Foul Play
by Charles Reade and Dion Boucicault

two men standing over a desk, pointing at a book

She is found.

Foul Play.

by CHARLES READE

 

IN TWO VOLUMES
VOLUME II.

 

PRINTED FOR
THE GROLIER SOCIETY
PARIS     BOSTON

EDITION DE LUXE.
Limited to One Thousand Copies.

No.  226 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Volume II.

PAGE
She is found Frontispiece
Hazel threw his captive up 331
A solitary figure was seen 491
261

FOUL PLAY.

CHAPTER XXX.

The next day was Sunday. Hazel had kept a calendar of the week, and every seventh day was laid aside with jealousy, to be devoted to such simple religious exercises as he could invent. The rain still continued, with less violence indeed, but without an hour’s intermission. After breakfast he read to her the exodus of the Israelites, and their sufferings during that desert life. He compared those hardships with their own troubles, and pointed out to her how their condition presented many things to be thankful for. The island was fruitful, the climate healthy. They might have been cast away on a sandy key or reef, where they would have perished slowly and miserably of hunger and exposure. Then they were spared to each other. Had she been alone there, she could not have provided for herself; had he been cast away a solitary man, the island would have been to him an intolerable prison.

In all these reflections Hazel was very guarded that no expression should escape him to arouse her apprehension. He was so careful of this, that she observed his caution, and watched his restraint. And Helen was thinking more of this than of the holy subject on which he was discoursing. The disguise he threw over his heart was penetrable to the girl’s eye. She saw his love in every careful word, and employed herself in detecting it under his rigid manner. Secure in her own position, she could examine him from the loopholes of her soul, and take a pleasure in witnessing the suppressed happiness she could bestow with a word. She did not wonder at 262 her power. The best of women have the natural vanity to take for granted the sway they assume over the existence which submits to them.

A week passed thus, and Hazel blessed the rain that drove them to this sociability. He had prepared the bladder of a young seal which had drifted ashore dead. This membrane dried in the sun formed a piece of excellent parchment, and he desired to draw upon it a map of the island. To accomplish this, the first thing was to obtain a good red ink from the cochineal, which is crimson. He did according to his means. He got one of the tin vessels, and filed it till he had obtained a considerable quantity of the metal. This he subjected for forty hours to the action of lime-juice. He then added the cochineal, and mixed till he obtained a fine scarlet. In using it he added a small quantity of a hard and pure gum,—he had found gum abounded in the island. His pen was made from an osprey’s feather, hundreds of which were strewn about the cliffs, and some of these he had already secured and dried.

Placing his tin baler before him, on which he had scratched his notes, he drew a map of the island.

“What shall we call it?” said he.

Helen paused, and then replied, “Call it ‘Godsend’ Island.”

man with short beard drawing a map, as woman looks on

“Call it ‘God-send’ island.”

“So I will,” he said, and wrote it down.

Then they named the places they had seen. The reef Helen had discovered off the north-west coast they called “White Water Island,” because of the breakers. Then came “Seal Bay,” “Palm-tree Point,” “Mount Lookout” (this was the hill due south of where they lived). They called the cane brake “Wild Duck Swamp,” and the spot where they lunched “Cochineal Clearing.” The mountain was named “Mount Cavity.”

“But what shall we call the capital of the kingdom, 263 this hut?” said Miss Rolleston, as she leaned over him and pointed to the spot.

“St. Helen’s,” said Hazel, looking up; and he wrote it down ere she could object.

Then there was a little awkward pause, while he was busily occupied in filling up some topographical details. She turned it off gayly.

“What are those caterpillars, that you have drawn there, sprawling over my kingdom?” she asked.

“Caterpillars! you are complimentary, Miss Rolleston. Those are mountains.”

“Oh, indeed; and those lines you are now drawing are rivers, I presume.”

“Yes; let us call this branch of our solitary estuary, which runs westward, the River Lea, and this, to the east, the River Medway. Is such your majesty’s pleasure?”

map labeled Godsend Island

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXX

skip to next chapter

To make up for the earlier times when the serial introduces a chapter break—even a new installment—while the book carries on, now we get the reverse. The book opens a new volume; Once a Week continues in the same installment.

a good red ink from the cochineal, which is crimson. . . . He then added the cochineal, and mixed till he obtained a fine scarlet
[A female writer might here have pointed out that scarlet and crimson are very different colors.]

[Illustration] Godsend Island
[This map is from the Chatto & Windus edition, which followed the example of Once a Week by printing it in red, just like the story described it. Chapter XXXII will have the Grolier version.]

264

CHAPTER XXXI.

Helen’s strength was coming back to her but slowly; she complained of great lassitude and want of appetite. But the following day having cleared up, the sun shone out with great power and brilliancy. She gladly welcomed the return of the fine weather, but Hazel shook his head; ten days’ rain was not their portion, the bad weather would return, and complete the month or six weeks’ winter to which nature was entitled. The next evening the appearance of the sky confirmed his opinion. The sun set like a crimson shield; gory, and double its usual size. It entered into a thick bank of dark violet cloud that lay on the horizon, and seemed to split the vapor into rays, but of a dusky kind; immediately above this crimson, the clouds were of a brilliant gold, but higher they were the color of rubies, and went gradually off to gray.

But, as the orb dipped to the horizon, a solid pile of unearthly clouds came up from the south-east; their bodies were singularly and unnaturally black, and mottled with copper color, and hemmed with a fiery yellow; and these infernal clouds towered up their heads, pressing forward as if they all strove for precedency; it was like Milton’s fiends attacking the sky. The rate at which they climbed was wonderful. The sun set and the moon rose full, and showed those angry masses surging upwards and jostling each other as they flew.

Yet below it was dead calm.

Having admired the sublimity of the scene, and seen the full moon rise, but speedily lose her light in a brassy 265 halo, they entered the hut, which was now the headquarters, and they supped together there.

While they were eating their little meal, the tops of the trees were heard to sigh, so still was everything else. None the less did those strange clouds fly northward, eighty miles an hour. After supper Helen sat busy over the fire, where some gum, collected by Hazel, resembling India rubber, was boiling; she was preparing to cover a pair of poor Welch’s shoes, inside and out, with a coat of this material, which Hazel believed to be water-proof. She sat in such a position that he could watch her. It was a happy evening. She seemed content. She had got over her fear of him; they were good comrades if they were nothing more. It was happiness to him to be by her side even on those terms. He thought of it all as he looked at her. How distant she had seemed once to him, what an unapproachable goddess! Yet there she was by his side, in a hut he had made for her.

He could not help sipping the soft intoxicating draught her mere presence offered him. But by and by he felt his heart was dissolving within him, and he was trifling with danger. He must not look on her too long, seated by the fire like a wife. The much-enduring man rose, and turned his back upon the sight he loved so dearly: he went out at the open door intending to close it, and bid her good-night. But he did not do so, just then; for his attention as an observer of nature was arrested by the unusual conduct of certain animals. Gannets and other sea-birds were running about the opposite wood and craning their necks in a strange way. He had never seen one enter that wood before.

Seals and sea-lions were surrounding the slope, and crawling about, and now and then plunging into the river, which they crossed with infinite difficulty, for it was running very high and strong. The trees also 266 sighed louder than ever. Hazel turned back to tell Miss Rolleston something extraordinary was going on. She sat in sight from the river, and, as he came towards the hut, he saw her sitting by the fire reading.

He stopped short. Her work lay at her feet. She had taken out a letter, and she was reading it by the fire.

As she read it her face was a puzzle. But Hazel saw the act alone, and a dart of ice seemed to go through and through him.

This, then, was her true source of consolation. He thought it was so before. He had even reason to think so. But, never seeing any palpable proofs, he had almost been happy. He turned sick with jealous misery, and stood there rooted and frozen.

Then came a fierce impulse to shut the sight out that caused this pain.

He almost flung her portcullis to, and made his hands bleed. But a bleeding heart does not feel scratches.

“Good-night,” said he hoarsely.

“Good-night,” said she kindly.

And why should she not read his letter? She was his affianced bride, bound to him by honor as well as inclination. This was the reflection to which, after a sore battle with his loving heart, the much-enduring man had to come at last; and he had come to it, and was getting back his peace of mind, though not his late complacency, and about to seek repose in sleep, when suddenly a clap of wind came down like thunder, and thrashed the island and everything in it.

All things animate and inanimate seemed to cry out as the blow passed.

Another soon followed, and another,—intermittent gusts at present, but of such severity that not one came without making its mark.

Birds were driven away like paper; the sea-lions 267 whimpered, and crouched into corners, and huddled together, and held each other, whining.

Hazel saw but one thing; the frail edifice he had built for the creature he adored. He looked out of his boat, and fixed his horror-stricken eyes on it: he saw it waving to and fro, yet still firm. But he could not stay there. If not in danger she must be terrified. He must go and support her. He left his shelter, and ran towards her hut. With a whoop and a scream another blast tore through the wood, and caught him. He fell, dug his hands into the soil, and clutched the earth. While he was in that position, he heard a sharp crack; he looked up in dismay, and saw that one of Helen’s trees had broken like a carrot, and the head was on the ground leaping about; while a succession of horrible sounds of crashing, and rending, and tearing, showed the frail hut was giving way on every side; racked and riven, and torn to pieces. Hazel, though a stout man, uttered cries of terror death would never have drawn from him; and, with a desperate, headlong rush, he got to the place where the bower had been; but now it was a prostrate skeleton, with the mat roof flapping like a loose sail above it, and Helen below.

As he reached the hut, the wind got hold of the last of the four shrubs, that did duty for a door, and tore it from the cord that held it, and whirled it into the air; it went past Hazel’s face like a bird flying.

Though staggered himself by the same blow of wind, he clutched the tree and got into the hut.

He found her directly. She was kneeling beneath the mat that a few minutes ago had been her roof. He extricated her in a moment, uttering inarticulate cries of pity and fear.

“Don’t be frightened,” said she. “I am not hurt.”

But he felt her quiver from head to foot. He wrapped 268 her in all her rugs, and, thinking of nothing but her safety, lifted her in his strong arms to take her to his own place, which was safe from wind at least.

But this was no light work. To go there erect was impossible.

Holding tight by the tree, he got her to the lee of the tent, and waited for a lull. He went rapidly down the hill, but ere he reached the river, a gust came careering furiously. A sturdy young tree was near him. He placed her against it, and wound his arms round her and its trunk. The blast came: the tree bent down almost to the ground, then whirled round, recovered, shivered; but he held firmly. It passed. Again he lifted her, and bore her to the boat-house. When he turned a moment to enter it, the wind almost choked her, and her long hair lashed his face like a whip. But he got her in, and they sat panting and crouching, but safe. They were none too soon; the tempest increased in violence, and became more continuous.

No clouds, but a ghastly glare all over the sky. No rebellious waves, but a sea hissing and foaming under its master’s lash. The river ran roaring and foaming by, and made the boat heave even in its little creek. The wind, though it could no longer shake them, went screaming terribly close over their heads,—no longer like air in motion, but, solid and keen, it seemed the Almighty’s scythe mowing down Nature: and soon it became, like turbid water, blackened with the leaves, branches, and fragments of all kinds it whirled along with it. Trees fell crashing on all sides, and the remains of the hut passed over their heads into the sea.

Helen behaved admirably. Speech was impossible, but she thanked him without it—eloquently; she nestled her little hand into Hazel’s, and, to Hazel, that night, with all its awful sights and sounds, was a blissful 269 one. She had been in danger, but now was safe by his side. She had pressed his hand to thank him, and now she was cowering a little towards him in a way that claimed him as her protector. Her glorious hair blew over him and seemed to net him: and now and then, as they heard some crash nearer and more awful than another, she clutched him quickly though lightly; for, in danger, her sex love to feel a friend; it is not enough to see him near: and once, when a great dusky form of a sea-lion came crawling over the mound, and, whimpering, peeped into the boat-house, she even fled to his shoulder with both hands for a moment, and was there, light as a feather, till the creature had passed on. And his soul was full of peace, and a great tranquillity overcame him. He heard nothing of the wrack, knew nothing of the danger.

Oh, mighty Love! The tempest might blow, and fill air and earth with ruin, so that it spared her. The wind was kind, and gentle the night, which brought that hair round his face, and that head so near his shoulder, and gave him the holy joy of protecting under his wing the soft creature he adored.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXI

skip to next chapter

Fun fact: The first Academy Award ever given for special effects went to a black-and-white picture, The Rains Came, set on a tropical island. That was in 1939, meaning that it beat out Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Along with torrential rains, the picture featured an earthquake and possibly some other drama that I’ve forgotten.

the bad weather would return, and complete the month or six weeks’ winter to which nature was entitled
[It’s longer than that: at least a three months or so.]

But he got her in, and they sat panting and crouching, but safe.
[I do not perfectly understand why a boat, which is attached to nothing, should be a safer place than a group of trees that must have stood for years.]

Her glorious hair blew over him
[If he ever made her a comb, the book didn’t mention it. Whether combed or not, it must be several months since Helen has been able to wash her hair; by now, “glorious” is probably not the best adjective.]

270

CHAPTER XXXII.

 
 
 

THE MORNING that followed this memorable night, our personages seemed to change characters. Hazel sat down before the relics of the hut—three or four strings dangling, and a piece of net-work waving—and eyed them with shame, regret, and humiliation. He was so absorbed in his self-reproaches that he did not hear a light footstep, and Helen Rolleston stood near him a moment or two, and watched the play of his countenance with a very inquisitive and kindly light in her own eyes.

“Never mind,” said she, soothingly.

Hazel started at the music.

“Never mind your house being blown to atoms, and mine has stood?” said he, half reproachfully.

“You took too much pains with mine. And now I want you to come and look at the havoc. It is terrible; and yet so grand.” And thus she drew him away from the sight that caused his pain.

They entered the wood, and viewed the devastation. Prostrate trees lay across one another in astonishing numbers, and in the strangest positions: and their glorious plumes swept the earth. “Come,” said she, “it is a bad thing for the poor trees, but not for us. See, the place is strewed with treasures. Here is a tree full of fans all ready made. And what is that? A horse’s tail growing on a cocoa tree! and a long one too! that will make ropes for you, and thread for me. Ah, and here is a cabbage. Poor Mr. Welch! Well, for one thing, you need never saw nor climb any more. See the advantages of a hurricane.”

271

From the wood she took him to the shore, and there they found many birds lying dead; and Hazel picked up several that he had read of as good to eat. For certain signs had convinced him his fair and delicate companion was carnivora, and must be nourished accordingly. Seeing him so employed, she asked him archly whether he was beginning to see the comforts of a hurricane. “Not yet,” said he; “the account is far from even.”

“Then come to where the rock was blown down.” She led the way gayly across the sands to a point where an over-hanging crag had fallen, with two trees, and a quantity of earth and plants that grew above it. But, when they got nearer, she became suddenly grave, and stood still. The mass had fallen upon a sheltered place, where seals were hiding from the wind, and had buried several; for two or three limbs were sticking out, of victims overwhelmed in the ruin; and a magnificent sea-lion lay clear of the smaller rubbish, but quite dead. The cause was not far to seek: a ton of hard rock had struck him, and then ploughed up the sand in a deep furrow, and now rested within a yard or two of the animal, whose back it had broken. Hazel went up to the creature and looked at it: then he came to Helen; she was standing aloof. “Poor bugbear,” said he. “Come away: it is an ugly sight for you.”

“Oh, yes,” said Helen. Then, as they returned, “Does not that reconcile you to the loss of a hut? We are not blown away nor crushed.”

“That is true,” said Hazel; “but suppose your health should suffer from the exposure to such fearful weather. So unlucky! so cruel! just as you were beginning to get stronger.”

“I am all the better for it. Shall I tell you? Excitement is a good thing; not too often, of course, but now 272 and then; and when we are in the humor for it, it is meat and drink and medicine to us.”

“What! to a delicate young lady?”

