hard, and, being too near the French
coast, they wore the ship.
Now, this operation was bad for little Tadcaster. While the vessel
was on the starboard tack, the side kept him snug; but, when they
wore her, of course he had no leeboard to keep him in. The ship
gave a lee-lurch, and shot him clean out of his bunk into the
middle of the cabin.
He shrieked and shrieked, with terror and pain, till the captain
and Staines, who were his nearest neighbors, came to him, and they
gave him a little brandy, and got him to bed again. Here he
suffered nothing but violent seasickness for some hours. As for
Staines, he had been swinging heavily in his cot; but such was his
mental distress that he would have welcomed seasickness, or any
reasonable bodily suffering. He was in that state when the sting
of a wasp is a touch of comfort.
Worn out with sickness, Tadcaster would not move. Invited to
breakfast, he swore faintly, and insisted on dying in peace. At
last exhaustion gave him a sort of sleep, in spite of the motion,
which was violent, for it was now blowing great guns, a heavy sea
on, and the great waves dirty in color and crested with raging
They had to wear ship again, always a ticklish manoeuvre in weather
A tremendous sea struck her quarter, stove in the very port abreast
of which the little lord was lying, and washed him clean out of bed
into the lee scuppers, and set all swimming around him.
Didn't he yell, and wash about the cabin, and grab at all the
chairs and tables and things that drifted about, nimble as eels,
avoiding his grasp!
In rushed the captain, and in staggered Staines. They stopped his
"voyage autour de sa chambre," and dragged him into the after
He clung to them by turns, and begged, with many tears, to be put
on the nearest land; a rock would do.
"Much obliged," said the captain; "now is the very time to give
rocks a wide berth."
"A dead whale, then--a lighthouse--anything but a beast of a ship."
They pacified him with a little brandy, and for the next twenty-
four hours he scarcely opened his mouth, except for a purpose it is
needless to dwell on. We can trust to our terrestrial readers'
personal reminiscences of lee-lurches, weather-rolls, and their
At last they wriggled out of the Channel, and soon after that the
wind abated, and next day veered round to the northward, and the
ship sailed almost on an even keel. The motion became as heavenly
as it had been diabolical, and the passengers came on deck.
Staines had suffered one whole day from sea-sickness, but never
complained. I believe it did his mind more good than harm.
As for Tadcaster, he continued to suffer, at intervals, for two
days more, but on the fifth day out he appeared with a little pink
tinge on his cheek and a wolfish appetite. Dr. Staines controlled
his diet severely, as to quality, and, when they had been at sea
just eleven days, the physician's heavy heart was not a little
lightened by the marvellous change in him. The unthinking, who
believe in the drug system, should have seen what a physician can
do with air and food, when circumstances enable him to ENFORCE the
diet he enjoins. Money will sometimes buy even health, if you
AVOID DRUGS ENTIRELY, and go another road.
Little Tadcaster went on board, pasty, dim-eyed, and very subject
to fits, because his stomach was constantly overloaded with
indigestible trash, and the blood in his brain-vessels was always
either galloping or creeping, under the first or second effect of
stimulants administered, at first, by thoughtless physicians.
Behold him now--bronzed, pinky, bright-eyed, elastic; and only one
fit in twelve days.
The quarter-deck was hailed from the "look-out" with a cry that is
sometimes terrible, but in this latitude and weather welcome and
exciting. "Land, ho!"
"Where away?" cried the officer of the watch.
"A point on the lee-bow, sir."
It was the island of Madeira: they dropped anchor in Funchal Roads,
furled sails, squared yards, and fired a salute of twenty-one guns
for the Portuguese flag.
They went ashore, and found a good hotel, and were no longer dosed,
as in former days, with oil, onions, garlic, eggs. But the wine
queer, and no madeira to be got.
Staines wrote home to his wife: he told her how deeply he had felt
the bereavement; but did not dwell on that; his object being to
cheer her. He told her it promised to be a rapid and wonderful
cure, and one that might very well give him a fresh start in
London. They need not be parted a whole year, he thought. He sent
her a very long letter, and also such extracts from his sea journal
as he thought might please her. After dinner they inspected the
town, and what struck them most was to find the streets paved with
flag-stones, and most of the carts drawn by bullocks on sledges. A
man every now and then would run forward and drop a greasy cloth in
front of the sledge, to lubricate the way.
Next day, after breakfast, they ordered horses; these on
inspection, proved to be of excellent breed, either from Australia
or America--very rough shod, for the stony roads. Started for the
Grand Canal--peeped down that mighty chasm, which has the
appearance of an immense mass having been blown out of the centre
of the mountain.
They lunched under the great dragon tree near its brink, then rode
back admiring the bold mountain scenery. Next morning at dawn,
rode on horses up the hill to the convent. Admired the beautiful
gardens on the way. Remained a short time; then came down in hand-
sleighs--little baskets slung on sledges, guided by two natives;
these sledges run down the hill with surprising rapidity, and the
men guide them round corners by sticking out a foot to port or
Embarked at 11.30 A.M.
At 1.30, the men having dined, the ship was got under way for the
Cape of Good Hope, and all sail made for a southerly course, to get
into the north-east trades.
The weather was now balmy and delightful, and so genial that
everybody lived on deck, and could hardly be got to turn in to
their cabins, even for sleep.
Dr. Staines became a favorite with the officers. There is a great
deal of science on board a modern ship of war, and, of course, on
some points Staines, a Cambridge wrangler, and a man of many
sciences and books, was an oracle. On others he was quite behind,
but a ready and quick pupil. He made up to the navigating officer,
and learned, with his help, to take observations. In return he was
always at any youngster's service in a trigonometrical problem; and
he amused the midshipmen and young lieutenants with analytical
tests; some of these were applicable to certain liquids dispensed
by the paymaster. Under one of them the port wine assumed some
very droll colors and appearances not proper to grape-juice.
One lovely night that the ship clove the dark sea into a blaze of
phosphorescence, and her wake streamed like a comet's tail, a
waggish middy got a bucketful hoisted on deck, and asked the doctor
to analyze that. He did not much like it, but yielded to the
general request; and by dividing it into smaller vessels, and
dropping in various chemicals, made rainbows and silvery flames and
what not. But he declined to repeat the experiment: "No, no; once
is philosophy; twice is cruelty. I've slain more than Samson
As for Tadcaster, science had no charms for him; but fiction had;
and he got it galore; for he cruised about the forecastle, and
there the quartermasters and old seamen spun him yarns that held
But one day my lord had a fit on the quarter-deck, and a bad one;
and Staines found him smelling strong of rum. He represented this
to Captain Hamilton. The captain caused strict inquiries to be
made, and it came out that my lord had gone among the men, with
money in both pockets, and bought a little of one man's grog, and a
little of another, and had been sipping the furtive but transient
joys of solitary intoxication.
Captain Hamilton talked to him seriously; told him it was suicide.
"Never mind, old boy," said the young monkey; "a short life and a
Then Hamilton represented that it was very ungentleman-like to go
and tempt poor Jack with his money, to offend discipline, and get
flogged. "How will you feel, Tadcaster, when you see their backs
bleeding under the cat?"
"Oh, d--n it all, George, don't do that," says the young gentleman,
all in a hurry.
Then the commander saw he had touched the right chord. So he
played on it, till he got Lord Tadcaster to pledge his honor not to
do it again.
The little fellow gave the pledge, but relieved his mind as
follows: "But it is a cursed tyrannical hole, this tiresome old
ship. You can't do what you like in it."
"Well, but no more you can in the grave: and that is the agreeable
residence you were hurrying to but for this tiresome old ship."
"Lord! no more you can," said Tadcaster, with sudden candor. "I
The airs were very light; the ship hardly moved. It was beginning
to get dull, when one day a sail was sighted on the weather-bow,
standing to the eastward: on nearing her, she was seen, by the cut
of her sails, to be a man-of-war, evidently homeward bound: so
Captain Hamilton ordered the main-royal to be lowered (to render
signal more visible) and the "demand" hoisted. No notice being
taken of this, a gun was fired to draw her attention to the signal.
This had the desired effect; down went her main-royal, up went her
"number." On referring to the signal book, she proved to be the
Vindictive from the Pacific Station.
