Part 3 out of 17
name into the bargain. Ozias Midwinter, Junior, you have had a
good breakfast; if you want a good dinner, come along with me!'
He got up, the dogs trotted after him, and I trotted after the
dogs. Who was my new father? you will ask. A half-breed gypsy,
sir; a drunkard, a ruffian, and a thief--and the best friend I
ever had! Isn't a man your friend who gives you your food, your
shelter, and your education? Ozias Midwinter taught me to dance
the Highland fling, to throw somersaults, to walk on stilts, and
to sing songs to his fiddle. Sometimes we roamed the country,
and performed at fairs. Sometimes we tried the large towns, and
enlivened bad company over its cups. I was a nice, lively little
boy of eleven years old, and bad company, the women especially,
took a fancy to me and my nimble feet. I was vagabond enough to
like the life. The dogs and I lived together, ate, and drank, and
slept together. I can't think of those poor little four-footed
brothers of mine, even now, without a choking in the throat. Many
is the beating we three took together; many is the hard day's
dancing we did together; many is the night we have slept
together, and whimpered together, on the cold hill-side. I'm not
trying to distress you, sir; I'm only telling you the truth. The
life with all its hardships was a life that fitted me, and the
half-breed gypsy who gave me his name, ruffian as he was, was a
ruffian I liked."
"A man who beat you!" exclaimed Mr. Brock, in astonishment.
"Didn't I tell you just now, sir, that I lived with the dogs? and
did you ever hear of a dog who liked his master the worse for
beating him? Hundreds of thousands of miserable men, women, and
children would have liked that man (as I liked him) if he had
always given them what he always gave me--plenty to eat. It was
stolen food mostly, and my new gypsy father was generous with it.
He seldom laid the stick on us when he was sober; but it diverted
him to hear us yelp when he was drunk. He died drunk, and enjoyed
his favorite amusement with his last breath. One day (when I had
been two years in his service), after giving us a good dinner
out on the moor, he sat down with his back against a stone, and
called us up to divert himself with his stick. He made the dogs
yelp first, and then he called to me. I didn't go very willingly;
he had been drinking harder than usual, and the more he drank
the better he liked his after-dinner amusement. He was in high
good-humor that day, and he hit me so hard that he toppled over,
in his drunken state, with the force of his own blow. He fell
with his face in a puddle, and lay there without moving. I and
the dogs stood at a distance, and looked at him: we thought he
was feigning, to get us near and have another stroke at us. He
feigned so long that we ventured up to him at last. It took me
some time to pull him over; he was a heavy man. When I did get
him on his back, he was dead. We made all the outcry we could;
but the dogs were little, and I was little, and the place was
lonely; and no help came to us. I took his fiddle and his stick;
I said to my two brothers, 'Come along, we must get our own
living now;' and we went away heavy-hearted, and left him on the
moor. Unnatural as it may seem to you, I was sorry for him. I
kept his ugly name through all my after-wanderings, and I have
enough of the old leaven left in me to like the sound of it
still. Midwinter or Armadale, never mind my name now, we will
talk of that afterward; you must know the worst of me first."
"Why not the best of you?" said Mr. Brock, gently.
"Thank you, sir; but I am here to tell the truth. We will get on,
if you please, to the next chapter in my story. The dogs and I
did badly, after our master's death; our luck was against us. I
lost one of my little brothers--the best performer of the two; he
was stolen, and I never recovered him. My fiddle and my stilts
were taken from me next, by main force, by a tramp who was
stronger than I. These misfortunes drew Tommy and me--I beg your
pardon, sir, I mean the dog--closer together than ever.
I think we had some kind of dim foreboding on both sides that we
had not done with our misfortunes yet; anyhow, it was not very
long before we were parted forever. We were neither of us thieves
(our master had been satisfied with teaching us to dance); but we
both committed an invasion of the rights of property, for all
that. Young creatures, even when they are half starved, cannot
resist taking a run sometimes on a fine morning. Tommy and I
could not resist taking a run into a gentleman's plantation; the
gentleman preserved his game; and the gentleman's keeper knew his
business. I heard a gun go off; you can guess the rest. God
preserve me from ever feeling such misery again as I felt when I
lay down by Tommy, and took him, dead and bloody, in my arms! The
keeper attempted to part us; I bit him, like the wild animal I
was. He tried the stick on me next; he might as well have tried
it on one of the trees. The noise reached the ears of two young
ladies riding near the place--daughters of the gentleman on whose
property I was a trespasser. They were too well brought up to
lift their voices against the sacred right of preserving game,
but they were kind-hearted girls, and they pitied me, and took me
home with them. I remember the gentlemen of the house (keen
sportsmen all of them) roaring with laughter as I went by the
windows, crying, with my little dead dog in my arms. Don't
suppose I complain of their laughter; it did me good service; it
roused the indignation of the two ladies. One of them took me
into her own garden, and showed me a place where I might bury my
dog under the flowers, and be sure that no other hands should
ever disturb him again. The other went to her father, and
persuaded him to give the forlorn little vagabond a chance in
the house, under one of the upper servants. Yes! you have been
cruising in company with a man who was once a foot-boy. I saw you
look at me, when I amused Mr. Armadale by laying the cloth on
board the yacht. Now you know why I laid it so neatly, and forgot
nothing. It has been my good fortune to see something of society;
I have helped to fill its stomach and black its boots. My
experience of the servants' hall was not a long one. Before I had
worn out my first suit of livery, there was a scandal in the
house. It was the old story; there is no need to tell it over
again for the thousandth time. Loose money left on a table, and
not found there again; all the servants with characters to appeal
to except the foot-boy, who had been rashly taken on trial. Well!
well! I was lucky in that house to the last; I was not prosecuted
for taking what I had not only never touched, but never even
seen: I was only turned out. One morning I went in my old clothes
to the grave where I had buried Tommy. I gave the place a kiss;
I said good-by to my little dead dog; and there I was, out in the
world again, at the ripe age of thirteen years!"
"In that friendless state, and at that tender age," said Mr.
Brock, "did no thought cross your mind of going home again?"
"I went home again, sir, that very night--I slept on the
hill-side. What other home had I? In a day or two's time I
drifted back to the large towns and the bad company, the great
open country was so lonely to me, now I had lost the dogs! Two
sailors picked me up next. I was a handy lad, and I got a
cabin-boy's berth on board a coasting-vessel. A cabin-boy's
berth means dirt to live in, offal to eat, a man's work on a
boy's shoulders, and the rope's-end at regular intervals. The
vessel touched at a port in the Hebrides. I was as ungrateful as
usual to my best benefactors; I ran away again. Some women found
me, half dead of starvation, in the northern wilds of the Isle of
Skye. It was near the coast and I took a turn with the fishermen
next. There was less of the rope's-end among my new masters; but
plenty of exposure to wind and weather, and hard work enough to
have killed a boy who was not a seasoned tramp like me. I fought
through it till the winter came, and then the fishermen turned me
adrift again. I don't blame them; food was scarce, and mouths
were many. With famine staring the whole community in the face,
why should they keep a boy who didn't belong to them? A great
city was my only chance in the winter-time; so I went to Glasgow,
and all but stepped into the lion's mouth as soon as I got there.
I was minding an empty cart on the Broomielaw, when I heard my
stepfather's voice on the pavement side of the horse by which I
was standing. He had met some person whom he knew, and, to my
terror and surprise, they were talking about me. Hidden behind
the horse, I heard enough of their conversation to know that I
had narrowly escaped discovery before I went on board the
coasting-vessel. I had met at that time with another vagabond boy
of my own age; we had quarreled and parted. The day after, my
stepfather's inquiries were made in that very district, and it
became a question with him (a good personal description being
unattainable in either case) which of the two boys he should
follow. One of them, he was informed, was known as "Brown," and
the other as "Midwinter." Brown was just the common name which
a cunning runaway boy would be most likely to assume; Midwinter,
just the remarkable name which he would be most likely to avoid.
The pursuit had accordingly followed Brown, and had allowed me
to escape. I leave you to imagine whether I was not doubly and
trebly determined to keep my gypsy master's name after that.
But my resolution did not stop here. I made up my mind to leave
the country altogether. After a day or two's lurking about the
outward-bound vessels in port, I found out which sailed first,
and hid myself on board. Hunger tried hard to force me out before
the pilot had left; but hunger was not new to me, and I kept my
place. The pilot was out of the vessel when I made my appearance
on deck, and there was nothing for it but to keep me or throw me
overboard. The captain said (I have no doubt quite truly) that he
would have preferred throwing me overboard; but the majesty of
the law does sometimes stand the friend even of a vagabond like
me. In that way I came back to a sea-life. In that way I learned
enough to make me handy and useful (as I saw you noticed) on
board Mr. Armadale's yacht. I sailed more than one voyage, in
more than one vessel, to more than one part of the world, and I
might have followed the sea for life, if I could only have kept
my temper under every provocation that could be laid on it. I had
learned a great deal; but, not having learned that, I made the
last part of my last voyage home to the port of Bristol in irons;
and I saw the inside of a prison for the first time in my life,
on a charge of mutinous conduct to one of my officers. You have
heard me with extraordinary patience, sir, and I am glad to tell
you, in return, that we are not far now from the end of my story.
You found some books, if I remember right, when you searched my
luggage at the Somersetshire inn?"
Mr. Brock answered in the affirmative.
"Those books mark the next change in my life--and the last,
before I took the usher's place at the school. My term of
imprisonment was not a long one. Perhaps my youth pleaded for me;
perhaps the Bristol magistrates took into consideration the time
I had passed in irons on board ship. Anyhow, I was just turned
seventeen when I found myself out on the world again. I had no
friends to receive me; I had no place to go to. A sailor's life,
after what had happened, was a life I recoiled from in disgust.
I stood in the crowd on the bridge at Bristol, wondering what I
should do with my freedom now I had got it back. Whether I had
altered in the prison, or whether I was feeling the change in
character that comes with coming manhood, I don't know; but the
old reckless enjoyment of the old vagabond life seemed quite worn
out of my nature. An awful sense of loneliness kept me wandering
about Bristol, in horror of the quiet country, till after
nightfall. I looked at the lights kindling in the parlor windows,
with a miserable envy of the happy people inside. A word of
advice would have been worth something to me at that time. Well!
