Part 2 out of 11
the end of the cabin, at the stern of the ship, each taking up one half
of the width. The sand had drifted in here to about the same depth as in
the side-rooms. He entered first the one nearest him, which was on the
right side of the ship. This room was about ten feet long, extending
from the middle of the ship to the side, and about six feet wide. A
telescope was the first thing which attracted his attention. It lay in a
rack near the doorway. He took it down, but it fell apart at once, being
completely corroded. In the middle of the room there was a compass,
which hung from the ceiling. But the iron pivot had rusted, and the
plate had fallen down. Some more guns and swords were here, but all
rusted like the others. There was a table at the wall by the stern,
covered with sand. An arm-chair stood close by it, and opposite this was
a couch. At the end of this room was a berth which had the same
appearance as the other berths in the other rooms. The quilts and
mattresses as he felt them beneath the damp sand were equally decayed.
Too long had the ship been exposed to the ravages of time, and Brandon
saw that to seek for any thing here which could be of the slightest
service to himself was in the highest degree useless.
This last room seemed to him as though it might have been the captain's.
That captain was Cigole, the very man who had flung him overboard. He
had unconsciously by so doing sent him to the scene of his early crime.
Was this visit to be all in vain? Thus far it seemed so. But might there
not yet be something beneath this sand which might satisfy him in his
There still remained another room. Might there not be something there?
Brandon went back into the cabin and stood looking at the open doorway
of that other room.
He hesitated. Why? Perhaps it was the thought that here was his last
chance, that here his exploration must end, and if nothing came of it
then all this adventure would be in vain. Then the fantastic hopes and
fears which by turns had agitated him would prove to have been absurd,
and he, instead of being sent by Fate as the minister of vengeance,
would be only the commonplace victim of an everyday accident.
Perhaps it was some instinct within him that made known to his mind what
awaited him there. For now as he stood that old horror came upon him
full and strong. Weakness and excitement made his heart beat and his
ears ring. Now his fancy became wild, and he recalled with painful
vividness his father's words:
"In the crisis of your fate I will be near."
The horrors of the past night recurred. The air of the cabin was close
and suffocating. There seemed in that dark room before him some dread
Presence, he knew not what; some Being, who had uncovered this his abode
and enticed him here.
He found himself rapidly falling into that state in which he would not
have been able either to advance or retreat. One overmastering horror
seized him. Twice his spirit sought to overcome the faintness and
weakness of the flesh. Twice he stepped resolutely forward; but each
time he faltered and recoiled.
Here was no place for him to summon up his strength. He could bear it no
longer. He turned abruptly and rushed out from the damp, gloomy place
into the warm, bright sunshine and the free air of heaven.
The air was bright, the wind blew fresh. He drank in great draughts of
that delicious breeze, and the salt sea seemed to be inhaled at each
The sun shone brilliantly. The sea rolled afar and all around, and
sparkled before him under the sun's rays with that infinite laughter,
that [Greek: anaerithmon gelasma] of which Aeschylus spoke in his deep
love of the salt sea. Speaking parenthetically, it may be said that the
only ones from among articulate speaking men who have found fitting
epithets for the sea are the old Greek, the Scandinavian, and the
Brandon drew in new strength and life with every breath, till at last he
began to think once more of returning.
But even yet he feared that when he entered that cabin the spell would
be on him. The thought of attempting it was intolerable. Yet what was to
be done? To remain unsatisfied was equally intolerable. To go back to
his rock was not to be thought of.
But an effort must be made to get rid of this womanly fear; why should
he yield to this? Surely there were other thoughts which he might call
to his mind. There came over him the memory of that villain who had cast
him here, who now was exulting in his fancied success and bearing back
to his master the news. There came to him the thought of his father, and
his wrongs, and his woe. There came to his memory his father's dying
words summoning him to vengeance. There came to him the thought of those
who yet lived and suffered in England, at the mercy of a pitiless enemy.
Should he falter at a superstitious fancy, he--who, if he lived, had so
great a purpose?
All superstitious fancy faded away. The thirst for revenge, the sense of
intolerable wrong arose. Fear and horror died out utterly, destroyed by
"The Presence, then, is my ally," he murmured. "I will go and face It."
And he walked resolutely, with a firm step, back into the cabin.
Yet even then it needed all the new-born resolution which he had
summoned up, and all the thought of his wrong, to sustain him as he
entered that inner room. Even then a sharp thrill passed through him,
and bodily weakness could only be sustained by the strong, resolute,
[Illustration: "THERE SEEMED A GHASTLY COMICALITY IN SUCH A THING AS
The room was about the size of the captain's. There was a table against
the side, which looked like a leaf which could hang down in case of
necessity. A trunk stood opposite the door, with the open lid projecting
upward out of a mass of sand. Upon the wall there hung the collar of a
coat and part of the shoulders, the rest having apparently fallen away
from decay. The color of the coat could still be distinguished; it was
red, and the epaulets showed that it had belonged to a British officer.
Brandon on entering took in all these details at a glance, and then his
eyes were drawn to the berth at the end of the room, where that Thing
lay whose presence he had felt and feared, and which he knew by an
internal conviction must be here.
There It awaited him, on the berth. Sand had covered it, like a
coverlet, up to the neck, while beyond that protruded the head. It was
turned toward him: a bony, skeleton head, whose hollow cavities seemed
not altogether vacancy but rather dark eyes which looked gloomily at
him--dark eyes fixed, motionless; which had been thus fixed through the
long years, watching wistfully for him, expecting his entrance through
that doorway. And this was the Being who had assisted him to the shore,
and who had thrown off the covering of sand with which he had concealed
himself, so as to bring him here before him. Brandon stood motionless,
mute. The face was turned toward him--that face which is at once human
and yet most frightful since it is the face of Death--the face of a
skeleton. The jaws had fallen apart, and that fearful grin which is
fixed on the fleshless face here seemed like an effort at a smile of
The hair still clung to that head, and hung down over the fleshless
forehead, giving it more the appearance of Death in life, and lending a
new horror to that which already pervaded this Dweller in the Ship.
"The nightmare Life-in-Death was he,
That thicks men's blood with cold."
Brandon stood while his blood ran chill, and his breath came fast.
If that Form had suddenly thrown off its sandy coverlet and risen to his
feet, and advanced with extended hand to meet him, he would not have
been surprised, nor would he have been one whit more horror-stricken.
Brandon stood fixed. He could not move. He was like one in a nightmare.
His limbs seemed rigid. A spell was upon him. His eyes seemed to fasten
themselves on the hollow cavities of the Form before him. But under that
tremendous pressure he did not altogether sink. Slowly his spirit rose;
a thought of flight came, but it was instantly rejected. The next moment
he drew a long breath. "I'm an infernal fool and coward," he muttered.
He took three steps forward, and stood beside the Figure. He laid his
hand firmly upon the head; the hair fell off at his touch. "Poor devil,"
said he, "I'll bury your bones at any rate." The spell was broken, and
Brandon was himself again.
Once more Brandon walked out into the open air, but this time there was
not a vestige of horror left. He had encountered what he dreaded, and it
was now in his eyes only a mass of bones. Yet there was much to think
of, and the struggle which had raged within him had exhausted him.
The sea-breeze played about him and soon restored his strength. What
next to do was the question, and after some deliberation he decided at
once to remove the skeleton and bury it.
A flat board which had served as a shelf supplied him with an easy way
of turning up the sand. Occupation was pleasant, and in an hour or two
he had scooped out a place large enough for the purpose which he had in
view. He then went back into the inner cabin.
Taking his board he removed carefully the sand which had covered the
skeleton. The clothes came away with it. As he moved his board along it
struck something hard. He could not see in that dim light what it was,
so he reached down his hand and grasped it.
It was something which the fingers of the skeleton also encircled, for
his own hand as he grasped it touched those fingers. Drawing it forth he
perceived that it was a common junk bottle tightly corked.
There seemed a ghastly comicality in such a thing as this, that this
lately dreaded Being should be nothing more than a common skeleton, and
that he should be discovered in this bed of horror doing nothing more
dignified than clutching a junk bottle like a sleeping drunkard. Brandon
smiled faintly at the idea; and then thinking that, if the liquor were
good, it at least would be welcome to him in his present situation. He
walked out upon the deck, intending to open it and test its contents. So
he sat down, and, taking his knife, he pushed the cork in. Then he
smelled the supposed liquor to see what it might be. There was only a
musty odor. He looked in. The bottle appeared to be filled with paper.
Then the whole truth flashed upon his mind. He struck the bottle upon
the deck. It broke to atoms, and there lay a scroll of paper covered
He seized it eagerly, and was about opening it to read what was written
when he noticed something else that also had fallen from the bottle.
It was a cord about two yards in length, made of the entrail of some
animal, and still as strong and as flexible as when it was first made.
He took it up carefully, wondering why such a thing as this should have
been so carefully sealed up and preserved when so many other things had
The cord, on a close examination, presented nothing very remarkable
except the fact that, though very thin, it appeared to have been not
twisted but plaited in a very peculiar manner out of many fine strands.
The intention had evidently been to give to it the utmost possible
strength together with the smallest size. Brandon had heard of cords
used by Malays and Hindus for assassination, and this seemed like the
description which he had read of them.
At one end of the cord was a piece of bronze about the size of a common
marble, to which the cord was attached by a most peculiar knot. The
bronze itself was intended to represent the head of some Hindu idol, the
grotesque ferocity of its features, and the hideous grimace of the mouth
being exactly like what one may see in the images of Mother Kali or
At once the cord associated itself in his mind with the horrors which he
had heard of as having been perpetrated in the names of these frightful
deities, and it seemed now to be more than a common one. He carefully
wound it up, placed it in his pocket, and prepared to examine the
The sun was high in the heavens, the sea-breeze still blew freshly,
while Brandon, opening the manuscript, began to read.
MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A BOTTLE.
"BRIG 'VISHNU,' ADRIFT IN THE CHINESE SEA.
"July 10, 1828.
"Whoever finds this let him know that I, Lionel Despard, Colonel of H.
M. 37th Regiment, have been the victim of a foul conspiracy performed
against me by the captain and crew of the brig _Vishnu_, and
especially by my servant, John Potts.
