Part 7 out of 7
He wanted to ask how it was that Clara had survived her dose; but of
course curiosity on that subject must not find vent; it would be
equivalent to a confession.
"Where is she going?" were his next words.
"To Fort Yuma."
"To Fort Yuma! What for?"
"I may as well tell it," burst out Coronado angrily. "She is going there
to nurse that officer. He escaped, but he has been sick, and she _will_
"She must not go," whispered Garcia. "Oh, the ----." And here he called
Clara a string of names which cannot be repeated. "She shall not go
there," he continued. "She will marry him. Then the property is gone, and
we are ruined. Oh, the ----." And then came another assortment of violent
and vile epithets, such as are not found in dictionaries.
Coronado was anxious to divert and dissipate a rage which might make
trouble; and as soon as he could get in a word, he asked, "But what have
you been doing, my uncle?"
By dint of questioning and guessing he made out the story of the old man's
adventures since leaving the hacienda. Garcia, in extreme terror of
hanging, had gone straight to San Francisco and taken passage for San
Diego, with the intention of not stopping until he should be at least as
far away as Santa Fe. But after a few hours at sea, he had recovered his
wits and his courage, and asked himself, why should he fly? If Clara died,
the property would be his, and if she survived, he ought to be near her;
while as for Carlos, he would surely never expose and hang a man who could
cut him off with a shilling. So he landed at Monterey, took the first
coaster back to San Francisco, lurked about the city until he learned that
the girl was still living, and was just about to put a bold front on the
matter by going to see her at the hacienda, when he learned accidentally
that she was on the point of voyaging southward. Puzzled and alarmed by
this, he resolved to accompany her in her wanderings, and succeeded in
getting himself quietly on board the Lolotte.
"Well, let us go on deck," said Coronado, when the old man had regained
his tranquillity. "But let us be gentle, my uncle. We know how to govern
ourselves, I hope. You will of course behave like a mother to our little
cousin. Congratulate her on her recovery; apologize for your awkward
mistake. It was caused by the coming on of the fit, you remember. A man
who is about to have an attack of epilepsy can't of course tell one pocket
from another. But such a man is all the more bound to be unctuous."
Clara received the old man cordially, although she would have preferred
not to see him there, fearing lest he should oppose her nursing project.
But as nothing was said on this matter, and as Garcia put his least cloven
foot foremost, the trio not only got on amicably together, but seemed to
enjoy one another's society. This was no common feat by the way; each of
the three had a great load of anxiety; it was wonderful that they should
not show it. Coronado, for instance, while talking like a bird song, was
planning how he could get rid of Garcia, and carry Clara back to San
Francisco. The idea of pushing the old man overboard was inadmissible; but
could he not scare him ashore at the next port by stories of a leak? As
for Clara, he could not imagine how to manage her, she was so potent with
her wealth and with her beauty. He was still thinking of these things, and
prattling mellifluously of quite other things, when the Lolotte luffed up
under the lee of the little island of Alcatraz.
"What does this mean?" he asked, looking suspiciously at the
fortifications, with the American flag waving over them.
"Stop here to take in commissary stores for Fort Yuma," explained the
thin, sallow, grave, meek-looking, and yet resolute Yankee mate.
The chain cable rattled through the hawse hole, and in no long while the
loading commenced, lasting until nightfall. During this time Coronado
chanced to learn that an officer was expected on board who would sail as
far as San Diego; and, as all uniforms were bugbears to him, he watched
for the new passenger with a certain amount of anxiety; taking care, by
the way, to say nothing of him to Clara. About eight in the evening, as
the girl was playing some trivial game of cards with Garcia in the cabin,
a splashing of oars alongside called Coronado on deck. It was already
dark; a sailor was standing by the manropes with a lantern; the captain
was saying in a grumbling tone, "Very late, sir."
"Had to wait for orders, captain," returned a healthy, ringing young voice
which struck Coronado like a shot.
"Orders!" muttered the skipper. "Why couldn't they have had them ready?
Here we are going to have a southeaster."
There was anxiety as well as impatience in his voice; but Coronado just
now could not think of tempests; his whole soul was in his eyes. The next
instant he beheld in the ruddy light of the lantern the face of the man
who was his evil genius, the man whose death he had so long plotted for
and for a time believed in, the man who, as he feared, would yet punish
him for his misdeeds. He was so thoroughly beaten and cowed by the sight
that he made a step or two toward the companionway, with the purpose of
hiding in the cabin. Then desperation gave him courage, and he walked
straight up to Thurstane.
"My dear Lieutenant!" he cried, trying to seize the young fellow's hand.
"Once more welcome to life! What a wonder! Another escape. You are a
second Orlando--almost a Don Quixote. And where are your two Sancho
"You here!" was Thurstane's grim response, and he did not take the
"Come!" implored Coronado, stepping toward the waist of the vessel and
away from the cabin. "This way, if you please," he urged, beckoning
earnestly. "I have a word to say to you in private."
Not a tone of this conversation had been heard below. Before the boat had
touched the side the crew were laboring at the noisy windlass with their
shouts of "Yo heave ho! heave and pawl! heave hearty ho!" while the mate
was screaming from the knight-heads, "Heave hearty, men--heave hearty.
Heave and raise the dead. Heave and away."
Amid this uproar Coronado continued: "You won't shake hands with me,
Lieutenant Thurstane. As a gentleman, speaking to another gentleman, I ask
Thurstane hesitated; he had ugly suspicions enough, but no proofs; and if
he could not prove guilt, he must not charge it.
"Is it because we abandoned you?" demanded Coronado. "We had reason. We
heard that you were dead. The muleteers reported Apaches. I feared for the
safety of the ladies. I pushed on. You, a gentleman and an officer--what
else would you have advised?"
"Let it go," growled Thurstane. "Let that pass. I won't talk of it--nor of
other things. But," and here he seemed to shake with emotion, "I want
nothing more to do with you--you nor your family. I have had suffering
"Ah, it is with _her_ that you quarrel rather than with me," inferred
Coronado impudently, for he had recovered his self-possession. "Certainly,
my poor Lieutenant! You have reason. But remember, so has she. She is
enormously rich and can have any one. That is the way these women
"You will oblige me by saying not another word on that subject," broke in
Thurstane savagely. "I got her letter dismissing me, and I accepted my
fate without a word, and I mean never to see her again. I hope that
"My dear Lieutenant," protested Coronado, "you seem to intimate that I
influenced her decision. I beg you to believe, on my word of honor as a
gentleman, that I never urged her in any way to write that letter."
"Well--no matter--I don't care," replied the young fellow in a voice like
one long sob. "I don't care whether you did or not. The moment she could
write it, no matter how or why, that was enough. All I ask is to be left
alone--to hear no more of her."
"I am obliged to speak to you of her," said Coronado. "She is aboard."
"Aboard!" exclaimed Thurstane, and he made a step as if to reach the shore
or to plunge into the sea.
"I am sorry for you," said Coronado, with a simplicity which seemed like
sincerity. "I thought it my duty to warn you."
"I cannot go back," groaned the young fellow. "I must go to San Diego. I
am under orders."
"You must avoid her. Go to bed late. Get up early. Keep out of her way."
Turning his back, Thurstane walked away from this cruel and hated
counsellor, not thinking at all of him however, but rather of the deep
beneath, a refuge from trouble.
We must slip back to his last adventure with Texas Smith, and learn a
little of what happened to him then and up to the present time.
It will be remembered how the bushwhacker sat in ambush; how, just as he
was about to fire at his proposed victim, his horse whinnied; and how this
whinny caused Thurstane's mule to rear suddenly and violently. The rearing
saved the rider's life, for the bullet which was meant for the man buried
itself in the forehead of the beast, and in the darkness the assassin did
not discover his error. But so severe was the fall and so great
Thurstane's weakness that he lost his senses and did not come to himself
There he was, once more abandoned to the desert, but rich in a full
haversack and a dead mule. Having breakfasted, and thereby given head and
hand a little strength, he set to work to provide for the future by
cutting slices from the carcass and spreading them out to dry, well
knowing that this land of desolation could furnish neither wolf nor bird
of prey to rob his larder. This work done, he pushed on at his best speed,
found and fed his companions, and led them back to the mule, their
storehouse. After a day of rest and feasting came a march to the Cactus
Pass, where the three were presently picked up by a caravan bound to Santa
Fe, which carried them on for a number of days until they met a train of
emigrants going west. Thus it was that Glover reached California, and
Thurstane and Sweeny Fort Yuma.
Once in quiet, the young fellow broke down, and for weeks was too sick to
write to Clara, or to any one. As soon as he could sit up he sent off
letter after letter, but after two months of anxious suspense no answer
had come, and he began to fear that she had never reached San Francisco.
At last, when he was half sick again with worrying, arrived a horrible
epistle in Clara's hand and signed by her name, informing him of her
monstrous windfall of wealth and terminating the engagement. The crudest
thing in this cruel forgery was the sentence, "Do you not think that in
paying courtship to me in the desert you took unfair advantage of my
She had trampled on his heart and flouted his honor; and while he writhed
with grief he writhed also with rage. He could not understand it; so
different from what she had seemed; so unworthy of what he had believed
her to be! Well, her head had been turned by riches; it was just like a
woman; they were all thus. Thus said Thurstane, a fellow as ignorant of
the female kind as any man in the army, and scarcely less ignorant than
the average man of the navy. He declared to himself that he would never
have anything more to do with her, nor with any of her false sex. At
twenty-three he turned woman-hater, just as Mrs. Stanley at forty-five had
turned man-hater, and perhaps for much the same sort of reason.