I got it: a policeman advised me to move on. He was quite right;
what else could I do? I looked up at the sky, and there was my
old friend of many a night's watch at sea, the north star. 'All
points of the compass are alike to me,' I thought to myself;
'I'll go _your_ way.' Not even the star would keep me company
that night. It got behind a cloud, and left me alone in the rain
and darkness. I groped my way to a cart-shed, fell asleep, and
dreamed of old times, when I served my gypsy master and lived
with the dogs. God! what I would have given when I woke to have
felt Tommy's little cold muzzle in my hand! Why am I dwelling on
these things? Why don't I get on to the end? You shouldn't
encourage me, sir, by listening, so patiently. After a week more
of wandering, without hope to help me, or prospects to look to,
I found myself in the streets of Shrewsbury, staring in at the
windows of a book-seller's shop. An old man came to the shop
door, looked about him, and saw me. 'Do you want a job?' he
asked. 'And are you not above doing it cheap?' The prospect of
having something to do, and some human creature to speak a word
to, tempted me, and I did a day's dirty work in the book-seller's
warehouse for a shilling. More work followed at the same rate.
In a week I was promoted to sweep out the shop and put up the
shutters. In no very long time after, I was trusted to carry the
books out; and when quarter-day came, and the shop-man left, I
took his place. Wonderful luck! you will say; here I had found my
way to a friend at last. I had found my way to one of the most
merciless misers in England; and I had risen in the little world
of Shrewsbury by the purely commercial process of underselling
all my competitors. The job in the warehouse had been declined
at the price by every idle man in the town, and I did it. The
regular porter received his weekly pittance under weekly protest.
I took two shillings less, and made no complaint. The shop-man
gave warning on the ground that he was underfed as well as
underpaid. I received half his salary, and lived contentedly on
his reversionary scraps. Never were two men so well suited to
each other as that book-seller and I. _His_ one object in life
was to find somebody who would work for him at starvation wages.
_My_ one object in life was to find somebody who would give me an
asylum over my head. Without a single sympathy in common--without
a vestige of feeling of any sort, hostile or friendly, growing up
between us on either side--without wishing each other good-night
when we parted on the house stairs, or good-morning when we met
at the shop counter, we lived alone in that house, strangers from
first to last, for two whole years. A dismal existence for a lad
of my age, was it not? You are a clergyman and a scholar--surely
you can guess what made the life endurable to me?"
Mr. Brock remembered the well-worn volumes which had been found
in the usher's bag. "The books made it endurable to you," he
The eyes of the castaway kindled with a new light.
"Yes!" he said, "the books--the generous friends who met me
without suspicion--the merciful masters who never used me ill!
The only years of my life that I can look back on with something
like pride are the years I passed in the miser's house. The only
unalloyed pleasure I have ever tasted is the pleasure that I
found for myself on the miser's shelves. Early and late, through
the long winter nights and the quiet summer days, I drank at the
fountain of knowledge, and never wearied of the draught. There
were few customers to serve, for the books were mostly of the
solid and scholarly kind. No responsibilities rested on me, for
the accounts were kept by my master, and only the small sums of
money were suffered to pass through my hands. He soon found out
enough of me to know that my honesty was to be trusted, and that
my patience might be counted on, treat me as he might. The one
insight into _his_ character which I obtained, on my side,
widened the distance between us to its last limits. He was a
confirmed opium-eater in secret--a prodigal in laudanum, though a
miser in all besides. He never confessed his frailty, and I never
told him I had found it out. He had his pleasure apart from me,
and I had my pleasure apart from _him_. Week after week, month
after month, there we sat, without a friendly word ever passing
between us--I, alone with my book at the counter; he, alone with
his ledger in the parlor, dimly visible to me through the dirty
window-pane of the glass door, sometimes poring over his figures,
sometimes lost and motionless for hours in the ecstasy of his
opium trance. Time passed, and made no impression on us; the
seasons of two years came and went, and found us still unchanged.
One morning, at the opening of the third year, my master did not
appear, as usual, to give me my allowance for breakfast. I went
upstairs, and found him helpless in his bed. He refused to trust
me with the keys of the cupboard, or to let me send for a doctor.
I bought a morsel of bread, and went back to my books, with no
more feeling for _him_ (I honestly confess it) than he would have
had for _me_ under the same circumstances. An hour or two later I
was roused from my reading by an occasional customer of ours, a
retired medical man. He went upstairs. I was glad to get rid of
him and return to my books. He came down again, and disturbed me
once more. 'I don't much like you, my lad,' he said; 'but I think
it my duty to say that you will soon have to shift for yourself.
You are no great favorite in the town, and you may have some
difficulty in finding a new place. Provide yourself with a
written character from your master before it is too late.' He
spoke to me coldly. I thanked him coldly on my side, and got my
character the same day. Do you think my master let me have it for
nothing? Not he! He bargained with me on his deathbed. I was his
creditor for a month's salary, and he wouldn't write a line of my
testimonial until I had first promised to forgive him the debt.
Three days afterward he died, enjoying to the last the happiness
of having overreached his shop-man. 'Aha!' he whispered, when the
doctor formally summoned me to take leave of him, 'I got you
cheap!' Was Ozias Midwinter's stick as cruel as that? I think
not. Well! there I was, out on the world again, but surely with
better prospects this time. I had taught myself to read Latin,
Greek, and German; and I had got my written character to speak
for me. All useless! The doctor was quite right; I was not liked
in the town. The lower order of the people despised me for
selling my services to the miser at the miser's price. As for
the better classes, I did with them (God knows how!) what I have
always done with everybody except Mr. Armadale--I produced a
disagreeable impression at first sight; I couldn't mend it
afterward; and there was an end of me in respectable quarters. It
is quite likely I might have spent all my savings, my puny little
golden offspring of two years' miserable growth, but for a school
advertisement which I saw in a local paper. The heartlessly mean
terms that were offered encouraged me to apply; and I got the
place. How I prospered in it, and what became of me next, there
is no need to tell you. The thread of my story is all wound off;
my vagabond life stands stripped of its mystery; and you know the
worst of me at last."
A moment of silence followed those closing words. Midwinter rose
from the window-seat, and came back to the table with the letter
from Wildbad in his hand.
"My father's confession has told you who I am; and my own
confession has told you what my life has been," he said,
addressing Mr. Brock, without taking the chair to which the
rector pointed. "I promised to make a clean breast of it when I
first asked leave to enter this room. Have I kept my word?"
"It is impossible to doubt it," replied Mr. Brock. "You have
established your claim on my confidence and my sympathy. I should
be insensible, indeed, if I could know what I now know of your
childhood and your youth, and not feel something of Allan's
kindness for Allan's friend."
"Thank you, sir," said Midwinter, simply and gravely.
He sat down opposite Mr. Brook at the table for the first time.
"In a few hours you will have left this place," he proceeded. "If
I can help you to leave it with your mind at ease, I will. There
is more to be said between us than we have said up to this time.
My future relations with Mr. Armadale are still left undecided;
and the serious question raised by my father's letter is a
question which we have neither of us faced yet."
He paused, and looked with a momentary impatience at the candle
still burning on the table, in the morning light. The struggle to
speak with composure, and to keep his own feelings stoically out
of view, was evidently growing harder and harder to him.
"It may possibly help your decision," he went on, "if I tell you
how I determined to act toward Mr. Armadale--in the matter of the
similarity of our names--when I first read this letter, and when
I had composed myself sufficiently to be able to think at all."
He stopped, and cast a second impatient look at the lighted
candle. "Will you excuse the odd fancy of an odd man?" he asked,
with a faint smile. "I want to put out the candle: I want to
speak of the new subject, in the new light."
He extinguished the candle as he spoke, and let the first
tenderness of the daylight flow uninterruptedly into the room.
"I must once more ask your patience," he resumed, "if I return
for a moment to myself and my circumstances. I have already told
you that my stepfather made an attempt to discover me some years
after I had turned my back on the Scotch school. He took that
step out of no anxiety of his own, but simply as the agent of my
father's trustees. In the exercise of their discretion, they had
sold the estates in Barbadoes (at the time of the emancipation of
the slaves, and the ruin of West Indian property) for what the
estates would fetch. Having invested the proceeds, they were
bound to set aside a sum for my yearly education. This
responsibility obliged them to make the attempt to trace me--a
fruitless attempt, as you already know. A little later (as I have
been since informed) I was publicly addressed by an advertisement
in the newspapers, which I never saw. Later still, when I was
twenty-one, a second advertisement appeared (which I did see)
offering a reward for evidence of my death. If I was alive, I had
a right to my half share of the proceeds of the estates on coming
of age; if dead, the money reverted to my mother. I went to the
lawyers, and heard from them what I have just told you. After
some difficulty in proving my identity--and after an interview
with my stepfather, and a message from my mother, which has
hopelessly widened the old breach between us--my claim was
allowed; and my money is now invested for me in the funds, under
the name that is really my own."
Mr. Brock drew eagerly nearer to the table. He saw the end now to
which the speaker was tending
"Twice a year," Midwinter pursued, "I must sign my own name to
get my own income. At all other times, and under all other
circumstances, I may hide my identity under any name I please. As
Ozias Midwinter, Mr. Armadale first knew me; as Ozias Midwinter
he shall know me to the end of my days. Whatever may be the
result of this interview--whether I win your confidence or
whether I lose it--of one thing you may feel sure: your pupil
shall never know the horrible secret which I have trusted to your
keeping. This is no extraordinary resolution; for, as you know
already, it costs me no sacrifice of feeling to keep my assumed
name. There is nothing in my conduct to praise; it comes
naturally out of the gratitude of a thankful man. Review the
circumstances for yourself, sir, and set my own horror of
revealing them to Mr. Armadale out of the question. If the story
of the names is ever told, there can be no limiting it to the
disclosure of my father's crime; it must go back to the story of
Mrs. Armadale's marriage. I have heard her son talk of her; I
know how he loves her memory. As God is my witness, he shall
never love it less dearly through _me_!"
Simply as the words were spoken, they touched the deepest
sympathies in the rector's nature: they took his thoughts back to
Mrs. Armadale's deathbed. There sat the man against whom she had
ignorantly warned him in her son's interests; and that man, of
his own free-will, had laid on himself the obligation of
respecting her secret for her son's sake! The memory of his own
past efforts to destroy the very friendship out of which this
resolution had sprung rose and reproached Mr. Brock. He held out
his hand to Midwinter for the first time. "In her name, and in
her son's name," he said, warmly, "I thank you."
Without replying, Midwinter spread the confession open before him
on the table.
"I think I have said all that it was my duty to say," he began,
"before we could approach the consideration of this letter.