"Expecting at any time to perish, adrift helplessly, at the mercy of
winds and waves, I sit down now before I die, to write all the
circumstances of this affair. I will inclose the manuscript in a bottle
and fling it into the sea, trusting in God that he may cause it to be
borne to those who may be enabled to read my words, so that they may
know my fate and bring the guilty to justice. Whoever finds this let
him, if possible, have it sent to my friend, Ralph Brandon, of Brandon
Hall, Devonshire, England, who will do more than any other man to cause
justice to have its due.
"To further the ends of justice and to satisfy the desires of my
friends, I will write an account of the whole case.
"In the name of God, I declare that John Potts is guilty of my death. He
was my servant. I first found him in India under very remarkable
"It was in the year 1826. The Government was engaged in an effort to put
down bands of assassins by whom the most terrific atrocities had been
committed, and I was appointed to conduct the work in the district of
"The Thuggee society is still a mystery, though its nature may yet be
revealed if they can only capture the chief [Footnote: The chief was
captured in 1830, and by his confession all the atrocious system of
Thuggee was revealed.] and make him confess. As yet it is not fully
known, and though I have heard much which I have reported to the
Government, yet I am slow to believe that any human beings can actually
practice what I have heard.
"The assassins whom I was pursuing eluded our pursuit with marvelous
agility and cunning, but one by one we captured them, and punished them
summarily. At last we surrounded a band of Thugs, and to our amazement
found among them a European and a small boy. At our attack the Hindus
made a desperate resistance, and killed themselves rather than fall into
our hands; but the European, leading forward the little boy, fell on his
knees and implored us to save him.
"I had heard that an Englishman had joined these wretches, and at first
thought that this was the man; so, desirous of capturing him, I ordered
my men whenever they found him to spare his life if possible. This man
was at once seized and brought before me.
"He had a piteous story to tell. He said that his name was John Potts,
that be belonged to Southampton, and had been in India a year. He had
come to Agra to look out for employ as a servant, and had been caught by
the Thugs. They offered to spare his life if he would join them.
According to him they always make this offer. If it had only been
himself that was concerned he said that he would have died a hundred
times rather than have accepted; but his little boy was with him, and to
save his life he consented, hoping that somehow or other he might
escape. They then received him with some horrible ceremonies, and marked
on his arm and on the arm of his son, on the inner part of the right
elbow, the name of Bowhani in Hindu characters. Potts showed me his arm
and that of his son in proof of this.
"He had been with them, according to his own account, about three
months, and his life had been one continuous horror. He had picked up
enough of their language to conjecture to some extent the nature of
their belief, which, he asserted, would be most important information
for the Government. The Thugs had treated him very kindly, for they
looked upon him as one of themselves, and they are all very humane and
affectionate to one another. His worst fear had been that they would
compel him to do murder; and he would have died, he declared, rather
than consent; but, fortunately, he was spared. The reason of this, he
said, was because they always do their murder by strangling, since the
shedding of blood is not acceptable to their divinity. He could not do
this, for it requires great dexterity. Almost all their strangling is
done by a thin, strong cord, curiously twisted, about six feet in
length, with a weight at one end, generally carved so as to represent
the face of Bowhani. This they throw with a peculiar jerk around the
neck of their victim. The weight swings the cord round and round, while
the strangler pulls the other end, and death is inevitable. His hands,
he said, were coarse and clumsy, unlike the delicate Hindu hands; and
so, although they forced him to practice incessantly, he could not
learn. He said nothing about the boy, but, from what I saw of that boy
afterward, I believe that nature created him especially to be a Thug,
and have no doubt that he learned then to wield the cord with as much
dexterity as the best strangler of them all.
"His association with them had shown him much of their ordinary habits
and some of their beliefs. I gathered from what he said that the basis
of the Thuggee society is the worship of Bowhani, a frightful demon,
whose highest joy is the sight of death or dead bodies. Those who are
her disciples must offer up human victims killed without the shedding of
blood, and the more he can kill the more of a saint he becomes. The
motive for this is never gain, for they rarely plunder, but purely
religious zeal. The reward is an immortality of bliss hereafter, which
Bowhani will secure them; a life like that of the Mohammedan Paradise,
where there are material joys to be possessed forever without satiety.
Destruction, which begins as a kind of duty, becomes also at last, and
naturally perhaps, an absorbing passion. As the hunter in pursuing his
prey is carried away by excitement and the enthusiasm of the chase, or,
in hunting the tiger, feels the delight of braving danger and displaying
courage, so here that same passion is felt to an extraordinary degree,
for it is men that must be pursued and destroyed. Here, in addition to
courage, the hunter of man must call into exercise cunning, foresight,
eloquence, intrigue. All this I afterward brought to the attention of
the Government with very good results.
"Potts declared that night and day he had been on the watch for a chance
to escape, but so infernal was the cunning of these wretches, and so
quick their senses, sharpened as they had been by long practice, that
success became hopeless. He had fallen into deep dejection, and
concluded that his only hope lay in the efforts of the Government to put
down these assassins. Our appearance had at last saved him.
"Neither I, nor any of my men, nor any Englishman who heard this story,
doubted for an instant the truth of every word. All the newspapers
mentioned with delight the fact that an Englishman and his son had been
rescued. Pity was felt for that father who, for his son's sake, had
consented to dwell amidst scenes of terror, and sympathy for the anguish
that he most have endured during that terrific captivity. A thrill of
horror passed through all our Anglo-Indian society at the revelation
which he made about Thuggee; and so great was the feeling in his favor
that a handsome subscription was made up for him by the officers at
"For my part I believed in him most implicitly, and, as I saw him to be
unusually clever, I engaged him at once to be my servant. He staid with
me, and every month won more and more of my confidence. He had a good
head for business. Matters of considerable delicacy which I intrusted to
him were well performed, and at last I thought it the most fortunate
circumstance in my Indian life that I had found such a man.
"After about three years he expressed a wish to go to England for the
sake of his son. He thought India a bad place for a boy, and wished to
try and start in some business in his native land for his son's sake.
"That boy had always been my detestation--a crafty, stealthy, wily,
malicious little demon, who was a perfect Thug in his nature, without
any religious basis to his Thuggeeism. I pitied Potts for being the
father of such a son. I could not let the little devil live in my house;
his cruelty to animals which he delighted to torture, his thieving
propensities, and his infernal deceit, were all so intolerable. He was
not more than twelve, but he was older in iniquity than many a gray-
headed villain. To oblige Potts, whom I still trusted implicitly, I
wrote to my old friend Ralph Brandon, of Brandon Hall, Devonshire,
requesting him to do what he could for so deserving a man.
"Just about this time an event occurred which has brought me to this.
"My sweet wife had been ill for two years. I had obtained a faithful
nurse in the person of a Mrs. Compton, a poor creature, but gentle and
affectionate, for whom my dear love's sympathy had been excited. No one
could have been more faithful than Mrs. Compton, and I sent my darling
to the hill station at Assurabad in hopes that the cooler air might
"She died. It is only a month or two since that frightful blow fell and
crushed me. To think of it overwhelms me--to write of it is impossible.
"I could think of nothing but to fly from my unendurable grief. I wished
to get away from India any where. Before the blow crushed me I hoped
that I might carry my darling to the Cape of Good Hope, and therefore I
remitted there a large sum; but after she left me I cared not where I
went, and finding that a vessel was going to Manilla I decided to go
"It was Potts who found out this. I now know that he engaged the vessel,
put the crew on board, who were all creatures of his own, and took the
route to Manilla for the sake of carrying out his designs on me. To give
every thing a fair appearance the vessel was laden with stores and
things of that sort, for which there was a demand at Manilla. It was
with the most perfect indifference that I embarked. I cared not where I
went, and hoped that the novelty of the sea voyage might benefit me.
"The captain was an Italian named Cigole, a low-browed, evil-faced
villain. The mate was named Clark. There were three Lascars, who formed
the small crew. Potts came with me, and also an old servant of mine, a
Malay; whose life I had saved years before. His name was Uracao. It
struck me that the crew was a small one, but I thought the captain knew
his business better than I, and so I gave myself no concern.
"After we embarked Potts's manner changed very greatly. I remember this
now, though I did not notice it at the time, for I was almost in a kind
of stupor. He was particularly insolent to Uracao. I remember once
thinking indifferently that Potts would have to be reprimanded, or
kicked, or something of that sort, but was not capable of any action.
"Uracao had for years slept in front of my door when at home, and, when
traveling, in the same room. He always waked at the slightest noise. He
regarded his life as mine, and thought that he was bound to watch over
me till I died. Although this was often inconvenient, yet it would have
broken the affectionate fellow's heart if I had forbidden it, so it went
on. Potts made an effort to induce him to sleep forward among the
Lascars, but though Uracao had borne insolence from him without a
murmur, this proposal made his eyes kindle with a menacing fire which
silenced the other into fear.
"The passage was a quick one, and at last we were only a few days' sail
from Manilla. Now our quiet came to an end. One night I was awakened by
a tremendous struggle in my cabin. Starting up, I saw in the gloom two
figures struggling desperately. It was impossible to see who they were.
I sprang from the berth and felt for my pistols. They were gone.
"'What the devil is this?' I roared fiercely.
"No answer came; but the next moment there was a tremendous fall, and
one of the men clung to the other, whom he held downward. I sprang from
my berth. There were low voices out in the cabin.
"'You can't,' said one voice, which I recognized as Clark's. 'He has his
"'He hasn't,' said the voice of Cigole. 'Potts took them away. He's
"'Who are you?' I cried, grasping the man who was holding the other
"'Uracao,' said he. 'Get your pistols or you're lost!'
"'What the devil is the matter?' I cried, angrily, for I had not even
yet a suspicion.
"'Feel around your neck,' said he.
"Hastily I put my hand up. A thrill of terror passed through me. It was
the Thuggee cord.
"'Who is this?' I cried, grasping the man who had fallen.
"'Potts,' cried Uracao. 'Your pistols are under your berth. Quick! Potts
tried to strangle you. There's a plot. The Lascars are Thugs. I saw the
mark on their arms, the name of Bowhani in Hindu letters.'
"All the truth now seemed to flash across me. I leaped back to the berth
to look under it for my pistols. As I stooped there was a rush behind
"'Help! Clark! Quick!' cried the voice of Potts. 'This devil's
"At this a tumult arose round the two men. Uracao was dragged off. Potts
rose to his feet. At that moment I found my pistols. I could not
distinguish persons, but I ran the risk and fired. A sharp cry followed.