Shortly after Thurstane had received what he called his cashiering, his
company was ordered from Fort Yuma to San Francisco. It had garrisoned the
Alcatraz fort only two days, and he had not yet had a chance to visit the
city, when he was sent on this expedition to San Diego to hunt down a
deserting quartermaster-sergeant. The result was that he found himself
shipped for a three days' voyage with the woman who had made him first the
happiest man in the army and then the most miserable.
How should he endure it? He would not see her; the truth is that he could
not endure the trial; but what he said to himself was that he _would_ not.
In the darkness tears forced their way out of his eyes and mingled with
the spray which the wind was already flinging over the bows. Crying! Three
months ago, if any man had told him that he was capable of it, he would
have considered himself insulted and would have felt like fighting. Now he
was not even ashamed of it, and would hardly have been ashamed if it had
been daylight. He was so thoroughly and hopelessly miserable that he did
not care what figure he cut.
But, once more, what should he do? Oh, well, he would follow Coronado's
advice; yes, damn him! follow the scoundrel's advice; he could think of
nothing for himself. He would stay out until late; then he would steal
below and go to bed; after that he would keep his stateroom. However, it
was unpleasant to remain where he was, for the spray was beginning to
drench the waist as well as the forecastle; and, the quarter-deck being
clear of passengers, he staggered thither, dropped under the starboard
bulwark, rolled himself in his cloak, and lay brooding.
Meanwhile Coronado had amused Clara below until he felt seasick and had to
take to his berth. Escaping thus from his duennaship, she wanted to see a
storm, as she called the half-gale which was blowing, and clambered
bravely alone to the quarter-deck, where the skipper took her in charge,
showed her the compass, walked her up and down a little, and finally gave
her a post at the foot of the shrouds. Thurstane had recognized her by the
light of the binnacle, and once more he thought, as weakly as a scared
child, "What shall I do?" After hiding his face for a moment he uncovered
it desperately, resolving to see whether she would speak. She did look at
him; she even looked steadily and sharply, as if in recognition; but after
a while she turned tranquilly away to gaze at the sea.
Forgetting that no lamp was shining upon him, and that she probably had no
cause for expecting to find him here, Thurstane believed that she had
discovered who he was and that her mute gesture confirmed his rejection.
Under this throttling of his last hope he made no protest, but silently
wished himself on the battle-field, falling with his face to the foe. For
several minutes they remained thus side by side.
The Lolotte was now well at sea, the wind and waves rising rapidly, the
motion already considerable. Presently there was an order of "Lay aloft
and furl the skysails," and then short shouts resounded from the darkness,
showing that the work was being done. But in spite of this easing the
vessel labored a good deal, and heavy spurts of spray began to fly over
the quarter-deck rail.
"I think, Miss, you had better go below unless you want to get wet,"
observed the skipper, coming up to Clara. "We shall have a splashing night
Taking the nautical arm, Clara slid and tottered away, leaving Thurstane
lying on the sloppy deck.
Had Clara recognized Thurstane, she would have thrown herself into his
arms, and he would hardly have slept that night for joy.
As it was, he could not sleep for misery; festering at heart because of
that letter of rejection; almost maddened by his supposed discovery that
she would not speak to him, yet declaring to himself that he never would
have married her, because of her money; at the same time worshipping and
desiring her with passion; longing to die, but longing to die for her;
half enraged, and altogether wretched.
Meantime the southeaster, dead ahead and blowing harder every minute, was
sending its seas further and further aft. He left his wet berth on the
deck, reeled, or rather was flung, to the stern of the vessel, lodged
himself between the little wheel-house and the taffrail, and watched a
scene in consonance with his feelings. Innumerable twinklings of stars
faintly illuminated a cloudless, serene heaven, and a foaming, plunging
ocean. The slender, dark outlines of the sailless upper masts were leaning
sharply over to leeward, and describing what seemed like mystic circles
and figures against the lighter sky. The crests of seas showed with
ghostly whiteness as they howled themselves to death near by, or dashed
with a jar and a hoarse whistle over the bulwarks, slapping against the
sails and pounding upon the decks. The waves which struck the bows every
few seconds gave forth sounds like the strokes of Thor's hammer, and made
everything tremble from cathead to stempost.
Every now and then there were hoarse orders from the captain on the
quarter-deck, echoed instantly by sharp yells from the mate in the waist.
Now it was, "Lay aloft and furl the fore royal;" and ten minutes later,
"Lay aloft and furl the main royal." Scarcely was this work done before
the shout came, "Lay aloft and reef the fore-t'gallant-s'l;" followed
almost immediately by "Lay aloft and reef the main-t'gallant-s'l." Next
came, "Lay out forrard and furl the flying jib." Each command was
succeeded by a silent, dark darting of men into the rigging, and presently
a trampling on deck and a short, sharp singing out at the ropes, with
cries from aloft of "Haul out to leeward; taut hand; knot away."
Under the reduced sail the brig went easier for a while; but the half gale
had made up its mind to be a hurricane. It was blowing more savagely every
second. One after another the topgallant sails were double-reefed,
close-reefed, and at last furled. The watch on deck had its hands full to
accomplish this work, so powerfully did the wind drag on the canvas.
Presently, far away forward--it seemed on board some other craft, so faint
was the sound--there came a bang, bang, bang! on the scuttle of the
forecastle, and a hollow shout of "All hands reef tops'ls ahoy!"
Up tumbled the "starbowlines," or starboard watch, and joined the
"larbowlines" in the struggle with the elements. No more sleep that night
for man, boy, mate, or master. Reef after reef was taken in the topsails,
until they were two long, narrow shingles of canvas, and still the wind
brought the vessel well down on her beam ends, as if it would squeeze her
by main force under water. The men were scarcely on deck from their last
reefing job, when boom! went the jib, bursting out as if shot from a
cannon, and then whipping itself to tatters.
"Lay out forrard!" screamed the mate. "Lay out and furl it."
After a desperate struggle, half the time more or less under water, two
men dragged in and fastened the fragments of the jib, while others set the
foretop-mast staysail in its place. But the wind was full of mischief; it
seemed to be playing with the ship's company; it furnished one piece of
work after another with dizzying rapidity. Hardly was the jib secured
before the great mainsail ripped open from top to bottom, and in the same
puff the close-reefed foretopsail split in two with a bang, from earing to
earing. Now came the orders fast and loud: "Down yards! Haul out reef
tackle! Lay out and furl! Lay out and reef!"
It was a perfect mess; a score of ropes flying at once; the men rolling
about and holding on; the sails slapping like mad, and ends of rigging
streaming off to leeward. After an exhausting fight the mainsail was
furled, the upper half of the topsail set close-reefed, and everything
hauled taut again. Now came an hour or so without accident, but not
without incessant and fatiguing labor, for the two royal yards were
successively sent down to relieve the upper masts, and the foretopgallant
sail, which had begun to blow loose, was frapped with long pieces of
During this period of comparative quiet Thurstane ventured an attempt to
reach his stateroom. The little gloomy cabin was going hither and thither
in a style which reminded him of the tossings of Gulliver's cage after it
had been dropped into the sea by the Brobdingnag eagle. The steward was
seizing up mutinous trunks and chairs to the table legs with rope-yarns.
The lamp was swinging and the captain's compass see-sawing like monkeys
who had gone crazy in bedlams of tree-tops. From two of the staterooms
came sounds which plainly confessed that the occupants were having a bad
night of it.
"How is the lady passenger?" Thurstane could not help whispering.
"Guess she's asleep, sah," returned the negro. "Fus-rate sailor, sah. But
them greasers is having tough times," he grinned. "Can't abide the sea,
greasers can't, sah."
Smiling with a grim satisfaction at this last statement, Thurstane gave
the man a five-dollar piece, muttered, "Call me if anything goes wrong,"
and slipped into his narrow dormitory. Without undressing, he lay down and
tried to sleep; but, although it was past midnight, he stayed broad awake
for an hour or more; he was too full of thoughts and emotions to find easy
quiet in a pillow. Near him--yes, in the very next stateroom--lay the
being who had made his life first a heaven and then a hell. The present
and the past struggled in him, and tossed him with their tormenting
contest. After a while, too, as the plunging of the brig increased, and he
heard renewed sounds of disaster on deck, he began to fear for Clara's
safety. It was a strange feeling, and yet a most natural one. He had not
ceased to love; he seemed indeed to love her more than ever; to think of
her struggling in the billows was horrible; he knew even then that he
would willingly die to save her. But after a time the incessant motion
affected him, and he dozed gradually into a sound slumber.
Hours later the jerking and pitching became so furious that it awakened
him, and when he rose on his elbow he was thrown out of his berth by a
tremendous lurch. Sitting up with his feet braced, he listened for a
little to the roar of the tempest, the trampling feet on deck, and the
screaming orders. Evidently things were going hardly above; the storm was
little less than a tornado. Seriously anxious at last for Clara--or, as he
tried to call her to himself, Miss Van Diemen--he stole out of his room,
clambered or fell up the companionway, opened the door after a struggle
with a sea which had just come inboard, got on to the quarter-deck, and,
holding by the shrouds, quailed before a spectacle as sublime and more
terrible than the Great Canon of the Colorado.