“Ay, ‘to a delicate young lady.’ Last night has done me a world of good. It has shaken me out of myself. I am in better health and spirits. Of course I am very sorry the hut is blown down—because you took so much trouble to build it; but, on my own account, I really don’t care a straw. Find me some corner to nestle in at night, and all day I mean to be about, and busy as a bee, helping you, and— Breakfast! breakfast! Oh, how hungry I am.” And this spirited girl led the way to the boat with a briskness and a vigor that charmed and astonished him.

“Souvent femme varie.”

This gracious behavior did not blind Hazel to the serious character of the situation, and all breakfast-time he was thinking and thinking, and often kept a morsel in his mouth, and forgot to eat it for several seconds, he was so anxious and puzzled. At last he said, “I know a large hollow tree with apertures. If I were to close them all but one, and keep that for the door? No: trees have betrayed me; I’ll never trust another tree with you. Stay: I know—I know a cavern.” He uttered the verb rather loudly, but the substantive with a sudden feebleness of intonation that was amusing. His timidity was superfluous; if he had said he knew “a bank whereon the wild thyme grows,” the suggestion would have been well received that morning.

“A cavern!” cried Helen. “It has always been the dream of my life to live in a cavern.”

Hazel brightened up. But the next moment he clouded again. “But I forgot. It will not do: there is a spring running right through it; it comes down nearly perpendicular, 273 through a channel it has bored, or enlarged; and splashes on the floor.”

“How convenient!” said Helen; “then I shall have a bath in my room, instead of having to go miles for it. By the by, now you have invented the shower-bath, please discover soap. Not that one really wants any in this island; for there is no dust, and the very air seems purifying. But who can shake off the prejudices of early education?”

Hazel said, “Now I’ll laugh as much as you like, when once this care is off my mind.”

He ran off to the cavern, and found it spacious and safe; but the spring was falling in great force, and the roof of the cave glistening with moisture. It looked a hopeless case. But if Necessity is the mother of invention, surely Love is the father. He mounted to the rock above, and found the spot where the spring suddenly descended into the earth with the loudest gurgle he had ever heard; a gurgle of defiance. Nothing was to be done there. But he traced it upwards a little way, and found a place where it ran beside a deep decline. “Aha, my friend!” said he. He got his spade, and with some hours’ hard work dug it a fresh channel, and carried it away entirely from its course. He returned to the cavern. Water was dripping very fast; but, on looking up, he could see the light of day twinkling at the top of the spiral watercourse he had robbed of its supply. Then he conceived a truly original idea: why not turn his empty watercourse into a chimney, and so give to one element what he had taken from another? He had no time to execute this just then, for the tide was coming in, and he could not afford to lose any one of those dead animals. So he left the funnel to drip, that being a process he had no means of expediting, and moored the sea-lion to the very rock that had killed him, and was 274 proceeding to dig out the seals, when a voice he never could hear without a thrill, summoned him to dinner.

It was a plentiful repast, and included roast pintado and cabbage-palm. Helen Rolleston informed him during dinner that he would no longer be allowed to monopolize the labor attendant upon their condition.

“No,” said she, “you are always working for me, and I shall work for you. Cooking and washing are a woman’s work, not a man’s; and so are plaiting and netting.”

This healthy resolution, once formed, was adhered to with a constancy that belonged to the girl’s character. The roof of the ruined hut came ashore in the bay that evening, and was fastened over the boat. Hazel lighted a bonfire in the cavern, and had the satisfaction of seeing some of the smoke issue above. But he would not let Miss Rolleston occupy it yet. He shifted her things to the boat, and slept in the cave himself. However, he lost no time in laying down a great hearth, and built a fireplace and chimney in the cave. The chimney went up to the hole in the arch of the cave; then came the stone funnel, stolen from Nature; and above, on the upper surface of the cliff, came the chimney-pot. Thus the chimney acted like a German stove: it stood in the centre, and soon made the cavern very dry and warm, and a fine retreat during the rains. When it was ready for occupation, Helen said she would sail to it; she would not go by land; that was too tame for her. Hazel had only to comply with her humor, and at high water they got into the boat, and went down the river into the sea with a rush that made Helen wince. He soon rowed her across the bay to a point distant not more than fifty yards from the cavern, and installed her. But he never returned to the river; it was an inconvenient place to make excursions from; and, besides, all his work was 275 now either in or about the cavern; and that convenient hurricane, as Helen called it, not only made him a builder again; it also made him a currier, a soap-boiler, and a salter. So they drew the boat just above high-water mark in a sheltered nook, and he set up his arsenal ashore.

In this situation, day glided by after day, and week after week, in vigorous occupations, brightened by social intercourse, and in some degree by the beauty and the friendship of the animals. Of all this industry we can only afford a brief summary. Hazel fixed two uprights at each side of the cavern’s mouth, and connected each pair by a beam; a netting laid on these, and covered with gigantic leaves from the prostrate palms, made a sufficient roof in this sheltered spot. On this terrace they could sit even in the rain, and view the sea. Helen cooked in the cave, but served dinner up on this beautiful terrace. So now she had a But and a Ben, as the Scotch say. He got a hogshead of oil from the sea-lion; and so the cave was always lighted now, and that was a great comfort, and gave them more hours of indoor employment and conversation. The poor bugbear really brightened their existence. Of the same oil, boiled down and mixed with wood ashes, he made soap, to Helen’s great delight. The hide of this animal was so thick he could do nothing with it but cut off pieces to make the soles of shoes if required. But the seals were miscellaneous treasures; he contrived with guano and aromatics to curry their skins; of their bladders he made vile parchment, and of their entrails gut, catgut, and twine, beyond compare. He salted two cubs, and laid up the rest in store, by enclosing large pieces in clay. When these were to be used, the clay was just put into hot embers for some hours, then broken, and the meat eaten with all its juices preserved.

276

Helen cooked and washed, and manufactured salt; and collected quite a store of wild cotton, though it grew very sparingly, and it cost her hours to find a few pods. But in hunting for it she found other things,—health for one. After sunset she was generally employed a couple of hours on matters which occupy the fair in every situation of life. She made herself a sealskin jacket and pork-pie hat. She made Mr. Hazel a man’s cap of sealskin with a point. But her great work was with the cotton, which she plaited, and then sewed the plaits together and made pieces, which, after long labor, were made into jacket and petticoat.

For two hours after sunset, no more (they rose at peep of day), her physician allowed her to sit and work, which she did, and often smiled, while he sat by and discoursed to her of all the things he had read, and surprised himself by the strength and activity of his memory. He attributed it partly to the air of the island. Nor were his fingers idle even at night. He had tools to sharpen for the morrow, glass to make and polish out of a laminated crystal he had found. And then the hurricane had blown away, amongst many other properties, his map; so he had to make another with similar materials. He completed the map in due course, and gave it to Helen. It was open to the same strictures she had passed on the other. Hazel was no cartographer. Yet this time she had nothing but praise for it. How was that?

To the reader it is now presented, not as a specimen of cartographic art, but as a little curiosity in its way, being a fac-simile of the map John Hazel drew for Helen Rolleston, with such out-of-the-way materials as that out-of-the-way island afforded. Above all, it will enable the reader to follow our personages in their little excursions past and future, and also to trace the course of a mysterious event we have to record.

277

black-and-white map of Godsend Island

larger map

278

Relieved of other immediate cares, Hazel’s mind had time to dwell upon the problem Helen had set him; and one fine day a conviction struck him that he had taken a narrow and puerile view of it, and that, after all, there must be in the nature of things some way to attract ships from a distance. Possessed with this thought, he went up to Telegraph Point, abstracted his mind from all external objects, and fixed it on this idea,—but came down as he went. He descended by some steps he had cut zigzag for Helen’s use, and as he put his foot on the fifth step—whoo, whirr, whiz—came nine ducks, cooling his head, they whizzed so close, and made right for the lagoons.

“Hum!” thought Hazel, “I never see you ducks fly in any direction but that.”

This speculation rankled in him all night, and he told Helen he should reconnoitre at daybreak, but should not take her, as there might be snakes. He made the boat ready at daybreak, and certain gannets, pintadoes, boobies, and noddies, and divers with eyes in their heads like fiery jewels—birds whose greedy maws he had often gratified—chose to fancy he must be going a‑fishing, and were on the alert, and rather troublesome. However, he got adrift, and ran out through North Gate, with a light westerly breeze, followed by a whole fleet of birds. These were joined in due course by another of his satellites, a young seal he called Tommy, also fond of fishing.

The feathered convoy soon tailed off, but Tommy stuck to him for about eight miles. He ran that distance to have a nearer look at a small island which lay due north of Telegraph Point. He satisfied himself it was little more than a very long, large reef, the neighborhood of which ought to be avoided by ships of burden, and resolving to set some beacon or other on it ere long, he christened it White Water Island, on account of 279 the surf: he came about and headed for the East Bluff.

Then Tommy gave him up in disgust; perhaps thought his conduct vacillating. Animals all despise that.

He soon landed almost under the volcano, and moored his boat not far from a cliff that seemed peaked with snow; but the snow was the guano of a thousand years. Exercising due caution this time, he got up to the lagoons, and found a great many ducks swimming about. He approached little parties to examine their varieties. They all swam out of his way; some of them even flew a few yards, and then settled. Not one would let him come within forty yards. This convinced Hazel the ducks were not natives of the island, but strangers, who were not much afraid, because they had never been molested on this particular island; but still distrusted man.

While he pondered thus, there was a great noise of wings, and about a dozen ducks flew over his head on the rise, and passed eastward, still rising till they got into the high currents, and away upon the wings of the wind for distant lands.

The grand rush of their wings and the off-hand way in which they spurned, abandoned, and disappeared from, an island that held him tight, made Hazel feel very small. His thoughts took the form of satire. “Lords of the creation, are we? We sink in water; in air we tumble; on earth we slaughter.”

These pleasing reflections did not prevent his taking their exact line of flight, and barking a tree to mark it. He was about to leave the place, when he heard a splashing not far from him, and there was a duck jumping about on the water in a strange way. Hazel thought a snake had got hold of her, and ran to her assistance. He took her out of the water and soon found what was the matter; her bill was open, and a fish’s tail sticking out.

280

Hazel inserted his finger and dragged out a small fish which had erected the spines on its back so opportunely as nearly to kill its destroyer. The duck recovered enough to quack in a feeble and dubious manner. Hazel kept her for Helen, because she was a plain brown duck. With some little reluctance he slightly shortened one wing, and stowed away his captive in the hold of the boat.

He happened to have a great stock of pitch in the boat, so he employed a few hours in writing upon the guano rocks. On one he wrote in huge letters,—

AN ENGLISH LADY WRECKED HERE.
HASTE TO HER RESCUE.

On another he wrote in smaller letters,—

BEWARE THE REEFS ON THE NORTH SIDE.
LIE OFF FOR SIGNALS.

Then he came home and beached the boat, and brought Helen his captive.

“Why, it is an English duck!” she cried, and was enraptured.

By this visit to the lagoons, Hazel gathered that this island was a half-way house for migrating birds, especially ducks; and he inferred that the line those vagrants had taken was the shortest way from this island to the nearest land. This was worth knowing, and set his brain working. He begged Helen to watch for the return of the turtle doves (they had all left the island just before the rain) and learn, if possible, from what point of the compass they arrived.

The next expedition was undertaken to please Helen; she wished to examine the beautiful creeks and caves on the north side, which they had seen from a distance when they sailed round the island.

young woman halping bearded man with a crutch

281

They started on foot one delightful day, and walked briskly, for the air, though balmy, was exhilarating. They followed the course of the river till they came to the lake that fed it, and was fed itself by hundreds of little natural gutters down which the hills discharged the rains. This was new to Helen, though not to Hazel. She produced the map, and told the lake slyly that it was incorrect, a little too big. She took some of the water in her hand, sprinkled the lake with it, and called it Hazelmere. They bore a little to the right and proceeded till they found a creek shaped like a wedge, at whose broad end shone an arch of foliage studded with flowers, and the sparkling blue water peeped behind. This was tempting, but the descent was rather hazardous at first; great square blocks of rock, one below another, and these rude steps were coated with mosses of rich hue, but wet and slippery; Hazel began to be alarmed for his companion. However, after one or two difficulties, the fissure opened wider to the sun, and they descended from the slimy rocks into a sloping hot-bed of exotic flowers, and those huge succulent leaves that are the glory of the tropics. The ground was carpeted a yard deep with their luxuriance, and others, more aspiring, climbed the warm sides of the diverging cliffs, just as creepers grow up a wall, lining every crevice as they rose. In this blessed spot, warmed, yet not scorched, by the tropical sun, and fed with trickling waters, was seen what marvels boon Nature can do. Here, our vegetable dwarfs were giants, and our flowers were trees. One lovely giantess of the jasmine tribe, but with flowers shaped like a marigold, and scented like a tube-rose, had a stem as thick as a poplar and carried its thousand buds and amber-colored flowers up eighty feet of broken rock, and planted on every ledge suckers that flowered again, and filled the air with perfume. Another tree about half as high was covered with a cascade of 282 snow-white tulips, each as big as a small flower-pot, and scented like honeysuckle. An aloe, ten feet high, blossomed in a corner unheeded among loftier beauties. And at the very mouth of the fissure a huge banana leaned across, and flung out its vast leaves, that seemed translucent gold against the sun; under it shone a monstrous cactus in all her pink and crimson glory; and through the maze of color streamed the deep blue of the peaceful ocean, laughing, and catching sunbeams.

Helen leaned against the cliff and quivered with delight and that deep sense of flowers that belongs to your true woman.

Hazel feared she was ill.

“Ill?” said she. “Who could be ill here? It is heaven upon earth. Oh, you dears! oh, you loves! And they all seem growing on the sea, and floating in the sun.”

“And it is only one of a dozen such,” said Hazel. “If you would like to inspect them at your leisure, I’ll just run to Palm-tree Point; for my signal is all askew. I saw that as we came along.”

Helen assented readily, and he ran off, but left her the provisions. She was not to wait dinner for him.

Helen examined two or three of the flowery fissures, and found fresh beauties in each, and also some English leaves, that gave her pleasure of another kind; and, after she had revelled in the flowers, she examined the shore, and soon discovered that the rocks, which abounded here (though there were also large patches of clear sand), were nearly all pure coral, in great variety. Red coral was abundant; and even the pink coral, to which fashion was just then giving a fictitious value, was there by the ton. This interested her, and so did some beautiful shells that lay sparkling. The time passed swiftly, and she was still busy in her researches, when suddenly it darkened 283 a little, and, looking back, she saw a white vapor stealing over the cliff, and curling down.

Upon this, she thought it prudent to return to the place where Hazel had left her; the more so as it was near sunset.

The vapor descended and spread, and covered sea and land. Then the sun set: and it was darkness visible. Coming from the south, the sea-fret caught Hazel sooner and in a less favorable situation. Returning from the palm-tree, he had taken the shortest cut through a small jungle, and been so impeded by the scrub, that, when he got clear, the fog was upon him. Between that and the river, he lost his way several times, and did not hit the river till near midnight. He followed the river to the lake, and coasted the lake, and then groped his way towards the creek. But, after a while, every step he took was fraught with danger; and the night was far advanced when he at last hit off the creek, as he thought. He hallooed; but there was no reply; hallooed again, and to his joy, her voice replied; but at a distance. He had come to the wrong creek. She was farther westward. He groped his way westward, and came to another creek. He hallooed to her, and she answered him. But to attempt the descent would have been mere suicide. She felt that herself, and almost ordered him to stay where he was.

“Why, we can talk all the same,” said she; “and it is not for long.”

It was a curious position, and one typical of the relation between them. So near together, yet the barrier so strong.

“I am afraid you must be very cold,” said he.

“Oh, no; I have my sealskin jacket on; and it is so sheltered here. I wish you were as well off.”

“You are not afraid to be alone down there?”

284

“I am not alone when your voice is near me. Now don’t you fidget yourself, dear friend. I like these little excitements. I have told you so before. Listen: how calm and silent it all is; the place; the night! The mind seems to fill with great ideas, and to feel its immortality.”