This being ascertained, Captain Hamilton, being that captain's
senior, signalled "Close and prepare to receive letters." In
obedience to this she bore up, ran down, and rounded to; the sail
in the Amphitrite was also shortened, the maintopsail laid to the
mast, and a boat lowered. The captain having finished his
despatches, they, with the letter-bags, were handed into the boat,
which shoved off, pulled to the lee side of the Vindictive, and
left the despatches, with Captain Hamilton's compliments. On its
return, both ships made sail on their respective course, exchanging
"bon voyage" by signal, and soon the upper sails of the homeward-
bounder were seen dipping below the horizon: longing eyes followed
her on board the Amphitrite.
How many hurried missives had been written and despatched in that
half-hour. But as for Staines, he was a man of forethought, and
had a volume ready for his dear wife.
Lord Tadcaster wrote to Lady Cicely Treherne. His epistle, though
brief, contained a plum or two.
He wrote: "What with sailing, and fishing, and eating nothing but
roast meat, I'm quite another man."
This amused her ladyship a little, but not so much as the
postscript, which was indeed the neatest thing in its way she had
met with, and she had some experience, too.
"P.S.--I say, Cicely, I think I should like to marry you. Would
Let us defy time and space to give you Lady Cicely's reply: "I
should enjoy it of all things, Taddy. But, alas! I am too young."
N.B.--She was twenty-seven, and Tad sixteen. To be sure, Tad was
four feet eleven, and she was only five feet six and a half.
To return to my narrative (with apologies), this meeting of the
vessels caused a very agreeable excitement that day; but a greater
was in store. In the afternoon, Tadcaster, Staines, and the
principal officers of the ship, being at dinner in the captain's
cabin, in came the officer of the watch, and reported a large spar
on the weather-bow.
"Well, close it, if you can; and let me know if it looks worth
He then explained to Lord Tadcaster that, on a cruise, he never
liked to pass a spar, or anything that might possibly reveal the
fate of some vessel or other.
In the middle of his discourse the officer came in again, but not
in the same cool business way: he ran in excitedly, and said,
"Captain, the signalman reports it ALIVE!"
"Alive?--a spar! What do you mean? Something alive ON it, eh?"
"No, sir; alive itself."
"How can that be? Hail him again. Ask him what it is."
The officer went out, and hailed the signalman at the mast-head.
"What is it?"
"Sea-sarpint, I think."
This hail reached the captain's ears faintly. However, he waited
quietly till the officer came in and reported it; then he burst
out, "Absurd! there is no such creature in the universe. What do
you say, Dr. Staines?--It is in your department."
"The universe in my department, captain?"
"Haw! haw! haw!" went Fitzroy and two more.
"No, you rogue, the serpent."
Dr. Staines, thus appealed to, asked the captain if he had ever
seen small snakes out at sea.
"Why, of course. Sailed through a mile of them once, in the
"Sure they were snakes?"
"Quite sure; and the biggest was not eight feet long."
"Very well, captain; then sea-serpents exist, and it becomes a mere
question of size. Now which produces the larger animals in every
kind,--land or sea? The grown elephant weighs, I believe, about
five tons. The very smallest of the whale tribe weighs ten; and
they go as high as forty tons. There are smaller fish than the
whale, that are four times as heavy as the elephant. Why doubt,
then, that the sea can breed a snake to eclipse the boa-
constrictor? Even if the creature had never been seen, I should,
by mere reasoning from analogy, expect the sea to produce a serpent
excelling the boa-constrictor, as the lobster excels a crayfish of
our rivers: see how large things grow at sea! the salmon born in
our rivers weighs in six months a quarter of a pound, or less; it
goes out to sea, and comes back in one year weighing seven pounds.
So far from doubting the large sea-serpents, I believe they exist
by the million. The only thing that puzzles me is, why they should
ever show a nose above water; they must be very numerous, I think."
Captain Hamilton laughed, and said, "Well, this IS new. Doctor, in
compliment to your opinion, we will go on deck, and inspect the
reptile you think so common." He stopped at the door, and said,
"Doctor, the saltcellar is by you. Would you mind bringing it on
deck? We shall want a little to secure the animal."
So they all went on deck right merrily.
The captain went up a few ratlines in the mizzen rigging, and
looked to windward, laughing all the time: but, all of a sudden,
there was a great change in his manner. "Good heavens, it is
The helmsman obeyed; the news spread like wildfire. Mess kids,
grog kids, pipes, were all let fall, and some three hundred sailors
clustered on the rigging like bees, to view the long-talked-of
It was soon discovered to be moving lazily along, the propelling
part being under water, and about twenty-five feet visible. It had
a small head for so large a body, and, as they got nearer, rough
scales were seen, ending in smaller ones further down the body. It
had a mane, but not like a lion's, as some have pretended. If you
have ever seen a pony with a hog-mane, that was more the character
of this creature's mane, if mane it was.
They got within a hundred yards of it, and all saw it plainly,
scarce believing their senses.
When they could get no nearer for the wind, the captain yielded to
that instinct which urges man always to kill a curiosity, "to
encourage the rest," as saith the witty Voltaire. "Get ready a
gun--best shot in the ship lay and fire it."
This was soon done. Bang went the gun. The shot struck the water
close to the brute, and may have struck him under water, for aught
I know. Any way, it sorely disturbed him; for he reared into the
air a column of serpent's flesh that looked as thick as the
maintopmast of a seventy-four, opened a mouth that looked capacious
enough to swallow the largest buoy anchor in the ship, and, with a
strange grating noise between a bark and a hiss, dived, and was
seen no more.
When he was gone, they all looked at one another like men awaking
from a dream.
Staines alone took it quite coolly. It did not surprise him in the
least. He had always thought it incredible that the boa-
constrictor should be larger than any sea-snake. That idea struck
him as monstrous and absurd. He noted the sea-serpent in his
journal, but with this doubt, "Semble--more like a very large eel."
Next day they crossed the line. Just before noon a young gentleman
burst into Staines's cabin, apologizing for want of ceremony; but
if Dr. Staines would like to see the line, it was now in sight from
"Glad of it, sir," said Staines; "collect it for me in the ship's
buckets, if you please. I want to send A LINE to friends at home."
Young gentleman buried his hands in his pockets, walked out in
solemn silence, and resumed his position on the lee-side of the
Nevertheless, this opening, coupled with what he had heard and
read, made Staines a little uneasy, and he went to his friend
Fitzroy, and said, "Now, look here: I am at the service of you
experienced and humorous mariners. I plead guilty at once to the
crime of never having passed the line; so, make ready your swabs,
and lather me; your ship's scraper, and shave me; and let us get it
over. But Lord Tadcaster is nervous, sensitive, prouder than he
seems, and I'm not going to have him driven into a fit for all the
Neptunes and Amphitrites in creation."
Fitzroy heard him out, then burst out laughing. "Why, there is
none of that game in the Royal Navy," said he. "Hasn't been this
"I'm so sorry," said Dr. Staines. "If there's a form of wit I
revere, it is practical joking."
"Doctor, you are a satirical beggar."
Staines told Tadcaster, and he went forward and chaffed his friend
the quartermaster, who was one of the forecastle wits.
"I say, quartermaster, why doesn't Neptune come on board?"
"I wonder what has become of poor old Nep?"
"Gone ashore!" growled the seaman. "Last seen in Rateliff Highway.
Got a shop there--lends a shilling in the pound on seamen's advance
"Oh! and Amphitrite?"
"Married the sexton at Wapping."
"And the Nereids?"
"Neruds!" (scratching his head.) "I harn't kept my eye on them
small craft. But I BELIEVE they are selling oysters in the port of
A light breeze carried them across the equator; but soon after they
got becalmed, and it was dreary work, and the ship rolled gently,
but continuously, and upset Lord Tadcaster's stomach again, and
quenched his manly spirit.
At last they were fortunate enough to catch the southeast trade,
but it was so languid at first that the ship barely moved through
the water, though they set every stitch, and studding sails alow
and aloft, till really she was acres of canvas.
While she was so creeping along, a man in the mizzentop noticed an
enormous shark gliding steadily in her wake. This may seem a small
incident, yet it ran through the ship like wildfire, and caused
more or less uneasiness in three hundred stout hearts; so near is
every seaman to death, and so strong the persuasion in their
superstitious minds, that a shark does not follow a ship
pertinaciously without a prophetic instinct of calamity.
Unfortunately, the quartermaster conveyed this idea to Lord
Tadcaster, and confirmed it by numerous examples to prove that
there was always death at hand when a shark followed the ship.
Thereupon Tadcaster took it into his head that he was under a
relapse, and the shark was waiting for his dead body: he got quite
Staines told Fitzroy. Fitzroy said, "Shark be hanged! I'll have
him on deck in half an hour." He got leave from the captain: a
hook was baited with a large piece of pork, and towed astern by a
stout line, experienced old hands attending to it by turns.