Somebody was wounded.
"'Damn him!' cried Potts, 'he's got the pistols.'
"The next moment they had all rushed out, dragging Uracao with them. The
door was drawn to violently with a bang and fastened on the outside.
They had captured the only man who could help me, and I was a prisoner
at the mercy of these miscreants.
"All the remainder of the night and until the following morning I heard
noises and trampling to and fro, but had no idea whatever of what was
going on. I felt indignation at the treachery of Potts, who, I now
perceived, had deceived me all along, but had no fear whatever of any
thing that might happen. Death was rather grateful than otherwise. Still
I determined to sell my life as dearly as possible, and, loading my
pistol once more, I waited for them to come. The only anxiety which I
felt was about my poor faithful Malay.
"But time passed, and at last all was still. There was no sound either
of voices or of footsteps. I waited for what seemed hours in impatience,
until finally I could endure it no longer. I was not going to die like a
dog, but determined at all hazards to go out armed, face them, and meet
my doom at once.
"A few vigorous kicks at the door broke it open and I walked out. There
was no one in the cabin. I went out on deck. There was no one there. I
saw it all. I was deserted. More; the brig had settled down so low in
the water that the sea was up to her gunwales. I looked out over the
ocean to see if I could perceive any trace of them--Potts and the rest.
I saw nothing. They must have left long before. A faint smoke in the
hatchway attracted my attention. Looking there, I perceived that it had
been burned away. The villains had evidently tried to scuttle the brig,
and then, to make doubly sure, had kindled a fire on the cargo, thinking
that the wooden materials of which it was composed would kindle readily.
But the water had rushed in too rapidly for the flames to spread;
nevertheless, the water was not able to do its work, for the wood cargo
kept the brig afloat. She was water-logged but still floating.
"The masts and shrouds were all cut away. The vessel was now little
better than a raft, and was drifting at the mercy of the ocean currents.
For my part I did not much care. I had no desire to go to Manilla or any
where else; and the love of life which is usually so strong did not
exist. I should have preferred to have been killed or drowned at once.
Instead of that I lived.
"She died on June 15. It was the 2d of July when this occurred which I
have narrated. It is now the 10th. For a week I have been drifting I
know not where. I have seen no land. There are enough provisions and
water on board to sustain me for months. The weather has been fine thus
"I have written this with the wish that whoever may find it will send it
to Ralph Brandon, Esq., of Brandon Hall, Devonshire, that he may see
that justice is done to Potts, and the rest of the conspirators. Let him
also try, if it be not too late, to save Uracao. If this fall into the
hands of any one going to England let it be delivered to him as above,
but if the finder be going to India let him place it in the hands of the
Governor-General; if to China or any other place, let him give it to the
authorities, enjoining them, however, after using it, to send it to
Ralph Brandon as above.
"It will be seen by this that John Potts was in connection with the
Thugs, probably for the sake of plundering those whom they murdered:
that he conspired against me and tried to kill me; and that he has
wrought my death (for I expect to die). An examination of my desk shows
that he has taken papers and bank bills to the amount of four thousand
pounds with him. It was this, no doubt, that induced him to make this
attempt against me.
"I desire also hereby to appoint Henry Thornton, Sen., Esq., of Holby
Pembroke, Solicitor, my executor and the guardian of my son Courtenay,
to whom I bequeath a father's blessing and all that I possess. Let him
try to secure my money in Cape Town for my boy, and, if possible, to
regain for him the four thousand pounds which Potts has carried off.
"Along with this manuscript I also inclose the strangling cord.
"May God have mercy upon my soul! Amen.
"July 28.--Since I wrote this there has been a series of tremendous
storms. The weather has cleared up again. I have seen no land and no
"July 31.--Land to-day visible at a great distance on the south. I know
not what land it may be. I can not tell in what direction I am drifting.
"August 2.--Land visible toward the southwest. It seems like the summit
of a range of mountains, and is probably fifty miles distant.
"August 5.--A sail appeared on the horizon. It was too distant to
perceive me. It passed out of sight.
"August 10.--A series of severe gales. The sea always rolls over the
brig in these storms, and sometimes seems about to carry her down.
"August 20.--Storms and calms alternating. When will this end?
"August 25.--Land again toward the west. It seems as though I may be
drifting among the islands of the Indian Archipelago.
"September 2.--I have been sick for a week. Unfortunately I am beginning
to recover again. A faint blue streak in the north seems like land.
"September 10.--Open water.
"September 23.--A series of storms. How the brig can stand it I can not
see. I remember Potts telling me that she was built of mahogany and
copper-fastened. She does not appear to be much injured. I am
exceedingly weak from want and exposure. It is with difficulty that I
can move about.
"October 2.--Three months adrift. My God have mercy on me, and make
haste to deliver me! A storm is rising. Let all Thy waves and billows
overwhelm me, O Lord!
"October 5.--A terrific storm. Raged three days. The brig has run
aground. It is a low island, with a rock about five miles away. Thank
God, my last hour is at hand. The sea is rushing in with tremendous
violence, hurling sand upon the brig. I shall drift no more. I can
scarcely hold this pen. These are my last words. This is for Ralph
Brandon. My blessing for my loved son. I feel death coming. Whether the
storm takes me or not, I must die.
"Whoever finds this will take it from my hand, and, in the name of God,
I charge him to do my bidding."
This was the last. The concluding pages of the manuscript were scarcely
legible. The entries were meagre and formal, but the hand-writing spoke
of the darkest despair. What agonies had this man not endured during
those three months!
Brandon folded up the manuscript reverentially, and put it into his
pocket. He then went back into the cabin. Taking the bony skeleton hand
he exclaimed, in a solemn voice, "In the name of God, if I am saved, I
swear to do your bidding!"
He next proceeded to perform the last offices to the remains of Colonel
Despard. On removing the sand something bright struck his eye. It was a
gold locket. As he tried to open it the rusty hinge broke, and the cover
[Illustration: "THREE MONTHS ADRIFT."]
It was a painting on enamel, which was as bright as when made--the
portrait of a beautiful woman, with pensive eyes, and delicate,
intellectual expression; and appeared as though it might have been worn
around the Colonel's neck. Brandon sighed, then putting this in his
pocket with the manuscript he proceeded to his task. In an hour the
remains were buried in the grave on Coffin Island.
THE SIGNAL OF FIRE.
The wreck broke in upon the monotony of Brandon's island life and
changed the current of his thoughts. The revelations contained in
Despard's manuscript came with perfect novelty to his mind. Potts, his
enemy, now stood before him in darker colors, the foulest of miscreants,
one who had descended to an association with Thuggee, one who bore on
his arm the dread mark of Bowhani. Against such an enemy as this he
would have to be wary. If this enemy suspected his existence could he
not readily find means to effect his destruction forever? Who could tell
what mysterious allies this man might have? Cigole had tracked and
followed him with the patience and vindictiveness of a blood-hound.
There might be many such as he. He saw plainly that if he ever escaped
his first and highest necessity would be to work in secret, to conceal
his true name, and to let it be supposed that Louis Brandon had been
drowned, while another name would enable him to do what he wished.
The message of Despard was now a sacred legacy to himself. The duty
which the murdered man had imposed upon his father must now be inherited
by him. Even this could scarcely add to the obligations to vengeance
under which he already lay; yet it freshened his passion and quickened
The brig was a novelty to him here, and as day succeeded to day he found
occupation in searching her. During the hotter part of the day he busied
himself in shoveling out the sand from the cavern with a board. In the
cool of the morning or evening he worked at the hatchway. Here he soon
reached the cargo.
This cargo consisted of staves and short boards. All were blackened, and
showed traces of fire. The fire seemed to have burned down to a depth of
four feet, and two or three feet under the sides; then the water coming
in had quenched it.
He drew out hundreds of these staves and boards, which were packed in
bundles, six boards being nailed together as box-shooks, and thirty or
forty staves. These he threw out upon the deck and on the sand. What
remained he drew about and scattered loosely in the hold of the vessel.
He did this with a purpose, for he looked forward to the time when some
ship might pass, and it would then be necessary to attract her
attention. There was no way of doing so. He had no pole, and if he had
it might not be noticed. A fire would be the surest way of drawing
attention, and all this wood gave him the means of building one. He
scattered it about on the sand, so that it might dry in the hot sun.
Yet it was also necessary to have some sort of a signal to elevate in
case of need. He had nothing but a knife to work with; yet patient
effort will do much, and after about a week he had cut away the rail
that ran along the quarter-deck, which gave him a pole some twenty feet
in length. The nails that fastened the boards were all rusted so that
they could not be used in attaching any thing to this. He decided when
the time came to tie his coat to it, and use that as a flag. It
certainly ought to be able to attract attention.
Occupied with such plans and labors and purposes as these, the days
passed quickly for two weeks. By that time the fierce rays of the sun
had dried every board and stave so that it became like tinder. The ship
itself felt the heat; the seams gaped more widely, the boards warped and
fell away from their rusty nails, the timbers were exposed all over it,
and the hot, dry wind penetrated every cranny. The interior of the hold
and the cabin became free from damp, and hot and dry.
Then Brandon flung back many of the boards and staves loosely; and after
enough had been thrown there he worked laboriously for days cutting up
large numbers of the boards into fine splints, until at last a huge pile
of these shavings were accumulated. With these and his pistol he would
be able to obtain light and fire in the time of need.
The post which he had cut off was then sharpened at one end, so that he
could fix it in the sand when the time came, should it ever come. Here,
then, these preparations were completed.
After all his labor in the cabin nothing was found. The bedding, the
mattresses, the chests, the nautical instruments had all been ruined.
The tables and chairs fell to pieces when the sand was removed; the
doors and wood-work sank away; the cabin when cleared remained a wreck.
The weather continued hot and dry. At night Brandon flung himself down
wherever he happened to be, either at the brig or at the rock. Every day
he had to go to the rock for water, and also to look out toward the sea
from that side. At first, while intent upon his work at the ship, the
sight of the barren horizon every day did not materially affect him; he
rose superior to despondency and cheered himself with his task. But at
length, at the end of about three weeks, all this work was done and
nothing more remained. His only idea was to labor to effect his escape,
and not to insure his comfort during his stay.
