Part 2 out of 2
"I ought to know something about East Kent," Frank answered.
"Some dear friends of mine once lived there."
"Friends of yours?" Wardour repeated. "One of the county
families, I suppose?"
As he put the question, he abruptly looked over his shoulder. He
was standing between Crayford and Frank. Crayford, taking no part
in the conversation, had been watching him, and listening to him
more and more attentively as that conversation went on. Within
the last moment or two Wardour had become instinctively conscious
of this. He resented Crayford's conduct with needless
"Why are you staring at me?" he asked.
"Why are you looking unlike yourself?" Crayford answered,
Wardour made no reply. He renewed the conversation with Frank.
"One of the county families?" he resumed. "The Winterbys of Yew
Grange, I dare say?"
"No," said Frank; "but friends of the Witherbys, very likely. The
Desperately as he struggled to maintain it, Wardour's
self-control failed him. He started violently. The clumsily-wound
handkerchief fell off his hand. Still looking at him attentively,
Crayford picked it up.
"There is your handkerchief, Richard," he said. "Strange!"
"What is strange?"
"You told us you had hurt yourself with the ax--"
"There is no blood on your handkerchief."
Wardour snatched the handkerchief out of Crayford's hand, and,
turning away, approached the outer door of the hut. "No blood on
the handkerchief," he said to himself. "There may be a stain or
two when Crayford sees it again." He stopped within a few paces
of the door, and spoke to Crayford. "You recommended me to take
leave of my brother officers before it was too late," he said. "I
am going to follow your advice."
The door was opened from the outer side as he laid his hand on
One of the quartermasters of the _Wanderer_ entered the hut.
"Is Captain Helding here, sir?" he asked, addressing himself to
Wardour pointed to Crayford.
"The lieutenant will tell you," he said.
Crayford advanced and questioned the quartermaster. "What do you
want with Captain Helding?" he asked.
"I have a report to make, sir. There has been an accident on the
"To one of your men?"
"No, sir. To one of our officers."
Wardour, on the point of going out, paused when the quartermaster
made that reply. For a moment he considered with himself. Then he
walked slowly back to the part of the room in which Frank was
standing. Crayford, directing the quartermaster, pointed to the
arched door way in the side of the hut.
"I am sorry to hear of the accident," he said. "You will find
Captain Helding in that room."
For the second time, with singular persistency, Wardour renewed
the conversation with Frank.
"So you knew the Burnhams?" he said. "What became of Clara when
her father died?"
Frank's face flushed angrily on the instant.
"Clara!" he repeated. "What authorizes you to speak of Miss
Burnham in that familiar manner?"
Wardour seized the opportunity of quarreling with him.
"What right have you to ask?" he retorted, coarsely.
Frank's blood was up. He forgot his promise to Clara to keep
their engagement secret--he forgot everything but the unbridled
insolence of Wardour's language and manner.
"A right which I insist on your respecting," he answered. "The
right of being engaged to marry her."
Crayford's steady eyes were still on the watch, and Wardour felt
them on him. A little more and Crayford might openly interfere.
Even Wardour recognized for once the necessity of controlling his
temper, cost him what it might. He made his apologies, with
overstrained politeness, to Frank.
"Impos sible to dispute such a right as yours," he said. "Perhaps
you will excuse me when you know that I am one of Miss Burnham's
old friends. My father and her father were neighbors. We have
always met like brother and sister--"
Frank generously stopped the apology there.
"Say no more," he interposed. "I was in the wrong--I lost my
temper. Pray forgive me."
Wardour looked at him with a strange, reluctant interest while he
was speaking. Wardour asked an extraordinary question when he had
"Is she very fond of you?"
Frank burst out laughing.
"My dear fellow," he said, "come to our wedding, and judge for
"Come to your wedding?" As he repeated the words Wardour stole
one glance at Frank which Frank (employed in buckling his
knapsack) failed to see. Crayford noticed it, and Crayford's
blood ran cold. Comparing the words which Wardour had spoken to
him while they were alone together with the words that had just
passed in his presence, he could draw but one conclusion. The
woman whom Wardour had loved and lost was--Clara Burnham. The man
who had robbed him of her was Frank Aldersley. And Wardour had
discovered it in the interval since they had last met. "Thank
God!" thought Crayford, "the dice have parted them! Frank goes
with the expedition, and Wardour stays behind with me."
The reflection had barely occurred to him--Frank's thoughtless
invitation to Wardour had just passed his lips--when the canvas
screen over the doorway was drawn aside. Captain Helding and the
officers who were to leave with the exploring party returned to
the main room on their way out. Seeing Crayford, Captain Helding
stopped to speak to him.
"I have a casualty to report," said the captain, "which
diminishes our numbers by one. My second lieutenant, who was to
have joined the exploring party, has had a fall on the ice.
Judging by what the quartermaster tells me, I am afraid the poor
fellow has broken his leg."
"I will supply his place," cried a voice at the other end of the
Everybody looked round. The man who had spoken was Richard
Crayford instantly interfered--so vehemently as to astonish all
who knew him.
"No!" he said. "Not you, Richard! not you!"
"Why not?" Wardour asked, sternly.
"Why not, indeed?" added Captain Helding. "Wardour is the very
man to be useful on a long march. He is in perfect health, and he
is the best shot among us. I was on the point of proposing him
Crayford failed to show his customary respect for his superior
officer. He openly disputed the captain's conclusion.
"Wardour has no right to volunteer," he rejoined. "It has been
settled, Captain Helding, that chance shall decide who is to go
and who is to stay."
"And chance _has_ decided it," cried Wardour. "Do you think we
are going to cast the dice again, and give an officer of the
_Sea-mew_ a chance of replacing an officer of the _Wanderer_?
There is a vacancy in our party, not in yours; and we claim the
right of filling it as we please. I volunteer, and my captain
backs me. Whose authority is to keep me here after that?"
"Gently, Wardour," said Captain Helding. "A man who is in the
right can afford to speak with moderation." He turned to
Crayford. "You must admit yourself," he continued, "that Wardour
is right this time. The missing man belongs to my command, and in
common justice one of my officers ought to supply his place."
It was impossible to dispute the matter further. The dullest man
present could see that the captain's reply was unanswerable. In
sheer despair, Crayford took Frank's arm and led him aside a few
steps. The last chance left of parting the two men was the chance
of appealing to Frank.
"My dear boy," he began, "I want to say one friendly word to you
on the subject of your health. I have already, if you remember,
expressed my doubts whether you are strong enough to make one of
an exploring party. I feel those doubts more strongly than ever
at this moment. Will you take the advice of a friend who wishes
Wardour had followed Crayford. Wardour roughly interposed before
Frank could reply.
"Let him alone!"
Crayford paid no heed to the interruption. He was too earnestly
bent on withdrawing Frank from the expedition to notice anything
that was said or done by the persons about him.
"Don't, pray don't, risk hardships which you are unfit to bear!"
he went on, entreatingly. "Your place can be easily filled.
Change your mind, Frank. Stay here with me."
Again Wardour interfered. Again he called out, "Leave him alone!"
more roughly than ever. Still deaf and blind to every
consideration but one, Crayford pressed his entreaties on Frank.
"You owned yourself just now that you were not well seasoned to
fatigue," he persisted. "You feel (you _must_ feel) how weak that
last illness has left you? You know (I am sure you know) how
unfit you are to brave exposure to cold, and long marches over
Irritated beyond endurance by Crayford's obstinacy; seeing, or
thinking he saw, signs of yielding in Frank's face, Wardour so
far forgot himself as to seize Crayford by the arm and attempt to
drag him away from Frank. Crayford turned and looked at him.
"Richard," he said, very quietly, "you are not yourself. I pity
you. Drop your hand."
Wardour relaxed his hold, with something of the sullen submission
of a wild animal to its keeper. The momentary silence which
followed gave Frank an opportunity of speaking at last.
"I am gratefully sensible, Crayford," he began, "of the interest
which you take in me--"
"And you will follow my advice?" Crayford interposed, eagerly.
"My mind is made up, old friend," Frank answered, firmly and
sadly. "Forgive me for disappointing you. I am appointed to the
expedition. With the expedition I go." He moved nearer to
Wardour. In his innocence of all suspicion he clapped Wardour
heartily on the shoulder. "When I feel the fatigue," said poor
simple Frank, "you will help me, comrade--won't you? Come along!"
Wardour snatched his gun out of the hands of the sailor who was
carrying it for him. His dark face became suddenly irradiated
with a terrible joy.