The shark came up leisurely, surveyed the bait, and, I apprehend,
ascertained the position of the hook. At all events, he turned
quietly on his back, sucked the bait off, and retired to enjoy it.
Every officer in the ship tried him in turn, but without success;
for, if they got ready for him, and, the moment he took the bait,
jerked the rope hard, in that case he opened his enormous mouth so
wide that the bait and hook came out clear. But, sooner or later,
he always got the bait, and left his captors the hook.
This went on for days, and his huge dorsal fin always in the ship's
Then Tadcaster, who had watched these experiments with hope, lost
his spirit and appetite.
Staines reasoned with him, but in vain. Somebody was to die; and,
although there were three hundred and more in the ship, he must be
the one. At last he actually made his will, and threw himself into
Staines's arms, and gave him messages to his mother and Lady
Cicely; and ended by frightening himself into a fit.
This roused Staines's pity, and also put him on his mettle. What,
science be beaten by a shark!
He pondered the matter with all his might; and at last an idea came
He asked the captain's permission to try his hand. This was
accorded immediately, and the ship's stores placed at his disposal
very politely, but with a sly, comical grin.
Dr. Staines got from the carpenter some sheets of zinc and spare
copper, and some flannel: these he cut into three-inch squares, and
soaked the flannel in acidulated water. He then procured a
quantity of bell-wire, the greater part of which he insulated by
wrapping it round with hot gutta percha. So eager was he, that he
did not turn in all night.
In the morning he prepared what he called an electric fuse--he
filled a soda-water bottle with gunpowder, attaching some cork to
make it buoyant, put in the fuse and bung, made it water-tight,
connected and insulated his main wires--enveloped the bottle in
pork--tied a line to it, and let the bottle overboard.
The captain and officers shook their heads mysteriously. The tars
peeped and grinned from every rope to see a doctor try and catch a
shark with a soda-water bottle and no hook; but somehow the doctor
seemed to know what he was about, so they hovered round, and
awaited the result, mystified, but curious, and showing their teeth
from ear to ear.
"The only thing I fear," said Staines, "is that, the moment he
takes the bait, he will cut the wire before I can complete the
circuit, and fire the fuse."
Nevertheless, there was another objection to the success of the
experiment. The shark had disappeared.
"Well," said the captain, "at all events, you have frightened him
"No," said little Tadcaster, white as a ghost; "he is only under
water, I know; waiting--waiting."
"There he is," cried one in the ratlines.
There was a rush to the taffrail--great excitement.
"Keep clear of me," said Staines quietly but firmly. "It can only
be done at the moment before he cuts the wire."
The old shark swam slowly round the bait.
He saw it was something new.
He swam round and round it.
"He won't take it," said one.
"He suspects something."
"Oh, yes, he will take the meat somehow, and leave the pepper. Sly
"He has eaten many a poor Jack, that one."
The shark turned slowly on his back, and, instead of grabbing at
the bait, seemed to draw it by gentle suction into that capacious
throat, ready to blow it out in a moment if it was not all right.
The moment the bait was drawn out of sight, Staines completed the
circuit; the bottle exploded with a fury that surprised him and
everybody who saw it; a ton of water flew into the air, and came
down in spray, and a gory carcass floated, belly uppermost, visibly
staining the blue water.
There was a roar of amazement and applause.
The carcass was towed alongside, at Tadcaster's urgent request, and
then the power of the explosion was seen. Confined, first by the
bottle, then by the meat, then by the fish, and lastly by the
water, it had exploded with tenfold power, had blown the brute's
head into a million atoms, and had even torn a great furrow in its
carcass, exposing three feet of the backbone.
Taddy gloated on his enemy, and began to pick up again from that
The wind improved, and, as usual in that latitude, scarcely varied
a point. They had a pleasant time,--private theatricals and other
amusements till they got to latitude 26 deg. S. and longitude 27
deg. W. Then the trade wind deserted them. Light and variable
The master complained of the chronometers, and the captain thought
it his duty to verify or correct them; and so shaped his course for
the island of Tristan d'Acunha, then lying a little way out of his
course. I ought, perhaps, to explain to the general reader that
the exact position of this island being long ago established and
recorded, it was an infallible guide to go by in verifying a ship's
Next day the glass fell all day, and the captain said he should
double-reef topsails at nightfall, for something was brewing.
The weather, however, was fine, and the ship was sailing very fast,
when, about half an hour before sunset, the mast-head man hailed
that there was a bulk of timber in sight, broad on the weather-bow.
The signalman was sent up, and said it looked like a raft.
The captain, who was on deck, levelled his glass at it, and made it
out a raft, with a sort of rail to it, and the stump of a mast.
He ordered the officer of the watch to keep the ship as close to
the wind as possible. He should like to examine it if he could.
The master represented, respectfully, that it would be unadvisable
to beat to windward for that. "I have no faith in our
chronometers, sir, and it is important to make the island before
dark; fogs rise here so suddenly."
"Very well, Mr. Bolt; then I suppose we must let the raft go."
"MAN ON THE RAFT TO WINDWARD!" hailed the signalman.
This electrified the ship. The captain ran up the mizzen rigging,
and scanned the raft, now nearly abeam.
"It IS a man!" he cried, and was about to alter the ship's course
when, at that moment, the signalman hailed again,--
"IT IS A CORPSE."
"How d'ye know?"
"By the gulls."
Then succeeded an exciting dialogue between the captain and the
master, who, being in his department, was very firm; and went so
far as to say he would not answer for the safety of the ship, if
they did not sight the land before dark.
The captain said, "Very well," and took a turn or two. But at last
he said, "No. Her Majesty's ship must not pass a raft with a man
on it, dead or alive."
He then began to give the necessary orders; but before they were
all out of his mouth, a fatal interruption occurred.
Tadcaster ran into Dr. Staines's cabin, crying, "A raft with a
corpse close by!"
Staines sprang to the quarter port to see, and craning eagerly out,
the lower port chain, which had not been well secured, slipped, the
port gave way, and as his whole weight rested on it, canted him
headlong into the sea.
A smart seaman in the forechains saw the accident, and instantly
roared out, "MAN OVERBOARD!" a cry that sends a thrill through a
ship's very ribs.
Another smart fellow cut the life-buoy adrift so quickly that it
struck the water within ten yards of Staines.
The officer of the watch, without the interval of half a moment,
gave the right orders, in the voice of a stentor;
"Let go life-buoy.
"Life-boat's crew away.
"Hands shorten sail.
"Main topsel to mast."
These orders were executed with admirable swiftness. Meantime
there was a mighty rush of feet throughout the frigate, every
hatchway was crammed with men eager to force their way on deck.
In five seconds the middy of the watch and half her crew were in
the lee cutter, fitted with Clifford's apparatus.
"Lower away!" cried the excited officer; "the others will come down
by the pendants."
The man stationed, sitting on the bottom boards, eased away
roundly, when suddenly there was a hitch--the boat would go no
"Lower away there in the cutter! Why don't you lower?" screamed
the captain, who had come over to leeward expecting to see the boat
in the water.
"The rope has swollen, sir, and the pendants won't unreeve," cried
the middy in agony.
"Volunteers for the weather-boat!" shouted the first lieutenant;
but the order was unnecessary, for more than the proper number were
in her already.
"Plug in--lower away."
But mishaps never come singly. Scarcely had this boat gone a foot
from the davit, than the volunteer who was acting as coxswain, in
reaching out for something, inadvertently let go the line, which,
in Kynaston's apparatus, keeps the tackles hooked; consequently,
down went the boat and crew twenty feet, with a terrific crash; the
men were struggling for their lives, and the boat was stove.
But, meantime, more men having been sent into the lee cutter, their
weight caused the pendants to render, and the boat got afloat, and
was soon employed picking up the struggling crew.
Seeing this, Lieutenant Fitzroy collected some hands, and lowered
the life-boat gig, which was fitted with common tackles, got down
into her himself by the falls, and pulling round to windward,
shouted to the signalman for directions.
The signalman was at his post, and had fixed his eye on the man
overboard, as his duty was; but his mess-mate was in the stove
boat, and he had cast one anxious look down to see if he was saved,
and, sad to relate, in that one moment he had lost sight of
Staines; the sudden darkness--there was no twilight--confused him
more, and the ship had increased her drift.