Now as day succeeded to day all his old gloom returned. The excitement
of the last few weeks had acted favorably upon his bodily health, but
when this was removed he began to feel more than his old weakness. Such
diet as his might sustain nature, but it could not preserve health. He
grew at length to loathe the food which he had to take, and it was only
by a stern resolve that he forced himself to swallow it.
At length a new evil was superadded to those which had already afflicted
him. During the first part of his stay the hollow or pool of water on
the rock had always been kept filled by the frequent rains. But now for
three weeks, in fact ever since the uncovering of the _Vishnu_, not
a single drop of rain had fallen. The sun shone with intense heat, and
the evaporation was great. The wind at first tempered this heat
somewhat, but at last this ceased to blow by day, and often for hours
there was a dead calm, in which the water of the sea lay unruffled and
all the air was motionless.
If there could only have been something which he could stretch over that
precious pool of water he might then have arrested its flight. But he
had nothing, and could contrive nothing. Every day saw a perceptible
decrease in its volume, and at last it went down so low that he thought
he could count the number of days that were left him to live. But his
despair could not stay the operation of the laws of nature, and he
watched the decrease of that water as one watches the failing breath of
a dying child.
Many weeks passed, and the water of the pool still diminished. At last
it had sunk so low that Brandon could not hope to live more than another
week unless rain came, and that now he could scarcely expect. The look-
out became more hopeless, and at length his thoughts, instead of turning
toward escape, were occupied with deliberating whether he would probably
die of starvation or simple physical exhaustion. He began to enter into
that state of mind which he had read in Despard's MSS., in which life
ceases to be a matter of desire, and the only wish left is to die as
quickly and as painlessly as possible.
At length one day as his eyes swept the waters mechanically out of pure
habit, and not expecting any thing, he saw far away to the northeast
something which looked like a sail. He watched it for an hour before he
fairly decided that it was not some mocking cloud. But at the end of
that time it had grown larger, and had assumed a form which no cloud
could keep so long.
Now his heart beat fast, and all the old longing for escape, and the old
love of life returned with fresh vehemence. This new emotion over-
powered him, and he did not try to struggle with it.
Now had come the day and the hour when all life was in suspense. This
was his first hope, and he felt that it must be his last. Experience had
shown that the island must lie outside the common track of vessels, and,
in the ordinary course of things, if this passed by he could not hope to
Now he had to decide how to attract her notice. She was still far away,
yet she was evidently drawing nearer. The rock was higher than the mound
and more conspicuous. He determined to carry his signal there, and erect
it somewhere on that place. So he took up the heavy staff, and bore it
laboriously over the sand till he reached the rock.
By the time that he arrived there the vessel had come nearer. Her top-
sails were visible above the horizon. Her progress was very slow, for
there was only very little wind. Her studding-sails were all set to
catch the breeze, and her course was such that she came gradually
nearer. Whether she would come near enough to see the island was another
question. Yet if they thought of keeping a look-out, if the men in the
tops had glasses, this rock and the signal could easily be seen. He
feared, however, that this would not be thought of. The existence of
Coffin Island was not generally known, and if they supposed that there
was only open water here they would not be on the look-out at all.
[Illustration: "STILL HE STOOD THERE, HOLDING ALOFT HIS SIGNAL."]
Nevertheless Brandon erected his signal, and as there was no place on
the solid rock where he could insert it he held it up in his own hands.
Hours passed. The ship had come very much nearer, but her hull was not
yet visible. Still he stood there under the burning sun, holding aloft
his signal. Fearing that it might not be sufficiently conspicuous he
fastened his coat to the top, and then waved it slowly backward and
The ship moved more slowly than ever; but still it was coming nearer;
for after some time, which seemed to that lonely watcher like entire
days, her hull became visible, and her course still lay nearer.
Now Brandon felt that he must be noticed. He waved his signal
incessantly. He even leaped in the air, so that he might be seen. He
thought that the rock would surely be perceived from the ship, and if
they looked at that they would see the figure upon it.
Then despondency came over him. The hull of the ship was visible, but it
was only the uppermost line of the hull. He was standing on the very top
of the rock, on its highest point. From the deck they could not see the
rock itself. He stooped down, and perceived that the hull of the ship
sank out of sight. Then he knew that the rock would not be visible to
them at all. Only the upper half of his body could by any possibility be
visible, and he knew enough of the sea to understand that this would
have the dark sea for a back-ground to observers in the ship, and
therefore could not be seen.
Still he would not yield to the dejection that was rapidly coming over
him, and deepening into despair every minute. Never before had he so
clung to hope--never before had his soul been more indomitable in its
resolution, more vigorous in its strong self-assertion.
He stood there still waving his staff as though his life now depended
upon that dumb yet eloquent signal--as though, like Moses, as long as
his arms were erect, so long would he be able to triumph over the
assault of despair. Hours passed. Still no notice was taken of him.
Still the ship held on her course slowly, yet steadily, and no change of
direction, no movement of any kind whatever, showed that he had been
seen. What troubled him now was the idea that the ship did not come any
nearer. This at first he refused to believe, but at last he saw it
beyond doubt, for at length the hull was no longer visible above the
The ship was now due north from the rock, sailing on a line directly
parallel with the island. It came no nearer. It was only passing by it.
And now Brandon saw that his last hope of attracting attention by the
signal was gone. The ship was moving onward to the west, and every
minute would make it less likely that those on board could see the rock.
During the hours in which he had watched the ship he had been busy
conjecturing what she might be, and from what port she might have come.
The direction indicated China almost undoubtedly. He depicted in his
mind a large, commodious, and swift ship, with many passengers on their
way back to England. He imagined pleasant society, and general
intercourse. His fancy created a thousand scenes of delightful
association with "the kindly race of men." All earthly happiness seemed
to him at that time to find its centre on board that ship which passed
before his eyes.
The seas were bright and sparkling, the skies calm and deeply blue, the
winds breathed softly, the white swelling sails puffed out like clouds
against the blue sky beyond. That ship seemed to the lonely watcher like
Heaven itself. Oh! to pass beyond the limits of this narrow sandy waste!
to cross the waters and enter there! Oh! to reach that ship which moved
on so majestically, to enter there and be at rest!
It was not given him to enter there. Brandon soon saw this. The ship
moved farther away. Already the sun was sinking, and the sudden night of
the tropics was coming swiftly on. There was no longer any hope.
He flung the staff down till it broke asunder on the hard rock, and
stood for a few moments looking out at sea in mute despair.
Yet could he have known what was shortly to be the fate of that ship--
shortly, only in a few days--he would not have despaired, he would have
rejoiced, since if death were to be his lot it were better to die where
he was than to be rescued and gain the sweet hope of life afresh, and
then have that hope extinguished in blood.
But Brandon did not remain long in idleness. There was yet one resource
--one which he had already thought of through that long day, but
hesitated to try, since he would have to forsake his signal-station; and
to remain there with his staff seemed to him then the only purpose of
his life. Now since the signal-staff had failed, he had broken it, as
some magician might break the wand which had failed to work its
appropriate spell, and other things were before him. He took his coat
and descended from the rock to make a last effort for life. He walked
back through the gathering gloom toward the wreck. He did not run, nor
did he in any way exhibit any excitement whatever. He walked with a firm
step over the sand, neither hastening on nor lagging back, but advancing
Before he had gone half-way it was dark. The sun had gone down in a sea
of fire, and the western sky, after flaming for a time, had sunk into
darkness. There was no moon. The stars shone dimly from behind a kind of
haze that overspread the sky. The wind came up more freshly from the
east, and Brandon knew that this wind would carry the ship which he
wished to attract further and further away. That ship had now died out
in the dark of the ebon sea; the chances that he could catch its notice
were all against him, yet he never faltered.
He had come to a fixed resolution, which was at all hazards to kindle
his signal-fire, whatever the chances against him might be. He thought
that the flames flaring up would of necessity attract attention, and
that the vessel might turn, or lie-to, and try to discover what this
might be. If this last hope failed, he was ready to die. Death had now
become to him rather a thing to be desired than avoided. For he knew
that it was only a change of life; and how much better would life be in
a spiritual world than life on this lonely isle.
This decision to die took away despair. Despair is only possible to
those who value this earthly life exclusively. To the soul that looks
forward to endless life despair can never come.
It was with this solemn purpose that Brandon went to the wreck, seeking
by a last chance after life, yet now prepared to relinquish it. He had
struggled for life all these weeks; he had fought and wrestled for life
with unutterable spiritual agony, all day long, on the summit of that
rock, and now the bitterness of death was past.
An hour and a half was occupied in the walk over the sand to the wreck.
Fresh waves of dark had come over all things, and now, though there were
no clouds, yet the gloom was intense, and faint points of light in the
sky above showed where the stars might be. Where now was the ship for
which Brandon sought? He cared not. He was going to kindle his signal-
fire. The wind was blowing freshly by the time that he reached the
place. Such a wind had not blown for weeks. It would take the ship away
farther. What mattered it? He would seize his last chance, if it were
only to put that last chance away forever, and thus make an end of
All his preparations had long since been made; the dry wood lay loosely
thrown about the hold; the pile of shavings and fine thread-like
splinters was there awaiting him. He had only to apply the fire.
He took his linen handkerchief and tore it up into fine threads, these
he tore apart again and rubbed in his hand till they were almost as
loose as lint. He then took these loose fibres, and descending into the
hold, put them underneath the pile which he had prepared. Then he look
his pistol, and holding it close to the lint fired it.
The explosion rang out with startling force in the narrow hull of the
ship, the lint received the fire and glowed with the sparks into spots
of red heat. Brandon blew with his breath, and the wind streaming down
lent its assistance.
In a few moments the work was done.
But scarcely had the first flame appeared than a puff of wind came down
and extinguished it. The sparks, however, were there yet. It was as
though the fickle wind were tantalizing him--at one time helping, at
another baffling him. Once more Brandon blew. Once more the blaze arose.