Whatever may have appeared strange in my conduct toward you and
toward Mr. Armadale may be now trusted to explain itself. You can
easily imagine the natural curiosity and surprise that I must
have felt (ignorant as I then was of the truth) when the sound of
Mr. Armadale's name first startled me as the echo of my own. You
will readily understand that I only hesitated to tell him I was
his namesake, because I hesitated to damage my position--in your
estimation, if not in his--by confessing that I had come among
you under an assumed name. And, after all that you have just
heard of my vagabond life and my low associates, you will hardly
wonder at the obstinate silence I maintained about myself, at a
time when I did not feel the sense of responsibility which my
father's confession has laid on me. We can return to these small
personal explanations, if you wish it, at another time; they
cannot be suffered to keep us from the greater interests which we
must settle before you leave this place. We may come now--" His
voice faltered, and he suddenly turned his face toward the
window, so as to hide it from the rector's view. "We may come
now," he repeated, his hand trembling visibly as it held the
page, "to the murder on board the timber-ship, and to the warning
that has followed me from my father's grave."
Softly--as if he feared they might reach Allan, sleeping in the
neighboring room--he read the last terrible words which the
Scotchman's pen had written at Wildbad, as they fell from his
"Avoid the widow of the man I killed--if the widow still lives.
Avoid the maid whose wicked hand smoothed the way to the
marriage--if the maid is still in her service. And, more than
all, avoid the man who bears the same name as your own. Offend
your best benefactor, if that benefactor's influence has
connected you one with the other. Desert the woman who loves you,
if that woman is a link between you and him. Hide yourself from
him under an assumed name. Put the mountains and the seas between
you; be ungrateful; be unforgiving; be all that is most repellent
to your own gentler nature, rather than live under the same roof
and breathe the same air with that man. Never let the two Allan
Armadales meet in this world; never, never, never!"
After reading those sentences, he pushed the manuscript from him,
without looking up. The fatal reserve which he had been in a fair
way of conquering but a few minutes since, possessed itself of
him once more. Again his eyes wandered; again his voice sank in
tone. A stranger who had heard his story, and who saw him now,
would have said, "His look is lurking, his manner is bad; he is,
every inch of him, his father's son."
"I have a question to ask you," said Mr. Brock, breaking the
silence between them, on his side. "Why have you just read that
passage in your father's letter?"
"To force me into telling you the truth," was the answer. "You
must know how much there is of my father in me before you trust
me to be Mr. Armadale's friend. I got my letter yesterday, in the
morning. Some inner warning troubled me, and I went down on the
sea-shore by myself before I broke the seal. Do you believe the
dead can come back to the world they once lived in? I believe my
father came back in that bright morning light, through the glare
of that broad sunshine and the roar of that joyful sea, and
watched me while I read. When I got to the words that you have
just heard, and when I knew that the very end which he had died
dreading was the end that had really come, I felt the horror that
had crept over him in his last moments creeping over me. I
struggled against myself, as _he_ would have had me struggle. I
tried to be all that was most repellent to my own gentler nature;
I tried to think pitilessly of putting the mountains and the seas
between me and the man who bore my name. Hours passed before I
could prevail on myself to go back and run the risk of meeting
Allan Armadale in this house. When I did get back, and when he
met me at night on the stairs, I thought I was looking him in
the face as _my_ father looked _his_ father in the face when the
cabin door closed between them. Draw your own conclusions, sir.
Say, if you like, that the inheritance of my father's heathen
belief in fate is one of the inheritances he has left to me. I
won't dispute it; I won't deny that all through yesterday _his_
superstition was _my_ superstition. The night came before I could
find my way to calmer and brighter thoughts. But I did find my
way. You may set it down in my favor that I lifted myself at last
above the influence of this horrible letter. Do you know what
"Did you reason with yourself?"
"I can't reason about what I feel."
"Did you quiet your mind by prayer?"
"I was not fit to pray."
"And yet something guided you to the better feeling and the truer
"What was it?"
"My love for Allan Armadale."
He cast a doubting, almost a timid look at Mr. Brock as he gave
that answer, and, suddenly leaving the table, went back to the
"Have I no right to speak of him in that way?" he asked, keeping
his face hidden from the rector. "Have I not known him long
enough; have I not done enough for him yet? Remember what my
experience of other men had been when I first saw his hand held
out to me--when I first heard his voice speaking to me in my
sick-room. What had I known of strangers' hands all through my
childhood? I had only known them as hands raised to threaten and
to strike me. His hand put my pillow straight, and patted me on
the shoulder, and gave me my food and drink. What had I known of
other men's voices, when I was growing up to be a man myself? I
had only known them as voices that jeered, voices that cursed,
voices that whispered in corners with a vile distrust. _His_
voice said to me, 'Cheer up, Midwinter! we'll soon bring you
round again. You'll be strong enough in a week to go out for a
drive with me in our Somersetshire lanes.' Think of the gypsy's
stick; think of the devils laughing at me when I went by their
windows with my little dead dog in my arms; think of the master
who cheated me of my month's salary on his deathbed--and ask your
own heart if the miserable wretch whom Allan Armadale has treated
as his equal and his friend has said too much in saying that he
loves him? I do love him! It _will_ come out of me; I can't keep
it back. I love the very ground he treads on! I would give my
life--yes, the life that is precious to me now, because his
kindness has made it a happy one--I tell you I would give my
The next words died away on his lips; the hysterical passion
rose, and conquered him. He stretched out one of his hands with
a wild gesture of entreaty to Mr. Brock; his head sank on the
window-sill and he burst into tears.
Even then the hard discipline of the man's life asserted itself.
He expected no sympathy, he counted on no merciful human respect
for human weakness. The cruel necessity of self-suppression was
present to his mind, while the tears were pouring over his
cheeks. "Give me a minute," he said, faintly. "I'll fight it down
in a minute; I won't distress you in this way again."
True to his resolution, in a minute he had fought it down. In a
minute more he was able to speak calmly.
"We will get back, sir, to those better thoughts which have
brought me from my room to yours," he resumed. "I can only repeat
that I should never have torn myself from the hold which this
letter fastened on me, if I had not loved Allan Armadale with all
that I have in me of a brother's love. I said to myself, 'If the
thought of leaving him breaks my heart, the thought of leaving
him is wrong!' That was some hours since, and I am in the same
mind still. I can't believe--I won't believe--that a friendship
which has grown out of nothing but kindness on one side, and
nothing but gratitude on the other, is destined to lead to an
evil end. Judge, you who are a clergyman, between the dead
father, whose word is in these pages, and the living son, whose
word is now on his lips! What is it appointed me to do, now that
I am breathing the same air, and living under the same roof with
the son of the man whom my father killed--to perpetuate my
father's crime by mortally injuring him, or to atone for my
father's crime by giving him the devotion of my whole life? The
last of those two faiths is my faith, and shall be my faith,
happen what may. In the strength of that better conviction, I
have come here to trust you with my father's secret, and to
confess the wretched story of my own life. In the strength of
that better conviction, I can face you resolutely with the one
plain question, which marks the one plain end of all that I have
come here to say. Your pupil stands at the starting-point of his
new career, in a position singularly friendless; his one great
need is a companion of his own age on whom he can rely. The time
has come, sir, to decide whether I am to be that companion or
not. After all you have heard of Ozias Midwinter, tell me
plainly, will you trust him to be Allan Armadale's friend?"
Mr. Brock met that fearlessly frank question by a fearless
frankness on his side.
"I believe you love Allan," he said, "and I believe you have
spoken the truth. A man who has produced that impression on me
is a man whom I am bound to trust. I trust you."
Midwinter started to his feet, his dark face flushing deep; his
eyes fixed brightly and steadily, at last, on the rector's face.
"A light!" he exclaimed, tearing the pages of his father's
letter, one by one, from the fastening that held them. "Let us
destroy the last link that holds us to the horrible past! Let us
see this confession a heap of ashes before we part!"
"Wait!" said Mr. Brock. "Before you burn it, there is a reason
for looking at it once more."
The parted leaves of the manuscript dropped from Midwinter's
hands. Mr. Brock took them up, and sorted them carefully until
he found the last page.
"I view your father's superstition as you view it," said the
rector. "But there is a warning given you here, which you will
do well (for Allan's sake and for your own sake) not to neglect.
The last link with the past will not be destroyed when you have
burned these pages. One of the actors in this story of treachery
and murder is not dead yet. Read those words."
He pushed the page across the table, with his finger on one
sentence. Midwinter's agitation misled him. He mistook the
indication, and read, "Avoid the widow of the man I killed,
if the widow still lives."
"Not that sentence," said the rector. "The next."
Midwinter read it: "Avoid the maid whose wicked hand smoothed the
way to the marriage, if the maid is still in her service."
"The maid and the mistress parted," said Mr. Brock, "at the time
of the mistress's marriage. The maid and the mistress met again
at Mrs. Armadale's residence in Somersetshire last year. I myself
met the woman in the village, and I myself know that her visit
hastened Mrs. Armadale's death. Wait a little, and compose
yourself; I see I have startled you."
He waited as he was bid, his color fading away to a gray paleness
and the light in his clear brown eyes dying out slowly. What the
rector had said had produced no transient impression on him;
there was more than doubt, there was alarm in his face, as he sat
lost in his own thought. Was the struggle of the past night
renewing itself already? Did he feel the horror of his hereditary
superstition creeping over him again?
"Can you put me on my guard against her?" he asked, after a long
interval of silence. "Can you tell me her name?"
"I can only tell you what Mrs. Armadale told me," answered Mr.
Brock. "The woman acknowledged having been married in the long
interval since she and her mistress had last met. But not a word
more escaped her about her past life. She came to Mrs. Armadale
to ask for money, under a plea of distress. She got the money,
and she left the house, positively refusing, when the question
was put to her, to mention her married name."
"You saw her yourself in the village. What was she like?"
"She kept her veil down. I can't tell you."
"You can tell me what you _did_ see?"
"Certainly. I saw, as she approached me, that she moved very
gracefully, that she had a beautiful figure, and that she was a
little over the middle height. I noticed, when she asked me the
way to Mrs. Armadale's house, that her manner was the manner of
a lady, and that the tone of her voice was remarkably soft and
winning. Lastly, I remembered afterward that she wore a thick
black veil, a black bonnet, a black silk dress, and a red Paisley
shawl. I feel all the importance of your possessing some better
means of identifying her than I can give you. But unhappily--"
He stopped. Midwinter was leaning eagerly across the table, and
Midwinter's hand was laid suddenly on his arm.
"Is it possible that you know the woman?" asked Mr. Brock,
surprised at the sudden change in his manner.
"What have I said, then, that has startled you so?"
"Do you remember the woman who threw herself from the river
steamer?" asked the other--"the woman who caused that succession
of deaths which opened Allan Armadale's way to the Thorpe Ambrose
"I remember the description of her in the police report,"
answered the rector.
"_That_ woman," pursued Midwinter, "moved gracefully, and had a
beautiful figure. _That_ woman wore a black veil, a black bonnet,
a black silk gown, and a red Paisley shawl--" He stopped,
released his hold of Mr. Brock's arm, and abruptly resumed his
chair. "Can it be the same?" he said to himself in a whisper.