Fitzroy, however, made a rapid calculation, and pulled to windward
with all his might. He was followed in about a minute by the other
sound boat powerfully manned, and both boats melted away into the
There was a long and anxious suspense, during which it became pitch
dark, and the ship burned blue lights to mark her position more
plainly to the crews that were groping the sea for that beloved
Captain Hamilton had no doubt that the fate of Staines was decided,
one way or other, long before this; but he kept quiet until he saw
the plain signs of a squall at hand. Then, as he was responsible
for the safety of boats and ship, he sent up rockets to recall
The cutter came alongside first. Lights were poured on her, and
quavering voices asked, "Have you got him?"
The answer was dead silence, and sorrowful, drooping heads.
Sadly and reluctantly was the order given to hoist the boat in.
Then the gig came alongside. Fitzroy seated in her, with his hands
before his face; the men gloomy and sad.
Soon the ship was battling a heavy squall.
At midnight all quiet again, and hove to. Then, at the request of
many, the bell was tolled, and the ship's company mustered
bareheaded, and many a stout seaman in tears, as the last service
was read for Christopher Staines.
Rosa fell ill with grief at the hotel, and could not move for some
days; but the moment she was strong enough, she insisted on leaving
Plymouth: like all wounded things, she must drag herself home.
But what a home! How empty it struck, and she heart-sick and
desolate. Now all the familiar places wore a new aspect: the
little yard, where he had so walked and waited, became a temple to
her, and she came out and sat in it, and now first felt to the full
how much he had suffered there--with what fortitude. She crept
about the house, and kissed the chair he had sat in, and every
much-used place and thing of the departed.
Her shallow nature deepened and deepened under this bereavement, of
which, she said to herself, with a shudder, she was the cause. And
this is the course of nature; there is nothing like suffering to
enlighten the giddy brain, widen the narrow mind, improve the
As her regrets were tender and deep, so her vows of repentance were
sincere. Oh, what a wife she would make when he came back! how
thoughtful! how prudent! how loyal! and never have a secret. She
who had once said, "What is the use of your writing? nobody will
publish it," now collected and perused every written scrap. With
simple affection she even locked up his very waste-paper basket,
full of fragments he had torn, or useless papers he had thrown
there, before he went to Plymouth.
In the drawer of his writing-table she found his diary. It was a
thick quarto: it began with their marriage, and ended with his
leaving home--for then he took another volume. This diary became
her Bible; she studied it daily, till her tears hid his lines. The
entries were very miscellaneous, very exact; it was a map of their
married life. But what she studied most was his observations on
her own character, so scientific, yet so kindly; and his scholar-
like and wise reflections. The book was an unconscious picture of
a great mind she had hitherto but glanced at: now she saw it all
plain before her; saw it, understood it, adored it, mourned it.
Such women are shallow, not for want of a head upon their
shoulders, but of ATTENTION. They do not really study anything:
they have been taught at their schools the bad art of skimming; but
let their hearts compel their brains to think and think, the result
is considerable. The deepest philosopher never fathomed a
character more thoroughly than this poor child fathomed her
philosopher, when she had read his journal ten or eleven times, and
bedewed it with a thousand tears.
One passage almost cut her more intelligent heart in twain:--
"This dark day I have done a thing incredible. I have spoken with
brutal harshness to the innocent creature I have sworn to protect.
She had run in debt, through inexperience, and that unhappy
timidity which makes women conceal an error till it ramifies, by
concealment, into a fault; and I must storm and rave at her, till
she actually fainted away. Brute! Ruffian! Monster! And she,
how did she punish me, poor lamb? By soft and tender words--like a
lady, as she is. Oh, my sweet Rosa, I wish you could know how you
are avenged. Talk of the scourge--the cat! I would be thankful
for two dozen lashes. Ah! there is no need, I think, to punish a
man who has been cruel to a woman. Let him alone. He will punish
himself more than you can, if he is really a man."
From the date of that entry, this self-reproach and self-torture
kept cropping up every now and then in the diary; and it appeared
to have been not entirely without its influence in sending Staines
to sea, though the main reason he gave was that his Rosa might have
the comforts and luxuries she had enjoyed before she married him.
One day, while she was crying over this diary, Uncle Philip called;
but not to comfort her, I promise you. He burst on her, irate, to
take her to task. He had returned, learned Christopher's
departure, and settled the reason in his own mind: that uxorious
fool was gone to sea by a natural reaction; his eyes were open to
his wife at last, and he was sick of her folly; so he had fled to
distant climes, as who would not, that could?
"SO, ma'am," said he, "my nephew is gone to sea, I find--all in a
hurry. Pray may I ask what he has done that for?"
It was a very simple question, yet it did not elicit a very plain
answer. She only stared at this abrupt inquisitor, and then cried,
piteously, "Oh, Uncle Philip!" and burst out sobbing.
"Why, what is the matter?"
"You WILL hate me now. He is gone to make money for ME; and I
would rather have lived on a crust. Uncle--don't hate me. I'm a
poor, bereaved, heart-broken creature, that repents."
"Repents! heigho! why, what have you been up to now, ma'am? No
great harm, I'll be bound. Flirting a little with some FOOL--eh?"
"Flirting! Me! a married woman."
"Oh, to be sure; I forgot. Why, surely he has not deserted you."
"My Christopher desert me! He loves me too well; far more than I
deserve; but not more than I will. Uncle Philip, I am too confused
and wretched to tell you all that has happened; but I know you love
him, though you had a tiff: uncle, he called on you, to shake hands
and ask your forgiveness, poor fellow! He was so sorry you were
away. Please read his dear diary: it will tell you all, better
than his poor foolish wife can. I know it by heart. I'll show you
where you and he quarrelled about me. There, see." And she showed
him the passage with her finger. "He never told me it was that, or
I would have come and begged your pardon on my knees. But see how
sorry he was. There, see. And now I'll show you another place,
where my Christopher speaks of your many, many acts of kindness.
There, see. And now please let me show you how he longed for
reconciliation. There, see. And it is the same through the book.
And now I'll show you how grieved he was to go without your
blessing. I told him I was sure you would give him that, and him
going away. Ah, me! will he ever return? Uncle dear, don't hate
me. What shall I do, now he is gone, if you disown me? Why, you
are the only Staines left me to love."
"Disown you, ma'am! that I'll never do. You are a good-hearted
young woman, I find. There, run and dry your eyes; and let me read
Christopher's diary all through. Then I shall see how the land
Rosa complied with his proposal; and left him alone while she
bathed her eyes, and tried to compose herself, for she was all
trembling at this sudden irruption.
When she returned to the drawing-room, he was walking about,
looking grave and thoughtful.
"It is the old story," said he, rather gently: "a MISUNDERSTANDING.
How wise our ancestors were that first used that word to mean a
quarrel! for, look into twenty quarrels, and you shall detect a
score of mis-under-standings. Yet our American cousins must go and
substitute the un-ideaed word 'difficulty'; that is wonderful. I
had no quarrel with him: delighted to see either of you. But I had
called twice on him; so I thought he ought to get over his temper,
and call on a tried friend like me. A misunderstanding! Now, my
dear, let us have no more of these misunderstandings. You will
always be welcome at my house, and I shall often come here and look
after you and your interests. What do you mean to do, I wonder?"
"Sir, I am to go home to my father, if he will be troubled with me.
I have written to him."
"And what is to become of the Bijou?"
"My Christie thought I should like to part with it, and the
furniture--but his own writing-desk and his chair, no, I never
will, and his little clock. Oh! oh! oh!--But I remember what you
said about agents, and I don't know what to do; for I shall be
"Then, leave it to me. I'll come and live here with one servant;
and I'll soon sell it for you."
"You, Uncle Philip!"
"Well, why not?" said he roughly.
"That will be a great trouble and discomfort to you, I'm afraid."
"If I find it so, I'll soon drop it. I'm not the fool to put
myself out for anybody. When you are ready to go out, send me
word, and I'll come in."
Soon after this he bustled off. He gave her a sort of hurried kiss
at parting, as if he was ashamed of it, and wanted it over as
quickly as possible.
Next day her father came, condoled with her politely, assured her
there was nothing to cry about; husbands were a sort of
functionaries that generally went to sea at some part of their
career, and no harm ever came of it. On the contrary, "Absence
makes the heart grow fonder," said this judicious parent.
This sentiment happened to be just a little too true, and set the
daughter crying bitterly. But she fought against it. "Oh no!"
said she, "I MUSTN'T. I will not be always crying in Kent Villa."