She spoke with solemnity, and he heard in silence.

Indeed it was a reverend time and place: the sea, whose loud and penetrating tongue had, in some former age, created the gully where they both sat apart, had of late years receded, and kissed the sands gently that calm night; so gently, that its long low murmur seemed but the echo of tranquillity.

The voices of that pair sounded supernatural, one speaking up, and the other down, the speakers quite invisible.

“Mr. Hazel,” said Helen, in a low, earnest voice; “they say that night gives wisdom even to the wise; think now, and tell me your true thoughts. Has the foot of man ever trodden upon this island before?”

There was a silence due to a question so grave, and put with solemnity, at a solemn time, in a solemn place.

At last Hazel’s thoughtful voice came down. “The world is very, very, very old. So old, that the words ‘ancient history’ are a falsehood, and Moses wrote but as yesterday. And man is a very old animal upon this old, old planet; and has been everywhere. I cannot doubt he has been here.”

Her voice went up. “But have you seen any signs?”

His voice came down. “I have not looked for them. The bones and the weapons of primeval men are all below earth’s surface at this time of day.”

285

There was a dead silence. Then Helen’s voice went up again. “But in modern times? Has no man landed here from far-off places, since ships were built?”

The voice came sadly down. “I do not know.”

The voice went up. “But think!”

The voice came down. “What calamity can be new in a world so old as this? Everything we can do, and suffer, others of our race have done, and suffered.”

The voice went up. “Hush! there’s something moving on the sand.”

Hazel waited and listened. So did Helen, and her breath came fast; for in the stilly night she heard light but mysterious sounds. Something was moving on the sand very slowly, and softly, but nearer and nearer. Her heart began to leap. She put out her hand instinctively to clutch Mr. Hazel; but he was too far off. She had the presence of mind and the self-denial to disguise her fears; for she knew he would come headlong to her assistance.

She said, in a quavering whisper, “I’m not frightened; only v—ery c—urious.”

And now she became conscious that not only one but several things were creeping about.

Presently the creeping ceased, and was followed by a louder and more mysterious noise. In that silent night it sounded like raking and digging. Three or four mysterious visitants seemed to be making graves.

This was too much; especially coming as it did after talk about the primeval dead. Her desire to scream was so strong, and she was so afraid Hazel would break his neck if she relieved her mind in that way, that she actually took her handkerchief and bit it hard.

But this situation was cut short by a beneficent luminary. The sun rose with a magnificent bound—it was his way in that latitude—and everything unpleasant 286 winced that moment; the fog shivered in its turn, and appeared to open in furrows, as great javelins of golden light shot through it from the swiftly rising orb. Soon, these golden darts increased to streams of potable fire, that burst the fog and illumined the wet sands: and Helen burst out laughing like chanticleer, for this first break of day revealed the sextons that had scared her—three ponderous turtles, crawling, slow and clumsy, back to sea. Hazel joined her, and they soon found what these evil spirits of the island had been at, poor wretches. They had each buried a dozen eggs in the sand: one dozen of which were very soon set boiling. At first, indeed, Helen objected that they had no shells, but Hazel told her she might as well complain of a rose without a thorn. He assured her turtles’ eggs were a known delicacy, and very superior to birds’ eggs; and so she found them; they were eaten with the keenest relish.

“And now,” said Helen, “for my discoveries. First, here are my English leaves, only bigger. I found them on a large tree.”

“English leaves!” cried Hazel, with rapture. “Why, it is the caoutchouc.”

“Oh, dear,” said Helen, disappointed; “I took it for the india-rubber tree.”

“It is the india-rubber tree; and I have been hunting for it all over the island in vain, and using wretchedly inferior gums for want of it.”

“I’m so glad,” said Helen. “And now I have something else to show you: something that curdled my blood. But I dare say I was very foolish.” She then took him half across the sand and pointed out to him a number of stones dotted over the sand in a sort of oval. These stones, streaked with sea-grass, and encrusted with small shells, were not at equal distances, 287 but yet, allowing for gaps, they formed a decided figure. Their outline resembled a great fish wanting the tail.

group of dots in the shape of a rounded fish

“Can this be chance?” asked Helen; “oh, if it should be what I fear, and that is—savages!”

Hazel considered it attentively a long time. “Too far at sea for living savages,” said he. “And yet it cannot be chance. What on earth is it? It looks Druidical. But how can that be? The island was smaller when these were placed here than it is now.” He went nearer and examined one of the stones: then he scraped away the sand from its base, and found it was not shaped like a stone, but more like a whale’s rib. He became excited; went on his knees, and tore the sand up with his hands. Then he rose up agitated, and traced the outline again. “Great Heaven!” said he, “why, it is a ship.”

“A ship!”

“Ay,” said he, standing in the middle of it; “here, beneath our feet, lies man; with his work, and his treasures. This carcass has been here for many a long year; not so very long neither; she is too big for the sixteenth century, and yet she must have been sunk when the island was smaller. I take it to be a Spanish or Portuguese ship: probably one of those treasure ships our commodores, and chartered pirates, and the American buccaneers, used to chase about the seas. Here lie her bones, and the bones of her crew. Your question was 288 soon answered. All that we can say has been said: can do, has been done; can suffer, has been suffered.”

They were silent, and the sunk ship’s bones moved them strangely. In their deep isolation from the human race, even the presence of the dead brought humanity somehow nearer to them.

They walked thoughtfully away, and made across the sands for Telegraph Point.

Before they got home, Helen suggested that perhaps, if he were to dig in the ship, he might find something useful.

He shook his head. “Impossible! the iron has all melted away like sugar long before this. Nothing can have survived but gold and silver, and they are not worth picking up, much less digging for; my time is too precious. No, you have found two buried treasures to-day—turtles’ eggs, and a ship, freighted, as I think, with what men call the precious metals. Well, the eggs are gold, and the gold is a drug—there it will lie for me.”

Both discoveries bore fruits. The ship:—Hazel made a vow that never again should any poor ship lay her ribs on this island for want of warning. He buoyed the reefs. He ran out to White Water Island, and wrote an earnest warning on the black reef, and, this time, he wrote with white on black. He wrote a similar warning, with black on white, at the western extremity of Godsend Island.

The eggs:—Hazel watched for the turtles at daybreak; turned one now and then; and fed Helen on the meat or its eggs, morn, noon, and night.

For some time she had been advancing in health and strength. But, now she was all day in the air, she got the full benefit of the wonderful climate, and her health, appetite, and muscular vigor became truly astonishing; 289 especially under what Hazel called the turtle cure; though, indeed, she was cured before. She ate three good meals a day, and needed them: for she was up with the sun, and her hands and feet were never idle till he set.

Four months on the island had done this. But four months had not shown those straining eyes the white speck on the horizon; the sail, so looked and longed for.

Hazel often walked the island by himself; not to explore, for he knew the place well by this time, but he went his rounds to see that all his signals were in working order.

He went to Mount Lookout one day with this view. It was about an hour before noon. Long before he got to the mountain he had scanned the horizon carefully, as a matter of course; but not a speck. So, when he got there, he did not look seaward, but just saw that his flag-staff was all right, and was about to turn away and go home, when he happened to glance at the water; and there, underneath him, he saw—a ship; standing towards the island.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXII

skip to next chapter

Chapters XXXII-XXXIV originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 13 (28 March 1868), numbered as Chapters XXXIV-XXXVII. The book’s Chapter XXXII was two chapters, XXXIV and XXXV. From here to the end, the serial version will be three chapters ahead of the book.

“Come,” said she
text has said he
[Corrected from Once a Week.]

that convenient hurricane, as Helen called it
[I believe it’s called a cyclone if it’s in the South Pacific.]

and collected quite a store of wild cotton
[Godsend Island begins to resemble the island occupied by the Swiss (family) Robinson—at least botanically, if not zoologically.]

[Illustration] Godsend Island
[The Grolier version of the map may not be red, as described in the story, but makes up for it by being more readable. Don’t look for Helen’s cavern, though; it was built after Penfold-Seaton-Hazel made the original map, and the artist couldn’t be bothered to add it in for Map v. 2.0.]

He descended by some steps he had cut zigzag for Helen’s use
text has sigzag
[Corrected from Once a Week, which also hyphenates it: “zig-zag”.]

[Illustration]
[This Maurier illustration from Once a Week didn’t make it into the Chatto & Windus edition.]

Hazel waited and listened.
[Once a Week begins a new chapter here.]

290

CHAPTER XXXIII.

He started, and rubbed his eyes, and looked again. It was no delusion. Things never did come as they are expected to come. There was still no doubtful speck on the horizon; but within eight miles of the island—and in this lovely air that looked nearly close—was a ship, under canvas. She bore S.E. from Mount Lookout, and S.S.E. from the east bluff of the island, towards which her course was apparently directed. She had a fair wind, but was not going fast; being heavily laden, and under no press of sail. A keen thrill went through him; and his mind was in a whirl. He ran home with the great news.

But, even as he ran, a cold sickly feeling crawled over him.

“That ship parts her and me.”

He resisted the feeling as a thing too monstrous and selfish, and resisted it so fiercely, that, when he got to the slopes and saw Helen busy at her work, he waved his hat and hurrahed again and again, and seemed almost mad with triumph.

Helen stood transfixed; she had never seen him in such a state.

“Good news!” he cried; “great news! A ship in sight! You are rescued!”

Her heart leaped into her mouth.

“A ship!” she screamed. “Where? where?” He came up to her, panting.

“Close under the island. Hid by the bluff; but you will see her in half an hour. God be praised! Get 291 everything ready to go. Hurrah! this is our last day on the island.”

The words were brave, and loud, and boisterous, but the face was pale and drawn, and Helen saw it, and though she bustled and got ready to leave, the tears were in her eyes. But the event was too great to be resisted. A wild excitement grew on them both. They ran about like persons crazed, and took things up, and laid them down again, scarcely knowing what they were doing. But presently they were sobered a little, for the ship did not appear. They ran across the sands, where they could see the bluff; she ought to have passed that half an hour ago.

Hazel thought she must have anchored.

Helen looked at him steadily.

“Dear friend,” said she, “are you sure there is a ship at all? Are you not under a delusion? This island fills the mind with fancies. One day I thought I saw a ship sailing in the sky. Ah!” She uttered a faint scream, for, while she was speaking, the bowsprit and jib of a vessel glided past the bluff so closely, they seemed to scrape it, and a ship emerged grandly, and glided along the cliff.

“Are they mad,” cried Hazel, “to hug the shore like that? Ah! they have seen my warning.”

And it appeared so, for the ship just then came up in the wind several points, and left the bluff dead astern.

She sailed a little way out on that course, and then paid off again, and seemed inclined to range along the coast. But presently she was up in the wind again, and made a greater offing. She was sailed in a strange, vacillating way; but Hazel ascribed this to her people’s fear of the reefs he had indicated to all comers. The better to watch her manœuvres, and signal her, if necessary, they both went up to Telegraph Point. They could 292 not go out to her, being low water. Seen from this height, the working of this vessel was unaccountable. She was to and off the wind as often as if she was drunk herself, or commanded by a drunken skipper. However, she was kept well clear of the home reefs, and made a good offing, and so at last she opened the bay heading N.W., and distant four miles, or thereabouts. Now was the time to drop her anchor. So Hazel worked the telegraph to draw her attention, and waved his hat and hand to her. But the ship sailed on. She yawed immensely, but she kept her course; and when she had gone a mile or two more, the sickening truth forced itself at last upon those eager watchers. She had decided not to touch at the island. In vain their joyful signals. In vain the telegraph. In vain that cry for help upon the eastern cliff: it had saved her, but not pleaded for them. The monsters saw them on the height—their hope, their joy—saw and abandoned them.

They looked at one another with dilating eyes, to read in a human face whether such a deed as this could really be done by man upon his fellow. Then they uttered wild cries to the receding vessel.

Vain, vain, all was in vain.

Then they sat down stupefied, but still glaring at the ship, and each, at the same moment, held out a hand to the other, and they sat hand in hand; all the world to each other just then, for there was the world in sight abandoning them in cold blood.

“Be calm, dear friend,” said Helen patiently. “Oh, my poor father!” And her other hand threw her apron over her head, and then came a burst of anguish that no words could utter.

At this Hazel started to his feet in fury.

“Now may the God that made sea and land judge between those miscreants there and you!”

293

“Be patient,” said Helen, sobbing. “Oh, be patient.”

“No! I will not be patient,” roared Hazel. “Judge thou her cause, O God! each of these tears against a reptile’s soul.”

And so he stood glaring, and his hair blowing wildly to the breeze; while she sat patiently at his knee.

Presently he began to watch the vessel with a grim and bitter eye. Anon he burst out suddenly, “Aha! that is right. Well steered.—Don’t cry, sweet one; our cause is heard. Are they blind? Are they drunk? Are they sick? I see nobody on deck! Perhaps I have been too— God forgive me, the ship’s ashore!”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXIII

She sailed a little way out on that course
[All these references to the ship’s sails tell the reader right away that it is not Helen’s father, because he is in a steamer.]

294

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Helen looked up; and there was the ship fast, and on her side. She was on the White Water Reef. Not upon the black rocks themselves, but on a part of them that was under water.

Hazel ran down to the beach; and there Helen found him greatly agitated. All his anger was gone; he had but one thought now—to go out to her assistance. But it still wanted an hour to high water, and it was blowing smartly, and there was nearly always a surf upon that reef. What if the vessel should break up, and lives be lost?

He paced the sands like a wild beast in its cage, in an agony of pity, remorse, and burning impatience. His feelings became intolerable; he set his back to the boat, and with herculean strength forced it down a little way to meet the tide. He got logs and put them down for rollers. He strove, he strained, he struggled till his face and hands were purple. And at last he met the flowing tide, and in a moment jumped into the boat, and pushed off. Helen begged with sparkling eyes to be allowed to accompany him.

“What, to a ship smitten with scurvy, or Heaven knows what? Certainly not. Besides, you would be wet through; it is blowing rather fresh, and I shall carry on. Pray for the poor souls I go to help; and for me, who have sinned in my anger.”

He hoisted his sail, and ran out.

Helen stood on the bank, and watched him with tender admiration. How good and brave he was! And he could 295 go into a passion too, when she was wronged, or when he thought she was. Well! she admired him none the less for that. She watched him at first with admiration, but soon with anxiety; for he had no sooner passed North Gate, than the cutter, having both sails set, though reefed, lay down very much, and her hull kept disappearing. Helen felt anxious, and would have been downright frightened, but for her confidence in his prowess.

By and by only her staggering sails were visible; and the sun set ere she reached the creek. The wind declined with the sun, and Helen made two great fires, and prepared food for the sufferers: for she made sure Hazel would bring them off in a few hours more. She promised herself the happiness of relieving the distressed. But to her infinite surprise she found herself almost regretting that the island was likely to be peopled with strangers. No matter, she should sit up for them all night, and be very kind to them, poor things; though they had not been very kind to her.

About midnight the wind shifted to the northwest, and blew hard.

Helen ran down to the shore, and looked seaward. This was a fair wind for Hazel’s return; and she began to expect him every hour. But, no; he delayed unaccountably.

And the worst of it was, it began to blow a gale: and this wind sent the sea rolling into the bay in a manner that alarmed her seriously.

The night wore on; no signs of the boat! and now there was a heavy gale outside, and a great sea rolling in, brown and foaming.

Day broke, and showed the sea for a mile or two; the rest was hidden by driving rain.

Helen kneeled on the shore and prayed for him.

Dire misgivings oppressed her. And soon these were 296 heightened to terror; for the sea began to disgorge things of a kind that had never come ashore before. A great ship’s mast came tossing: huge as it was, the waves handled it like a toy. Then came a barrel; then a broken spar. These were but the forerunners of more fearful havoc.

The sea became strewed and literally blackened with fragments; part wreck, part cargo of a broken vessel.

But what was all this compared with the horror that followed?

A black object caught her eye; driven in upon the crest of a wave.

She looked, with her hair flying straight back, and her eyes almost starting from her head.