Brandon flung his coat skirts in front of it till it might gather
strength. The blaze ran rapidly through the fine splints, it extended
itself toward the shavings, it threw its arms upward to the larger
The dry wood kindled. A million sparks flew out as it cracked under the
assault of the devouring fire. The flame spread itself out to a larger
volume; it widened, expanded, and clasped the kindling all around in its
fervid embrace. The flame had been baffled at first; but now, as if to
assert its own supremacy, it rushed out in all directions with something
that seemed almost like exultation. That flame had once been conquered
by the waters in this very ship. The wood had saved the ship from the
waters. It was as though the WOOD had once invited the FIRE to union,
but the WATER had stepped in and prevented the union by force; as though
the WOOD, resenting the interference, had baffled the assaults of the
WATER, and saved itself intact through the long years for the embrace of
its first love. Now the FIRE sought the WOOD once more after so many
years, and in ardor unspeakable embraced its bride.
Such fantastic notions passed through Brandon's fancy as he looked at
the triumph of the flame. But he could not stay there long, and as he
had not made up his mind to give himself to the flames he clambered up
quickly out of the hatchway and stood upon the sand without.
The smoke was pouring through the hatchway, the black voluminous folds
being rendered visible by the glow of the flames beneath, which now had
gained the ascendency, and set all the winds at defiance. Indeed it was
so now that whatever wind came only assisted the flames, and Brandon, as
he looked on, amused himself with the thought that the wind was like the
world of man, which, when any one is first struggling, has a tendency to
crush him, but when he has once gained a foothold exerts all its efforts
to help him along. In this mood, half cynical, half imaginative, he
watched the progress of the flames.
Soon all the fine kindling had crumbled away at the touch of the fire,
and communicating its own heat to the wood around, it sank down, a
glowing mass, the foundation of the rising fires.
Here, from this central heart of fire, the flames rushed on upon the
wood which lay loosely on all sides, filling the hull. Through that wood
the dry hot wind had streamed for many weeks, till every stave and every
board had become dry to its utmost possibility. Now at the first breath
of the flame the wood yielded; at the first touch it flared up, and
prepared to receive the embrace of the fire in every fibre of its being.
The flame rolled on. It threw its long arms through the million
interstices of the loose piles of wood, it penetrated every where with
its subtle, far-reaching power, till within the ship the glow broadened
and widened, the central heart of fire enlarged its borders, and the
floods of flame that flowed from it rushed with consuming fury through
the whole body of the ship.
Glowing with bright lustre, increasing in that brightness every moment,
leaping up as it consumed and flashing vividly as it leaped up. A
thousand tongues of flame streamed upward through the crannies of the
gaping deck, and between the wide orifices of the planks and timbers the
dazzling flames gleamed; a thousand resistless arms seemed extended
forward to grasp the fabric now completely at its mercy, and the hot
breath of the fire shriveled up all in its path before yet its hands
were laid upon it.
And fast and furious, with eager advance, the flames rushed on devouring
everything. Through the hatchway, around which the fiercest fires
gathered, the stream of flame rose impetuously on high, in a straight
upward torrent, hurling up a vast pyramid of fire to the ebon skies, a
[Greek: phlogos migan pogona] which, like that which once illumed the
Slavonic strait with the signal-fire first caught from burning Troy,
here threw its radiance far over the deep.
While the lighter wood lasted the flame was in the ascendant, and nobly
it did its work. Whatever could be done by bright radiance and far-
penetrating lustre was done here. If that ship which had passed held any
men on board capable of feeling a human interest in the visible signs of
calamity at sea, they would be able to read in this flame that there was
disaster somewhere upon these waters, and if they had human hearts they
would turn to see if there was not some suffering which they might
But the lighter and the dryer wood was at last consumed, and now there
remained that which Brandon had never touched, the dense masses which
still lay piled where they had been placed eighteen years before. Upon
these the fire now marched. But already the long days and weeks of
scorching sun and fierce wind had not been without their effects, and
the dampness had been subdued. Besides, the fire that advanced upon them
had already gained immense advantage; for one half of the brig was one
glowing mass of heat, which sent forth its consuming forces, and
withered up, and blighted, and annihilated all around. The close-bound
and close-packed masses of staves and boards received the resistless
embrace of the fire, and where they did not flame they still gave forth
none the less a blazeless glow.
Now from the burning vessel the flame arose no more; but in its place
there appeared that which sent forth as vivid a gleam, and as far-
flashing a light. The fire had full sway, though it gave forth no blaze,
and, while it gleamed but little, still it devoured. From the sides of
the ship the planks, blasted by the intense heat and by the outburst of
the flames, had sprung away, and now for nearly all the length of the
vessel the timbers were exposed without any covering. Between these
flashed forth the gleam of the fire inside, which now in one pure mass
glowed with dazzling brightness and intense heat.
But the wood inside, damp as it was, and solid in its fibre, did not
allow a very swift progress to the fire. It burned, but it burned
slowly. It glowed like the charcoal of a furnace from behind its wooden
The massive timbers of mahogany wood yielded slowly and stubbornly to
the conflagration. They stood up like iron bars long after all the
interior was one glowing mass. But, though they yielded slowly, still
they had to yield with the passage of hours to the progress of the fire.
And so it came to pass that at length the strong sides, sapped by the
steady and resistless assault, surrendered. One by one the stout
timbers, now wasted and weakened, gave way and sank down into the fervid
mass beneath. At last the whole centre was one accumulation of glowing
ashes, and all that remained were the bow, covered with sand, and the
stern, with the quarter-deck.
The fire spread in both directions. The stern yielded first. Here the
strong deck sustained for a time the onset of the fire that had consumed
every thing beneath, but at last it sunk in; the timbers of the sides
followed next, and all had gone. With the bow there was a longer and a
harder struggle. The fire had penetrated far into that part of the
vessel; the flames smouldered there, but the conflagration went on, and
smoke and blue flames issued from every part of that sandy mound, which,
fiercely assailed by the heat, gave way in every direction, broke into a
million crevices, and in places melted and ran together in a glowing
molten heap. Here the fires burned longer, and here they lived and
gleamed until morning.
Long before morning Brandon had fallen asleep. He had stood first near
the burning wreck. Then the heat forced him to move away, and he had
gone to a ridge of sand, where this peninsula joined the island. There
he sat down, watching the conflagration for a long time. There the light
flashed, and if that ship for whom he was signaling had noticed this
sign, and had examined the island, his figure could be seen to any one
that chose to examine.
But hours passed on. He strained his eyes through the gloom in the
direction in which the ship had vanished to see if there were any sign
there. None appeared. The progress of the fire was slow. It went on
burning and glowing with wonderful energy all through the night, till at
last, not long before dawn, the stern fell in, and nothing now was left
but the sand-mound that covered the bows, which, burning beneath, gave
forth smoke and fire.
Then, exhausted by fatigue, he sank down on the sand and fell into a
In the midst of thronging dreams, from the depths of that imaginary land
where his weary spirit wandered in sleep, he was suddenly roused. A hand
was laid on his shoulder, which shook him roughly, and a hoarse voice
shouted in his ear, "Mess-mate! Halloo, mess-mate! Wake up!"
Brandon started up and gazed with wild, astonished eyes around. It was
day. The sun was two or three hours above the horizon. He was surrounded
by half a dozen seamen, who were regarding him with wondering but kindly
eyes. The one who spoke appeared to be their leader. He held a spy-glass
in his hand. He was a sturdy, thick-set man of about fifty, whose
grizzled hair, weather-beaten face, groggy nose, and whiskers, coming
all round under his chin, gave him the air of old Benbow as he appears
on the stage--"a reg'lar old salt," "sea-dog," or whatever other name
the popular taste loves to apply to the British tar.
"Hard luck here, mess-mate," said this man, with a smile. "But you're
all right now. Come! Cheer up! Won't you take a drink?" And he held out
Brandon rose mechanically in a kind of maze, not yet understanding his
good fortune, not yet knowing whether he was alive or dead. He took the
flask and raised it to his lips. The inspiriting draught gave him new
life. He looked earnestly at the Captain as he handed it back, and then
seized both his hands.
"God Almighty bless you for this, noble friend, whoever you are! But how
and when did you get here? Who are you? Did you not see my signal on the
"One question at a time, mess-mate," said the other, laughingly. "I'm
Captain Corbet, of the ship _Falcon_, bound from Sydney to London,
and these are some of my men. We saw this light last night about
midnight, right on our weather-bow, and came up to see what it was. We
found shoal water, and kept off till morning. There's the _Falcon_,
The Captain waved his hand proudly to where a large, handsome ship lay,
about seven miles away to the south.
"On your bow? Did you see the fire _ahead_ of you?" asked Brandon,
who now began to comprehend the situation.
"Then you didn't pass me toward the north yesterday?"
"No; never was near this place before this morning."
"It must have been some other ship, then," said Brandon, musingly.
"But how did you get here, and how long have you been here?"
Brandon had long since decided on the part he was to play. His story was
"My name is Edward Wheeler. I came out supercargo in the brig
_Argo_, with a cargo of hogshead staves and box shooks from London
to Manilla. On the 16th of September last we encountered a tremendous
storm and struck on this sand-bank. It is not down on any of the charts.
The vessel stuck hard and fast, and the sea made a clean breach over us.
The captain and crew put out the boat, and tried to get away, but were
swamped and drowned. I staid by the wreck till morning. The vessel stood
the storm well, for she had a solid cargo, was strongly built, and the
sand formed rapidly all about her. The storm lasted for several days,
and by the end of that time a shoal had formed. Several storms have
occurred since, and have heaped the sand all over her. I have lived here
ever since in great misery. Yesterday a vessel passed, and I put up a
signal on the rock over there, which she did not notice. In despair I
set fire to the brig, which was loaded with wood and burned easily. I
watched till morning, and then fell asleep. You found me so. That's all
I have to say."
On hearing this story nothing could exceed the kindness and sympathy of
these honest-hearted seamen. The Captain insisted on his taking another
drink, apologized for having to carry him back to England, and finally
hurried him off to the boat. Before two hours Brandon stood on the deck
of the _Falcon_.
THE MALAY PIRATE
Two days had passed since Brandon's rescue. The light wind which had
brought up the _Falcon_ soon died out, and before the island had
been left far behind a calm succeeded, and there was nothing left but to
A calm in other seas is stillness; here on the Indian Ocean it is
stagnation. The calmness is like Egyptian darkness. It may be felt. The
stagnation of the waters seems deep enough to destroy all life there.