"Come!" he cried. "Over the snow and over the ice! Come! where no
human footsteps have ever trodden, and where no human trace is
Blindly, instinctively, Crayford made an effort to part them. His
brother officers, standing near, pulled him back. They looked at
each other anxiously. The merciless cold, striking its victims in
various ways, had struck in some instances at their reason first.
Everybody loved Crayford. Was he, too, going on the dark way that
others had taken before him? They forced him to seat himself on
one of the lockers. "Steady, old fellow!" they said
kindly--"steady!" Crayford yielded, writhing inwardly under the
sense of his own helplessness. What in God's name could he do?
Could he denounce Wardour to Captain Helding on bare
suspicion--without so much as the shadow of a proof to justify
what he said? The captain would decline to insult one of his
officers by even mentioning the monstrous accusation to him. The
captain would conclude, as others had already concluded, that
Crayford's mind was giving way under stress of cold and
privation. No hope--literally, no hope now, but in the numbers of
the expedition. Officers and men, they all liked Frank. As long
as they could stir hand or foot, they would help him on the
way--they would see that no harm came to him.
The word of command was given; the door was thrown open; the hut
emptied rapidly. Over the merciless white snow--under the
merciless black sky--the exploring party began to move. The sick
and helpless men, whose last hope of rescue centered in their
departing messmates, cheered faintly. Some few whose days were
numbered sobbed and cried like women. Frank's voice faltered as
he turned back at the door to say his last words to the friend
who had been a father to him.
"God bless you, Crayford!"
Crayford broke away from the officers near him; and, hurrying
forward, seized Frank by both hands. Crayford held him as if he
would never let him go.
"God preserve you, Frank! I would give all I have in the world to
be with you. Good-by! Good-by!"
Frank waved his hand--das hed away the tears that were gathering
in his eyes--and hurried out. Crayford called after him, the
last, the only warning that he could give:
"While you can stand, keep with the main body, Frank!"
Wardour, waiting till the last--Wardour, following Frank through
the snow-drift--stopped, stepped back, and answered Crayford at
"While he can stand, he keeps with Me."
Alone! alone on the Frozen Deep!
The Arctic sun is rising dimly in the dreary sky. The beams of
the cold northern moon, mingling strangely with the dawning
light, clothe the snowy plains in hues of livid gray. An
ice-field on the far horizon is moving slowly southward in the
spectral light. Nearer, a stream of open water rolls its slow
black waves past the edges of the ice. Nearer still, following
the drift, an iceberg rears its crags and pinnacles to the sky;
here, glittering in the moonbeams; there, looming dim and
ghost-like in the ashy light.
Midway on the long sweep of the lower slope of the iceberg, what
objects rise, and break the desolate monotony of the scene? In
this awful solitude, can signs appear which tell of human Life?
Yes! The black outline of a boat just shows itself, hauled up on
the berg. In an ice-cavern behind the boat the last red embers of
a dying fire flicker from time to time over the figures of two
men. One is seated, resting his back against the side of the
cavern. The other lies prostrate, with his head on his comrade's
knee. The first of these men is awake, and thinking. The second
reclines, with his still white face turned up to the
sky--sleeping or dead. Days and days since, these two have fallen
behind on the march of the expedition of relief. Days and days
since, these two have been given up by their weary and failing
companions as doomed and lost. He who sits thinking is Richard
Wardour. He who lies sleeping or dead is Frank Aldersley.
The iceberg drifts slowly, over the black water, through the ashy
light. Minute by minute the lying fire sinks. Minute by minute
the deathly cold creeps nearer and nearer to the lost men.
Richard Wardour rouses himself from his thoughts--looks at the
still white face beneath him--and places his hand on Frank's
heart. It still beats feebly. Give him his share of the food and
fuel still stored in the boat, and Frank may live through it.
Leave him neglected where he lies, and his death is a question of
hours--perhaps minutes; who knows?
Richard Wardour lifts the sleeper's head and rests it against the
cavern side. He goes to the boat, and returns with a billet of
wood. He stoops to place the wood on the fire--and stops. Frank
is dreaming, and murmuring in his dream. A woman's name passes
his lips. Frank is in England again--at the ball--whispering to
Clara the confession of his love.
Over Richard Wardour's face there passes the shadow of a deadly
thought. He rises from the fire; he takes the wood back to the
boat. His iron strength is shaken, but it still holds out. They
are drifting nearer and nearer to the open sea. He can launch the
boat without help; he can take the food and the fuel with him.
The sleeper on the iceberg is the man who has robbed him of
Clara--who has wrecked the hope and the happiness of his life.
Leave the man in his sleep, and let him die!
So the tempter whispers. Richard Wardour tries his strength on
the boat. It moves: he has got it under control. He stops, and
looks round. Beyond him is the open sea. Beneath him is the man
who has robbed him of Clara. The shadow of the deadly thought
grows and darkens over his face. He waits with his hands on the
boat--waits and thinks.
The iceberg drifts slowly--over the black water; through the ashy
light. Minute by minute, the dying fire sinks. Minute by minute,
the deathly cold creeps nearer to the sleeping man. And still
Richard Wardour waits--waits and thinks.
The spring has come. The air of the April night just lifts the
leaves of the sleeping flowers. The moon is queen in the
cloudless and starless sky. The stillness of the midnight hour is
abroad, over land and over sea.
In a villa on the westward shore of the Isle of Wight, the glass
doors which lead from the drawing-room to the garden are yet
open. The shaded lamp yet burns on the table. A lady sits by the
lamp, reading. From time to time she looks out into the garden,
and sees the white-robed figure of a young girl pacing slowly to
and fro in the soft brightness of the moonlight on the lawn.
Sorrow and suspense have set their mark on the lady. Not rivals
only, but friends who formerly admired her, agree now that she
looks worn and aged. The more merciful judgment of others
remarks, with equal truth, that her eyes, her hair, her simple
grace and grandeur of movement have lost but little of their
olden charms. The truth lies, as usual, between the two extremes.
In spite of sorrow and suffering, Mrs. Crayford is the beautiful
Mrs. Crayford still.
The delicious silence of the hour is softly disturbed by the
voice of the younger lady in the garden.
"Go to the piano, Lucy. It is a night for music. Play something
that is worthy of the night."
Mrs. Crayford looks round at the clock on the mantelpiece.
"My dear Clara, it is past twelve! Remember what the doctor told
you. You ought to have been in bed an hour ago."
"Half an hour, Lucy--give me half an hour more! Look at the
moonlight on the sea. Is it possible to go to bed on such a night
as this? Play something, Lucy--something spiritual and divine."
Earnestly pleading with her friend, Clara advances toward the
window. She too has suffered under the wasting influences of
suspense. Her face has lost its youthful freshness; no delicate
flush of color rises on it when she speaks. The soft gray eyes
which won Frank's heart in the by-gone time are sadly altered
now. In repose, they have a dimmed and wearied look. In action,
they are wild and restless, like eyes suddenly wakened from
startling dreams. Robed in white--her soft brown hair hanging
loosely over her shoulders--there is something weird and
ghost-like in the girl, as she moves nearer and nearer to the
window in the full light of the moon--pleading for music that
shall be worthy of the mystery and the beauty of the night.
"Will you come in here if I play to you?" Mrs. Crayford asks. "It
is a risk, my love, to be out so long in the night air."
"No! no! I like it. Play--while I am out here looking at the sea.
It quiets me; it comforts me; it does me good."
She glides back, ghost-like, over the lawn. Mrs. Crayford rises,
and puts down the volume that she has been reading. It is a
record of explorations in the Arctic seas. The time has gone by
when the two lonely women could take an interest in subjects not
connected with their own anxieties. Now, when hope is fast
failing them--now, when their last news of the _Wanderer_ and the
_Sea-mew_ is news that is more than two years old--they can read
of nothing, they can think of nothing, but dangers and
discoveries, losses and rescues in the terrible Polar seas.
Unwillingly, Mrs. Crayford puts her book aside, and opens the
piano--Mozart's "Air in A, with Variations," lies open on the
instrument. One after another she plays the lovely melodies, so
simply, so purely beautiful, of that unpretending and unrivaled
work. At the close of the ninth Variation (Clara's favorite), she
pauses, and turns toward the garden.
"Shall I stop there?" she asks.
There is no answer. Has Clara wandered away out of hearing of the
music that she loves--the music that harmonizes so subtly with
the tender beauty of the night? Mrs. Crayford rises and advances
to the window.
No! there is the white figure standing alone on the slope of the
lawn--the head turned away from the house; the face looking out
over the calm sea, whose gently rippling waters end in the dim
line on the horizon which is the line of the Hampshire coast.
Mrs. Crayford advances as far as the path before the window, and
calls to her.