It was daylight. The sun was just rising from behind a waste of waters; it
revealed nothing but a waste of waters. All around the brig, as far as the
eye could reach, the Pacific was one vast tumble of huge blue-gray,
mottled masses, breaking incessantly in long, curling ridges, or lofty,
tossing steeps of foam. Each wave was composed of scores of ordinary
waves, just as the greater mountains are composed of ranges and peaks.
They seemed moving volcanoes, changing form with every minute of their
agony, and spouting lavas of froth. All over this immense riot of
tormented deeps rolled beaten and terrified armies of clouds. The wind
reigned supreme, driving with a relentless spite, a steady and obdurate
pressure, as if it were a current of water. It pinned the sailors to the
yards, and nearly blew Thurstane from the deck.
The Lolotte was down to close-reefed topsails, close-reefed spencer and
spanker, and storm-jib. Even upon this small and stout spread of canvas
the wind was working destruction, for just as Thurstane reached the deck
the jib parted and went to leeward in ribbons. Sailors were seen now on
the bowsprit fighting at once with sea and air, now buried in water, and
now holding on against the storm, and slowly gathering in the flapping,
snapping fragments. Next a new jib (a third one) was bent on, hoisted
half-way, and blown out like a piece of wet paper. Almost at the same
moment the captain saw threatening mouths grimace in the mainsail, and
screamed "Never mind there forrard. Lay up on the maintawps'l yard. Lay up
After half an hour's fight, the sail bagging and slatting furiously, it
was lashed anyway around the yard, and the men crawled slowly down again,
jammed and bruised against the shrouds by the wind. Every jib and
forestaysail on board having now been torn out, the brig remained under
close-reefed foretopsail, spencer, and spanker, and did little but drift
to leeward. The gale was at its height, blowing as if it were shot out of
the mouths of cannon, and chasing the ocean before it in mountains of
foam. One thing after another went; the topgallants shook loose and had to
be sent down; the chain bobstays parted and the martingale slued out of
place; one of the anchors broke its fastenings and hammered at the side;
the galley gave way and went slopping into the lee scuppers. No food that
morning except dry crackers and cold beef; all hands laboring exhaustingly
to repair damages and make things taut. For more than half an hour three
men were out on the guys and backropes endeavoring to reset the
martingale, deluged over and over by seas, and at last driven in beaten.
Others were relashing the galley, hauling the loose anchor and all the
anchors up on the rail, and resetting the loose lee rigging, which
threatened at every lurch to let the masts go by the board.
Thurstane presently learned that the wind had changed during the night, at
first dropping away for a couple of hours, then reopening with fresh rage
from the west, and finally hauling around into the northwest, whence it
now came in a steady tempest. The vessel too had altered her course; she
was no longer beating in long tacks toward the southeast; she was heading
westward and struggling to get away from the land. Thurstane asked few
questions; he was a soldier and had learned to meet fate in silence; he
knew too that men weighted with responsibilities do not like to be
catechised. But he guessed from the frequent anxious looks of the captain
eastward that the California coast was perilously near, and that the brig
was more likely to be drifting toward it than making headway from it.
Surveying through his closed hands the stormy windward horizon, he gave up
all thoughts of getting away from Clara by reaching San Diego, and turned
toward the idea of saving her from shipwreck.
None of the other passengers came on deck this morning. Garcia, horribly
seasick and frightened, held on desperately to his berth, and passed the
time in screaming for the "stewrt," cursing his evil surroundings, calling
everybody he could think of pigs, dogs, etc., and praying to saints and
angels. Coronado, not less sick and blasphemous, had more command over his
fears, and kept his prayers for the last pinch. Clara, a much better
sailor, and indeed an uncommonly good one, was so far beaten by the motion
that she did not get up, but lay as quiet as the brig would let her,
patiently awaiting results, now and then smiling at Garcia's shouts, but
more frequently thinking of Thurstane, and sometimes praying that she
might find him alive at Fort Yuma.
The steward carried cold beef, hard bread, brandy, coffee, and gruel (made
in his pantry) from stateroom to stateroom. The girl ate heartily,
inquired about the storm, and asked, "When shall we get there?" Garcia and
Coronado tried a little of the gruel and a good deal of the brandy and
water, and found, as people usually do under such circumstances, that
nothing did them any good. The old man wanted to ask the steward a hundred
questions, and yelled for his nephew to come and translate for him.
Coronado, lying on his back, made no answer to these cries of despair,
except in muttered curses and sniffs of angry laughter. So passed the
morning in the cabin.
Thurstane remained on deck, eating in soldierly fashion, his pockets full
of cold beef and crackers, and his canteen (for every infantry officer
learns to carry one) charged with hot coffee. He was pretty wet, inasmuch
as the spray showered incessantly athwart ships, while every few minutes
heavy seas came over the quarter bulwarks, slamming upon the deck like the
tail of a shark in his agonies. During the morning several great combers
had surmounted the port bow and rushed aft, carrying along everything
loose or that could be loosened, and banging against the companion door
with the force of a runaway horse. And these deluges grew more frequent,
for the gale was steadily increasing in violence, howling and shrieking
out of the gilded eastern horizon as if Lucifer and his angels had been
hurled anew from heaven.
About noon the close-reefed foretopsail burst open from earing to earing,
and then ripped up to the yard, the corners stretching out before the wind
and cracking like musket shots. To set it again was impossible; the orders
came, "Down yard--haul out reef tackle;" then half a dozen men laid out on
the spar and began furling. Scarcely was this terrible job well under way
when a whack of the slatting sail struck a Kanaka boy from his hold, and
he was carried to leeward by the gale as if he had been a bag of old
clothes, dropping forty feet from the side into the face of a monstrous
billow. He swam for a moment, but the next wave combed over him and he
disappeared. Then he was seen further astern, still swimming and with his
face toward the brig; then another vast breaker rushed upon him with a
lion-like roar, and he was gone. Nothing could be done; no boat might live
in such a sea; it would have been perilous to change course. The captain
glanced at the unfortunate, clenched his fists desperately, and turned to
his rigging. Another man took the vacant place on the yard, and the hard,
dizzy, frightful labor there went on unflaggingly, with the usual cries of
"Haul out, knot away," etc. It was one of the forms of a sailor's funeral.
No time for comments or emotions; the gale filled every mind every minute.
It was soon found that the spanker, a pretty large sail, well aft and not
balanced by any canvas at the bow, drew too heavily on the stern and made
steering almost impossible. A couple of Kanakas were ordered to reef it,
but could do nothing with it; the skipper cursed them for "sojers" (our
infantryman smiling at the epithet) and sent two first-class hands to
replace them; but these also were completely beaten by the hurricane. It
was not till a whole watch was put at the job that the big, bellying sheet
could be hauled in and made fast in the reef knots. The brig now had not a
rag out but her spencer and reduced spanker, both strong, small, and low
sails, eased a good deal by their slant, shielded by the elevated
port-rail, and thus likely to hold. But it was not sailing; it was simply
lying to. The vessel rose and fell on the monstrous waves, but made
scarcely more headway than would a tub, and drifted fast toward the still
unseen California coast.
All might still have gone well had the northwester continued as it was.
But about noon this tempest, which already seemed as furious as it could
possibly be, suddenly increased to an absolute hurricane, the wind fairly
shoving the brig sidelong over the water. Bang went the spanker, and then
bang the spencer, both sails at once flying out to leeward in streamers,
and flapping to tatters before the men could spring on the booms to secure
them. The destruction was almost as instant and complete as if it had been
effected by the broadside of a seventy-four fired at short range.
"Bend on the new spencer," shouted the captain. "Out with it and up with
it before she rolls the sticks out of her."
But the rolling commenced instantly, giving the sailors no time for their
work. No longer steadied by the wind, the vessel was entirely at the mercy
of the sea, and went twice on her beam ends for every billow, first to lee
and then to windward. Presently a great, white, hissing comber rose above
her larboard bulwark, hung there for a moment as if gloating on its prey,
and fell with the force of an avalanche, shaking every spar and timber
into an ague, deluging the main deck breast high, and swashing knee-deep
over the quarter-deck. The galley, with the cook in it, was torn from its
lashings and slung overboard as if it had been a hencoop. The companion
doors were stove in as if by a battering ram, and the cabin was flooded in
an instant with two feet of water, slopping and lapping among the baggage,
and stealing under the doors of the staterooms. The sailors in the waist
only saved themselves by rushing into the rigging during the moment in
which the breaker hung suspended.
Nothing could be done; the vessel must lift herself from this state of
submergence; and so she did, slowly and tremulously, like a sick man
rising from his bed. But while the ocean within was still running out of
her scuppers, the ocean without assaulted her anew. Successive billows
rolled under her, careening her dead weight this way and that, and keeping
her constantly wallowing. No rigging could bear such jerking long, and
presently the dreaded catastrophe came.
