Part 2 out of 10
While thus employed, a regular customer looked in for his cup of coffee.
It was the policeman who had taken Seaton for a convivial soul
GENERAL ROLLESTON'S servants made several trips to the _Proserpine,_
carrying boxes, etc.
But Helen herself clung to the house till the last moment. "Oh, papa!"
she cried, "I need all my resolution, all my good faith, to keep my word
with Arthur, and leave you. Why, why did I promise? Why am I such a slave
to my word?"
"Because," said the old general, with a voice not so firm as usual, "I
have always told you that a lady is not to be inferior to a gentleman in
any virtue except courage. I've heard my mother say so often; and I've
taught it to my Helen. And, my girl, where would be the merit of keeping
our word, if we only kept it when it cost us nothing?"
He promised to come after, in three months at furthest, and the brave
girl dried her tears as well as she could, not to add to the sadness he
fought against as gallantly as he had often fought the enemies of his
The _Proserpine_ was to sail at two o'clock. At a little before one, a
gentleman boarded her and informed the captain that he was a missionary,
the Rev. John Hazel, returning home, after a fever; and wished to take a
berth in the _Proserpine._
The mate looked him full in the face; and then told him there was very
little accommodation for passengers, and it had all been secured by White
& Co. for a young lady and her servants.
Mr. Hazel replied that his means were small and moderate accommodation
would serve him; but he must go to England without delay.
Captain Hudson put in his gracious word: "Then jump off the jetty at high
tide and swim there; no room for black coats in my ship."
Mr. Hazel looked from one to the other piteously. "Show me some mercy,
gentlemen; my very life depends on it."
"Very sorry, sir," said the mate; "but it is impossible. There's the
_Shannon,_ you can go in her."
"But she is under repairs; so I am told."
"Well, there are a hundred and fifty carpenters on to her; and she will
come out of port in our wake."
"Now, sir," said Hudson roughly, "bundle down the ship's side again if
you please; this is a busy time. Hy!--rig the whip; here's the lady
coming off to us."
The missionary heaved a deep sigh and went down into the boat that had
brought him. But he was no sooner seated than he ordered the boatmen,
somewhat peremptorily, to pull ashore as fast as they could row. His boat
met the Rollestons, father and daughter, coming out, and he turned his
pale face and eyed them as he passed. Helen Rolleston was struck with
that sorrowful countenance, and whispered her father, "That poor
clergyman has just left the ship." She made sure he had been taking leave
of some beloved one, bound for England. General Rolleston looked round,
but the boats had passed each other, and the wan face was no longer
They were soon on board and received with great obsequiousness. Helen was
shown her cabin, and, observing the minute and zealous care that had been
taken of her comfort, she said, "Somebody who loves me has been here,"
and turned her brimming eyes on her father. He looked quite puzzled; but
Father and daughter were then left alone in the cabin till the ship began
to heave her anchor (she lay just at the mouth of the harbor), and then
the boatswain was sent to give General Rolleston warning. Helen came up
with him, pale and distressed. They exchanged a last embrace and General
Rolleston went down the ship's side. Helen hung over the bulwarks and
waved her last adieu, though she could hardly see him for her tears.
At this moment a four-oared boat swept alongside, and Mr. Hazel came on
board again. He presented Hudson a written order to give the Rev. John
Hazel a passage in the small berth abreast the main hatches. It was
signed "For White & Co., James Seaton;" and was indorsed with a stamped
acknowledgment of the passage money, twenty-seven pounds.
Hudson and Wylie, the mate, put their heads together over this. The
missionary saw them consulting, and told them he had mentioned their
mysterious conduct to Messrs. White & Co., and that Mr. Seaton had
promised to stop the ship if their authority was resisted. "And I have
paid my passage money, and will not be turned out now except by force,"
said the reverend gentleman quietly.
Wylie's head was turned away from Mr. Hazel's, and on its profile a most
gloomy, vindictive look; so much so that Mr. Hazel was startled when the
man turned his front face to him with a jolly, genial air and said,
"Well, sir, the truth is, we seamen don't want passengers aboard ships of
this class; they get in our way whenever it blows a capful. However,
since you are here, make yourself as comfortable as you can."
"There, that is enough palaver," said the captain, in his offensive way.
"Hoist the parson's traps aboard; and sheer off you. Anchor's apeak."
He then gave his orders in stentorian roars; the anchor was hove up,
catted and fished; one sail went up after another, the Proserpine's head
came round, and away she bore for England with a fair wind.
General Rolleston went slowly and heavily home, and often turned his head
and looked wistfully at the ship putting out wing upon wing and carrying
off his child like a tiny prey.
To change the comparison, it was only a tender vine detached from a great
sturdy elm. Yet the tree, thus relieved of its delicate encumbrance, felt
bare; and a soft thing was gone, that, seeking protection, had bestowed
warmth; had nestled and curled between the world's cold wind and that
As soon as he got home he lighted a cigar and set to work to console
himself by reflecting that it was but a temporary parting, since he had
virtually resigned his post and was only waiting in Sydney till he should
have handed his papers in order over to his successor and settled one or
two private matters that could not take three months.
When he had smoked his cigar and reasoned away his sense of desolation,
Nature put out her hand and took him by the breast and drew him gently
upstairs to take a look at his beloved daughter's bedroom, by way of
seeing the last of her.
The room had one window looking south and another west; the latter
commanded a view of the sea. General Rolleston looked down at the floor,
littered with odds and ends--the dead leaves of dress that fall about a
lady in the great process of packing--and then gazed through the window
at the flying _Proserpine._
He sighed and lighted another cigar. Before he had half finished it he
stooped down and took up a little bow of ribbon that lay on the ground
and put it quietly in his bosom. In this act he was surprised by Sarah
Wilson, who had come up to sweep all such waifs and strays into her own
"La, sir," said she, rather crossly, "why didn't you tell me, and I'd
have tidied the room. It is all hugger-mugger, with miss a-leaving."
And with this she went to the washstand to begin. General Rolleston's eye
followed her movements, and he observed the water in one of the basins
was rather red. "What!" said he, "has she had an accident; cut her
"No, sir," said Wilson.
"Her nose been bleeding, then?"
"Not from her finger--nor--? Let me look."
He examined the basin narrowly, and his countenance fell.
"Good Heavens!" said he. "I wish I had seen this before; she should not
have gone to-day. Was it the agitation of parting?"
"Oh, no, sir," said Wilson; "don't go to fancy that. Why, it is not the
first time by a many."
"Not the first!" faltered Rolleston. "In Heaven's name, why was I never
told of this?"
"Indeed, sir," said Wilson, eagerly, "you must not blame me, sir. It was
as much as my place was worth to tell you. Miss is a young lady that will
be obeyed; and she gave me strict orders not to let you know. But she is
gone now. And I always thought it was a pity she kept it so dark; but, as
I was saying, sir, she _would_ be obeyed."
"Kept what so dark?"
"Why, sir, her spitting of blood at times; and turning so thin by what
she used to be, poor dear young lady."
General Rolleston groaned aloud. "And this she hid from me; from me!" He
said no more, but kept looking bewildered and helpless, first at the
basin discolored by his daughter's blood, and then at the _Proserpine,_
that was carrying her away, perhaps forever; and, at the double sight,
his iron features worked with cruel distress; anguish so mute and male
that the woman Wilson, though not good for much, sat down and shed
genuine tears of pity.
But he summoned all his fortitude, told Wilson he could not say she was
to blame, she had but obeyed her mistress's orders; and we must all obey
orders. "But now," said he, "it is me you ought to obey. Tell me, does
any doctor attend her?"
"None ever comes here, sir. But, one day, she let fall that she went to
Dr. Valentine, him that has the name for disorders of the chest."
In a very few minutes General Rolleston was at Dr. Valentine's house, and
asked him bluntly what was the matter with his daughter.
"Disease of the lungs," said the doctor simply.
The unhappy father then begged the doctor to give him his real opinion as
to the degree of danger; and Dr. Valentine told him, with some feeling,
that the case was not desperate, but was certainly alarming.
Remonstrated with for letting the girl undertake a sea voyage, he replied
rather evasively at first; that the air of Sydney disagreed with his
patient, and a sea voyage was more likely to do her good than harm,
provided the weather was not downright tempestuous.
"And who is to insure me against that?' asked the afflicted father.
"Why, it is a good time of year," said Dr. Valentine; "and delay might
have been fatal." Then, after a slight hesitation, "The fact is, sir,"
said he, "I gathered from her servant that a husband awaits Miss
Rolleston in England; and I must tell you, what of course I did not tell
her, that the sooner she enters the married state the better. In fact, it
is her one chance, in my opinion."
General Rolleston pressed the doctor's hand, and went away without
Only he hurried his matters of business; and took his passage in the
It was in something of a warrior's spirit that he prepared to follow his
daughter and protect her; but often he sighed at the invisible, insidious
nature of the foe, and wished it could have been a fair fight of bullets
and bayonets, and his own the life at stake.
The _Shannon_ was soon ready for sea.
But the gentleman who was to take General Rolleston's post met with
something better, and declined it.
General Rolleston, though chafing with impatience, had to give up going
home in the _Shannon._ But an influential friend, Mr. Adolphus Savage,
was informed of his difficulty, and obtained a year's leave of absence
for him, and permission to put young Savage in as his _locum tenens;_
which, by the by, is how politic men in general serve their friends.
The _Shannon_ sailed, but not until an incident had occurred that must
not be entirely passed over. Old Mr. White called on General Rolleston
with a long face, and told him James Seaton had disappeared.
"Not a shilling. Indeed, the last thing the poor fellow did was to give
us a proof of his honesty. It seems a passenger paid him twenty-seven
pounds for a berth in the _Proserpine,_ just before she sailed. Well,
sir, he might have put this in his pocket, and nobody been the wiser. But
no, he entered the transaction, and the numbers of the notes, and left
the notes themselves in an envelope addressed to me. What I am most
afraid of is, that some harm has come to him, poor lad."
"What day did he disappear?"
"The 11th of November."
"The day my daughter sailed for England," said General Rolleston,
"Was it, sir? Yes, I remember. She went in the _Proserpine."_
General Rolleston knitted his brows in silence for some time; then he
said, "I'll set the detectives on his track."
"Not to punish him, general. We do not want him punished."