"I shall get over it in time--a little."
"Why, of course you will. But as to your coming to Kent Villa, I
am afraid you would not be very comfortable there. You know I am
superannuated. Only got my pension now."
"I know that, papa: and--why, that is one of the reasons. I have a
good income now; and I thought if we put our means together"--
"Oh, that is a very different thing. You will want a carriage, I
suppose. I have put mine down."
"No carriage; no horse; no footman; no luxury of any kind till my
Christie comes back. I abhor dress; I abhor expense; I loathe
everything I once liked too well; I detest every folly that has
parted us; and I hate myself worst of all. Oh! oh! oh! Forgive me
for crying so."
"Well, I dare say there are associations about this place that
upset you. I shall go and make ready for you, dear; and then you
can come as soon as you like."
He bestowed a paternal kiss on her brow, and glided doucely away
before she could possibly cry again.
The very next week Rosa was at Kent Villa, with the relics of her
husband about her; his chair, his writing-table, his clock, his
waste-paper basket, a very deep and large one. She had them all in
her bedroom at Kent Villa.
Here the days glided quietly but heavily.
She derived some comfort from Uncle Philip. His rough, friendly
way was a tonic, and braced her. He called several times about the
Bijou. Told her he had put up enormous boards all over the house,
and puffed it finely. "I have had a hundred agents at me," said
he; "and the next thing, I hope, will be one customer; that is
about the proportion." At last he wrote her he had hooked a
victim, and sold the lease and furniture for nine hundred guineas.
Staines had assigned the lease to Rosa, so she had full powers; and
Philip invested the money, and two hundred more she gave him, in a
little mortgage at six per cent.
Now came the letter from Madeira. It gave her new life.
Christopher was well, contented, hopeful. His example should
animate her. She would bravely bear the present, and share his
hopes of the future: with these brighter views Nature co-operated.
The instincts of approaching maternity brightened the future. She
fell into gentle reveries, and saw her husband return, and saw
herself place their infant in his arms with all a wife's, a
In due course came another long letter from the equator, with a
full journal, and more words of hope. Home in less than a year,
with reputation increased by this last cure; home, to part no more.
Ah! what a changed wife he should find! how frugal, how candid, how
full of appreciation, admiration, and love, of the noblest, dearest
husband that ever breathed!
Lady Cicely Treherne waited some weeks, to let kinder sentiments
return. She then called in Dear Street, but found Mrs. Staines was
gone to Gravesend. She wrote to her.
In a few days she received a reply, studiously polite and cold.
This persistent injustice mortified her at last. She said to
herself, "Does she think his departure was no loss to ME? It was
to her interests, as well as his, I sacrificed my own selfish
wishes. I will write to her no more."
This resolution she steadily maintained. It was shaken for a
moment, when she heard, by a side wind, that Mrs. Staines was fast
approaching the great pain and peril of women. Then she wavered.
But no. She prayed for her by name in the Liturgy, but she
troubled her no more.
This state of things lasted some six weeks, when she received a
letter from her cousin Tadcaster, close on the heels of his last,
to which she had replied as I have indicated. She knew his
handwriting, and opened it with a smile.
That smile soon died off her horror-stricken face. The letter ran
TRISTAN D'ACUNHA, Jan. 5.
DEAR CICELY,--A terrible thing has just happened. We signalled a
raft, with a body on it, and poor Dr. Staines leaned out of the
port-hole, and fell overboard. Three boats were let down after
him; but it all went wrong, somehow, or it was too late. They
could never find him, he was drowned; and the funeral service was
read for the poor fellow.
We are all sadly cut up. Everybody loved him. It was dreadful
next day at dinner, when his chair was empty. The very sailors
cried at not finding him.
First of all, I thought I ought to write to his wife. I know where
she lives; it is called Kent Villa, Gravesend. But I was afraid;
it might kill her: and you are so good and sensible, I thought I
had better write to you, and perhaps you could break it to her by
degrees, before it gets in all the papers.
I send this from the island, by a small vessel, and paid him ten
pounds to take it.
Your affectionate cousin,
Words are powerless to describe a blow like this: the amazement,
the stupor, the reluctance to believe--the rising, swelling,
surging horror. She sat like a woman of stone, crumpling the
For a long time this was all her mind could realize--that
Christopher Staines was dead. He who had been so full of life and
thought and genius, and worthier to live than all the world, was
dead; and a million nobodies were still alive, and he was dead.
She lay back on the sofa, and all the power left her limbs. She
could not move a hand.
But suddenly she started up; for a noble instinct told her this
blow must not fall on the wife as it had on her, and in her time of
She had her bonnet on in a moment, and for the first time in her
life, darted out of the house without her maid. She flew along the
streets, scarcely feeling the ground. She got to Dear Street, and
obtained Philip Staines's address. She flew to it, and there
learned he was down at Kent Villa. Instantly she telegraphed to
her maid to come down to her at Gravesend, with things for a short
visit, and wait for her at the station; and she went down by train
Hitherto she had walked on air, driven by one overpowering impulse.
Now, as she sat in the train, she thought a little of herself.
What was before her? To break to Mrs. Staines that her husband was
dead. To tell her all her misgivings were more than justified. To
encounter her cold civility, and let her know, inch by inch, it
must be exchanged for curses and tearing of hair; her husband was
dead. To tell her this, and in the telling of it, perhaps reveal
that it was HER great bereavement, as well as the wife's, for she
had a deeper affection for him than she ought.
Well, she trembled like an aspen leaf, trembled like one in an
ague, even as she sat. But she persevered.
A noble woman has her courage; not exactly the same as that which
leads forlorn hopes against bastions bristling with rifles and
tongued with flames and thunderbolts; yet not inferior to it.
Tadcaster, small and dull, but noble by birth and instinct, had
seen the right thing for her to do; and she, of the same breed, and
nobler far, had seen it too; and the great soul steadily drew the
recoiling heart and quivering body to this fiery trial, this act of
humanity--to do which was terrible and hard, to shirk it, cowardly
She reached Gravesend, and drove in a fly to Kent Villa.
The door was opened by a maid.
"Is Mrs. Staines at home?"
"Yes, ma'am, she is at HOME: but--"
"Can I see her?"
"Why, no, ma'am, not at present."
"But I must see her. I am an old friend. Please take her my card.
Lady Cicely Treherne."
The maid hesitated, and looked confused. "Perhaps you don't know,
ma'am. Mrs. Staines, she is--the doctor have been in the house all
"Ah, the doctor! I believe Dr. Philip Staines is here."
"Why, that IS the doctor, ma'am. Yes, he is here."
"Then, pray let me see him--or no; I had better see Mr. Lusignan."
"Master have gone out for the day, ma'am; but if you'll step in the
drawing-room, I'll tell the doctor."
Lady Cicely waited in the drawing-room some time, heart-sick and
At last Dr. Philip came in, with her card in his hand, looking
evidently a little cross at the interruption. "Now, madam, please
tell me, as briefly as you can, what I can do for you."
"Are you Dr. Philip Staines?"
"I am, madam, at your service--for five minutes. Can't quit my
patient long, just now."
"Oh, sir, thank God I have found you. Be prepared for ill news--
sad news--a terrible calamity--I can't speak. Read that, sir."
And she handed him Tadcaster's note.
He took it, and read it.
He buried his face in his hands. "Christopher! my poor, poor boy!"
he groaned. But suddenly a terrible anxiety seized him. "Who
knows of this?" he asked.
"Only myself, sir. I came here to break it to her."
"You are a good, kind lady, for being so thoughtful. Madam, if
this gets to my niece's ears, it will kill her, as sure as we stand
"Then let us keep it from her. Command me, sir. I will do
anything. I will live here--take the letters in--the journals--
"No, no; you have done your part, and God bless you for it. You
must not stay here. Your ladyship's very presence, and your
agitation, would set the servants talking, and some idiot-fiend
among them babbling--there is nothing so terrible as a fool."
"May I remain at the inn, sir; just one night?"
"Oh yes, I wish you would; and I will run over, if all is well with
her--well with her? poor unfortunate girl!"
Lady Cicely saw he wished her gone, and she went directly.
At nine o'clock that same evening, as she lay on a sofa in the best
room of the inn, attended by her maid, Dr. Philip Staines came to
her. She dismissed her maid.
Dr. Philip was too old, in other words, had lost too many friends,
to be really broken down by bereavement; but he was strangely
subdued. The loud tones were out of him, and the loud laugh, and
even the keen sneer. Yet he was the same man; but with a gentler
surface; and this was not without its pathos.