It was a boat, bottom up; driven on, and tossed like a cork.

It came nearer, nearer, nearer.

She dashed into the water with a wild scream, but a wave beat her backwards on the sand, and, as she rose, an enormous roller lifted the boat upright into the air, and, breaking, dashed it keel downwards on the beach at her side—empty!

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXIV

to a ship smitten with scurvy, or Heaven knows what?
[How does a know-it-all like Penfold-Seaton-Hazel not know that scurvy is not contagious?]

297

CHAPTER XXXV.

 
 
 

UTTERED a shriek of agony, and her knees smote together, and she would have swooned on the spot but for the wind and the spray that beat against her.

To the fearful stun succeeded the wildest distress. She ran to and fro like some wild animal bereaved; she kept wringing her hands and uttering cries of pity and despair, and went back to the boat a hundred times; it held her by a spell.

It was long before she could think connectedly, and, even then, it was not of herself, nor of her lonely state; but only, Why did she not die with him? Why did she not die instead of him?

He had been all the world to her; and now she knew it. Oh, what a friend, what a champion, what a lover these cruel waves had destroyed!

The morning broke, and still she hovered and hovered about the fatal boat, with great horror-stricken eyes, and hair flying to the breeze, and not a tear. If she could only have smoothed his last moments, have spoken one word into his dying ear! But, no! Her poor hero had died in going to save others; died thinking her as cold as the waters that had destroyed him.

Dead or alive, he was all the world to her now. She went, wailing piteously, and imploring the waves to give her at least his dead body to speak to, and mourn over. But the sea denied her even that dismal consolation.

The next tide brought in a few more fragments of the wreck, but no corpse floated ashore.

Then at last, as the waves once more retired, leaving, 298 this time, only petty fragments of wreck on the beach, she lifted up her voice, and almost wept her heart out of her body.

Such tears as these are seldom without effect on the mind: and Helen now began to rebel, though faintly, against despair. She had been quite crushed, at first, under the material evidence—the boat driven empty by the very wind and waves that had done the cruel deed. But the heart is averse to believe calamity, and especially bereavement; and very ingenious in arguing against that bitterest of all woes. So she now sat down and brooded, and her mind fastened with pathetic ingenuity on every circumstance that could bear a favorable construction. The mast had not been broken; how, then, had it been lost? The body had not come ashore. He had had time to get to the wreck before the gale from the north came on at all; and why should a fair wind, though powerful, upset the boat? On these slender things she began to build a superstructure of hope; but soon her heart interrupted the reasoning. “What would he do in my place? would he sit guessing while hope had a hair to hang by?” That thought struck her like a spur: and in a moment she bounded into action, erect, her lips fixed, and her eye on fire, though her cheek was very pale. She went swiftly to Hazel’s store, and searched it; there she found the jib-sail, a boat-hook, some rope, and one little oar, that Hazel was making for her, and had not quite completed. The sight of this, his last work, overpowered her again; and she sat down and took it on her knees, and kissed it, and cried over it. And these tears weakened her for a time. She felt it, and had the resolution to leave the oar behind. A single oar was of no use to row with. She rigged the boat-hook as a mast, and fastened the sail to it; and, with this poor equipment, she actually resolved to put out to sea.

299

The wind still blew smartly, and there was no blue sky visible.

And now she remembered she had eaten nothing; that would not do. Her strength might fail her. She made ready a meal, and ate it almost fiercely, and by a pure effort of resolution; as she was doing all the rest.

By this time it was nearly high tide. She watched the water creeping up. Will it float the boat? It rises over the keel; two inches, three inches. Five inches water! Now she pushes with all her strength. No; the boat has water in it she had forgotten to bail out. She strained every nerve, but could not move it. She stopped to take breath, and husband her strength. But, when she renewed her efforts, the five inches were four, and she had the misery of seeing the water crawl away by degrees, and leave the boat high and dry.

She sighed, heart-broken, awhile; then went home and prayed.

When she had prayed a long time for strength and wisdom, she lay down for an hour, and tried to sleep, but failed. Then she prepared for a more serious struggle with the many difficulties she had to encounter. Now she thanked God more than ever for the health and rare strength she had acquired in this island: without them she could have done nothing now. She got a clay platter, and baled the vessel nearly dry. She left a little water for ballast. She fortified herself with food, and put provisions and water on board the boat. In imitation of Hazel, she went and got two round logs, and, as soon as the tide crawled up to four inches, she lifted the bow a little, and got a roller under. Then she went to the boat’s stern, set her teeth, and pushed with a rush of excitement that gave her almost a man’s strength.

The stubborn boat seemed elastic, and all but moved. Then instinct taught her where her true strength lay. 300 She got to the stern of the boat, and setting the small of her back under the projecting gunwale, she gathered herself together and gave a superb heave, that moved the boat a foot. She followed it up, and heaved again with like effect. Then with a cry of joy, she ran and put down another roller forward. The boat was now on two rollers: one more magnificent heave with all her zeal, and strength, and youth, and the boat glided forward. She turned and rushed at it as it went, and the water deepening, and a gust catching the sail, it went out to sea, and she had only just time to throw herself across the gunwale, panting. She was afloat. The wind was S.W., and before she knew where she was, the boat headed towards the home reefs, and slipped through the water pretty fast, considering how small a sail she carried. She ran to the helm. Alas! the rudder was broken off above the water-line. The helm was a mockery, and the boat running for the reefs. She slacked the sheet, and the boat lost her way, and began to drift with the tide, which, luckily, had not yet turned. It carried her in shore.

Helen cast her eyes around for an expedient, and she unshipped one of the transoms, and by trailing it over the side, and alternately slacking and hauling the sheet, she contrived to make the boat crawl like a winged bird through the western passage. After that it soon got becalmed under the cliff, and drifted into two feet water.

Instantly she tied a rope to the mast, got out into the water, and took the rope ashore. She tied it round a heavy barrel she found there, and set the barrel up, and heaped stones around it and on it, which unfortunately was a long job, though she worked with feverish haste; then she went round the point, sometimes wet and sometimes dry, for the little oar she had left behind, because 301 it broke her heart to look at. Away with such weakness now! With that oar, his last work, she might steer if she could not row. She got it. She came back to the boat to recommence her voyage.

She found the boat all safe, but in six inches of water, and the tide going out. So ended her voyage: four hundred yards at most, and then to wait another twelve hours for the tide.

It was too cruel: and every hour so precious; for, even if Hazel were alive, he would die of cold and hunger ere she could get to him. She cried like a woman. She persisted like a man.

She made several trips, and put away things in the boat that could possibly be of use—abundant provision, and a keg of water; Hazel’s wooden spade to paddle or steer with; his basket of tools, etc. Then she snatched some sleep; but it was broken by sad and terrible dreams: then she waited in an agony of impatience for high water.

We are not always the best judges of what is good for us. Probably these delays saved her own life. She went out at last under far more favorable circumstances—a light westerly breeze, and no reefs to pass through. She was, however, severely incommoded with a ground-swell.

At first she steered with the spade as well as she could; but she found this was not sufficient. The current ran westerly, and she was drifting out of her course. Then she remembered Hazel’s lessons, and made shift to fasten the spade to the helm, and then lashed the helm. Even this did not quite do; so she took her little oar, kissed it, cried over it a little, and then pulled manfully with it so as to keep the true course. It was a muggy day, neither wet nor dry. White Water Island was not in sight from Godsend Island; but as soon as 302 she lost the latter, the former became visible—an ugly grinning reef with an eternal surf on the south and western sides.

Often she left off rowing, and turned to look at it. It was all black and blank, except the white and fatal surf.

When she was about four miles from the nearest part of the reef, there was a rush and bubble in the water, and a great shark came after the boat. Helen screamed, and turned very cold. She dreaded the monster not for what he could do now, but for what he might have done. He seemed to know the boat, he swam so vigilantly behind it. Was he there when the boat upset with Hazel in it? Was it in his greedy maw the remains of her best friend must be sought? Her lips opened, but no sound. She shuddered and hid her face at this awful thought.

The shark followed steadily.

She got to the reef, but did not hit it off as she intended. She ran under its lee, lowered the little sail, and steered the boat into a nick where the shark could hardly follow her.

But he moved to and fro like a sentinel, while she landed in trepidation and secured the boat to the branches of a white coral rock.

She found the place much larger than it looked from Telegraph Point. It was an archipelago of coral reef encrusted here and there with shells. She could not see all over it, where she was, so she made for what seemed the highest part, a bleak, seaweedy mound, with some sandy hillocks about it. She went up to this, and looked eagerly all round.

Not a soul.

She called as loud as her sinking heart would let her.

Not a sound.

She felt very sick, and sat down upon the mound.

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When she had yielded awhile to the weakness of her sex, she got up, and was her father’s daughter again. She set to work to examine every foot of the reef.

It was no easy task. The rocks were rugged and sharp in places, slippery in others; often she had to go about, and once she fell and hurt her pretty hands and made them bleed; she never looked at them, nor heeded, but got up and sighed at the interruption: then patiently persisted. It took her two hours to examine thus, in detail, one half the island: but at last she discovered something. She saw at the eastern side of the reef a wooden figure of a woman, and, making her way to it, found the figure-head, and a piece of the bow of the ship, with a sail on it, and a yard on that. This fragment was wedged into an angle of the reef, and the seaward edge of it shattered in a way that struck terror to Helen, for it showed her how omnipotent the sea had been. On the reef itself she found a cask with its head stove in, also a little keg, a ship’s lantern, and two wooden chests or cases. But what was all this to her?

She sat down again, for her knees failed her. Presently there was a sort of moan near her, and a seal splashed into the water and dived out of her sight. She put her hands on her heart, and bowed her head down, utterly desolate. She sat thus for a long time indeed, until she was interrupted by a most unexpected visitor. Something came sniffing up to her and put a cold nose to her hand. She started violently, and both her hands were in the air in a moment.

It was a dog, a pointer. He whimpered and tried to gambol, but could not manage it; he was too weak. However, he contrived to let her see with the wagging of his tail, and a certain contemporaneous twist of his emaciated body, that she was welcome. But, having performed this ceremony, he trotted feebly away, leaving 304 her very much startled, and not knowing what to think; indeed, this incident set her trembling all over.

A dog saved from the wreck! Then why not a man? And why not that life? Oh, thought she, would God save that creature, and not pity my poor angel and me?

She got up animated with hope, and recommenced her researches. She now kept at the outward edge of the island, and so went all round till she reached her boat again. The shark was swimming to and fro, waiting for her with horrible pertinacity. She tried to eat a mouthful, but, though she was faint, she could not eat. She drank a mouthful of water, and then went to search the very small portion that remained of the reef, and to take the poor dog home with her, because he she had lost was so good to animals. Only his example is left me, she said; and with that came another burst of sorrow. But she got up and did the rest of her work, crying as she went. After some severe travelling she got near the north-east limit, and in a sort of gully she saw the dog, quietly seated high on his tail. She called him; but he never moved. So, then, she went to him, and, when she got near him, she saw why he would not come. He was watching. Close by him lay the form of a man nearly covered with sea-weed. The feet were visible, and so was the face, the latter deadly pale. It was he. In a moment she was by him, and leaning over him with both hands quivering. Was he dead? No; his eyes were closed; he was fast asleep.

Her hands flew to his face to feel him alive, and then grasped both his hands and drew them up towards her panting bosom; and the tears of joy streamed from her eyes, as she sobbed and murmured over him, she knew not what. At that he awoke and stared at her. He uttered a loud ejaculation of joy and wonder, then taking it all in, burst into tears himself, and fell to kissing her 305 hands and blessing her. The poor soul had almost given himself up for lost. And to be saved all in a moment, and by her!

They could neither of them speak, but only mingled tears of joy and gratitude.

Hazel recovered himself first; and rising somewhat stiffly, lent her his arm. Her father’s spirit went out of her in the moment of victory, and she was all woman,—sweet, loving, clinging woman. She got hold of his hand as well as his arm, and clutched it so tight, her little grasp seemed velvet and steel.

“Let me feel you,” said she: “but no words! no words!”

He supported his preserver tenderly to the boat, then, hoisting the sail, he fetched the east side in two tacks, shipped the sail and yard, and also the cask, keg, and boxes. He then put a great quantity of loose oysters on board, each as large as a plate. She looked at him with amazement.

“What!” said she, when he had quite loaded the boat, “only just out of the jaws of death, and yet you can trouble your head about oysters and things.”

“Wait till you see what I shall do with them,” said he. “These are pearl oysters. I gathered them for you, when I had little hope I should ever see you again to give them you.”

This was an unlucky speech. The act, that seemed so small and natural a thing to him, the woman’s heart measured more correctly. Something rose in her throat; she tried to laugh instead of crying, and so she did both, and went into a violent fit of hysterics that showed how thoroughly her nature had been stirred to its depths. She quite frightened Hazel: and indeed the strength of an excited woman’s weakness is sometimes alarming to manly natures.

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He did all he could to soothe her; without much success. As soon as she was better he set sail, thinking home was the best place for her. She leant back exhausted, and, after a while, seemed to be asleep. We don’t believe she was, but Hazel did; and sat, cold and aching in body, but warm at heart, worshipping her with all his eyes.

At last they got ashore; and he sat by her fire and told her all, while she cooked his supper and warmed clothes at the fire for him.

“The ship,” said he, “was a Dutch vessel, bound from Batavia to Callao, that had probably gone on her beam ends, for she was full of water. Her crew had abandoned her; I think they underrated the buoyancy of the ship and cargo. They left the poor dog on board. Her helm was lashed a‑weather a couple of turns: but why, I am not seaman enough to say. I boarded her: unshipped my mast, and moored the boat to the ship; fed the poor dog; rummaged in the hold, and contrived to hoist up a small cask of salted beef, and a keg of rum, and some cases of grain and seeds. I managed to slide these on to the reef by means of the mast and oar lashed together. But a roller ground the wreck further on to the reef, and the sudden snap broke the rope, as I suppose, and the boat went to sea. I never knew the misfortune till I saw her adrift. I could have got over that by making a raft; but the gale from the north brought such a sea on us. I saw she must break up, so I got ashore how I could. Ah, I little thought to see your face again, still less that I should owe my life to you.”

“Spare me,” said Helen, faintly.

“What, must not I thank you even for my life?”

“No. The account is far from even yet.

“You are no arithmetician to say so. What astonishes me most is that you have never once scolded me for all the trouble and anxiety—”

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“I am too happy to see you sitting there, to scold you. But, still I do ask you, to leave the sea alone, after this. The treacherous monster! Oh, think what you and I have suffered on it.”

She seemed quite worn out. He saw that, and retired for the night, casting one more wistful glance on her. But at that moment she was afraid to look at him. Her heart was welling over with tenderness for the dear friend whose life she had saved.

Next morning Hazel rose at daybreak as usual, but found himself stiff in the joints, and with a pain in his back. The mat that hung at the opening of Helen’s cave was not removed as usual. She was on her bed with a violent headache.

Hazel fed Ponto, and corrected him. He was at present a civilized dog; so he made a weak rush at the boobies and noddies directly.

He also smelt Tommy inquisitively, to learn was he an eatable. Tommy somehow divined the end of this sinister curiosity, and showed his teeth.

Then Hazel got a rope, and tied one end round his own waist, and one round Ponto’s neck, and at every outbreak of civilization, jerked him sharply on to his back. The effect of this discipline was rapid; Ponto soon found that he must not make war on the inhabitants of the island. He was a docile animal, and, in a very short time, consented to make one of “the happy family,” as Hazel called the miscellaneous crew that beset him.

Helen and Hazel did not meet till past noon; and, when they did meet, it was plain she had been thinking a great deal, for her greeting was so shy and restrained as to appear cold and distant to Hazel. He thought to himself, I was too happy yesterday, and she too kind. Of course it could not last.

This change in her seemed to grow rather than diminish. 308 She carried it so far as to go and almost hide during the working hours. She made off to the jungle, and spent an unreasonable time there. She professed to be collecting cotton, and it must be admitted she brought a good deal home with her. But Hazel could not accept cotton as the only motive for this sudden separation.