"_Is_ there a fatality that follows men in the dark? And is it
following _us_ in that woman's footsteps?"
If the conjecture was right, the one event in the past which had
appeared to be entirely disconnected with the events that had
preceded it was, on the contrary, the one missing link which
made the chain complete. Mr. Brock's comfortable common sense
instinctively denied that startling conclusion. He looked at
Midwinter with a compassionate smile.
"My young friend," he said, kindly, "have you cleared your mind
of all superstition as completely as you think? Is what you have
just said worthy of the better resolution at which you arrived
Midwinter's head drooped on his breast; the color rushed back
over his face; he sighed bitterly.
"You are beginning to doubt my sincerity," he said. "I can't
"I believe in your sincerity as firmly as ever," answered Mr.
Brock. "I only doubt whether you have fortified the weak places
in your nature as strongly as you yourself suppose. Many a man
has lost the battle against himself far oftener than you have
lost it yet, and has nevertheless won his victory in the end.
I don't blame you, I don't distrust you. I only notice what has
happened, to put you on your guard against yourself. Come! come!
Let your own better sense help you; and you will agree with me
that there is really no evidence to justify the suspicion that
the woman whom I met in Somersetshire, and the woman who
attempted suicide in London, are one and the same. Need an old
man like me remind a young man like you that there are thousands
of women in England with beautiful figures--thousands of women
who are quietly dressed in black silk gowns and red Paisley
Midwinter caught eagerly at the suggestion; too eagerly, as it
might have occurred to a harder critic on humanity than Mr.
"You are quite right, sir," he said, "and I am quite wrong. Tens
of thousands of women answer the description, as you say. I have
been wasting time on my own idle fancies, when I ought to have
been carefully gathering up facts. If this woman ever attempts to
find her way to Allan, I must be prepared to stop her." He began
searching restlessly among the manuscript leaves scattered about
the table, paused over one of the pages, and examined it
attentively. 'This helps me to something positive," he went on;
"this helps me to a knowledge of her age. She was twelve at the
time of Mrs. Armadale's marriage; add a year, and bring her to
thirteen; add Allan's age (twenty-two), and we make her a woman
of five-and-thirty at the present time. I know her age; and I
know that she has her own reasons for being silent about her
married life. This is something gained at the outset, and it may
lead, in time, to something more." He looked up brightly again at
Mr. Brock. "Am I in the right way now, sir? Am I doing my best to
profit by the caution which you have kindly given me?"
"You are vindicating your own better sense," answered the rector,
encouraging him to trample down his own imagination, with an
Englishman's ready distrust of the noblest of the human
faculties. "You are paving the way for your own happier life."
"Am I?" said the other, thoughtfully.
He searched among the papers once more, and stopped at another of
the scattered pages.
"The ship!" he exclaimed, suddenly, his color changing again, and
his manner altering on the instant.
"What ship?" asked the rector.
"The ship in which the deed was done," Midwinter answered, with
the first signs of impatience that he had shown yet. "The ship in
which my father's murderous hand turned the lock of the cabin
"What of it?" said Mr. Brock.
He appeared not to hear the question; his eyes remained fixed
intently on the page that he was reading.
"A French vessel, employed in the timber trade," he said, still
speaking to himself--"a French vessel, named _La Grace de Dieu_.
If my father's belief had been the right belief--if the fatality
had been following me, step by step, from my father's grave, in
one or other of my voyages, I should have fallen in with that
ship." He looked up again at Mr. Brock. "I am quite sure about
it now," he said. "Those women are two, and not one."
Mr. Brock shook his head.
"I am glad you have come to that conclusion," he said. "But I
wish you had reached it in some other way."
Midwinter started passionately to his feet, and, seizing on the
pages of the manuscript with both hands, flung them into the
"For God's sake let me burn it!" he exclaimed. "As long as there
is a page left, I shall read it. And, as long as I read it, my
father gets the better of me, in spite of myself!"
Mr. Brock pointed to the match-box. In another moment the
confession was in flames. When the fire had consumed the last
morsel of paper, Midwinter drew a deep breath of relief.
"I may say, like Macbeth: 'Why, so, being gone, I am a man
again!'" he broke out with a feverish gayety. "You look fatigued,
sir; and no wonder," he added, in a lower tone. "I have kept you
too long from your rest--I will keep you no longer. Depend on my
remembering what you have told me; depend on my standing between
Allan and any enemy, man or woman, who comes near him. Thank you,
Mr. Brock; a thousand thousand times, thank you! I came into this
room the most wretched of living men; I can leave it now as happy
as the birds that are singing outside!"
As he turned to the door, the rays of the rising sun streamed
through the window, and touched the heap of ashes lying black in
the black fireplace. The sensitive imagination of Midwinter
kindled instantly at the sight.
"Look!" he said, joyously. "The promise of the Future shining
over the ashes of the Past!"
An inexplicable pity for the man, at the moment of his life when
he needed pity least, stole over the rector's heart when the door
had closed, and he was left by himself again.
"Poor fellow! " he said, with an uneasy surprise at his own
compassionate impulse. "Poor fellow!"
DAY AND NIGHT
The morning hours had passed; the noon had come and gone; and Mr.
Brock had started on the first stage of his journey home.
After parting from the rector in Douglas Harbor, the two young
men had returned to Castletown, and had there separated at the
hotel door, Allan walking down to the waterside to look after his
yacht, and Midwinter entering the house to get the rest that he
needed after a sleepless night.
He darkened his room; he closed his eyes, but no sleep came to
him. On this first day of the rector's absence, his sensitive
nature extravagantly exaggerated the responsibility which he now
held in trust for Mr. Brock. A nervous dread of leaving Allan by
himself, even for a few hours only, kept him waking and doubting,
until it became a relief rather than a hardship to rise from the
bed again, and, following in Allan's footsteps, to take the way
to the waterside which led to the yacht.
The repairs of the little vessel were nearly completed. It was a
breezy, cheerful day; the land was bright, the water was blue,
the quick waves leaped crisply in the sunshine, the men were
singing at their work. Descending to the cabin, Midwinter
discovered his friend busily occupied in attempting to set the
place to rights. Habitually the least systematic of mortals,
Allan now and then awoke to an overwhelming sense of the
advantages of order, and on such occasions a perfect frenzy of
tidiness possessed him. He was down on his knees, hotly and
wildly at work, when Midwinter looked in on him; and was fast
reducing the neat little world of the cabin to its original
elements of chaos, with a misdirected energy wonderful to see.
"Here's a mess!" said Allan, rising composedly on the horizon of
his own accumulated litter. "Do you know, my dear fellow, I begin
to wish I had let well alone!"
Midwinter smiled, and came to his friend's assistance with the
natural neat-handedness of a sailor.
The first object that he encountered was Allan's dressing-case,
turned upside down, with half the contents scattered on the
floor, and with a duster and a hearth-broom lying among them.
Replacing the various objects which formed the furniture of the
dressing-case one by one, Midwinter lighted unexpectedly on a
miniature portrait, of the old-fashioned oval form, primly framed
in a setting of small diamonds.
"You don't seem to set much value on this," he said. "What is
Allan bent over him, and looked at the miniature. "It belonged to
my mother," he answered; "and I set the greatest value on it. It
is a portrait of my father."
Midwinter put the miniature abruptly, into Allan's hands, and
withdrew to the opposite side of the cabin.
"You know best where the things ought to be put in your own
dressing-case," he said, keeping his back turned on Allan. "I'll
make the place tidy on this side of the cabin, and you shall
make the place tidy on the other."
He began setting in order the litter scattered about him on the
cabin table and on the floor. But it seemed as if fate had
decided that his friend's personal possessions should fall into
his hands that morning, employ them where he might. One among the
first objects which he took up was Allan's tobacco jar, with the
stopper missing, and with a letter (which appeared by the bulk of
it to contain inclosures) crumpled into the mouth of the jar in
the stopper's place.
"Did you know that you had put this here?" he asked. "Is the
letter of any importance?"
Allan recognized it instantly. It was the first of the little
series of letters which had followed the cruising party to the
Isle of Man--the letter which young Armadale had briefly referred
to as bringing him "more worries from those everlasting lawyers,"
and had then dismissed from further notice as recklessly as
"This is what comes of being particularly careful," said Allan;
"here is an instance of my extreme thoughtfulness. You may not
think it but I put the letter there on purpose. Every time I went
to the jar, you know, I was sure to see the letter; and every
time I saw the letter, I was sure to say to myself, 'This must be
answered.' There's nothing to laugh at; it was a perfectly
sensible arrangement, if I could only have remembered where I put
the jar. Suppose I tie a knot in my pocket-handkerchief this
time? You have a wonderful memory, my dear fellow. Perhaps you'll
remind me in the course of the day, in case I forget the knot
Midwinter saw his first chance, since Mr. Brock's departure, of
usefully filling Mr. Brock's place.
"Here is your writing-case," he said; "why not answer the letter
at once? If you put it away again, you may forget it again."
"Very true," returned Allan. "But the worst of it is, I can't
quite make up my mind what answer to write. I want a word of
advice. Come and sit down here, and I'll tell you all about it."
With his loud boyish laugh--echoed by Midwinter, who caught the
infection of his gayety--he swept a heap of miscellaneous
incumbrances off the cabin sofa, and made room for his friend
and himself to take their places. In the high flow of youthful
spirits, the two sat down to their trifling consultation over a
letter lost in a tobacco jar. It was a memorable moment to both
of them, lightly as they thought of it at the time. Before they
had risen again from their places, they had taken the first
irrevocable step together on the dark and tortuous road of their
Reduced to plain facts, the question on which Allan now required
his friend's advice may be stated as follows:
While the various arrangements connected with the succession to
Thorpe Ambrose were in progress of settlement, and while the new
possessor of the estate was still in London, a question had
necessarily arisen relating to the person who should be appointed
to manage the property. The steward employed by the Blanchard
family had written, without loss of time, to offer his services.
Although a perfectly competent and trustworthy man, he failed to
find favor in the eyes of the new proprietor. Acting, as usual,
on his first impulses, and resolved, at all hazards, to install
Midwinter as a permanent inmate at Thorpe Ambrose, Allan had
determined that the steward's place was the place exactly fitted
for his friend, for the simple reason that it would necessarily
oblige his friend to live with him on the estate. He had
accordingly written to decline the proposal made to him without
consulting Mr. Brock, whose disapproval he had good reason to
fear; and without telling Midwinter, who would probably (if a
chance were allowed him of choosing) have declined taking a
situation which his previous training had by no means fitted him
Further correspondence had followed this decision, and had raised
two new difficulties which looked a little embarrassing on the
face of them, but which Allan, with the assistance of his lawyer,
easily contrived to solve. The first difficulty, of examining the
outgoing steward's books, was settled by sending a professional
accountant to Thorpe Ambrose; and the second difficulty, of
putting the steward's empty cottage to some profitable use
(Allan's plans for his friend comprehending Midwinter's residence
under his own roof), was met by placing the cottage on the list
of an active house agent in the neighboring county town. In this
state the arrangements had been left when Allan quitted London.