"To punish him, protect him, or avenge him, as the case may require," was
the reply, uttered very gravely.
Mr. White took his leave. General Rolleston rang the bell, and directed
his servant to go for Hexham, the detective.
He then rang the bell again, and sent for Sarah Wilson. He put some
searching questions to this woman; and his interrogatory had hardly
concluded when Hexham was announced. General Rolleston dismissed the
girl, and, looking now very grave indeed, asked the detective whether he
remembered James Seaton.
"That I do, sir."
"He has levanted."
"Taken much, sir?"
"Not a shilling."
"Gone to the diggings?"
"That you must find out."
"What day was he first missed, sir?"
"Eleventh of November. The very day Miss Rolleston left."
Hexham took out a little greasy notebook and examined it. "Eleventh of
November," said he, "then I almost think I have got a clew, sir; but I
shall know more when I have had a word with two parties." With this he
But he came again at night and brought General Rolleston some positive
information; with this, however, we shall not trouble the reader just
here. For General Rolleston himself related it, and the person to whom he
did relate it, and the attendant circumstances, gave it a peculiar
Suffice it to say here that General Rolleston went on board the _Shannon_
charged with curious information about James Seaton; and sailed for
England in the wake of the _Proserpine,_ and about two thousand miles
WARDLAW was at home before this with his hands full of business; and it
is time the reader should be let into one secret at least, which this
merchant had contrived to conceal from the City of London, and from his
own father, and from every human creature, except one poor, simple,
devoted soul, called Michael Penfold.
There are men, who seem stupid, yet generally go right; there are also
clever men, who appear to have the art of blundering wisely--_"sapienter
descendunt in infernum,"_ as the ancients have it; and some of these
latter will even lie on their backs, after a fall, and lift up their
voices, and prove to you that in the nature of things they ought to have
gone up, and their being down is monstrous; illusory.
Arthur Wardlaw was not quite so clever as all that. Still he misconducted
the business of the firm with perfect ability from the first month he
entered on it. Like those ambitious railways which ruin a goodly trunk
with excess of branches, not to say twigs, he set to work extending, and
extending, and sent the sap of the healthy old concern flying to the ends
of the earth.
He was not only too ambitious, and not cool enough; he was also unlucky,
or under a curse, or something; for things well conceived broke down, in
his hands, under petty accidents. And, besides, his new correspondents
and agents hit him cruelly hard. Then what did he? Why, shot good money
after bad, and lost both. He could not retrench, for his game was
concealment; his father was kept in the dark, and drew his four thousand
a year, as usual, and, upon any hesitation in that respect, would have
called in an accountant and wound up the concern. But this tax upon the
receipts, though inconvenient, was a trifle compared with the series of
heavy engagements that were impending. The future was so black that
Wardlaw junior was sore tempted to realize twenty thousand pounds, which
a man in his position could easily do, and fly the country. But this
would have been to give up Helen Rolleston; and he loved her too well.
His brain was naturally subtle and fertile in expedients; so he brought
all its powers to bear on a double problem--how to marry Helen and
restore the concern he had mismanaged to its former state. For this a
large sum of money was needed, not less than ninety thousand pounds.
The difficulties were great; but he entered on this project with two
advantages. In the first place, he enjoyed excellent credit; in the
second, he was not disposed to be scrupulous. He had been cheated several
times; and nothing undermines feeble rectitude more than that. Such a man
as Wardlaw is apt to establish a sort of account current with humanity.
"Several fellow-creatures have cheated me. Well, I must get as much back,
by hook or by crook, from several fellow-creatures."
After much hard thought he conceived his double master-stroke. And it was
to execute this he went out to Australia.
We have seen that he persuaded Helen Rolleston to come to England and be
married; but, as to the other part of his project, that is a matter for
the reader to watch, as it develops itself.
His first act of business, on reaching England, was to insure the
freights of the _Proserpine_ and the _Shannon._
He sent Michael Penfold to Lloyds', with the requisite vouchers,
including the receipts of the gold merchants. Penfold easily insured the
_Shannon,_ whose freight was valued at only six thousand pounds. The
_Proserpine,_ with her cargo, and a hundred and thirty thousand pounds of
specie to boot, was another matter. Some underwriters had an objection to
specie, being subject to theft as well as shipwreck; other underwriters,
applied to by Penfold, acquiesced; others called on Wardlaw himself, to
ask a few questions, and he replied to them courteously, but with a
certain nonchalance, treating it as an affair which might be big to them,
but was not of particular importance to a merchant doing business on his
To one underwriter, Condell, with whom he was on somewhat intimate terms,
he said, "I wish I could insure the _Shannon_ at her value; but that is
impossible. The City of London could not do it. The _Proserpine_ brings
me some cases of specie, but my true treasure is on board the _Shannon._
She carries my bride, sir."
"Oh, indeed! Miss Rolleston."
"Ah, I remember; you have seen her. Then you will not be surprised at a
proposal I shall make you. Underwrite the _Shannon_ a million pounds, to
be paid by you if harm befalls my Helen. You need not look so astonished;
I was only joking; you gentlemen deal with none but substantial values;
and, as for me, a million would no more compensate me for losing her,
than for losing my own life."
The tears were in his pale eyes as he said these words; and Mr. Condell
eyed him with sympathy. But he soon recovered himself, and was the man of
business again. "Oh, the specie on board the _Proserpine?_ Well, I was in
Australia, you know, and bought that specie myself of the merchants whose
names are attached to the receipts. I deposited the cases with White &
Co., at Sydney. Penfold will show you the receipt. I instructed Joseph
Wylie, mate of the _Proserpine,_ and a trustworthy person, to see them
stowed away in the _Proserpine,_ by White & Co. Hudson is a good seaman;
and the _Proserpine_ a new ship, built by Mare. We have nothing to fear
but the ordinary perils of the sea."
"So one would think," said Mr. Condell, and took his leave; but, at the
door he hesitated, and then, looking down a little sheepishly, said, "Mr.
Wardlaw, may I offer you a piece of advice?"
Then, double the insurance on the _Shannon,_ if you can.
With these words he slipped out, evidently to avoid questions he did not
intend to answer.
Wardlaw stared after him, stupidly at first, and then stood up and put
his hand to his head in a sort of amazement. Then he sat down again, ashy
pale, and with the dew on his forehead, and muttered faintly,
"Double--the insurance--of the--_Shannon!"_
Men who walk in crooked paths are very subject to such surprises; doomed,
like Ahab, to be pierced, through the joints of their armor, by random
shafts; by words uttered in one sense, but conscience interprets them in
It took a good many underwriters to insure the _Proserpine's_ freight;
but the business was done at last.
Then Wardlaw, who had feigned insouciance so admirably in that part of
his interview with Condell, went, without losing an hour, and raised a
large sum of money on the insured freight, to meet the bills that were
coming due for the gold (for he had paid for most of it in paper at short
dates), and also other bills that were approaching maturity. This done,
he breathed again, safe for a month or two from everything short of a
general panic, and full of hope from his coming master-stroke. But two
months soon pass when a man has a flock of kites in the air. Pass? They
fly. So now he looked out anxiously for his Australian ships; and went to
Lloyds' every day to hear if either had been seen or heard of by
steamers, or by faster vessels than themselves.
And, though Condell had underwritten the _Proserpine_ to the tune of
eight thousand pounds, yet still his mysterious words rang strangely in
the merchant's ears, and made him so uneasy that he employed a discreet
person to sound Condell as to what he meant by "double the insurance of
It turned out to be the simplest affair in the world; Condell had secret
information that the _Shannon_ was in bad repairs, so he had advised his
friend to insure her heavily. For the same reason, he declined to
underwrite her freight himself.
With respect to those ships, our readers already know two things, of
which Wardlaw himself, _nota bene,_ had no idea; namely, that the
_Shannon_ had sailed last, instead of first, and that Miss Rolleston was
not on board of her, but in the _Proserpine,_ two thousand miles ahead.
To that, your superior knowledge, we, posters of the sea and land, are
about to make a large addition, and relate things strange, but true.
While that anxious and plotting merchant strains his eyes seaward, trying
hard to read the future, we carry you, in a moment of time, across the
Pacific, and board the leading vessel, the good ship _Proserpine,_
The ship left Sydney with a fair wind, but soon encountered adverse
weather, and made slow progress, being close hauled, which was her worst
point of sailing. She pitched a good deal, and that had a very ill effect
on Miss Rolleston. She was not seasick, but thoroughly out of sorts. And,
in one week, became perceptibly paler and thinner than when she started.
The young clergyman, Mr. Hazel, watched her with respectful anxiety, and
this did not escape her feminine observation. She noted quietly that
those dark eyes of his followed her with a mournful tenderness, but
withdrew their gaze when she looked at him. Clearly, he was interested in
her, but had no desire to intrude upon her attention. He would bring up
the squabs for her, and some of his own wraps, when she stayed on deck,
and was prompt with his arm when the vessel lurched; and showed her those
other little attentions which are called for on board ship, but without a
word. Yet, when she thanked him in the simplest and shortest way, his
great eyes flashed with pleasure, and the color mounted to his very
Engaged young ladies are, for various reasons, more sociable with the
other sex than those who are still on the universal mock-defensive. A
ship, like a distant country, thaws even English reserve, and women in
general are disposed to admit ecclesiastics to certain privileges. No
wonder then that Miss Rolleston, after a few days, met Mr. Hazel
half-way; and they made acquaintance on board the _Proserpine,_ in
monosyllables at first; but, the ice once fairly broken, the intercourse
of mind became rather rapid.
At first it was a mere intellectual exchange, but one very agreeable to
Miss Rolleston; for a fine memory, and omnivorous reading from his very
boyhood, with the habit of taking notes, and reviewing them, had made Mr.
Hazel a walking dictionary, and a walking essayist if required.
But when it came to something which, most of all, the young lady had
hoped from this temporary acquaintance, viz., religious instruction, she
found him indeed as learned on that as on other topics, but cold and
devoid of unction. So much so, that one day she said to him, "I can
hardly believe you have ever been a missionary." But at that he seemed so
distressed that she was sorry for him, and said, sweetly, "Excuse me, Mr.
Hazel, my remark was in rather bad taste, I fear."
"Not at all," said he. "Of course I am unfit for missionary work, or I
should not be here."