Again there is no answer. The white figure still stands immovably
in its place.
With signs of distress in her face, but with no appearance of
alarm, Mrs. Crayford returns to the room. Her own sad experience
tells her what has happened. She summons the servants and directs
them to wait in the drawing-room until she calls to them. This
done, she returns to the garden, and approaches the mysterious
figure on the lawn.
Dead to the outer world, as if she lay already in her
grave--insensible to touch, insensible to sound, motionless as
stone, cold as stone--Clara stands on the moonlit lawn, facing
the seaward view. Mrs. Crayford waits at her side, patiently
watching for the change which she knows is to come. "Catalepsy,"
as some call it--"hysteria," as others say--this alone is
certain, the same interval always passes; the same change always
It comes now. Not a change in her eyes; they still remain wide
open, fixed and glassy. The first movement is a movement of her
hands. They rise slowly from her side and waver in the air like
the hands of a person groping in the dark. Another interval, and
the movement spreads to her lips: they part and tremble. A few
minutes more, and words begin to drop, one by one, from those
parted lips--words spoken in a lost, vacant tone, as if she is
talking in her sleep.
Mrs. Crayford looks back at the house. Sad experience makes her
suspicious of the servants' curiosity. Sad experience has long
since warned her that the servants are not to be trusted within
hearing of the wild words which Clara speaks in the trance. Has
any one of them ventured into the garden? No. They are out of
hearing at the window, waiting for the signal which tells them
that their help is needed.
Turning toward Clara once more, Mrs. Crayford hears the vacantly
uttered words, falling faster and faster from her lips
"Frank! Frank! Frank! Don't drop behind--don't trust Richard
Wardour. While you can stand, keep with the other men, Frank!"
(The farewell warning of Crayford in the solitudes of the Frozen
Deep, repeated by Clara in the garden of her English home!)
A moment of silence follows; and, in that moment, the vision has
changed. She sees him on the iceberg now, at the mercy of the
bitterest enemy he has on earth. She sees him drifting--over the
black water, through the ashy light.
"Wake, Frank! wake and defend yourself! Richard Wardour knows
that I love you--Richard Wardour's vengeance will take your life!
Wake, Frank--wake! You are drifting to your death!" A low groan
of horror bursts from her, sinister and terrible to hear.
"Drifting! drifting!" she whispers to herself--"drifting to his
Her glassy eyes suddenly soften--then close. A long shudder runs
through her. A faint flush shows itself on the deadly pallor of
her face, and fades again. Her limbs fail her. She sinks into
Mrs. Crayford's arms.
The servants, answering the call for help, carry her into the
house. They lay her insensible on her bed. After half an hour or
more, her eyes open again--this time with the light of life in
them--open, and rest languidly on the friend sitting by the
"I have had a dreadful dream," she murmurs faintly. "Am I ill,
Lucy? I feel so weak."
Even as she says the words, sleep, gentle, natural sleep, takes
her suddenly, as it takes young children weary with their play.
Though it is all over now, though no further watching is
required, Mrs. Crayford still keeps her place by the bedside, too
anxious and too wakeful to retire to her own room.
On other occasions, she is accustomed to dismiss from her mind
the words which drop from Clara in the trance. This time the
effort to dismiss them is beyond her power. The words haunt her.
Vainly she recalls to memory all that the doctors have said to
her, in speaking of Clara in the state of trance. "What she
vaguely dreads for the lost man whom she loves is mingled in her
mind with what she is constantly reading, of trials, dangers, and
escapes in the Arctic seas. The most startling things that she
may say or do are all attributable to this cause, and may all be
explained in this way." So the doctors have spoken; and, thus
far, Mrs. Crayford has shared their view. It is only to-night
that the girl's words ring in her ear, with a strange prophetic
sound in them. It is only to-night that she asks herself: "Is
Clara present, in the spirit, with our loved and lost ones in the
lonely North? Can mortal vision see the dead and living in the
solitudes of the Frozen Deep?"
The night had passed.
Far and near the garden view looked its gayest and brightest in
the light of the noonday sun. The cheering sounds which tell of
life and action were audible all round the villa. From the garden
of the nearest house rose the voices of children at play. Along
the road at the back sounded the roll of wheels, as carts and
carriages passed at intervals. Out on the blue sea, the distant
splash of the paddles, the distant thump of the engines, told
from time to time of the passage of steamers, entering or leaving
the strait between the island and the mainland. In the trees, the
birds sang gayly among the rustling leaves. In the house, the
women-servants were laughing over some jest or story that cheered
them at their work. It was a lively and pleasant time--a bright,
The two ladies were out together; resting on a garden seat, after
a walk round the grounds.
They exchanged a few trivial words relating to the beauty of the
day, and then said no more. Possessing the same consciousness of
what she had seen in the trance which persons in general possess
of what they have seen in a dream--believing in the vision as a
supernatural revelation--Clara's worst forebodings were now, to
her mind, realized as truths. Her last faint hope of ever seeing
Frank again was now at an end. Intimate experience of her told
Mrs. Crayford what was passing in Clara's mind, and warned her
that the attempt to reason and remonstrate would be little better
than a voluntary waste of words and time. The disposition which
she had herself felt on the previous night, to attach a
superstitious importance to the words that Clara had spoken in
the trance, had vanished with the return of the morning. Rest and
reflection had quieted her mind, and had restored the composing
influence of her sober sense. Sympathizing with Clara in all
besides, she had no sympathy, as they sat together in the
pleasant sunshine, with Clara's gloomy despair of the future.
She, who could still hope, had nothing to say to the sad
companion who had done with hope. So the quiet minutes succeeded
each other, and the two friends sat side by side in silence.
An hour passed, and the gate-bell of the villa rang.
They both started--they both knew the ring. It was the hour when
the postman brought their newspapers from London. In past days,
what hundreds on hundreds of times they had torn off the cover
which inclosed the newspaper, and looked at the same column with
the same weary mingling of hope and despair! There to-day--as it
was yesterday; as it would be, if they lived, to-morrow--there
was the servant with Lucy's newspaper and Clara's newspaper in
Would both of them do again to-day what both had done so often in
the days that were gone?
No! Mrs. Crayford removed the cover from her newspaper as usual.
Clara laid _her_ newspaper aside, unopened, on the garden seat.
In silence, Mrs. Crayford looked, where she always looked, at the
column devoted to the Latest Intelligence from foreign parts. The
instant her eye fell on the page she started with a loud cry of
joy. The newspaper fell from her trembling hand. She caught Clara
in her arms. "Oh, my darling! my darling! news of them at last."
Without answering, without the slightest change in look or
manner, Clara took the newspaper from the ground, and read the
top line in the column, printed in capital letters:
THE ARCTIC EXPEDITION.
She waited, and looked at Mrs. Crayford.
"Can you bear to hear it, Lucy," she asked, "if I read it aloud?"
Mrs. Crayford was too agitated to answer in words. She signed
impatiently to Clara to go on.
Clara read the news which followed the heading in capital
letters. Thus it ran:
"The following intelligence, from St. Johns, Newfoundland, has
reached us for publication. The whaling-vessel _Blythew ood_ is
reported to have met with the surviving officers and men of the
Expedition in Davis Strait. Many are stated to be dead, and some
are supposed to be missing. The list of the saved, as collected
by the people of the whaler, is not vouched for as being
absolutely correct, the circumstances having been adverse to
investigation. The vessel was pressed for time; and the members
of the Expedition, all more or less suffering from exhaustion,
were not in a position to give the necessary assistance to
inquiry. Further particulars may be looked for by the next mail."
The list of the survivors followed, beginning with the officers
in the order of their rank. They both read the list together. The
first name was Captain Helding; the second was Lieutenant
There the wife's joy overpowered her. After a pause, she put her
arm around Clara's waist, and spoke to her.
"Oh, my love!" she murmured, "are you as happy as I am? Is
Frank's name there too? The tears are in my eyes. Read for me--I
can't read for myself."
The answer came, in still, sad tones:
"I have read as far as your husband's name. I have no need to
Mrs. Crayford dashed the tears from her eyes--steadied
herself--and looked at the newspaper.
On the list of the survivors, the search was vain. Frank's name
was not among them. On a second list, headed "Dead or Missing,"
the first two names that appeared were:
FRANCIS ALDERSLEY. RICHARD WARDOUR.
In speechless distress and dismay, Mrs. Crayford looked at Clara.