The air is thick, oppressive, feverish; there is not a breath or a
murmur of wind; even the swell of ocean, which is never-ending, here
approaches as near as possible to an end. The ocean rolled but slightly,
but the light undulations gave a lazy, listless motion to the ship, the
span creaked monotonously, and the great sails napped idly in the air.
At such a time the calm itself is sufficiently dreary, but now there was
something which made all things still more drear. For the calm was
attended by a thick fog; not a moist, drizzling fog like those of the
North Atlantic, but a sultry, dense, dry fog; a fog which gave greater
emphasis to the heat, and, instead of alleviating it, made it more
It was so thick that it was not possible while standing at the wheel to
see the forecastle. Aloft, all the heavens were hidden in a canopy of
sickly gray; beneath, the sea showed the same color. Its glassy surface
exhibited not a ripple. A small space only surrounded the vessel, and
beyond all things were lost to view.
The sailors were scattered about the ship in groups. Some had ascended
to the tops with a faint hope of finding more air; some were lying flat
on their faces on the forecastle; others had sought those places which
were under the sails where the occasional flap of the broad canvas sent
down a slight current of air.
The Captain was standing on the quarter-deck, while Brandon was seated
on a stool near the wheel. He had been treated by the Captain with
unbounded hospitality, and supplied with every thing that he could wish.
"The fact is," said the Captain, who had been conversing with Brandon,
"I don't like calms any where, still less calms with fogs, and least of
all, calms off these infernal islands."
"Because to the north'ard is the Strait of Sunda, and the Malay pirates
are always cruising about, often as far as this. Did you ever happen to
hear of Zangorri?"
"Well, all I can say is, if you hadn't been wrecked, you'd have probably
had your throat cut by that devil."
"Can't any body catch him?"
"They don't catch him at any rate. Whether they can or not is another
"Have you arms?"
"Yes. I've got enough to give Zangorri a pleasanter reception than he
usually gets from a merchant-ship; and my lads are the boys that can use
"I wonder what has become of that other ship that passed me on the
island," said Brandon, after a pause.
"She can't be very far away from us," replied the Captain, "and we may
come up with her before we get to the Cape."
A silence followed. Suddenly the Captain's attention was arrested by
something. He raised his hand to his ear and listened very attentively.
"Do you hear that?" he asked, quickly.
Brandon arose and walked to where the Captain was. Then both listened.
And over the sea there came unmistakable sounds. The regular movement of
oars! Oars out on the Indian Ocean! Yet the sound was unmistakable.
"It must he some poor devils that have escaped from shipwreck," said the
Captain, half to himself.
"Well, fire a gun."
"No," said the Captain, cautiously, after a pause. "It may be somebody
else. Wait a bit."
So they waited a little while. Suddenly there came a cry of human
voices--a volley of guns! Shrieks, yells of defiance, shouts of triumph,
howls of rage or of pain, all softened by the distance, and all in their
unison sounding appallingly as they were borne through the gloom of the
Instantly every man in the ship bounded to his feet. They had not heard
the first sounds, but these they heard, and in that superstition which
is natural to the sailor, each man's first thought was that the noises
came from the sky, and so each looked with a stupefied countenance at
But the Captain did not share the common feeling. "I knew it!" he cried.
"I expected it, and blow my old eyes out if I don't catch 'em this
"What?" cried Brandon.
But the Captain did not hear. Instantly his whole demeanor was changed.
He sprang to the companion-way. He spoke but one word, not in a loud
voice, but in tones so stern, so startling, that every man in the ship
heard the word:
All knew what it meant. It meant that the most blood-thirsty pirate of
these Eastern seas was attacking some ship behind that veil of fog.
And what ship? This was the thought that came to Brandon. Could it by
any possibility be the one which passed by him when he strove so
earnestly to gain her attention!
"Out with the long-boat! Load the carronade! Man the boat! Hurry up,
lads, for God's sake!" And the Captain dashed down into the cabin. In an
instant he was back again, buckling on a belt with a couple of pistols
in it, and calling to his men, "Don't shout, don't cheer, but hurry, for
And the men rushed about, some collecting arms, others laboring at the
boat. The _Falcon_ was well supplied with arms, as the Captain had
said. Three guns, any quantity of smaller arms, and a long Tom, formed
her armament, while the long-boat had a carronade in her bows. Thanks to
the snug and orderly arrangement of the ship, every thing was soon
ready. The long-boat was out and afloat. All the seamen except four were
on board, and the Captain went down last.
"Now, pull away, lads!" he cried; "no talking," and he took the tiller
ropes. As he seated himself he looked toward the bows, and his eyes
encountered the calm face of Brandon.
"What! you here?" he cried, with unmistakable delight.
Brandon's reply consisted simply in drawing a revolver from his pocket.
"You're a brick!" said the Captain.
Not another word was spoken. The Captain steered the boat toward the
direction from which the sounds came. These grew louder every moment--
more menacing, and more terrible.
The sailors put all their strength to the oars, and drove the great boat
through the water. To their impatience it seemed as though they would
never get there. Yet the place which they desired to reach was not far
away;--the sounds were now very near; and at length, as they drove
onward, the tall sides of a ship burst on their sight through the gloom.
By its side was a boat of the kind that is used by the Malays. On board
the ship a large number of savage figures were rushing about in mad
In a moment the boat was seen. A shout rose from the Malays. A score of
them clambered swiftly down the ship's side to their boat, and a panic
seemed to seize all the rest, who stood looking around irresolutely for
some way of escape.
The boatswain was in the bows of the long-boat and as the Malays crowded
into their craft he took aim with the carronade and fired. The explosion
thundered through the air. A terrific shriek followed. The next instant
the Malay boat, filled with writhing dusky figures, went down beneath
The long-boat immediately after touched the side of the ship. Brandon
grasped a rope with his left hand, and, holding his revolver in his
right, leaped upward. A Malay with uplifted knife struck at him. Bang!
went the revolver and the Malay fell dead. The next instant Brandon was
on board, followed by all the sailors who sprang upward and clambered
into the vessel before the Malays could rally from the first shock of
But the panic was arrested by a man who bounded upon deck through the
hatchway. Roused by the noise of the gun, he had hurried up and reached
the deck just as the sailors arrived. In fierce, stern words he shouted
to his men, and the Malays gathered new courage from his words. There
were about fifty of these, and not more than thirty English sailors; but
the former had carelessly dropped their arms about, and most of their
pieces were unloaded; the latter, therefore, had it all their own way.
The first thing that they did was to pour a volley into the crowd of
Malays, as they stood trying to face their new enemy. The next moment
the sailors rushed upon them, some with cutlasses, some with pistols,
and some with clubbed muskets.
The Malays resisted desperately. Some fought with their creeses, others
snatched up muskets and used them vigorously, others, unarmed, flung
themselves upon their assailants, biting and tearing like wild beasts.
In the midst of the scene stood the chief, wielding a clubbed musket. He
was a man of short stature, broad chest, and great muscular power. Three
or four of the sailors had already been knocked down beneath his blows.
"Down with him," yelled the Captain. "It's Zangorri!"
A venomous smile passed over the dark face of the Malay. Then he shouted
to his men and in an instant they rushed to the quarter-deck and took up
a position there. A few of them obtained some more muskets that lay
The Captain shouted to his men, who were pursuing the Malays, to load
once more. They did so, poured in a volley, and then rushed to the
quarter-deck. Now a fiercer fight took place. The Captain with his
pistol shot one man dead the next instant he was knocked down. The
boatswain was grappled by two powerful men. The rest of the sailors were
driving all before them.
Meanwhile Brandon had been in the very centre of the fight. With his
revolver in his left hand he held a cutlass in his right, and every blow
that he gave told. He had sought all through the struggle to reach the
spot where Zangorri stood, but had hitherto been unsuccessful. At the
retreat which the Malays made he hastily loaded three of the chambers of
his revolver which he had emptied into the hearts of three Malays, and
sprang upon the quarter-deck first. The man who struck down the Captain
fell dead from Brandon's pistol, just as he stooped to plunge his knife
into the heart of the prostrate man. Another shot sent over one of the
boatswain's assailants, and the other assailant was kicked up into the
air and overboard by the boatswain himself.
After this Brandon had no more trouble to get at Zangorri, for the Malay
chief with a howl of fury called on his men, and sprang at him. Two
quick flashes, two sharp reports, and down went two of them. Zangorri
grasped Brandon's hand, and raised his knife; the next instant Brandon
had shifted his pistol to his other hand; he fired. Zangorri's arm fell
by his side, broken, and the knife rang on the ship's deck.
Brandon bounded at his throat. He wound his arms around him, and with a
tremendous jerk hurled Zangorri to the deck, and held him there.
A cry of terror and dismay arose from the Malays as they saw their chief
fall. The sailors shouted; there was no further fighting: some of the
pirates were killed, others leaped overboard and tried to swim away. The
sailors, in their fury, shot at these wretches as they swam. The cruelty
of Zangorri had stimulated such a thirst for vengeance that none thought
of giving quarter. Out of all the Malays the only one alive was Zangorri
himself, who now lay gasping with a mighty hand on his throat.
At last, as his struggles grew feebler, Brandon relaxed his grasp. Some
of the sailors came with uplifted knives to put an end to Zangorri.
"Back," cried Brandon, fiercely. "Don't touch him. He's mine!"
"He must die."
"That's for me to say," cried Brandon in a stern voice that forbade
reply. In fact, the sailors seemed to feel that he had the best claim
here, since he had not only captured Zangorri with his own hands, but
had borne the chief share in the fight.
"Englishman," said a voice. "I thank you."
It was Zangorri who had spoken; and in very fair English too.
"Do you speak English?" was all that he could say in his surprise.
"I ought to. I've seen enough of them," growled the other.
"You scoundrel!" cried Brandon. "you have nothing to thank me for. You
must die a worse death."
"Ah," sneered Zangorri. "Well. It's about time. But my death will not
pay for the hundreds of English lives that I have taken. I thank you
though, for you will give me time yet to tell the Englishmen how I hate
And the expression of hate that gleamed from the eyes of the Malay was
"Why do you hate them?" asked Brandon, whose curiosity was excited.
"My brother's blood was shed by them, and a Malay never forgives. Yet I
have never found the man I sought. If I had found him I would not have
killed any more."
"The man--what man?"
"The one whom I have sought for fifteen years through all these seas,"
said the other, hoarsely.
"What is his name?"
