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“Would you be willing to sing now?” he asked, gently, and in the same tone of entreaty which he had used before.

Beatrice looked at him for a moment without speaking. Then she raised her face and looked up at the sky, with a deep abstraction in her eyes, as though in thought. Her face, usually colorless, now, in the moonlight, looked like marble; her dark hair hung in peculiar folds over her brow–an arrangement which was antique in its style, and gave her the look of a statue of one of the Muses. Her straight, Grecian features, large eyes, thin lips, and well-rounded chin–all had the same classic air, and Brandon, as he looked at her, wondered if she knew how fair she was. She stood for a moment in silence, and then began. It was a marvelous and a memorable epoch in Brandon’s life. The scene around added its inspiration to the voice of the singer. The ocean spread afar away before them till the verge of the horizon seemed to blend sea and sky together. Overhead the dim sky hung, dotted with innumerable stars, prominent among which, not far above the horizon, gleamed that glorious constellation, the Southern Cross. Beatrice, who hesitated for a moment as if to decide upon her song, at last caught her idea from this scene around her, and began one of the most magnificent of Italian compositions:

“I cieli immensi narrano
Del grand’ Iddio la gloria.”

[Illustration: “SHE GAVE HERSELF ENTIRELY UP TO THE JOY OF SONG.”]

Her first notes poured forth with a sweetness and fullness that arrested the attention of all on board the ship. It was the first time she had sung, as she afterward said, since Langhetti had left Hong-Kong, and she gave herself entirely up to the joy of song. Her voice, long silent, instead of having been injured by the sorrow through which she had passed, was pure, full, marvelous, and thrilling. A glow like some divine inspiration passed over the marble beauty of her classic features; her eyes themselves seemed to speak of all that glory of which she sang, as the sacred fire of genius flashed from them.

At those wonderful notes, so generous and so penetrating with their sublime meaning, all on board the ship looked and listened with amazement. The hands of the steersman held the wheel listlessly. Brandon’s own soul was filled with the fullest effects. He stood watching her figure, with its inspired lineaments, and thought of the fabled prodigies of music spoken of in ancient story. He thought of Orpheus hushing all animated nature to calm by the magic of his song. At last all thoughts of his own left him, and nothing remained but that which the song of Beatrice swept over his spirit.

But Beatrice saw nothing and heard nothing except the scene before her, with its grand inspiration and her own utterance of its praise. Brandon’s own soul was more and more overcome; the divine voice thrilled over his heart; he shuddered and uttered a low sigh of rapture.

“My God!” he exclaimed as she ended; “I never before heard any thing like this. I never dreamed of such a thing. Is there on earth another such a voice as yours? Will I ever again hear any thing like it? Your song is like a voice from those heavens of which you sing. It is a new revelation.”

He poured forth these words with passionate impetuosity. Beatrice smiled.

“Langhetti used to praise me,” she simply rejoined.

“You terrify me,” said he.

“Why?” asked Beatrice, in wonder.

“Because your song works upon me like a spell, and all my soul sinks away, and all my will is weakened to nothingness.”

Beatrice looked at him with a mournful smile. “Then you have the true passion for music,” she said, “if this be so. For my part it is the joy of my life, and I hope to give up all my life to it.”

“Do you expect to see Langhetti when you reach England?” asked Brandon, abruptly.

“I hope so,” said she, musingly.

CHAPTER XI.

THE IMPROVISATORE.

The character of Beatrice unfolded more and more every day, and every new development excited the wonder of Brandon.

She said once that music was to her like the breath of life, and indeed it seemed to be; for now, since Brandon had witnessed her powers, he noticed how all her thoughts took a coloring from this. What most surprised him was her profound acquirements in the more difficult branches of the art. It was not merely the case of a great natural gift of voice. Her whole soul seemed imbued with those subtle influences which music can most of all bestow. Her whole life seemed to have been passed in one long intercourse with the greatest works of the greatest masters. All their works were perfectly well known to her. A marvelous memory enabled her to have their choicest productions at command; and Brandon, who in the early part of his life had received a careful musical education, knew enough about it to estimate rightly the full extent of the genius of his companion, and to be astonished thereat.

Her mind was also full of stories about the lives, acts, and words of the great masters. For her they formed the only world with which she cared to be acquainted, and the only heroes whom she had power to admire. All this flowed from one profound central feeling–namely, a deep and all-absorbing love of this most divine art. To her it was more than art. It was a new faculty to him who possessed it. It was the highest power of utterance–such utterance as belongs to the angels; such utterance as, when possessed by man, raises him almost to an equality with them.

Brandon found out every day some new power in her genius. Now her voice was unloosed from the bonds which she had placed upon it. She sang, she said, because it was better than talking. Words were weak–song was all expression. Nor was it enough for her to take the compositions of others. Those were infinitely better, she said, than any thing which she could produce; but each one must have his own native expression; and there were times when she had to sing from herself. To Brandon this seemed the most amazing of her powers. In Italy the power of improvisation is not uncommon, and Englishmen generally imagine that this is on account of some peculiar quality of the Italian language. This is not the case. One can improvise in any language; and Brandon found that Beatrice could do this with the English.

“It is not wonderful,” said she, in answer to his expression of astonishment, “it is not even difficult. There is an art in doing this, but, when you once know it, you find no trouble. It is rhythmic prose in a series of lines. Each line must contain a thought. Langhetti found no difficulty in making rhyming lines, but rhymes are not necessary. This rhythmic prose is as poetic as any thing can be. All the hymns of the Greek Church are written on this principle. So are the Te Deum and the Gloria. So were all the ancient Jewish psalms. The Jews improvised. I suppose Deborah’s song, and perhaps Miriam’s, are of this order.”

“And you think the art can be learned by every one?”

“No, not by every one. One must have a quick and vivid imagination, and natural fluency–but these are all. Genius makes all the difference between what is good and what is bad. Sometimes you have a song of Miriam that lives while the world lasts, sometimes a poor little song like one of mine.”

“Sing to me about music,” said Brandon, suddenly.

Beatrice immediately began an improvisation. But the music to which she sang was lofty and impressive, and the marvelous sweetness of her voice produced an indescribable effect. And again, as always when she sang, the fashion of her face was changed, and she became transfigured before his eyes. It was the same rhythmic prose of which she had been speaking, sung according to the mode in which the Gloria is chanted, and divided into bars of equal time.

Brandon, as always, yielded to the spell of her song. To him it was an incantation. Her own strains varied to express the changing sentiment, and at last, as the song ended, it seemed to die away in melodious melancholy, like the dying strain of the fabled swan.

“Sing on!” he exclaimed, fervently; “I would wish to stand and hear your voice forever.”

A smile of ineffable sweetness came over her face. She looked at him, and said nothing. Brandon bowed his head, and stood in silence.

Thus ended many of their interviews. Slowly and steadily this young girl gained over him an ascendency which he felt hourly, and which was so strong that he did not even struggle against it. Her marvelous genius, so subtle, so delicate, yet so inventive and quick, amazed him. If he spoke of this, she attributed every thing to Langhetti. “Could you but see him,” she would say, “I should seem like nothing!”

“Has he such a voice?”

“Oh! he has no voice at all. It is his soul,” she would reply. “He speaks through the violin. But he taught me all that I know. He said my voice was God’s gift. He had a strange theory that the language of heaven and of the angels was music, and that he who loved it best on earth made his life and his thoughts most heavenly.”

“You must have been fond of such a man.”

“Very,” said Beatrice, with the utmost simplicity. “Oh, I loved him so dearly!”

But in this confession, so artlessly made, Brandon saw only a love that was filial or sisterly. “He was the first one,” said Beatrice, “who showed me the true meaning of life. He exalted his art above all other arts, and always maintained that it was the purest and best thing which the world possessed. This consoled him for exile, poverty, and sorrow of many kinds.”

“Was he married?”

Beatrice looked at Brandon with a singular smile. “Married! Langhetti married! Pardon me; but the idea of Langhetti in domestic life is so ridiculous.”

“Why? The greatest musicians have married.”

Beatrice looked up to the sky with a strange, serene smile. “Langhetti has no passion out of art,” she said. “As an artist he is all fire, and vehemence, and enthusiasm. He is aware of all human passions, but only as an artist. He has only one love, and that is music. This is his idol. He seems to me himself like a song. But all the raptures which poets and novelists apply to lovers are felt by him in his music. He wants nothing while he has this. He thinks the musician’s life the highest life. He says those to whom the revelations of God were committed were musicians. As David and Isaiah received inspiration to the strains of the harp, so, he says, have Bach and Mozart, Handel and Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. And where, indeed,” she continued, in a musing tone, half soliloquizing, “where, indeed, can man rise so near heaven as when he listens to the inspired strains of these lofty souls?”

“Langhetti,” said Brandon, in a low voice, “does not understand love, or he would not put music in its place.”

“Yes,” said Beatrice. “We spoke once about that. He has his own ideas, which he expressed to me.”

“What were they?”

“I will have to say them as he said them,” said she. “For on this theme he had to express himself in music.”

Brandon waited in rapt expectation. Beatrice began to sing:

“Fairest of all most fair,
Young Love, how comest thou
Unto the soul?
Still as the evening breeze
Over the starry wave–
The moonlit wave–

“The heart lies motionless;
So still, so sensitive;
Love fans the breeze.
Lo! at his lightest touch,
The myriad ripples rise,
And murmur on.