Miss Rolleston took a good look at him, but said nothing. However, his
reply and her perusal of his countenance satisfied her that he was a man
with very little petty vanity and petty irritability.
One day they were discoursing of gratitude; and Mr. Hazel said he had a
poor opinion of those persons who speak of the burden of gratitude, and
make a fuss about being "laid under an obligation."
"As for me," said he, "I have owed such a debt, and found the sense of it
"But perhaps you were always hoping to make a return," said Helen.
"That I was. Hoping against hope."
"Do you think people are grateful, in general?"
"No, Miss Rolleston, I do not."
"Well, I think they are. To me at least. Why, I have experienced
gratitude even in a convict. It was a poor man, who had been transported,
for something or other, and he begged papa to take him for his gardener.
Papa did, and he was so grateful that, do you know, he suspected our
house was to be robbed, and he actually watched in the garden night after
night. And, what do you think? the house was attacked by a whole gang;
but poor Mr. Seaton confronted them and shot one, and was wounded
cruelly; but he beat them off for us; and was not that gratitude?"
While she was speaking so earnestly, Mr. Hazel's blood seemed to run
through his veins like heavenly fire, but he said nothing, and the lady
resumed with gentle fervor, "Well, we got him a clerk's place in a
shipping-office, and heard no more of him; but he did not forget us; my
cabin here was fitted up with every comfort and every delicacy. I thanked
papa for it; but he looked so blank I saw directly he knew nothing about
it, and, now I think of it, it was Mr. Seaton. I am positive it was. Poor
fellow! And I should not even know him if I saw him."
Mr. Hazel observed, in a low voice, that Mr. Seaton's conduct did not
seem wonderful to him. "Still," said he, "one is glad to find there is
some good left even in a criminal."
"A criminal!" cried Helen Rolleston, firing up. "Pray, who says he was a
criminal? Mr. Hazel, once for all, no friend of mine ever deserves such a
name as that. A friend of mine may commit some great error or imprudence;
but that is all. The poor grateful soul was never guilty of any downright
wickedness. _That stands to reason."_
Mr. Hazel did not encounter this feminine logic with his usual ability;
he muttered something or other, with a trembling lip, and left her so
abruptly that she asked herself whether she had inadvertently said
anything that could have offended him; and awaited an explanation. But
none came. The topic was never revived by Mr. Hazel; and his manner, at
their next meeting, showed he liked her none the worse that she stood up
for her friends.
The wind steady from the west for two whole days, and the _Proserpine_
showed her best sailing qualities, and ran four hundred and fifty miles
in that time.
Then came a dead calm, and the sails flapped lazily and the masts
described an arc; and the sun broiled; and the sailors whistled; and the
captain drank; and the mate encouraged him.
During this calm Miss Rolleston fell downright ill, and quitted the deck.
Then Mr. Hazel was very sad; borrowed all the books in the ship and read
them, and took notes; and when he had done this he was at leisure to read
men, and so began to study Hiram Hudson, Joseph Wylie, and others, and
take a few notes about them.
From these we select some that are better worth the reader's attention
than anything we could relate in our own persons at this stagnant part of
PASSAGES FROM MR. HAZEL'S DIARY.
"CHARACTERS ON BOARD THE 'PROSERPINE.'
"There are two sailors, messmates, who have formed an antique friendship;
their names are John Welch and Samuel Cooper. Welch is a very able seaman
and a chatterbox. Cooper is a good sailor, but very silent; only what he
does say is much to the purpose.
"The gabble of Welch is agreeable to the silent Cooper; and Welch admires
"I asked Welch what made him like Cooper so much. And he said, 'Why, you
see, sir, he is my messmate, for one thing, and a seaman that knows his
work; and then he has been well eddycated, and he knows when to hold his
tongue, does Sam.'
"I asked Cooper why he was so fond of Welch. He only grunted in an uneasy
way at first; but, when I pressed for a reply, he let out two
words--'Capital company'; and got away from me.
"Their friendship, though often roughly expressed, is really a tender and
touching sentiment. I think either of these sailors would bare his back
and take a dozen lashes in place of his messmate. I too once thought I
had made such a friend. Eheu!
"Both Cooper and Welch seem, by their talk, to consider the ship a living
creature. Cooper chews. Welch only smokes, and often lets his pipe out;
he is so voluble.
"Captain Hudson is quite a character, or, I might say, two characters;
for he is one man when he is sober, and another when he is the worse for
liquor; and that, I am sorry to see, is very often. Captain Hudson,
sober, is a rough, bearish seaman, with a quick, experienced eye, that
takes in every rope in the ship, as he walks up and down his
quarter-deck. He either evades or bluntly declines conversation, and
gives his whole mind to sailing his ship.
"Captain Hudson, drunk, is a garrulous man, who seems to have drifted
back into the past. He comes up to you and talks of his own accord, and
always about himself, and what he did fifteen or twenty years since. He
forgets whatever has occurred half an hour ago; and his eye, which was an
eagle's, is now a mole's. He no longer sees what his sailors are doing
alow or aloft; to be sure he no longer cares; his present ship may take
care of herself while he is talking of his past ones. But the surest
indicia of inebriety in Hudson are these two. First, his nose is red.
Secondly, he discourses upon a seaman's _duty to his employers._ Ebrius
rings the changes on his 'duty to his employers' till drowsiness attacks
his hearers. _Cicero de officiis_ was all very well at a certain period
of one's life, but _bibulus nauta de officiis_ is rather too much.
"N. B.--Except when his nose is red not a word about his 'duty to his
employers.' That phrase, like a fine lady, never ventures into the
morning air. It is purely post-prandial, and sacred to occasions when he
is utterly neglecting his duty to his employers, and to everybody else.
"All this is ridiculous enough, but somewhat alarming. To think that
_her_ precious life should be intrusted to the care and skill of so
unreliable a captain!
"Joseph Wylie, the mate, is less eccentric but even more remarkable. He
is one of those powerfully built fellows whom Nature, one would think,
constructed to gain all their ends by force and directness. But no such
thing; he goes about as softly as a cat; is always popping out of holes
and corners; and I can see he watches me and tries to hear what I say to
her. He is civil to me when I speak to him; yet I notice he avoids me
quietly. Altogether, there is something about him that puzzles me. Why
was he so reluctant to let me on board as a passenger? Why did he tell a
downright falsehood? For he said there was no room for me; yet, even now,
there are two cabins vacant, and he has taken possession of them.
"The mate of this ship has several barrels of spirits in his cabin, or
rather cabins, and it is he who makes the captain drunk. I learned this
from one of the boys. This looks ugly. I fear Wylie is a bad, designing
man, who wishes to ruin the captain, and so get his place. But, meantime,
the ship might be endangered by this drunkard's misconduct. I shall watch
Wylie closely, and perhaps put the captain on his guard against this
"Last night, a breeze got up about sunset, and H. R. came on deck for
half an hour. I welcomed her as calmly as I could: but I felt my voice
tremble and my heart throb. She told me the voyage tired her much; but it
was the last she should have to make. How strange, how hellish (God
forgive me for saying so!) it seems that _she_ should love _him._ But,
does she love him? Can she love him? Could she love him if she knew all?
Know him she shall before she marries him. For the present, be still, my
"She soon went below and left me desolate. I wandered all about the ship,
and, at last, I came upon the inseparables, Welch and Cooper. They were
squatted on the deck, and Welch's tongue was going as usual. He was
talking about this Wylie, and saying that, in all his ships, he had never
known such a mate as this; why, the captain was under his thumb, he then
gave a string of captains, each of whom would have given his mate a round
dozen at the gangway, if he had taken so much on him as this one does.
"'Grog!' suggested Cooper, in extenuation.
"Welch admitted Wylie was liberal with that, and friendly enough with the
men; but, still, he preferred to see a ship commanded by the captain, and
not by a lubber like Wylie.
"I expressed some surprise at this term, and said I had envied Wylie's
nerves in a gale of wind we encountered early in the voyage.
"The talking sailor explained, 'In course, he has been to sea afore this,
and weathered many a gale. But so has the cook. That don't make a man a
sailor. You ask him how to send down a to'-gallant yard or gammon a
bowsprit, or even mark a lead line, and he'll stare at ye like Old Nick,
when the angel caught him with the red-hot tongs, and questioned him out
of the Church Catechism. Ask Sam there if ye don't believe me. Sam, what
do you think of this Wylie for a seaman?'
"Cooper could not afford anything so precious, in his estimate of things,
as a word; but he lifted a great brawny hand, and gave a snap with his
finger and thumb that disposed of the mate's pretensions to seamanship
more expressively than words could have done it.
"The breeze has freshened, and the ship glides rapidly through the water,
bearing us all homeward. H. R. has resumed her place upon the deck; and
all seems bright again. I ask myself how we existed without the sight of
"This morning the wind shifted to the southwest; the captain surprised us
by taking in sail. But his sober eye had seen something more than ours;
for at noon it blew a gale, and by sunset it was deemed prudent to bring
the ship's head to the wind, and we are now lying to. The ship lurches,
and the wind howls through the bare rigging; but she rides buoyantly, and
no danger is apprehended.
"Last night, as I lay in my cabin, unable to sleep, I heard some heavy
blows strike the ship's side repeatedly, causing quite a vibration. I
felt alarmed, and went out to tell the captain. But I was obliged to go
on my hands and knees, such was the force of the wind. Passing the mate's
cabin, I heard sounds that made me listen acutely; and I then found the
blows were being struck inside the ship. I got to the captain and told
him. 'Oh,' said he, 'ten to one it's the mate nailing down his chests, or
the like.' But I assured him the blows struck the side of the ship, and,
at my earnest request, he came out and listened. He swore a great oath,
and said the lubber would be through the ship's side. He then tried the
cabin door, but it was locked.
"The sounds ceased directly.
"We called to the mate, but received no reply for a long time. At last
Wylie came out of the gun-room, looking rather pale, and asked what was
"I told him he ought to know best, for the blows were heard where he had
just come from.
"'Blows!' said he; 'I believe you. Why, a tierce of butter had got
adrift, and was bumping up and down the hold like thunder.' He then asked
us whether that was what we had disturbed him for, entered his cabin, and
almost slammed the door in our faces.