The larboard stays of the foremast snapped first; then the shrouds on the
same side doubled in a great bight and parted; next the mast, with a loud,
shrieking crash, splintered and went by the board. It fell slowly and with
an air of dignified, solemn resignation, like Caesar under the daggers of
the conspirators. The cross stays flew apart like cobwebs, but the lee
shrouds unfortunately held good; and scarcely was the stick overboard
before there was an ominous thumping at the sides, the drum-beat of death.
It was like guns turned on their own columns; like Pyrrhus's elephants
breaking the phalanx of Pyrrhus.
"Axes!" roared the captain at the first crack. "Axes!" yelled the mate as
the spar reeled into the water. "Lay forward and clear the wreck," were
the next orders; "cut away with your knives."
Two axes were got up from below; the sailors worked like beavers,
waist-deep in water; one, who had lost his knife, tore at the ropes with
his teeth. After some minutes of reeling, splashing, chopping, and
cutting, the fallen mast, the friend who had become an enemy, the angel
who had become a demon, was sent drifting through the creamy foam to
leeward. Meantime the mate had sounded the pumps, and brought out of them
a clear stream of water, the fresh invasion of ocean.
Directly on this cruel discovery, and as if to heighten its horror to the
utmost, the captain, clinging high up the mainmast shrouds, shouted,
"Landa-lee! Get ready the boats."
Without a word Thurstane hurried down into the cabin to save Clara from
this twofold threatening of death.
When Thurstane got into the cabin, he found it pretty nearly clear of
water, the steward having opened doors and trap-doors and drawn off the
deluge into the hold.
The first object that he saw, or could see, was Clara, curled up in a
chair which was lashed to the mast, and secured in it by a lanyard. As he
paused at the foot of the stairway to steady himself against a sickening
lurch, she uttered a cry of joy and astonishment, and held out her hand.
The cry was not speech; her gladness was far beyond words; it was simply
the first utterance of nature; it was the primal inarticulate language.
He had expected to stand at a distance and ask her leave to save her life.
Instead of that, he hurried toward her, caught her in his arms, kissed her
hand over and over, called her pet names, uttered a pathetic moan of grief
and affection, and shook with inward sobbing. He did not understand her;
he still believed that she had rejected him--believed that she only
reached out to him for help. But he never thought of charging her with
being false or hard-hearted or selfish. At the mere sight of her asking
rescue of him he devoted himself to her. He dared to kiss her and call her
dearest, because it seemed to him that in this awful moment of perhaps
mortal separation he might show his love. If they were to be torn apart by
death, and sepulchred possibly in different caves of the ocean, surely his
last farewell might be a kiss.
If she talked to him, he scarcely heard her words, and did not realize
their meaning. If it was indeed true that she kissed his cheek, he thought
it was because she wanted rescue and would thank any one for it. She was,
as he understood her, like a pet animal, who licks the face of any friend
in need, though a stranger. Never mind; he loved her just the same as if
she were not selfish; he would serve her just the same as if she were
still his. He unloosed her arms from his shoulders, wondering that they
should be there, and crawling with difficulty to the cabin locker, groped
in it for life-preservers. There was only one in the vessel; that one he
buckled around Clara.
"Oh, my darling!" she exclaimed; "what do you mean?"
"My darling!" he echoed, "bear it bravely. There is great danger; but
don't be afraid--I will save you."
He had no doubts in making this promise; it seemed to him that he could
overcome the billows for her sake--that he could make himself stronger
than the powers of nature.
"Where did you come from? from another vessel?" she asked, stretching out
her arms to him again.
"I was here," he said, taking and kissing her hands; "I was here, watching
over you. But there is no time to lose. Let me carry you."
"They must be saved," returned Clara, pointing to the staterooms. "Garcia
and Coronado are there."
Should he try to deliver those enemies from death? He did not hesitate a
moment about it, but bursting open the doors of the two rooms he shouted,
"On deck with you! Into the boats! We are sinking!"
Next he set Clara down, passed his left arm around her waist, clung to
things with his right hand, dragged her up the companionway to the
quarter-deck, and lashed her to the weather shrouds, with her feet on the
wooden leader. Not a word was spoken during the five minutes occupied by
this short journey. Even while Clara was crossing the deck a frothing
comber deluged her to her waist, and Thurstane had all he could do to keep
her from being flung into the lee scuppers. But once he had her fast and
temporarily safe, he made a great effort to smile cheerfully, and said,
"Never fear; I won't leave you."
"Oh! to meet to die!" she sobbed, for the strength of the water and the
rage of the surrounding sea had frightened her. "Oh, it is cruel!"
Presently she smothered her crying, and implored, "Come up here and tie
yourself by my side; I want to hold your hand."
He wondered whether she loved him again, now that she saw him; and in
spite of the chilling seas and the death at hand, he thrilled warm at the
thought. He was about to obey her when Coronado and Garcia appeared, pale
as two ghosts, clinging to each other, tottering and helpless. Thurstane
went to them, got the old man lashed to one of the backstays, and helped
Coronado to secure himself to another. Garcia was jabbering prayers and
crying aloud like a scared child, his jaws shaking as if in a palsy.
Coronado, although seeming resolved to bear himself like an hidalgo and
maintain a grim silence, his face was wilted and seamed with anxiety, as
if he had become an old man in the night. It was rather a fine sight to
see him looking into the face of the storm with an air of defying death
and all that it might bring; and perhaps he would have been helpful, and
would have shown himself one of the bravest of the brave, had he not been
prostrated by sickness. As it was, he took little interest in the fate of
others, hardly noticing Thurstane as he resumed his post beside Clara, and
only addressing the girl with one word: "Patience!"
Clara and Thurstane, side by side and hand in hand, were also for the most
part silent, now looking around them upon their fate, and then at each
other for strength to bear it.
Meantime part of the crew had tried the pumps, and been washed away from
them twice by seas, floating helplessly about the main deck, and clutching
at rigging to save themselves, but nevertheless discovering that the brig
was filling but slowly, and would have full time to strike before she
"'Vast there!" called the captain; "'vast the pumps! All hands stand by to
launch the boats!"
"Long boat's stove!" shouted the mate, putting his hands to his mouth so
as to be heard through the gale.
"All hands aft!" was the next order. "Stand by to launch the
So the entire remaining crew--two mates and eight men, including the
steward--splashed and clambered on to the quarter-deck and took station by
the boat-falls, hanging on as they could.
"Can I do anything?" asked Thurstane.
"Not yet," answered the captain; "you are doing what's right; take care of
"What are the chances?" the lieutenant ventured now to inquire.
With fate upon him, and seemingly irresistible, the skipper had dropped
his grim air of conflict and become gentle, almost resigned. His voice was
friendly, sympathetic, and quite calm, as he stepped up by Thurstane's
side and said, "We shall have a tough time of it. The land is only about
ten miles away. At this rate we shall strike it inside of three hours. I
don't see how it can be helped."
"Where shall we strike?"
"Smack into the Bay of Monterey, between the town and Point Pinos.'
"Can I do anything?"
"Do just what you've got in hand. Take care of the lady. See that she gets
into the biggest boat--if we try the boats."
Clara overheard, gave the skipper a kind look, and said, "Thank you,
"You're fit to be capm of a liner, miss," returned the sailor. "You're one
of the best sort."
For some time longer, while waiting for the final catastrophe, nothing was
done but to hold fast and gaze. The voyagers were like condemned men who
are preceded, followed, accompanied, jostled, and hurried to the place of
death by a vindictive people. The giants of the sea were coming in
multitudes to this execution which they had ordained; all the windward
ocean was full of rising and falling billows, which seemed to trample one
another down in their savage haste. There was no mercy in the formless
faces which grimaced around the doomed ones, nor in the tempestuous voices
which deafened them with threatenings and insult. The breakers seemed to
signal to each other; they were cruelly eloquent with menacing gestures.
There was but one sentence among them, and that sentence was a thousand
times repeated, and it was always DEATH.
To paint the shifting sublimity of the tempest is as difficult as it was
to paint the steadfast sublimity of the Great Canon. The waves were in
furious movement, continual change, and almost incessant death. They
destroyed themselves and each other by their violence. Scarcely did one
become eminent before it was torn to pieces by its comrades, or perished
of its own rage. They were like barbarous hordes, exterminating one
another or falling into dissolution, while devastating everything in their
There was a frantic revelry, an indescribable pandemonium of
transformations. Lofty plumes of foam fell into hoary, flattened sheets;
curling and howling cataracts became suddenly deep hollows. The indigo
slopes were marbled with white, but not one of these mottlings retained
the same shape for an instant; it was broad, deep, and creamy when the eye
first beheld it; in the next breath it was waving, shallow, and narrow; in
the next it was gone. A thousand eddies, whirls, and ebullitions of all
magnitudes appeared only to disappear. Great and little jets of froth
struggled from the agitated centres toward the surface, and never reached
it. Every one of the hundred waves which made up each billow rapidly
tossed and wallowed itself to death.
Yet there was no diminution in the spectacle, no relaxation in the combat.
In the place of what vanished there was immediately something else. Out of
the quick grave of one surge rose the white plume of another. Marbling
followed marbling, and cataract overstrode cataract. Even to their bases
the oceanic ranges and peaks were full of power, activity, and, as it
were, explosions. It seemed as if endless multitudes of transformations
boiled up through them from their abodes in sea-deep caves. There was no
exhausting this reproductiveness of form and power. At every glance a
thousand worlds of waters had perished, and a thousand worlds of waters
had been created. And all these worlds, the new even more than the old,
were full of malignity toward the wreck, and bent on its destruction.