Had she force enough in her feeble health to sustain the shock
that had fallen on her? Yes! she bore it with a strange unnatural
resignation--she looked, she spoke, with the sad self-possession
"I was prepared for it," she said. "I saw them in the spirit last
night. Richard Wardour has discovered the truth; and Frank has
paid the penalty with his life--and I, I alone, am to blame." She
shuddered, and put her hand on her heart. "We shall not be long
parted, Lucy. I shall go to him. He will not return to me."
Those words were spoken with a calm certainty of conviction that
was terrible to hear. "I have no more to say," she added, after a
moment, and rose to return to the house. Mrs. Crayford caught her
by the hand, and forced her to take her seat again.
"Don't look at me, don't speak to me, in that horrible manner!"
she exclaimed. "Clara! it is unworthy of a reasonable being, it
is doubting the mercy of God, to say what you have just said.
Look at the newspaper again. See! They tell you plainly that
their information is not to be depended on--they warn you to wait
for further particulars. The very words at the top of the list
show how little they knew of the truth 'Dead _or_ Missing!' On
their own showing, it is quite as likely that Frank is missing as
that Frank is dead. For all you know, the next mail may bring a
letter from him. Are you listening to me?"
"Can you deny what I say?"
"'Yes!' 'No!' Is that the way to answer me when I am so
distressed and so anxious about you?"
"I am sorry I spoke as I did, Lucy. We look at some subjects in
very different ways. I don't dispute, dear, that yours is the
"You don't dispute?" retorted Mrs. Crayford, warmly. "No! you do
what is worse--you believe in your own opinion; you persist in
your own conclusion--with the newspaper before you! Do you, or do
you not, believe the newspaper?"
"I believe in what I saw last night."
"In what you saw last night! You, an educated woman, a clever
woman, believing in a vision of your own fancy--a mere dream! I
wonder you are not ashamed to acknowledge it!"
"Call it a dream if you like, Lucy. I have had other dreams at
other times--and I have known them to be fulfilled."
"Yes!" said Mrs. Crayford. "For once in a way they may have been
fulfilled, by chance--and you notice it, and remember it, and pin
your faith on it. Come, Clara, be honest!--What about the
occasions when the chance has been against you, and your dreams
have not been fulfilled? You superstitious people are all alike.
You conveniently forget when your dreams and your presentiments
prove false. For my sake, dear, if not for your own," she
continued, in gentler and tenderer tones, "try to be more
reasonable and more hopeful. Don't lose your trust in the future,
and your trust in God. God, who has saved my husband, can save
Frank. While there is doubt, there is hope. Don't embitter my
happiness, Clara! Try to think as I think--if it is only to show
that you love me."
She put her arm round the girl's neck, and kissed her. Clara
returned the kiss; Clara answered, sadly and submissively,
"I do love you, Lucy. I _will_ try."
Having answered in those terms, she sighed to herself, and said
no more. It would have been plain, only too plain, to far less
observant eyes than Mrs. Crayford's that no salutary impression
had been produced on her. She had ceased to defend her own way of
thinking, she spoke of it no more--but there was the terrible
conviction of Frank's death at Wardour's hands rooted as firmly
as ever in her mind! Discouraged and distressed, Mrs. Crayford
left her, and walked back toward the house.
At the drawing-room window of the villa there appeared a polite
little man, with bright intelligent eyes, and cheerful sociable
manners. Neatly dressed in professional black, he stood,
self-proclaimed, a prosperous country doctor--successful and
popular in a wide circle of patients and friends. As Mrs.
Crayford approached him, he stepped out briskly to meet her on
the lawn, with both hands extended in courteous and cordial
"My dear madam, accept my heartfelt congratulations!" cried the
doctor. "I have seen the good news in the paper; and I could
hardly feel more rejoiced than I do now if I had the honor of
knowing Lieutenant Crayford personally. We mean to celebrate the
occasion at home. I said to my wife before I came out, 'A bottle
of the old Madeira at dinner to-day, mind!--to drink the
lieutenant's health; God bless him!' And how is our interesting
patient? The news is not altogether what we could wish, so far as
she is concerned. I felt a little anxious, to tell you the truth,
about the effect of it; and I have paid my visit to-day before my
usual time. Not that I take a gloomy view of the news myself. No!
There is clearly a doubt about the correctness of the
information, so far as Mr. Aldersley is concerned--and that is a
point, a great point in Mr. Aldersley's favor. I give him the
benefit of the doubt, as the lawyers say. Does Miss Burnham give
him the benefit of the doubt too? I hardly dare hope it, I
"Miss Burnham has grieved and alarmed me," Mrs. Crayford
answered. "I was just thinking of sending for you when we met
With those introductory words, she told the doctor exactly what
had happened; repeating not only the conversation of that morning
between Clara and herself, but also the words which had fallen
from Clara, in the trance of the past night.
The doctor listened attentively. Little by little, its easy
smiling composure vanished from his face, as Mrs. Crayford went
on, and left him completely transformed into a grave and
"Let us go and look at her," he said.
He seated himself by Clara's side, and carefully studied her
face, with his hand on her pulse. There was no sympathy here
between the dreamy mystical temperament of the patient and the
downright practical character of the doctor. Clara secretly
disliked her medical attendant. She submitted impatiently to the
close investigation of which he made her the object. He
questioned her--and she answered irritably. Advancing a step
further (the doctor was not easily discouraged) he adverted to
the news of the Expedition, and took up the tone of remonstrance
which had been already adopted by Mrs. Crayford. Clara declined
to discuss the question. She rose with formal politeness, and
requested permission to return to the house. The doctor attempted
no further resistance. "By all means, Miss Burnham," he answered,
resignedly--having first cast a look at Mrs. Crayford which said
plainly, "Stay here with me." Clara bowed her acknowledgments in
co ld silence, and left them together. The doctor's bright eyes
followed the girl's wasted, yet still graceful figure as it
slowly receded from view, with an expression of grave anxiety
which Mrs. Crayford noticed with grave misgiving on her side. He
said nothing, until Clara had disappeared under the veranda which
ran round the garden-side of the house.
"I think you told me," he began, "that Miss Burnham has neither
father nor mother living?"
"Yes. Miss Burnham is an orphan."
"Has she any near relatives?"
"No. You may speak to me as her guardian and her friend. Are you
alarmed about her?"
"I am seriously alarmed. It is only two days since I called here
last, and I see a marked change in her for the worse--physically
and morally, a change for the worse. Don't needlessly alarm
yourself! The case is not, I trust, entirely beyond the reach of
remedy. The great hope for us is the hope that Mr. Aldersley may
still be living. In that event, I should feel no misgivings about
the future. Her marriage would make a healthy and a happy woman
of her. But as things are, I own I dread that settled conviction
in her mind that Mr. Aldersley is dead, and that her own death is
soon to follow. In her present state of health this idea
(haunting her as it certainly will night and day) will have its
influence on her body as well as on her mind. Unless we can check
the mischief, her last reserves of strength will give way. If you
wish for other advice, by all means send for it. You have my
"I am quite satisfied with your opinion," Mrs. Crayford replied.
"For God's sake, tell me, what can we do?"
"We can try a complete change," said the doctor. "We can remove
her at once from this place."
"She will refuse to leave it," Mrs. Crayford rejoined. "I have
more than once proposed a change to her--and she always says No."
The doctor paused for a moment, like a man collecting his
"I heard something on my way here," he proceeded, "which suggests
to my mind a method of meeting the difficulty that you have just
mentioned. Unless I am entirely mistaken, Miss Burnham will not
say No to the change that I have in view for her."
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Crayford, eagerly.
"Pardon me if I ask you a question, on my part, before I reply,"
said the doctor. "Are you fortunate enough to possess any
interest at the Admiralty?"
"Certainly. My father is in the Secretary's office; and two of
the Lords of the Admiralty are friends of his."
"Excellent! Now I can speak out plainly with little fear of
disappointing you. After what I have said, you will agree with
me, that the only change in Miss Burnham's life which will be of
any use to her is a change that will alter the present tone of
her mind on the subject of Mr. Aldersley. Place her in a position
to discover--not by reference to her own distempered fancies and
visions, but by reference to actual evidence and actual
fact--whether Mr. Aldersley is, or is not, a living man; and
there will be an end of the hysterical delusions which now
threaten to fatally undermine her health. Even taking matters at
their worst--even assuming that Mr. Aldersley has died in the
Arctic seas--it will be less injurious to her to discover this
positively, than to leave her mind to feed on its own morbid
superstitions and speculations, for weeks and weeks together,
while the next news from the Expedition is on its way to England.