“And ripples rise to waves,
And waves to rolling seas,
Till, far and wide,
The endless billows roll,
In undulations long,
For evermore!”

Her voice died away into a scarce audible tone, which sank into Brandon’s heart, lingering and dying about the last word, with touching and unutterable melancholy. It was like the lament of one who loved. It was like the cry of some yearning heart.

In a moment Beatrice looked at Brandon with a swift, bright smile. She had sung these words as an artist. For a moment Brandon had thought that she was expressing her own feelings. But the bright smile on her face contrasted so strongly with the melancholy of her voice that he saw this was not so.

“Thus,” she said, “Langhetti sang about it: and I have never forgotten his words.”

The thought came to Brandon, is it not truer than she thinks, that “she loves him very dearly?” as she said.

“You were born to be an artist,” he said, at last.

Beatrice sighed lightly. “That’s what I never can be, I am afraid,” said she. “Yet I hope I may be able to gratify my love for it. Art,” she continued, musingly, “is open to women as well as to men; and of all arts none are so much so as music. The interpretation of great masters is a blessing to the world. Langhetti used to say that these are the only ones of modern times that have received heavenly inspiration. They correspond to the Jewish prophets. He used to declare that the interpretation of each was of equal importance. To man is given the interpretation of the one, but to woman is given the interpretation of much of the other. Why is not my voice, if it is such as he said, and especially the feeling within me, a Divine call to go forth upon this mission of interpreting the inspired utterances of the great masters of modern days?

“You,” she continued, “are a man, and you have a purpose.” Brandon started, but she did not notice it. “You have a purpose in life,” she repeated. “Your intercourse with me will hereafter be but an episode in the life that is before you. I am a girl, but I too may wish to have a purpose in life–suited to my powers; and if I am not able to work toward it I shall not be satisfied.”

“How do you know that I have a purpose, as you call it?” asked Brandon, after a pause.

“By the expression of your face, and your whole manner when you are alone and subside into yourself,” she replied, simply.

“And of what kind?” he continued.

“That I do not seek to know,” she replied; “but I know that it must be deep and all-absorbing. It seems to me to be too stern for Love; you are not the man to devote yourself to Avarice: possibly it may be Ambition, yet somehow I do not think so.”

“What do you think it is, then?” asked Brandon, in a voice which had died away, almost to a whisper.

She looked at him earnestly; she looked at him pityingly. She looked at him also with that sympathy which might be evinced by one’s Guardian Angel, if that Being might by any chance become visible. She leaned toward him, and spoke low in a voice only audible to him:

“Something stronger than Love, and Avarice, and Ambition,” said she. “There can be only one thing.”

“What?”

“Vengeance!” she said, in a voice of inexpressible mournfulness.

Brandon looked at her wonderingly, not knowing how this young girl could have divined his thoughts. He long remained silent.

Beatrice folded her hands together, and looked pensively at the sea.

“You are a marvelous being,” said Brandon, at length. “Can you tell me any more?”

“I might,” said she, hesitatingly; “but I am afraid you will think me impertinent.”

“No,” said Brandon. “Tell me, for perhaps you are mistaken.”

“You will not think me impertinent, then? You will only think that I said so because you asked me?”

“I entreat you to believe that it is impossible for me to think otherwise of you than you yourself would wish.”

“Shall I say it, then?”

“Yes.”

Her voice again sank to a whisper. “Your name is not Wheeler.”

Brandon looked at her earnestly. “How did you learn that?”

“By nothing more than observation.”

“What is my name?”

“Ah, that is beyond my power to know,” said she with a smile. “I have only discovered what you are not. Now you will not think me a spy, will you?” she continued, in a pleading voice.

Brandon smiled on her mournfully as she stood looking at him with her dark eyes upraised.

“A spy!” he repeated. “To me it is the sweetest thought conceivable that you could take the trouble to notice me sufficiently.” He checked himself suddenly, for Beatrice looked away, and her hands which had been folded together clutched each other nervously. “It is always flattering for a gentleman to be the object of a lady’s notice,” he concluded, in a light tone.

Beatrice smiled. “But where,” he continued, “could you have gained that power of divination which you possess; you who have always lived a secluded life in so remote a place?”

“You did not think that one like me could come out of Hong-Kong, did you?” said she, laughingly.

“Well, I have seen much of the world; but I have not so much of this power as you have.”

“You might have more if–if–” she hesitated. “Well,” she continued, “they say, you know, that men act by reason, women by intuition.”

“Have you any more intuitions?” asked Brandon, earnestly.

“Yes,” said she, mournfully.

“Tell me some.”

“They will not do to tell,” said Beatrice, in the same mournful tone.

“Why not?”

“They are painful.”

“Tell them at any rate.”

“No.”

“Hint at them.”

Beatrice looked at him earnestly. Their eyes met. In hers there was a glance of anxious inquiry, as though her soul were putting forth a question by that look which was stronger than words. In his there was a glance of anxious expectancy, as though his soul were speaking unto hers, saying: “Tell all; let me know if you suspect that of which I am afraid to think.”

“We have met with ships at sea,” she resumed, in low, deliberate tones.

“Yes.”

“Sometimes we have caught up with them, we have exchanged signals, we have sailed in sight of one another for hours or for days, holding intercourse all the while. At last a new morning has come, and we looked out over the sea, and the other ship has gone from sight. We have left it forever. Perhaps we have drifted away, perhaps a storm has parted us, the end is the same–separation for evermore.”

She spoke mournfully, looking away, her voice insensibly took up a cadence, and the words seemed to fall of themselves into rhythmic pause.

“I understand you,” said Brandon, with a more profound mournfulness in his voice. “You speak like a Sibyl. I pray Heaven that your words may not be a prophecy.”

Beatrice still looked at him, and in her eyes he read pity beyond words; and sorrow also as deep as that pity.

“Do you read my thoughts as I read yours?” asked Brandon, abruptly.

“Yes,” she answered, mournfully.

He turned his face away.

“Did Langhetti teach you this also?” he asked, at last.

“He taught me many things,” was the answer.

Day succeeded to day, and week to week. Still the ship went on holding steadily to her course northward, and every day drawing nearer and nearer her goal. Storms came–some moderate, some severe; but the ship escaped them all with no casualties, and with but little delay.

At last they passed the equator, and seemed to have entered the last stage of their journey.

CHAPTER XII.

THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE.

At length the ship came within the latitude of the Guinea coast.

For some days there had been alternate winds and calms, and the weather was so fitful and so fickle that no one could tell in one hour what would happen in the next. All this was at last terminated by a dead, dense, oppressive calm like those of the Indian Ocean, in which exertion was almost impossible and breathing difficult. The sky, however, instead of being clear and bright, as in former calms, was now overspread with menacing clouds; the sea looked black, and spread out before them on every side like an illimitable surface of polished ebony. There was something appalling in the depth and intensity of this calm with such accompaniments. All felt this influence. Although there was every temptation to inaction and sleep yet no one yielded to it. The men looked suspiciously and expectantly at every quarter of the heavens. The Captain said nothing, but cautiously had all his preparations made for a storm. Every half hour he anxiously consulted the barometer, and then cast uneasy glances at the sea and sky.

But the calm which had set in at midnight, and had become confirmed at dawn, extended itself through the long day. The ship drifted idly, keeping no course, her yards creaking lazily as she slowly rose and fell at the movement of the ocean-undulations. Hour after hour passed, and the day ended, and night came once more.

The Captain did not turn in that night. In anxious expectation he waited and watched on deck, while all around there was the very blackness of darkness. Brandon began to see from the Captain’s manner that he expected something far more violent than any thing which the ship had yet encountered, but, thinking that his presence would be of no consequence, he retired at the usual hour.

The deep, dense calm continued until nearly midnight. The watchers on deck still waited in the same anxious expectation, thinking that the night would bring on the change which they expected.

Almost half an hour before midnight a faint light was seen in the thick mass of clouds overhead–it was not lightning, but a whitish streak, as though produced by some movement in the clouds. All looked up in mute expectation.

Suddenly a faint puff of wind came from the west, blowing gently for a few moments, then stopping, and then coming on in a stronger blast. Afar off, at what seemed like an immeasurable distance, a low, dull roar arose, a heavy moaning sound, like the menace of the mighty Atlantic, which was now advancing in wrath upon them.

In the midst of this the whole scene burst forth into dazzling light at the flash of a vast mass of lightning, which seemed to blaze from every part of the heavens on every side simultaneously. It threw forth all things–ship, sea, and sky–into the dazzled eyes of the watchers. They saw the ebon sky, the black and lustrous sea, the motionless ship. They saw also, far off to the west, a long line of white which appeared to extend along the whole horizon.

But the scene darted out of sight instantly, and instantly there fell the volleying discharge of a tremendous peal of thunder, at whose reverberations the air and sea and ship all vibrated.

Now the sky lightened again, and suddenly, as the ship lay there, a vast ball of fire issued from the black clouds immediately overhead, descending like the lightning straight downward, till all at once it struck the main truck. With a roar louder than that of the recent thunder it exploded; fast sheets of fire flashed out into the air, and a stream of light passed down the entire mast, shattering it as a tree is shattered when the lightning strikes it. The whole ship was shaken to its centre. The deck all around the mast was shattered to splinters, and along its extent and around its base a burst of vivid flame started into light.