The wind, though invisible, was not less wonderful. It surpassed the ocean
in strength, for it chased, gashed, and deformed the ocean. It inflicted
upon it countless wounds, slashing fresh ones as fast as others healed. It
not only tore off the hoary scalps of the billows and flung them through
the air, but it wrenched out and hurled large masses of water, scattering
them in rain and mist, the blood of the sea. Now and then it made all the
air dense with spray, causing the Pacific to resemble the Sahara in a
simoom. At other times it levelled the tops of scores of waves at once,
crushing and kneading them by the immense force that lay in its swiftness.
It would not be looked in the face; it blinded the eyes that strove to
search it; it seemed to flap and beat them with harsh, churlish wings; it
was as full of insult as the billows. Its cry was not multitudinous like
that of the sea, but one and incessant and invariable, a long scream that
almost hissed. On reaching the wreck, however, this shriek became hoarse
with rage, and howled as it shook the rigging. It used the shrouds and
stays of the still upright mainmast as an aeolian harp from which to draw
horrible music. It made the tense ropes tremble and thrill, and tortured
the spars until they wailed a death-song. Its force as felt by the
shipwrecked ones was astonishing; it beat them about as if it were a sea,
and bruised them against the shrouds and bulwarks; it asserted its mastery
over them with the long-drawn cruelty of a tiger.
Just around the wreck the tumult of both wind and sea was of course more
horrible than anywhere else. These enemies were infuriated by the
sluggishness of the disabled hulk; they treated it as Indians treat a
captive who cannot keep up with their march; they belabored it with blows
and insulted it with howls. The brig, constantly tossed and dropped and
shoved, was never still for an instant. It rolled heavily and somewhat
slowly, but with perpetual jerks and jars, shuddering at every concussion.
Its only regularity of movement lay in this, that the force of the wind
and direction of the waves kept it larboard side on, drifting steadily
toward the land.
One moment it was on a lofty crest, seeming as if it would be hurled into
air. The next it was rolling in the trough of the sea, between a wave
which hoarsely threatened to engulf it, and another which rushed seething
and hissing from beneath the keel. The deck stood mostly at a steep angle,
the weather bulwarks being at a considerable elevation, and the lee ones
dipping the surges. Against this helpless and partially water-logged mass
the combers rushed incessantly, hiding it every few seconds with sheets of
spray, and often sweeping it with deluges. Around the stern and bow the
rush of bubbling, roaring whirls was uninterrupted.
The motion was sickly and dismaying, like the throes of one who is dying.
It could not be trusted; it dropped away under the feet traitorously;
then, by an insolent surprise, it violently stopped or lifted. It was made
the more uncertain and distressing by the swaying of the water which had
entered the hull. Sometimes, too, the under boiling of a crushed billow
caused a great lurch to windward; and after each of these struggles came a
reel to leeward which threatened to turn the wreck bottom up; the breakers
meantime leaping aboard with loud stampings as if resolved to beat through
During hours of this tossing and plunging, this tearing of the wind and
battering of the sea, no one was lost. The sailors were clustered around
the boats, some clinging to the davits and others lashed to belaying pins,
exhausted by long labor, want of sleep, and constant soakings, but ready
to fight for life to the last. Coronado and Garcia were still fast to the
backstays, the former a good deal wilted by his hardships, and the latter
whimpering. Thurstane had literally seized up Clara to the outside of the
weather shrouds, so that, although she was terribly jammed by the wind,
she could not be carried away by it, while she was above the heaviest
pounding of the seas. His own position was alongside of her, secured in
like manner by ends of cordage.
Sometimes he held her hand, and sometimes her waist. She could lean her
shoulder against his, and she did so nearly all the while. Her eyes were
fixed as often on his face as on the breakers which threatened her life.
The few words that she spoke were more likely to be confessions of love
than of terror. Now and then, when a billow of unusual size had slipped
harmlessly by, he gratefully and almost joyously drew her close to him,
uttering a few syllables of cheer. She thanked him by sending all her
affectionate heart through her eyes into his.
Although there had been no explanations as to the past, they understood
each other's present feelings. It could not be, he was sure, that she
clung to him thus and looked at him thus merely because she wanted him to
save her life. She had been detached from him by others, he said; she had
been drawn away from thinking of him during his absence; she had been
brought to judge, perhaps wisely, that she ought not to marry a poor man;
but now that she saw him again she loved him as of old, and, standing at
death's door, she felt at liberty to confess it. Thus did he translate to
himself a past that had no existence. He still believed that she had
dismissed him, and that she had done it with cruel harshness. But he could
not resent her conduct; he believed what he did and forgave her; he
believed it, and loved her.
There were moments when it was delightful for them to be as they were. As
they held fast to each other, though drenched and exhausted and in mortal
peril, they had a sensation as if they were warm. The hearts were beating
hotly clean through the wet frames and the dripping clothing.
"Oh, my love!" was a phrase which Clara repeated many times with an air of
Once she said, "My love, I never thought to die so easily. How horrible it
would have been without you!"
Again she murmured, "I have prayed many, many times to have you. I did not
know how the answer would come. But this is it."
"My darling, I have had visions about you," was another of these
confessions. "When I had been praying for you nearly all one night, there
was a great light came into the room. It was some promise for you. I knew
it was then; something told me so. Oh, how happy I was!"
Presently she added, "My dear love, we shall be just as happy as that. We
shall live in great light together. God will be pleased to see plainly how
we love each other."
Her only complaints were a patient "Isn't it hard?" when a new billow had
covered her from head to foot, crushed her pitilessly against the shrouds,
and nearly smothered her.
The next words would perhaps be, "I am so sorry for you, my darling. I
wish for your sake that you had not come. But oh, how you help me!"
"I am glad to be here," firmly and honestly and passionately responded the
young man, raising her wet hand and covering it with kisses. "But you
shall not die."
He was bearing like a man and she like a woman. He was resolved to fight
his battle to the last; she was weak, resigned, gentle, and ready for
The land, even to its minor features, was now distinctly visible, not more
than a mile to leeward. As they rose on the billows they could distinguish
the long beach, the grassy slopes, and wooded knolls beyond it, the green
lawn on which stood the village of Monterey, the whitewashed walls and
red-tiled roofs of the houses, and the groups of people who were watching
the oncoming tragedy.
"Are you not going to launch the boats?" shouted Thurstane after a glance
at the awful line of frothing breakers which careered back and forth
athwart the beach.
"They are both stove," returned the captain calmly. "We must go ashore as
When Thurstane heard, or rather guessed from the captain's gestures, that
the boats were stove, he called, "Are we to do nothing?"
The captain shouted something in reply, but although he put his hands to
his mouth for a speaking trumpet, his words were inaudible, and he would
not have been understood had he not pointed aloft.
Thurstane looked upward, and saw for the first time that the main topmast
had broken off and been cut clear, probably hours ago when he was in the
cabin searching for Clara. The top still remained, however, and twisted
through its openings was one end of a hawser, the other end floating off
to leeward two hundred yards in advance of the wreck. Fastened to the
hawser by a large loop was a sling of cordage, from which a long halyard
trailed shoreward, while another connected it with the top. All this had
been done behind his back and without his knowledge, so deafening and
absorbing was the tempest. He saw at once what was meant and what he would
have to do. When the brig struck he must carry Clara into the top, secure
her in the sling, and send her ashore. Doubtless the crowd on the beach
would know enough to make the hawser fast and pull on the halyard.
The captain shouted again, and this time he could be understood: "When she
strikes hold hard."
"Did you hear him?" Thurstane asked, turning to Clara.
"Yes," she nodded, and smiled in his face, though faintly like one dying.
He passed one arm around the middle stay of the shrouds and around her
waist, passed the other in front of her, covering her chest; and so, with
every muscle set, he waited.
Surrounded, pursued, pushed, and hammered by the billows, the wreck
drifted, rising and falling, starting and wallowing toward the awful line
where the breakers plunged over the undertow and dashed themselves to
death on the resounding shore. There was a wide debatable ground between
land and water. One moment it belonged to earth, the next lofty curling
surges foamed howling over it; then the undertow was flying back in savage
torrents. Would the hawser reach across this flux and reflux of death?
Would the mast hold against the grounding shock? Would the sling work?
They lurched nearer; the shock was close at hand; every one set teeth and
tightened grip. Lifted on a monstrous billow, which was itself lifted by
the undertow and the shelving of the beach, the hulk seemed as if it were
held aloft by some demon in order that it might be dashed to pieces. But
the wave lost its hold, swept under the keel, staggered wildly up the
slope, broke in a huge white deafening roll, and rushed backward in
torrents. The brig was between two forces; it struck once, but not
heavily; then, raised by the incoming surge, it struck again; there was an
awful consciousness and uproar of beating and grinding; the next instant
it was on its beam ends and covered with cataracts.