In one word, I want you to be in a position, before the week is
out, to put Miss Burnham's present conviction to a practical
test. Suppose you could say to her, 'We differ, my dear, about
Mr. Francis Aldersley. You declare, without the shadow of a
reason for it, that he is certainly dead, and, worse still, that
he has died by the act of one of his brother officers. I assert,
on the authority of the newspaper, that nothing of the sort has
happened, and that the chances are all in favor of his being
still a living man. What do you say to crossing the Atlantic, and
deciding which of us is right--you or I?' Do you think Miss
Burnham will say No to that, Mrs. Crayford? If I know anything of
human nature, she will seize the opportunity as a means of
converting you to a belief in the Second Sight."
"Good Heavens, doctor! do you mean to tell me that we are to go
to sea and meet the Arctic Expedition on its way home?"
"Admirably guessed, Mrs. Crayford! That is exactly what I mean."
"But how is it to be done?"
"I will tell you immediately. I mentioned--didn't I?--that I had
heard something on my road to this house."
"Well, I met an old friend at my own gate, who walked with me a
part of the way here. Last night my friend dined with the admiral
at Portsmouth. Among the guests there was a member of the
Ministry who had brought the news about the Expedition with him
from London. This gentleman told the company there was very
little doubt that the Admiralty would immediately send out a
steam-vessel, to meet the rescued men on the shores of America,
and bring them home. Wait a little, Mrs. Crayford! Nobody knows,
as yet, under what rules and regulations the vessel will sail.
Under somewhat similar circumstances, privileged people have been
received as passengers, or rather as guests, in her majesty's
ships--and what has been conceded on former occasions may, by
bare possibility, be conceded now. I can say no more. If you are
not afraid of the voyage for yourself, I am not afraid of it
(nay, I am all in favor of it on medical grounds) for my patient.
What do you say? Will you write to your father, and ask him to
try what his interest will do with his friends at the Admiralty?"
Mrs. Crayford rose excitedly to her feet.
"Write!" she exclaimed. "I will do better than write. The journey
to London is no great matter--and my housekeeper here is to be
trusted to take care of Clara in my absence. I will see my father
to-night! He shall make good use of his interest at the
Admiralty--you may rely on that. Oh, my dear doctor, what a
prospect it is! My husband! Clara! What a discovery you have
made--what a treasure you are! How can I thank you?"
"Compose yourself, my dear madam. Don't make too sure of success.
We may consider Miss Burnham's objections as disposed of
beforehand. But suppose the Lords of the Admiralty say No?"
"In that case, I shall be in London, doctor; and I shall go to
them myself. Lords are only men; and men are not in the habit of
saying No to me."
So they parted.
In a week from that day, her majesty's ship _Amazon_ sailed for
North America. Certain privileged persons, specially interested
in the Arctic voyagers, were permitted to occupy the empty
state-rooms on board. On the list of these favored guests of the
ship were the names of two ladies--Mrs. Crayford and Miss
Once more the open sea--the sea whose waters break on the shores
of Newfoundland! An English steamship lies at anchor in the
offing. The vessel is plainly visible through the open doorway of
a large boat-house on the shore--one of the buildings attached to
a fishing-station on the coast of the island.
The only person in the boat-house at this moment is a man in the
dress of a sailor. He is seated on a chest, with a piece of cord
in his hand, looking out idly at the sea. On the rough
carpenter's table near him lies a strange object to be left in
such a place--a woman's veil.
What is the vessel lying at anchor in the offing?
The vessel is the _Amazon_--dispatched from England to receive
the surviving officers and men of the Arctic Expedition. The
meeting has been successfully effected, on the shores of North
America, three days since. But the homeward voyage has been
delayed by a storm which has driven the ship out of her course.
Taking advantage, on the third day, of the first returning calm,
the commander of the _Amazon_ has anchored off the coast of
Newfoundland, and has sent ashore to increase his supplies of
water before he sails for England. The weary passengers have
landed for a few hours, to refresh themselves after the
discomforts of the tempest. Among them are the two ladies. The
veil left on the table in the boat-house is Clara's veil.
And who is the man si tting on the chest, with the cord in his
hand, looking out idly at the sea? The man is the only cheerful
person in the ship's company. In other words--John Want.
Still reposing on the chest, our friend, who never grumbles, is
surprised by the sudden appearance of a sailor at the boat-house
"Look sharp with your work there, John Want!" says the sailor.
"Lieutenant Crayford is just coming in to look after you."
With this warning the messenger disappears again. John Want rises
with a groan, turns the chest up on one end, and begins to fasten
the cord round it. The ship's cook is not a man to look back on
his rescue with the feeling of unmitigated satisfaction which
animates his companions in trouble. On the contrary, he is
ungratefully disposed to regret the North Pole.
"If I had only known"--thus runs the train of thought in the mind
of John Want--"if I had only known, before I was rescued, that I
was to be brought to this place, I believe I should have
preferred staying at the North Pole. I was very happy keeping up
everybody's spirits at the North Pole. Taking one thing with
another, I think I must have been very comfortable at the North
Pole--if I had only known it. Another man in my place might be
inclined to say that this Newfoundland boat-house was rather a
sloppy, slimy, draughty, fishy sort of a habitation to take
shelter in. Another man might object to perpetual Newfoundland
fogs, perpetual Newfoundland cod-fish, and perpetual Newfoundland
dogs. We had some very nice bears at the North Pole. Never mind!
it's all one to me--_I_ don't grumble."
"Have you done cording that box?"
This time the voice is a voice of authority--the man at the
doorway is Lieutenant Crayford himself. John Want answers his
officer in his own cheerful way.
"I've done it as well as I can, sir--but the damp of this place
is beginning to tell upon our very ropes. I say nothing about our
lungs--I only say our ropes."
Crayford answers sharply. He seems to have lost his former relish
for the humor of John Want.
"Pooh! To look at your wry face, one would think that our rescue
from the Arctic regions was a downright misfortune. You deserve
to be sent back again."
"I could be just as cheerful as ever, sir, if I _was_ sent back
again; I hope I'm thankful; but I don't like to hear the North
Pole run down in such a fishy place as this. It was very clean
and snowy at the North Pole--and it's very damp and sandy here.
Do you never miss your bone-soup, sir? _I_ do. It mightn't have
been strong; but it was very hot; and the cold seemed to give it
a kind of a meaty flavor as it went down. Was it you that was
a-coughing so long last night, sir? I don't presume to say
anything against the air of these latitudes; but I should be glad
to know it wasn't you that was a-coughing so hollow. Would you be
so obliging as just to feel the state of these ropes with the
ends of your fingers, sir? You can dry them afterward on the back
of my jacket."
"You ought to have a stick laid on the back of your jacket. Take
that box down to the boat directly. You croaking vagabond! You
would have grumbled in the Garden of Eden."
The philosopher of the Expedition was not a man to be silenced by
referring him to the Garden of Eden. Paradise itself was not
perfect to John Want.
"I hope I could be cheerful anywhere, sir," said the ship's cook.
"But you mark my words--there must have been a deal of
troublesome work with the flower-beds in the Garden of Eden."
Having entered that unanswerable protest, John Want shouldered
the box, and drifted drearily out of the boat-house.
Left by himself, Crayford looked at his watch, and called to a
"Where are the ladies?" he asked.
"Mrs. Crayford is coming this way, sir. She was just behind you
when you came in."
"Is Miss Burnham with her?"
"No, sir; Miss Burnham is down on the beach with the passengers.
I heard the young lady asking after you, sir."
"Asking after me?" Crayford considered with himself as he
repeated the words. He added, in lower and graver tones, "You had
better tell Miss Burnham you have seen me here."
The man made his salute and went out. Crayford took a turn in the
Rescued from death in the Arctic wastes, and reunited to a
beautiful wife, the lieutenant looked, nevertheless,
unaccountably anxious and depressed. What could he be thinking
of? He was thinking of Clara.
On the first day when the rescued men were received on board the
_Amazon_, Clara had embarrassed and distressed, not Crayford
only, but the other officers of the Expedition as well, by the
manner in which she questioned them on the subject of Francis
Aldersley and Richard Wardour. She had shown no signs of dismay
or despair when she heard that no news had been received of the
two missing men. She had even smiled sadly to herself, when
Crayford (out of compassionate regard for her) declared that he
and his comrades had not given up the hope of seeing Frank and
Wardour yet. It was only when the lieutenant had expressed
himself in those terms and when it was hoped that the painful
subject had been dismissed--that Clara had startled every one
present by announcing that she had something still to say in
relation to Frank and Wardour, which had not been said yet.