"I remarked to the captain on his disrespectful conduct. The captain was
civil, and said I was right; he was a cross-grained, unmanageable brute,
and he wished he was out of the ship. 'But you see, sir, he has got the
ear of the merchant ashore; and so I am obliged to hold a candle to the
Devil, as the saying is.' He then fired a volley of oaths and abuse at
the offender; and, not to encourage foul language, I retired to my cabin.
"The wind declined toward daybreak, and the ship recommenced her voyage
at 8 A. M.; but under treble reefed topsails and reefed courses.
"I caught the captain and mate talking together in the friendliest way
possible. That Hudson is a humbug; there is some mystery between him and
"To-day H. R. was on deck for several hours, conversing sweetly and
looking like the angel she is. But happiness soon flies from me; a
steamer came in sight, bound for Sydney. She signaled us to heave to, and
send a boat. This was done, and the boat brought back a letter for her.
It seems they took us for the _Shannon,_ in which ship she was expected.
"The letter was from _him._ How her cheek flushed and her eye beamed as
she took it! And, oh, the sadness, the agony, that stood beside her
"I left the deck; I could not have contained myself. What a thing is
wealth! By wealth, that wretch can stretch out his hand across the ocean,
and put a letter into her hand under my very eye. Away goes all that I
have gained by being near her while he is far away. He is not in England
now--he is here. His odious presence has driven me from her. Oh, that I
could be a child again, or in my grave, to get away from this Hell of
Love and Hate."
At this point, we beg leave to take the narrative into our own hands
Mr. Hazel actually left the deck to avoid the sight of Helen Rolleston's
flushed cheek and beaming eyes, reading Arthur Wardlaw's letter.
And here we may as well observe that he retired not merely because the
torture was hard to bear. He had some disclosures to make, on reaching
England; but his good sense told him this was not the time or the place
to make them, nor Helen Rolleston the person to whom, in the first
instance, they ought to be made.
While he tries to relieve his swelling heart by putting its throbs on
paper (and, in truth, this is some faint relief, for want of which many a
less unhappy man than Hazel has gone mad), let us stay by the lady's
side, and read her letter with her.
"RUSSELL SQUARE, Dec. 15, 1865.
"MY DEAR LOVE-- Hearing that the _Antelope_ steam-packet was going to
Sydney, by way of Cape Horn, I have begged the captain, who is under some
obligations to me, to keep a good lookout for the _Shannon,_ homeward
bound, and board her with these lines, weather permitting.
"Of course the chances are you will not receive them at sea; but still
you possibly may; and my heart is so full of you, I seize any excuse for
overflowing; and then I picture to myself that bright face reading an
unexpected letter in mid-ocean, and so I taste beforehand the greatest
pleasure my mind can conceive--the delight of giving you pleasure, my own
"News, I have little. You know how deeply and devotedly you are
beloved--know it so well that I feel words are almost wasted in repeating
it Indeed, the time, I hope, is at hand when the word 'love' will hardly
be mentioned between us. For my part, I think it will be too visible in
every act, and look, and word of mine, to need repetition. We do not
speak much about the air we live in. We breathe it, and speak with it,
not of it.
"I suppose all lovers are jealous. I think I should go mad if you were to
give me a rival; but then I do not understand that ill-natured jealousy
which would rob the beloved object of all affections but the one. I know
my Helen loves her father--loves him, perhaps, as well, or better, than
she does me. Well, in spite of that, I love him too. Do you know, I never
see that erect form, that model of courage and probity, come into a room,
but I say to myself, 'Here comes my benefactor; but for this man there
would be no Helen in the world.' Well, dearest, an unexpected
circumstance has given me a little military influence (these things do
happen in the City); and I really believe that, what with his
acknowledged merits (I am secretly informed a very high personage said,
the other day, he had not received justice), and the influence I speak
of, a post will shortly be offered to your father that will enable him to
live, henceforth, in England, with comfort, I might say, affluence.
Perhaps he might live with us. That depends upon himself.
"Looking forward to this, and my own still greater happiness, diverts my
mind awhile from the one ever-pressing anxiety. But, alas! it will
return. By this time my Helen is on the seas--the terrible, the
treacherous, the cruel seas, that spare neither beauty nor virtue, nor
the longing hearts at home. I have conducted this office for some years,
and thought I knew care and anxiety. But I find I knew neither till now.
"I have two ships at sea, the _Shannon_ and the _Proserpine._ The
_Proserpine_ carries eighteen chests of specie, worth a hundred and
thirty thousand pounds. I don't care one straw whether she sinks or
swims. But the _Shannon_ carries my darling; and every gust at night
awakens me, and every day I go into the great room at Lloyd's and watch
the anemometer. O, God! be merciful, and bring my angel safe to me! O,
God! be just, and strike her not for my offenses!
"Besides the direct perils of the sea are some others you might escape by
prudence. Pray avoid the night air, for my sake, who could not live if
any evil befell you; and be careful in your diet. You were not looking so
well as usual when I left. Would I had words to make you know your own
value. Then you would feel it a _duty_ to be prudent.
"But I must not sadden you with my fears; let me turn to my hopes. How
bright they are! what joy, what happiness, is sailing toward me, nearer
and nearer every day! I ask myself what am I that such paradise should be
"My love, when we are one, shall we share every thought, or shall I keep
commerce, speculation, and its temptations away from your pure spirit?
Sometimes I think I should like to have neither thought nor occupation
unshared by you; and that you would purify trade itself by your contact;
at other times I say to myself, 'Oh, never soil that angel with your
miserable business; but go home to her as if you were going from earth to
heaven, for a few blissful hours.' But you shall decide this question,
and every other.
"Must I close this letter? Must I say no more, though I have scarcely
"Yes, I will end, since, perhaps, you will never see it.
"When I have sealed it, I mean to hold it in my clasped hands, and so
pray the Almighty to take it safe to you, and to bring you safe to him
who can never know peace nor joy till he sees you once more.
"Your devoted and anxious lover,
Helen Rolleston read this letter more than once. She liked it none the
less for being disconnected and unbusiness-like. She had seen her
Arthur's business letters; models of courteous conciseness. She did not
value such compositions. This one she did. She smiled over it, all
beaming and blushing; she kissed it, and read it again, and sat with it
in her lap.
But by and by her mood changed, and, when Mr. Hazel ventured upon deck
again, he found her with her forehead sinking on her extended arm, and
the lax hand of that same arm holding the letter. She was crying.
The whole drooping attitude was so lovely, so feminine, yet so sad, that
Hazel stood irresolute, looking wistfully at her.
She caught sight of him, and, by a natural impulse, turned gently away,
as if to hide her tears. But the next moment she altered her mind, and
said, with a quiet dignity that came naturally to her at times, "Why
should I hide my care from you, sir? Mr. Hazel, may I speak to you _as a
"Certainly," said Mr. Hazel, in a somewhat faint voice.
She pointed to a seat, and he sat down near her.
She was silent for some time; her lip quivered a little; she was
struggling inwardly for that decent composure which on certain occasions
distinguishes the lady from the mere woman; and it was with a pretty firm
voice she said what follows:
"I am going to tell you a little secret; one I have kept from my own
father. It is--that I have not very long to live."
Her hazel eye rested calmly on his face while she said these words
He received them with amazement at first; amazement that soon deepened
into horror. "What do you mean?" he gasped. "What words are these?"
"Thank you for minding so much," said she sweetly. "I will tell you. I
have fits of coughing, not frequent, but violent; and then blood very
often comes from my lungs. That is a bad sign, you know. I have been so
for four months now, and I am a good deal wasted; my hand used to be very
plump; look at it now. Poor Arthur!"
She turned away her head to drop a gentle, unselfish tear or two; and
Hazel stared with increasing alarm at the lovely but wasted hand she
still held out to him, and glanced, too, at Arthur Wardlaw's letter, held
slightly by the beloved fingers.
He said nothing, and, when she looked round, again, he was pale and
trembling. The revelation was so sudden.
"Pray be calm, sir," said she. "We need speak of this no more. But now, I
think, you will not be surprised that I come to you for religious advice
and consolation, short as our acquaintance is."
"I am in no condition to give them," said Hazel, in great agitation. "I
can think of nothing but how to save you. May Heaven help me, and give me
wisdom for that."
"This is idle," said Helen Rolleston, gently but firmly. "I have had the
best advice for months, and I get worse; and, Mr. Hazel, I shall never be
better. So aid me to bow to the will of Heaven. Sir, I do not repine at
leaving the world; but it does grieve me to think how my departure will
affect those whose happiness is very, very dear to me."
She then looked at the letter, blushed, and hesitated a moment; but ended
by giving it to him whom she had applied to as her religious adviser.
"Oblige me by reading that. And, when you have, I think you will grant me
a favor I wish to ask you. Poor fellow! so full of hopes that I am doomed
She rose to hide her emotion, and left Arthur Wardlaw's letter in the
hands of him who loved her, if possible, more devotedly than Arthur
Wardlaw did; and she walked the deck pensively, little dreaming how
strange a thing she had done.
As for Hazel, he was in a situation poignant with agony; only the heavy
blow that had just fallen had stunned and benumbed him. He felt a natural
repugnance to read this letter. But she had given him no choice. He read
it. In reading it he felt a mortal sickness come over him, but he
persevered; he read it carefully to the end, and he was examining the
signature keenly, when Miss Rolleston rejoined him, and, taking the
letter from him, placed it in her bosom before his eyes.
"He loves me; does he not?" said she wistfully.
Hazel looked half stupidly in her face for a moment; then, with a candor
which was part of his character, replied, doggedly, "Yes, the man who
wrote that letter loves you."
"Then you can pity him, and I may venture to ask you the favor to-- It
will be a bitter grief and disappointment to him. Will you break it to
him as gently as you can; will you say that his Helen-- Will you tell him
what I have told you?"
This point-blank refusal surprised Helen Rolleston; all the more that it
was uttered with a certain sullenness, and even asperity, she had never
seen till then in this gentle clergyman.
It made her fear she had done wrong in asking it; and she looked ashamed
However, the explanation soon followed.
"My business," said he, "is to prolong your precious life; and making up
your mind to die is not the way. You shall have no encouragement in such
weakness from me. Pray let me be your physician."
"Thank you," said Helen, coldly; "I have my own physician."