"Well, madam," said he gravely and quietly. "It is as it always
has been. 'As is the race of leaves, so that of man.' When one
falls, another comes. Here's a little Christopher come, in place
of him that is gone: a brave, beautiful boy, ma'am; the finest but
one I ever brought into the world. He is come to take his father's
place in our hearts--I see you valued his poor father, ma'am--but
he comes too late for me. At your age, ma'am, friendships come
naturally; they spring like loves in the soft heart of youth: at
seventy, the gate is not so open; the soil is more sterile. I
shall never care for another Christopher; never see another grow to
"The mother, sir," sobbed Lady Cicely; "the poor mother?"
"Like them all--poor creature: in heaven, madam; in heaven. New
life! new existence! a new character. All the pride, glory,
rapture, and amazement of maternity--thanks to her ignorance, which
we must prolong, or I would not give one straw for her life, or her
son's. I shall never leave the house till she does know it, and
come when it may, I dread the hour. She is not framed by nature to
bear so deadly a shock."
"Her father, sir. Would he not be the best person to break it to
her? He was out to-day."
"Her father, ma'am? I shall get no help from him. He is one of
those soft, gentle creatures, that come into the world with what
your canting fools call a mission; and his mission is to take care
of number one. Not dishonestly, mind you, nor violently, nor
rudely, but doucely and calmly. The care a brute like me takes of
his vitals, that care Lusignan takes of his outer cuticle. His
number one is a sensitive plant. No scenes, no noise; nothing
painful--by-the-by, the little creature that writes in the papers,
and calls calamities PAINFUL, is of Lusignan's breed. Out to-day!
of course he was out, ma'am: he knew from me his daughter would be
in peril all day, so he visited a friend. He knew his own
tenderness, and evaded paternal sensibilities: a self-defender. I
count on no help from that charming man."
"A man! I call such creachaas weptiles!" said Lady Cicely, her
ghastly cheek coloring for a moment.
"Then you give them a false importance."
In the course of this interview, Lady Cicely accused herself sadly
of having interfered between man and wife, and with the best
intentions brought about this cruel calamity. "Judge, then, sir,"
said she, "how grateful I am to you for undertaking this cruel
task. I was her schoolfellow, sir, and I love her dearly; but she
has turned against me, and now, oh, with what horror she will
"Madam," said the doctor, "there is nothing more mean and unjust
than to judge others by events that none could foresee. Your
conscience is clear. You did your best for my poor nephew: but
Fate willed it otherwise. As for my niece, she has many virtues,
but justice is one you must not look for in that quarter. Justice
requires brains. It's a virtue the heart does not deal in. You
must be content with your own good conscience, and an old man's
esteem. You did all for the best; and this very day you have done
a good, kind action. God bless you for it!"
Then he left her; and next day she went sadly home, and for many a
long day the hollow world saw nothing of Cicely Treherne.
When Mr. Lusignan came home that night, Dr. Philip told him the
miserable story, and his fears. He received it, not as Philip had
expected. The bachelor had counted without his dormant paternity.
He was terror-stricken--abject--fell into a chair, and wrung his
hands, and wept piteously. To keep it from his daughter till she
should be stronger, seemed to him chimerical, impossible. However,
Philip insisted it must be done; and he must make some excuse for
keeping out of her way, or his manner would rouse her suspicions.
He consented readily to that, and indeed left all to Dr. Philip.
Dr. Philip trusted nobody; not even his own confidential servant.
He allowed no journal to come into the house without passing
through his hands, and he read them all before he would let any
other soul in the house see them. He asked Rosa to let him be her
secretary and open her letters, giving as a pretext that it would
be as well she should have no small worries or trouble just now.
"Why," said she, "I was never so well able to bear them. It must
be a great thing to put me out now. I am so happy, and live in the
future. Well, dear uncle, you can if you like--what does it
matter?--only there must be one exception: my own Christie's
letters, you know."
"Of course," said he, wincing inwardly.
The very next day came a letter of condolence from Miss Lucas. Dr.
Philip intercepted it, and locked it up, to be shown her at a more
But how could he hope to keep so public a thing as this from
entering the house in one of a hundred newspapers?
He went into Gravesend, and searched all the newspapers, to see
what he had to contend with. To his horror, he found it in several
dailies and weeklies, and in two illustrated papers. He sat aghast
at the difficulty and the danger.
The best thing he could think of was to buy them all, and cut out
the account. He did so, and brought all the papers, thus
mutilated, into the house, and sent them into the kitchen. He said
to his old servant, "These may amuse Mr. Lusignan's people, and I
have extracted all that interests me."
By these means he hoped that none of the servants would go and buy
more of these same papers elsewhere.
Notwithstanding these precautions, he took the nurse apart, and
said, "Now, you are an experienced woman, and to be trusted about
an excitable patient. Mind, I object to any female servant
entering Mrs. Staines's room with gossip. Keep them outside the
door for the present, please. Oh, and nurse, if anything should
happen, likely to grieve or to worry her, it must be kept from her
entirely: can I trust you?"
"You may, sir."
"I shall add ten guineas to your fee, if she gets through the month
without a shock or disturbance of any kind."
She stared at him, inquiringly. Then she said,--
"You may rely on me, doctor."
"I feel I may. Still, she alarms me. She looks quiet enough, but
she is very excitable."
Not all these precautions gave Dr. Philip any real sense of
security; still less did they to Mr. Lusignan. He was not a tender
father, in small things, but the idea of actual danger to his only
child was terrible to him and he now passed his life in a continual
This is the less to be wondered at, when I tell you that even the
stout Philip began to lose his nerve, his appetite, his sleep,
under this hourly terror and this hourly torture.
Well did the great imagination of antiquity feign a torment, too
great for the mind long to endure, in the sword of Damocles
suspended by a single hair over his head. Here the sword hung over
an innocent creature, who smiled beneath it, fearless; but these
two old men must sit and watch the sword, and ask themselves how
long before that subtle salvation shall snap.
"Ill news travels fast," says the proverb. "The birds of the air
shall carry the matter," says Holy Writ; and it is so. No bolts
nor bars, no promises nor precautions, can long shut out a great
calamity from the ears it is to blast, the heart it is to wither.
The very air seems full of it, until it falls.
Rosa's child was more than a fortnight old; and she was looking
more beautiful than ever, as is often the case with a very young
mother, and Dr. Philip complimented her on her looks. "Now," said
he, "you reap the advantage of being good, and obedient, and
keeping quiet. In another ten days or so, I may take you to the
seaside for a week. I have the honor to inform you that from about
the fourth to the tenth of March there is always a week of fine
weather, which takes everybody by surprise, except me. It does not
astonish me, because I observe it is invariable. Now, what would
you say if I gave you a week at Herne Bay, to set you up
"As you please, dear uncle," said Mrs. Staines, with a sweet smile.
"I shall be very happy to go, or to stay. I shall be happy
everywhere, with my darling boy, and the thought of my husband.
Why, I count the days till he shall come back to me. No, to us; to
us, my pet. How dare a naughty mammy say to 'me,' as if 'me' was
half the 'portance of oo, a precious pets!"
Dr. Philip was surprised into a sigh.
"What is the matter, dear?" said Rosa, very quickly.
"Yes, dear, the matter. You sighed; you, the laughing
"Did I?" said he, to gain time. "Perhaps I remembered the
uncertainty of human life, and of all mortal hopes. The old will
have their thoughts, my dear. They have seen so much trouble."
"But, uncle dear, he is a very healthy child."
"And you told me yourself carelessness was the cause so many
"That is true."
She gave him a curious and rather searching look; then, leaning
over her boy, said, "Mammy's not afraid. Beautiful Pet was not
born to die directly. He will never leave his mam-ma. No, uncle,
he never can. For my life is bound in his and his dear father's.
It is a triple cord: one go, go all."
She said this with a quiet resolution that chilled Uncle Philip.
At this moment the nurse, who had been bending so pertinaciously
over some work that her eyes were invisible, looked quickly up,
cast a furtive glance at Mrs. Staines, and finding she was employed
for the moment, made an agitated signal to Dr. Philip. All she did
was to clench her two hands and lift them half way to her face, and
then cast a frightened look towards the door; but Philip's senses
were so sharpened by constant alarm and watching, that he saw at
once something serious was the matter. But as he had asked himself
what he should do in case of some sudden alarm, he merely gave a
nod of intelligence to the nurse, scarcely perceptible, then rose
quietly from his seat, and went to the window. "Snow coming, I
think," said he. "For all that we shall have the March summer in
ten days. You mark my words." He then went leisurely out of the
room; at the door he turned, and, with all the cunning he was
master of, said, "Oh, by the by, come to my room, nurse, when you
are at leisure."