Wild confusion followed. At once all the sailors were ordered up, and began to extinguish the fires, and to cut away the shattered mast. The blows of the axes resounded through the ship. The rigging was severed; the mast, already shattered, needed but a few blows to loosen its last fibres.

But suddenly, and furiously, and irresistibly it seemed as though the whole tempest which they had so long expected was at last let loose upon them. There was a low moan, and, while they were yet trying to get rid of the mast, a tremendous squall struck the ship. It yielded and turned far over to that awful blow. The men started back from their work. The next instant a flash of lightning came, and toward the west, close over them, rose a long, white wall of foam. It was the van-guard of the storm, seen shortly before from afar, which was now upon them, ready to fall on their devoted heads.

Not a word was spoken. No order came from the Captain. The men awaited some word. There came none. Then the waters, which thus rose up like a heap before them, struck the ship with all the accumulated fury of that resistless onset, and hurled their utmost weight upon her as she lay before them.

The ship, already reeling far over at the stroke of the storm, now, at this new onset, yielded utterly, and rolled far over on her beam-ends. The awful billows dashed over and over her, sweeping her in their fury from end to end. The men clung helplessly to whatever rigging lay nearest, seeking only in that first moment of dread to prevent themselves from being washed away, and waiting for some order from the Captain, and wondering while they waited.

At the first peal of thunder Brandon had started up. He had lain down in his clothes, in order to be prepared for any emergency. He called Cato. The Hindu was at hand. “Cato, keep close to me whatever happens, for you will be needed.” “Yes, Sahib.” He then hurried to Beatrice’s room and knocked. It was opened at once. She came forth with her pale, serene face, and looked at him.

“I did not lie down,” said she. “I knew that there would be something frightful. But I am not afraid. At any rate,” she added, “I know I will not be deserted.”

Brandon said nothing, but held out to her an India-rubber life- preserver. “What is this for?” “For you. I wish you to put it on. It may not be needed, but it is best to have it on.” “And what will you do?” “I–oh! I can swim, you know. But you don’t know how to fasten it. Will you allow me to do so?” She raised her arms. He passed the belt around her waist, encircling her almost in his arms while doing so, and his hand, which had boldly grasped the head of the “dweller in the wreck,” now trembled as he fastened the belt around that delicate and slender waist.

But scarcely had this been completed when the squall struck the ship, and the waves followed till the vessel was thrown far over on her side; and Brandon seizing Beatrice in one arm, clung with the other to the edge of the skylight, and thus kept himself upright.

He rested now for a moment. “I must go on deck,” he said. “I do not wish you to leave me,” was her answer. Nothing more was said. Brandon at once lifted her with one arm as though she were a child and clambered along, grasping such fixtures as afforded any thing to which he could cling; and thus, with hands and feet, groped his way to the door of the cabin, which was on the windward side. There were two doors, and between them was a seat.

“This,” said he, “is the safest place for you. Can you hold on for a short time? If I take you on deck you will be exposed to the waves.”

“I will do whatever you say,” she replied; and clinging to the arm of the almost perpendicular seat, she was able to sustain herself there amidst the tossing and swaying of the ship.

Brandon then clambered out on deck. The ship lay far over. The waves came leaping upon her in successive surges. All around the sea was glistening with phosphorescent lustre, and when at times the lightning flashed forth it lighted up the scene, and showed the ocean stirred up to fiercest commotion. It seemed as though cataracts of water were rushing over the doomed ship, which now lay helpless, and at the mercy of the billows. The force of the wind was tremendous, exceeding any thing that Brandon had ever witnessed before.

What most surprised him now was the inaction of the ship’s company. Why was not something being done? Where was the Captain?

He called out his name; there was no response. He called after the mate; there was no answer. Instantly he conjectured that in the first fierce onset of the storm both Captain and mate had been swept away. How many more of that gallant company of brave fellows had perished he knew not. The hour was a perilous and a critical one. He himself determined to take the lead.

Through the midst of the storm, with its tumult and its fury, there came a voice as full and clear as a trumpet-peal, which roused all the sailors, and inspired them once more with hope. “Cut away the masts!” The men obeyed, without caring who gave the order. It was the command which each man had been expecting, and which he knew was the thing that should be done. At once they sprang to their work. The main-mast had already been cut loose. Some went to the fore-mast, others to the mizzen. The vast waves rolled on; the sailors guarded as best they could against the rush of each wave, and then sprang in the intervals to their work. It was perilous in the highest degree, but each man felt that his own life and the lives of all the others depended upon the accomplishment of this work, and this nerved the arm of each to the task.

At last it was done. The last strand of rigging had been cut away. The ship, disencumbered, slowly righted, and at last rode upright.

But her situation was still dangerous. She lay in the trough of the sea, and the gigantic waves, as they rolled up, still beat upon her with all their concentrated energies. Helpless, and now altogether at the mercy of the waves, the only hope left those on board lay in the strength of the ship herself.

None of the officers were left. As the ship righted Brandon thought that some of them might make their appearance, but none came. The Captain, the mate, and the second mate, all had gone. Perhaps all of them, as they stood on the quarter-deck, had been swept away simultaneously. Nothing could now be done but to wait. Morning at last came to the anxious watchers. It brought no hope. Far and wide the sea raged with all its waves. The wind blew with undiminished and irresistible violence. The ship, still in the trough of the sea, heaved and plunged in the overwhelming waves, which howled madly around and leaped over her like wolves eager for their prey. The wind was too fierce to permit even an attempt to rig a jury-mast.

The ship was also deeply laden, and this contributed to her peril. Had her cargo been smaller she would have been more buoyant; but her full cargo, added to her dangerous position as she lay at the mercy of the waves, made all hope of escape dark indeed.

Another night succeeded. It was a night of equal horror. The men stood watching anxiously for some sign of abatement in the storm, but none came. Sea and sky frowned over them darkly, and all the powers which they controlled were let loose unrestrained.

Another day and night came and went. Had not the _Falcon_ been a ship of unusual strength she would have yielded before this to the storm. As it was, she began to show signs of giving way to the tremendous hammering to which she had been exposed, and her heavy Australian cargo bore her down. On the morning of the third day Brandon saw that she was deeper in the water, and suspected a leak. He ordered the pumps to be sounded. It was as he feared. There were four feet of water in the hold.

The men went to work at the pumps and worked by relays. Amidst the rush of the waves over the ship it was difficult to work advantageously, but they toiled on. Still, in spite of their efforts, the leak seemed to have increased, for the water did not lessen. With their utmost exertion they could do little more than hold their own.

It was plain that this sort of thing could not last. Already three nights and three days of incessant toil and anxiety, in which no one had slept, had produced their natural effects. The men had become faint and weary. But the brave fellows never murmured; they did every thing which Brandon ordered, and worked uncomplainingly.

Thus, through the third day, they labored on, and into the fourth night. That night the storm seemed to have reached its climax, if, indeed, any climax could be found to a storm which at the very outset had burst upon them with such appalling suddenness and fury, and had sustained itself all along with such unremitting energy. But on that night it was worse for those on board, since the ship which had resisted so long began to exhibit signs of yielding, her planks and timbers so severely assailed began to give way, and through the gaping seams the ocean waters permeated, till the ocean, like some beleaguering army, failing in direct assault, began to succeed by opening secret mines to the very heart of the besieged ship.

On the morning of the fourth day all hands were exhausted from night- long work, and there were ten feet of water in the hold.

It now became evident that the ship was doomed. Brandon at once began to take measures for the safety of the men.

On that memorable day of the calm previous to the outbreak of the storm, the Captain had told Brandon that they were about five hundred miles to the westward of the coast of Senegambia. He could not form any idea of the distance which the ship had drifted during the progress of the storm, but justly considered that whatever progress she had made had been toward the land. Their prospects in that direction, if they could only reach it, were not hopeless. Sierra Leone and Liberia were there; and if they struck the coast any where about they might make their way to either of those places.

But the question was how to get there. There was only one way, and that was by taking to the boats. This was a desperate undertaking, but it was the only way of escape now left.

There were three boats on board–viz., the long-boat, the cutter, and the gig. These were the only hope now left them. By venturing in these there would be a chance of escape.

On the morning of the fourth day, when it was found that the water was increasing, Brandon called the men together and stated this to them. He then told them that it would be necessary to divide themselves so that a sufficient number should go in each boat. He offered to give up to them the two larger boats, and take the gig for himself, his servant, and the young lady.

To this the men assented with great readiness. Some of them urged him to go in the larger boat, and even offered to exchange with him; but Brandon declined.

They then prepared for their desperate venture. All the provisions and water that could be needed were put on board of each boat. Firearms were not forgotten. Arrangements were made for a long and arduous voyage. The men still worked at the pumps; and though the water gained on them, yet time was gained for completing these important preparations.

About mid-day all was ready. Fifteen feet of water were in the hold. The ship could not last much longer. There was no time to lose.

But how could the boats be put out? How could they live in such a sea? This was the question to be decided.

The ship lay as before in the trough of the sea. On the windward side the waves came rushing up, beating upon and sweeping over her. On the leeward the water was calmer, but the waves tossed and raged angrily even there.

Only twenty were left out of the ship’s company. The rest were all missing. Of these, fourteen were to go in the long-boat, and six in the cutter. Brandon, Beatrice, and Cato were to take the gig.

