Part 3 out of 10
ship towed them both.
Five minutes more elapsed, and the captain did not come down, so Wylie
There was no answer. Hudson had gone into the mate's cabin. Wylie waited
a minute, then hailed again. "Hy! on deck there!"
"Hullo!" cried the captain, at last.
"Why didn't you come in the cutter?"
The captain crossed his arms and leaned over the stern.
"Don't you know that Hiram Hudson is always the last to leave a sinking
"Well, you _are_ the last," said Wylie. "So now come on board the
long-boat at once. I dare not tow in her wake much longer, to be sucked
in when she goes down."
"Come on board your craft and desert my own?" said Hudson, disdainfully.
"Know my duty to m' employers better."
These words alarmed the mate. "Curse it all!" he cried; "the fool has
been and got some more rum. Fifty guineas to the man that will shin up
the tow-rope and throw that madman into the sea; then we can pick him up.
He swims like a cork."
A sailor instantly darted forward to the rope. But, unfortunately, Hudson
heard this proposal, and it enraged him. He got to his cutlass. The
sailor drew the boat under the ship's stern, but the drunken skipper
flourished his cutlass furiously over his head. "Board me! ye pirates!
the first that lays a finger on my bulwarks, off goes his hand at the
wrist." Suiting the action to the word, he hacked at the tow-rope so
vigorously that it gave way, and the boats fell astern.
Helen Rolleston uttered a shriek of dismay and pity. "Oh, save him!" she
"Make sail!" cried Cooper; and, in a few seconds, they got all her canvas
set upon the cutter.
It seemed a hopeless chase for these shells to sail after that dying
monster with her cloud of canvas all drawing, alow and aloft.
But it did not prove so. The gentle breeze was an advantage to light
craft, and the dying _Proserpine_ was full of water, and could only
After a few moments of great anxiety the boats crept up, the cutter on
her port and the long-boat on her starboard quarter.
Wylie ran forward, and, hailing Hudson, implored him, in the friendliest
tones, to give himself a chance. Then tried him by his vanity, "Come, and
command the boats, old fellow. How can we navigate them on the Pacific
Hudson was now leaning over the taffrail utterly drunk. He made no reply
to the mate, but merely waved his cutlass feebly in one hand, and his
bottle in the other, and gurgled out, "Duty to m' employers."
Then Cooper, without a word, double reefed the cutter's mainsail and told
Welch to keep as close to the ship's quarter as he dare. Wylie
instinctively did the same, and the three craft crawled on in solemn and
deadly silence, for nearly twenty minutes.
The wounded ship seemed to receive a death-blow. She stopped dead, and
The next moment she pitched gently forward, and her bows went under the
water, while her after-part rose into the air, and revealed to those in
the cutter two splintered holes in her run, just below the water-line.
The next moment her stern settled down; the sea yawned horribly, the
great waves of her own making rushed over her upper deck, and the lofty
masts and sails, remaining erect, went down with sad majesty into the
deep. And nothing remained but the bubbling and foaming of the voracious
water, that had swallowed up the good ship, and her cargo, and her
All stood up in the boats, ready to save him. But either his cutlass sunk
him, or the suction of so great a body drew him down. He was seen no more
in this world.
A loud sigh broke from every living bosom that witnessed that terrible
It was beyond words; and none were uttered, except by Cooper, who spoke
so seldom; yet now three words of terrible import burst from him, and,
uttered in his loud, deep voice, rang like the sunk ship's knell over the
still bubbling water.
"HOLD your tongue," said Welch, with an oath.
Mr. Hazel looked at Miss Rolleston, and she at him. It was a momentary
glance, and her eyes sank directly, and filled with patient tears.
For the first few minutes after the _Proserpine_ went down the survivors
sat benumbed, as if awaiting their turn to be ingulfed.
They seemed so little, and the _Proserpine_ so big; yet she was swallowed
before their eyes, like a crumb. They lost, for a few moments, all idea
But, true it is, that, "while there's life there's hope"; and, as soon as
their hearts began to beat again, their eyes roved round the horizon and
their elastic minds recoiled against despair.
This was rendered easier by the wonderful beauty of the weather. There
were men there who had got down from a sinking ship into boats heaving
and tossing against her side in a gale of wind, and yet been saved; and
here all was calm and delightful. To be sure, in those other shipwrecks
land had been near, and their greatest peril was over when once the boats
got clear of the distressed ship without capsizing. Here was no immediate
peril; but certain death menaced them, at an uncertain distance.
Their situation was briefly this. Should it come on to blow a gale, these
open boats, small and loaded, could not hope to live. Therefore they had
two chances for life, and no more. They must either make land--or be
picked up at sea--before the weather changed.
But how? The nearest known land was the group of islands called Juan
Fernandez, and they lay somewhere to leeward, but distant at least nine
hundred miles; and, should they prefer the other chance, then they must
beat three hundred miles and more to windward; for Hudson, underrating
the leak, as is supposed, had run the _Proserpine_ fully that distance
out of the track of trade.
Now the ocean is a highway--in law; but, in fact, it contains a few
highways and millions of byways; and, once a cockleshell gets into those
byways, small indeed is its chance of being seen and picked up by any
Wylie, who was leading, lowered his sail, and hesitated between the two
courses we have indicated. However, on the cutter coming up with him, he
ordered Cooper to keep her head northeast, and so run all night. He then
made all the sail he could, in the same direction, and soon outsailed the
cutter. When the sun went down, he was about a mile ahead of her.
Just before sunset Mr. Hazel made a discovery that annoyed him very much.
He found that Welch had put only one bag of biscuit, a ham, a keg of
spirit and a small barrel of water on board the cutter.
He remonstrated with him sharply. Welch replied that it was all right;
the cutter being small, he had put the rest of her provisions on board
"On board the long-boat!" said Hazel, with a look of wonder. "You have
actually made our lives depend upon that scoundrel Wylie again. You
deserve to be flung into the sea. You have no forethought yourself, yet
you will not be guided by those that have it."
Welch hung his head a little at these reproaches. However, he replied,
rather sullenly, that it was only for one night; they could signal the
long-boat in the morning and get the other bags and the cask out of her.
But Mr. Hazel was not to be appeased. "The morning! Why, she sails three
feet to our two. How do you know he won't run away from us? I never
expect to get within ten miles of him again. We know him; and he knows we
Cooper got up and patted Mr. Hazel on the shoulder soothingly. "Boat-hook
aft," said he to Welch.
He then, by an ingenious use of the boat-hook and some of the spare
canvas, contrived to set out a studding-sail on the other side of the
Hazel thanked him warmly. "But, oh, Cooper! Cooper!" said he, "I'd give
all I have in the world if that bread and water were on board the cutter
instead of the long-boat."
The cutter had now two wings instead of one; the water bubbling loud
under her bows marked her increased speed, and all fear of being greatly
outsailed by her consort began to subside.
A slight sea-fret came on and obscured the sea in part; but they had a
good lantern and compass, and steered the course exactly all night,
according to Wylie's orders, changing the helmsman every four hours.
Mr. Hazel, without a word, put a rug round Miss Rolleston's shoulders,
and another round her feet.
"Oh, not both, sir, please," said she.
"Am I to be disobeyed by everybody?" said he.
Then she submitted in silence, and in a certain obsequious way that was
quite new and well calculated to disarm anger.
Sooner or later all slept, except the helmsman.
At daybreak Mr. Hazel was wakened by a loud hail from a man in the bows.
All the sleepers started up.
"Long-boat not in sight!"
It was too true. The ocean was blank. Not a sail, large or small, in
Many voices spoke at once.
"He has carried on till he has capsized her."
"He has given us the slip."
Unwilling to believe so great a calamity, every eye peered and stared all
over the sea. In vain. Not a streak that could be a boat's hull, not a
speck that could be a sail.
The little cutter was alone upon the ocean. Alone, with scarcely two
days' provisions, nine hundred miles from land, and four hundred miles to
leeward of the nearest sea-road.
Hazel, seeing his worst forebodings realized, sat down in moody, bitter,
and boding silence.
Of the other men some raged and cursed. Some wept aloud.
The lady, more patient, put her hands together and prayed to Him who made
the sea and all that therein is. Yet her case was the cruelest. For she
was by nature more timid than the men, yet she must share their desperate
peril. And then to be alone with all these men, and one of them had told
her he loved her, and hated the man she was betrothed to! Shame tortured
this delicate creature, as well as fear. Happy for her that of late, and
only of late, she had learned to pray in earnest. _"Qui precari novit,
premi potest, non potest opprimi."_
It was now a race between starvation and drowning, and either way death
stared them in the face.
THE long-boat was, at this moment, a hundred miles to windward of the
The fact is that Wylie, the evening before, had been secretly perplexed
as to the best course. He had decided to run for the island; but he was
not easy under his own decision; and, at night, he got more and more
discontented with it. Finally, at nine o'clock P.M., he suddenly gave the
order to luff, and tack; and by daybreak he was very near the place where
the _Proserpine_ went down, whereas the cutter, having run before the
wind all night, was, at least, a hundred miles to leeward of him.
Not to deceive the reader, or let him, for a moment, think we do business
in monsters, we will weigh this act of Wylie's justly.
It was just a piece of iron egotism. He preferred, for himself, the
chance of being picked up by a vessel. He thought it was about a hair's
breadth better than running for an island, as to whose bearing he was not
very clear, after all.
But he was not sure he was taking the best or safest course. The cutter
might be saved, after all, and the long-boat lost.