"Yes, doctor," said the nurse, but never moved. She was too bent
on hiding the agitation she really felt.
"Had you not better go to him, nurse?"
"Perhaps I had, madam."
She rose with feigned indifference, and left the room. She walked
leisurely down the passage, then, casting a hasty glance behind
her, for fear Mrs. Staines should be watching her, hurried into the
doctor's room. They met at once in the middle of the room, and
Mrs. Briscoe burst out, "Sir, it is known all over the house!"
"Heaven forbid! What is known?"
"What you would give the world to keep from her. Why, sir, the
moment you cautioned me, of course I saw there was trouble. But
little I thought--sir, not a servant in the kitchen or the stable
but knows that her husband--poor thing! poor thing!--Ah! there goes
the housemaid--to have a look at her."
Mrs. Briscoe had not waited for this; she rushed after the woman,
and told her Mrs. Staines was sleeping, and the room must not be
entered on any account.
"Oh, very well," said the maid, rather sullenly.
Mrs. Briscoe saw her return to the kitchen, and came back to Dr.
Staines; he was pacing the room in torments of anxiety.
"Doctor," said she, "it is the old story: 'Servants' friends, the
master's enemies.' An old servant came here to gossip with her
friend the cook (she never could abide her while they were
together, by all accounts), and told her the whole story of his
being drowned at sea."
Dr. Philip groaned, "Cursed chatterbox!" said he. "What is to be
done? Must we break it to her now? Oh, if I could only buy a few
days more! The heart to be crushed while the body is weak! It is
too cruel. Advise me, Mrs. Briscoe. You are an experienced woman,
and I think you are a kind-hearted woman."
"Well, sir," said Mrs. Briscoe, "I had the name of it, when I was
younger--before Briscoe failed, and I took to nursing; which it
hardens, sir, by use, and along of the patients themselves; for
sick folk are lumps of selfishness; we see more of them than you
do, sir. But this I WILL say, 'tisn't selfishness that lies now in
that room, waiting for the blow that will bring her to death's
door, I'm sore afraid; but a sweet, gentle, thoughtful creature, as
ever supped sorrow; for I don't know how 'tis, doctor, nor why
'tis, but an angel like that has always to sup sorrow."
"But you do not advise me," said the doctor, in agitation, "and
something must be done."
"Advise you, sir; it is not for me to do that. I am sure I'm at my
wits' ends, poor thing! Well, sir, I don't see what you can do,
but try and break it to her. Better so, than let it come to her
like a clap of thunder. But I think, sir, I'd have a wet-nurse
ready, before I said much: for she is very quick--and ten to one
but the first word of such a thing turns her blood to gall. Sir, I
once knew a poor woman--she was a carpenter's wife--a-nursing her
child in the afternoon--and in runs a foolish woman, and tells her
he was killed dead, off a scaffold. 'Twas the man's sister told
her. Well, sir, she was knocked stupid like, and she sat staring,
and nursing of her child, before she could take it in rightly. The
child was dead before supper-time, and the woman was not long
after. The whole family was swept away, sir, in a few hours, and I
mind the table was not cleared he had dined on, when they came to
lay them out. Well-a-day, nurses see sorrow!"
"We all see sorrow that live long, Mrs. Briscoe. I am heart-broken
myself; I am desperate. You are a good soul, and I'll tell you.
When my nephew married this poor girl, I was very angry with him;
and I soon found she was not fit to be a struggling man's wife; and
then I was very angry with her. She had spoiled a first-rate
physician, I thought. But, since I knew her better, it is all
changed. She is so lovable. How I shall ever tell her this
terrible thing, God knows. All I know is, that I will not throw a
chance away. Her body SHALL be stronger, before I break her heart.
Cursed idiots, that could not save a single man, with their boats,
in a calm sea! Lord forgive me for blaming people, when I was not
there to see. I say I will give her every chance. She shall not
know it till she is stronger: no, not if I live at her door, and
sleep there, and all. Good God! inspire me with something. There
is always something to be done, if one could but see it."
Mrs. Briscoe sighed and said, "Sir, I think anything is better than
for her to hear it from a servant--and they are sure to blurt it
out. Young women are such fools."
"No, no; I see what it is," said Dr. Philip. "I have gone all
wrong from the first. I have been acting like a woman, when I
should have acted like a man. Why, I only trusted YOU by halves.
There was a fool for you. Never trust people by halves."
"That is true, sir."
"Well, then, now I shall go at it like a man. I have a vile
opinion of servants; but no matter. I'll try them: they are human,
I suppose. I'll hit them between the eyes like a man. Go to the
kitchen, Mrs. Briscoe, and tell them I wish to speak to all the
servants, indoors or out."
She stopped at the door, and said, "I had better get back to her,
as soon as I have told them."
"And what shall I tell her, sir? Her first word will be to ask me
what you wanted me for. I saw that in her eye. She was curious:
that is why she sent me after you so quick."
Dr. Philip groaned. He felt he was walking among pitfalls. He
rapidly flavored some distilled water with orange-flower, then
tinted it a beautiful pink, and bottled it. "There," said he; "I
was mixing a new medicine. Tablespoon, four times a day: had to
filter it. Any lie you like."
Mrs. Briscoe went to the kitchen, and gave her message: then went
to Mrs. Staines with the mixture.
Dr. Philip went down to the kitchen, and spoke to the servants very
solemnly. He said, "My good friends, I am come to ask your help in
a matter of life and death. There is a poor young woman up-stairs;
she is a widow, and does not know it; and must not know it yet. If
the blow fell now, I think it would kill her: indeed, if she hears
it all of a sudden, at any time, that might destroy her. We are in
so sore a strait that a feather may turn the scale. So we must try
all we can to gain a little time, and then trust to God's mercy
after all. Well, now, what do you say? Will you help me keep it
from her, till the tenth of March, say? and then I will break it to
her by degrees. Forget she is your mistress. Master and servant,
that is all very well at a proper time; but this is the time to
remember nothing but that we are all one flesh and blood. We lie
down together in the churchyard, and we hope to rise together where
there will be no master and servant. Think of the poor unfortunate
creature as your own flesh and blood, and tell me, will you help me
try and save her, under this terrible blow?"
"Ay, doctor, that we will," said the footman. "Only you give us
our orders, and you will see."
"I have no right to give you orders; but I entreat you not to show
her by word or look, that calamity is upon her. Alas! it is only a
reprieve you can give her and to me. The bitter hour MUST come
when I must tell her she is a widow, and her boy an orphan. When
that day comes, I will ask you all to pray for me that I may find
words. But now I ask you to give me that ten days' reprieve. Let
the poor creature recover a little strength, before the thunderbolt
of affliction falls on her head. Will you promise me?"
They promised heartily; and more than one of the women began to
"A general assent will not satisfy me," said Dr. Philip. "I want
every man, and every woman, to give me a hand upon it; then I shall
feel sure of you."
The men gave him their hands at once. The women wiped their hands
with their aprons, to make sure they were clean, and gave him their
hands too. The cook said, "If any one of us goes from it, this
kitchen will be too hot to hold her."
"Nobody will go from it, cook," said the doctor. "I'm not afraid
of that; and now since you have promised me, out of your own good
hearts, I'll try and be even with you. If she knows nothing of it
by the tenth of March, five guineas to every man and woman in this
kitchen. You shall see that, if you can be kind, we can be
He then hurried away. He found Mr. Lusignan in the drawing-room,
and told him all this. Lusignan was fluttered, but grateful. "Ah,
my good friend," said he, "this is a hard trial to two old men,
like you and me."
"It is," said Philip. "It has shown me my age. I declare I am
trembling; I, whose nerves were iron. But I have a particular
contempt for servants. Mercenary wretches! I think Heaven
inspired me to talk to them. After all, who knows? perhaps we
might find a way to their hearts, if we did not eternally shock
their vanity, and forget that it is, and must be, far greater than
our own. The women gave me their tears, and the men were earnest.
Not one hand lay cold in mine. As for your kitchen-maid, I'd trust
my life to that girl. What a grip she gave me! What strength!
What fidelity was in it! My hand was never GRASPED before. I
think we are safe for a few days more."