"No doubt; but he shows me his incapacity by allowing you to live on
pastry and sweets, things that are utter poison to you. Disease of the
lungs is curable, but not by drugs and unwholesome food."
"Mr. Hazel," said the lady, "we will drop the subject, if you please. It
has taken an uninteresting turn."
"To you, perhaps; but not to me."
"Excuse me, sir; if you took that real friendly interest in me and my
condition I was vain enough to think you might, you would hardly have
refused me the first favor I ever asked you; and," drawing herself up
proudly, "need I say the last?"
"You are unjust," said Hazel, sadly; "unjust beyond endurance. I refuse
you anything that is for your good? I, who would lay down my life with
unmixed joy for you?"
"Mr. Hazel!" And she drew back from him with a haughty stare.
"Learn the truth why I cannot, and will not, talk to Arthur Wardlaw about
you. For one thing, he is my enemy, and I am his."
"His enemy? my Arthur's!"
"His mortal enemy. And I am going to England to clear an innocent man,
and expose Arthur Wardlaw's guilt."
"Indeed," said Helen, with lofty contempt. "And pray what has he done to
"He had a benefactor, a friend; he entrapped him into cashing a note of
hand, which he must have known or suspected to be forged; then basely
deserted him at the trial, and blasted his friend's life forever."
"Arthur Wardlaw did that?"
"He did; and that very James Seaton was his victim."
Her delicate nostrils were expanded with wrath, and her eyes flashed
fire. "Mr. Hazel, you are a liar and a slanderer."
The man gave a kind of shudder, as if cold steel had passed through his
heart. But his fortitude was great; he said doggedly, "Time will show.
Time, and a jury of our countrymen."
"I will be his witness. I will say, this is the malice of a rival. Yes,
sir, you forget that you have let out the motive of this wicked slander.
You love me yourself; Heaven forgive me for profaning the name of love!"
"Heaven forgive you for blaspheming the purest, fondest love that ever
one creature laid at the feet of another. Yes, Helen Rolleston, I love
you; and will save you from the grave and from the villain Wardlaw; both
from one and the other."
"Oh," said Helen, clinching her teeth, I hope this is true; I hope you do
love me, you wretch; then I may find a way to punish you for belying the
absent, and stabbing me to the heart, through him."
Her throat swelled with a violent convulsion, and she could utter no more
for a moment; and she put her white handkerchief to her lips, and drew it
away discolored slightly with blood.
"Ah! you love me," she cried; "then know, for your comfort, that you have
shortened my short life a day or two, by slandering him to my face, you
monster. Look there at your love, and see what it has done for me."
She put the handkerchief under his eyes, with hate gleaming in her own.
Mr. Hazel turned ashy pale, and glared at it with horror; he could have
seen his own shed with stoical firmness; but a mortal sickness struck his
heart at the sight of her blood. His hands rose and quivered in a
peculiar way, his sight left him, and the strong man, but tender lover,
staggered, and fell heavily on the deck, in a dead swoon, and lay at her
feet pale and motionless.
She uttered a scream, and sailors came running.
They lifted him, with rough sympathy; and Helen Rolleston retired to her
cabin, panting with agitation. But she had little or no pity for the
slanderer. She read Arthur Wardlaw's letter again, kissed it, wept over
it, reproached herself for not having loved the writer enough; and vowed
to repair that fault. "Poor slandered Arthur," said she; "from this hour
I will love you as devotedly as you love me."
AFTER this, Helen Rolleston and Mr. Hazel never spoke. She walked past
him on the deck with cold and haughty contempt.
He quietly submitted to it; and never presumed to say one word to her
again. Only, as his determination was equal to his delicacy, Miss
Rolleston found, one day, a paper on her table, containing advice as to
the treatment of disordered lungs, expressed with apparent coldness, and
backed by a string of medical authorities, quoted _memoriter._
She sent this back directly, indorsed with a line, in pencil, that she
would try hard to live, now she had a friend to protect from calumny; but
should use her own judgment as to the means.
Yet women will be women. She had carefully taken a copy of his advice
before she cast it out with scorn.
He replied, "Live with whatever motive you please; only live."
To this she vouchsafed no answer; nor did this unhappy man trouble her
again, until an occasion of a very different kind arose.
One fine night he sat on the deck, with his back against the mainmast, in
deep melancholy and listlessness, and fell, at last, into a doze, from
which he was wakened by a peculiar sound below. It was a beautiful and
stilly night; all sounds were magnified; and the father of all rats
seemed to be gnawing the ship down below.
Hazel's curiosity was excited, and he went softly down the ladder to see
what the sound really was. But that was not so easy, for it proved to be
below decks; but he saw a light glimmering through a small scuttle abaft
the mate's cabin, and the sounds were in the neighborhood of that light.
It now flashed upon Mr. Hazel that this was the very quarter where he had
heard that mysterious knocking when the ship was lying to in the gale.
Upon this a certain degree of vague suspicion began to mingle with his
He stood still a moment, listening acutely; then took off his shoes very
quietly, and moved with noiseless foot toward the scuttle.
The gnawing still continued.
He put his head through the scuttle, and peered into a dark, dismal
place, whose very existence was new to him. It was, in fact, a vacant
space between the cargo and the ship's run. This wooden cavern was very
narrow, but not less than fifteen feet long. The candle was at the
further end, and between it and Hazel a man was working, with his flank
turned toward the spectator. This partly intercepted the light; but still
it revealed in a fitful way the huge ribs of the ship, and her inner
skin, that formed the right-hand partition, so to speak, of this black
cavern; and close outside those gaunt timbers was heard the wash of the
There was something solemn in the close proximity of that tremendous
element and the narrowness of the wooden barrier.
The bare place, and the gentle, monotonous wash of the liquid monster, on
that calm night, conveyed to Mr. Hazel's mind a thought akin to David's.
"As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between
me and death."
Judge whether that thought grew weaker or stronger, when, after straining
his eyes for some time, to understand what was going on at that midnight
hour, in that hidden place, he saw who was the workman and what was his
It was Joseph Wylie, the mate. His profile was illuminated by the candle,
and looked ghastly. He had in his hands an auger of enormous size, and
with this he was drilling a great hole through the ship's side, just
below the water-mark; an act, the effect of which would be to let the sea
bodily into the ship and sink her, with every soul on board, to the
bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
"I was stupefied; and my hairs stood on end, and my tongue clove to my
Thus does one of Virgil's characters describe the effect his mind
produced upon his body in a terrible situation.
Mr. Hazel had always ridiculed that trite line as a pure exaggeration;
but he altered his opinion after that eventful night.
When he first saw what Wylie was doing, _obstupuit,_ he was merely
benumbed; but, as his mind realized the fiendish nature of the act, and
its tremendous consequences, his hair actually bristled, and for a few
minutes at least he could not utter a word.
In that interval of stupor, matters took another turn. The auger went in
up to the haft. Then Wylie caught up with his left hand a wooden plug he
had got ready, jerked the auger away, caught up a hammer, and swiftly
inserted the plug.
Rapid as he was, a single jet of water came squirting viciously in. But
Wylie lost no time; he tapped the plug smartly with his hammer several
times, and then, lifting a mallet with both hands, rained heavy blows on
it that drove it in, and shook the ship's side.
Then Hazel found his voice, and he uttered an ejaculation that made the
mate look round; he glared at the man who was glaring at him, and,
staggering backward, trod on the light, and all was darkness and dead
All but the wash of the sea outside, and that louder than ever.
But a short interval sufficed to restore one of the parties to his
"Lord, sir," said Wylie, "how you startled me! You should not come upon a
man at his work like that. We might have had an accident."
"What were you doing?" said Hazel, in a voice that quavered in spite of
"Repairing the ship. Found a crack or two in her inner skin. There, let
me get a light, and I'll explain it to you, sir."
He groped his way out, and invited Mr. Hazel into his cabin. There he
struck a light, and, with great civility, tendered an explanation. The
ship, he said, had labored a good deal in the last gale, and he had
discovered one or two flaws in her, which were of no immediate
importance; but experience had taught him that in calm weather a ship
ought to be kept tight. "As they say ashore, a stitch in time saves
"But drilling holes in her is not the way," said Hazel sternly.
The mate laughed. "Why, sir," said he, "what other way is there? We
cannot stop an irregular crack; we can frame nothing to fit it. The way
is to get ready a plug measured a trifle larger than the aperture you are
going to make; then drill a round hole and force in the plug. I know no
other way than that; and I was a ship's carpenter for ten years before I
was a mate."
This explanation, and the manner in which it was given, removed Mr.
Hazel's apprehensions for the time being. "It was very alarming," said
he; "but I suppose you know your business."
"Nobody better, sir," said Wylie. "Why, it is not one seaman in three
that would trouble his head about a flaw in a ship's inner skin; but I'm
a man that looks ahead. Will you have a glass of grog, sir, now you are
here? I keep that under my eye, too; between ourselves, if the skipper
had as much in his cabin as I have here, that might be worse for us all
than a crack or two in the ship's inner skin."
Mr. Hazel declined to drink grog at that time in the morning, but wished
him good-night and left him with a better opinion of him than he had ever
had till then.
Wylie, when he was gone, drew a tumbler of neat spirits, drank half, and
carried the rest back to his work.
Yet Wylie was a very sober man in a general way. Rum was his tool; not
When Hazel came to think of it all next day, he did not feel quite so
easy as he had done. The inner skin! But, when Wylie withdrew his auger,
the wafer had squirted in furiously. He felt it hard to believe that this
keen jet of water could be caused by a small quantity that had found its
way between the skin of the ship and her copper, or her top booting; it
seemed rather to be due to the direct pressure of the liquid monster
He went to the captain that afternoon, and first told him what he had
seen, offering no solution. The captain, on that occasion, was in an
amphibious state; neither wet nor dry; and his reply was altogether
exceptional. He received the communication with pompous civility; then
swore a great oath, and said he would put the mate in irons. "Confound
the lubber! he will be through the ship's bottom."
"But, stop a moment," said Mr. Hazel, "it is only fair you should also
hear how he accounts for his proceeding."
The captain listened attentively to the explanation, and altered his
tone. "Oh, that is a different matter," said he. "You need be under no
alarm, sir; the thundering lubber knows what he is about, at that work.