Every one aboard was submerged. Thurstane and Clara were overwhelmed by
such a mass of water that they thought themselves at the bottom of the
sea. Two men who had not mounted the rigging, but tried to cling to the
boat davits, were hurled adrift and sent to agonize in the undertow. The
brig trembled as if it were on the point of breaking up and dissolving in
the horrible, furious yeast of breakers. Even to the people on shore the
moment and the spectacle were sublime and tremendous beyond description.
The vessel and the people on board disappeared for a time from their sight
under jets and cascades of surf. The spray rose in a dense sheet as high
as the maintopmast would have been had it stood upright.
When Thurstane came out of his state of temporary drowning, he was
conscious of two sailors clambering by him toward the top, and heard a
shout in his ears of "Cast loose."
It was the captain. He had sprung alongside of Clara, and was already
unwinding her lashings. Thrice before the job was done they were buried in
surf, and during the third trial they had to hold on with their hands, the
two men clasping the girl desperately and pressing her against the
rigging. It was a wonder that she and all of them were not disabled, for
the jamming of the water was enough to break bones.
They got her up a few ratlines; then came another surge, during which they
gripped hard; then there was a second ascent, and so on. The climbing was
the easier and the holding on the more difficult, because the mast was
depressed to a low angle, its summit being hardly ten feet higher than its
base. Even in the top there was a desperate struggle with the sea, and
even after Clara was in the sling she was half drowned by the surf.
Meantime the people on shore had made fast the hawser to a tree and manned
the halyard. Not a word was uttered by Clara or Thurstane when they
parted, for she was speechless with exhaustion and he with anxiety and
terror. The moment he let go of her he had to grip a loop of top-hamper
and hold on with all his might to save himself from being pitched into the
water by a fresh jerk of the mast and a fresh inundation of flying surge.
When he could look at her again she was far out on the hawser, rising and
falling in quick, violent, perilous swings, caught at by the toppling
breakers and howled at by the undertow. Another deluge blinded him; as
soon as he could he gazed shoreward again, and shrieked with joy; she was
being carefully lifted from the sling; she was saved--if she was not dead.
When the apparatus was hauled back to the top the captain said to
Thurstane, "Your turn now."
The young man hesitated, glanced around for Coronado and Garcia, and
replied, "Those first."
It was not merely humanity, and not at all good-will toward these two men,
which held him back from saving his life first; it was mainly that motto
of nobility, that phrase which has such a mighty influence in the army,
"_An officer and a gentleman_." He believed that he would disgrace his
profession and himself if he should quit the wreck while any civilian
remained upon it.
Coronado, leaving his uncle to the care of a sailor, had already climbed
the shrouds, and was now crawling through the lubber hole into the top.
For once his hardihood was beaten; he was pale, tremulous and obviously in
extreme terror; he clutched at the sling the moment he was pointed to it.
With the utmost care, and without even a look of reproach, Thurstane
helped secure him in the loops and launched him on his journey. Next came
the turn of Garcia. The old man seemed already dead. He was livid, his
lips blue, his hands helpless, his voice gone, his eyes glazed and set. It
was necessary to knot him into the sling as tightly as if he were a
corpse; and when he reached shore it could be seen that he was borne off
like a dead weight.
"Now then," said the captain to Thurstane. "We can't go till you do.
Exhausted by his drenchings, and by a kind of labor to which he was not
accustomed, the lieutenant obeyed this order, took his place in the sling,
nodded good-by to the brave sailors, and was hurled out of the top by a
plunge of surf, as a criminal is pushed from the cart by the hangman.
No idea has been given, and no complete idea can be given, of the
difficulties, sufferings, and perils of this transit shoreward. Owing to
the rising and falling of the mast, the hawser now tautened with a jerk
which flung the voyager up against it or even over it, and now drooped in
a large bight which let him down into the seethe of water and foam that
had just rushed over the vessel, forcing it down on its beam ends.
Thurstane was four or five times tossed and as often submerged. The waves,
the wind, and the wreck played with him successively or all together. It
was an outrage and a torment which surpassed some of the tortures of the
Inquisition. First came a quick and breathless plunge; then he was
imbedded in the rushing, swirling waters, drumming in his ears and
stifling his breath; then he was dragged swiftly upward, the sling turning
him out of it. It seemed to him that the breath would depart from his body
before the transit was over. When at last he landed and was detached from
the cordage, he was so bruised, so nearly drowned, so every way exhausted,
that he could not stand. He lay for quite a while motionless, his head
swimming, his legs and arms twitching convulsively, every joint and muscle
sore, catching his breath with painful gasps, almost fainting, and feeling
much as if he were dying.
He had meant to help save the captain and sailors. But there was no more
work in him, and he just had strength to walk up to the village, a citizen
holding him by either arm. As soon as he could speak so as to be
understood, he asked, first in English and then in Spanish, "How is the
"She is insensible," was the reply--a reply of unmeant cruelty.
Remembering how he had suffered, Thurstane feared lest Clara had received
her death-stroke in the slings, and he tottered forward eagerly, saying,
"Take me to her."
Arrived at the house where she lay, he insisted upon seeing her, and had
his way. He was led into a room; he did not see and could never remember
what sort of a room it was; but there she was in bed, her face pale and
her eyes closed; he thought she was dead, and he nearly fell. But a
pitying womanly voice murmured to him, "She lives," with other words that
he did not understand, or could not afterward recall. Trusting that this
unconsciousness was a sleep, he suffered himself to be drawn away by
helping hands, and presently was himself in a bed, not knowing how he got
Meantime the tragedy of the wreck was being acted out. The sling broke
once, the sailor who was in it falling into the undertow, and perishing
there in spite of a rush of the townspeople. One of the two men who were
washed overboard at the first shock was also drowned. The rest escaped,
including the heroic captain, who was the last to come ashore.
When Thurstane was again permitted to see Clara, it was, to his great
astonishment, the morning of the following day. He had slept like the
dead; if any one had sought to awaken him, it would have been almost
impossible; there was no strength left in body or spirt but for sleep.
Clara's story had been much the same: insensibility, then swoons, then
slumber; twelve hours of utter unconsciousness. On waking the first words
of each were to ask for the other. Thurstane put on his scarcely dried
uniform and hurried to the girl's room. She received him at the door, for
she had heard his step although it was on tiptoe, and she knew his knock
although as light as the beating of a bird's wing.
It was another of those interviews which cannot be described, and perhaps
should not be. They were uninterrupted, for the ladies of the house had
learned from Clara that this was her betrothed, and they had woman's sense
of the sacredness of such meetings. Presents came, and were not sent in:
Coronado called and was not admitted. The two were alone for two hours,
and the two hours passed like two minutes. Of course all the ugly past was
"A letter dismissing you!" exclaimed Clara with tears. "Oh! how could you
think that I would write such a letter? Never--never! Oh, I never could.
My hand should drop off first. I should die in trying to write such
wickedness. What! don't you know me better? Don't you know that I am true
to you? Oh, how could you believe it of me? My darling, how could you?"
"Forgive me," begged the humbled young fellow, trembling with joy in his
humility. "It was weak and wicked in me. I deserved to be punished as I
have been. And, oh, I did not deserve this happiness. But, my little girl,
how could I help being deceived? There was your handwriting and your
"Ah! I know who it was," broke out Clara. "It has been he all through. He
shall pay for this, and for all," she added, her Spanish blood rising in
her cheeks, and her soft eyes sparkling angrily for a minute.
"I have saved his life for the last time," returned Thurstane. "I have
spared it for the last time. Hereafter--"
"My darling, my darling!" begged Clara, alarmed by his blackening brow.
"Oh, my darling, I don't love to see you angry. Just now, when we have
just been spared to each other, don't let us be angry. I spoke angrily
first. Forgive me."
"Let him keep out of my way," muttered Thurstane, only in part pacified.
"Yes," answered Clara, thinking that she would herself send Coronado off,
so that there might be no duel between him and this dear one.
Presently the lover added one thing which he had felt all the time ought
to have been said at first.
"The letter--it was right. Although _he_ wrote it, it was right. I have no
claim to marry a rich woman, and you have no right to marry a poor man."
He uttered this in profound misery, and yet with a firm resolution. Clara
turned pale and stared at him with anxious eyes, her lips parted as though
to speak, but saying nothing. Knowing his fastidious sense of honor, she
guessed the full force with which this scruple weighed upon him, and she
did not know how to drag it off his soul.
"You are worth a million," he went on, in a broken-hearted sort of voice
which to us may seem laughable, but which brought the tears into Clara's
The next instant she brightened; she knew, or thought she knew, that she
was not worth a million; so she smiled like a sunburst and caught him
gayly by the wrists.
"A million!" she scoffed, laughingly. "Do you believe all Coronado tells
"What! isn't it true?" exclaimed Thurstane, reddening with joy. "Then you
are not heir to your grandfather's fortune? It was one of _his_ lies? Oh,
my little girl, I am forever happy."
She had not meant all this; but how could she undeceive him? The tempting
thought came into her mind that she would marry him while he was in this
ignorance, and so relieve him of his noble scruples about taking an
heiress. It was one of those white lies which, it seems to us, must fade
out of themselves from the record book, without even needing to be blotted
by the tear of an angel.
"Are you glad?" she smiled, though anxious at heart, for deception alarmed
her. "Really glad to find me poor?"