He lost the light of her face till the evening. Then matters took another turn: she was too polite. Ceremony and courtesy appeared to be gradually encroaching upon tender friendship and familiarity; yet, now and then, her soft hazel eyes seemed to turn on him in silence, and say, Forgive me all this. Then at those sweet looks, love and forgiveness poured out of his eyes. And then hers sought the ground. And this was generally followed by a certain mixture of stiffness, timidity, and formality, too subtle to describe.

The much-enduring man began to lose patience.

“This is caprice,” said he. “Cruel caprice.”

Our female readers will probably take a deeper view of it than that! Whatever it was, another change was at hand. Since he was so exposed to the weather on the reef, Hazel had never been free from pain; but he had done his best to work it off. He had collected all the valuables from the wreck, made a new mast, set up a rude capstan to draw the boat ashore, and cut a little dock for her at low water, and clayed it in the full heat of the sun; and, having accomplished this drudgery, he got at last to his labor of love; he opened a quantity of pearl oysters, fed Tommy and the duck with them, and began the great work of lining the cavern with them. The said cavern was somewhat shell-shaped, and his idea was to make it out of a gloomy cavern into a vast shell, lined entirely, roof and sides, with glorious, sweet, prismatic, mother-of-pearl, fresh from ocean. Well, one morning, while 309 Helen was in the jungle, he made a cement of guano, sand, clay, and water, nipped some shells to a shape with the pincers, and cemented them neatly, like mosaic almost; but in the middle of his work he was cut down by the disorder he had combated so stoutly. He fairly gave in, and sat down groaning with pain. And in this state Helen found him.

“Oh, what is the matter?” said she.

He told her the truth, and said he had violent pains in the back and head. She did not say much, but she turned pale. She bustled and lighted a great fire, and made him lie down by it. She propped his head up; she set water on to boil for him, and would not let him move for anything; and all the time her features were brimful of the liveliest concern. He could not help thinking how much better it was to be ill and in pain, and have her so kind, than to be well, and see her cold and distant. Towards evening he got better, or rather he mistook an intermission for cure, and retired to his boat; but she made him take her rug with him; and, when he was gone, she could not sleep for anxiety; and it cut her to the heart to think how poorly he was lodged, compared with her.

Of all the changes fate could bring, this she had never dreamed of, that she should be so robust, and he should be sick and in pain.

She passed an uneasy, restless night, and long before morning she awoke for the sixth or seventh time, and she awoke with a misgiving in her mind, and some sound ringing in her ears. She listened and heard nothing; but in a few minutes it began again.

It was Hazel talking, talking in a manner so fast, so strange, so loud, that it made her blood run cold. It was the voice of Hazel, but not his mind.

She drew near, and to her dismay, found him fever-stricken, 310 and pouring out words with little sequence. She came close to him and tried to soothe him, but he answered her quite at random, and went on flinging out the strangest things in stranger order. She trembled and waited for a lull, hoping then to soothe him with soft words and tones of tender pity.

Dens and caves!” he roared, answering an imaginary detractor. “Well, never mind, love shall make that hole in the rock a palace for a queen; for a queen? For the queen.” Here he suddenly changed characters and fancied he was interpreting the discourse of another. “He means the Queen of the Fairies,” said he, patronizingly: then, resuming his own character with loud defiance, “I say her chamber shall outshine the glories of the Alhambra, as far as the lilies outshone the artificial glories of King Solomon. Oh, mighty Nature, let others rely on the painter, the gold-beater, the carver of marble, come you and help me adorn the temple of my beloved. Amen.”

(The poor soul thought, by the sound of his own words, it must be a prayer he had uttered.)

And now Helen, with streaming eyes, tried to put in a word, but he stopped her with a wild Hush! and went off into a series of mysterious whisperings. “Make no noise, please, or we shall frighten her. There—that is her window—no noise, please! I’ve watched and waited four hours, just to see her sweet, darling shadow on the blinds, and shall I lose it for your small talk? all paradoxes and platitudes: excuse my plain speaking—Hush! here it comes—her shadow—hush—how my heart beats. It is gone.— So now” (speaking out) “good-night, base world! Do you hear? you company of liars, thieves, and traitors, called the world, go and sleep if you can. I shall sleep: because my conscience is clear. False accusations! Who can help them? They 311 are the act of others. Read of Job, and Paul, and Joan of Arc. No, no, no, no; I didn’t say read ’em out with those stentorian lungs. I must be allowed a little sleep, a man that wastes the midnight oil, yet brushes the early clew. Good-night.”

He turned round and slept for several hours as he supposed; but in reality he was silent for just three seconds. “Well,” said he, “and is a gardener a man to be looked down upon by upstarts? When Adam delved and Eve span, where was then the gentleman? Why, where the spade was. Yet I went through the Heralds’ College and not one of our mushroom aristocracy (‘bloated’ I object to; they don’t eat half as much as their footmen) had a spade for a crest. There’s nothing ancient west of the Caspian. Well, all the better. For there’s no fool like an old fool. A spade’s a spade for a’ that, an a’ that, an a’ that, an a’ that,—an a’ that,—an a’ that. Hallo! Stop that man; he’s gone off on his cork leg, of a’ that, on a’ that,—and it’s my wish to be quiet. Allow me respectfully to observe,” said he, striking off suddenly into an air of vast politeness, “that man requires change. I’ve done a jolly good day’s work with the spade for this old Buffer, and now the intellect claims its turn. The mind retires above the noisy world to its Acropolis, and there discusses the great problem of the day; the Insular Enigma. To be or not to be, that is the question, I believe. No, it is not. That is fully discussed elsewhere. Hum! To diffuse—intelligence—from a fixed island—over one hundred leagues of water.

“It’s a stinger. But I can’t complain. I had read Lempriere, and Smith, and Bryant, and mythology in general; yet I must go and fall in love with the Sphinx. Men are so vain. Vanity whispered, She will set you a light one; Why is a cobbler like a king, for instance? She is not in love with you, ye fool, if you are with her. 312 The harder the riddle, the higher the compliment the Sphinx pays you. That is the way all sensible men look at it. She is not the Sphinx: she is an angel, and I call her my Lady Caprice. Hate her for being Caprice? You incorrigible muddle head. Why, I love Caprice for being her shadow. Poor impotent love that can’t solve a problem. The only one she ever set me. I’ve gone about it like a fool. What is the use of putting up little bits of telegraphs on the island? I’ll make a kite a hundred feet high, get five miles of rope ready against the next hurricane; and then I’ll rub it with phosphorus and fly it. But what can I fasten it to? No tree would hold it. Dunce! To the island itself, of course. And now go to Stantle, Magg, Milton, and Copestake for one thousand yards of silk—Money! money! money! Well, give them a mortgage on the island and a draft on the galleon. Now stop the pitch fountain, and bore a hole near it; fill fifty balloons with gas, inscribe them with the latitude and longitude, fly them, and bring all the world about our ears.

“The problem is solved. It is solved, and I am destroyed. She leaves me; she thinks no more of me. Her heart is in England.”

Then he muttered for a long time unintelligibly; and Helen ventured near, and actually laid her hand on his brow to soothe him. But suddenly his muttering ceased, and he seemed to be puzzling hard over something.

The result came out in a clear articulate sentence, that made Helen recoil, and holding by the mast, cast an indescribable look of wonder and dismay on the speaker.

The words that so staggered her were these, to the letter:

“She says she hates reptiles. Yet she marries Arthur Wardlaw.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXV

skip to next chapter

Chapter XXXV originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 14 (4 April 1868), numbered as Chapter XXXVIII.

Trivia: In Once a Week, this chapter is immediately followed by an article complaining about “Inverted Commas”. The publishers must have held the same view; Once a Week doesn’t use inverted commas (single quotation marks) but good old-fashioned double quotes.

No; the boat has water in it she had forgotten to bail out.
[For a fleeting moment, the author remembers how to spell “bail”.]

She got a clay platter, and baled the vessel nearly dry
[. . . but it doesn’t last.]

a Dutch vessel, bound from Batavia to Callao
[Batavia is Jakarta; Callao is Lima’s port. But how on earth does he know? Did the dog tell him?]

He could not help thinking how much better it was to be ill and in pain, and have her so kind, than to be well, and see her cold and distant.
[Insert predictable quotation from Marmion.]

fill fifty balloons with gas, inscribe them with the latitude and longitude
[In his delirium, Penfold-Seaton-Hazel has forgotten that in Chapter XXV he observed to himself: “I do not know where this island is, having no means of ascertaining either its latitude or longitude.”]

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CHAPTER XXXVI.

 
 
 

VERY NAME of Arthur Wardlaw startled Helen, and made her realize how completely her thoughts had been occupied with another.

But add to that the strange and bitter epigram! Or was it a mere fortuitous concourse of words?

She was startled, amazed, confounded, puzzled. And, ere she could recover her composure, Hazel was back to his problem again: but no longer with the same energy. He said in a faint and sleepy voice: “‘He maketh the winds His messengers, and flames of fire His ministers.’ Ah! if I could do that! Well, why not? I can do anything she bids me—

‘Græculus esuriens cœlum jusseris ibit.’”

And soon after this doughty declaration he dozed off, and forgot all his troubles for awhile.

The sun rose, and still he slept, and Helen watched him with undisguised tenderness in her face; undisguised now that he could not see it.

Ere long she had companions in her care. Ponto came out of his den, and sniffed about the boat; and then began to scratch it, and whimper for his friend. Tommy swam out of the sea, came to the boat, discovered, Heaven knows how, that his friend was there: and, in the way of noises, did everything but speak. The sea-birds followed and fluttered here and there in their erratic way, with now and then a peck at each other. All animated nature seemed to be uneasy at this eclipse of their Hazel.

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At last Tommy raised himself quite perpendicular, in a vain endeavor to look into the boat, and invented a whine in the minor key, which tells on dogs: it set Ponto off in a moment; he sat upon his tail, and delivered a long and most deplorable howl.

“Everything loves him,” thought Helen.

With Ponto’s music Hazel awoke, and found her watching him; he said, softly: “Miss Rolleston! There is nothing the matter, I hope. Why am I not up and getting things for your breakfast?”

“Dear friend,” said she, “why you are not doing things for me and forgetting yourself, as usual, is because you have been very ill. And I am your nurse. Now tell me what I shall get you. Is there nothing you could fancy?”

No; he had no appetite; she was not to trouble about him. And then he tried to get up; but that gave him such a pain in his loins, he was fain to lie down again. So then he felt that he had got rheumatic fever. He told her so; but seeing her sweet, anxious face, begged her not to be alarmed—he knew what to take for it. Would she be kind enough to go to his arsenal and fetch some specimens of bark she would find there, and also the keg of rum? She flew at the word, and soon made him an infusion of the barks in boiling water; to which the rum was added. His sweet nurse administered this from time to time. The barks used were of the cassia tree, and a wild citron tree. Cinchona did not exist in this island, unfortunately. But with these inferior barks they held the fever in check. Still the pain was obstinate, and cost Helen many a sigh; for if she came softly, she could often hear him moan; and the moment he heard her foot, he set to and whistled for a blind; with what success may be imagined. She would have bought those pains, or a portion of them; ay, and paid a heavy price for them.

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But pain, like everything, intermits, and in those blessed intervals his mind was more active than ever, and ran a great deal upon what he called the Problem.

But she, who had set it him, gave him little encouragement now to puzzle over it.

The following may serve as a specimen of their conversation on that head.

“The air of this island,” said he, “gives one a sort of vague sense of mental power. It leads to no result in my case; still it is an agreeable sensation to have it floating across my mind that some day I shall solve the Great Problem. Ah! if I was only an inventor!”

“And so you are.”

“No, no,” said Hazel, disclaiming as earnestly as some people claim; “I do things that look like acts of invention, but they are acts of memory. I could show you plates and engravings of all the things I have seemed to invent. A man who studies books instead of skimming them, can cut a dash in a desert island, until the fatal word goes forth—invent; and then you find him out.”

“I am sure I wish I had never said the fatal word. You will never get well if you puzzle your brain over impossibilities.”

“Impossibilities! But is not that begging the question? The measure of impossibilities is lost in the present age. I propose a test. Let us go back a century, and suppose that three problems were laid before the men of that day, and they were asked to decide which is the most impossible: 1st, to diffuse intelligence from a fixed island over a hundred leagues of water: 2d, to make the sun take in thirty seconds likenesses more exact than any portrait-painter ever took—likenesses that can be sold for a shilling at fifty per cent profit: 3d, for New York and London to exchange words by wire so much faster than the earth can turn, that London 316 shall tell New York at ten on Monday morning what was the price of consols at one o’clock Monday afternoon.”

“That is a story,” said Helen, with a look of angelic reproach.

“I accept that reply,” said Hazel. “As for me, I have got a smattering of so many subjects, all full of incredible truths, that my faith in the impossibility of anything is gone. Ah! if James Watt was only here instead of John Hazel—James Watt from the Abbey, with a head as big as a pumpkin—he would not have gone groping about the island, writing on rocks, and erecting signals. No; he would have had some grand and bold idea worthy of the proposition.”

“Well, so I think,” said Helen, archly: “that great man with a great head would have begun—by making a kite a hundred yards high.”

“Would he? Well, he was quite capable.”

“Yes; and rubbed it with phosphorus, and flown it in the first tempest, and made the string fast to—the island itself.”

“Well, that is an idea,” said Hazel, staring; “rather hyperbolical, I fear. But after all, it is an idea.”

“Or else,” continued Helen, “he would weave a thousand yards of some light fabric, and make balloons; then he would stop the pitch-fountain, bore a hole in the rock near it, and so get the gas, fill the balloons, inscribe them with our sad story, and our latitude and longitude, and send them flying all over the ocean—there!”

Hazel was amazed.

“I resign my functions to you,” said he. “What imagination! What invention!”

“Oh, dear, no,” said Helen, slyly; “acts of memory sometimes pass for invention, you know. Shall I tell you? When first you fell ill, you were rather light-headed, 317 and uttered the strangest things. They would have made me laugh heartily, only I couldn’t—for crying. And you said that about kites and balloons, every word.”

“Did I? Then I have most brains when I have least reason.”

“Ay,” said Helen, “and other strange things—very strange and bitter things. One I should like to ask you about, what on earth you could mean by it; but perhaps you meant nothing, after all.”

“I’ll soon tell you,” said Hazel; but he took the precaution to add, “Provided I know what it means myself.”

She looked at him, steadily, and was on the point of seeking the explanation so boldly offered; but her own courage failed her. She colored and hesitated.

“I shall wait,” said she, “till you are quite, quite well. That will be soon, I hope; only you must be good and obey my prescriptions. Cultivate patience; it is a wholesome plant; bow the pride of that intellect, which you see a fever can lay low in an hour; aspire no more beyond the powers of man. Here we shall stay, unless Providence sends us a ship. I have ceased to repine, and don’t you begin. Dismiss that problem altogether; see how hot it has made your poor brow. Be good now, and dismiss it; or else do as I do—fold it up, put it quietly away in a corner of your mind, and, when you least expect, it will pop out solved.”

(Oh, comfortable doctrine! But how about Jamie Watt’s headaches? And why are the signs of hard thought so much stronger in his brow and face than in Shakespeare’s? Mercy on us, there is another problem.)

Hazel smiled, well pleased, and leaned back, soothed, silenced, subdued, by her soft voice, and the exquisite touch of her velvet hand on his hot brow; for, woman-like, 318 she laid her hand like down on that burning brow to aid her words in soothing it. Nor did it occur to him just then that this admonition delivered with a kind maternal hand, maternal voice, came from the same young lady who had flown at him like a wildcat with this very problem in her mouth. She mesmerized him, problem and all; he subsided into a complacent languor, and at last went to sleep, thinking only of her. But the topic had entered his mind too deeply to be finally dismissed. It returned next day, though in a different form. You must know that Hazel, as he lay on his back in the boat, had often, in a half-drowsy way, watched the effect of the sun upon the boat’s mast; it now stood, a bare pole, and at certain hours acted like the needle of a dial, by casting a shadow on the sands. Above all, he could see pretty well, by means of this pole and its shadow, when the sun attained its greatest elevation. He now asked Miss Rolleston to assist him in making this observation exactly.