Why, he has been a ship's carpenter all his life. Him a seaman! If
anything ever happens to me, and Joe Wylie is set to navigate this ship,
then you may say your prayers. He isn't fit to sail a wash-tub across a
duck-pond. But I'll tell you what it is," added this worthy, with more
pomposity than neatness of articulation, "here's a respeckable passenger
brought me a report; do my duty to m' employers, and--take a look at the
He accordingly chalked a plumb-line, and went and sounded the well.
There were eight inches of water. Hudson told him that was no more than
all ships contained from various causes: "In fact," said he, "our pumps
suck, and will not draw, at eight inches." Then suddenly grasping Mr.
Hazel's hand, he said, in tearful accents, "Don't you trouble your head
about Joe Wylie, or any such scum. I'm skipper of the _Proserpine,_ and a
man that does his duty to 'z employers. Mr. Hazel, sir, I'd come to my
last anchor in that well this moment, if my duty to m' employers required
it. D-- my eyes if I wouldn't lie down there this minute, and never move
to all eternity and a day after, if it was my duty to m' employers!"
"No doubt," said Hazel dryly. "But I think you can serve your employers
better in other parts of the ship." He then left him, with a piece of
advice; "to keep his eye upon that Wylie."
Mr. Hazel kept his own eye on Wylie so constantly, that at eleven o'clock
P.M. he saw that worthy go into the captain's cabin with a quart bottle
The coast was clear; the temptation great. These men then were still
deceiving him with a feigned antagonism. He listened at the keyhole, not
without some compunction; which, however, became less and less as
fragments of the dialogue reached his ear.
For a long time the only speaker was Hudson, and his discourse ran upon
his own exploits at sea. But suddenly Wylie's voice broke in with an
unmistakable tone of superiority. "Belay all that chat, and listen to me.
It is time we settled something. I'll hear what you have got to say; and
then you'll _do_ what _I_ say. Better keep your hands off the bottle a
minute you have had enough for the present; this is business. I know you
are good for jaw; but what are you game to do for the governor 's money?
"More than you have ever seen or heard tell of, ye lubber," replied the
irritated skipper. "Who has ever served his employers like Hiram Hudson?"
"Keep that song for your quarter-deck," retorted the mate,
contemptuously. "No; on second thoughts, just tell me how you have served
your employers, you old humbug. Give me chapter and verse to choose from.
Come now, the _Neptune?"_
"Well, the _Neptune;_ she caught fire a hundred leagues from land."
"How came she to do that?"
"That is my business. Well, I put her head before the wind, and ran for
the Azores; and I stuck to her, sir, till she was as black as a coal, and
we couldn't stand on deck, but kept hopping like parched peas; and fire
belching out of her portholes forward. Then we took to the boats, and
saved a few bales of silk by way of sample of her cargo, and got ashore;
and she'd have come ashore too next tide and told tales, but somebody
left a keg of gunpowder in the cabin, with a long fuse, and blew a hole
in her old ribs, that the water came in, and down she went, hissing like
ten thousand sarpints, and nobody the wiser."
"Who lighted the fuse, I wonder?" said Wylie.
"Didn't I tell ye it was 'Somebody'?" said Hudson. "Hand me the stiff."
He replenished his glass, and, after taking a sip or two, asked Wylie if
he had ever had the luck to be boarded by pirates.
"No," said Wylie. "Have you?"
"Ay; and they rescued me from a watery grave, as the lubbers call it. Ye
see, I was employed by Downes & Co., down at the Havanna, and cleared for
Vera Cruz with some boxes of old worn-out printer's type"
"To print psalm-books for the darkies, no doubt," suggested Wylie.
"Insured as specie," continued Hudson, ignoring the interruption. "Well,
just at daybreak one morning, all of a sudden there was a rakish-looking
craft on our weather-bow. Lets fly a nine-pounder across our forefoot,
and was alongside before my men could tumble up from below. I got knocked
into the sea by the boom and fell between the ships; and the pirate he
got hold of me and poured hot grog down my throat to bring me to my
"That is not what you use it for in general," said Wylie. "Civil sort of
"Pirate be d--d. That was my consort rigged out with a black flag, and
mounted with four nine-pounders on one side, and five dummies on the
other. He blustered a bit, and swore, and took our type and our cabbages
(I complained to Downes ashore about the vagabond taking the vegetables),
and ordered us to leeward under all canvas, and we never saw him
again--not till he had shaved off his mustaches, and called on Downes to
condole and say the varmint had chased his ship fifty leagues out of her
course; but he had got clear of him. Downes complimented me publicly.
Says he, 'This skipper boarded the pirate single-handed; only he jumped
short, and fell between the two ships; and here he is by a miracle.' Then
he takes out his handkerchief, and flops his head on my shoulder. 'His
merciful preservation almost reconciles me to the loss of my gold,' says
the thundering crocodile. Cleared seventy thousand dollars, he did, out
of the Manhattan Marine, and gave the pirate and me but two hundred
pounds between us both."
"The _Rose?"_ said Wylie.
"What a hurry you are in! Pass the grog. Well, the _Rose;_ she lay off
Ushant. We canted her to wash the decks; lucky she had a careful
commander; not like Kempenfelt, whose eye was in his pocket, and his
fingers held the pen, so he went to the bottom, with Lord knows how many
men. I noticed the squalls came very sudden; so I sent most of my men
ashore and got the boats ready in case of accident. A squall did strike
her, and she was on her beam-ends in a moment. We pulled ashore with two
bales of silk by way of salvage, and sample of what warn't in her hold
when she settled down. We landed; and the Frenchmen were dancing about
with excitement. 'Captain,' says one, 'you have much sang fraw.'
'Insured, munseer,' says I. 'Bone,' says he.
"Then there was the _Antelope,_ lost in charge of a pilot off the
Hooghly. I knew the water as well as he did. We were on the port tack,
standing toward the shoal. Weather it, as we should have done next tack,
and I should have failed in my duty to my employers. Anything but that!
'Look out!' said I. 'Pilot, she fore-reaches in stays.' Pilot was
smoking; those sandhead pilots smoke in bed and asleep. He takes his
cigar out of his mouth for one moment. 'Ready about,' says he. 'Hands
'bout ship. Helm's a-lee. Raise tacks and sheets.' Round she was coming
like a top. Pilot smoking. Just as he was going to haul the mainsel
Somebody tripped against him, and shoved the hot cigar in his eye. He
sung out and swore, and there was no mainsel haul. Ship in irons, tide
running hard on to the shoal, and before we could clear away for
anchoring, bump!--there she was hard and fast. A stiff breeze got up at
sunrise, and she broke up. Next day I was sipping my grog and reading the
_Bengal Courier,_ and it told the disastrous wreck of the brig
_Antelope,_ wrecked in charge of a pilot; 'but no lives lost, and the
owners fully insured.' Then there was the bark _Sally._ Why, you saw her
yourself distressed on a lee shore."
"Yes," said Wylie. "I was in that tub, the _Grampus,_ and we contrived to
claw off the Scillies; yet you, in your smart _Sally,_ got ashore. What
"Luck be blowed!" cried Hudson, angrily. "Somebody got into the chains to
sound, and cut the weather halyards. Next tack the masts went over the
side; and I had done my duty."
"Lives were lost that time, eh?" said Wylie, gravely.
"What is that to you?" replied Hudson, with the sudden ire of a drunken
man. "Mind your own business. Pass me the bottle."
"Yes, lives was lost; and always will be lost in sea-going ships, where
the skipper does his duty. There was a sight more lost at Trafalgar,
owing to every man doing his duty. Lives lost, ye lubber? And why not
mine? Because their time was come and mine wasn't. For I'll tell you one
thing, Joe Wylie--if she takes fire and runs before the wind till she is
as black as coal, and belching flame through all her port-holes, and then
explodes, and goes aloft in ten thousand pieces no bigger than my hat, or
your knowledge of navigation, Hudson is the last man to leave her. Duty!
If she goes on her beam-ends and founders, Hudson sees the last of her,
and reports it to his employers. Duty! If she goes grinding on Scilly,
Hudson is the last man to leave her bones. Duty! Some day perhaps I shall
be swamped myself along with the craft. I have escaped till now, owing to
not being insured; but if ever my time should come, and you should get
clear, promise me, Joe, to see the owners, and tell 'em Hudson did his
Here a few tears quenched his noble ardor for a moment. But he soon
recovered, and said, with some little heat, "You have got the bottle
again. I never saw such a fellow to get hold of the bottle. Come, here's
'Duty to our employers!' And now I'll tell you how we managed with the
_Carysbrook,_ and the _Amelia."_
This promise was followed by fresh narratives; in particular, of a vessel
he had run upon the Florida reef at night, where wreckers had been
retained in advance to look out for signals, and come on board and
quarrel on pretense and set fire to the vessel, insured at thrice her
Hudson got quite excited with the memory of these exploits, and told each
successive feat louder and louder.
But now it was Wylie's turn. "Well," said he, very gravely, "all this was
There was a pause that marked Hudson's astonishment. Then he broke out,
"Child's play, ye lubber! If you had been there your gills would have
been as white as your Sunday shirt; and a d--d deal whiter."
"Come, be civil," said Wylie, "I tell you all the ways you have told me
are too suspicious. Our governor is a highflyer. He pays like a prince,
and, in return, he must not be blown on, if it is ever so little.
'Wylie,' says he, 'a breath of suspicion would kill me.' 'Make it so
much,' says I, 'and that breath shall never blow on you. No, no, skipper;
none of those ways will do for us; they have all been worked twice too
often. It must be done in fair weather, and in a way-- Fill your glass
and I'll fill mine-- Capital rum this. You talk of my gills turning
white; before long we shall see whose keeps their color best, mine or
yours, my boy."
There was a silence, during which Hudson was probably asking himself what
Wylie meant; for presently he broke out in a loud but somewhat quivering
voice: "Why, you mad, drunken devil of a ship's carpenter, red-hot from
hell, I see what you are at, now; you are going--"
"Hush!" cried Wylie, alarmed in his turn. "Is this the sort of thing to
bellow out for the watch to hear? Whisper, now."
This was followed by the earnest mutterings of two voices. In vain did
the listener send his very soul into his ear to hear. He could catch no
single word. Yet he could tell, by the very tones of the speakers, that
the dialogue was one of mystery and importance.