"I will not speak it. I had it carved on my creese which hangs around my
Brandon thrust his hand into the bosom of the Malay where he saw a cord
which passed around his neck. He drew forth a creese, and holding it up
saw this name cut upon the handle: "JOHN POTTS."
The change that came over the severe, impassive face of Brandon was so
extraordinary that even Zangorri in his pain and fury saw it. He uttered
an exclamation. The brow of Brandon grew as black as night, his nostrils
quivered, his eyes seemed to blaze with a terrific lustre, and a slight
foam spread itself over his quivering lips. But he commanded himself by
a violent effort.
He looked all around. The sailors were busy with the Captain, who still
lay senseless. No one observed him. He turned to Zangorri.
"This shall be mine," said he, and he threw the cord around his own
neck, and put the creese under his waistcoat. But the sharp eye of the
Malay had been watching him, and as he raised his arm carelessly to put
the weapon where he desired, he thoughtlessly loosed his hold. That
instant Zangorri took advantage of it. By a tremendous effort he
disengaged himself and bounded to his feet. The next instant he was at
the taffrail. One hasty glance all around showed him all that he wished
to see. Another moment and he was beneath the water.
Brandon had been taken unawares, and the Malay was in the water before
he could think. But he drew his revolver, in which there yet remained
two shots, and, stepping to the taffrail, watched for Zangorri to
During the fight a change had come over the scene. The fog had begun to
be dissipated and a wider horizon appeared. As Brandon looked he saw two
vessels upon the smooth surface of the sea. One was the _Falcon_.
The other was a large Malay proa. On the decks of this last was a crowd
of men, perhaps about fifty in number, who stood looking toward the ship
where the fight had been. The sweeps were out, and they were preparing
to move away. But the escape of Zangorri had aroused them, and they were
evidently waiting to see the result. That result lay altogether at the
disposal of the man with the revolver, who stood at the stern from which
Zangorri had leaped.
And now Zangorri's head appeared above the waves, while he took a long
breath ere he plunged again. The revolver covered him. In a moment a
bullet could have plunged into his brain.
But Brandon did not fire. He could not. It was too cold-blooded. True,
Zangorri was stained with countless crimes; but all his crimes at that
moment were forgotten: he did not appear as Zangorri the merciless
pirate, but simply as a wounded wretch, trying to escape from death.
That death Brandon could not deal him.
The sailors were still intent upon the Captain, whose state was
critical, and Brandon alone watched the Malay. Soon he saw those on
board the proa send down a boat and row quickly toward him. They reached
him, dragged him on board, and then rowed back.
Brandon turned away. As yet no one had been in the cabin. He hurried
thither to see if perchance any one was there who might be saved.
He entered the cabin. The first look which he gave disclosed a sight
which was enough to chill the blood of the stoutest heart that ever
All around the cabin lay human bodies distorted by the agonies of death,
twisted and twined in different attitudes, and still lying in the
position in which death had found them.
One, whose appearance showed him to be the captain, lay grasping the
hair of a Malay, with his sword through his enemy's heart, while a knife
still remained buried in his own. Another lay with his head cut open;
another with his face torn by the explosion of a gun. There were four
whites here and about ten Malays, all dead. But the fourth white was a
woman, who lay dead in front of a door that led to an inner cabin, and
which was now closed. The woman appeared to be about fifty years of age,
her venerable gray hair was stained with blood, and her hand clutched
the arm of a Malay who lay dead by her side.
While Brandon stood looking at this sight he became aware of a movement
in a corner of the cabin where there were five or six bodies heaped
together. He hurried over to the place, and, pulling away the bodies of
several Malays, found at length a Hindu of large stature, in whom life
was by no means extinct, for he was pushing with hands and feet and
making faint efforts to rise. He had been wounded in many places, and
was now quite unconscious.
Brandon dragged away all the bodies, laid him in as easy a posture as
possible, and then rushed up to the deck for some water. Returning he
dashed it over the Hindu, and bound up one or two wounds which seemed
His care soon brought the Hindu to consciousness.
The man opened his eyes, looked upon Brandon first with astonishment,
then with speechless gratitude, and clasping his hand moaned faintly, in
"Bless de Lor! Sahib!"
Brandon hurried up on deck and calling some of the sailors had the Hindu
conveyed there. All crowded around him to ask him questions, and
gradually found out about the attack of the pirates. The ship had been
becalmed the day before, and the Malay proa was in sight, evidently with
evil intentions. They had kept a good watch, and when the fog came had
some hope of escape. But the Malay boats had sought them through the
fog, and had found them. They had resisted well, but were overpowered by
numbers. The Hindu had been cook of the ship, and had fought till the
last by the side of his captain.
Without waiting to hear the Hindu's story Brandon went back to the
cabin. The door that opened into the inner cabin was shut. He tried it.
It was locked. He looked into the keyhole. It was locked from the
[Illustration: "SHE FLUNG HERSELF ON HER KNEES IN A TRANSPORT OF
GRATITUDE."] "Is any one there?" he asked.
A cry of surprise was the sole answer.
"You are safe. We are friends. Open!" cried Brandon.
Then came the sound of light footsteps, the key was turned, the door
slided back, and there appeared before the astonished eyes of Brandon a
young girl, who, the moment that she saw him, flung herself on her knees
in a transport of gratitude and raised her face to Heaven, while her
lips uttered inaudible words of thanksgiving.
She was quite a young girl, with a delicate, slender frame, and features
of extreme loveliness. Her complexion was singularly colorless. Her eyes
were large, dark, and luminous. Her hair fell in rich masses over her
shoulders. In one hand she held a knife, to which she clung with a
"Poor child!" murmured Brandon, in accents of tenderest commiseration.
"It is but little that you could do with that knife."
She looked up at him as she knelt, then looked at the keen glittering
steel, and, with a solemnity of accent which showed how deeply she was
in earnest, murmured, half to herself,
"It could at least have saved me!"
Brandon smiled upon her with such a smile as a father might give at
seeing the spirit or prowess of some idolized son.
"There is no need," he said, with a voice of deep feeling, "there is no
need of that now. You are saved. You are avenged. Come with me." The
girl rose. "But wait," said Brandon, and he looked at her earnestly and
most pityingly. "There are things here which you should not see. Will
you shut your eyes and let me lead you?"
"I can bear it," said the girl. "I will not shut my eyes."
"You must," said Brandon, firmly, but still pityingly, for he thought of
that venerable woman who lay in blood outside the door. The girl looked
at him and seemed at first as though about to refuse. There was
something in his face so full of compassion, and entreaty, and calm
control, that she consented. She closed her eyes and held out her hand.
Brandon took it and led her through the place of horror and up to the
Her appearance was greeted with a cry of joy from all the sailors. The
girl looked around. She saw the Malays lying dead upon the deck. She saw
the ship that had rescued, and the proa that had terrified her. But she
saw no familiar face.
She turned to Brandon with a face of horror, and with white lips asked:
"Where are they all?"
"Gone," said Brandon.
"What! All?" gasped the girl.
"All--except yourself and the cook."
She shuddered from head to foot; at last, coming closer to Brandon, she
whispered: "And my nurse--?"
Brandon said nothing, but, with a face full of meaning, pointed upward.
The girl understood him. She reeled, and would have fallen had not
Brandon supported her. Then she covered her face with her hands, and,
staggering away to a seat, sank down and wept bitterly.
All were silent. Even the rough sailors respected that grief. Rough! Who
does not know that sailors are often the most tender-hearted of men, and
always the most impulsive, and most quick to sympathy?
So now they said nothing, but stood in groups sorrowing in her sorrow.
The Captain, meanwhile, had revived, and was already on his feet looking
around upon the scene. The Hindu also had gained strength with every
throb of his heart and every breath of the air.
But suddenly a cry arose from one of the men who stood nearest the
"The ship is sinking!"
Every one started. Yes, the ship was sinking. No one had noticed it; but
the water was already within a few feet of the top. No doubt Zangorri
had been scuttling her when he rushed out of the hold at the noise of
There was nothing left but to hasten away. There was time to save
nothing. The bodies of the dead had to be left with the ship for their
tomb. In a short time they had all hurried into the boat and were
pulling away. But not too soon. For scarcely had they pulled away half a
dozen boat-lengths from the ship than the water, which had been rising
higher and higher, more rapidly every moment, rushed madly with a final
onset to secure its prey; and with a groan like that of some living
thing the ship went down.
A yell came from over the water. It rose from the Malay proa, which was
moving away as fast as the long sweeps could carry her. But the dead
were not revenged only. They were remembered. Not long after reaching
the _Falcon_ the sailors were summoned to the side which looked
toward the spot where the ship had sunk, and the solemn voice of Brandon
read the burial-service of the Church.
And as he read that service he understood the fate which he had escaped
when the ship passed Coffin Island without noticing his signal.
It was natural that a young girl who had gone through so fearful an
ordeal should for some time feel its effects. Her situation excited the
warmest sympathy of all on board the ship; and her appearance was such
as might inspire a chivalrous respect in the hearts of those rough but
kindly and sensitive sailors who had taken part in her rescue.
Her whole appearance marked her as one of no common order. There was
about her an air of aristocratic grace which inspired involuntary
respect; an elegance of manner and complete self-possession which marked
perfect breeding. Added to this, her face had something which is greater
even than beauty--or at least something without which beauty itself is
feeble--namely, character and expression. Her soul spoke out in every
lineament of her noble features, and threw around her the charm of
To such a charm as this Brandon did not seem indifferent. His usual
self-abstraction seemed to desert him for a time. The part that he had
taken in her rescue of itself formed a tie between them; but there was
another bond in the fact that he alone of all on board could associate
with her on equal terms, as a high-bred gentleman with a high-bred lady.
The Hindu had at once found occupation, for Brandon, who had seen the
stuff that was in him, offered to take him for his servant. He said that
his name was Asgeelo, but he was commonly called Cato, and preferred
that name to any other. He regarded Brandon as his saviour, with all the
superstition which Hindus can feel, and looked up to this saviour as a
superior being. The offer of employment was eagerly accepted, and Cato
at once entered upon the few duties which his situation could require on
Meanwhile the young lady remained unknown. At first she spent the
greater part of her time in her room, and only came out at meal-times,
when the sadness of her face prevented any thing except the most distant
and respectful courtesy. No one knew her name, and no one asked it. Cato
was ignorant of it. She and the old nurse had only been known to him as
the young missis and the old missis.