Meantime he was not sorry of an excuse to shake off the cutter. She
contained one man at least who knew he had scuttled the _Proserpine;_ and
therefore it was all-important to him to get to London before her and
receive the three thousand pounds which was to be his reward for that
But the way to get to London before Mr. Hazel, or else to the bottom of
the Pacific before him, was to get back into the searoad at all hazards.
He was not aware that the cutter's water and biscuit were on board his
boat; nor did he discover this till noon next day. And, on making this
fearful discovery, he showed himself human. He cried out, with an oath,
"What have I done? I have damned myself to all eternity!"
He then ordered the boat to be put before the wind again; but the men
scowled, and not one stirred a finger; and he saw the futility of this,
and did not persist, but groaned aloud, and then sat staring wildly.
Finally, like a true sailor, he got to the rum, and stupefied his
agitated conscience for a time.
While he lay drunk at the bottom of the boat his sailors carried out his
last instructions, beating southward right in the wind's eye.
Five days they beat to windward, and never saw a sail. Then it fell dead
calm; and so remained for three days more.
The men began to suffer greatly from cramps, owing to their number and
confined position. During the calm they rowed all day, and with this and
a light westerly breeze that sprung up, they got into the sea-road again.
But, having now sailed three hundred and fifty miles to the southward,
they found a great change in the temperature. The nights were so cold
that they were fain to huddle together, to keep a little warmth in their
On the fifteenth day of their voyage it began to rain and blow, and then
they were never a whole minute out of peril. Hand forever on the sheet,
eye on the waves, to ease her at the right moment; and with all this care
the spray eternally flying half way over her mast, and often a body of
water making a clean breach over her, and the men bailing night and day
with their very hats, or she could not have lived an hour.
At last, when they were almost dead with wet, cold, fatigue and danger, a
vessel came in sight and crept slowly up, about two miles to windward of
the distressed boat. With the heave of the waters they could see little
more than her sails; but they ran up a bright bandanna handkerchief to
their masthead; and the ship made them out. She hoisted Dutch colors,
and--continued her course.
Then the poor abandoned creatures wept and raved, and cursed in their
frenzy, glaring after that cruel, shameless man who could do such an act,
yet hoist a color, and show of what nation he was the native--and the
But one of them said not a word. This was Wylie. He sat shivering, and
remembered how he had abandoned the cutter, and all on board. Loud sighs
broke from his laboring breast; but not a word. Yet one word was ever
present to his mind; and seemed written in fire on the night of clouds,
and howled in his ears by the wind--Retribution!
And now came a dirty night--to men on ships; a fearful night to men in
boats. The sky black, the sea on fire with crested billows, that broke
over them every minute; their light was washed out; their provisions
drenched and spoiled; bail as they would, the boat was always filling. Up
to their knees in water; cold as ice, blinded with spray, deafened with
roaring billows, they tossed and tumbled in a fiery foaming hell of
waters, and still, though despairing, clung to their lives, and bailed
with their hats unceasingly.
Day broke, and the first sight it revealed to them was a brig to windward
staggering along, and pitching under close-reefed topsails.
They started up, and waved their hats, and cried aloud. But the wind
carried their voices to leeward, and the brig staggered on.
They ran up their little signal of distress; but still the ship staggered
Then the miserable men shook hands all round, and gave themselves up for
But, at this moment, the brig hoisted a vivid flag all stripes and stars,
and altered her course a point or two.
She crossed the boat's track a mile ahead, and her people looked over the
bulwarks, and waved their hats to encourage those tossed and desperate
Having thus given them the weather-gage, the brig hove to for them.
They ran down to her and crept under her lee; down came ropes to them,
held by friendly hands, and friendly faces shone down at them. Eager
grasps seized each as he went up the ship's side, and so, in a very short
time, they sent the woman up, and the rest being all sailors and clever
as cats, they were safe on board the whaling brig _Maria,_ Captain
Slocum, of Nantucket, U. S.
Their log, compass and instruments were also saved.
The boat was cast adrift, and was soon after seen bottom upward on the
crest of a wave.
The good Samaritan in command of the _Maria_ supplied them with dry
clothes out of the ship's stores, good food, and medical attendance,
which was much needed, their legs and feet being in a deplorable
condition, and their own surgeon crippled. A southeasterly gale induced
the American skipper to give Cape Horn a wide berth, and the _Maria_ soon
found herself three degrees south of that perilous coast. There she
encountered field-ice. In this labyrinth they dodged and worried for
eighteen days, until a sudden chop in the wind gave the captain a chance,
of which he promptly availed himself; and in forty hours they sighted
Terra del Fuego.
During this time the rescued crew, having recovered from the effects of
their hardships, fell into the work of the ship, and took their turns
with the Yankee seamen. The brig was short-handed; but now, trimmed and
handled by a full crew with the _Proserpine's_ men, who were first-class
seamen, and worked with a will, because work was no longer a duty, she
exhibited a speed the captain had almost forgotten was in the craft. Now
speed at sea means economy, for every day added to a voyage is so much
off the profits. Slocum was part owner of the vessel, and shrewdly alive
to the value of the seamen. When about three hundred miles south of
Buenos Ayres, Wylie proposed that they should be landed there, from
whence they might be transshipped to a vessel bound for home.
This was objected to by Slocum, on the ground that, by such a deviation
from his course, he must lose three days, and the port dues at Buenos
Ayres were heavy.
Wylie undertook that the house of Wardlaw & Son should indemnify the brig
for all expenses and losses incurred.
Still the American hesitated; at last he honestly told Wylie he wished to
keep the men; he liked them, they liked him. He had sounded them, and
they had no objection to join his ship and sign articles for a three
years' whaling voyage, provided they did not thereby forfeit the wages to
which they would be entitled on reaching Liverpool. Wylie went forward
and asked the men if they would take service with the Yankee captain. All
but three expressed their desire to do so; these three had families in
England, and refused. The mate gave the others a release, and an order on
Wardlaw & Co. for their full wages for the voyage; then they signed
articles with Captain Slocum, and entered the American Mercantile Navy.
Two days after this they sighted the high lands at the mouth of the Rio
de la Plata at 10 P.M., and lay to for a pilot. After three hours' delay
they were boarded by a pilot-boat, and then began to creep into the port.
The night was very dark, and a thin white fog lay on the water.
Wylie was sitting on the taffrail and conversing with Slocum, when the
lookout forward sung out, "Sail ho!"
Another voice almost simultaneously yelled out of the fog, "Port your
Suddenly out of the mist, and close aboard the _Maria,_ appeared the hull
and canvas of a large ship. The brig was crossing her course, and her
great bowsprit barely missed the brig's mainsail. It stood for a moment
over Wylie's head. He looked up, and there was the figure-head of the
ship looming almost within his reach. It was a colossal green woman; one
arm extended grasped a golden harp, the other was pressed to her head in
the attitude of holding back her wild and flowing hair. The face seemed
to glare down upon the two men. In another moment the monster, gliding
on, just missing the brig, was lost in the fog.
"That was a narrow squeak," said Slocum.
Wylie made no answer, but looked into the darkness after the vessel.
He had recognized her figure-head.
It was the _Shannon!_
BEFORE the _Maria_ sailed again, with the men who formed a part of
Wylie's crew, he made them sign a declaration before the English Consul
at Buenos Ayres. This document set forth the manner in which the
_Proserpine_ foundered; it was artfully made up of facts enough to
deceive a careless listener; but, when Wylie read it over to them he
slurred over certain parts, which he took care, also, to express in
language above the comprehension of such men. Of course they assented
eagerly to what they did not understand, and signed the statement
So Wylie and his three men were shipped on board the _Boadicea,_ bound
for Liverpool, in Old England, while the others sailed with Captain
Slocum for Nantucket, in New England.
The _Boadicea_ was a clipper laden with hides and a miscellaneous cargo.
For seventeen days she flew before a southerly gale, being on her best
sailing point, and, after one of the shortest passages she had ever made,
she lay to, outside the bar, off the Mersey. It wanted but one hour to
daylight, the tide was flowing; the pilot sprang aboard.
"What do you draw?" he asked of the master.
"Fifteen feet, barely," was the reply.
"That will do," and the vessel's head was laid for the river.
They passed a large bark, with her topsails backed.
"Ay," remarked the pilot, "she has waited since the half-ebb; there ain't
more than four hours in the twenty-four that such craft as that can get
"What is she? An American liner?" asked Wylie, peering through the gloom.
"No," said the pilot; "she's an Australian ship. She's the _Shannon,_
The mate started, looked at the man, then at the vessel. Twice the
_Shannon_ had thus met him, as if to satisfy him that his object had been
attained, and each time she seemed to him not an inanimate thing, but a
silent accomplice. A chill of fear struck through the man's frame as he
looked at her. Yes, there she lay, and in her hold were safely stowed
160,000 pounds in gold, marked lead and copper.
Wylie had no luggage nor effects to detain him on board; he landed, and,
having bestowed his three companions in a sailors' boarding-house, he was
hastening to the shipping agents of Wardlaw & Son to announce his arrival
and the fate of the _Proserpine._ He had reached their offices in Water
Street before he recollected that it was barely half past five o'clock,
and, though broad daylight on that July morning, merchants' offices are
not open at that hour. The sight of the _Shannon_ had so bewildered him
that he had not noticed that the shops were all shut, the streets
deserted. Then a thought occurred to him--why not be a bearer of his own
news? He did not require to turn the idea twice over, but resolved, for
many reasons, to adopt it. As he hurried to the railway station, he tried
to recollect the hour at which the early train started; but his confused
and excited mind refused to perform the function of memory. The _Shannon_
At the railway-station he found that a train had started at 4 A.M., and
there was nothing until 7:30. This check sobered him a little, and he
went back to the docks; he walked out to the farther end of that noble
line of berths, and sat down on the verge with his legs dangling over the
water. He waited an hour; it was six. o'clock by the great dial at St.