His only response was to cover her hands, and hair, and forehead with
At last came the question, When? Clara hesitated; her face and neck
bloomed with blushes as dewy as flowers; she looked at him once piteously,
and then her gaze fell in beautiful shame.
"When would you like?" she at last found breath to whisper.
"Now--here," was the answer, holding both her hands and begging with his
blue-black eyes, as soft then as a woman's.
"Yes, at once," he continued to implore. "It is best everyway. It will
save you from persecutions. My love, is it not best?"
Under the circumstances we cannot wonder that this should be just as she
"Yes--it is--best," she murmured, hiding her face against his shoulder.
"What you say is true. It will save me trouble."
After a short heaven of silence he added, "I will go and see what is
needed. I must find a priest."
As he was departing she caught him; it seemed to her just then that she
could not be a wife so soon; but the result was that after another silence
and a faint sobbing, she let him go.
Meantime Coronado, that persevering and audacious but unlucky conspirator,
was in treble trouble. He was afraid that he would lose Clara; afraid that
his plottings had been brought to light, and that he would be punished;
afraid that his uncle would die and thus deprive him of all chance of
succeeding to any part of the estate of Munoz. Garcia had been brought
ashore apparently at his last gasp, and he had not yet come out of his
insensibility. For a time Coronado hoped that he was in one of his fits;
but after eighteen hours he gave up that feeble consolation; he became
terribly anxious about the old man; he felt as though he loved him. The
people of Monterey universally admitted that they had never before known
such an affectionate nephew and tender-hearted Christian as Coronado.
He tried to see Clara, meaning to make the most with her of Garcia's
condition, and hoping that thus he could divert her a little from
Thurstane. But somehow all his messages failed; the little house which
held her repelled him as if it had been a nunnery; nor could he get a word
or even a note from her. The truth is that Clara, fearing lest Coronado
should tell more stories about her million to Thurstane, had taken the
women of the family into her confidence and easily got them to lay a sly
embargo on callers and correspondents.
On the second day Garcia came to himself for a few minutes, and struggled
hard to say something to his nephew, but could give forth only a feeble
jabber, after which he turned blank again. Coronado, in the extreme of
anxiety, now made another effort to get at Clara. Reaching her house, he
learned from a bystander that she had gone out to walk with the Americano,
and then he thought he discovered them entering the distant church.
He set off at once in pursuit, asking himself with an anxiety which almost
made him faint, "Are they to be married?"
In those days the hymeneal laws of California were as easy as old shoes,
and people could espouse each other about as rapidly as they might want
The consequence was that, although Ralph Thurstane and Clara Van Diemen
had only been two days in Monterey and had gone through no forms of
publication, they were actually being married when Coronado reached the
Leaning against the wall, with eyes as fixed and face as livid as if he
were a corpse from the neighboring cemetery, he silently witnessed a
ceremony which it would have been useless for him to interrupt, and then,
stepping softly out of a side door, lurked away.
He walked a quarter of a mile very fast, ran nearly another quarter of a
mile, turned into a by-road, sought its thickest underbrush, threw himself
on the ground, and growled. For once he had a heavier burden upon him than
he could bear in human presence, or bear quietly anywhere. He must be
alone; also he must weep and curse. He was in a state to tear his hair and
to beat his head against the earth. Refined as Coronado usually was,
admirably as he could imitate the tranquil gentleman of modern
civilization, he still had in him enough of the natural man to rave. For a
while he was as simple and as violent in his grief as ever was any
Celtiberian cave-dweller of the stone age.
Jealousy, disappointed love, disappointed greed, plans balked, labor lost,
perils incurred in vain! All the calamities that he could most dread
seemed to have fallen upon him together; he was like a man sucked by the
arms of a polypus, dying in one moment many deaths. We must, however, do
him the justice to believe that the wound which tore the sharpest was that
which lacerated his heart. At this time, when he realized that he had
altogether and forever lost Clara, he found that he loved her as he had
never yet believed himself capable of loving. Considering the nobility of
this passion, we must grant some sympathy to Coronado.
Unfortunate as he was, another misfortune awaited him. When he returned to
the house where Garcia lay, he found that the old man, his sole relative
and sole friend, had expired. To Coronado this dead body was the carcass
of all remaining hope. The exciting drama of struggle and expectation
which had so violently occupied him for the last six months, and which had
seemed to promise such great success, was over. Even if he could have
resolved to kill Clara, there was no longer anything to be gained by it,
for her money would not descend to Coronado. Even if he should kill
Thurstane, that would be a harm rather than a benefit, for his widow would
hate Coronado. If he did any evil deed now, it must be from jealousy or
from vindictiveness. Was murder of any kind worth while? For the time,
whether it were worth while or not, he was furious enough to do it.
If he did not act, he must go; for as everything had miscarried, so much
had doubtless been discovered, and he might fairly expect chastisement.
While he hesitated a glance into the street showed him something which
decided him, and sent him far from Monterey before sundown. Half a dozen
armed horsemen, three of them obviously Americans, rode by with a pinioned
prisoner, in whom Coronado recognized Texas Smith. He did not stop to
learn that his old bravo had committed a murder in the village, and that a
vigilance committee had sent a deputation after him to wait upon him into
the other world. The sight of that haggard, scarred, wicked face, and the
thought of what confessions the brute might be led to if he should
recognize his former employer, were enough to make Coronado buy a horse
and ride to unknown regions.
Under the circumstances it would perhaps be unreasonable to blame him for
leaving his uncle to be buried by Clara and Thurstane.
These two, we easily understand, were not much astonished and not at all
grieved by his departure.
"He is gone," said Thurstane, when he learned the fact. "No wonder."
"I am so glad!" replied Clara.
"I suspect him now of being at the bottom of all our troubles."
"Don't let us talk of it, my love. It is too ugly. The present is so
"I must hurry back to San Francisco and try to get a leave of absence,"
said the husband, turning to pleasanter subjects. "I want full leisure to
"And you won't let them send you to San Diego?" begged the wife. "No more
voyages now. If you do go, I shall go with you."
"Oh no, my child. I can't trust the sea with you again. Not after this,"
and he waved his hand toward the wreck of the brig.
"Then I will beg myself for your leave of absence."
Thurstane laughed; that would never do; no such condescension in _his_
They went by land to San Francisco, and Clara kept the secret of her
million during the whole journey, letting her husband pay for everything
out of his shallow pocket, precisely as if she had no money. Arrived in
the city, he left her in a hotel and hurried to headquarters. Two hours
later he returned smiling, with the news that a brother officer had
volunteered to take his detail, and that he had obtained a honeymoon leave
of absence for thirty days.
"Barclay is a trump," he said. "It is all the prettier in him to go that
he has a wife of his own. The commandant made no objection to the
exchange. In fact the old fellow behaved like a father to me, shook hands,
patted me on the shoulder, congratulated me, and all that sort of thing.
Old boy, married himself, and very fond of his family. Upon my word, it
seems to better a man's heart to marry him."
"Of course it does," chimed in Clara. "He is so much happier that of
course he is better."
"Well, my little princess, where shall we go?"
"Go first to see Aunt Maria. There! don't make a face. She is very good in
the long run. She will be sweet enough to you in three days."
"Of course I will go. Where is she?"
"Boarding at a hacienda a few miles from town. We can take horses, canter
out there, and pass the night."
She was full of spirits; laughed and chattered all the way; laughed at
everything that was said; chattered like a pleased child. Of course she
was thinking of the surprise that she would give him, and how she had
circumvented his sense of honor about marrying a rich girl, and how hard
and fast she had him. Moreover the contrast between her joyous present and
her anxious past was alone enough to make her run over with gayety. All
her troubles had vanished in a pack; she had gone at one bound from
purgatory to paradise.
At the hacienda Thurstane was a little struck by the respect with which
the servants received Clara; but as she signed to them to be silent, not a
word was uttered which could give him a suspicion of the situation. Mrs.
Stanley, moreover, was taking a siesta, and so there was another tell-tale
"Nobody seems to be at home," said Clara, bursting into a merry laugh over
her trick as they entered the house. "Where can the master and mistress
They were now in a large and handsomely furnished room, which was the
parlor of the hacienda.
"Don't sit down," cried Clara, her eyes sparkling with joy. "Stand just
there as you are. Let me look at you a moment. Wait till I tell you
She fronted him for a few seconds, watching his wondering face,
hesitating, blushing, and laughing. Suddenly she bounded forward, threw
her arms around his shoulders and cried excitedly, hysterically, "My love!
my husband! all this is yours. Oh, how happy I am!"
The next moment she burst into tears on the shoulder to which she was
"What is the matter?" demanded Thurstane in some alarm; for he did not
know that women can tremble and weep with gladness, and he thought that
surely his wife was sick if not deranged.
"What! don't you guess it?" she asked, drawing back with a little more
calmness, and looking tenderly into his puzzled eyes.
"You don't mean--?"
"It can't be that--?"
He began to comprehend the trick that had been played upon him, although
as yet he could not fully credit it. What mainly bewildered him was that
Clara, whom he had always supposed to be as artless as a child--Clara,
whom he had cared for as an elder and a father--should have been able to
keep a secret and devise a plot and carry out a mystification.