Brandon, roused from his indifference, did all in his power to mitigate
the gloom of this fair young creature, whom fate had thrown in his way.
He found that his attentions were not unacceptable. At length she came
out more frequently, and they became companions on the quarter-deck.
Brandon was touched by the exhibition which she had made of her
gratitude to himself. She persisted in regarding him alone as the one to
whom she owed her life, and apologized to him for her selfishness in
giving way so greatly to her grief. After a time she ventured to tell
him the story of the voyage which she had been making. She was on her
way from China to England. Her father lived in England, but she had
passed her life in Hong-Kong, having been brought up there by the old
nurse, who had accompanied her on her voyage until that fearful
She told him at different times that her father was a merchant who had
business all over the world, and that he had of late taken up his
station in his own home and sent for her.
Of her father she did not say much, and did not seem to know much. She
had never seen him. She had been in Hong-Kong ever since she could
remember. She believed, however, that she was born in England, but did
not know for certain. Her nurse had not known her till she had gone to
It was certainly a curious life, but quite natural, when a busy merchant
devotes all his thoughts to business, and but little attention to his
family. She had no mother, but thought she must have died in India. Yet
she was not sure. Of all this, however, she expected to hear when she
reached home and met her father.
By the time that she had been a month on board Brandon knew much of the
events of her simple life. He saw the strange mixture of fear and
longing with which she looked forward to a meeting with her father. He
learned that she had a brother, also, whom she had never seen, for her
father kept his son with himself. He could not help looking with
inexpressible pity on one so lovely, yet so neglected.
Otherwise, as far as mere money was concerned, she had never suffered.
Her accomplishments were numerous. She was passionately fond of music,
and was familiar with all the classic compositions. Her voice was finely
trained, for she had enjoyed the advantage of the instructions of an
Italian maestro, who had been banished, and had gone out to Hong-Kong as
band-master in the Twentieth Regiment. She could speak French fluently,
and had read almost every thing.
Now after finding out all this Brandon had not found out her name.
Embarrassments arose sometimes, which she could not help noticing, from
this very cause, and yet she said nothing about it. Brandon did not like
to ask her abruptly, since he saw that she did not respond to his hints.
So he conjectured and wondered. He thought that her name must be of the
lordliest kind, and that she for some reason wished to keep it a secret:
perhaps she was noble, and did not like to tell that name which had been
stained by the occupations of trade. All this Brandon thought.
Yet as he thought this, he was not insensible to the music of her soft,
low voice, the liquid tenderness of her eye, and the charm of her
manner. She seemed at once to confide herself to him--to own the
superiority of his nature and seek shelter in it. Circumstances threw
them exclusively into one another's way, and they found each other so
congenial that they took advantage of circumstances to the utmost.
There were others as well as Brandon who found it awkward not to have
any name by which to address her, and chief of these was the good
Captain. After calling her Ma'am and Miss indifferently for about a
month he at last determined to ask her directly; so, one day at the
dinner-table, he said:
"I most humbly beg your pardon, ma'am; but I do not know your name, and
have never had a chance to find it out. If it's no offense, perhaps you
would be so good as to tell it?"
The young lady thus addressed flushed crimson, then looked at Brandon,
who was gazing fixedly on his plate, and with visible embarrassment
said, very softly, "Beatrice."
"B. A. Treachy," said the Captain. "Ah! I hope, Miss Treachy, you will
pardon me; but I really found it so everlasting confusing."
A faint smile crossed the lips of Brandon. But Beatrice did not smile.
She looked a little frightened, and then said:
"Oh, that is only my Christian name!"
"Christian name!" said the Captain. "How can that be a Christian name?"
"My surname is--" She hesitated, and then, with an effort, pronounced
the word "Potts."
"'Potts!'" said the Captain, quickly, and with evident surprise. "Oh--
well, I hope you will excuse me."
But the face of Beatrice turned to an ashen hue as she marked the effect
which the mention of that name had produced on Brandon. He had been
looking at his plate like one involved in thought. As he heard the name
his head fell forward, and he caught at the table to steady himself. He
then rose abruptly with a cloud upon his brow, his lips firmly pressed
together, and his whole face seemingly transformed, and hurried from the
She did not see him again for a week. He pleaded illness, shut himself
in his state-room, and was seen by no one but Cato.
Beatrice could not help associating this change in Brandon with the
knowledge of her name. That name was hateful to herself. A fastidious
taste had prevented her from volunteering to tell it; and as no one
asked her directly it had not been known. And now, since she had told
it, this was the result.
For Brandon's conduct she could imagine only one cause. He had felt
shocked at such a plebeian name.
The fact that she herself hated her name, and saw keenly how
ridiculously it sounded after such a name as Beatrice, only made her
feel the more indignant with Brandon. "His own name," she thought,
bitterly, "is plebeian--not so bad as mine, it is true, yet still it is
plebeian. Why should he feel so shocked at mine?" Of course, she knew
him only as "_Mr. Wheeler_." "Perhaps he has imagined that I had
some grand name, and, learning my true one, has lost his illusion. He
formerly esteemed me. He now despises me."
Beatrice was cut to the heart; but she was too proud to show any feeling
whatever. She frequented the quarter-deck as before; though now she had
no companion except, at turns, the good-natured Captain and the mate.
The longer Brandon avoided her the more indignant she felt. Her outraged
pride made sadness impossible.
Brandon remained in his state-room for about two weeks altogether. When
at length he made his appearance on the quarter-deck he found Beatrice
there, who greeted him with a distant bow.
There was a sadness in his face as he approached and took a seat near
her which at once disarmed her, drove away all indignation, and aroused
"You have been sick," she said, kindly, and with some emotion.
"Yes," said Brandon, in a low voice, "but now that I am able to go about
again my first act is to apologize to you for my rudeness in quitting
the table so abruptly as to make it seem like a personal insult to you.
Now I hope you will believe me when I say that an insult to you from me
is impossible. Something like a spasm passed over my nervous system, and
I had to hurry to my room."
"I confess," said Beatrice, frankly, "that I thought your sudden
departure had something to do with the conversation about me. I am very
sorry indeed that I did you such a wrong; I might have known you better.
Will you forgive me?"
Brandon smiled, faintly. "You are the one who must forgive."
"But I hate my name so," burst out Beatrice.
Brandon said nothing.
"Don't you? Now confess."
"How can I--" he began.
"You do, you do!" she cried, vehemently; "but I don't care--for I hate
Brandon looked at her with a sad, weary smile, and said nothing. "You
are sick," she said; "I am thoughtless. I see that my name, in some way
or other, recalls painful thoughts. How wretched it is for me to give
pain to others!"
Brandon looked at her appealingly, and said, "You give pain? Believe me!
believe me! there is nothing but happiness where you are."
At this Beatrice looked confused and changed the conversation. There
seemed after this to be a mutual understanding between the two to avoid
the subject of her name, and although it was a constant mortification to
Beatrice, yet she believed that on his part there was no contempt for
the name, but something very different, something associated with better
They now resumed their old walks and conversations. Every day bound them
more closely to one another, and each took it for granted that the other
would be the constant companion of every hour in the day.
Both had lived unusual lives. Beatrice had much to say about her Hong-
Kong life, the Chinese, the British officers, and the festivities of
garrison life. Brandon had lived for years in Australia, and was
familiar with all the round of events which may be met with in that
country. He had been born in England, and had lived there, as has
already been mentioned, till he was almost a man, so that he had much to
say about that mother-land concerning which Beatrice felt such
curiosity. Thus they settled down again naturally and inevitably into
constant association with each other.
Whatever may have been the thoughts of Brandon during the fortnight of
his seclusion, or whatever may have been the conclusion to which he
came, he carefully refrained from the most remote hint at the home or
the prospects of Beatrice. He found her on the seas, and he was content
to take her as she was. Her name was a common one. She might be
connected with his enemy, or she might not. For his part, he did not
wish to know.
Beatrice also showed equal care in avoiding the subject. The effect
which had been produced by the mention of her name was still remembered,
and, whatever the cause may have been, both this and her own strong
dislike to it prevented her from ever making any allusion either to her
father or to any one of her family. She had no scruples, however, about
talking of her Hong-Kong life, in which one person seemed to have
figured most prominently--a man who had lived there for years, and given
her instruction in music. He was an Italian, of whom she knew nothing
whatever but his name, with the exception of the fact that he had been
unfortunate in Europe, and had come out to Hong-Kong as bandmaster of
the Twentieth Regiment. His name was Paolo Langhetti.
"Do you like music?" asked Brandon, abruptly.
"Above all things." said Beatrice, with an intensity of emphasis which
spoke of deep feeling.
"Do you play?"
"Do you sing?"
"A little. I was considered a good singer in Hong-Kong; but that is
nothing. I sang in the Cathedral. Langhetti was kind enough to praise
me; but then he was so fond of me that whatever I did was right."
Brandon was silent for a little while. "Langhetti was fond of you?" he
repeated, interrogatively, and in a voice of singular sweetness.
"Very," returned Beatrice, musingly. "He always called me 'Bice'--
sometimes 'Bicetta,' 'Bicinola,' 'Bicina;' it was his pretty Italian
way. But oh, if you could hear him play! He could make the violin speak
like a human voice. He used to think in music. He seemed to me to be
hardly human sometimes."
"And he loved to hear you sing?" said Brandon, in the same voice.
"He used to praise me," said Beatrice, meekly. "His praise used to
gratify, but it did not deceive me. I am not conceited, Mr. Wheeler."
"Would you sing for me?" asked Brandon, in accents almost of entreaty,
looking at her with an imploring expression.
Beatrice's head fell. "Not now--not yet--not here," she murmured, with a
motion of her hand. "Wait till we pass beyond this ocean. It seems
Brandon understood her tone and gesture.
But the weeks passed, and the months, and they went over the seas,
touching at Mauritius, and afterward at Cape Town, till finally they
entered the Atlantic Ocean, and sailed North. During all this time their
association was close and continuous. In her presence Brandon softened;
the sternness of his features relaxed, and the great purpose of his life
grew gradually fainter.
One evening, after they had entered the Atlantic Ocean, they were
standing by the stern of the ship looking at the waters, when Brandon
repeated his request.