Though she spoke guardedly, her next words revealed suspicions of
foul play lurking in her mind--exactly reflecting similar
suspicions lurking in Crayford's mind--which so distressed the
lieutenant, and so surprised his comrades, as to render them
quite incapable of answering her. The warnings of the storm which
shortly afterward broke over the vessel were then visible in sea
and sky. Crayford made them his excuse for abruptly leaving the
cabin in which the conversation had taken place. His brother
officers, profiting by his example, pleaded their duties on deck,
and followed him out.
On the next day, and the next, the tempest still raged--and the
passengers were not able to leave their state-rooms. But now,
when the weather had moderated and the ship had anchored--now,
when officers and passengers alike were on shore, with leisure
time at their disposal--Clara had opportunities of returning to
the subject of the lost men, and of asking questions in relation
to them which would make it impossible for Crayford to plead an
excuse for not answering her. How was he to meet those questions?
How could he still keep her in ignorance of the truth?
These were the reflections which now troubled Crayford, and which
presented him, after his rescue, in the strangely inappropriate
character of a depressed and anxious man. His brother officers,
as he well knew, looked to him to take the chief responsibility.
If he declined to accept it, he would instantly confirm the
horrible suspicion in Clara's mind. The emergency must be met;
but how to meet it--at once honorably and mercifully--was more
than Crayford could tell. He was still lost in his own gloomy
thoughts when his wife entered the boat-house. Turning to look at
her, he saw his own perturbations and anxieties plainly reflected
in Mrs. Crayford's face.
"Have you seen anything of Clara?" he asked. "Is she still on the
"She is following me to this place," Mrs. Crayford replied. "I
have been speaking to her this morning. She is just as resolute
as ever to insist on your telling her of the circumstances under
which Frank is missing. As things are, you have no alternative
but to answer her."
"Help me to answer her, Lucy. Tell me, before she comes in, how
this dreadful suspicion first took possession of her. All she
could possibly have known when we left England was that the two
men were appointed to separate ships. What could have led her to
suspect that they had come together?"
"She was firmly persuaded, William, that they _would_ come
together when the Expedition left England. And she had read in
books of Arctic travel, of men left behind by their comrades on
the march, and of men adrift on ice-bergs. With her mind full of
these images and forebodings, she saw Frank and Wardour (or
dreamed of them) in one of her attacks of trance. I was by her
side; I heard what she said at the time. She warned Frank that
Wardour had discovered the truth. She called out to him, 'While
you can stand, keep with the other men, Frank!"
"Good God!" cried Crayford; "I warned him myself, almost in those
very words, the last time I saw him!"
"Don't acknowledge it, William! Keep her in ignorance of what you
have just told me. She will not take it for what it is--a
startling coincidence, and nothing more. She will accept it as
positive confirmation of the faith, the miserable superstitious
faith, that is in her. So long as you don't actually know that
Frank is dead, and that he has died by Wardour's hand, deny what
she says--mislead her for her own sake--dispute all her
conclusions as I dispute them. Help me to raise her to the better
and nobler belief in the mercy of God!" She stopped, and looked
round nervously at the doorway. "Hush!" she whispered. "Do as I
have told you. Clara is here."
Clara stopped at the doorway, looking backward and forward
distrustfully between the husband and wife. Entering the
boat-house, and approaching Crayford, she took his arm, and led
him away a few steps from the place in which Mrs. Crayford was
"There is no storm now, and there are no duties to be done on
board the ship," she said, with the faint, sad smile which it
wrung Crayford's heart to see. "You are Lucy's husband, and you
have an interest in me for Lucy's sake. Don't shrink on that
account from giving me pain: I can bear pain. Friend and brother!
will you believe that I have courage enough to hear the worst?
Will you promise not to deceive me about Frank?"
The gentle resignation in her voice, the sad pleading in her
look, shook Crayford's self-possession at the outset. He answered
her in the worst possible manner; he answered evasively.
"My dear Clara," he said, "what have I done that you should
suspect me of deceiving you?"
She looked him searchingly in the face, then glanced with renewed
distrust at Mrs. Crayford. There was a moment of silence. Before
any of the three could speak again, they were interrupted by the
appearance of one of Crayford's brother officers, followed by two
sailors carrying a hamper between them. Crayford instantly
dropped Clara's arm, and seized the welcome opportunity of
speaking of other things.
"Any instructions from the ship, Steventon?" he asked,
approaching the officer.
"Verbal instructions only," Steventon replied. "The ship will
sail with the flood-tide. We shall fire a gun to collect the
people, and send another boat ashore. In the meantime here are
some refreshments for the passengers. The ship is in a state of
confusion; the ladies will eat their luncheon more comfortably
Hearing this, Mrs. Crayford took _her_ opportunity of silencing
"Come, my dear," she said. "Let us lay the cloth before the
gentlemen come in."
Clara was too seriously bent on attaining the object which she
had in view to be silenced in that way. "I will help you
directly," she answered--then crossed the room and addressed
herself to the officer, whose name was Steventon.
"Can you spare me a few minutes?" she asked. "I have something to
say to you."
"I am entirely at your service, Miss Burnham."
Answering in those words, Steventon dismissed the two sailors.
Mrs. Crayford looked anxiously at her husband. Crayford whispered
to her, "Don't be alarmed about Steventon. I have cautioned him;
his discretion is to be depended on."
Clara beckoned to Crayford to return to her.
"I will not keep you long," she said. "I will promise not to
distress Mr. Steventon. Young as I am, you shall both find that I
am capable of self-control. I won't ask you to go back to the
story of your past sufferings; I only want to be sure that I am
right about one thing--I mean about what happened at the time
when the exploring party was dispatched in search of help. As I
understand it, you cast lots among yourselves who was to go with
the party, and who was to remain behind. Frank cast the lot to
go." She paused, shuddering. "And Richard Wardour," she went on,
"cast the lot to remain behind. On your honor, as officers and
gentlemen, is this the truth?"
"On my honor," Crayford answered, "it is the truth."
"On my honor," Steventon repeated, "it is the truth."
She looked at them, carefully considering her next words, before
she spoke again.
"You both drew the lot to stay in the huts," she said, addressing
Crayford and Steventon. "And you are both here. Richard Wardour
drew the lot to stay, and Richard Wardour is not here. How does
his name come to be with Frank's on the list of the missing?"
The question was a dangerous one to answer. Steventon left it to
Crayford to reply. Once again he answered evasively.
"It doesn't follow, my dear," he said, "that the two men were
missing together because their names happen to come together on
Clara instantly drew the inevitable conclusion from that
"Frank is missing from the party of relief," she said. "Am I to
understand that Wardour is missing from the huts?"
Both Crayford and Steventon hesitated. Mrs. Crayford cast one
indignant look at them, and told the necessary lie, without a
"Yes!" she said. "Wardour is missing from the huts."
Quickly as she had spoken, she had still spoken too late. Clara
had noticed the momentary hesitation on the part of the two
officers. She turned to Steventon.
"I trust to your honor," she said, quietly. "Am I right, or
wrong, in believing that Mrs. Crayford is mistaken?"
She had addressed herself to the right man of the two. Steventon
had no wife present to exercise authority over him. Steventon,
put on his honor, and fairly forced to say something, owned the
truth. Wardour had replaced an officer whom accident had disabled
from accompanying the party of relief, and Wardour and Frank were
Clara looked at Mrs. Crayford.
"You hear?" she said. "It is you who are mistaken, not I. What
you call 'Accident,' what I call 'Fate,' brought Richard Wardour
and Frank together as members of the same Expedition, after all."
Without waiting for a reply, she again turned to Steventon, and
surprised him by changing the painful subject of the conversation
of her own accord.
"Have you been in the Highlands of Scotland?" she asked.
"I have never been in the Highlands," the lieutenant replied.
"Have you ever read, in books about the Highlands, of such a
thing as 'The Second Sight'?"
"Do you believe in the Second Sight?"
Steventon politely declined to commit himself to a direct reply.
"I don't know what I might have done, if I had ever been in the
Highlands," he said. "As it is, I have had no opportunities of
giving the subject any serious consideration."
"I won't put your credulity to the test," Clara proceeded. "I
won't ask you to believe anything more extraordinary than that I
had a strange dream in England not very long since. My dream
showed me what you have just acknowledged--and more than that.
How did the two missing men come to be parted from their
companions? Were they lost by pure accident, or were they
deliberately left behind on the march?"
Crayford made a last vain effort to check her inquiries at the
point which they had now reached.
"Neither Steventon nor I were members of the party of relief," he
said. "How are we to answer you?"
"Your brother officers who _were_ members of the party must have
told you what happened," Clara rejoined. "I only ask you and Mr.
Steventon to tell me what they told you."