George's Dock. His eyes were fixed on the _Shannon,_ which was moving
slowly up the river; she came abreast to where he sat. The few sails
requisite to give her steerage fell. Her anchor-chain rattled, and she
swung round with the tide. The clock struck the half-hour; a boat left
the side of the vessel and made straight for the steps near where he was
seated. A tall, noble-looking man sat in the stern-sheets beside the
coxswain; he was put ashore, and, after exchanging a few words with the
boat's crew, he mounted the steps which led him to Wylie's side, followed
by one of the sailors, who carried a portmanteau.
He stood for a single moment on the quay, and stamped his foot on the
broad stones; then, heaving a deep sigh of satisfaction, he murmured,
He turned toward Wylie.
"Can you tell me, my man, at what hour the first train starts for
"There is a slow train at 7:30 and an express at 9."
"The express will serve me, and give me time for breakfast at the
Adelphi. Thank you; good morning;" and the gentleman passed on, followed
by the sailor.
Wylie looked after him; he noted that erect military carriage and crisp,
gray hair and thick white mustache; he had a vague idea that he had seen
that face before, and the memory troubled him.
At 7:30 Wylie started for London; the military man followed him in the
express at 9, and caught him up at Rugby; together they arrived at the
station at Euston Square; it was a quarter to three. Wylie hailed a cab,
but, before he could struggle through the crowd to reach it, a railway
porter threw a portmanteau on its roof, and his military acquaintance
took possession of it.
"All right," said the porter. "What address, sir?"
Wylie did not hear what the gentleman said, but the porter shouted it to
the cabman, and then he did hear it.
"No.-- Russell Square."
It was the house of Arthur Wardlaw!
Wylie took off his hat, rubbed his frowzy hair, and gaped after the cab.
He entered another cab, and told the driver to go to "No.-- Fenchurch
It was the office of Wardlaw & Son.
OUR scene now changes from the wild ocean and its perils to a snug room
in Fenchurch Street, the inner office of Wardlaw & Son: a large
apartment, paneled with fine old mellow Spanish oak; and all the
furniture in keeping; the carpet, a thick Axminster of sober colors; the
chairs of oak and morocco, very substantial; a large office-table, with
oaken legs like very columns, substantial; two Milner safes; a globe of
unusual size with a handsome tent over it, made of roan leather, figured;
the walls hung with long oak boxes, about eight inches broad, containing
rolled maps of high quality and great dimensions; to consult which, oaken
scepters tipped with brass hooks stood ready. With these the great maps
could be drawn down and inspected; and, on being released, flew up into
their wooden boxes again. Besides these were hung up a few drawings,
representing outlines, and inner sections, of vessels; and, on a smaller
table, lay models, almanacs, etc. The great office-table was covered with
writing materials and papers, all but a square space inclosed with a
little silver rail, and inside that space lay a purple morocco case about
ten inches square; it was locked, and contained an exquisite portrait of
This apartment was so situated, and the frames of the plate-glass windows
so well made and substantial, that, let a storm blow a thousand ships
ashore, it could not be felt, nor heard, in Wardlaw's inner office.
But appearances are deceitful; and who can wall out a sea of troubles,
and the tempests of the mind?
The inmate of that office was battling for his commercial existence,
under accumulated difficulties and dangers. Like those who sailed the
_Proserpine's_ long-boat, upon that dirty night, which so nearly swamped
her, his eye had now to be on every wave, and the sheet forever in his
His measures had been ably taken; but, as will happen when clever men are
driven into a corner, he had backed events rather too freely against
time; had allowed too slight a margin for unforeseen delays. For
instance, he had averaged the _Shannon's_ previous performances, and had
calculated on her arrival too nicely. She was a fortnight overdue, and
that delay brought peril.
He had also counted upon getting news of the _Proserpine._ But not a word
had reached Lloyd's as yet.
At this very crisis came the panic of '66. Overend and Gurney broke; and
Wardlaw's experience led him to fear that, sooner or later, there would
be a run on every bank in London. Now he had borrowed 80,000 pounds at
one bank, and 35,000 pounds at another. And, without his ships, could not
possibly pay a quarter of the money. If the banks in question were run
upon, and obliged to call in all their resources, his credit must go; and
this, in his precarious position, was ruin.
He had concealed his whole condition from his father, by false
book-keeping. Indeed, he had only two confidants in the world; poor old
Michael Penfold, and Helen Rolleston's portrait; and even to these two he
made half confidences. He dared not tell either of them all he had done,
and all he was going to do.
His redeeming feature was as bright as ever. He still loved Helen
Rolleston with a chaste, constant and ardent affection that did him
honor. He loved money too well. But he loved Helen better. In all his
troubles and worries it was his one consolation to unlock her portrait
and gaze on it, and purify his soul for a few minutes. Sometimes he would
apologize to it for an act of doubtful morality. "How can I risk the loss
of you?" was his favorite excuse. No. He must have credit. He must have
money. She must not suffer by his past imprudences. They must be repaired
at any cost--for her sake.
It was ten o'clock in the morning. Mr. Penfold was sorting the letters
for his employer, when a buxom young woman rushed into the outer office
crying, "Oh, Mr. Penfold!" and sank into a chair breathless.
"Dear heart! what is the matter now?" said the old gentleman.
"I have had a dream, sir. I dreamed I saw Joe Wylie out on the seas, in a
boat; and the wind it was a blowing and the sea a roaring to that degree
as Joe looked at me, and says he, 'Pray for me, Nancy Rouse.' So I says,
'Oh, dear Joe, what is the matter? and what ever is become of the
"'Gone to Hell!' says he. Which he knows I object to foul language.
'Gone--there--' says he, 'and I am sailing in her wake. Oh, pray for me,
Nancy Rouse!' With that, I tries to pray in my dream, and screams
instead, and wakes myself. Oh, Mr. Penfold, do tell me, have you got any
news of the _Proserpine_ this morning?"
"What is that to you?" inquired Arthur Wardlaw, who had entered just in
time to hear this last query.
"What is it to me!" cried Nancy, firing up; "it is more to me, perhaps,
than it is to you, for that matter."
Penfold explained, timidly, "Sir, Mrs. Rouse is my landlady."
"Which I have never been to church with any man yet of the name of Rouse,
leastways, not in my waking hours," edged in the lady.
"Miss Rouse, I should say," said Penfold, apologizing. "I beg pardon, but
I thought Mrs. might sound better in a landlady. Please, sir, Mr. Wylie,
the mate of the _Proserpine,_ is her--her--sweetheart."
"Not he. Leastways, he is only on trial, after a manner."
"Of course, sir--only after a manner," added Penfold, sadly perplexed.
"Miss Rouse is incapable of anything else. But, if you please, m'm, I
don't presume to know the exact relation;" and then with great reserve,
"but you know you are anxious about him."
Miss Rouse sniffed, and threw her nose in the air--as if to throw a doubt
even on that view of the matter.
"Well, madam," says Wardlaw, "I am sorry to say I can give you no
information. I share your anxiety, for I have got 160,000 pounds of gold
in the ship. You might inquire at Lloyd's. Direct her there, Mr. Penfold,
and bring me my letters."
With this he entered his inner office, sat down, took out a golden key,
opened the portrait of Helen, gazed at it, kissed it, uttered a deep
sigh, and prepared to face the troubles of the day.
Penfold brought in a leathern case, like an enormous bill-book. It had
thirty vertical compartments; and the names of various cities and
seaports, with which Wardlaw & Son did business, were printed in gold
letters on some of these compartments; on others the names of persons;
and on two compartments the word "Miscellaneous." Michael brought this
machine in, filled with a correspondence enough to break a man's heart to
This was one of the consequences of Wardlaw's position. He durst not let
his correspondence be read, and filtered, in the outer office. He opened
the whole mass; sent some back into the outer office; then touched a
hand-bell, and a man emerged from the small apartment adjoining his own.
This was Mr. Atkins, his shorthand writer. He dictated to this man some
twenty letters, which were taken down in short-hand; the man retired to
copy them, and write them out in duplicate from his own notes, and this
reduced the number to seven. These Wardlaw sat down to write himself, and
lock up the copies.
While he was writing them, he received a visitor or two, whom he
dispatched as quickly as his letters.
He was writing his last letter, when he heard in the outer office a voice
he thought he knew. He got up and listened. It was so. Of all the voices
in the city, this was the one it most dismayed him to hear in his office
at the present crisis.
He listened on, and satisfied himself that a fatal blow was coming. He
then walked quietly to his table, seated himself, and prepared to receive
the stroke with external composure.
Penfold announced, "Mr. Burtenshaw."
"Show him in," said Wardlaw quietly.
Mr. Burtenshaw, one of the managers of Morland's bank, came in, and
Wardlaw motioned him courteously to a chair, while he finished his
letter, which took only a few moments.
While he was sealing it, he half turned to his visitor, and said, "No bad
news? Morland's is safe, of course."
"Well," said Burtenshaw, "there is a run upon our bank--a severe one. We
could not hope to escape the effects of the panic."