The sailors put the gig out first. The light boat floated buoyantly on the waters. Cato leaped into her, and she was fastened by a long line to the ship. The nimble Hindu, trained for a lifetime to encounter the giant surges of the Malabar coast, managed the little boat with marvelous dexterity–avoiding the sweep of the waves which dashed around, and keeping sufficiently under the lee to escape the rougher waves, yet not so much so as to be hurled against the vessel.

Then the sailors put out the long-boat. This was a difficult undertaking, but it was successfully accomplished, and the men were all on board at last. Instantly they prepared to row away.

At that moment a wilder wave came pouring over the ship. It was as though the ocean, enraged at the escape of these men, had made a final effort to grasp its prey. Before the boat with its living freight had got rid of the vessel, the sweep of this gigantic wave, which had passed completely over the ship, struck it where it lay. Brandon turned away his eyes involuntarily.

There was a wild shriek–the next moment the black outline of the long- boat, bottom upward, was seen amidst the foaming billows.

The men who waited to launch the cutter were at first paralyzed by this tragedy, but there was no time to lose. Death threatened them behind as well as before; behind, death was certain; before, there was still a chance. They launched the cutter in desperation. The six men succeeded in getting into her, and in rowing out at some distance. As wave after wave rose and fell she disappeared from view, and then reappeared, till at last Brandon thought that she at least was safe.

Then he raised his hand and made a peculiar signal to Cato.

The Hindu understood it. Brandon had given him his directions before; now was the time. The roll of the waves [illegible] up was for the present less dangerous.

Beatrice, who during the whole storm had been calm, and had quietly done whatever Brandon told her, was now waiting at the cabin-door in obedience to his directions.

As soon as Brandon had made the signal he hurried to the cabin-door and assisted Beatrice to the quarter-deck. Cato rowed his boat close up to the ship, and was waiting for a chance to come within reach. The waves were still more moderate. It was the opportunity for which Cato had been watching so long. He held his oars poised, and, as a sudden swell of a wave rose near the ship, he forced his boat so that it came close beside it, rising high on the crest of the swell.

As the wave rose, Brandon also had watched his opportunity as well as the action of Cato. It was the moment too for which he had been watching. In an instant, and without a word, he caught Beatrice in his arms, raised her high in the air, poised himself for a moment on the edge of the quarter-deck, and sprang forward into the boat. His foot rested firmly on the seat where it struck. He set Beatrice down, and with a knife severed the line which connected the boat with the ship.

Then seizing an oar he began to row with all his strength. Cato had the bow oar. The next wave came, and its sweep, communicating itself to the water, rolled on, dashing against the ship and moving under it, rising up high, lifting the boat with it, and bearing it along. But the boat was now under command, and the two rowers held it so that while it was able to avoid the dash of the water, it could yet gain from it all the momentum that could be given.

Brandon handled the oar with a dexterity equal to that of the Hindu, and under such management, which was at once strong and skillful, the boat skimmed lightly over the crests of the rolling waves, and passed out into the sea beyond. There the great surges came sweeping on, rising high behind the boat, each wave seeming about to crush the little bark in its resistless grasp, but notwithstanding the threat the boat seemed always able by some good luck to avoid the impending danger, for as each wave came forward the boat would rise up till it was on a level with the crest, and the flood of waters would sweep on underneath, bearing it onward.

After nearly half an hour’s anxious and careful rowing Brandon looked all about to find the cutter. It was nowhere to be seen. Again and again he looked for it, seeking in all directions. But he discovered no sign of it on the raging waters, and at last he could no longer doubt that the cutter also, like long-boat, had perished in the sea.

All day long they rowed before the wind and wave–not strongly, but lightly, so as to husband their strength. Night came, when Brandon and Cato took turns at the oars–not over-exerting themselves, but seeking chiefly to keep the boat’s head in proper direction, and to evade the rush of the waves. This last was their constant danger, and it required the utmost skill and the most incessant watchfulness to do so.

[Illustration: “WITHOUT A WORD HE CAUGHT BEATRICE IN HIS ARMS.” ETC.]

All this time Beatrice sat in the stern, with a heavy oil-cloth coat around her, which Brandon directed her to put on, saying nothing, but seeing every thing with her watchful, vigilant eyes.

“Are you afraid?” said Brandon once, just after they had evaded an enormous wave.

“No!” was the reply, in a calm, sweet voice; “I trust in you.”

“I hope your trust may not be vain,” replied Brandon.

“You have saved my life so often,” said Beatrice, “that my trust in you has now become a habit.”

She smiled faintly as she spoke. There was something in her tone which sank deep into his soul.

The night passed and morning came.

For the last half of the night the wind had been much less boisterous, and toward morning the gale had very greatly subsided. Brandon’s foresight had secured a mast and sail on board the gig, and now, as soon as it could be erected with safety, he put it up, and the little boat dashed bravely over the waters. The waves had lessened greatly as the day wore on; they no longer rose in such giant masses, but showed merely the more common proportions. Brandon and Cato now had an opportunity to get some rest from their exhaustive labors. Beatrice at last yielded to Brandon’s earnest request, and, finding that the immediate peril had passed, and that his toil for the present was over, she obtained some sleep and rest for herself.

For all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, the little boat sped over the waters, heading due east, so as to reach land wherever they might find it, in the hope that the land might not be very far away from the civilized settlements of the coast. The provisions and water which had been put in the boat formed an ample supply, which would last for a long time. Brandon shared with Cato in the management of the boat, not allowing the big man to have more of the labor than himself.

During these days Brandon and Beatrice were of course thrown into a closer intimacy. At such a time the nature of man or woman becomes most apparent, and here Beatrice showed a noble calm and a simple trust which to Brandon was most touching. He knew that she must feel most keenly the fatigue and the privations of such a life; but her unvarying cheerfulness was the same as it had been on shipboard. He, too, exhibited that same constancy and resolution which he had always evinced, and by his consideration for Cato showed his natural kindness of heart.

“How sorry I am that I can do nothing!” Beatrice would say. “You are killing yourself, and I have to sit idle and gain my safety at your expense.”

“The fact that you are yet safe,” Brandon would reply, “is enough for me. As long as I see you sitting there I can work.”

“But can I do nothing? It is hard for me to sit idle while you wear out your life.”

“You can sing,” said Brandon.

“What?”

“Langhetti’s song,” he said, and turned his face away.

She sang at once. Her tones rose in marvelous modulations; the words were not much, but the music with which she clothed them seemed again to utter forth that longing which Brandon had heard before.

Now, as they passed over the seas, Beatrice sang, and Brandon did not wish that this life should end. Through the days, as they sailed on, her voice arose expressive of every changeful feeling, now speaking of grief, now swelling in sweet strains of hope.

Day thus succeeded to day until the fourth night came, when the wind died out and a calm spread over the waters.

Brandon, who waked at about two in the morning so as to let Cato sleep, saw that the wind had ceased, and that another one of those treacherous calms had come. He at once put out the oars, and, directing Cato to sleep till he waked him, began to pull.

Beatrice remonstrated. “Do not,” said she, in an imploring tone. “You have already done too much. Why should you kill yourself?”

“The wind has stopped,” answered Brandon. “The calm is treacherous, and no time ought to be lost.”

“But wait till you have rested.”

“I have been resting for days.”

“Why do you not rest during the night and work in the daytime?”

“Because the daytime is so frightfully hot that work will be difficult. Night is the time to work now.”

Brandon kept at his oars, and Beatrice saw that remonstrances were useless. He rowed steadily until the break of day: then, as day was dawning, he rested for a while, and looked earnestly toward the east.

A low, dark cloud lay along the eastern horizon, well-defined against the sky, which now was growing brighter and brighter every hour. Was it cloud, or was it something else? This was the question that rose in Brandon’s mind.

The sky grew brighter, the scene far and wide opened up before the gathering light until at last the sun began to appear. Then there was no longer any doubt. It was LAND.

This he told to Beatrice; and the Hindu, waking at the same time, looked earnestly toward that shore which they had been striving so long and so earnestly to reach. It was land, but what land? No doubt it was some part of the coast of Senegambia, but what one? Along that extensive coast there were many places where landing might be certain death, or something worse than death. Savage tribes might dwell there–either those which were demoralized by dealings with slave-traders, or those which were flourishing in native barbarism. Yet only one course was now advisable; namely, to go on till they reached the shore.

It appeared to be about fifty miles away. So Brandon judged, and so it proved. The land which they had seen was the summit of lofty hills which were visible from a great distance. They rowed on all that day. The water was calm and glassy. The sun poured down its most fervid beams, the air was sultry and oppressive. Beatrice entreated Brandon now to desist from rowing and wait till the cool of the night, but he was afraid that a storm might come up suddenly.

“No,” he said, “our only hope now is to get near the land, so that if a storm does come up we may have some place of shelter within reach.”

After a day of exhaustive labor the land was at last reached.

High hills, covered with palm-trees, rose before them. There was no harbor within sight, no river outlet, but a long, uninterrupted extent of high, wooded shores. Here in the evening they rested on their oars, and looked earnestly at the shore.

Brandon conjectured that they were somewhat to the north of Sierra Leone, and did not think that they could be to the south. At any rate, a southeasterly course was the surest one for them, for they would reach either Sierra Leone or Liberia. The distance which they might have to go was, however, totally uncertain to him.