Mrs. Crayford interposed again, with a practical suggestion this
"The luncheon is not unpacked yet," she said. "Come, Clara! this
is our business, and the time is passing."
"The luncheon can wait a few minutes longer," Clara answered.
"Bear with my obstinacy," she went on, laying her hand
caressingly on Crayford's shoulder. "Tell me how those two came
to be separated from the rest. You have always been the kindest
of friends--don't begin to be cruel to me now!"
The tone in which she made her entreaty to Crayford went straight
to the sailor's heart. He gave up the hopeless struggle: he let
her see a glimpse of the truth.
"On the third day out," he said, "Frank's strength failed him. He
fell behin d the rest from fatigue."
"Surely they waited for him?"
"It was a serious risk to wait for him, my child. Their lives
(and the lives of the men they had left in the huts) depended, in
that dreadful climate, on their pushing on. But Frank was a
favorite. They waited half a day to give Frank the chance of
recovering his strength."
There he stopped. There the imprudence into which his fondness
for Clara had led him showed itself plainly, and closed his lips.
It was too late to take refuge in silence. Clara was determined
on hearing more.
She questioned Steventon next.
"Did Frank go on again after the half-day's rest?" she asked.
"He tried to go on--"
"What did the men do when he failed? Did they turn cowards? Did
they desert Frank?"
She had purposely used language which might irritate Steventon
into answering her plainly. He was a young man--he fell into the
snare that she had set for him.
"Not one among them was a coward, Miss Burnham!" he replied,
warmly. "You are speaking cruelly and unjustly of as brave a set
of fellows as ever lived! The strongest man among them set the
example; he volunteered to stay by Frank, and to bring him on in
the track of the exploring party."
There Steventon stopped--conscious, on his side, that he had said
too much. Would she ask him who this volunteer was? No. She went
straight on to the most embarrassing question that she had put
yet--referring to the volunteer, as if Steventon had already
mentioned his name.
"What made Richard Wardour so ready to risk his life for Frank's
sake?" she said to Crayford. "Did he do it out of friendship for
Frank? Surely you can tell me that? Carry your memory back to the
days when you were all living in the huts. Were Frank and Wardour
friends at that time? Did you never hear any angry words pass
There Mrs. Crayford saw her opportunity of giving her husband a
"My dear child!" she said; "how can you expect him to remember
that? There must have been plenty of quarrels among the men, all
shut up together, and all weary of each other's company, no
"Plenty of quarrels!" Crayford repeated; "and every one of them
made up again."
"And every one of them made up again," Mrs. Crayford reiterated,
in her turn. "There! a plainer answer than that you can't wish to
have. Now are you satisfied? Mr. Steventon, come and lend a hand
(as you say at sea) with the hamper--Clara won't help me.
William, don't stand there doing nothing. This hamper holds a
great deal; we must have a division of labor. Your division shall
be laying the tablecloth. Don't handle it in that clumsy way! You
unfold a table-cloth as if you were unfurling a sail. Put the
knives on the right, and the forks on the left, and the napkin
and the bread between them. Clara, if you are not hungry in this
fine air, you ought to be. Come and do your duty; come and have
She looked up as she spoke. Clara appeared to have yielded at
last to the conspiracy to keep her in the dark. She had returned
slowly to the boat-house doorway, and she was standing alone on
the threshold, looking out. Approaching her to lead her to the
luncheon-table, Mrs. Crayford could hear that she was speaking
softly to herself. She was repeating the farewell words which
Richard Wardour had spoken to her at the ball.
"'A time may come when I shall forgive _you_. But the man who has
robbed me of you shall rue the day when you and he first met.'
Oh, Frank! Frank! does Richard still live, with your blood on his
conscience, and my image in his heart?"
Her lips suddenly closed. She started, and drew back from the
doorway, trembling violently. Mrs. Crayford looked out at the
quiet seaward view.
"Anything there that frightens you, my dear?" she asked. "I can
see nothing, except the boats drawn up on the beach."
"_I_ can see nothing either, Lucy."
"And yet you are trembling as if there was something dreadful in
the view from this door."
"There _is_ something dreadful! I feel it, though I see nothing.
I feel it, nearer and nearer in the empty air, darker and darker
in the sunny light. I don't know what it is. Take me away! No.
Not out on the beach. I can't pass the door. Somewhere else!
Mrs. Crayford looked round her, and noticed a second door at the
inner end of the boat-house. She spoke to her husband.
"See where that door leads to, William."
Crayford opened the door. It led into a desolate inclosure, half
garden, half yard. Some nets stretched on poles were hanging up
to dry. No other objects were visible--not a living creature
appeared in the place. "It doesn't look very inviting, my dear,"
said Mrs. Crayford. "I am at your service, however. What do you
She offered her arm to Clara as she spoke. Clara refused it. She
took Crayford's arm, and clung to him.
"I'm frightened, dreadfully frightened!" she said to him,
faintly. "You keep with me--a woman is no protection; I want to
be with you." She looked round again at the boat-house doorway.
"Oh!" she whispered, "I'm cold all over--I'm frozen with fear of
this place. Come into the yard! Come into the yard!"
"Leave her to me," said Crayford to his wife. "I will call you,
if she doesn't get better in the open air."
He took her out at once, and closed the yard door behind them.
"Mr. Steventon, do you understand this?" asked Mrs. Crayford.
"What can she possibly be frightened of?"
She put the question, still looking mechanically at the door by
which her husband and Clara had gone out. Receiving no reply, she
glanced round at Steventon. He was standing on the opposite side
of the luncheon-table, with his eyes fixed attentively on the
view from the main doorway of the boat-house. Mrs. Crayford
looked where Steventon was looking. This time there was something
visible. She saw the shadow of a human figure projected on the
stretch of smooth yellow sand in front of the boat-house.
In a moment more the figure appeared. A man came slowly into
view, and stopped on the threshold of the door.
The man was a sinister and terrible object to look at. His eyes
glared like the eyes of a wild animal; his head was bare; his
long gray hair was torn and tangled; his miserable garments hung
about him in rags. He stood in the doorway, a speechless figure
of misery and want, staring at the well-spread table like a
Steventon spoke to him.
"Who are you?"
He answered, in a hoarse, hollow voice,
"A starving man."
He advanced a few steps, slowly and painfully, as if he were
sinking under fatigue.
"Throw me some bones from the table," he said. "Give me my share
along with the dogs."
There was madness as well as hunger in his eyes while he spoke
those words. Steventon placed Mrs. Crayford behind him, so that
he might be easily able to protect her in case of need, and
beckoned to two sailors who were passing the door of the
boat-house at the time.
"Give the man some bread and meat," he said, "and wait near him."
The outcast seized on the bread and meat with lean, long-nailed
hands that looked like claws. After his first mouthful of the
food, he stopped, considered vacantly with himself, and broke the
bread and meat into two portions. One portion he put into an old
canvas wallet that hung over his shoulder; the other he devoured
voraciously. Steventon questioned him.
"Where do you come from?"
"From the sea."
Steventon turned to Mrs. Crayford.
"There may be some truth in the poor wretch's story," he said. "I
heard something of a strange boat having been cast on the beach
thirty or forty miles higher up the coast. When were you wrecked,
The starving creature looked up from his food, and made an effort
to collect his thoughts--to exert his memory. It was not to be
done. He gave up the attempt in despair. His language, when he
spoke, was as wild as his looks.
"I can't tell you," he said. "I can't get the wash of the sea out
of my ears. I can't get the shining stars all night, and the
burning sun all day, out of my brain. When was I wrecked? When
was I first adrift in the boat? When did I get the tiller in my
hand and fight against hunger and sleep? When did the gnawi ng in
my breast, and the burning in my head, first begin? I have lost
all reckoning of it. I can't think; I can't sleep; I can't get
the wash of the sea out of my ears. What are you baiting me with
questions for? Let me eat!"
Even the sailors pitied him. The sailors asked leave of their
officer to add a little drink to his meal.
"We've got a drop of grog with us, sir, in a bottle. May we give
it to him?"
He took the bottle fiercely, as he had taken the food, drank a
little, stopped, and considered with himself again. He held up
the bottle to the light, and, marking how much liquor it
contained, carefully drank half of it only. This done, he put the
bottle in his wallet along with the food.
"Are you saving it up for another time?" said Steventon.
"I'm saving it up," the man answered. "Never mind what for.
That's my secret."
He looked round the boat-house as he made that reply, and noticed
Mrs. Crayford for the first time.
"A woman among you!" he said. "Is she English? Is she young? Let
me look closer at her."
He advanced a few steps toward the table.
"Don't be afraid, Mrs. Crayford," said Steventon.