Here was a situation at once irritating and alarming; but there was no
help for it. The best thing, now, seemed to be to withdraw unobserved,
and wait for another opportunity. He did so; and he had not long retired,
when the mate came out staggering and flushed with liquor, and that was a
thing that had never occurred before. He left the cabin door open and
went into his own room.
Soon after sounds issued from the cabin--peculiar sounds, something
between grunting and snoring.
Mr. Hazel came and entered the cabin. There he found the captain of the
_Proserpine_ in a position very unfavorable to longevity. His legs were
crooked over the seat of his chair, and his head was on the ground. His
handkerchief was tight round his neck, and the man himself dead drunk,
and purple in the face.
Mr. Hazel instantly undid his stock, on which the gallant seaman muttered
inarticulately. He then took his feet off the chair and laid them on the
ground, and put the empty bottle under the animal's neck.
But he had no sooner done all this than he had a serious misgiving. Would
not this man's death have been a blessing? Might not his life prove
The thought infuriated him, and he gave the prostrate figure a heavy kick
that almost turned it over, and the words, "Duty to employers," gurgled
out of its mouth directly.
It really seemed as if these sounds were independent of the mind, and
resided at the tip of Hudson's tongue, so that a thorough good kick
could, at any time, shake them out of his inanimate body.
Thus do things ludicrous and things terrible mingle in the real world;
only to those who are in the arena, the ludicrous passes unnoticed, being
overshadowed by its terrible neighbor.
And so it was with Hazel. He saw nothing absurd in all this; and in that
prostrate, insensible hog, commanding the ship, forsooth, and carrying
all their lives in his hands, he saw the mysterious and alarming only;
saw them so, and felt them, that he lay awake all night thinking what he
should do, and early next day he went into the mate's cabin, and said to
him: "Mr. Wylie, in any other ship I should speak to the captain, and not
to the mate; but here that would be no use, for you are the master, and
he is your servant."
"Don't tell him so, sir, for he doesn't think small beer of himself."
"I shall waste no more words on him. It is to you I speak, and you know I
speak the truth. Here is a ship, in which, for certain reasons known to
yourself, the captain is under the mate."
"Well, sir," said Wylie good-humoredly, "it is no use trying to deceive a
gentleman like you. Our skipper is an excellent seaman, but he has got a
fault." Then Wylie imitated, with his hand, the action of a person
filling his glass.
"And you are here to keep him sober, eh?"
"Then why do you ply him with liquor?"
"I don't, sir."
"You do. I have seen you do it a dozen times. And last night you took rum
into his room, and made him so drunk, he would have died where he lay if
I had not loosed his handkerchief."
"I am sorry to hear that, sir; but he was sober when I left him. The fool
must have got to the bottle the moment I was gone."
"But that bottle you put in his way; I saw you. And what was your object?
To deaden his conscience with liquor, his and your own, while you made
him your fiendish proposal. Man, man, do you believe in God, and in a
judgment to come for the deeds done in the body, that you can plan in
cold blood to destroy a vessel with nineteen souls on board, besides the
live stock, the innocent animals that God pitied and spared when he
raised his hand in wrath over Nineveh of old?"
While the clergyman was speaking, with flashing eyes and commanding
voice, the seaman turned ashy pale, and drew his shoulders together like
a cat preparing to defend her life.
"I plan to destroy a vessel, sir! You never heard me say such a word; and
don't you hint such a thing in the ship, or you will get yourself into
"That depends on you."
"How so, sir?"
"I have long suspected you."
"You need not tell me that, sir."
"But I have not communicated my suspicions. And now that they are
certainties, I come first to you. In one word, will you forego your
intention, since it is found out?"
"How can I forego what never was in my head?" said Wylie. "Cast away the
ship! Why, there's no land within two thousand miles. Founder a vessel in
the Pacific! Do you think my life is not as sweet to me as yours is to
Wylie eyed him keenly to see the effect of these words, and, by a puzzled
expression that came over his face, saw at once he had assumed a more
exact knowledge than he really possessed.
Hazel replied that he had said nothing about foundering the ship; but
there were many ways of destroying one. "For instance," said he, "I know
how the _Neptune_ was destroyed--and so do you; how the _Rose_ and the
_Antelope_ were cast away--and so do you."
At this enumeration Wylie lost his color and self-possession for a
moment; he saw Hazel had been listening. Hazel followed up his blow.
"Promise me now, by all you hold sacred, to forego this villainy; and I
hold my tongue. Attempt to defy me, or to throw dust in my eyes, and I go
instantly among the crew, and denounce both you and Hudson to them."
"Good Heavens!" cried Wylie, in unfeigned terror. "Why, the men would
mutiny on the spot."
"I can't help that," said Hazel, firmly; and took a step toward the door.
"Stop a bit," said the mate. "Don't be in such a 'nation hurry; for, if
you do, it will be bad for me, but worse for you." The above was said so
gravely and with such evident sincerity that Mr. Hazel was struck and
showed it. Wylie followed up that trifling advantage. "Sit down a minute,
sir, if you please, and listen to me. You never saw a mutiny on board
ship, I'll be bound. It is a worse thing than any gale that ever blew;
begins fair enough, sometimes; but how does it end? In breaking into the
spirit-room and drinking to madness, plundering the ship, ravishing the
women, and cutting a throat or so for certain. You don't seem so fond of
the picture as you was of the idea. And then they might turn a deaf ear
to you after all. Ship is well found in all stores; provisions served out
freely; men in good humor; and I have got their ear. And now I'll tell
you why it won't suit your little game to blacken me to the crew, upon
the bare chance of a mutiny." He paused for a moment, then resumed in a
lower tone, and revealed himself the extraordinary man he was.
"You see, sir," said he, "when a man is very ready to suspect me, I
always suspect him. Now you was uncommon ready to suspect me. You didn't
wait till you came on board; you began the game ashore. Oh, what, that
makes you open one eye, does it? You thought I didn't know you again.
Knew you, my man, the moment you came aboard. I never forget a face; and
disguises don't pass on me."
It was now Hazel's turn to look anxious and discomposed.
"So, then, the moment I saw you suspected me I was down upon you. Well,
you come aboard under false colors. We didn't want a chap like you in the
ship; but you would come. 'What is the bloke after?' says I, and watches.
You was so intent suspecting me of this, that, and t'other, that you
unguarded yourself, and that is common too. I'm blowed if it isn't the
lady you are after. With all my heart; only she might do better, and I
don't see how she could do worse, unless she went to Old Nick for a mate.
Now, I'll tell you what it is, my man. I've been in trouble myself, and
don't want to be hard on a poor devil, just because he sails under an
alias, and lies as near the wind as he can, to weather on the beaks and
the bobbies. But one good turn deserves another. Keep your dirty
suspicions to yourself; for if you dare to open your lips to the men, in
five minutes, or less than that, you shall be in irons and confined to
your cabin; and we'll put you ashore at the first port that flies the
British flag, and hand you over to the authorities, till one of her
Majesty's cruisers sends in a boat for you."
At this threat Mr. Hazel hung his head in confusion and dismay.
"Come, get out of my cabin, Parson Alias," shouted the mate; "and belay
your foul tongue in this ship, and don't make an enemy of Joe Wylie, a
man that will eat you up else, and spit you out again, and never brag.
Sheer off, I say, and be d--d to you."
Mr. Hazel, with a pale face and sick heart, looked aghast at this
dangerous man, who could be fox or tiger, as the occasion demanded.
Surprised, alarmed, outwitted and out-menaced, he retired with disordered
countenance and uneven steps and hid himself in his own cabin.
The more he weighed the whole situation, the more clearly did he see that
he was utterly powerless in the hands of Wylie. A skipper is an emperor;
and Hudson had the power to iron him, and set him on shore at the nearest
port. The right to do it was another matter; but even on that head Wylie
could furnish a plausible excuse for the act. Retribution, if it came at
all, would not be severe, and would be three or four years coming. And
who fears it much, when it, is so dilatory, and so weak, and so doubtful
into the bargain?
He succumbed in silence for two days; and then, in spite of Wylie's
threat, he made one timid attempt to approach the subject with Welch and
Cooper; but a sailor came up instantly, and sent them forward to reef
topsails. And, whenever he tried to enter into conversation with the
pair, some sailor or other was sure to come up and listen.
Then he saw that he was spotted; or, as we say nowadays, picketed.
He was at his wit's end.
He tried his last throw. He wrote a few lines to Miss Rolleston,
requesting an interview. Aware of the difficulties he had to encounter
here, he stilled his heart by main force, and wrote in terms carefully
measured. He begged her to believe he had no design to intrude upon her,
without absolute necessity, and for her own good. Respect for her own
wishes forbade this, and also his self-respect.
"But," said he, "I have made a terrible discovery. The mate and the
captain certainly intend to cast away this ship. No doubt they will try
and not sacrifice their own lives and ours; but risk them they must, in
the very nature of things. Before troubling you, I have tried all I
could, in the way of persuasion and menace; but am defeated. So now it
rests with you. You alone can save us all. I will tell you how, if you
will restrain your repugnance, and accord me a short interview. Need I
say that no other subject shall be introduced by me? In England, should
we ever reach it, I may perhaps try to take measures to regain your good
opinion; but here, I am aware, that is impossible; and I shall make no
attempt in that direction, upon my honor."
To this came a prompt and feminine reply.
"The ship is Mr. Arthur Wardlaw's. The captain and the mate are able men,
appointed by him. Your suspicions of these poor men are calumnies, and of
a piece with your other monstrous slanders.
"I really must insist on your holding no further communications of any
sort with one to whom your character is revealed and odious.
This letter benumbed his heart at first. A letter? It was a blow; a blow
from her he loved, and she hated him!
His long-suffering love gave way at last. What folly and cruelty
combined! He could no longer make allowances for the spite of a woman
whose lover had been traduced. Rage and despair seized him; he bit his
nails and tore his hair with fury, and prayed Heaven to help him hate her
as she deserved, "the blind, insolent idiot!" Yes, these bitter words
actually came out of his mouth, in a torrent of injury.
But to note down all he said in his rage would be useless; and might
mislead, for this was a gust of fury; and, while it lasted, the
long-suffering man was no longer himself.