So they turned the boat’s head southeast, and moved in a line parallel with the general line of the shore. That shore varied in its features as they passed along: sometimes depressed into low, wide savannas: at others, rising into a rolling country, with hills of moderate height, behind which appeared the summits of lofty mountains, empurpled by distance.

It was evening when they first saw the land, and then they went on without pausing. It was arranged that they should row alternately, as moderately as possible, so as to husband their strength. Cato rowed for the first part of that night, then Brandon rowed till morning. On the following day Cato took the oars again.

It was now just a week since the wreck, and for the last two days there had not been a breath of wind in the air, nor the faintest ripple on that burning water. To use even the slightest exertion in such torrid heat was almost impossible. Even to sit still under that blighting sun, with the reflected glare from the dead, dark sea around, was painful.

Beatrice redoubled her entreaties to Brandon that he should rest. She wished to have her mantle spread over their heads as a kind of canopy, or fix the sail in some way and float idly through the hottest part of the day. But Brandon insisted that he felt no evil effects as yet; and promised when he did feel such to do as she said.

At last they discovered that their water was almost out, and it was necessary to get a fresh supply. It was the afternoon of the seventh day. Brandon had been rowing ever since midday. Beatrice had wound her mantle about his head in the style of an Eastern turban so as to protect him from the sun’s rays. Looking out for some place along the shore where they might obtain water, they saw an opening in the line of coast where two hills arose to a height of several hundred feet. Toward this Brandon rowed.

Stimulated by the prospect of setting foot on shore Brandon rowed somewhat more vigorously than usual; and in about an hour the boat entered a beautiful little cove shut in between two hills, which formed the outlet of a river. Far up its winding course could be traced by the trees along its borders. The hills rose on each side with a steep slope, and were covered with palms. The front of the harbor was shut in from the sea by a beautiful little wooded island. Here Brandon rowed the boat into this cove; and its prow grated against the pebbles of the beach.

Beatrice had uttered many exclamations of delight at the beauty of this scene. At length, surprised at Brandon’s silence, she cried,

“Why do you not say something? Surely this is a Paradise after the sea!”

She looked up with an enthusiastic smile.

He had risen to his feet. A strange, vacant expression was in his eyes. He made a step forward as if to land. His unsteady foot trembled. He reeled, and stretched out his arms like some one groping in the dark.

Beatrice shrieked and sprang forward. Too late: for the next moment he fell headlong into the water.

CHAPTER XIII.

THE BADINAGE OF OLD FRIENDS.

The town of Holby is on the coast of Pembroke. It has a small harbour, with a light-house, and the town itself contains a few thousand people, most of them belonging to the poorer class. The chief house in the town stands on a rising ground a little outside, looking toward the water. Its size and situation render it the most conspicuous object in the neighborhood.

This house, from its appearance, must have been built more than a century before. It belonged to an old family which had become extinct, and now was occupied by a new owner, who had given it another name. This new owner was William Thornton, Esq., solicitor, who had an office in Holby, and who, though very wealthy, still attended to his business with undiminished application. The house had been originally purchased by the father of the present occupant, Henry Thornton, a well-known lawyer in these parts, who had settled here originally a poor young man, but had finally grown gray and rich in his adopted home. He had bought the place when it was exposed for sale, with the intention of founding a new seat for his own family, and had given it the name of Thornton Grange.

Generations of care and tasteful culture had made Thornton Grange one of the most beautiful places in the county. All around were wide parks dotted with ponds and clumps of trees. An avenue of elms led up to the door. A well-kept lawn was in front, and behind was an extensive grove. Every thing spoke of wealth and elegance.

On an afternoon in February a gentleman in clerical dress walked up the avenue, rang at the door, and entering he gave his name to the servant as the Rev. Courtenay Despard. He was the new Rector of Holby, and had only been there one week.

He entered the drawing-room, sat down upon one of the many lounging chairs with which it was filled, and waited. He did not have to wait long. A rapid step was soon heard descending the stairs, and in a few minutes a lady entered. She came in with a bright smile of welcome on her face, and greeted him with much warmth.

Mrs. Thornton was very striking in her appearance. A clear olive complexion and large, dark hazel eyes marked Southern blood. Her hair was black, wavy, and exceedingly luxuriant. Her mouth was small, her hands and feet delicately shaped, and her figure slender and elegant. Her whole air had that indefinable grace which is the sign of high- breeding; to this there was added exceeding loveliness, with great animation of face and elegance of manner. She was a perfect lady, yet not of the English stamp; for her looks and manner had not that cold and phlegmatic air which England fosters. She looked rather like some Italian beauty–like those which enchant us as they smile from the walls of the picture-galleries of Italy.

“I am so glad you have come!” said she. “It is so stupid here, and I expected you an hour ago.”

“Oh, if I had only known that!” said Despard. “For, do you know, I have been dying of ennui.”

“I hope that I may be the means of dispelling it.”

“As surely so as the sun disperses the clouds.”

“You are never at a loss for a compliment.”

“Never when I am with you.”

These few words were spoken with a smile by each, and a slightly melodramatic gesture, as though each was conscious of a little extravagance.

“You must be glad to get to your old home,” she resumed. “You lived here fifteen, no, sixteen years, you know.”

“Eighteen.”

“So it was. I was sixteen when you left.”

“Never to see you again till I came back,” said Despard, with some mournfulness, looking at the floor.

“And since then all has changed.”

“But I have not,” rejoined Despard, in the same tone.

Mrs. Thornton said nothing for a moment.

“By-the-way, I’ve been reading such a nice book,” she resumed. “It has just come out, and is making a sensation. It would suit you, I know.”

“What is it?”

She rose and lifted a book from the table, which she handed to him. He took it, and read the title out loud.

“Christian’s Cross.”

A strange expression passed over his face. He looked at her, holding the book out at arms’-length with feigned consternation.

“And do you have the heart to recommend this book to me, Mrs. Thornton?”

“Why not?”

“Why, it’s religious. Religious books are my terror. How could I possibly open a book like this?”

She laughed.

“You are mistaken,” she said. “It is an ordinary novel, and for the sake of your peace of mind I assure you that there is not a particle of religion in it. But why should you look with such repugnance upon it? The expression of your face is simply horror.”

“Pietistic books have been the bane of my life. The emotional, the rhapsodical, the meditative style of book, in which one garrulously addresses one’s soul from beginning to end, is simply torture to me. You see religion is a different thing. The rhapsody may do for the Tabernacle people, but thoughtful men and women need something different.”

“I am so delighted to hear such sentiments from a clergyman! They entirely accord with my own. Still I must own that your horror struck me as novel, to say the least of it.”

“Would you like me to try to proselytize you?”

“You may try if you wish. I am open to conviction; but the Church of all the ages, the Apostolic, the Catholic, has a strong hold on me.”

“You need not fear that I will ever try to loosen it. I only wish that I may see your face in Trinity Church every Sunday.”

“That happiness shall be yours,” answered Mrs. Thornton. “As there is no Catholic church here, I will give you the honor of my presence at Trinity.”

“If that is the case it will be a place of worship to me.”

He smiled away the extravagance of this last remark, and she only shook her head.

“That is a compliment, but it is awfully profane.”

“Not profanity; say rather justifiable idolatry.”

“Really, I feel overcome; I do not know what to say. At any rate, I hope you will like the book; I know you will find it pleasant.”

“Any thing that comes from you could not be otherwise,” said Despard. “At the same time it is not my habit to read novels singly.”

“Singly! Why how else can one read them?”

“I always read several at a time.”

Mrs. Thornton laughed at the whimsical idea.

“You see,” said Despard, “one must keep up with the literature of the day. I used to read each book as it came out, but at last found satiety. The best novel palls. For my own comfort I had to invent a new plan to stimulate my interest. I will tell you about it. I take ten at a time, spread them on the table in front of me, and read each chapter in succession.”

“Isn’t that a little confusing?”

“Not at all,” said Despard, gravely. “Practice enables one to keep all distinct.”

“But what is the good of it?”

“This,” replied Despard; “you see in each novel there are certain situations. Perhaps on an average there may be forty each. Interesting characters also may average ten each. Thrilling scenes twenty each. Overwhelming catastrophes fifteen each. Now by reading novels singly the effect of all this is weakened, for you only have the work of each in its divided, isolated state, but where you read according to my plan you have the aggregate of all these effects in one combined–that is to say, in ten books which I read at once I have two hundred thrilling scenes, one hundred and fifty overwhelming catastrophes, one hundred interesting characters, and four hundred situations of absorbing fascination. Do you not see what an advantage there is in my plan? By following this rule I have been able to stimulate a somewhat faded appetite, and to keep abreast of the literature of the day.”

“What an admirable plan! And do you read all books in that way? Why, one could write ten novels at a time on the same principle, and if so he ought to write very much better.”

“I think I will try it some day. At present I am busily engaged with a learned treatise on the Symbolical Nature of the Mosaic Economy, and–“

“The–what?” cried Mrs. Thornton, breathlessly. “What was that?”

“The Symbolical Nature of the Mosaic Economy,” said Despard, placidly.

“And is the title all your own?”

“All my own.”

“Then pray don’t write the book. The title is enough. Publish that, and see if it does not of itself by its own extraordinary merits bring you undying fame.”