He then, after an uneasy pause, and with apparent reluctance, added, "I
am requested by the other directors to assure you it is their present
extremity alone, that-- In short, we are really compelled to beg you to
repay the amount advanced to you by the bank."
Wardlaw showed no alarm, but great surprise. This was clever; for he felt
great alarm, and no surprise.
"The 81,000 pounds," said he. "Why, that advance was upon the freight of
the _Proserpine._ Forty-five thousand ounces of gold. She ought to be
here by this time. She is in the Channel at this moment, no doubt."
"Excuse me; she is overdue, and the underwriters uneasy. I have made
"At any rate, she is fully insured, and you hold the policies. Besides,
the name of Wardlaw on your books should stand for bullion."
Burtenshaw shook his head. "Names are at a discount to-day, sir. We can't
pay you down on the counter. Why, our depositors look cross at Bank of
To an inquiry, half ironical, whether the managers really expected him to
find 81,000 pounds cash, at a few hours' notice, Burtenshaw replied,
sorrowfully, that they felt for his difficulty while deploring their own;
but that, after all, it was a debt. And, in short, if he could find no
means of paying it, they must suspend payment for a time, and issue a
He hesitated to complete his sentence, and Wardlaw did it for him.
"And ascribe your suspension to my inability to refund this advance?"
said he, bitterly.
"I am afraid that is the construction it will bear."
Wardlaw rose, to intimate he had no more to say.
Burtenshaw, however, was not disposed to go without some clear
understanding. "May I say we shall hear from you, sir?"
And so they wished each other good-morning; and Wardlaw sank into his
In that quiet dialogue, ruin had been inflicted and received without any
apparent agitation; ay, and worse than ruin--exposure.
Morland's suspension, on account of money lost by Wardlaw & Son, would at
once bring old Wardlaw to London, and the affairs of the firm would be
investigated, and the son's false system of bookkeeping be discovered.
He sat stupefied awhile, then put on his hat and rushed to his solicitor;
on the way, he fell in with a great talker, who told him there was a
rumor the _Shannon_ was lost in the Pacific.
At this he nearly fainted in the street; and his friend took him back to
his office in a deplorable condition. All this time he had been feigning
anxiety about the _Proserpine,_ and concealing his real anxiety about the
_Shannon._ To do him justice, he lost sight of everything in the world
now but Helen. He sent old Penfold in hot haste to Lloyd's, to inquire
for news of the ship; and then he sat down sick at heart; and all he
could do now was to open her portrait, and gaze at it through eyes
blinded with tears. Even a vague rumor, which he hoped might be false,
had driven all his commercial maneuvers out of him, and made all other
calamities seem small.
And so they all are small, compared with the death of the creature we
While he sat thus, in a stupor of fear and grief, he heard a well-known
voice in the outer office; and, next after Burtenshaw's, it was the one
that caused him the most apprehension. It was his father's.
Wardlaw senior rarely visited the office now; and this was not his hour.
So Arthur knew something extraordinary had brought him up to town. And he
could not doubt that it was the panic, and that he had been to Morland's,
or would go there in course of the day; but, indeed, it was more probable
that he had already heard something, and was come to investigate.
Wardlaw senior entered the room.
"Good-morning, Arthur," said he. "I've got good news for you."
Arthur was quite startled by an announcement that accorded so little with
"Good news--for _me?"_ said he, in a faint, incredulous tone.
"Ay, glorious news! Haven't you been anxious about the _Shannon?_ I have;
more anxious than I would own."
Arthur started up. "The _Shannon!_ God bless you, father."
"She lies at anchor in the Mersey," roared the old man, with all a
father's pride at bringing such good news. "Why, the Rollestons will be
in London at 2:15. See, here is his telegram."
At this moment in ran Penfold, to tell them that the _Shannon_ was up at
Lloyd's, had anchored off Liverpool last night.
There was hearty shaking of hands, and Arthur Wardlaw was the happiest
man in London--for a little while.
"Got the telegram at Elmtrees, this morning, and came up by the first
express," said Wardlaw senior.
The telegram was from Sir Edward Rolleston. _"Reached Liverpool last
night; will be at Euston, two-fifteen."_
"Not a word from _her!"_
"Oh, there was no time to write; and ladies do not use the telegram." He
added slyly, "Perhaps she thought coming in person would do as well, or
"But why does he telegraph you instead of me?"
"I am sure I don't know. What does it matter? Yes, I do know. It was
settled months ago that he and Helen should come to me at Elmtrees, so I
was the proper person to telegraph. I'll go and meet them at the station;
there is plenty of time. But, I say, Arthur, have you seen the papers?
Bartley Brothers obliged to wind up. Maple & Cox, of Liverpool, gone;
Atlantic trading. Terry & Brown suspended, International credit gone. Old
friends, some of these. Hopley & Timms, railway contractors, failed, sir;
liabilities, seven hundred thousand pounds and more."
"Yes, sir," said Arthur, pompously. "1866 will long be remembered for its
revelations of commercial morality."
The old gentleman, on this, asked his son, with excusable vanity, whether
he had done ill in steering clear of speculation; he then congratulated
him on having listened to good advice and stuck to legitimate business.
"I must say, Arthur," added be, "your books are models for any trading
Arthur winced in secret under this praise, for it occurred to him that in
a few days his father would discover those books were all a sham and the
accounts a fabrication.
However, the unpleasant topic was soon interrupted, and effectually, too;
for Michael looked in, with an air of satisfaction on his benevolent
countenance, and said, "Gentlemen, such an arrival! Here is Miss Rouse's
sweetheart, that she dreamed was drowned."
"What is the man to me?" said Arthur peevishly. He did not recognize
Wylie under that title.
"La, Mr. Arthur! why, he is the mate of the _Proserpine,_" said Penfold.
"What! Wylie! Joseph Wylie?" cried Arthur, in a sudden excitement that
contrasted strangely with his previous indifference.
"What is that?" cried Wardlaw senior; "the _Proserpine;_ show him in at
Now this caused Arthur Wardlaw considerable anxiety; for obvious reasons
he did not want his father and this sailor to exchange a word together.
However, that was inevitable now. The door opened; and the bronzed face
and sturdy figure of Wylie, clad in a rough pea-jacket, came slouching
Arthur went hastily to meet him, and gave him an expressive look of
warning, even while he welcomed him in cordial accents.
"Glad to see you safe home," said Wardlaw senior.
"Thank ye, guv'nor," said Wylie. "Had a squeak for it, this time."
"Where is your ship?"
Wylie shook his head sorrowfully. "Bottom of the Pacific."
"Good heavens! What! is she lost?"
"That she is, sir. Foundered at sea, twelve hundred miles from the Horn,
"And the freight? the gold?" put in Arthur, with well-feigned anxiety.
"Not an ounce saved," said Wylie, disconsolately. "A hundred and sixty
thousand pounds gone to the bottom."
"Ye see, sir," said Wylie, "the ship encountered one gale after another,
and labored a good deal, first and last; and we all say her seams must
have opened; for we never could find the leak that sunk her," and he cast
a meaning glance at Arthur Wardlaw.
"No matter how it happened," said the old merchant. "Are we insured to
the full; that is the first question?"
"To the last shilling."
"Well done, Arthur."
"But still it is most unlucky. Some weeks must elapse before the
insurances can be realized, and a portion of the gold was paid for in
bills at short date."
"The rest in cash?"
"Cash and merchandise."
"Then there is the proper margin. Draw on my private account, at the Bank
These few simple words showed the struggling young merchant a way out of
all his difficulties.
His heart leaped so, he dared not reply, lest he should excite the old
But ere he could well draw his breath for joy, came a freezer.
"Mr. Burtenshaw, sir."
"Bid him wait," said Arthur, aloud, and cast a look of great anxiety on
Penfold, which the poor old man, with all his simplicity, comprehended
"Burtenshaw, from Morland's. What does he want of us?" said Wardlaw
senior, knitting his brows.
Arthur turned cold all over. "Perhaps to ask me not to draw out my
balance. It is less than usual; but they are run upon; and, as you are
good enough to let me draw on you-- By the by, perhaps you will sign a
check before you go to the station."
"How much do you want?"
"I really don't know, till I have consulted Penfold. The gold was a large
and advantageous purchase, sir."
"No doubt; no doubt. I'll give you my signature, and you can fill in the
He drew a check in favor of Arthur Wardlaw, signed it, and left him to
fill in the figures.
He then looked at his watch, and remarked they would barely have time to
get to the station.
"Good heavens!" cried Arthur; "and I can't go. I must learn the
particulars of the loss of the _Proserpine,_ and prepare the statement at
once for the underwriters"
"Well, never mind. _I_ can go."
"But what will she think of me? I ought to be the first to welcome her."
"I'll make your excuses."
"No, no; say nothing. After all, it was you who received the telegram, so
you naturally meet her; but you will bring her here, father. You won't
whisk my darling down to Elmtrees till you have blessed me with the sight
"I will not be so cruel, fond lover," said old Wardlaw, laughing, and
took up his hat and gloves to go.
Arthur went to the door with him in great anxiety, lest he should
question Burtenshaw. But, peering into the outer office, he observed
Burtenshaw was not there. Michael had caught his employer's anxious look
and conveyed the banker into the small room where the short-hand writer
was at work. But Burtenshaw was one of a struggling firm; to him every
minute was an hour. He had sat, fuming with impatience, so long as he
heard talking in the inner office; and, the moment it ceased, he took the
liberty of coming in; so that he opened the side door just as Wardlaw
senior was passing through the center door.