"Great ---- Scott!" he gasped in his stupefaction, using the name of the
then commander-in-chief for an oath, as officers sometimes did in those
"Yes, yes, yes," laughed and chattered Clara. "Great Scott and great
Thurstane! All yours. Three hundred thousand. Half a million. A million. I
don't know how much. All I know is that it is all yours. Oh, my darling!
oh, my darling! How I have fooled you! Are you angry with me? Say, are you
angry? What will you do to me?"
We must excuse Thurstane for finding no other chastisement than to squeeze
her in his arms and choke her with kisses. Next he held her from him, set
her down upon a sofa, fell back a pace and stared at her much as if she
were a totally new discovery, something in the way of an arrival from the
moon. He was in a state of profound amazement at the dexterity with which
she had taken his destiny out of his own hands into hers, without his
knowledge. He had not supposed that she was a tenth part so clever. For
the first time he perceived that she was his match, if indeed she were not
the superior nature; and it is a remarkable fact, though not a dark one if
one looks well into it, that he respected her the more for being too much
"It beats Hannibal," he said at last. "Who would have expected such
generalship in you? I am as much astonished as if you had turned into a
knight in armor. Well, how much it has saved me! I should have hesitated
and been miserable; and I should have married you all the same; and then
been ashamed of marrying money, and had it rankle in me for years. And
now--oh, you wise little thing!--all I can say is, I worship you."
"Yes, darling," replied Clara, walking gravely up to him, putting her
hands on his shoulders, and looking him thoughtfully in the eyes. "It was
the wisest thing I ever did. Don't be afraid of me. I never shall be so
clever again. I never shall be so tempted to be clever."
We must pass over a few months. Thurstane soon found that he had the Munoz
estate in his hands, and that, for the while at least, it demanded all his
time and industry. Moreover, there being no war and no chance of martial
distinction, it seemed absurd to let himself be ordered about from one hot
and cramped station to another, when he had money enough to build a
palace, and a wife who could make it a paradise. Finally, he had a taste
for the natural sciences, and his observations in the Great Canon and
among the other marvels of the desert had quickened this inclination to a
passion, so that he craved leisure for the study of geology, mineralogy,
and chemistry. He resigned his commission, established himself in San
Francisco, bought all the scientific books he could hear of, made
expeditions to the California mountains, collected garrets full of
specimens, and was as happy as a physicist always is.
Perhaps his happiness was just a little increased when Mrs. Stanley
announced her intention of returning to New York. The lady had been
amiable on the whole, as she meant always to be; but she could not help
daily taking up her parable concerning the tyranny and stupidity of man
and the superior virtue of woman; and sometimes she felt it her duty to
put it to Thurstane that he owed everything to his wife; all of which was
more or less wearing, even to her niece. At the same time she was such a
disinterested, well-intentioned creature that it was impossible not to
grant her a certain amount of admiration. For instance, when Clara
proposed to make her comfortable for life by settling upon her fifty
thousand dollars, she replied peremptorily that it was far too much for an
old woman who had decided to turn her back on the frivolities of society,
and she could with difficulty be brought to accept twenty thousand.
Furthermore, she was capable, that is, in certain favored moments, of
confessing error. "My dear," she said to Clara, some weeks after the
marriage, "I have made one great mistake since I came to these countries.
I believed that Mr. Coronado was the right man and Mr. Thurstane the wrong
one. Oh, that smooth-tongued, shiny-eyed, meeching, bowing, complimenting
hypocrite! I see at last what a villain he was. _I_ see it," she
emphasized, as if nobody else had discovered it. "To think that a person
who was so right on the main question [female suffrage] could be so wrong
on everything else! The contradiction adds to his guilt. Well, I have had
my lesson. Every one must make her mistake. I shall never be so humbugged
Some little time after Thurstane had received the acceptance of his
resignation and established himself in his handsome city house, Aunt Maria
observed abruptly, "My dears, I must go back."
"Go back where? To the desert and turn hermit?" asked Clara, who was
accustomed to joke her relative about "spheres and missions."
"To New York," replied Mrs. Stanley. "I can accomplish nothing here. This
miserable Legislature will take no notice of my petitions for female
"Oh, that is because you sign them alone," laughed the younger lady.
"I can't get anybody else to sign them," said Aunt Maria with some
asperity. "And what if I do sign them alone? A house full of men ought to
have gallantry enough to grant one lady's request. California is not ripe
for any great and noble measure. I can't remain where I find so little
sympathy and collaboration. I must go where I can be of use. It is my
And go she did. But before she shook off her dust against the Pacific
coast there was an interview with an old acquaintance.
It must be understood that the fatigues and sufferings of that terrible
pilgrimage through the desert had bothered the constitution of little
Sweeny, and that, after lying in garrison hospital at San Francisco for
several months, he had been discharged from the service on "certificate of
physical disability." Thurstane, who had kept track of him, immediately
took him to his house, first as an invalid hanger-on, and then as a jack
of all work.
As the family were sitting at breakfast Sweeny's voice was heard in the
veranda outside, "colloguing" with another voice which seemed familiar.
"Listen," whispered Clara. "That is Captain Glover. Let us hear what they
say. They are both so queer!"
"An' what" ("fwat" he pronounced it) "the divil have ye been up to?"
demanded Sweeny. "Ye're a purty sailor, buttoned up in a long-tail coat,
wid a white hankerchy round yer neck. Have ye been foolin' paple wid
makin' 'em think ye're a Protestant praste?"
"I've been blowin' glass, Sweeny," replied the sniffling voice of Phineas
"Blowin' glass! Och, yees was always powerful at blowin'. But I niver
heerd ye blow glass. It was big lies mostly whin I was a listing."
"Yes, blowin' glass," returned the Fair Havener in a tone of agreeable
reminiscence, as if it had been a not unprofitable occupation. "Found
there wasn't a glass-blower in all Californy. Bought 'n old machine, put
up to the mines with it, blew all sorts 'f jigmarigs 'n' thingumbobs, 'n'
sold 'em to the miners 'n' Injuns. Them critters is jest like sailors
ashore; they'll buy anything they set eyes on. Besides, I sounded my horn;
advertised big, so to speak; got up a sensation. Used to mount a stump 'n'
make a speech; told 'em I'd blow Yankee Doodle in glass, any color they
wanted; give 'em that sort 'f gospel, ye know."
"An' could ye do it?" inquired the Paddy, confounded by the idea of
blowing a glass tune.
"Lord, Sweeny! you're greener 'n the miners. When ye swaller things that
way, don't laugh 'r ye'll choke yerself to death, like the elephant did
when he read the comic almanac at breakfast."
"I don't belave that nuther," asseverated Sweeny, anxious to clear himself
from the charge of credulity.
"Don't believe that!" exclaimed Glover. "He did it twice."
"Och, go way wid ye. He couldn't choke himself afther he was dead. I
wouldn't belave it, not if I see him turn black in the face. It's
yerself'll get choked some day if yees don't quit blatherin'. But what did
ye get for yer blowin'? Any more'n the clothes ye're got to yer back?"
For answer Glover dipped into his pockets, took out two handfuls of gold
pieces and chinked them under the Irishman's nose.
"Blazes! ye're lousy wid money," commented Sweeny. "Ye want somebody to
"Twenty thousan' dollars in bank," added Glover. "All by blowin' 'n'
tradin'. Goin' hum in the next steamer. Anythin' I can do for ye, old
messmate? Say how much."
"It's the liftinant is takin' care av me. He's made a betther livin' nor
yees, a thousand times over, by jist marryin' the right leddy. An' he's
going to put me in charrge av a farrum that they call the hayshindy, where
I'll sell the cattle for myself, wid half to him, an' make slathers o'
"Thunder, Sweeny! You'll end by ridin' in a coach. What'll ye take for yer
chances? Wal, I'm glad to hear ye're doin' so well. I am so, for old
"Come in, Captain Glover," at this moment called Clara through the blinds.
"Come in, Sweeny. Let us all have a talk together about the old times and
the new ones."
So there was a long talk, miscellaneous and delightful, full of
reminiscences and congratulations and good wishes.
"Wal, we're a lucky lot," said Glover at last. "Sh'd like to hear 'f some
good news for the sergeant and Mr. Kelly. Sh'd go back hum easier for it."
"Kelly is first sergeant," stated Thurstane, "and Meyer is
quartermaster-sergeant, with a good chance of being quartermaster. He is
capable of it and deserves it. He ought to have been promoted years ago
for his gallantry and services during the war. I hope every day to hear
that he has got his commission as lieutenant."
"Wal, God bless 'em, 'n' God bless the hull army!" said Glover, so
gratified that he felt pious. "An' now, good-by. Got to be movin'."
"Stay over night with us," urged Thurstane. "Stay a week. Stay as long as
"Do," begged Clara. "You can go geologizing with my husband. You can start
Sweeny on his farm."
"Och, he's a thousin' times welkim," put in Sweeny, "though I'm afeard av
him. He'd tache the cattle to trade their skins wid ache other, an slather
me wid lies till I wouldn't know which was the baste an' which was
Glover grinned with an air of being flattered, but replied, "Like to stay
first rate, but can't work it. Passage engaged for to-morrow mornin'."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Aunt Maria, agreeably surprised by an idea.
And the result was that she went to New York under the care of Captain
As for Clara and Thurstane, they are surely in a state which ought to
satisfy their friends, and we will therefore say no more of them.