She obeyed his instructions, and the moment the shadow reached its highest angle, and showed the minutest symptom of declension, she said, “Now,” and Hazel called out in a loud voice,—

“Noon!”

“And forty-nine minutes past eight at Sydney,” said Helen, holding out her chronometer; for she had been sharp enough to get it ready of her own accord.

Hazel looked at her and at the watch with amazement and incredulity.

“What?” said he. “Impossible. You can’t have kept Sydney time all this while.”

“And pray why not?” said Helen. “Have you forgotten that once somebody praised me for keeping Sydney time; it helped you, somehow or other, to know where we were?”

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“And so it will now,” cried Hazel, exultingly. “But no! it is impossible. We have gone through scenes that—You can’t have wound that watch up without missing a day.”

“Indeed, but I have,” said Helen. “Not wind my watch up! Why, if I was dying I should wind my watch up. See, it requires no key; a touch or two of the fingers, and it is done. Oh, I am remarkably constant in all my habits; and this is an old friend I never neglect. Do you remember that terrible night in the boat, when neither of us expected to see the morning—oh, how good and brave you were!—well, I remember winding it up that night. I kissed it, and bade it good-by; but I never dreamed of not winding it up because I was going to be killed. What! am I not to be praised again, as I was on board ship? Stingy! can’t afford to praise one twice for the same thing.”

“Praised!” cried Hazel, excitedly; “worshipped, you mean. Why, we have got the longitude by means of your chronometer. It is wonderful! It is providential! It is the finger of Heaven! Pen and ink, and let me work it out.”

In his excitement he got up without assistance, and was soon busy calculating the longitude of Godsend Isle.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXVI

Chapters XXXVI-XXXIX originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 15 (11 April 1868), numbered as Chapters XXXIX-XLII.

“Impossible. You can’t have kept Sydney time all this while.”
[Took the words right out of my mouth. They’ve been on the island several months; no lady’s watch is that accurate—or that waterproof.]

320

CHAPTER XXXVII.

There,” said he. “Now the latitude I must guess at by certain combinations. In the first place the slight variation in the length of the days. Then I must try and make a rough calculation on the sun’s parallax. And then my botany will help me a little; spices furnish a clew; there are one or two that will not grow outside the tropic. It was the longitude that beat me, and now we have conquered it. Hurrah! now I know what to diffuse, and in what direction; east south-east; the ducks have shown me that much. So there’s the first step towards the impossible problem.”

“Very well,” said Helen; “and I am sure one step is enough for one day. I forbid you the topic for twelve hours at least. I detest it because it always makes your poor head so hot.”

“What on earth does that matter?” said Hazel, impetuously, and almost crossly.

“Come, come, come, sir,” said Helen, authoritatively; “it matters to me.”

But when she saw that he could think of nothing else, and that opposition irritated him, she had the tact and good sense not to strain her authority, nor to irritate her subject.

Hazel spliced a long, fine-pointed stick to the masthead, and set a plank painted white with guano at right angles to the base of the mast; and so whenever the sun attained his meridian altitude, went into a difficult and subtle calculation to arrive at the latitude, or as near it as he could without proper instruments; and he brooded 321 and brooded over his discovery of the longitude, but unfortunately he could not advance. In some problems the first step once gained leads, or at least points, to the next; but to know whereabouts they were, and to let others know it, were two difficulties heterogeneous and distinct.

Having thought and thought till his head was dizzy; at last he took Helen’s advice, and put it by for awhile. He set himself to fit and number a quantity of pearl oyster shells, so that he might be able to place them at once, when he should be able to recommence his labor of love in the cavern.

One day Helen had left him so employed, and was busy cooking the dinner at her own place, but, mind you, with one eye on the dinner and another on her patient, when suddenly she heard him shouting very loud, and ran out to see what was the matter.

young woman with bowl in her lap, surrounded by birds, looking at man arriving in a small boat

“Helen was busy cooking the dinner at her own place.”

He was roaring like mad, and whirling his arms over his head like a demented windmill.

She ran to him.

“Eureka! eureka!” he shouted, in furious excitement.

“Oh, dear!” cried Helen, “never mind.” She was all against her patient exciting himself.

But he was exalted beyond even her control. “Crown me with laurel,” he cried; “I have solved the problem:” and up went his arms.

“Oh, is that all?” said she, calmly.

“Get me two squares of my parchment,” cried he; “and some of the finest gut.”

“Will not after dinner do?”

“No; certainly not,” said Hazel, in a voice of command. “I wouldn’t wait a moment for all the flesh-pots of Egypt.”

Then she went like the wind and fetched them.

“Oh, thank you! thank you! Now I want—let me 322 see—ah, there’s an old rusty hoop that was washed ashore, on one of that ship’s casks. I put it carefully away; how the unlikeliest things come in useful soon or late!”

She went for the hoop, but not so rapidly, for here it was that the first faint doubt of his sanity came in. However, she brought it, and he thanked her.

“And now,” said he. “while I prepare the intelligence, will you be so kind as to fetch me the rushes.”

“The what?” said Helen, in growing dismay.

“The rushes! I’ll tell you where to find some.”

Helen thought the best thing was to temporize. Perhaps he would be better after eating some wholesome food. “I’ll fetch them directly after dinner,” said she. “But it will be spoiled if I leave it for long; and I do so want it to be nice for you to-day.”

“Dinner?” cried Hazel. “What do I care for dinner now? I am solving my problem. I’d rather go without dinner for years than interrupt a great idea. Pray let dinner take its chance, and obey me for once.”

“For once?” said Helen, and turned her mild hazel eyes on him with such a look of gentle reproach.

“Forgive me! But don’t take me for a child, asking you for a toy; I am a poor crippled inventor, who sees daylight. Oh, I am on fire; and, if you want me not to go into a fever, why, get me my rushes.”

“Where shall I find them?” said Helen, catching fire at him.

“Go to where your old hut stood, and follow the river about a furlong; you will find a bed of high rushes: cut me a good bundle, cut them below the water, choose the stoutest. Here is a pair of shears I found in the ship.”

She took the shears and went swiftly across the sands and up the slope. He watched her with an admiring 323 eye; and well he might, for it was the very poetry of motion. Hazel in his hours of health had almost given up walking; he ran from point to point, without fatigue or shortness of breath. Helen, equally pressed for time, did not run; but she went almost as fast. By rising with the dawn, by three meals a day of animal food, by constant work, and heavenly air, she was in a condition women rarely attain to. She was trained. Ten miles was no more to her than ten yards. And, when she was in a hurry, she got over the ground by a grand but feminine motion not easy to describe. It was a series of smooth undulations, not vulgar strides, but swift rushes, in which the loins seemed to propel the whole body, and the feet scarcely to touch the ground: it was the vigor and freedom of a savage, with the grace of a lady.

And so it was she swept across the sands and up the slope,

Et vera incessu patuit Dea.

While she was gone, Hazel cut two little squares of seals’ bladder, one larger than the other. On the smaller he wrote: “An English lady wrecked on an island. W. longitude 103 deg. 30 min. S. latitude between the 33d and 26th parallels. Haste to her rescue.” Then he folded this small, and enclosed it in the larger slip, which he made into a little bag, and tied the neck extremely tight with fine gut, leaving a long piece of the gut free.

And now Helen came gliding back, as she went, and brought him a large bundle of rushes.

Then he asked her to help him fasten these rushes round the iron hoop.

“It must not be done too regularly,” said he; “but so as to look as much like a little bed of rushes as possible.”

Helen was puzzled still, but interested. So she set to 324 work, and, between them, they fastened rushes all round the hoop, although it was a large one.

But, when it was done, Hazel said they were too bare.

“Then we will fasten another row,” said Helen, good-humoredly. And without more ado, she was off to the river again.

When she came back, she found him up, and he said the great excitement had cured him—such power has the brain over the body. This convinced her he had really hit upon some great idea. And, when she had made him eat his dinner by her fire, she asked him to tell her all about it.

But, by a natural reaction, the glorious and glowing excitement of mind, that had battled his very rheumatic pains, was now followed by doubt and dejection.

“Don’t ask me yet,” he sighed. “Theory is one thing; practice is another. We count without our antagonists; I forgot they will set their wits against mine: and they are many, I am but one. And I have been so often defeated. And, do you know, I have observed that whenever I say beforehand, now I am going to do something clever, I am always defeated. Pride really goes before destruction, and vanity before a fall.”

The female mind, rejecting all else, went like a needle’s point at one thing in this explanation. “Our antagonists? why, what antagonists have we?”

“The messengers,” said Hazel, with a groan. “The aërial messengers.”

That did the business. Helen dropped the subject with almost ludicrous haste; and, after a few commonplace observations, made a nice comfortable dose of grog and bark for him. This she administered as an independent transaction, and not at all by way of comment on his antagonists, the aërial messengers.

It operated unkindly for her purpose: it did him so 325 much good, that he lifted up his dejected head, and his eyes sparkled again, and he set to work, and, by sunset, prepared two more bags of bladder with inscriptions inside, and long tails of fine gut hanging. He then set to work, and, with fingers far less adroit than hers, fastened another set of rushes round the hoop. He set them less evenly, and some of them not quite perpendicular; and, while he was fumbling over this, and examining the effect with paternal glances, Helen’s hazel eye dwelt on him with furtive pity; for, to her, this girdle of rushes was now an instrument that bore an ugly likeness to the sceptre of straw, with which vanity run to seed sways imaginary kingdoms in Bedlam or Bicetre.

And yet he was better. He walked about the cavern and conversed charmingly; he was dictionary, essayist, raconteur, anything she liked; and, as she prudently avoided and ignored the one fatal topic, it was a delightful evening: her fingers were as busy as his tongue: and, when he retired, she presented him the fruits of a fortnight’s work, a glorious wrapper made of fleecy cotton enclosed in a plaited web of flexible and silky grasses. He thanked her, and blessed her, and retired for the night.

About midnight she awoke and felt uneasy: so she did what since his illness she had done a score of times without his knowledge, she stole from her lair to watch him.

She found him wrapped in her present, which gave her great pleasure; and sleeping like an infant, which gave her joy. She eyed him eloquently for a long time; and then very timidly put out her hand, and, in her quality of nurse, laid it lighter than down upon his brow.

The brow was cool, and a very slight moisture on it showed the fever was going, or gone.

326

She folded her arms and stood looking at him; and she thought of all they two had done and suffered together. Her eyes absorbed him, devoured him. The time flew by unheeded. It was so sweet to be able to set her face free from its restraint, and let all its sunshine beam on him: and even when she retired at last, those light hazel eyes, that could flash fire at times, but were all dove-like now, hung and lingered on him as if they could never look at him enough.

Half an hour before daybreak she was awakened by the dog howling piteously. She felt a little uneasy at that: not much. However she got up, and issued from her cavern, just as the sun showed his red eye above the horizon. She went towards the boat as a matter of course. She found Ponto tied to the helm: the boat was empty, and Hazel nowhere to be seen.

She uttered a scream of dismay.

The dog howled and whined louder than ever.

327

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Wardlaw senior was not what you would call a tender-hearted man: but he was thoroughly moved by General Rolleston’s distress, and by his fortitude. The gallant old man! Landing in England one week, and going back to the Pacific the next! Like goes with like; and Wardlaw senior, energetic and resolute himself, though he felt for his son, stricken down by grief, gave his heart to the more valiant distress of his contemporary. He manned and victualled the Springbok for a long voyage, ordered her to Plymouth, and took his friend down to her by train.

They went out to her in a boat. She was a screw steamer, that could sail nine knots an hour without burning a coal. As she came down the Channel, the general’s trouble got to be well known on board her, and, when he came out of the harbor, the sailors by an honest, hearty impulse, that did them credit, waited for no orders, but manned the yards to receive him with the respect due to his services and his sacred calamity.

On getting on board, he saluted the captain and the ship’s company with sad dignity, and retired to his cabin with Mr. Wardlaw. There the old merchant forced on him by way of loan seven hundred pounds, chiefly in gold and silver, telling him there was nothing like money, go where you will. He then gave him a number of notices he had printed, and a paper of advice and instructions: it was written in his own large, clear, formal hand.

General Rolleston tried to falter out his thanks. John Wardlaw interrupted him.

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“Next to you I am her father; am I not?”

“You have proved it.”

“Well, then. However, if you do find her, as I pray to God you may, I claim the second kiss, mind that: not for myself, though; for my poor Arthur, that lies on a sick-bed for her.”

General Rolleston assented to that in a broken voice. He could hardly speak.

And so they parted: and that sad parent went out to the Pacific.

To him it was indeed a sad and gloomy voyage; and the hope with which he went on board oozed gradually away as the ship traversed the vast tracts of ocean. One immensity of water to be passed before that other immensity could be reached, on whose vast, uniform surface the search was to be made.

To abridge this gloomy and monotonous part of our tale, suffice it to say that he endured two months of water and infinity ere the vessel, fast as she was, reached Valparaiso. Their progress, however, had been more than once interrupted to carry out Wardlaw’s instructions. The poor general himself had but one idea; to go and search the Pacific with his own eyes; but Wardlaw, more experienced, directed him to overhaul every whaler and coasting vessel he could, and deliver printed notices; telling the sad story, and offering a reward for any positive information, good or bad, that should be brought in to his agent at Valparaiso. Acting on these instructions they had overhauled two or three coasting vessels as they steamed up from the Horn. They now placarded the port of Valparaiso, and put the notices on board all vessels bound westward; and the captain of the Springbok spoke to the skippers in the port. But they all shook their heads, and could hardly be got to give their minds seriously to the inquiry when 329 they heard in what water the cutter was last seen, and on what course.

One old skipper said, “Look on Juan Fernandez, and then at the bottom of the Pacific; but the sooner you look there the less time you will lose.”

From Valparaiso they ran to Juan Fernandez, which indeed seemed the likeliest place, if she was alive.

When the larger island of that group, the island dear alike to you who read, and to us who write, this tale, came in sight, the father’s heart began to beat higher.

The ship anchored and took in coal, which was furnished at a wickedly high price by Mr. Joshua Fullalove, who had virtually purchased the island from Chili, having got it on lease for longer than the earth itself is to last, we hear.

And now Rolleston found the value of Wardlaw’s loan; it enabled him to prosecute his search through the whole group of islands; and he did hear at last of three persons, who had been wrecked on Masa Fuero, one of them a female. He followed this up, and at last discovered the parties. He found them to be Spaniards, and the woman smoking a pipe.

After this bitter disappointment he went back to the ship, and she was to weigh her anchor next morning.

But while General Rolleston was at Masa Fuero, a small coasting vessel had come in, and brought a strange report at second-hand, that in some degree unsettled Captain Moreland’s mind, and, being hotly discussed on the forecastle, set the ship’s company in a ferment.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXVIII

She was a screw steamer, that could sail nine knots an hour
[Hmph. Incidentally, the very first screw propeller—way back in 1839—was used in a ship appropriately named the Archimedes.]

330

CHAPTER XXXIX.

Hazel had risen an hour before dawn, for reasons well known to himself. He put on his worst clothes, and a leathern belt, his little bags round his neck, and took his bundle of rushes in his hand. He also provided himself with some pieces of raw fish and fresh oyster; and, thus equipped, went up through Terrapin Wood, and got to the neighborhood of the lagoons before daybreak.

There was a heavy steam on the water, and nothing else to be seen. He put the hoop over his head and walked into the water, not without an internal shudder, it looked so cold.