Instantly Wardlaw junior whipped before him, to hide his figure from his
Wylie--who all this time had been sitting silent, looking from one to the
other, and quietly puzzling out the game as well as he could--observed
this movement and grinned.
As for Arthur Wardlaw, he saw his father safe out, then gave a sigh of
relief, and walked to his office table and sat down and began to fill in
Burtenshaw drew near and said, "I am instructed to say that fifty
thousand pounds on account will be accepted."
Perhaps if this proposal had been made a few seconds sooner, the
ingenious Arthur would have availed himself of it; but as it was, he
preferred to take the high and mighty tone. "I decline any concession,"
said he. "Mr. Penfold, take this check to the Bank of England. 81,647
pounds 10s., that is the amount, capital and interest, up to noon this
day. Hand the sum to Mr. Burtenshaw, taking his receipt, or, if he
prefers it, pay it across his counter, to my credit. That will perhaps
arrest the run."
Burtenshaw stammered out his thanks.
Wardlaw cut him short. "Good-morning, sir," said he. "I have business of
_importance._ Good-day," and bowed him out.
"This is a high-flier," thought Burtenshaw.
Wardlaw then opened the side door and called his short-hand writer.
"Mr. Atkins, please step into the outer office, and don't let a soul come
in to me. Mind, I am out for the day. Except to Miss Rolleston and her
He then closed all the doors, and sunk exhausted into a chair, muttering,
"Thank Heaven! I have got rid of them all for an hour or two. _Now,_
Wylie seemed in no hurry to enter upon the required subject.
Said he, evasively, "Why, guv'nor, it seems to me you are among the
breakers here yourself."
"Nothing of the sort, if you have managed your work cleverly. Come, tell
me all, before we are interrupted again."
"Tell ye all about it!. Why, there's part on't I am afraid to think on;
let alone talk about it."
"Spare me your scruples, and give me your facts," said Wardlaw coldly.
"First of all, did you succeed in shifting the bullion as agreed?"
The sailor appeared relieved by this question.
"Oh, that is all right," said he. "I got the bullion safe aboard the
_Shannon,_ marked for lead."
"And the lead on board the _Proserpine?"_
"Ay, shipped as bullion."
"Great Heaven! Who?"
"One clerk at the shipping agent's scented something queer, I think.
James Seaton. That was the name he went by."
"Could he prove anything?"
"Nothing. He knew nothing for certain; and what he guessed won't never be
known in England now." And Wylie fidgeted in his chair.
Notwithstanding this assurance Wardlaw looked grave, and took a note of
that clerk's name. Then he begged Wylie to go on. "Give me all the
details," said he. "Leave _me_ to judge their relative value. You
scuttled the ship?"
"Don't say that! don't say that!" cried Wylie, in a low but eager voice.
"Stone walls have ears." Then rather more loudly than was necessary,
"Ship sprung a leak that neither the captain, nor I, nor anybody could
find, to stop. Me and my men, we all think her seams opened, with stress
of weather." Then, lowering his voice again, "Try and see it as we do;
and don't you ever use such a word as that what come out of your lips
just now. We pumped her hard; but 'twarn't no use. She filled, and we had
to take to the boats."
"Stop a moment. Was there any suspicion excited?"
"Not among the crew. And suppose there was, I could talk 'em all over, or
buy 'em all over, what few of 'em is left. I've got 'em all with me in
one house, and they are all square, don't you fear."
"Well, but you said 'among the _crew!'_ Whom else can we have to fear?"
"Why, nobody. To be sure, one of the passengers was down on me; but what
does that matter now?"
"It matters greatly--it matters terribly. Who was this passenger?"
"He called himself the Reverend John Hazel. He suspected something or
other; and what with listening here, and watching there, he judged the
ship was never to see England, and I always fancied he told the lady."
"What, was there a lady there?"
"Ay, worse luck, sir; and a pretty girl she was. Coming home to England
to die of consumption; so our surgeon told me."
"Well, never mind her. The clergyman! This fills me with anxiety. A clerk
suspecting us at Sydney, and a passenger suspecting us in the vessel.
There are two witnesses against us already."
"No; only one."
"How do you make that out?"
"Why, White's clerk and the parson, they was one man.
Wardlaw stared in utter amazement.
"Don't ye believe me?" said Wylie. "I tell ye that there clerk boarded us
under an alias. He had shaved off his beard; but, bless your heart, I
knew him directly."
"He came to verify his suspicions," suggested Wardlaw, in a faint voice.
"Not he. He came for love of the sick girl, and nothing else; and you'll
never see either him or her, if that is any comfort to you."
"Be good enough to conceal nothing. Facts must be faced."
"That is too true, sir. Well, we abandoned her, and took to the boats. I
"And Hudson the other?"
"Why, how was that? and what has become of him?"
"What has become of Hudson?" said Wylie, with a start. "There's a
question! And not a drop to wet my lips and warm my heart. Is this a tale
to tell dry? Can't ye spare a drop of brandy to a poor devil that has
earned ye 150,000 pounds, and risked his life, and wrecked his soul to do
Wardlaw cast a glance of contempt on him, but got up and speedily put a
bottle of old brandy, a tumbler and a caraffe of water on the table
Wylie drank a wineglassful neat, and gave a sort of sigh of satisfaction.
And then ensued a dialogue, in which, curiously enough, the brave man was
agitated, and the timid man was cool and collected. But one reason was,
the latter had not imagination enough to realize things unseen, though he
had caused them.
Wylie told him how Hudson got to the bottle, and would not leave the
ship. "I think I see him now, with his cutlass in one hand, and his rum
bottle in the other, and the waves running over his poor, silly face, as
she went down. Poor Hiram! he and I had made many a trip together, before
we took to this."
And Wylie shuddered, and took another gulp at the brandy.
While he was drinking to drown the picture, Wardlaw was calmly reflecting
on the bare fact. "Hum," said he, "we must use that circumstance. I'll
get it into the journals. Heroic captain. Went down with the ship. Who
can suspect Hudson in the teeth of such a fact? Now pray go on, my good
Wylie. The boats!"
"Well, sir, I had the surgeon, and ten men, and the lady's maid, on board
the long-boat; and there was the parson, the sick lady, and five sailors
aboard the cutter. We sailed together, till night, steering for Juan
Fernandez; then a fog came on and we lost sight of the cutter, and I
altered my mind and judged it best to beat to win'ard, and get into the
track of ships. Which we did, and were nearly swamped in a sou' wester;
but, by good luck, a Yankee whaler picked us up, and took us to Buenos
Ayres, where we shipped for England, what was left of us, only four,
besides myself; but I got the signatures of the others to my tale of the
wreck. It is all as square as a die, I tell you."
"Well done. Well done. But, stop! the other boat, with that sham parson
on board, who knows all. She will be picked up, too, perhaps."
"There is no chance for that. She was out of the tracks of trade; and,
I'll tell ye the truth, sir." He poured out half a tumbler of brandy, and
drank a part of it; and, now, for the first time, his hand trembled as he
lifted the glass. "Some fool had put the main of her provisions aboard
the longboat; that is what sticks to me, and won't let me sleep. We took
a chance, but we didn't give one. I think I told you there was a woman
aboard the cutter, that sick girl, sir. Oh, but it was hard lines for
her, poor thing! I see her pale and calm; oh, Lord, so pale and calm;
every night of my life; she kneeled aboard the cutter with her white
hands a-clasped together, praying."
"Certainly, it is all very shocking," said Wardlaw; "but then, you know,
if they had escaped, they would have exposed us. Believe me, it is all
for the best."
Wylie looked at him with wonder. "Ay," said he, after staring at him a
long time; "you can sit here at your ease, and doom a ship and risk her
people's lives. But if you had to do it, and see it, and then lie awake
thinking of it, you'd wish all the gold on earth had been in hell before
you put your hand to such a piece of work."
Wardlaw smiled a ghastly smile. "In short," said he, "you don't mean to
take the three thousand pounds I pay you for this little job."
"Oh, yes, I do; but for all the gold in Victoria I wouldn't do such a job
again. And you mark my words, sir, we shall get the money, and nobody
will ever be the wiser." Wardlaw rubbed his hands complacently. His
egotism, coupled with his want of imagination, nearly blinded him to
everything but the pecuniary feature of the business. "But," continued
Wylie, "we shall never thrive on it. We have sunk a good ship, and we
have as good as murdered a poor dying girl."
"Hold your tongue, ye fool!" cried Wardlaw, losing his sang-froid in a
moment, for he heard somebody at the door.
It opened, and there stood a military figure in a traveling-cap--General
As some eggs have actually two yolks, so Arthur Wardlaw had two hearts;
and, at sight of Helen's father, the baser one ceased to beat for a
He ran to General Rolleston, shook him warmly by the hand, and welcomed
him to England with sparkling eyes.
It is pleasant to be so welcomed, and the stately soldier returned his
grasp in kind.
"Is Helen with you, sir?" said Wardlaw, making a movement to go to the
door; for he thought she must be outside in the cab.
"No, she is not," said General Rolleston.
"There, now," said Arthur, "that cruel father of mine has broken his
promise and carried her off to Elmtrees!"
At this moment Wardlaw senior returned, to tell Arthur he had been just
too late to meet the Rollestons. "Oh, here he is!" said he; and there
were fresh greetings.
"Well, but," said Arthur, "where is Helen!"
"I think it is I who ought to ask that question," said Rolleston,
gravely. "I telegraphed you at Elmtrees, thinking of course she would
come with you to meet me at the station. It does not much matter, a few
hours; but her not coming makes me uneasy, for her health was declining
when she left me. How is my child, Mr. Wardlaw? Pray tell me the truth."