He had heard and thought nothing more of the matter, until a
letter from his lawyers had followed him to the Isle of Man,
inclosing two proposals to occupy the cottage, both received on
the same day, and requesting to hear, at his earliest
convenience, which of the two he was prepared to accept.
Finding himself, after having conveniently forgotten the subject
for some days past, placed face to face once more with the
necessity for decision, Allan now put the two proposals into
his friend's hands, and, after a rambling explanation of the
circumstances of the case, requested to be favored with a word
of advice. Instead of examining the proposals, Midwinter
unceremoniously put them aside, and asked the two very natural
and very awkward questions of who the new steward was to be,
and why he was to live in Allan's house?
"I'll tell you who, and I'll tell you why, when we get to Thorpe
Ambrose," said Allan. "In the meantime we'll call the steward X.
Y. Z., and we'll say he lives with me, because I'm devilish
sharp, and I mean to keep him under my own eye. You needn't look
surprised. I know the man thoroughly well; he requires a good
deal of management. If I offered him the steward's place
beforehand, his modesty would get in his way, and he would say
'No.' If I pitch him into it neck and crop, without a word of
warning and with nobody at hand to relieve him of the situation,
he'll have nothing for it but to consult my interests, and say
'Yes.' X. Y. Z. is not at all a bad fellow, I can tell you.
You'll see him when we go to Thorpe Ambrose; and I rather think
you and he will get on uncommonly well together."
The humorous twinkle in Allan's eye, the sly significance in
Allan's voice, would have betrayed his secret to a prosperous
man. Midwinter was as far from suspecting it as the carpenters
who were at work above them on the deck of the yacht.
"Is there no steward now on the estate?" he asked, his face
showing plainly that he was far from feeling satisfied with
Allan's answer. "Is the business neglected all this time?"
"Nothing of the sort!" returned Allan. "The business is going
with 'a wet sheet and a flowing sea, and a wind that follows
free.' I'm not joking; I'm only metaphorical. A regular
accountant has poked his nose into the books, and a steady-going
lawyer's clerk attends at the office once a week. That doesn't
look like neglect, does it? Leave the new steward alone for the
present, and just tell me which of those two tenants you would
take, if you were in my place."
Midwinter opened the proposals, and read them attentively.
The first proposal was from no less a person than the solicitor
at Thorpe Ambrose, who had first informed Allan at Paris of the
large fortune that had fallen into his hands. This gentleman
wrote personally to say that he had long admired the cottage,
which was charmingly situated within the limits of the Thorpe
Ambrose grounds. He was a bachelor, of studious habits, desirous
of retiring to a country seclusion after the wear and tear of
his business hours; and he ventured to say that Mr. Armadale, in
accepting him as a tenant, might count on securing an unobtrusive
neighbor, and on putting the cottage into responsible and careful
The second proposal came through the house agent, and proceeded
from a total stranger. The tenant who offered for the cottage, in
this case, was a retired officer in the army--one Major Milroy.
His family merely consisted of an invalid wife and an only
child--a young lady. His references were unexceptionable; and he,
too, was especially anxious to secure the cottage, as the perfect
quiet of the situation was exactly what was required by Mrs.
Milroy in her feeble state of health.
"Well, which profession shall I favor?" asked Allan. "The army or
"There seems to me to be no doubt about it," said Midwinter.
"The lawyer has been already in correspondence with you; and the
lawyer's claim is, therefore, the claim to be preferred."
"I knew you would say that. In all the thousands of times I
have asked other people for advice, I never yet got the advice
I wanted. Here's this business of letting the cottage as an
instance. I'm all on the other side myself. I want to have the
Young Armadale laid his forefinger on that part of the agent's
letter which enumerated Major Milroy's family, and which
contained the three words--"a young lady."
"A bachelor of studious habits walking about my grounds," said
Allan, "is not an interesting object; a young lady is. I have not
the least doubt Miss Milroy is a charming girl. Ozias Midwinter
of the serious countenance! think of her pretty muslin dress
flitting about among your trees and committing trespasses on
your property; think of her adorable feet trotting into your
fruit-garden, and her delicious fresh lips kissing your ripe
peaches; think of her dimpled hands among your early violets, and
her little cream-colored nose buried in your blush-roses. What
does the studious bachelor offer me in exchange for the loss of
all this? He offers me a rheumatic brown object in gaiters and
a wig. No! no! Justice is good, my dear friend; but, believe me,
Miss Milroy is better."
"Can you be serious about any mortal thing, Allan?"
"I'll try to be, if you like. I know I ought to take the lawyer;
but what can I do if the major's daughter keeps running in my
Midwinter returned resolutely to the just and sensible view of
the matter, and pressed it on his friend's attention with all the
persuasion of which he was master. After listening with exemplary
patience until he had done, Allan swept a supplementary
accumulation of litter off the cabin table, and produced from his
waistcoat pocket a half-crown coin.
"I've got an entirely new idea," he said. "Let's leave it to
The absurdity of the proposal--as coming from a landlord--was
irresistible. Midwinter's gravity deserted him.
"I'll spin," continued Allan, "and you shall call. We must give
precedence to the army, of course; so we'll say Heads, the major;
Tails, the lawyer. One spin to decide. Now, then, look out!"
He spun the half-crown on the cabin table.
"Tails!" cried Midwinter, humoring what he believed to be one of
Allan's boyish jokes.
The coin fell on the table with the Head uppermost.
"You don't mean to say you are really in earnest!" said
Midwinter, as the other opened his writing-case and dipped his
pen in the ink.
"Oh, but I am, though!" replied Allan. "Chance is on my side,
and Miss Milroy's; and you're outvoted, two to one. It's no use
arguing. The major has fallen uppermost, and the major shall
have the cottage. I won't leave it to the lawyers; they'll only
be worrying me with more letters. I'll write myself."
He wrote his answers to the two proposals, literally in two
minutes. One to the house agent: "Dear sir, I accept Major
Milroy's offer; let him come in when he pleases. Yours truly,
Allan Armadale." And one to the lawyer: "Dear sir, I regret that
circumstances prevent me from accepting your proposal. Yours
truly," etc. "People make a fuss about letter-writing," Allan
remarked, when he had done. "_I_ find it easy enough."
He wrote the addresses on his two notes, and stamped them for
the post, whistling gayly. While he had been writing, he had not
noticed how his friend was occupied. When he had done, it struck
him that a sudden silence had fallen on the cabin; and, looking
up, he observed that Midwinter's whole attention was strangely
concentrated on the half crown as it lay head uppermost on the
table. Allan suspended his whistling in astonishment.
"What on earth are you doing?" he asked.
"I was only wondering," replied Midwinter.
"What about?" persisted Allan.
"I was wondering," said the other, handing him back the
half-crown, "whether there is such a thing as chance."
Half an hour later the two notes were posted; and Allan, whose
close superintendence of the repairs of the yacht had hitherto
allowed him but little leisure time on shore, had proposed to
while away the idle hours by taking a walk in Castletown. Even
Midwinter's nervous anxiety to deserve Mr. Brock's confidence in
him could detect nothing objectionable in this harmless proposal,
and the young men set forth together to see what they could make
of the metropolis of the Isle of Man.
It is doubtful if there is a place on the habitable globe which,
regarded as a sight-seeing investment offering itself to the
spare attention of strangers, yields so small a percentage of
interest in return as Castletown. Beginning with the waterside,
there was an inner harbor to see, with a drawbridge to let
vessels through; an outer harbor, ending in a dwarf lighthouse;
a view of a flat coast to the right, and a view of a flat coast
to the left. In the central solitudes of the city, there was a
squat gray building called "the castle"; also a memorial pillar
dedicated to one Governor Smelt, with a flat top for a statue,
and no statue standing on it; also a barrack, holding the
half-company of soldiers allotted to the island, and exhibiting
one spirit-broken sentry at its lonely door. The prevalent color
of the town was faint gray. The few shops open were parted at
frequent intervals by other shops closed and deserted in despair.
The weary lounging of boatmen on shore was trebly weary here; the
youth of the district smoked together in speechless depression
under the lee of a dead wall; the ragged children said
mechanically: "Give us a penny," and before the charitable
hand could search the merciful pocket, lapsed away again in
misanthropic doubt of the human nature they addressed. The
silence of the grave overflowed the churchyard, and filled this
miserable town. But one edifice, prosperous to look at, rose
consolatory in the desolation of these dreadful streets.
Frequented by the students of the neighboring "College of King
William," this building was naturally dedicated to the uses of a
pastry-cook's shop. Here, at least (viewed through the friendly
medium of the window), there was something going on for a
stranger to see; for here, on high stools, the pupils of the
college sat, with swinging legs and slowly moving jaws, and,
hushed in the horrid stillness of Castletown, gorged their pastry
gravely, in an atmosphere of awful silence.
"Hang me if I can look any longer at the boys and the tarts!"
said Allan, dragging his friend away from the pastry-cook's shop.
"Let's try if we can't find something else to amuse us in the
The first amusing object which the next street presented was a
carver-and-gilder's shop, expiring feebly in the last stage of
commercial decay. The counter inside displayed nothing to view
but the recumbent head of a boy, peacefully asleep in the
unbroken solitude of the place. In the window were exhibited to
the passing stranger three forlorn little fly-spotted frames; a
small posting-bill, dusty with long-continued neglect, announcing
that the premises were to let; and one colored print, the last of
a series illustrating the horrors of drunkenness, on the fiercest
temperance principles. The composition--representing an empty
bottle of gin, an immensely spacious garret, a perpendicular
Scripture reader, and a horizontal expiring family--appealed to
public favor, under the entirely unobjectionable title of "The
Hand of Death." Allan's resolution to extract amusement from
Castletown by main force had resisted a great deal, but it failed
him at this stage of the investigations. He suggested trying an
excursion to some other place. Midwinter readily agreeing, they
went back to the hotel to make inquiries.