As a proof how little this state of mind was natural to him, it stirred
up all the bile in his body, and brought on a severe attack of yellow
jaundice, accompanied by the settled dejection that marks that disorder.
Meantime the _Proserpine_ glided on, with a fair wind, and a contented
crew. She was well found in stores, and they were served out
Every face on board beamed with jollity, except poor Hazel's. He crept
about, yellow as a guinea; a very scarecrow.
The surgeon, a humane man, urged him to drink sherry, and take strong
But persons afflicted with that distressing malady are obstinately set
against those things which tend to cure it; this is a feature of the
disease. Mr. Hazel was no exception. And then his heart had received so
many blows it had no power left to resist the depressing effect of his
disorder. He took no exercise; he ate little food. He lay, listless and
dejected, about the deck, and let disease do what it pleased with him.
The surgeon shook his head and told Hudson the parson was booked.
"And good riddance of bad rubbish!" was that worthy's gracious comment.
The ship now encountered an adverse gale, and for three whole days was
under close-reefed topsails; she was always a wet ship under stress of
weather, and she took in a good deal of water on this occasion. On the
fourth day it fell calm, and Captain Hudson, having examined the well and
found three feet of water, ordered the men to the pumps.
After working through one watch the well was sounded again, and the water
was so much reduced that the gangs were taken off; and the ship being now
becalmed and the weather lovely, the men were allowed to dance upon deck
to the boatswain's fiddle.
While this pastime went on, the sun, large and red, reached the horizon,
and diffused a roseate light over the entire ocean.
Not one of the current descriptions of heaven approached the actual
grandeur and beauty of the blue sky, flecked with ruby and gold, and its
liquid mirror that lay below, calm, dimpled and glorified by that
translucent, rosy tint.
While the eye was yet charmed with this enchanting bridal of the sea and
sky, and the ear amused with the merry fiddle and the nimble feet that
tapped the sounding deck so deftly at every note, Cooper, who had been
sounding the well, ran forward all of a sudden and flung a thunderbolt in
THE fiddle ended in mid-tune, and the men crowded aft with anxious faces.
The captain sounded the well and found three feet and a half water in it.
He ordered all hands to the pumps.
They turned to with a good heart, and pumped, watch and watch, till
Their exertions counteracted the leak, but did no more; the water in the
well was neither more nor less, perceptibly.
This was a relief to their minds, so far; but the situation was a very
serious one. Suppose foul weather should come, and the vessel ship water
from above as well!
Now all those who were not on the pumps set to work to find out the leak
and stop it if possible. With candles in their hands they crept about the
ribs of the ship, narrowly inspecting every corner, and applying their
ears to every suspected place, if haply they might hear the water coming
in. The place where Hazel had found Wylie at work was examined along with
the rest; but neither there nor anywhere else could the leak be
discovered. Yet the water was still coming in and required unremitting
labor to keep it under. It was then suggested by Wylie, and the opinion
gradually gained ground, that some of the seams had opened in the late
gale and were letting in the water by small but numerous, apertures.
Faces began to look cloudy; and Hazel, throwing off his lethargy, took
his spell at the main pump with the rest.
When his gang was relieved he went away, bathed in perspiration, and,
leaning over the well, sounded it.
While thus employed, the mate came behind him, with his cat-like step,
and said, "See what has come on us with your forebodings! It is the
unluckiest thing in the world to talk about losing a ship when she is at
"You are a more dangerous man on board a ship than I am," was Hazel's
The well gave an increase of three inches. Mr. Hazel now showed excellent
qualities. He worked like a horse; and, finding the mate skulking, he
reproached him before the men, and, stripping himself naked to the waist,
invited him to do a man's duty. The mate, thus challenged, complied with
They labored for their lives, and the quantity of water they discharged
from the ship was astonishing; not less than hundred and ten tons every
They gained upon the leak--only two inches; but, in the struggle for
life, this was an immense victory. It was the turn of the tide.
A slight breeze sprung up from the southwest, and the captain ordered the
men from the buckets to make all sail on the ship, the pumps still going.
When this was done, he altered the ship's course and put her right before
the wind, steering for the island of Juan Fernandez, distant eleven
hundred miles or thereabouts.
Probably it was the best thing he could do, in that awful waste of water.
But its effect on the seamen was bad. It was like giving in. They got a
little disheartened and flurried; and the cold, passionless water seized
the advantage. It is possible, too, that the motion of the ship through
the sea aided the leak.
The _Proserpine_ glided through the water all night, like some
terror-stricken creature, and the incessant pumps seemed to be her poor
heart, beating loud with breathless fear.
At daybreak she had gone a hundred and twenty miles. But this was
balanced by a new and alarming feature. The water from the pumps no
longer came up pure, but mixed with what appeared to be blood.
This got redder and redder, and struck terror into the more superstitious
of the crew.
Even Cooper, whose heart was stout, leaned over the bulwarks and eyed the
red stream, gushing into the sea from the lee scuppers, and said aloud,
"Ay, bleed to death, ye bitch! We shan't be long behind ye."
Hazel inquired, and found the ship had a quantity of dye-wood among her
cargo. He told the men this, and tried to keep up their hearts by his
words and his example.
He succeeded with some; but others shook their heads. And by and by, even
while he was working double tides for them as well as for himself,
ominous murmurs met his ear. "Parson aboard!" "Man aboard, with t'other
world in his face!" And there were sinister glances to match.
He told this, with some alarm, to Welch and Cooper. They promised to
stand by him; and Welch told him it was all the mate's doings; he had
gone among the men and poisoned them.
The wounded vessel, with her ever-beating heart, had run three hundred
miles on the new tack. She had almost ceased to bleed; but what was as
bad, or worse, small fragments of her cargo and stores came up with the
water, and their miscellaneous character showed how deeply the sea had
This, and their great fatigue, began to demoralize the sailors. The pumps
and buckets were still plied, but it was no longer with the uniform
manner of brave and hopeful men. Some stuck doggedly to their work, but
others got flurried and ran from one thing to another. Now and then a man
would stop and burst out crying; then to work again in a desperate way.
One or two lost heart altogether, and had to be driven. Finally, one or
two succumbed under the unremitting labor. Despair crept over others.
Their features began to change, so much so that several countenances were
hardly recognizable, and each, looking in the other's troubled face, saw
his own fate pictured there.
Six feet water in the hold!
The captain, who had been sober beyond his time, now got dead drunk.
The mate took the command. On hearing this, Welch and Cooper left the
pumps. Wylie ordered them back. They refused, and coolly lighted their
pipes. A violent altercation took place, which was brought to a close by
"It is no use pumping the ship," said he. "She is doomed. D'ye think we
are blind, my mate and me? You got the long-boat ready for yourself
before ever the leak was sprung. Now get the cutter ready for my mate and
At these simple words Wylie lost color, and walked aft without a word.
Next day there were seven feet water in the hold, and quantities of bread
coming up through the pumps.
Wylie ordered the men from the pumps to the boats. The long-boat was
provisioned and lowered. While she was towing astern, the cutter was
prepared, and the ship left to fill.
All this time Miss Rolleston had been kept in the dark, not as to the
danger, but as to its extent. Great was her surprise when Mr. Hazel
entered her cabin and cast an ineffable look of pity on her.
She looked up surprised, and then angry. "How dare you?" she began.
He waved his hand in a sorrowful but commanding way. "Oh, this is no time
for prejudice or temper. The ship is sinking. We are going into the
boats. Pray make preparations. Here is a list I have written of the
things you ought to take. We may be weeks at sea in an open boat." Then,
seeing her dumfounded, he caught up her carpet-bag and threw her workbox
into it for a beginning. He then laid hands upon some of her preserved
meats and marmalade and carried them off to his own cabin.
His mind then flew back to his reading, and passed in rapid review all
the wants that men had endured in open boats.
He got hold of Welch and told him to be sure and see there was plenty of
spare canvas on board, and sailing needles, scissors, etc. Also three
bags of biscuit, and, above all, a cask of water.
He himself ran all about the ship, including the mate's cabin, in search
of certain tools he thought would be wanted.
Then to his own cabin, to fill his carpet-bag.
There was little time to spare; the ship was low in the water, and the
men abandoning her. He flung the things into his bag, fastened and locked
it, strapped up his blankets for her use, flung on his pea-jacket, and
turned the handle of his door to run out.
The door did not open!
He pushed it. It did not yield!
He rushed at it. It was fast!
He uttered a cry of rage and flung himself at it.
Horror! It was immovable!
THE fearful, the sickening truth burst on him in all its awful
Some miscreant or madman had locked the door, and so fastened him to the
sinking ship, at a time when, in the bustle, the alarm, the selfishness,
all would be apt to forget him and leave him to his death.
He tried the door in every way, he hammered at it; he shouted, he raged,
he screamed. In vain. Unfortunately the door of this cabin was of very
unusual strength and thickness.
Then he took up one of those great augers he had found in the mate's
cabin, and bored a hole in the door; through this hole he fired his
pistol, and then screamed for help. "I am shut up in the cabin. I shall
be drowned. Oh, for Christ's sake, save me! save me!" and a cold sweat of
terror poured down his whole body.
What is that?
The soft rustle of a woman's dress.
Oh, how he thanked God for that music, and the hope it gave him!
It comes toward him; it stops, the key is turned, the dress rustles away,
swift as a winged bird; he dashes at the door; it flies open.
Nobody was near. He recovered his courage in part, fetched out his bag
and his tools, and ran across to the starboard side. There he found the
captain lowering Miss Rolleston, with due care, into the cutter, and the
young lady crying; not at being shipwrecked, if you please, but at being
deserted by her maid. Jane Holt, at this trying moment, had deserted her
mistress for her husband. This was natural; but, as is the rule with
persons of that class, she had done this in the silliest and cruelest
way. Had she given half an hour's notice of her intention, Donovan might
have been on board the cutter with her and her mistress. But no; being a
liar and a fool, she must hide her husband to the last moment, and then
desert her mistress. The captain, then, was comforting Miss Rolleston,
and telling her she should have her maid with her eventually, when Hazel
came. He handed down his own bag, and threw the blankets into the
stern-sheets. Then went down himself, and sat on the midship thwart.
"Shove off," said the captain; and they fell astern.
But Cooper, with a boat-hook, hooked on to the long-boat; and the dying