Both the Wardlaws looked at one another, and at General Rolleston, and
the elder Wardlaw said there was certainly some misunderstanding here.
"We fully believed that your daughter was coming home with you in the
"Come home with me? Why, of course not. She sailed three weeks before me.
Good Heavens! Has she not arrived?"
"No," replied old Wardlaw, "we have neither seen nor heard of her."
"Why, what ship did she sail in?" said Arthur.
"In the _Proserpine."_
ARTHUR WARDLAW fixed on the speaker a gaze full of horror; his jaw fell;
a livid pallor spread over his features; he echoed in a hoarse whisper,
"The _Proserpine!"_ and turned his scared eyes upon Wylie, who was
himself leaning against the wall, his stalwart frame beginning to
"The sick girl," murmured Wylie, and a cold sweat gathered on his brow.
General Rolleston looked from one to another with strange misgivings,
which soon deepened into a sense of some terrible calamity; for now a
strong convulsion swelled Arthur Wardlaw's heart; his face worked
fearfully; and, with a sharp and sudden cry, he fell forward on the
table, and his father's arm alone prevented him from sinking like a dead
man on the floor. Yet, though crushed and helpless, he was not
insensible; that blessing was denied him.
General Rolleston implored an explanation.
Wylie, with downcast and averted face, began to stammer a few
disconnected and unintelligible words; but old Wardlaw silenced him and
said, with much feeling, "Let none but a father tell him. My poor, poor
friend--the _Proserpine!_ How can I say it?"
"Lost at sea," groaned Wylie.
At these fatal words the old warrior's countenance grew rigid; his large,
bony hands gripped the back of the chair on which he leaned, and were
white with their own convulsive force; and he bowed his head under the
blow, without one word.
His was an agony too great and mute to be spoken to; and there was
silence in the room, broken only by the hysterical moans of the miserable
plotter, who had drawn down this calamity on his own head. He was in no
state to be left alone; and even the bereaved father found pity in his
desolate heart for one who loved his lost child so well; and the two old
men took him home between them, in a helpless and pitiable condition.
BUT this utter prostration of his confederate began to alarm Wylie, and
rouse him to exertion. Certainly, he was very sorry for what he had done,
and would have undone it and forfeited his three thousand pounds in a
moment, if he could. But, as he could not undo the crime, he was all the
more determined to reap the reward. Why, that three thousand pounds, for
aught he knew, was the price of his soul; and he was not the man to let
his soul go gratis.
He finished the rest of the brandy, and went after his men, to keep them
true to him by promises; but the next day he came to the office in
Fenchurch Street, and asked anxiously for Wardlaw. Wardlaw had not
arrived. He waited, but the merchant never came; and Michael told him
with considerable anxiety that this was the first time his young master
had missed coming this five years.
In course of the day, several underwriters came in, with long faces, to
verify the report, which had now reached Lloyd's, that the _Proserpine_
had foundered at sea.
"It is too true," said Michael; "and poor Mr. Wylie here has barely
escaped with his life. He was mate of the ship, gentlemen."
Upon this, each visitor questioned Wylie, and Wylie returned the same
smooth answer to all inquiries. One heavy gale after another had so tried
the ship that her seams had opened, and let in more water than all the
exertions of the crew and passengers could discharge; at last, they had
taken to the boats; the long-boat had been picked up; the cutter had
never been heard of since.
They nearly all asked after the ship's log.
"I have got it safe at home," said he.
It was in his pocket all the time.
Some asked him where the other survivors were. He told them five had
shipped on board the _Maria,_ and three were with him at Poplar, one
disabled by the hardships they had all endured.
One or two complained angrily of Mr. Wardlaw's absence at such a time.
"Well, good gentlemen," said Wylie, "I'll tell ye. Mr. Wardlaw's
sweetheart was aboard the ship. He is a'most broken-hearted. He vallied
her more than all the gold, that you may take your oath on."
This stroke, coming from a rough fellow in a pea-jacket, who looked as
simple as he was cunning, silenced remonstrance, and went far to disarm
suspicion; and so pleased Michael Penfold that he said, "Mr. Wylie, you
are interested in this business, would you mind going to Mr. Wardlaw's
house and asking what we are to do next? I'll give you his address and a
line begging him to make an effort and see you. Business is the heart's
best ointment. Eh, dear Mr. Wylie, I have known grief, too; and I think I
should have gone mad when they sent my poor son away, but for business,
especially the summing up of long columns, etc."
Wylie called at the house in Russell Square, and asked to see Mr.
The servant shook his head. "You can't see him; he is very ill."
"Very ill?" said Wylie. "I'm sorry for that. Well, but I shan't make him
any worse; and Mr. Penfold says I must see him. It is very particular, I
tell you. He won't thank you for refusing me, when he comes to hear of
He said this very seriously; and the servant, after a short hesitation,
begged him to sit down in the passage a moment. He then went into the
dining-room, and shortly reappeared, holding the door open. Out came, not
Wardlaw junior, but Wardlaw senior.
"My son is in no condition to receive you, "said he, gravely; "but I am
at your service. What is your business?"
Wylie was taken off his guard, and stammered out something about the
"The _Shannon!_ What have you to do with her? You belong to the
"Ay, sir; but I had his orders to ship forty chests of lead and smelted
copper on board the _Shannon."_
"Ye see, sir," said Wylie, "Mr. Wardlaw was particular about them, and I
feel responsible like, having shipped them aboard another vessel."
"Have you not the captain's receipt?"
"That I have, sir, at home. But you could hardly read it for salt water."
"Well," said Wardlaw senior, "I will direct our agent at Liverpool to
look after them, and send them up at once to my cellars in Fenchurch
Street. Forty chests of lead and copper, I think you said." And he took a
note of this directly. Wylie was not a little discomfited at this
unexpected turn things had taken; but he held his tongue now, for fear of
making bad worse. Wardlaw senior went on to say that he should have to
conduct the business of the firm for a time, in spite of his old age and
This announcement made Wylie perspire with anxiety, and his three
thousand pounds seemed to melt away from him.
"But never mind," said old Wardlaw; "I am very glad you came. In fact,
you are the very man I wanted to see. My poor afflicted friend has asked
after you several times. Be good enough to follow me."
He led the way into the dining-room, and there sat the sad father in all
the quiet dignity of calm, unfathomable sorrow.
Another gentleman stood upon the rug with his back to the fire, waiting
for Mr. Wardlaw; this was the family physician, who had just come down
from Arthur's bedroom, and had entered by another door through the
"Well, doctor," said Wardlaw, anxiously, "what is your report?"
"Not so good as I could wish; but nothing to excite immediate alarm.
Overtaxed brain, sir, weakened and unable to support this calamity.
However, we have reduced the fever; the symptoms of delirium have been
checked, and I think we shall escape brain fever if he is kept quiet. I
could not have said as much this morning."
The doctor then took his leave, with a promise to call next morning; and,
as soon as he was gone, Wardlaw turned to General Rolleston, and said,
"Here _is_ Wylie, sir. Come forward, my man, and speak to the general. He
wants to know if you can point out to him on the chart the very spot
where the _Proserpine_ was lost?"
"Well, sir," said Wylie, "I think I could."
The great chart of the Pacific was then spread. out upon the table, and
rarely has a chart been examined as this was, with the bleeding heart as
well as the straining eye.
The rough sailor became an oracle; the others hung upon his words, and
followed his brown finger on the chart with fearful interest.
"Ye see, sir," said he, addressing the old merchant--for there was
something on his mind that made him avoid speaking directly to General
Rolleston----" when we came out of Sydney, the wind being south and by
west, Hudson took the northerly course instead of running through Cook's
Straits. The weather freshened from the same quarter, so that, with one
thing and another, by when we were a month out, she was five hundred
miles or so nor'ard of her true course. But that wasn't all; when the
leak gained on us, Hudson ran the ship three hundred miles by my
reckoning to the nor'east; and, I remember, the day before she foundered,
he told me she was in latitude forty, and Easter Island bearing due
"Here is the spot, then," said General Rolleston, and placed his finger
on the spot.
"Ay, sir," said Wylie, addressing the merchant; "but she ran about
eighty-five miles after that, on a northerly course--no--wind on her
starboard quarter--and, being deep in the water, she'd make lee way--say
eighty-two miles, nor'east by east." The general took eighty-two miles
off the scale, with a pair of dividers, and set out that distance on the
chart. He held the instrument fixed on the point thus obtained.
Wylie eyed the point, and, after a moment's consideration, nodded his
"There, or thereabouts," he said, in a low voice, and looking at the
A pause ensued, and the two old men examined the speck pricked on the
map, as if it were the waters covering the _Proserpine._
"Now, sir," said Rolleston, "trace the course of the boats;" and he
handed Wylie a pencil.
The sailor slowly averted his head, but stretched out his hand and took
it, and traced two lines, the one short and straight, running nearly
northeast. "That's the way the cutter headed when we lost her in the
The other line ran parallel to the first for half an inch, then, turning,
bent backward and ran due south.
"This was our course," said Wylie.
General Rolleston looked up, and said, "Why did you desert the cutter?"
The mate looked at old Wardlaw, and, after some hesitation, replied:
"After we lost sight of her the men with me declared that we could not
reach either Juan Fernandez or Valparaiso with our stock of provisions,
and insisted on standing for the sea-track of Australian liners between
the Horn and Sydney."