But, instead of that, it was very warm, unaccountably warm. He walked in up to his middle and tied his iron hoop to his belt, so as to prevent it sinking too deep. This done, he waited motionless, and seemed a little bed of rushes. The sun rose, and the steam gradually cleared away, and Hazel, peering through a hole or two he had made expressly in his bed of rushes, saw several ducks floating about, and one in particular, all purple, without a speck but his amber eye. He contrived to detach a piece of fish, that soon floated to the surface near him. But no duck moved towards it. He tried another, and another; then a mallard he had not observed swam up from behind him, and was soon busy pecking at it within a yard of him. His heart beat; he glided slowly and cautiously forward till the bird was close to the rushes.

Hazel stretched out his hand with the utmost care, caught hold of the bird’s feet, and dragged him sharply under the water, and brought him up within the circle 331 of the rushes. He quacked and struggled. Hazel soused him under directly, and so quenched the sound; then he glided slowly to the bank, so slowly that the rushes merely seemed to drift ashore. This he did, not to create suspicion, and so spoil the next attempt. As he glided, he gave his duck air every now and then, and soon got on terra firma. By this time he had taught the duck not to quack, or he would get soused and held under. He now took the long gut-end and tied it tight round the bird’s leg, and so fastened the bag to him. Even while he was effecting this, a posse of ducks rose at the west end of the marsh, and took their flight from the island. As they passed Hazel threw his captive up in the air; and such was the force of example, aided, perhaps, by the fright the captive had received, that Hazel’s bird instantly joined these travellers, rose with them into the high currents, and away, bearing the news eastward upon the wings of the wind. Then Hazel returned to the pool, and twice more he was so fortunate as to secure a bird, and launch him into space.

man releasing goose to fly away

Hazel threw his captive up

So hard is it to measure the wit of man, and to define his resources. The problem was solved; the aërial messengers were on the wing, diffusing over hundreds of leagues of water the intelligence that an English lady had been wrecked on an unknown island, in longitude 103° 30’ west, and between the 33d and 26th parallels of south latitude; and calling good men and ships to her rescue for the love of God.

332

CHAPTER XL.

 
 

NOW FOR the strange report that landed at Juan Fernandez while General Rolleston was searching Masa Fuero.

The coaster, who brought it ashore, had been in company, at Valparaiso, with a whaler from Nantucket, who told him he had fallen in with a Dutch whaler out at sea, and distressed for water; he had supplied the said Dutchman, who had thanked him, and given him a runlet of Hollands, and had told him in conversation that he had seen land and a river reflected on the sky, in waters where no land was marked on the chart; namely, somewhere between Juan Fernandez and Norfolk Island; and that, believing this to be the reflection of a part of some island near at hand, and his water being low, though not at that time run out, he had gone considerably out of his course in hopes of finding this watered island, but could see nothing of it. Nevertheless, as his grandfather, who had been sixty years at sea, and logged many wonderful things, had told him the sky had been known to reflect both ships and land at a great distance, he fully believed there was an island somewhere in that longitude, not down on any chart: an island wooded and watered.

This tale soon boarded the Springbok, and was hotly discussed on the forecastle. It came to Captain Moreland’s ears, and he examined the skipper of the coasting smack. But this examination elicited nothing new, inasmuch as the skipper had the tale only at third-hand. Captain Moreland, however, communicated it to General Rolleston on his arrival, and asked him whether he 333 thought it worth while to deviate from their instructions upon information of such a character. Rolleston shook his head. “An island reflected in the sky!”

“No, sir: a portion of an island containing a river.”

“It is clearly a fable,” said Rolleston, with a sigh.

“What is a fable, general?”

“That the sky can reflect terrestrial objects.”

“Oh, there I can’t go with you. The phenomenon is rare, but it is well established. Suppose we catechise the forecastle. Hy! Fok’sel!”

“Sir!”

“Send a man aft: the oldest seaman aboard.”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

There was some little delay; and then a sailor of about sixty slouched aft, made a sea scrape, and, removing his cap entirely, awaited the captain’s commands.

“My man,” said the captain, “I want you to answer a question. Do you believe land and ships have ever been seen in the sky, reflected?”

“A many good seamen holds to that, sir,” said the sailor cautiously.

“Is it the general opinion of seamen before the mast? Come, tell us. Jack’s as good as his master in these matters.”

“Couldn’t say for boys and lubbers, sir. But I never met a full-grown seaman as denied that there. Sartainly few has seen it; but all of ’em has seen them as has seen it; ships, and land, too, but mostly ships. Hows’ever, I had a messmate once as was sailing past a rock they called Ailsa Craig, and saw a regiment of soldiers marching in the sky. Logged it, did the mate; and them soldiers was a‑marching between two towns in Ireland at that very time.”

“There, you see, General,” said Captain Moreland.

“But this is all second-hand,” said General Rolleston, 334 with a sigh; “and I have learned how everything gets distorted in passing from one to another.”

“Ah,” said the captain, “we can’t help that; the thing is rare. I never saw it for one; and I suppose you never saw a phenomenon of the kind, Isaac?”

“Han’t I!” said Isaac grimly. Then, with sudden and not very reasonable heat, “D—— my eyes and limbs if I han’t seen the Peak o’ Teneriffe in the sky topsy turvy, and as plain as I see that there cloud there” (pointing upwards).

“Come,” said Moreland; “now we are getting to it. Tell us all about that.”

“Well, sir,” said the seaman, “I don’t care to larn them as laughs at everything they han’t seen in may-be a dozen voyages at most; but you knows me, and I knows you; though you command the ship, and I work before the mast. Now I axes you, sir, should you say Isaac Aiken was the man to take a sugar-loaf, or a cocked-hat, for the Peak o’ Teneriffe?”

“As little likely as I am myself, Isaac.”

“No commander can say fairer nor that,” said Isaac, with dignity. “Well, then, your honor, I’ll tell ye the truth, and no lie: We was bound for Teneriffe with a fair wind, though not so much of it as we wanted, by reason she was a good sea-boat, but broad in the bows. The Peak hove in sight in the sky, and all the glasses was at her. She lay a point or two on our weather quarter, full two hours, and then she just melted away like a lump o’ sugar. We kept on our course a day and a half, and, at last, we sighted the real Peak, and anchored off the port; whereby, when we saw Teneriffe Peak in the sky to winnard, she lay a hundred leagues to looard, s’help me God.”

“That is wonderful,” said General Rolleston.

“That will do, Isaac,” said the captain. “Mr. Butt, 335 double his grog for a week, for having seen more than I have.”

The captain and General Rolleston had a long discussion; but the result was, they determined to go to Easter Island first, for General Rolleston was a soldier, and had learned to obey as well as command. He saw no sufficient ground for deviating from Wardlaw’s positive instructions.

This decision soon became known throughout the ship; and she was to weigh anchor at eleven A.M. next day, by high water.

At eight next morning, Captain Moreland and General Rolleston being on deck, one of the ship’s boys, a regular pet, with rosy cheeks and black eyes, comes up to the gentlemen, takes off his cap, and, panting audibly at his own audacity, shoves a paper into General Rolleston’s hand, and scuds away for his life.

“This won’t do,” said the captain, sternly.

The high-bred soldier handed the paper to him unopened.

The captain opened it, looked a little vexed, but more amused, and handed it back to the general.

It was a Round Robin.

Round Robins are not ingratiating as a rule. But this one came from some rough but honest fellows, who had already shown that kindliness and tact may reside in a coarse envelope. The sailors of the Springbok, when they first boarded her in the Thames, looked on themselves as men bound on an empty cruise: and nothing but the pay, which was five shillings per month above the average, reconciled them to it; for a sailor does not like going to sea for nothing, any more than a true sportsman likes to ride to hounds that are hunting a red herring trailed.

But the sight of the general had touched them afar 336 off. His gray hair and pale face, seen as he rowed out of Plymouth Harbor, had sent them to the yards by a gallant impulse; and all through the voyage the game had been to put on an air of alacrity and hope, whenever they passed the general or came under his eye.

text surrounded by names in a circle

The “Round Robin”.

enlarged Round Robin

If hypocrisy is always a crime, this was a very criminal ship; for the men, and even the boys, were hypocrites, who, feeling quite sure that the daughter was 337 dead at sea months ago, did, nevertheless, make up their faces to encourage the father into thinking she was alive, and he was going to find her. But people who pursue this game too long, and keep up the hopes of another, get infected at last themselves; and the crew of the Springbok arrived at Valparaiso infected with a little hope. Then came the Dutchman’s tale, and the discussion, which ended adversely to their views; and this elicited the circular we have the honor to lay before our readers.

General Rolleston and Captain Moreland returned to the cabin and discussed this document. They came on deck again, and the men were piped aft. General Rolleston touched his cap, and with the Round Robin in his hand, addressed them thus:—

“My men, I thank you for taking my trouble to heart as you do. But it would be a bad return to send any of you to Easter Island in that cutter: for she is not seaworthy: so the captain tells me. I will not consent to throw away your lives in trying to save a life that is dear to me: but, as to the Dutchman’s story, about an unknown island, our captain seems to think that is possible; and you tell us you are of the same opinion. Well, then, I give up my own judgment, and yield to yours. Yes, we will go westward with a good heart (he sighed), and a willing crew.”

The men cheered. The boatswain piped; the anchor was heaved, and the Springbok went out on a course that bade fair to carry her within a hundred miles of Godsend Island.

She ran fast. On the second day, some ducks passed over her head, one of which was observed to have something attached to its leg.

She passed within sixty miles of Mount Lookout, but 338 never saw Godsend Island, and so pursued her way to the Society Islands; sent out her boats; made every inquiry around about the islands, but with no success; and, at last, after losing a couple of months there, brought the heart-sick father back on much the same course, but rather more northerly.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XL

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Chapters XL-XLIII originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 16 (18 April 1868), numbered as Chapters XLIII-XLVI.

somewhere between Juan Fernandez and Norfolk Island
[Thanks, nameless Dutchman, that narrows it down nicely. Norfolk Island is north of New Zealand though it belongs to Australia; Juan Fernandez is a few hundred miles off the coast of Chile.]

Round Robin
[The full text reads:

We who sign
About this line,
hope none offence, and mean none. We think Easter Island is out of her course. Such of us as can be spared are ready and willing to take the old cutter, that lies for sale, to Easter Island if needs be; but to waste the Steamer it is a Pity. We are all agreed the Dutch skipper saw land and water aloft sailing between Juan Fernandez and Norfolk Isle, and what a Dutchman can see on the sky we think an Englishman can find it in the sea, God willing. Whereby we pray our good Captain to follow the Dutchman’s course with a good heart and a willing crew.
And so say we
Whose names here be. ]

339

CHAPTER XLI.

Hazel returned homewards in a glow of triumph, and for once felt disposed to brag to Helen of his victory,—a victory by which she was to profit; not he.

They met in the wood; for she had tracked him by his footsteps. She seemed pale and disturbed, and speedily interrupted his exclamations of triumph, by one of delight, which was soon however followed by one of distress.

“Oh, look at you!” she said. “You have been in the water: it is wicked; wicked.”

“But I have solved the problem. I caught three ducks one after another, and tied the intelligence to their legs: they are at this moment careering over the ocean, with our story and our longitude, and a guess at our latitude. Crown me with bays.”

“With foolscap, more likely,” said Helen: “only just getting well of rheumatic fever, and to go and stand in water up to the middle.”

“Why, you don’t listen to me,” cried Hazel in amazement. “I tell you I have solved the problem.”

“It is you that don’t listen to common sense,” retorted Helen. “If you go and make yourself ill, all the problems in the world will not compensate me. And I must say I think it was not very kind of you to run off so without warning: why give me hours of anxiety for want of a word? But there, it is useless to argue with a boy: yes, sir, a boy. The fact is, I have been too easy with you of late. One indulges sick children. But then they must not slip away and stand in the water, or 340 there is an end of indulgence; and one is driven to severity. You must be ruled with a rod of iron. Go home this moment, sir, and change your clothes; and don’t you presume to come into the presence of the nurse you have offended, till there’s not a wet thread about you.”

And so she ordered him off. The inventor in his moment of victory slunk away crestfallen to change his clothes.

So far Helen Rolleston was a type of her sex in its treatment of inventors. At breakfast she became a brilliant exception. The moment she saw Hazel seated by her fire in dry clothes she changed her key, and made him relate the whole business, and expressed the warmest admiration and sympathy.

“But,” said she, “I do ask you not to repeat this exploit too often; now, don’t do it again for a fortnight. The island will not run away. Ducks come and go every day, and your health is very, very precious.”

He colored with pleasure, and made the promise at once. But during this fortnight events occurred. In the first place, he improved his invention. He remembered how a duck, over-weighted by a crab which was fast to her leg, had come on board the boat. Memory dwelling on this and invention digesting it, he resolved to weight his next batch of ducks; for he argued thus: “Probably our ducks go straight from this to the great American Continent. Then it may be long ere one of them falls into the hands of a man; and perhaps that man will not know English. But, if I could impede the flight of my ducks, they might alight on ships: and three ships out of four know English.”

Accordingly, he now inserted stones of various sizes into the little bags. It was a matter of nice calculation; the problem was to weight the birds just so much that 341 they might be able to fly three or four hundred miles, or about half as far as their unencumbered companions.

But in the midst of all this, a circumstance occurred that would have made a vain man, or indeed most men, fling the whole thing away. Helen and he came to a rupture. It began by her fault, and continued by his. She did not choose to know her own mind, and in spite of secret warnings from her better judgment, she was driven by curiosity or by the unhappy restlessness to which her sex are peculiarly subject at odd times, to sound Hazel as to the meaning of a certain epigram that rankled in her. And she did it in the most feminine way, that is to say, in the least direct: whereas the safest way would have been to grasp the nettle, if she could not let it alone.

Said she one day, quietly, though with a deep blush, “Do you know Mr. Arthur Wardlaw?”

Hazel gave a shiver, and said, “I do.”

“Do you know anything about him?”

“I do.”

“Nothing to his discredit, I am sure.”

“If you are sure, why ask me? Do I ever mention his name?”

“Perhaps you do, sometimes, without intending it.”

“You are mistaken; he is in your thoughts, no doubt, but not in mine.”

“Ought I to forget people entirely, and what I owe them?”

“That is a question I decline to go into.”

“How harshly you speak to me! Is that fair? You know my engagement, and that honor and duty draw me to England; yet I am happy here. You, who are so good and strong, might pity me at least; for I am torn this way and that;” and here the voice ceased, and the tears began to flow.

342

“I do pity you,” said Hazel; “I must pity any one who is obliged to mention honor and duty in the same breath as Arthur Wardlaw.”

At this time Helen drew back, offended bitterly. “That pity I reject and scorn,” said she. “No, I plighted my faith with my eyes open, and to a worthy object. I never knew him blacken any person who was not there to speak for himself, and that is a very worthy trait, in my opinion. The absent are like children; they are helpless to defend themselves.”

Hazel, racked with jealousy, and irritated at this galling comparison, lost his temper for once, and said those who lay traps must not complain if others fall into them.

“Traps! Who lays them?”

“You did, Miss Rolleston. Did I ever condescend to mention that man’s name since we have been on the island? It is you make me talk of him.”

“Condescend?”

“That is the word. Nor will I ever deign to mention him again. If my love had touched your heart, I should have been obliged to mention him, for then I should have been bound to tell you a story in which he is mixed, my own miserable story—my blood boils against the human race when I think of it. But no, I see I am nothing to you; and I will be silent.”

“It is very cruel of you to say that,” replied Helen, with tears in her eyes; “tell me your story, and you will see whether you are nothing to me.”

“Not one word of it,” said Hazel, slowly, “until you have forgotten that that man exists.”

“Oh! thank you, sir, this is plain speaking. I am to forget honor and plighted faith; and then you will trust me with your secrets, when I have shown myself unworthy to be trusted with anything. Keep your secrets, 343 and I’ll try and keep faith; ay, and I shall keep it, too, as long as there’s life in my body.”

“Can’t you keep faith without torturing me, who love you?”