Thanks to the mixed influence of Allan's ready gift of
familiarity, and total want of method in putting his questions,
a perfect deluge of information flowed in on the two strangers,
relating to every subject but the subject which had actually
brought them to the hotel. They made various interesting
discoveries in connection with the laws and constitution of the
Isle of Man, and the manners and customs of the natives. To
Allan's delight, the Manxmen spoke of England as of a well-known
adjacent island, situated at a certain distance from the central
empire of the Isle of Man. It was further revealed to the two
Englishmen that this happy little nation rejoiced in laws of its
own, publicly proclaimed once a year by the governor and the two
head judges, grouped together on the top of an ancient mound,
in fancy costumes appropriate to the occasion. Possessing this
enviable institution, the island added to it the inestimable
blessing of a local parliament, called the House of Keys, an
assembly far in advance of the other parliament belonging to the
neighboring island, in this respect--that the members dispensed
with the people, and solemnly elected each other. With these
and many more local particulars, extracted from all sorts and
conditions of men in and about the hotel, Allan whiled away the
weary time in his own essentially desultory manner, until the
gossip died out of itself, and Midwinter (who had been speaking
apart with the landlord) quietly recalled him to the matter in
hand. The finest coast scenery in the island was said to be to
the westward and the southward, and there was a fishing town
in those regions called Port St. Mary, with a hotel at which
travelers could sleep. If Allan's impressions of Castletown still
inclined him to try an excursion to some other place, he had only
to say so, and a carriage would be produced immediately. Allan
jumped at the proposal, and in ten minutes more he and Midwinter
were on their way to the western wilds of the island.
With trifling incidents, the day of Mr. Brock's departure had
worn on thus far. With trifling incidents, in which not even
Midwinter's nervous watchfulness could see anything to distrust,
it was still to proceed, until the night came--a night which one
at least of the two companions was destined to remember to the
end of his life.
Before the travelers had advanced two miles on their road, an
accident happened. The horse fell, and the driver reported that
the animal had seriously injured himself. There was no
alternative but to send for another carriage to Castletown,
or to get on to Port St. Mary on foot.
Deciding to walk, Midwinter and Allan had not gone far before
they were overtaken by a gentleman driving alone in an open
chaise. He civilly introduced himself as a medical man, living
close to Port St. Mary, and offered seats in his carriage. Always
ready to make new acquaintances, Allan at once accepted the
proposal. He and the doctor (whose name was ascertained to be
Hawbury) became friendly and familiar before they had been five
minutes in the chaise together; Midwinter, sitting behind them,
reserved and silent, on the back seat. They separated just
outside Port St. Mary, before Mr. Hawbury's house, Allan
boisterously admiring the doctor's neat French windows and pretty
flower-garden and lawn, and wringing his hand at parting as if
they had known each other from boyhood upward. Arrived in Port
St. Mary, the two friends found themselves in a second Castletown
on a smaller scale. But the country round, wild, open, and hilly,
deserved its reputation. A walk brought them well enough on with
the day--still the harmless, idle day that it had been from the
first--to see the evening near at hand. After waiting a little to
admire the sun, setting grandly over hill, and heath, and crag,
and talking, while they waited, of Mr. Brock and his long journey
home, they returned to the hotel to order their early supper.
Nearer and nearer the night, and the adventure which the night
was to bring with it, came to the two friends; and still the only
incidents that happened were incidents to be laughed at, if they
were noticed at all. The supper was badly cooked; the
waiting-maid was impenetrably stupid; the old-fashioned bell-rope
in the coffee-room had come down in Allan's hands, and, striking
in its descent a painted china shepherdess on the chimney-piece,
had laid the figure in fragments on the floor. Events as trifling
as these were still the only events that had happened, when the
twilight faded, and the lighted candles were brought into the
Finding Midwinter, after the double fatigue of a sleepless night
and a restless day, but little inclined for conversation, Allan
left him resting on the sofa, and lounged into the passage of the
hotel, on the chance of discovering somebody to talk to. Here
another of the trivial incidents of the day brought Allan and Mr.
Hawbury together again, and helped--whether happily or not, yet
remained to be seen--to strengthen the acquaintance between them
on either side.
The "bar" of the hotel was situated at one end of the passage,
and the landlady was in attendance there, mixing a glass of
liquor for the doctor, who had just looked in for a little
gossip. On Allan's asking permission to make a third in the
drinking and the gossiping, Mr. Hawbury civilly handed him the
glass which the landlady had just filled. It contained cold
brandy-and-water. A marked change in Allan's face, as he suddenly
drew back and asked for whisky instead, caught the doctor's
medical eye. "A case of nervous antipathy," said Mr. Hawbury,
quietly taking the glass away again. The remark obliged Allan to
acknowledge that he had an insurmountable loathing (which he was
foolish enough to be a little ashamed of mentioning) to the smell
and taste of brandy. No matter with what diluting liquid the
spirit was mixed, the presence of it, instantly detected by his
organs of taste and smell, turned him sick and faint if the drink
touched his lips. Starting from this personal confession, the
talk turned on antipathies in general; and the doctor
acknowledged, on his side, that he took a professional interest
in the subject, and that he possessed a collection of curious
cases at home, which his new acquaintance was welcome to look at,
if Allan had nothing else to do that evening, and if he would
call, when the medical work of the day was over, in an hour's
Cordially accepting the invitation (which was extended to
Midwinter also, if he cared to profit by it), Allan returned to
the coffee-room to look after his friend. Half asleep and half
awake, Midwinter was still stretched on the sofa, with the local
newspaper just dropping out of his languid hand.
"I heard your voice in the passage," he said, drowsily. "Whom
were you talking to?"
"The doctor," replied Allan. "I am going to smoke a cigar with
him, in an hour's time. Will you come too?"
Midwinter assented with a weary sigh. Always shyly unwilling to
make new acquaintances, fatigue increased the reluctance he now
felt to become Mr. Hawbury's guest. As matters stood, however,
there was no alternative but to go; for, with Allan's
constitutional imprudence, there was no safely trusting him alone
anywhere, and more especially in a stranger's house. Mr. Brock
would certainly not have left his pupil to visit the doctor
alone; and Midwinter was still nervously conscious that he
occupied Mr. Brock's place.
"What shall we do till it's time to go?" asked Allan, looking
about him. "Anything in this?" he added, observing the fallen
newspaper, and picking it up from the floor.
"I'm too tired to look. If you find anything interesting, read
it out," said Midwinter, thinking that the reading might help to
keep him awake.
Part of the newspaper, and no small part of it, was devoted to
extracts from books recently published in London. One of the
works most largely laid under contribution in this manner was of
the sort to interest Allan: it was a highly spiced narrative of
Traveling Adventures in the wilds of Australia. Pouncing on an
extract which described the sufferings of the traveling-party,
lost in a trackless wilderness, and in danger of dying by thirst,
Allan announced that he had found something to make his friend's
flesh creep, and began eagerly to read the passage aloud.
Resolute not to sleep, Midwinter followed the progress of the
adventure, sentence by sentence, without missing a word. The
consultation of the lost travelers, with death by thirst staring
them in the face; the resolution to press on while their strength
lasted; the fall of a heavy shower, the vain efforts made to
catch the rainwater, the transient relief experienced by sucking
their wet clothes; the sufferings renewed a few hours after; the
night advance of the strongest of the party, leaving the weakest
behind; the following a flight of birds when morning dawned; the
discovery by the lost men of the broad pool of water that saved
their lives--all this Midwinter's fast-failing attention mastered
painfully, Allan's voice growing fainter and fainter on his ear
with every sentence that was read. Soon the next words seemed to
drop away gently, and nothing but the slowly sinking sound of the
voice was left. Then the light in the room darkened gradually,
the sound dwindled into delicious silence, and the last waking
impressions of the weary Midwinter came peacefully to an end.
The next event of which he was conscious was a sharp ringing at
the closed door of the hotel. He started to his feet, with the
ready alacrity of a man whose life has accustomed him to wake at
the shortest notice. An instant's look round showed him that the
room was empty, and a glance at his watch told him that it was
close on midnight. The noise made by the sleepy servant in
opening the door, and the tread the next moment of quick
footsteps in the passage, filled him with a sudden foreboding of
something wrong. As he hurriedly stepped forward to go out and
make inquiry, the door of the coffee-room opened, and the doctor
stood before him.
"I am sorry to disturb you," said Mr. Hawbury. "Don't be alarmed;
there's nothing wrong."
"Where is my friend?" asked Midwinter.
"At the pier head," answered the doctor. "I am, to a certain
extent, responsible for what he is doing now; and I think some
careful person, like yourself, ought to be with him."
The hint was enough for Midwinter. He and the doctor set out for
the pier immediately, Mr. Hawbury mentioning on the way the
circumstances under which he had come to the hotel.
Punctual to the appointed hour Allan had made his appearance at
the doctor's house, explaining that he had left his weary friend
so fast asleep on the sofa that he had not had the heart to wake
him. The evening had passed pleasantly, and the conversation had
turned on many subjects, until, in an evil hour, Mr. Hawbury had
dropped a hint which showed that he was fond of sailing, and that
he possessed a pleasure-boat of his own in the harbor. Excited on
the instant by his favorite topic, Allan had left his host no
hospitable alternative but to take him to the pier head and show
him the boat. The beauty of the night and the softness of the
breeze had done the rest of the mischief; they had filled Allan
with irresistible longings for a sail by moonlight. Prevented
from accompanying his guest by professional hindrances which
obliged him to remain on shore, the doctor, not knowing what else
to do, had ventured on disturbing Midwinter, rather than take the
responsibility of allowing Mr. Armadale (no matter how well he
might be accustomed to the sea) to set off on a sailing trip at
midnight entirely by himself.
The time taken to make this explanation brought Midwinter and the
doctor to the pier head. There, sure enough, was young Armadale
in the boat, hoisting the sail, and singing the sailor's
"Yo-heave-ho!" at the top of his voice.
"Come along, old boy!" cried Allan. "You're just in time for a
frolic by moonlight!"
Midwinter suggested a frolic by daylight, and an adjournment to
bed in the meantime.
"Bed!" cried Allan, on whose harum-scarum high spirits Mr.
Hawbury's hospitality had certainly not produced a sedative
effect. "Hear him, doctor! one would think he was ninety! Bed,
you drowsy old dormouse! Look at that, and think of bed if you
He pointed to the sea. The moon was shining in the cloudless
heaven; the night-breeze blew soft and steady from the land; the
peaceful waters rippled joyfully in the silence and the glory of
the night. Midwinter turned to the doctor with a wise resignation
to circumstances: he had seen enough to satisfy him that all
words of remonstrance would be words simply thrown away.
"How is the tide?" he asked.
Mr. Hawbury told him.
"Are there oars in the boat?"
"I am well used to the sea," said Midwinter, descending the pier
steps. "You may trust me to take care of my friend, and to take
care of the boat."
"Good-night, doctor!" shouted Allan. "Your whisky-and-water is
delicious--your boat's a little beauty--and you're the best
fellow I ever met in my life!"