"I am not afraid," Mrs. Crayford replied. "He frightened me at
first--he interests me now. Let him speak to me if he wishes it!"
He never spoke. He stood, in dead silence, looking long and
anxiously at the beautiful Englishwoman.
"Well?" said Steventon.
He shook his head sadly, and drew back again with a heavy sigh.
"No!" he said to himself, "that's not _her_ face. No! not found
Mrs. Crayford's interest was strongly excited. She ventured to
speak to him.
"Who is it you want to find?" she asked. "Your wife?"
He shook his head again.
"Who, then? What is she like?"
He answered that question in words. His hoarse, hollow voice
softened, little by little, into sorrowful and gentle tones.
"Young," he said; "with a fair, sad face--with kind, tender
eyes--with a soft, clear voice. Young and loving and merciful. I
keep her face in my mind, though I can keep nothing else. I must
wander, wander, wander--restless, sleepless, homeless--till I
find _her!_ Over the ice and over the snow; tossing on the sea,
tramping over the land; awake all night, awake all day; wander,
wander, wander, till I find _her!_"
He waved his hand with a gesture of farewell, and turned wearily
to go out.
At the same moment Crayford opened the yard door.
"I think you had better come to Clara," he began, and checked
himself, noticing the stranger. "Who is that?"
The shipwrecked man, hearing another voice in the room, looked
round slowly over his shoulder. Struck by his appearance,
Crayford advanced a little nearer to him. Mrs. Crayford spoke to
her husband as he passed her.
"It's only a poor, mad creature, William," she
whispered--"shipwrecked and starving."
"Mad?" Crayford repeated, approaching nearer and nearer to the
man. "Am _I_ in my right senses?" He suddenly sprang on the
outcast, and seized him by the throat. "Richard Wardour!" he
cried, in a voice of fury. "Alive!--alive, to answer for Frank!"
The man struggled. Crayford held him.
"Where is Frank?" he said. "You villain, where is Frank?"
The man resisted no longer. He repeated vacantly,
"Villain? and where is Frank?"
As the name escaped his lips, Clara appeared at the open yard
door, and hurried into the room.
"I heard Richard's name!" she said. "I heard Frank's name! What
does it mean?"
At the sound of her voice the outcast renewed the struggle to
free himself, with a sudden frenzy of strength which Crayford was
not able to resist. He broke away before the sailors could come
to their officer's assistance. Half-way down the length of the
room he and Clara met one another face to face. A new light
sparkled in the poor wretch's eyes; a cry of recognition burst
from his lips. He flung one hand up wildly in the air. "Found!"
he shouted, and rushed out to the beach before any of the men
present could stop him.
Mrs. Crayford put her arms round Clara and held her up. She had
not made a movement: she had not spoken a word. The sight of
Wardour's face had petrified her.
The minutes passed, and there rose a sudden burst of cheering
from the sailors on the beach, near the spot where the
fishermen's boats were drawn up. Every man left his work. Every
man waved his cap in the air. The passengers, near at hand,
caught the infection of enthusiasm, and joined the crew. A moment
more, and Richard Wardour appeared again in the doorway, carrying
a man in his arms. He staggered, breathless with the effort that
he was making, to the place where Clara stood, held up in Mrs.
"Saved, Clara!" he cried. "Saved for _you!_"
He released the man, and placed him in Clara's arms.
Frank! foot-sore and weary--but living--saved; saved for _her!_
"Now, Clara!" cried Mrs. Crayford, "which of us is right? I who
believed in the mercy of God? or you who believed in a dream?"
She never answered; she clung to Frank in speechless ecstasy. She
never even looked at the man who had preserved him, in the first
absorbing joy of seeing Frank alive. Step by step, slower and
slower, Richard Wardour drew back, and left them by themselves.
"I may rest now," he said, faintly. "I may sleep at last. The
task is done. The struggle is over."
His last reserves of strength had been given to Frank. He
stopped--he staggered--his hands waved feebly in search of
support. But for one faithful friend he would have fallen.
Crayford caught him. Crayford laid his old comrade gently on some
sails strewn in a corner, and pillowed Wardour's weary head on
his own bosom. The tears streamed over his face. "Richard! dear
Richard!" he said. "Remember--and forgive me."
Richard neither heeded nor heard him. His dim eyes still looked
across the room at Clara and Frank.
"I have made _her_ happy!" he murmured. "I may lay down my weary
head now on the mother earth that hushes all her children to rest
at last. Sink, heart! sink, sink to rest! Oh, look at them!" he
said to Crayford, with a burst of grief. "They have forgotten
It was true! The interest was all with the two lovers. Frank was
young and handsome and popular. Officers, passengers, and
sailors, they all crowded round Frank. They all forgot the
martyred man who had saved him--the man who was dying in
Crayford tried once more to attract his attention--to win his
recognition while there was yet time. "Richard, speak to me!
Speak to your old friend!"
He look round; he vacantly repeated Crayford's last word.
"Friend?" he said. "My eyes are dim, friend--my mind is dull. I
have lost all memories but the memory of _her_. Dead
thoughts--all dead thoughts but that one! And yet you look at me
kindly! Why has your face gone down with the wreck of all the
He paused; his face changed; his thoughts drifted back from
present to past; he looked at Crayford vacantly, lost in the
terrible remembrances that were rising in him, as the shadows
rise with the coming night.
"Hark ye, friend," he whispered. "Never let Frank know it. There
was a time when the fiend within me hungered for his life. I had
my hands on the boat. I heard the voice of the Tempter speaking
to me: Launch it, and leave him to die! I waited with my hands on
the boat, and my eyes on the place where he slept. 'Leave him!
leave him!' the voice whispered. 'Love him!' the lad's voice
answered, moaning and murmuring in his sleep. 'Love him, Clara,
for helping _me!_' I heard the morning wind come up in the
silence over the great deep. Far and near, I heard the groaning
of the floating ice; floating, floating to the clear water and
the balmy air. And the wicked Voice floated away with it--away,
away, away forever! 'Love him! love him, Clara, for helping
_me!_' No wind could float that away! 'Love him, Clara--'"
His voice sank into silence; his head dropped on Crayford's
breast. Frank saw it. Frank struggled up on his bleeding feet and
parted the friendly throng round him. Frank had not forgotten the
man who had saved him.
"Let me go to him!" he cried. "I must and will go to him! Clara,
come with me."
Clara and Steventon supported him between them. He fell on his
knees at Wardour's s ide; he put his hand on Wardour's bosom.
The weary eyes opened again. The sinking voice was heard feebly
"Ah! poor Frank. I didn't forget you, Frank, when I came here to
beg. I remembered you lying down outside in the shadow of the
boats. I saved you your share of the food and drink. Too weak to
get at it now! A little rest, Frank! I shall soon be strong
enough to carry you down to the ship."
The end was near. They all saw it now. The men reverently
uncovered their heads in the presence of Death. In an agony of
despair, Frank appealed to the friends round him.
"Get something to strengthen him, for God's sake! Oh, men! men! I
should never have been here but for him! He has given all his
strength to my weakness; and now, see how strong I am, and how
weak _he_ is! Clara, I held by his arm all over the ice and snow.
_He_ kept watch when I was senseless in the open boat. _His_ hand
dragged me out of the waves when we were wrecked. Speak to him,
Clara! speak to him!" His voice failed him, and his head dropped
on Wardour's breast.
She spoke, as well as her tears would let her.
"Richard, have you forgotten me?"
He rallied at the sound of that beloved voice. He looked up at
her as she knelt at his head.
"Forgotten you?" Still looking at her, he lifted his hand with an
effort, and laid it on Frank. "Should I have been strong enough
to save him, if I could have forgotten you?" He waited a moment
and turned his face feebly toward Crayford. "Stay!" he said.
"Someone was here and spoke to me." A faint light of recognition
glimmered in his eyes. "Ah, Crayford! I recollect now. Dear
Crayford! come nearer! My mind clears, but my eyes grow dim. You
will remember me kindly for Frank's sake? Poor Frank! why does he
hide his face? Is he crying? Nearer, Clara--I want to look my
last at _you_. My sister, Clara! Kiss me, sister, kiss me before
She stooped and kissed his forehead. A faint smile trembled on
his lips. It passed away; and stillness possessed the face--the
stillness of Death.
Crayford's voice was heard in the silence.
"The loss is ours," he said. "The gain is his. He has won the
greatest of all conquests--the conquest of himself. And he has
died in the moment of victory. Not one of us here but may live to
envy _his_ glorious death."
The distant report of a gun came from the ship in the offing, and
signaled the return to England and to home.