“I’ve been thinking seriously of doing so,” said Despard, “and I don’t know but that I may follow your advice. It will save some trouble, and perhaps amount to just as much in the end.”

“And do you often have such brilliant fancies?”

“No, frankly, not often. I consider that title the one great idea of my life.”

“But do not dwell too much upon that,” said Mrs. Thornton, in a warning voice. “It might make you conceited.”

“Do you think so?” rejoined the other, with a shudder. “Do you really think so? I hope not. At any rate I hope you do not like conceited people?”

“No.”

“Am I conceited?”

“No. I like you,” replied Mrs. Thornton, with a slight bow and a wave of the hand, which she accompanied with a smile.

“And I like you,” said Despard, in the same tone.

“You could not do less.”

“This,” said Despard, with an air of thoughtful seriousness, “is a solemn occasion. After such a tender confession from each of us what remains to be done? What is it that the novels lay down?”

“I’m sure,” returned Mrs. Thornton, with the same assumed solemnity, “it is not for me to say. You must make the proposition.”

“We cannot do any thing less than fly together.”

“I should think not”

“But where?”

“And not only where, but how? By rail, by steamboat, or by canal? A canal strikes me as the best mode of flight. It is secluded.”

“Free from observation,” said Despard.

“Quiet,” rejoined Mrs. Thornton.

“Poetic.”

“Remote.”

“Unfriended.”

“Solitary.”

“Slow.”

“And, best of all, hitherto untried.”

“Yes, its novelty is undeniable.”

“So much so,” said Mrs. Thornton, “that it overwhelms one. It is a bright, original idea, and in these days of commonplace is it not creditable? The idea is mine, Sir, and I will match it with your–what? –your Symbolical Nature of the Mosaic Cosmogony.”

“Economy.”

“But Cosmogony is better. Allow me to suggest it by way of a change.”

“It must be so, since you say it; but I have a weakness for the word Economy. It is derived from the Greek–“

“Greek!” exclaimed Mrs. Thornton, raising her hands. “You surely are not going to be so ungenerous as to quote Greek! Am I not a lady? Will you be so base as to take me at a disadvantage in that way?”

“I am thoroughly ashamed of myself, and you may consider that a tacit apology is going on within my mind whenever I see you.”

“You are forgiven,” said Mrs. Thornton.

“I can not conceive how I could have so far forgotten myself. I do not usually speak Greek to ladies. I consider it my duty to make myself agreeable. And you have no idea how agreeable I can make myself, if I try.”

“I? I have no idea? Is it you who say that, and to me?” exclaimed Mrs. Thornton, in that slight melodramatic tone which she had employed thus far, somewhat exaggerated. “After what I told you–of my feelings?”

“I see I shall have to devote all the rest of my life to making apologies.”

“No. Do not make apologies. Avoid your besetting sins. Otherwise, fond as I am of you”–and she spoke with exaggerated solemnity–“I must regard you as a failure.”

The conversation went on uninterruptedly in this style for some time. It appeared to suit each of them. Despard’s face, naturally grave, assisted him toward maintaining the mock-serious tone which he chose to adopt; and Mrs. Thornton’s peculiar style of face gave her the same advantage. It pleased each to express for the other an exaggerated sentiment of regard. They considered it banter and badinage. How far it was safe was another thing. But they had known one another years before, and were only resuming the manner of earlier times.

Yet, after all, was it safe for the grave Rector of Holby to adopt the inflated style of a troubadour in addressing the Lady of Thornton Grange? Neither of them thought of it. They simply improved the shining hour after this fashion, until at length the conversation was interrupted by the opening of folding-doors, and the entrance of a servant who announced–dinner.

On entering the dining-room Despard was greeted with respectful formality by the master of the house. He was a man of about forty, with the professional air of the lawyer about him, and an abstracted expression of face, such as usually belongs to one who is deeply engrossed in the cares of business. His tone, in spite of its friendliness, was naturally stiff, and was in marked contrast to the warmth of Mrs. Thornton’s greeting.

“How do you like your new quarters?” he asked, as they sat down.

“Very well,” said Despard. “It is more my home, you know, than any other place. I lived there so many years as school-boy with Mr. Carson that it seems natural to take up my station there as home.”

Mr. Thornton relapsed into his abstraction while Despard was speaking, who directed the remainder of his conversation to Mrs. Thornton.

It was light, idle chat, in the same tone as that in which they had before indulged. Once or twice, at some unusually extravagant remark, Mr. Thornton looked up in perplexity, which was not lessened on seeing their perfect gravity.

They had a long discussion as to the meaning of the phrase “the day after to-morrow.” Despard asserted that it meant the same as eternal duration, and insisted that it must be so, since when to-morrow came the day after it was still coming, and when that came there was still the day after. He supported his theory with so much earnestness that Thornton, after listening for a while, took the trouble to go heavily and at length into the whole question, and conclude it triumphantly against Despard.

Then the subject of politics came up, and a probable war with France was considered. Despard professed to take no interest in the subject, since, even if an invasion took place, clergymen could do nothing. They were exempt from military duty in common with gaugers. The mention of this brought on a long discussion as to the spelling of the word gauger. Despard asserted that nobody knew how it was spelled, and that, from the necessities of human nature, it was simply impossible to tell whether it was _gauger_ or _guager_. This brought out Thornton again, who mentioned several law papers in which the word had been correctly written by his clerks. Despard challenged him on this, and, because Thornton had to confess that he had not examined the word, dictionary in hand, he claimed a victory over him.

Thornton, at this, looked away, with the smile of a man who is talking unintelligible things to a child.

Then followed a long conversation between Despard and Mrs. Thornton about religion, art, music, and a miscellaneous assemblage of other things, which lasted for a long time. At length he rose to go. Mrs. Thornton went to a side-table and took up a book.

“Here,” said she, “is the little book you lent me; I ought to have sent it, but I thought you would come for it.”

“And so I will,” said he, “some day.”

“Come for it to-morrow.”

“Will you be at home?”

[Illustration: “MRS. THORNTON, WALKING TO THE WINDOW, LOOKED OUT.”]

“Yes.”

“Then of course I’ll come. And now I must tear myself away. Good-night!”

On the following day, at about two o’clock, Despard called again. Mrs. Thornton had been writing, and the desk was strewn with papers.

“I know I am disturbing you,” said he, after the usual greetings. “I see that you are writing, so I will not stay but a moment. I have come, you know, after that little book.”

“Indeed, you are not disturbing me at all. I have been trying to continue a letter which I began to my brother a month ago. There is no hurry about it.”

“And how is Paolo?”

“I have not heard for some time. I ought to hear soon. He went to America last summer, and I have not had a word from him since. My letter is of no importance, I assure you, and now, since you are here, you shall not go. Indeed, I only touched it a minute ago. I have been looking at some pictures till I am so begrimed and inundated with dust that I feel as though I had been resolved into my original element.”

And she held up her hands with a pretty gesture of horror.

Despard looked at her for a moment as she stood in her bright beauty before him. A sudden expression of pain flashed over his face, succeeded by his usual smile.

“Dust never before took so fair a form,” he said, and sat down, looking on the floor.

“For unfailing power of compliment, for an unending supply of neat and pretty speeches, commend me to the Rev. Courtenay Despard.”

“Yet, singularly enough, no one else ever dreamed that of me.”

“You were always so.”

“With you.” “In the old days.”

“Now lost forever.”

Their voices sank low and expressive of a deep melancholy. A silence followed. Despard at last, with a sudden effort, began talking in his usual extravagant strain about badgers till at last Mrs. Thornton began to laugh, and the radiancy of their spirits was restored. “Strange,” said he, taking up a prayer-book with a peculiar binding, on which there was a curiously intertwisted figure in gilt. “That pattern has been in my thoughts and dreams for a week.”

“How so?”

“Why, I saw it in your hands last Sunday, and my eyes were drawn to it till its whole figure seemed to stamp itself on my mind. See! I can trace it from memory.” And, taking his cane, he traced the curiously involved figure on the carpet.

“And were your thoughts fixed on nothing better than that?”

“I was engaged in worship,” was the reply, with marked emphasis.

“I must take another book next time.”

“Do not. You will only force me to study another pattern.”

Mrs. Thornton laughed lightly, and Despard looked at her with a smile.

“I’m afraid your thoughts wander,” she said, lightly, “as mine do. There is no excuse for you. There is for me. For you know I’m like Naaman; I have to bow my head in the temple of Baal. After all,” she continued, in a more serious voice, “I suppose I shall be able some day to worship before my own altar, for, do you know, I expect to end my days in a convent.”

“And why?”

“For the purpose of perfect religious seclusion.”

Despard looked at her earnestly for a moment. Then his usual smile broke out.

“Wherever you go let me know, and I’ll take up my abode outside the walls and come and look at you every day through the grating.”

“And would that be a help to a religious life?”

“Perhaps not; but I’ll tell you what would be a help. Be a Sister of Charity. I’ll be a Paulist. I’ll devote myself to the sick. Then you and I can go together; and when you are tired I can assist you. I think that idea is much better than yours.”

“Oh, very much, indeed!” said Mrs. Thornton, with a strange, sad look.

“I remember a boy and girl who once used to go hand in hand over yonder shore, and–” He stopped suddenly, and then hastily added, “and now it would be very sad, and therefore very absurd, in one of them to bring up old memories.”