The doctor laughed and waved his hand, and the boat glided out
from the harbor, with Midwinter at the helm.
As the breeze then blew, they were soon abreast of the westward
headland, bounding the Bay of Poolvash, and the question was
started whether they should run out to sea or keep along the
shore. The wisest proceeding, in the event of the wind failing
them, was to keep by the land. Midwinter altered the course of
the boat, and they sailed on smoothly in a south-westerly
direction, abreast of the coast.
Little by little the cliffs rose in height, and the rocks, massed
wild and jagged, showed rifted black chasms yawning deep in their
seaward sides. Off the bold promontory called Spanish Head,
Midwinter looked ominously at his watch. But Allan pleaded hard
for half an hour more, and for a glance at the famous channel of
the Sound, which they were now fast nearing, and of which he had
heard some startling stories from the workmen employed on his
yacht. The new change which Midwinter's compliance with this
request rendered it necessary to make in the course of the boat
brought her close to the wind; and revealed, on one side, the
grand view of the southernmost shores of the Isle of Man, and,
on the other, the black precipices of the islet called the Calf,
separated from the mainland by the dark and dangerous channel of
Once more Midwinter looked at his watch. "We have gone far
enough," he said. "Stand by the sheet!"
"Stop!" cried Allan, from the bows of the boat. "Good God! here's
a wrecked ship right ahead of us!"
Midwinter let the boat fall off a little, and looked where the
There, stranded midway between the rocky boundaries on either
side of the Sound--there, never again to rise on the living
waters from her grave on the sunken rock; lost and lonely in the
quiet night; high, and dark, and ghostly in the yellow moonshine,
lay the Wrecked Ship.
"I know the vessel," said Allan, in great excitement. "I heard
my workmen talking of her yesterday. She drifted in here, on a
pitch-dark night, when they couldn't see the lights; a poor old
worn-out merchantman, Midwinter, that the ship-brokers have
bought to break up. Let's run in and have a look at her."
Midwinter hesitated. All the old sympathies of his sea-life
strongly inclined him to follow Allan's suggestion; but the wind
was falling light, and he distrusted the broken water and the
swirling currents of the channel ahead. "This is an ugly place
to take a boat into when you know nothing about it," he said.
"Nonsense!" returned Allan. "It's as light as day, and we float
in two feet of water."
Before Midwinter could answer, the current caught the boat, and
swept them onward through the channel straight toward the wreck.
"Lower the sail," said Midwinter, quietly, "and ship the oars. We
are running down on her fast enough now, whether we like it or
Both well accustomed to the use of the oar, they brought the
course of the boat under sufficient control to keep her on the
smoothest side of the channel--the side which was nearest to the
Islet of the Calf. As they came swiftly up with the wreck,
Midwinter resigned his oar to Allan; and, watching his
opportunity, caught a hold with the boat-hook on the fore-chains
of the vessel. The next moment they had the boat safely in hand,
under the lee of the wreck.
The ship's ladder used by the workmen hung over the fore-chains.
Mounting it, with the boat's rope in his teeth, Midwinter secured
one end, and lowered the other to Allan in the boat. "Make that
fast," he said, "and wait till I see if it's all safe on board."
With those words, he disappeared behind the bulwark.
"Wait?" repeated Allan, in the blankest astonishment at his
friend's excessive caution. "What on earth does he mean? I'll be
hanged if I wait. Where one of us goes, the other goes too!"
He hitched the loose end of the rope round the forward thwart of
the boat, and, swinging himself up the ladder, stood the next
moment on the deck. "Anything very dreadful on board?" he
inquired sarcastically, as he and his friend met.
Midwinter smiled. "Nothing whatever," he replied. "But I couldn't
be sure that we were to have the whole ship to ourselves till I
got over the bulwark and looked about me."
Allan took a turn on the deck, and surveyed the wreck critically
from stem to stern.
"Not much of a vessel," he said; "the Frenchmen generally build
better ships than this."
Midwinter crossed the deck, and eyed Allan in a momentary
"Frenchmen?" he repeated, after an interval. "Is this vessel
"How do you know?"
"The men I have got at work on the yacht told me. They know all
Midwinter came a little nearer. His swarthy face began to look,
to Allan's eyes, unaccountably pale in the moonlight.
"Did they mention what trade she was engaged in?"
"Yes; the timber trade."
As Allan gave that answer, Midwinter's lean brown hand clutched
him fast by the shoulder, and Midwinter's teeth chattered in his
head like the teeth of a man struck by a sudden chill.
"Did they tell you her name?" he asked, in a voice that dropped
suddenly to a whisper.
"They did, I think. But it has slipped my memory.--Gently, old
fellow; these long claws of yours are rather tight on my
"Was the name--?" He stopped, removed his hand, and dashed away
the great drops that were gathering on his forehead. "Was the
name _La Grace de Dieu_?"
"How the deuce did you come to know it? That's the name, sure
enough. _La Grace de Dieu_."
At one bound, Midwinter leaped on the bulwark of the wreck.
"The boat!" he cried, with a scream of horror that rang far and
wide through the stillness of the night, and brought Allan
instantly to his side.
The lower end of the carelessly hitched rope was loose on the
water, and ahead, in the track of the moonlight, a small black
object was floating out of view. The boat was adrift.
THE SHADOW OF THE PAST.
One stepping back under the dark shelter of the bulwark, and
one standing out boldly in the yellow light of the moon, the
two friends turned face to face on the deck of the timber-ship,
and looked at each other in silence. The next moment Allan's
inveterate recklessness seized on the grotesque side of the
situation by main force. He seated himself astride on the
bulwark, and burst out boisterously into his loudest and
"All my fault," he said; "but there's no help for it now. Here we
are, hard and fast in a trap of our own setting; and there goes
the last of the doctor's boat! Come out of the dark, Midwinter;
I can't half see you there, and I want to know what's to be done
Midwinter neither answered nor moved. Allan left the bulwark,
and, mounting the forecastle, looked down attentively at the
waters of the Sound.
"One thing is pretty certain," he said. "With the current on that
side, and the sunken rocks on this, we can't find our way out of
the scrape by swimming, at any rate. So much for the prospect at
this end of the wreck. Let's try how things look at the other.
Rouse up, messmate!" he called out, cheerfully, as he passed
Midwinter. "Come and see what the old tub of a timber-ship has
got to show us astern." He sauntered on, with his hands in his
pockets, humming the chorus of a comic song.
His voice had produced no apparent effect on his friend; but, at
the light touch of his hand in passing, Midwinter started, and
moved out slowly from the shadow of the bulwark. "Come along!"
cried Allan, suspending his singing for a moment, and glancing
back. Still, without a word of answer, the other followed. Thrice
he stopped before he reached the stern end of the wreck: the
first time, to throw aside his hat, and push back his hair from
his forehead and temples; the second time, reeling, giddy, to
hold for a moment by a ring-bolt close at hand; the last time
(though Allan was plainly visible a few yards ahead), to look
stealthily behind him, with the furtive scrutiny of a man who
believes that other footsteps are following him in the dark.
"Not yet!" he whispered to himself, with eyes that searched the
empty air. "I shall see him astern, with his hand on the lock of
the cabin door."
The stern end of the wreck was clear of the ship-breakers'
lumber, accumulated in the other parts of the vessel. Here, the
one object that rose visible on the smooth surface of the deck
was the low wooden structure which held the cabin door and roofed
in the cabin stairs. The wheel-house had been removed, the
binnacle had been removed, but the cabin entrance, and all that
had belonged to it, had been left untouched. The scuttle was on,
and the door was closed.
On gaining the after-part of the vessel, Allan walked straight to
the stern, and looked out to sea over the taffrail. No such thing
as a boat was in view anywhere on the quiet, moon-brightened
waters. Knowing Midwinter's sight to be better than his own, he
called out, "Come up here, and see if there's a fisherman within
hail of us." Hearing no reply, he looked back. Midwinter had
followed him as far as the cabin, and had stopped there. He
called again in a louder voice, and beckoned impatiently.
Midwinter had heard the call, for he looked up, but still he
never stirred from his place. There he stood, as if he had
reached the utmost limits of the ship and could go no further.
Allan went back and joined him. It was not easy to discover what
he was looking at, for he kept his face turned away from the
moonlight; but it seemed as if his eyes were fixed, with a
strange expression of inquiry, on the cabin door. "What is there
to look at there?" Allan asked. "Let's see if it's locked." As he
took a step forward to open the door, Midwinter's hand seized him
suddenly by the coat collar and forced him back. The moment
after, the hand relaxed without losing its grasp, and trembled
violently, like the hand of a man completely unnerved.
"Am I to consider myself in custody?" asked Allan, half
astonished and half amused. "Why in the name of wonder do you
keep staring at the cabin door? Any suspicious noises below? It's
no use disturbing the rats--if that's what you mean--we haven't
got a dog with us. Men? Living men they can't be; for they would
have heard us and come on deck. Dead men? Quite impossible! No
ship's crew could be drowned in a land-locked place like this,
unless the vessel broke up under them--and here's the vessel as
steady as a church to speak for herself. Man alive, how your hand
trembles! What is there to scare you in that rotten old cabin?
What are you shaking and shivering about? Any company of the
supernatural sort on board? Mercy preserve us! (as the old women
say) do you see a ghost?"
"_I see two_!" answered the other, driven headlong into speech
and action by a maddening temptation to reveal the truth. "Two!"
he repeated, his breath bursting from him in deep, heavy gasps,
as he tried vainly to force back the horrible words. "The ghost
of a man like you, drowning in the cabin! And the ghost of a man
like me, turning the lock of the door on him!"
Once more young Armadale's hearty laughter rang out loud and long
through the stillness of the night.
"Turning the lock of the door, is he?" said Allan, as soon as his
merriment left him breath enough to speak. "That's a devilish
unhandsome action, Master Midwinter, on the part of your ghost.
The least I can do, after that, is to let mine out of the cabin,
and give him the run of the ship."
With no more than a momentary exertion of his superior strength,
he freed himself easily from Midwinter's hold. "Below there!" he
called out, gayly, as he laid his strong hand on the crazy lock,
and tore open the cabin door. "Ghost of Allan Armadale, come on
deck!" In his terrible ignorance of the truth, he put his head
into the doorway and looked down, laughing, at the place where
his murdered father had died. "Pah!" he exclaimed, stepping back
suddenly, with a shudder of disgust. "The air is foul already;
and the cabin is full of water."
It was true. The sunken rocks on which the vessel lay wrecked had
burst their way through her lower timbers astern, and the water
had welled up through the rifted wood. Here, where the deed had
been done, the fatal parallel between past and present was
complete. What the cabin had been in the time of the fathers,
that the cabin was now in the time of the sons.