Lusignan sighed. "What does it all come to? We are pulling the
trigger gently, that is all."
"No, no; that is not it. Don't let us confound the matter with
similes, please. Keep them for children."
Mrs. Staines left her bed; and would have left her room, but Dr.
Philip forbade it strictly.
One day, seated in her arm-chair, she said to the nurse, before Dr.
Philip, "Nurse, why do the servants look so curiously at me?"
Mrs. Briscoe cast a hasty glance at Dr. Philip, and then said, "I
don't know, madam. I never noticed that."
"Uncle, why did nurse look at you before she answered such a simple
"I don't know. What question?"
"About the servants."
"Oh, about the servants!" said he contemptuously.
"You should not turn up your nose at them, for they are all most
kind and attentive. Only, I catch them looking at me so strangely;
really--as if they--"
"Rosa, you are taking me quite out of my depth. The looks of
servant girls! Why, of course a lady in your condition is an
object of especial interest to them. I dare say they are saying to
one another, 'I wonder when my turn will come!' A fellow-feeling
makes us wondrous kind--that is a proverb, is it not?"
"To be sure. I forgot that."
She said no more; but seemed thoughtful, and not quite satisfied.
On this Dr. Philip begged the maids to go near her as little as
possible. "You are not aware of it," said he, "but your looks, and
your manner of speaking, rouse her attention, and she is quicker
than I thought she was, and observes very subtly."
This was done; and then she complained that nobody came near her.
She insisted on coming down-stairs; it was so dull.
Dr. Philip consented, if she would be content to receive no visits
for a week.
She assented to that; and now passed some hours every day in the
drawing-room. In her morning wrappers, so fresh and crisp, she
looked lovely, and increased in health and strength every day.
Dr. Philip used to look at her, and his very flesh would creep at
the thought that, ere long, he must hurl this fair creature into
the dust of affliction; must, with a word, take the ruby from her
lips, the rose from her cheeks, the sparkle from her glorious eyes--
eyes that beamed on him with sweet affection, and a mouth that
never opened, but to show some simplicity of mind, or some pretty
burst of the sensitive heart.
He put off, and put off, and at last cowardice began to whisper,
"Why tell her the whole truth at all? Why not take her through
stages of doubt, alarm, and, after all, leave a grain of hope till
her child gets so rooted in her heart that"-- But conscience and
good sense interrupted this temporary thought, and made him see to
what a horrible life of suspense he should condemn a human
creature, and live a perpetual lie, and be always at the edge of
some pitfall or other.
One day, while he sat looking at her, with all these thoughts, and
many more, coursing through his mind, she looked up at him, and
surprised him. "Ah!" said she gravely.
"What is the matter, my dear?"
"Oh, nothing," said she cunningly.
"Uncle, dear," said she presently, "when do we go to Herne Bay?"
Now, Dr. Philip had given that up. He had got the servants at Kent
Villa on his side, and he felt safer here than in any strange
place: so he said, "I don't know: that all depends. There is
plenty of time."
"No, uncle," said Rosa gravely. "I wish to leave this house. I
can hardly breathe in it."
"What! your native air?"
"Mystery is not my native air; and this house is full of mystery.
Voices whisper at my door, and the people don't come in. The maids
cast strange looks at me, and hurry away. I scolded that pert girl
Jane, and she answered me as meek as Moses. I catch you looking at
me, with love, and something else. What is that something--? It
is Pity: that is what it is. Do you think, because I am called a
simpleton, that I have no eyes, nor ears, nor sense? What is this
secret which you are all hiding from one person, and that is me?
Ah! Christopher has not written these five weeks. Tell me the
truth, for I will know it," and she started up in wild excitement.
Then Dr. Philip saw the hour was come.
He said, "My poor girl, you have read us right. I am anxious about
Christopher, and all the servants know it."
"Anxious, and not tell ME; his wife; the woman whose life is bound
up in his."
"Was it for us to retard your convalescence, and set you fretting,
and perhaps destroy your child? Rosa, my darling, think what a
treasure Heaven has sent you, to love and care for."
"Yes," said she, trembling, "Heaven has been good to me; I hope
Heaven will always be as good to me. I don't deserve it; but then
I tell God so. I am very grateful, and very penitent. I never
forget that, if I had been a good wife, my husband--five weeks is a
long time. Why do you tremble so? Why are you so pale--a strong
man like you? CALAMITY! CALAMITY!"
Dr. Philip hung his head.
She looked at him, started wildly up, then sank back into her
chair. So the stricken deer leaps, then falls. Yet even now she
put on a deceitful calm, and said, "Tell me the truth. I have a
right to know."
He stammered out, "There is a report of an accident at sea."
She kept silence.
"Of a passenger drowned--out of that ship. This, coupled with his
silence, fills our hearts with fear."
"It is worse--you are breaking it to me--you have gone too far to
stop. One word: is he alive? Oh, say he is alive!"
Philip rang the bell hard, and said in a troubled voice, "Rosa,
think of your child."
"Not when my husband-- Is he alive or dead?"
"It is hard to say, with such a terrible report about, and no
letters," faltered the old man, his courage failing him.
"What are you afraid of? Do you think I can't die, and go to him?
Alive, or dead?" and she stood before him, raging and quivering in
The nurse came in.
"Fetch her child," he cried; "God have mercy on her."
"Ah, then he is dead," said she, with stony calmness. "I drove him
to sea, and he is dead."
The nurse rushed in, and held the child to her.
She would not look at it.
"Yes, our poor Christie is gone--but his child is here--the image
of him. Do not forget the mother. Have pity on his child and
"Take it out of my sight!" she screamed. "Away with it, or I shall
murder it, as I have murdered its father. My dear Christie, before
all that live! I have killed him. I shall die for him. I shall
go to him." She raved and tore her hair. Servants rushed in.
Rosa was carried to her bed, screaming and raving, and her black
hair all down on both sides, a piteous sight.
Swoon followed swoon, and that very night brain fever set in with
all its sad accompaniments; a poor bereaved creature, tossing and
moaning; pale, anxious, but resolute faces of the nurse and the
kitchen-maid watching: on one table a pail of ice, and on another
the long, thick raven hair of our poor Simpleton, lying on clean
silver paper. Dr. Philip had cut it all off with his own hand, and
he was now folding it up, and crying over it; for he thought to
himself, "Perhaps in a few days more only this will be left of her
Staines fell head-foremost into the sea with a heavy plunge. Being
an excellent swimmer, he struck out the moment he touched the
water, and that arrested his dive, and brought him up with a slant,
shocked and panting, drenched and confused. The next moment he
saw, as through a fog--his eyes being full of water--something fall
from the ship. He breasted the big waves, and swam towards it: it
rose on the top of a wave, and he saw it was a life-buoy.
Encumbered with wet clothes, he seemed impotent in the big waves;
they threw him up so high, and down so low.
Almost exhausted, he got to the life-buoy, and clutched it with a
fierce grasp and a wild cry of delight. He got it over his head,
and, placing his arms round the buoyant circle, stood with his
breast and head out of water, gasping.
He now drew a long breath, and got his wet hair out of his eyes,
already smarting with salt water, and, raising himself on the buoy,
looked out for help.
He saw, to his great concern, the ship already at a distance. She
seemed to have flown, and she was still drifting fast away from
He saw no signs of help. His heart began to turn as cold as his
drenched body. A horrible fear crossed him.
But presently he saw the weather-boat filled, and fall into the
water; and then a wave rolled between him and the ship, and he only
saw her topmast.
The next time he rose on a mighty wave he saw the boats together
astern of the vessel, but not coming his way; and the gloom was
thickening, the ship becoming indistinct, and all was doubt and
A life of agony passed in a few minutes.
He rose and fell like a cork on the buoyant waves--rose and fell,
and saw nothing but the ship's lights, now terribly distant.
But at last, as he rose and fell, he caught a few fitful glimpses
of a smaller light rising and falling like himself. "A boat!" he
cried, and raising himself as high as he could, shouted, cried,
implored for help. He stretched his hands across the water. "This
way! this way!"
The light kept moving, but it came no nearer. They had greatly
underrated the drift. The other boat had no light.
Minutes passed of suspense, hope, doubt, dismay, terror. Those
minutes seemed hours.
In the agony of suspense the quaking heart sent beads of sweat to
the brow, though the body was immersed.
And the gloom deepened, and the cold waves flung him up to heaven
with their giant arms, and then down again to hell: and still that
light, his only hope, was several hundred yards from him.