Mrs. Thornton suddenly rose, and, walking to the window, looked out. “I wonder if it will rain to-day!” she said, in a sweet voice, full of a tremulous melancholy.

“There are very dark clouds about,” returned Despard, mournfully.

“I hope there will not be a storm,” she rejoined, with the same sadness. Her hands were held tightly together. “Some things will perish if a storm comes.”

“Let us pray that there may be calm and peace,” said Despard.

She turned and looked at him for a moment. Strange that these two should pass so quickly from gayety to gloom! Their eyes met, and each read in the face of the other sadness beyond words.

CHAPTER XIV.

TWO LETTERS.

Despard did not go back to the Grange for some days. About a week had passed since the scenes narrated in the preceding chapter when one morning, having finished his breakfast, he went into his library and sat down at the table to write. A litter of papers lay all around. The walls were covered with shelves, filled with books. The table was piled high with ponderous tomes. Manuscripts were strewn around, and books were scattered on the floor. Yet, amidst all this disorder, some order was apparent, for many of these books lay open in certain places, and others were arranged so as to be within reach.

Several sheets of paper, covered with writing, lay before him, headed, “The Byzantine Poets.” The books were all in Greek. It was the library of a hard-working student.

Very different was the Despard of the library from the Despard who had visited the Grange. A stern and thoughtful expression was read in his face, and his eyes had an abstraction which would have done credit to Mr. Thornton himself.

Taking his seat at the table, he remained for a while leaning his head on his hand in deep thought. Then he took up a pen and drew a piece of paper before him to try it. He began to draw upon it the same figure which he had marked with his cane on Mrs. Thornton’s carpet. He traced this figure over and over, until at last the whole sheet was covered.

Suddenly he flung down the pen, and, taking up the paper, leaned back in his chair with a melancholy face. “What a poor, weak thing I am!” he muttered at last, and let the paper fall to the floor. He leaned his head on his hand, then resumed his pen and began to make some idle marks. At length he began to draw.

Under the fine and delicate strokes of his pen, which were as neat and as exquisite as the most subtle touches of an engraving, a picture gradually rose to view. It was a sea-side scene. The place was Holby Beach. In the distance was the light-house; and on one side a promontory, which protected the harbor. Upon the shore, looking out toward the sea, was a beautiful girl, of about sixteen years of age, whose features, as they grew beneath his tender touches, were those of Mrs. Thornton. Then beside her there gradually rose another figure, a youth of about eighteen, with smooth face and clustering locks, who looked exactly like what the Rev. Courtenay Despard might have been some seven or eight years before. His left arm was around her waist, her arm was thrown up till it touched his shoulder, and his right hand held hers. Her head leaned against him, and both of them, with a subdued expression of perfect happiness, tinged with a certain pensive sadness, were looking out upon the setting sun.

As soon as he finished he looked at the sketch, and then, with a sudden impulse, tore it into a thousand small fragments. He drew the written manuscript before him with a long and deep-drawn sigh, and began writing with great rapidity upon the subject of the Byzantine Poets. He had just written the following words:

“The Anacreontic hymns of John Damascenus form a marked contrast to–” when the sentence was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Come in!” It was the servant with letters from the post-office. Despard put down his pen gravely, and the man laid two letters on the table. He waited till the servant had departed, then seizing one of them, a small one, addressed in a lady’s hand, he pressed it vehemently to his lips and tore it open.

It was as follows:

[Illustration: “BOTH WERE LOOKING OUT UPON THE SETTING SUN.”]

“DEAR MR. DESPARD,–I suppose I may _never_ expect to see you again. Yet I must see you, for yesterday I received a very long letter from Paolo of so singular a character that you will have to explain it to me. I shall expect you this afternoon, and till then, I remain,

“Yours sincerely,

“TERESA THORNTON.

“THORNTON GRANGE, Friday.”

Despard read this letter a score of times, and placed it reverently in an inner drawer of his desk. He then opened the other, and read as follows:

“HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, January 12, 1847.

“MY DEAR COURTENAY,–I was very glad to hear of your appointment as Rector of Holby, your old home, and hope that by this time you are fully established in the old Rectory, where you spent so many years. I was there often enough in poor old Carson’s days to know that it was a fine old place.

“You will see by this that I am in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My regiment was ordered off here last November, and I am just beginning to feel settled. It is not so cold here as it was in Quebec. There is capital moose hunting up the country. I don’t admire my accommodations much; but it is not a bad little town, considering all things. The people are pleasant, and there is some stir and gayety occasionally.

“Not long before leaving Quebec, who do you think turned up? No less a person than Paolo Langhetti, who in the course of his wanderings came out there. He had known some extraordinary adventures on his voyage out; and these are the immediate cause of this letter.

“He took passage early in June last in the ship _Tecumseh_, from Liverpool for Quebec. It was an emigrant ship, and crammed with passengers. You have heard all about the horrors of that middle passage, which occurred last year, when those infernal Liverpool merchants, for the sake of patting a few additional pounds in their pockets, sent so many thousands to destruction.

“The _Tecumseh_ was one of these. It was crammed with emigrants. You know Langhetti’s extraordinary pluck, and his queer way of devoting himself for others. Well, what did he do but this: as soon as the ship- fever broke out he left the cabin and took up his abode in the steerage with the sick emigrants. He is very quiet about this, and merely says that he helped to nurse the sick. I know what that means.

“The mortality was terrific. Of all the ships that came to Quebec on that fatal summer the _Tecumseh_ showed the largest record of deaths. On reaching the quarantine station Langhetti at once insisted on continuing his attendance on the sick. Hands were scarce, and his offer was eagerly accepted. He staid down there ever so long till the worst of the sickness was over.

“Among the passengers on the _Tecumseh_ were three who belonged to the superior class. Their names were Brandon. He took a deep interest in them. They suffered very much from sickness both during the voyage and at quarantine. The name at once attracted him, being one well known both to him and to us. At last they all died, or were supposed to have died, at the quarantine station. Langhetti, however, found that one of them was only in a ‘trance state,’ and his efforts for resuscitation were successful. This one was a young girl of not more than sixteen years of age. After her restoration he left the quarantine bringing her with him, and came up to the city. Here he lived for a month or so, until at last he heard of me and came to see me.

“Of course I was delighted to see him, for I always thought him the noblest fellow that ever breathed, though most undoubtedly cranky if not crazy. I told him we were going to Halifax, and as he had no settled plan I made him come here with me.

“The girl remained for a long time in a state of mental torpor, as though her brain had been affected by disease, but the journey here had a beneficial effect on her, and during her stay she has steadily improved. About a week ago Langhetti ventured to ask her all about herself.

“What will you say when I tell you that she is the daughter of poor Ralph Brandon, of Brandon Hall, your father’s friend, whose wretched fate has made us all so miserable. You know nothing of this, of course; but where was Thornton? Why did not he do something to prevent this horror, this unutterable calamity? Good God! what suffering there is in this world!

“Now, Courtenay, I come to the point. This poor Edith Brandon, still half-dead from her grief, has been able to tell us that she has still a relative living. Her eldest brother Louis went to Australia many years ago. A few weeks before her father’s death he wrote to his son telling him everything, and imploring him to come home. She thinks that her brother must be in England by this time.

“I want you to hunt up Louis Brandon. Spare no trouble. In the name of God, and by the memory of your father, whose most intimate friend was this poor old Brandon, I entreat you to search after Louis Brandon till you find him, and let him know the fate of his friends. I think if she could see him the joy of meeting one relative would restore her to health.

“My boy, I know I have said enough. Your own heart will impel you to do all that can be done for the sake of this poor young girl. You can find out the best ways of learning information. You had better go up at once to London and make arrangements for finding Brandon. Write me soon, and let me know.

“Your affectionate uncle,

“HENRY DESPARD.”

Despard read this letter over and over. Then he put it in his pocket, and walked up and down the room in deep thought. Then he took out Mrs. Thornton’s note and studied it for a long time. So the hours passed away, until at length two o’clock came and he set out for Thornton Grange.

On entering the drawing-room, Mrs. Thornton was there.

“So you have come at last,” said she, as they shook hands.

“As if I would not come ten times a day if I could,” was the answer, in an impetuous voice.

“Still there is no reason why you should persistently avoid the Grange.”

“What would you say if I followed my own impulse, and came here every day?”

“I would say, Good-morning, Sir. Still, now that you are here, you must stay.”

“I will stay, whether I must or not.”

“Have you recovered from the effect of my prayer-book yet?”

“No, nor ever will I. You brought the same one last Sunday.”

“That was in order to weaken the effect. Familiarity breeds contempt, you know.”

“Then all I can say is, that contempt has very extraordinary manifestations. Among other strange things, it makes me cover my paper with that pattern when I ought to be writing on the Mosaic Economy.”

“Cosmogony, you mean.”

“Well, then, Cosmogony.”

“Cosmogony is such a delicious word! It has been the hope of my life to be able to introduce it in a conversation. There is only one other word that compares with it.”

“What is it?”

“I am afraid to pronounce it.”

“Try, at any rate.”

“Idiosyncrasy,” said Mrs. Thornton. “For five or six years I have been on the look-out for an opportunity to use that word, and thus far I have been unsuccessful. I fear that if the opportunity did occur I would call it ‘idiocracy.’ In fact, I know I would.”

“And what would be the difference? Your motive would be right, and it is to motives that we must look, not acts.”