Allan pushed the door to again with his foot, a little surprised
at the sudden silence which appeared to have fallen on his friend
from the moment when he had laid his hand on the cabin lock. When
he turned to look, the reason of the silence was instantly
revealed. Midwinter had dropped on the deck. He lay senseless
before the cabin door; his face turned up, white and still, to
the moonlight, like the face of a dead man.
In a moment Allan was at his side. He looked uselessly round the
lonely limits of the wreck, as he lifted Midwinter's head on his
knee, for a chance of help, where all chance was ruthlessly cut
off. "What am I to do?" he said to himself, in the first impulse
of alarm. "Not a drop of water near, but the foul water in the
cabin." A sudden recollection crossed his memory, the florid
color rushed back over his face, and he drew from his pocket a
wicker-covered flask. "God bless the doctor for giving me this
before we sailed!" he broke out, fervently, as he poured down
Midwinter's throat some drops of the raw whisky which the flask
contained. The stimulant acted instantly on the sensitive system
of the swooning man. He sighed faintly, and slowly opened his
eyes. "Have I been dreaming?" he asked, looking up vacantly in
Allan's face. His eyes wandered higher, and encountered the
dismantled masts of the wreck rising weird and black against the
night sky. He shuddered at the sight of them, and hid his face on
Allan's knee. "No dream!" he murmured to himself, mournfully. "Oh
me, no dream!"
"You have been overtired all day," said Allan, "and this infernal
adventure of ours has upset you. Take some more whisky, it's sure
to do you good. Can you sit by yourself, if I put you against the
"Why by myself? Why do you leave me?" asked Midwinter.
Allan pointed to the mizzen shrouds of the wreck, which were
still left standing. "You are not well enough to rough it here
till the workmen come off in the morning," he said. "We must find
our way on shore at once, if we can. I am going up to get a good
view all round, and see if there's a house within hail of us."
Even in the moment that passed while those few words were spoken,
Midwinter's eyes wandered back distrustfully to the fatal cabin
door. "Don't go near it!" he whispered. "Don't try to open it,
for God's sake!"
"No, no," returned Allan, humoring him. "When I come down from
the rigging, I'll come back here." He said the words a little
constrainedly, noticing, for the first time while he now spoke,
an underlying distress in Midwinter's face, which grieved and
perplexed him. "You're not angry with me?" he said, in his
simple, sweet-tempered way. "All this is my fault, I know; and I
was a brute and a fool to laugh at you, when I ought to have seen
you were ill. I am so sorry, Midwinter. Don't be angry with me!"
Midwinter slowly raised his head. His eyes rested with a mournful
interest, long and tender, on Allan's anxious face.
"Angry?" he repeated, in his lowest, gentlest tones. "Angry with
_ you_?--Oh, my poor boy, were you to blame for being kind to me
when I was ill in the old west-country inn? And was I to blame
for feeling your kindness thankfully? Was it our fault that we
never doubted each other, and never knew that we were traveling
together blindfold on the way that was to lead us here? The cruel
time is coming, Allan, when we shall rue the day we ever met.
Shake hands, brother, on the edge of the precipice--shake hands
while we are brothers still!"
Allan turned away quickly, convinced that his mind had not yet
recovered the shock of the fainting fit. "Don't forget the
whisky!" he said, cheerfully, as he sprang into the rigging, and
mounted to the mizzen-top.
It was past two, the moon was waning, and the darkness that comes
before dawn was beginning to gather round the wreck. Behind
Allan, as he now stood looking out from the elevation of the
mizzen-top, spread the broad and lonely sea. Before him were the
low, black, lurking rocks, and the broken waters of the channel,
pouring white and angry into the vast calm of the westward ocean
beyond. On the right hand, heaved back grandly from the
water-side, were the rocks and precipices, with their little
table-lands of grass between; the sloping downs, and
upward-rolling heath solitudes of the Isle of Man. On the left
hand rose the craggy sides of the Islet of the Calf, here rent
wildly into deep black chasms, there lying low under long
sweeping acclivities of grass and heath. No sound rose, no light
was visible, on either shore. The black lines of the topmost
masts of the wreck looked shadowy and faint in the darkening
mystery of the sky; the land breeze had dropped; the small
shoreward waves fell noiseless: far or near, no sound was audible
but the cheerless bubbling of the broken water ahead, pouring
through the awful hush of silence in which earth and ocean waited
for the coming day.
Even Allan's careless nature felt the solemn influence of the
time. The sound of his own voice startled him when he looked down
and hailed his friend on deck
"I think I see one house," he said. "Here-away, on the mainland
to the right." He looked again, to make sure, at a dim little
patch of white, with faint white lines behind it, nestling low
in a grassy hollow, on the main island. "It looks like a stone
house and inclosure," he resumed. "I'll hail it, on the chance."
He passed his arm round a rope to steady himself, made a
speaking-trumpet of his hands, and suddenly dropped them again
without uttering a sound. "It's so awfully quiet," he whispered
to himself. "I'm half afraid to call out." He looked down again
on deck. "I shan't startle you, Midwinter, shall I?" he said,
with an uneasy laugh. He looked once more at the faint white
object, in the grassy hollow. "It won't do to have come up here
for nothing," he thought, and made a speaking-trumpet of his
hands again. This time he gave the hail with the whole power of
his lungs. "On shore there!" he shouted, turning his face to the
main island. "Ahoy-hoy-hoy!"
The last echoes of his voice died away and were lost. No sound
answered him but the cheerless bubbling of the broken water
He looked down again at his friend, and saw the dark figure of
Midwinter rise erect, and pace the deck backward and forward,
never disappearing out of sight of the cabin when it retired
toward the bows of the wreck, and never passing beyond the cabin
when it returned toward the stern. "He is impatient to get away,"
thought Allan; "I'll try again." He hailed the land once more,
and, taught by previous experience, pitched his voice in its
This time another sound than the sound of the bubbling water
answered him. The lowing of frightened cattle rose from the
building in the grassy hollow, and traveled far and drearily
through the stillness of the morning air. Allan waited and
listened. If the building was a farmhouse the disturbance among
the beasts would rouse the men. If it was only a cattle-stable,
nothing more would happen. The lowing of the frightened brutes
rose and fell drearily, the minutes passed, and nothing happened.
"Once more!" said Allan, looking down at the restless figure
pacing beneath him. For the third time he hailed the land. For
the third time he waited and listened.
In a pause of silence among the cattle, he heard behind him,
on the opposite shore of the channel, faint and far among the
solitudes of the Islet of the Calf, a sharp, sudden sound, like
the distant clash of a heavy door-bolt drawn back. Turning at
once in the new direction, he strained his eyes to look for a
house. The last faint rays of the waning moonlight trembled here
and there on the higher rocks, and on the steeper pinnacles of
ground, but great strips of darkness lay dense and black over
all the land between; and in that darkness the house, if house
there were, was lost to view.
"I have roused somebody at last," Allan called out,
encouragingly, to Midwinter, still walking to and fro on the
deck, strangely indifferent to all that was passing above and
beyond him. "Look out for the answering, hail!" And with his face
set toward the islet, Allan shouted for help.
The shout was not answered, but mimicked with a shrill, shrieking
derision, with wilder and wilder cries, rising out of the deep
distant darkness, and mingling horribly the expression of a human
voice with the sound of a brute's. A sudden suspicion crossed
Allan's mind, which made his head swim and turned his hand cold
as it held the rigging. In breathless silence he looked toward
the quarter from which the first mimicry of his cry for help had
come. After a moment's pause the shrieks were renewed, and the
sound of them came nearer. Suddenly a figure, which seemed the
figure of a man, leaped up black on a pinnacle of rock, and
capered and shrieked in the waning gleam of the moonlight. The
screams of a terrified woman mingled with the cries of the
capering creature on the rock. A red spark flashed out in the
darkness from a light kindled in an invisible window. The hoarse
shouting of a man's voice in anger was heard through the noise.
A second black figure leaped up on the rock, struggled with the
first figure, and disappeared with it in the darkness. The cries
grew fainter and fainter, the screams of the woman were stilled,
the hoarse voice of the man was heard again for a moment, hailing
the wreck in words made unintelligible by the distance, but in
tones plainly expressive of rage and fear combined. Another
moment, and the clang of the door-bolt was heard again, the red
spark of light was quenched in darkness, and all the islet lay
quiet in the shadows once more. The lowing of the cattle on the
main-land ceased, rose again, stopped. Then, cold and cheerless
as ever, the eternal bubbling of the broken water welled up
through the great gap of silence--the one sound left, as the
mysterious stillness of the hour fell like a mantle from the
heavens, and closed over the wreck.
Allan descended from his place in the mizzen-top, and joined his
friend again on deck.
"We must wait till the ship-breakers come off to their work," he
said, meeting Midwinter halfway in the course of his restless
walk. "After what has happened, I don't mind confessing that
I've had enough of hailing the land. Only think of there being
a madman in that house ashore, and of my waking him! Horrible,
Midwinter stood still for a moment, and looked at Allan, with
the perplexed air of a man who hears circumstances familiarly
mentioned to which he is himself a total stranger. He appeared,
if such a thing had been possible, to have passed over entirely
without notice all that had just happened on the Islet of the
"Nothing is horrible _out_ of this ship," he said. "Everything
is horrible _in_ it."
Answering in those strange words, he turned away again, and went
on with his walk.
Allan picked up the flask of whisky lying on the deck near him,
and revived his spirits with a dram. "Here's one thing on board
that isn't horrible," he retorted briskly, as he screwed on the
stopper of the flask; "and here's another," he added, as he took
a cigar from his case and lit it. "Three o'clock!" he went on,
looking at his watch, and settling himself comfortably on deck
with his back against the bulwark. "Daybreak isn't far off; we
shall have the piping of the birds to cheer us up before long.
I say, Midwinter, you seem to have quite got over that unlucky
fainting fit. How you do keep walking! Come here and have a
cigar, and make yourself comfortable. What's the good of tramping
backward and forward in that restless way?"
"I am waiting," said Midwinter.
"Waiting! What for?"
"For what is to happen to you or to me--or to both of us--before
we are out of this ship."
"With submission to your superior judgment, my dear fellow, I
think quite enough has happened already. The adventure will do
very well as it stands now; more of it is more than I want." He
took another dram of whisky, and rambled on, between the puffs
of his cigar, in his usual easy way. "I've not got your fine
imagination, old boy; and I hope the next thing that happens will
be the appearance of the workmen's boat. I suspect that queer
fancy of yours has been running away with you while you were down
here all by yourself. Come, now, what were you thinking of while
I was up in the mizzen-top frightening the cows?"
Midwinter suddenly stopped. "Suppose I tell you?" he said.