This explanation was received in dead silence. Wylie fidgeted, and his
eye wandered round the room.
General Rolleston applied his compasses to the chart. "I find that the
_Proserpine_ was not one thousand miles from Easter Island. Why did you
not make for that land?"
"We had no charts, sir," said Wylie to the merchant, "and I'm no
"I see no land laid down hereaway, northeast of the spot where the ship
"No," replied Wylie, "that's what the men said when they made me 'bout
"Then why did you lead the way northeast at all?"
"I'm no navigator," answered the man sullenly.
He then suddenly stammered out: "Ask my men what we went through. Why,
sir" (to Wardlaw), "I can hardly believe that I am alive, and sit here
talking to you about this cursed business. And nobody offers me a drop of
Wardlaw poured him out a tumbler of wine. His brown hand trembled a
little, and he gulped the wine down like water.
General Rolleston gave Mr. Wardlaw a look, and Wylie was dismissed. He
slouched down the street all in a cold perspiration; but still clinging
to his three thousand pounds, though small was now his hope of ever
When he was gone General Rolleston paced that large and gloomy room in
silence. Wardlaw eyed him with the greatest interest, but avoided
speaking to him. At last he stopped short, and stood erect, as veterans
halt, and pointed down at the chart.
"I'll start at once for that spot," said he. "I'll go in the next ship
bound to Valparaiso: there I'll charter a small vessel, and ransack those
waters for some trace of my poor lost girl."
"Can you think of no better way than that?" said old Wardlaw, gently, and
with a slight tone of reproach.
"No--not at this moment. Oh, yes, by the by, the _Greyhound_ and
_Dreadnaught a_re going out to survey the islands of the Pacific. I have
interest enough to get a berth in the _Greyhound."_
"What! go in a government ship! under the orders of a man, under the
orders of another man, under the orders of a board. Why, if you heard our
poor girl was alive upon a rock, the _Dreadnaught_ would be sure to run
up a bunch of red-tape to the fore that moment to recall the _Greyhound,_
and the _Greyhound_ would go back. No," said he, rising suddenly, and
confronting the general, and with the color mounting for once in his
sallow face, "you sail in no bottom but one freighted by Wardlaw & Son,
and the captain shall be under no orders but yours. We have bought the
steam-sloop _Springbok,/I> seven hundred tons. I'll victual her for a
year, man her well, and you shall go out in her in less than a week. I
give you my hand on that."
They grasped hands.
But this sudden warmth and tenderness, coming from a man habitually cold,
overpowered the stout general. "What, sir," he faltered; "your own son
lies in danger, yet your heart goes so with me--such goodness--it is too
much for me."
"No, no," faltered the merchant, affected in his turn; "it is nothing.
Your poor girl was coming home in that cursed ship to marry my son. Yes,
he lies ill for love of her; God help him and me too; but you most of
all. Don't, general; don't! We have got work to do; we must be brave,
sir; brave, I say, and compose ourselves. Ah, my friend, you and I are of
one age; and this is a heavy blow for us. And we are friends no more; it
has made us brothers. She was to be my child as well as yours; well, now
she _is_ my child, and our hearts they bleed together." At this, the
truth must be told, the two stout old men embraced one another like two
women, and cried together a little.
But that was soon over with such men as these. They sat together and
plunged into the details of the expedition, and they talked themselves
In a week the _Springbok_ steamed down the Channel on an errand inspired
by love, not reason; to cross one mighty ocean, and grope for a lost
daughter in another.
WE return to the cutter and her living freight.
After an anxious but brief consultation, it was agreed that their best
chance was to traverse as many miles of water as possible while the wind
was fair; by this means they would increase their small chance of being
picked up, and also of falling in with land, and would, at all events,
sail into a lovely climate, where intense cold was unknown and gales of
wind uncommon. Mr. Hazel advised them to choose a skipper, and give him
absolute power, especially over the provisions. They assented to this. He
then recommended Cooper for that post. But they had not fathomed the
sterling virtues of that taciturn seaman; so they offered the command to
"Me put myself over Sam Cooper!" said he; "not likely."
Then their choice fell upon Michael Morgan. The other sailors' names were
Prince, Fenner and Mackintosh.
Mr. Hazel urged Morgan to put the crew and passengers on short allowance
at once, viz., two biscuits a day, and four tablespoonfuls of water. But
Morgan was a common sailor; he could not see clearly very far ahead; and,
moreover, his own appetite counteracted this advice; he dealt out a pound
of biscuit and an ounce of ham to each person, night and morning, and a
pint of water in course of the day.
Mr. Hazel declined his share of the ham, and begged Miss Rolleston so
earnestly not to touch it, that she yielded a silent compliance.
On the fourth day the sailors were all in good spirits, though the
provisions were now very low. They even sang and spun yarns. This was
partly owing to the beauty of the weather.
On the fifth day Morgan announced that he could only serve out one
biscuit per day. And this sudden decline caused some dissatisfaction and
Next day the water ran so low that only a teaspoonful was served out
night and morning.
There were murmurs and forebodings.
In all heavy trials and extremities some man or other reveals great
qualities, that were latent in him, ay, hidden from himself. And this
general observation was verified on the present occasion, as it had been
in the Indian mutiny and many other crises. Hazel came out.
He encouraged the men out of his multifarious stores of learning. He
related at length stories of wrecks and sufferings at sea; which, though
they had long been in print, were most of them new to these poor fellows.
He told them, among the rest, what the men of the _Bona Dea,_ waterlogged
at sea, had suffered--twelve days without any food but a rat and a
kitten--yet had all survived. He gave them some details of the _Wager,_
the _Grosvenor,_ the _Corbin,_ the _Medusa;_ but, above all, a most
minute account of the _Bounty,_ and Bligh's wonderful voyage in an open
boat, short of provisions. He moralized on this, And showed his
fellow-sufferers it was discipline and self-denial from the first that
had enabled those hungry specters to survive, and to traverse two
thousand eight hundred miles of water, in those very seas; and that in
spite of hunger, thirst, disease and rough weather.
By these means he diverted their minds in some degree from their own
calamity, and taught them the lesson they most needed.
The poor fellows listened with more interest than you could have thought
possible under the pressure of bodily distress. And Helen Rolleston's
hazel eye dwelled on the narrator with unceasing wonder.
Yes, learning and fortitude, strengthened by those great examples
learning furnishes, maintained a superiority, even in the middle of the
Pacific; and not the rough sailors only, but the lady who had rejected
and scorned his love, hung upon the brave student's words. She was
compelled to look up with wonder to the man she had hated and despised in
her hours of ease.
On the sixth day the provisions failed entirely. Not a crust of bread;
not a drop of water.
At 4 P. M. several flying-fish, driven into the air by the dolphins and
catfish, fell into the sea again near the boat, and one struck the sail
sharply, and fell into the boat. It was divided, and devoured raw, in a
The next morning the wind fell, and, by noon, the ocean became like
The horrors of a storm have been often painted; but who has described, or
can describe, the horrors of a calm, to a boatload of hungry, thirsty
creatures, whose only chances of salvation or relief are wind and rain?
The beautiful, remorseless sky was one vault of purple, with a great
flaming jewel in the center, whose vertical rays struck, and parched, and
scorched the living sufferers; and blistered and baked the boat itself,
so that it hurt their hot hands to touch it. The beautiful, remorseless
ocean was one sheet of glass, that glared in their bloodshot eyes, and
reflected the intolerable heat of heaven upon these poor wretches, who
were gnawed to death with hunger; and their raging thirst was fiercer
Toward afternoon of the eighth day, Mackintosh dipped a vessel in the
sea, with the manifest intention of drinking the salt water.
"Stop him!" cried Hazel, in great agitation; and the others seized him
and overpowered him. He cursed them with such horrible curses that Miss
Rolleston put her fingers in her ears, and shuddered from head to foot.
Even this was new to her, to hear foul language.
A calm voice rose in the midst and said: "Let us pray."
There was a dead silence, and Mr. Hazel kneeled down and prayed loud and
fervently; and, while he prayed, the furious cries subsided for a while,
and deep groans only were heard. He prayed for food, for rain, for wind,
The men were not so far gone but they could just manage to say "Amen."
He rose from his knees and gathered the pale faces of the men together in
one glance; and saw that intense expression of agony which physical pain
can mold with men's features. And then he strained his eyes over the
brassy horizon; but no cloud, no veil of vapor was visible.
"Water, water everywhere, but never a drop to drink."
"We must be mad," he cried, "to die of thirst with all this water round
His invention being stimulated by this idea, and his own dire need, he
eagerly scanned everything in the boat, and his eyes soon lighted on two
objects disconnected in themselves, but it struck him he could use them
in combination. These were a common glass bottle, and Miss Rolleston's
life-preserving jacket, that served her for a couch. He drew this garment
over his knees and considered it attentively; then untwisted the brass
nozzle through which the jacket was inflated, and so left a tube, some
nine inches in length, hanging down from the neck of the garment.
He now applied his breath to the tube, and the jacket swelling rapidly
proved that the whole receptacle was air-tight.