After some further badinage, Mrs. Thornton drew a letter from her pocket.

“Here,” said she, gravely, “is Paolo’s letter. Read it, and tell me what you think of it.”

Despard took the letter and began to read, while Mrs. Thornton, sitting opposite to him, watched his face.

The letter was in Italian, and was accompanied by a large and closely- written manuscript of many pages.

“HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, January 2, 1847.

“MY SWEETEST LITTLE SISTER,–I send you my diary, as I promised you, my Teresella, and you will see all my adventures. Take care of yourself, be happy, and let us hope that we may see one another soon. I am well, through the mercy of the good God, and hope to continue so. There is no such thing as music in this place, but I have found an organ where I can play. My Cremona is uninjured, though it has passed through hard times– it sends a note of love to my Teresina. Remember your Paolo to the just and upright Thornton, whom you love. May God bless my little sister’s husband, and fill his heart with love for the sweetest of children!

“Read this manuscript carefully, Teresuola mia dolcissima, and pray for the souls of those unhappy ones who perished by the pestilence.”

CHAPTER XV.

JOURNAL OF PAOLO LANGHETTI.

Liverpool, June 2, 1840.–I promised you, my Teresina, to keep a diary of all my wanderings, and now I begin, not knowing whether it will be worth reading or not, but knowing this: that my corellina will read it all with equal interest, whether it be trivial or important.

I have taken passage in the ship _Tecumseh_ from Liverpool to Quebec. I have embarked in her for no better reason than this, that she is the first that will sail, and I am impatient. The first New York ship does not leave for a fortnight. A fortnight in Liverpool! Horror!

I have been on board to secure my room. I am told that there is a large number of emigrants. It is a pity, but it can not be helped. All ships have emigrants now. Ireland is being evacuated. There will soon be no peasants to till the soil. What enormous misery must be in that most wretched of countries! Is Italy worse? Yes, far worse; for Italy has a past to contrast with the present, whereas Ireland has no past.

At Sea, June 4.–We are many miles out in the Irish Channel. There are six hundred emigrants on board–men, women, and children. I am told that most of these are from Ireland, unhappy Ireland! Some are from England, and are going to seek their fortune in America. As I look on them I think, My God! what misery there is in this world! And yet what can I do to alleviate it? I am helpless. Let the world suffer. All will be right hereafter.

June 10.–Six hundred passengers! They are all crowded together in a manner that is frightful to me. Comfort is out of the question; the direst distress is every where present; the poor wretches only try to escape suffering. During storms they are shut in; there is little ventilation; and the horror that reigns in that hold will not let me either eat or sleep. I have remonstrated with the captain, but without effect. He told me that he could do nothing. The owners of the ship put them on board, and he was employed to take them to their proper destination. My God! what will become of them?

June 15.–There have been a few days of fine weather. The wretched emigrants have all been on deck. Among them I noticed three who, from their appearance, belonged to a different class. There was a lady with a young man and a young girl, who were evidently her children. The lady has once been beautiful, and still bears the traces of that beauty, though her face indicates the extreme of sadness. The son is a man of magnificent appearance, though as yet not full-grown. The daughter is more lovely than any being whom I have ever seen. She is different from my Bicetta. Bice is Grecian, with a face like that of a marble statue, and a soul of purely classic mould. Bice is serene. She reminds me of Artemis. Bice is an artist to her inmost heart. Bice I love as I love you, my Teresina, and I never expect to meet with one who can so interpret my ideas with so divine a voice. But this girl is more spiritual. Bice is classic, this one is medieval. Bice is a goddess, this one a saint. Bice is Artemis, or one of the Muses; this one is Holy Agnes or Saint Cecilia. There is in that sweet and holy face the same depth of devotion which our painters portray on the face of the Madonna. This little family group stand amidst all the other passengers, separated by the wide gulf of superior rank, for they are manifestly from among the upper classes, but still more so by the solemn isolation of grief. It is touching to see the love of the mother for her children, and the love of the children for their mother. How can I satisfy the longings which I feel to express to them my sympathy?

June 21.–I have at length gained my desire. I have become acquainted with that little group. I went up to them this morning in obedience to a resistless impulse, and with the most tender sympathy that I could express; and, with many apologies, offered the young man a bottle of wine for his mother. He took it gratefully and frankly. He met me half- way in my advances. The poor lady looked at me with speechless gratitude, as though kindness and sympathy were unknown to her. “God will reward you, Sir,” she said, in a tremulous voice, “for your sympathy with the miserable.”

“Dear Madame,” said I, “I wish no other reward than the consciousness that I may have alleviated your distress.”

My heart bled for these poor creatures. Cast down from a life which must have once been one of luxury, they were now in the foulest of places, the hold of an emigrant ship. I went back to the captain to see if I could not do something in their behalf. I wished to give up my room to them. He said I could do so if I wished, but that there was no room left in the cabin. Had there been I would have hired one and insisted on their going there.

I went to see the lady, and made this proposal as delicately as I could. There were two berths in my room. I urged her and her daughter to take them. At first they both refused most positively, with tears of gratitude. But I would not be so put off. To the mother I portrayed the situation of the daughter in that den of horror; to the daughter I pointed out the condition of the mother; to the son I showed the position of his mother and sister, and thus I worked upon the holiest feelings of their hearts. For myself I assured them that I could get a place among the sailors in the forecastle, and that I preferred doing so. By such means as these I moved them to consent. They did so with an expression of thankfulness that brought tears to my eyes.

“Dear Madame,” said I, “you will break my heart if you talk so. Take the room and say nothing. I have been a wanderer for years, and can live any where.”

It was not till then that I found out their names. I told them mine. They looked at one another in astonishment. “Langhetti?” said the mother.

“Yes.”

“Did you ever live in Holby?”

“Yes. My father was organist in Trinity Church, and I and my sister lived there some years. She lives there still.”

“My God!” was her ejaculation.

“Why?” I asked, with eager curiosity. “What do you know about Holby, and about Langhetti?”

She looked at me with solemn earnestness. “I,” said she, “am the wife, and these are the children of one who was your father’s friend. He who was my husband, and the father of these children, was Ralph Brandon, of Brandon Hall.”

I stood for a moment stupefied. Then I burst into tears. Then I embraced them all, and said I know not what of pity and sympathy and affection. My God! to think of such a fate as this awaiting the family of Ralph Brandon. Did you know this, oh, Teresina? If so, why did you keep it secret? But no–you could not have known it. If you had this would not have happened.

They took my room in the cabin–the dear ones–Mrs. Brandon and the sweet Edith. The son Frank and I stay together among the emigrants. Here I am now, and I write this as the sun is getting low, and the uproar of all these hundreds is sounding in my ears.

June 30.–There is a panic in the ship. The dread pestilence known as “ship-fever” has appeared. This disease is the terror of emigrant ships. Surely there was never any vessel so well adapted to be the prey of the pestilence as this of ours! I have lived for ten days among the steerage passengers, and have witnessed their misery. Is God just? Can he look down unmoved upon scenes like these? Now that the disease has come, where will it stop?

July 3.–The disease is spreading. Fifteen are prostrate. Three have died.

July 10.–Thirty deaths have occurred, and fifty are sick. I am assisting to nurse them.

July 15.–Thirty-four deaths since my last. One hundred and thirty are sick. I will labor here if I have to die for it.

July 18.–If this is my last entry let this diary be sent to Mrs. Thornton, care of William Thornton, Holby, Pembroke, England–(the above entry was written in English, the remainder was all in Italian, as before). More than two hundred are sick. Frank Brandon is down. I am afraid to let his mother know it. I am working night and day. In three days there have been forty-seven deaths. The crew are demoralized and panic-stricken.

July 23.–Shall I survive these horrors? More than fifty new deaths have occurred. The disease has spread among the sailors. Two are dead, and seven are sick. Horror prevails. Frank Brandon is recovering slowly. Mrs. Brandon does not know that he has been sick. We send word that we are afraid to come for fear of communicating the disease to her and to Edith.

July 27.–More than half of the sailors are sick. Eleven dead. Sixty- seven passengers dead since last report. Frank Brandon almost well, and helping me in my work.

July 30.–Nearly all the sailors more or less sick–five new deaths among them. Ship almost unmanageable. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Talk of putting into some port. Seventy passengers dead.

August 2.–Worse yet. Disease has spread into the cabin. Three cabin passengers dead. God have mercy upon poor Mrs. Brandon and sweet Edith! All the steerage passengers, with a few exceptions, prostrate. Frank Brandon is weak but helps me. I work night and day. The ship is like a floating pest-house. Forty new deaths since last report.

August 7.–Drifting along, I know not how, up the St. Lawrence. The weather calm, and two or three sailors able to manage the ship. Captain and mate both dead. Ten cabin passengers dead. Three more sailors dead. Only thirty-two steerage passengers dead since last report, but nearly all are sick. Hardly any one to attend to them.

August 10.–Mrs. Brandon and Edith both sick. Frank prostrate again. God in heaven, have mercy!

August 15.–Mrs. Brandon and Edith very low. Frank better.

August 16.–Quarantine Station, Gosse Island. I feel the fever in my veins. If I die, farewell, sweetest sister.

December 28, Halifax, Nova Scotia.–More than four months have elapsed since my last entry, and during the interval marvelous things have occurred. These I will now try to recall as I best can.