He then allowed the air to escape. Next, he took the bottle and filled it
with water from the sea; then he inserted, with some difficulty and great
care, the neck of the bottle into the orifice of the tube. This done, he
detached the wire of the brass nozzle, and whipped the tube firmly round
the neck of the bottle. "Now, light a fire," he cried; "no matter what it
The forethwart was chopped up, and a fire soon spluttered and sparkled,
for ten eager hands were feeding it. The bottle was then suspended over
it, and, in due course, the salt water boiled and threw off vapor, and
the belly of the jacket began to heave and stir. Hazel then threw cold
water upon the outside to keep it cool, and, while the men eagerly
watched the bubbling bottle and swelling bag, his spirits rose, and he
took occasion to explain that what was now going on under their eyes was,
after all, only one of the great processes of Nature, done upon a small
scale. "The clouds," said he, "are but vapors drawn from the sea by the
heat of the sun. These clouds are composed of fresh water, and so the
steam we are now raising from salt water will be fresh. We can't make
whisky, or brew beer, lads; but, thank Heaven, we can brew water; and it
is worth all other liquors ten times told."
A wild "Hurrah!" greeted these words. But every novel experiment seems
doomed to fail, or meet with some disaster. The water in the bottle had
been reduced too low by vaporism, and the bottle burst suddenly, with a
loud report. That report was followed by a piteous wail.
Hazel turned pale at this fatal blow. But recovering himself, he said,
"That is unfortunate; but it was a good servant while it lasted. Give me
the baler; and, Miss Rolleston, can you lend me a thimble?"
The tube of the life-preserver was held over the baler, and out trickled
a small quantity of pure water, two thimblefuls apiece. Even that, as it
passed over their swelling tongues and parched swallows was a heavenly
relief. But, alas, the supply was then exhausted.
Next day hunger seemed uppermost and the men gnawed and chewed their
tobacco-pouches. And two caps that had been dressed with the hair on were
divided for food.
None was given to Mr. Hazel or Miss Rolleston; and this, to do the poor
creatures justice, was the first instance of injustice or partiality the
sailors had shown.
The lady, though tormented with hunger, was more magnanimous; she offered
to divide the contents of her little medicine chest; and the globules
were all devoured in a moment.
And now their tortures were aggravated by the sight of abundance. They
drifted over coral rocks, at a considerable depth, but the water was so
exquisitely clear that they saw five fathoms down. They discerned small
fish drifting over the bottom; they looked like a driving cloud, so vast
was their number; and every now and then there was a scurry among them,
and porpoises and dog-fish broke in and feasted on them. All this they
saw, yet could not catch one of those billions for their lives. Thus they
were tantalized as well as starved.
The next day was like the last, with this difference, that the sufferers
could no longer endure their torments in silence.
The lady moaned constantly. The sailors groaned, lamented, and cursed.
The sun baked and blistered, and the water glared.
The sails being useless, the sailors rigged them as an awning, and salt
water was constantly thrown over them.
Mr. Hazel took a baler and drenched his own clothes and Miss Rolleston's
upon their bodies. This relieved the hell of thirst in some degree. But
the sailors could not be persuaded to practice it.
In the afternoon Hazel took Miss Rolleston's Bible from her wasted hands,
and read aloud the forty-second Psalm.
When he had done, one of the sailors asked him to pass the Bible forward.
He did so; and in half an hour the leaves were returned him; the vellum
binding had been cut off, divided, and eaten.
He looked piteously at the leaves, and, after a while, fell upon his
knees and prayed silently.
He rose, and, with Miss Rolleston's consent, offered the men the leaves
as well. "It is the Bread of Life for men's souls, not their bodies,"
said he. "But God is merciful; I think he will forgive you; for your need
Cooper replied that the binding was man's, but the pages were God's; and,
either for this or another more obvious reason, the leaves were declined
All that afternoon Hazel was making a sort of rough spoon out of a
fragment of wood.
The night that followed was darker than usual, and, about midnight, a
hand was laid on Helen Rolleston's shoulder and a voice whispered--"Hush!
say nothing. I have got something for you."
At the same time something sweet and deliciously fragrant was put to her
lips; she opened her mouth and received a spoonful of marmalade. Never
did marmalade taste like that before. It dissolved itself like ambrosia
over her palate and even relieved her parched throat in some slight
degree by the saliva it excited.
Nature could not be resisted; her body took whatever he gave. But her
high mind rebelled.
"Oh, how base I am," said she, and wept.
"Why, it is your own," said he soothingly; "I took it out of your cabin
expressly for you."
"At least oblige me by eating some yourself, sir," said Helen, "or" (with
a sudden burst) "I will die ere I touch another morsel."
"I feel the threat, Miss Rolleston; but I do not need it, for I am very,
very hungry. But no; if _I_ take any, I must divide it all with _them._
But if you will help me unrip the jacket, I will suck the inside--after
Helen gazed at him, and wondered at the man, and at the strange love
which had so bitterly offended her when she was surrounded by comforts;
but now it extorted her respect.
They unripped the jacket, and found some moisture left. They sucked it,
and it was a wonderful and incredible relief to their parched gullets.
The next day was a fearful one. Not a cloud in the sky to give hope of
rain; the air so light it only just moved them along; and the sea glared,
and the sun beat on the poor wretches, now tortured into madness with
hunger and thirst.
The body of man, in this dire extremity, can suffer internal agony as
acute as any that can be inflicted on its surface by the knife; and the
cries, the screams, the groans, the prayers, the curses, intermingled,
that issued from the boat, were not to be distinguished from the cries of
men horribly wounded in battle, or writhing under some terrible operation
Oh, it was terrible and piteous to see and hear the boat-load of ghastly
victims, with hollow cheeks and wild-beast eyes, go groaning, cursing,
and shrieking loud, upon that fair glassy sea, below that purple vault
and glorious sun.
Toward afternoon, the sailors got together, forward, and left Hazel and
Miss Rolleston alone in the stern. This gave him an opportunity of
speaking to her confidentially. He took advantage of it, and said, "Miss
Rolleston, I wish to consult you. Am I justified in secreting the
marmalade any longer? There is nearly a spoonful apiece."
"No," said Helen, "divide it among them all. Oh, if I had only a woman
beside me, to pray with, and cry with, and die with; for die we must."
"I am not so sure of that," said Hazel faintly, but with a cool fortitude
all his own. "Experience proves that the human body can subsist a
prodigious time on very little food. And saturating the clothes with
water is, I know, the best way to allay thirst. And women, thank Heaven,
last longer than men, under privations."
"I shall not last long, sir," said Helen. "Look at their eyes."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that those men there are going to kill me."
HAZEL thought her reason was going; and, instead of looking at the men's
eyes, it was hers he examined. But no; the sweet cheek was white, the
eyes had a fearful hollow all round them, but, out of that cave the light
hazel eye, preternaturally large, but calm as ever, looked out, full of
fortitude, resignation, and reason.
"Don't look at _me,"_ said she, quietly; "but take an opportunity and
look at _them._ They mean to kill me."
Hazel looked furtively round; and, being enlightened in part by the
woman's intelligence, he observed that some of the men were actually
glaring at himself and Helen Rolleston in a dreadful way. There was a
remarkable change in their eyes since he looked last. The pupils seemed
diminished, the whites enlarged; and, in a word, the characteristics of
humanity had, somehow, died out of those bloodshot orbs, and the animal
alone shone in them now; the wild beast, driven desperate by hunger.
What he saw, coupled with Helen's positive interpretation of it, was
These men were six, and he but one. They had all clasp-knives; and he had
only an old penknife that would be sure to double up or break off if a
blow were dealt with it.
He asked himself, in utter terror, what on earth he should do.
The first thing seemed to be to join the men and learn their minds. It
might also be as well to prevent this secret conference from going
He went forward boldly, though sick at heart, and said, "Well, my lads,
what is it?"
The men were silent directly, and looked sullenly down, avoiding his eye;
yet not ashamed.
In a situation so terrible, the senses are sharpened; and Hazel
dissected, in his mind, this sinister look, and saw that Morgan, Prince
and Mackintosh were hostile to him.
But Welch and Cooper he hoped were still friendly.
"Sir," said Fenner, civilly but doggedly, "we are come to this now, that
one must die, for the others to live. And the greater part of us are for
casting lots all round, and let every man, and every woman too, take
their chance. That is fair, Sam, isn't it?"
"It is fair," said Cooper, with a terrible doggedness. "But it is hard,"
"Harder that seven should die for one," said Mackintosh. "No, no; one
must die for the seven."
Hazel represented, with all the force language possesses, that what they
meditated was a crime, the fatal result of which was known by experience.
But they heard in ominous silence.
Hazel went back to Helen Rolleston and sat down right before her.
"Well!" said she, with supernatural calmness.
"You were mistaken," said he.
"Then why have you placed yourself between them and me. No, no; their
eyes have told me they have singled me out. But what does it matter? We
poor creatures are all to die; and that one is the happiest that dies
first, and dies unstained by such a crime. _I heard every word you said,
Hazel cast a piteous look on her, and, finding he could no longer deceive
her as to their danger, and being weakened by famine, fell to trembling
Helen Rolleston looked at him with calm and gentle pity. For a moment,
the patient fortitude of a woman made her a brave man's superior.
Night came, and, for the first time, Hazel claimed two portions of the
rum; one for himself and one for Miss Rolleston.
He then returned aft, and took the helm. He loosened it, so as to be
ready to unship it in a moment, and use it as a weapon.
The men huddled together forward; and it was easy to see that the boat
was now divided into two hostile camps.
Hazel sat quaking, with his hand on the helm, fearing an attack every
Both he and Helen listened acutely, and about three o'clock in the
morning a new incident occurred, of a terrible nature.
Mackintosh was heard to say, "Serve out the rum, no allowance," and the
demand was instantly complied with by Morgan.
Then Hazel touched Miss Rolleston on the shoulder, and insisted on her