Helen’s bosom began to heave at this, but she fought bravely. “Love me less, and respect me more,” said she, panting; “you affront me, you frighten me. I looked on you as a brother, a dear brother. But now I am afraid of you—I am afraid—”

He was so injudicious as to interrupt her. “You have nothing to fear,” said he; “keep this side of the island, and I’ll live on the other, rather than hear the name of Arthur Wardlaw.”

Helen’s courage failed her at that spirited proposal, and she made no reply at all, but turned her back haughtily, and went away from him; only when she had got a little way her proud head drooped, and she went crying.

A coolness sprang up between them, and neither of them knew how to end it. Hazel saw no way to serve her now, except by flying weighted ducks; and he gave his mind so to this, that one day he told her he had twenty-seven ducks in the air, all charged, and two-thirds of them weighted. He thought that must please her now. To his surprise and annoyance, she received the intelligence coldly, and asked him whether it was not cruel to the birds.

Hazel colored with mortification at his great act of self-denial being so received.

He said, “I don’t think my worst enemy can say I am wantonly cruel to God’s creatures.”

Helen threw in, deftly, “And I am not your worst enemy.”

“But what other way is there to liberate you from this island, where you have nobody to speak to but me? 344 Well, selfishness is the best course. Think only of others, and you are sure not to please them.”

“If you want to please people, you must begin by understanding them,” said the lady, not ill-naturedly.

“But if they don’t understand themselves?”

“Then pity them; you can, for you are a man.”

“What hurts me,” said Hazel, “is that you really seem to think I fly these ducks for my pleasure. Why, if I had my wish, you and I should never leave this island, nor any other person set a foot on it. I am frank, you see.”

“Rather too frank.”

“What does it matter, since I do my duty all the same, and fly the ducks? But sometimes I do yearn for a word of praise for it, and that word never comes.”

“It is a praiseworthy act,” said Helen, but so icily that it is a wonder he ever flew another duck after that.

“No matter,” said he, and his hand involuntarily sought his heart; “you read me a sharp but wholesome lesson, that we should do our duty for our duty’s sake. And as I am quite sure it is my duty to liberate you and restore you to those you—I’ll fly three ducks to-morrow morning instead of two.”

“It is not done by my advice,” said Helen. “You will certainly make yourself ill.”

“Oh, that is all nonsense,” said Hazel.

“You are rude to me,” said Helen, “and I don’t deserve it.”

“Rude, am I? Then I’ll say no more,” said Hazel, half-humbly, half-doggedly.

His parchment was exhausted, and he was driven to another expedient. He obtained alcohol by distillation from rum, and having found dragon’s-blood in its pure state, little ruby drops, made a deep red varnish that 345 defied water; he got slips of bark, white inside, cut his inscription deep on the inner side, and filled the incised letters with this red varnish. He had forty-eight ducks in the air, and was rising before daybreak to catch another couple, when he was seized with a pain in the right hip and knee, and found he could hardly walk, so he gave in that morning, and kept about the premises. But he got worse, and he had hardly any use in his right side, from the waist downwards, and was in great pain.

As the day wore on, the pain and loss of power increased, and resisted all his remedies; there was no fever to speak of, but Nature was grimly revenging herself for many a gentler warning neglected. When he realized his condition, he was terribly cut up, and sat on the sand with his head in his hands for nearly two hours. But, after that period of despondency, he got up, took his boat-hook, and using it as a staff, hobbled to his arsenal, and set to work.

Amongst his materials was a young tree he had pulled up: the roots ran at right angles to the stem. He just sawed off the ends of the roots, and then proceeded to shorten the stem.

But meantime, Helen, who had always a secret eye on him and his movements, had seen there was something wrong, and came timidly and asked what was the matter.

“Nothing,” said he, doggedly.

“Then why did you sit so long on the sand? I never saw you like that.”

“I was ruminating.”

“What upon? Not that I have any right to ask.”

“On the arrogance and folly of men; they attempt more than they can do, and despise the petty prudence and common sense of women, and smart for it; as I am smarting now for being wiser than you.”

346

“Oh!” said Helen; “why, what is the matter? and what is that you have made? It looks like—oh, dear!”

“It is a crutch,” said Hazel, with forced calmness; “and I am a cripple.”

Helen clasped her hands and stood trembling.

Hazel lost his self-control for a moment, and cried out in a voice of agony, “A useless cripple. I wish I was dead and out of the way.”

Then, ashamed of having given way before her, he seized his crutch, placed the crook under his arm, and turned sullenly away from her.

Four steps he took with his crutch.

She caught him with two movements of her supple and vigorous frame.

She just laid her left hand gently on his shoulder, and with her right she stole the crutch softly away, and let it fall upon the sand. She took his right hand, and put it to her lips like a subject paying homage to her sovereign; and then she put her strong arm under his shoulder, still holding his right hand in hers, and looked in his face. “No wooden crutches when I am by,” said she in a low voice, full of devotion.

He stood surprised, and his eyes began to fill.

“Come,” said she, in a voice of music. And, thus aided, he went with her to her cavern. As they went, she asked him tenderly where the pain was.

“It was in my hip and knee,” he said: “but now it is nowhere; for joy has come back to my heart.”

“And to mine too,” said Helen; “except for this.”

The quarrel dispersed like a cloud, under this calamity. There was no formal reconciliation; no discussion: and this was the wisest course: for the unhappy situation remained unchanged; and the friendliest discussion 347 could only fan the embers of discord and misery gently, instead of fiercely.

The pair so strangely thrown together commenced a new chapter of their existence. It was not patient and nurse over again; Hazel, though very lame, had too much spirit left to accept that position. But still the sexes became in a measure reversed—Helen the fisherman and forager, Hazel the cook and domestic.

He was as busy as ever, but in a narrow circle; he found pearl oysters near the sunk galleon, and ere he had been lame many weeks, he had entirely lined the sides of the cavern with mother-of-pearl set in cement, and close as mosaic.

Every day he passed an hour in paradise; for his living crutch made him take a little walk with her; her hand held his; her arm supported his shoulder; her sweet face was near his, full of tender solicitude: they seemed to be one; and spoke in whispers to each other, like thinking aloud. The causes of happiness were ever present: the causes of unhappiness were out of sight, and showed no signs of approach.

And of the two, Helen was the happiest. Before a creature so pure as this marries and has children, the great maternal instinct is still there, but feeds on what it can get—first a doll, and then some helpless creature or other. Too often she wastes her heart’s milk on something grown up, but as selfish as a child. Helen was more fortunate; her child was her hero, now so lame that he must lean on her to walk. The days passed by, and the island was fast becoming the world to those two, and as bright a world as ever shone on two mortal creatures.

It was a happy dream.

What a pity that dreams dissolve so soon! This had 348 lasted for nearly two months, and Hazel was getting better, though still not well enough, or not fool enough, to dismiss his live crutch, when one afternoon Helen, who had been up on the heights, observed a dark cloud in the blue sky towards the west. There was not another cloud visible, and the air marvellously clear; time, about three-quarters of an hour before sunset. She told Hazel about this solitary cloud, and asked him, with some anxiety, if it portended another storm. He told her to be under no alarm—there were no tempests in that latitude except at the coming in and going out of the rains,—but he should like to go round the point and look at her cloud.

She lent him her arm, and they went round the point; and there they saw a cloud entirely different from anything they had ever seen since they were on the island. It was like an enormous dark ribbon stretched along the sky, at some little height above the horizon. Notwithstanding its prodigious length it got larger before their very eyes.

Hazel started.

Helen felt him start, and asked him, with some surprise, what was the matter.

“Cloud!” said he, “that is no cloud. That is smoke.”

“Smoke!” echoed Helen, becoming agitated in her turn.

“Yes; the breeze is northerly, and carries the smoke it is the smoke of a steamboat.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLI

She lent him her arm
text has leant
[Corrected from Once a Week.]

349

CHAPTER XLII.

Both were greatly moved; and after one swift glance Helen stole at him, neither looked at the other. They spoke in flurried whispers.

“Can they see the island?”

“I don’t know; it depends on how far the boat is to windward of her smoke.”

“How shall we know?”

“If she sees the island, she will make for it that moment.”

“Why? do ships never pass an unknown island?”

“Yes. But that steamer will not pass us.”

“But why?”

At this question Hazel hung his head and his lip quivered. He answered her at last. “Because she is looking for you.”

Helen was struck dumb at this.

He gave his reasons. “Steamers never visit these waters. Love has brought that steamer out; love that will not go unrewarded. Arthur Wardlaw is on board that ship.”

“Have they seen us yet?”

Hazel forced on a kind of dogged fortitude. He said, “When the smoke ceases to elongate, you will know they have changed their course, and they will change their course the moment the man at the mast-head sees us.”

“Oh! But how do you know they have a man at the mast-head?”

“I know by myself. I should have a man at the mast-head night and day.”

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And now the situation was beyond words. They both watched, and watched, to see the line of smoke cease.

It continued to increase, and spread eastward; and that proved the steamer was continuing her course.

The sun drew close to the horizon.

“They don’t see us,” said Helen, faintly.

“No,” said Hazel; “not yet.”

“And the sun is just setting. It is all over.”

She put her handkerchief to her eyes a moment, and then, after a sob or two, she said almost cheerfully, “Well, dear friend, we were happy till that smoke came to disturb us: let us try and be as happy now it is gone. Don’t smile like that, it makes me shudder.”

“Did I smile? It must have been at your simplicity in thinking we have seen the last of that steamer.”

“And so we have.”

“Not so. In three hours she will be at anchor in that bay.”

“Why, what will bring her?”

“I shall bring her.”

“You? How?”

“By lighting my bonfire.”

351

CHAPTER XLIII.

Helen had forgotten all about the bonfire. She now asked whether he was sure those on board the steamer could see the bonfire. Then Hazel told her that it was now of prodigious size and height. Some six months before he was crippled he had added and added to it.

“That bonfire,” said he, “will throw a ruddy glare over the heavens, that they can’t help seeing on board the steamer. Then, as they are not on a course, but on a search, they will certainly run a few miles southward to see what it is. They will say it is a beacon or a ship on fire; and, in either case, they will turn the boat’s head this way. Well, before they have run southward half a dozen miles, their look-out will see the bonfire, and the island in its light. Let us get to the boat, my lucifers are there.”

She lent him her arm to the boat, and stood by while he made his preparations. They were very simple. He took a pine torch and smeared it all over with pitch; then put his lucifer-box in his bosom, and took his crutch. His face was drawn pitiably, but his closed lips betrayed unshaken and unshakable resolution. He shouldered his crutch, and hobbled up as far as the cavern. Here Helen interposed.

“Don’t you go toiling up the hill,” said she. “Give me the lucifers and the torch, and let me light the beacon. I shall be there in half the time you will.”

“Thank you! thank you!” said Hazel, eagerly, not to say violently.

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He wanted it done; but it killed him to do it. He then gave her his instructions.

“It is as big as a haystack,” said he, “and as dry as a chip; and there are eight bundles of straw placed expressly. Light the bundles to windward first, then the others; it will soon be all in a blaze.”

“Meanwhile,” said Helen, “you prepare our supper. I feel quite faint—for want of it.”

Hazel assented.

“It is the last we shall—” he was going to say it was the last they would eat together; but his voice failed him, and he hobbled into the cavern, and tried to smother his emotion in work. He lighted the fire, and blew it into a flame with a palmetto-leaf, and then he sat down a while, very sick at heart; then he got up and did the cooking, sighing all the time; and, just when he was beginning to wonder why Helen was so long lighting eight bundles of straw, she came in, looking pale.

“Is it all right?” said he.

“Go and look,” said she. “No, let us have our supper first.”

Neither had any appetite: they sat and kept casting strange looks at one another.

To divert this anyhow Hazel looked up at the roof, and said faintly, “If I had known, I would have made more haste, and set pearl there as well.”

“What does that matter?” said Helen, looking down.

“Not much, indeed,” replied he, sadly. “I am a fool to utter such childish regrets; and, more than that, I am a mean selfish cur to have a regret. Come, come, we can’t eat; let us go round the point and see the waves reddened by the beacon, that gives you back to the world you were born to embellish.”

Helen said she would go directly. And her languid reply contrasted strangely with his excitement. She 353 played with her supper, and he could wait no longer, he must go and see how the beacon was burning.

“Oh, very well,” said she; and they went down to the beach.

She took his crutch and gave it to him. This little thing cut him to the heart. It was the first time she had accompanied him so far as that without offering herself to be his crutch. He sighed deeply, as he put the crutch under his arm; but he was too proud to complain, only he laid it all on the approaching steamboat.

The subtle creature by his side heard the sigh, and smiled sadly at being misunderstood—but what man could understand her? They hardly spoke till they reached the point. The waves glittered in the moonlight: there was no red light on the water.

“Why, what is this?” said Hazel. “You can’t have lighted the bonfire in eight places, as I told you.”

She folded her arms and stood before him in an attitude of defiance: all but her melting eye.

“I have not lighted at it all,” said she.

Hazel stood aghast. “What have I done?” he cried. “Duty, manhood, everything, demanded that I should light that beacon, and I trusted it to you.”

Helen’s attitude of defiance melted away: she began to cower, and hid her blushing face in her hands. Then she looked up imploringly. Then she uttered a wild and eloquent cry, and fled from him like the wind.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLIII

He lighted the fire
[The authors never did explain how the cooking fires get lighted several times a day without the use of matches. Why can’t the bonfire be lighted the same way?]

354

CHAPTER XLIV.

 
 
 

CLOUD was really the smoke of the Springbok, which had mounted into air so thin that it could rise no higher. The boat herself was many miles to the northward, returning full of heavy hearts from a fruitless search. She came back in a higher parallel of latitude, intending afterwards to steer N.W. to Easter Island. The life was gone out of the ship; the father was deeply dejected, and the crew could no longer feign the hope they did not feel. Having pursued the above course to within four hundred miles of Juan Fernandez, General Rolleston begged the captain to make a bold deviation to the S.W., and then see if they could find nothing there before going to Easter Island.

Captain Moreland was very unwilling to go to the S.W., the more so as coal was getting short. However, he had not the heart to refuse General Rolleston anything. There was a northerly breeze; he had the fires put out, and, covering the ship with canvas, sailed three hundred miles S.W. But found nothing. Then he took in sail, got up steam again, and away for Easter Island. The ship ran so fast that she had got into latitude 32° by 10 A.M. next morning.

At 10h. 15m. the dreary monotony of this cruise was broken by the man at the mast-head.

“On deck there!”

“Hullo!”

“The schooner on our weather-bow!”

“Well, what of her?”

“She has luffed.”

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“Well, what o’ that?”

“She has altered her course.”

“How many points?”

“She was sailing S.E., and now her head is N.E.”

“That is curious.”

General Rolleston, who had come and listened with a grain of hope, now sighed and turned away.

The captain explained kindly that the man was quite right to draw his captain’s attention to the fact of a trading vessel altering her course. “There is a sea-grammar, general,” said he; “and when one seaman sees another violate it, he concludes there is some reason or other. Now, Jack, what d’ye make of her?”

“I can’t make much of her: she don’t seem to know her own mind, that is all. At ten o’clock she was bound for Valparaiso or the island. But now she has come about and beating to windward.”

“Bound for Easter Island?”

“I dunno.”

“Keep your eye on her.”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

Captain Moreland told General Rolleston that very few ships went to Easter Island, which lies in a lovely climate, but is a miserable place; and he was telling the general that it is inhabited by savages of a low order, who half worship the relics of masonry left by their more civilized predecessors, when Jack hailed the deck again.

“Well,” said the captain.

“I think she is bound for the Springbok.”

The soldier received this conjecture with astonishment and incredulity, not to be wondered at.

The steamboat headed N.W. right in the wind’s eye.

Sixteen miles off at least a ship was sailing N.E. So that the two courses might be represented with tolerable 356 accuracy by the following diagram, in which A represents the course of the steamer, and B that of the schooner. And there hung in the air, like a black mark against the blue sky, a fellow, whose oracular voice came down and said B was endeavoring to intercept A.

two arrows pointing in different directions, labeled A and B

Nevertheless time confirmed the conjecture; the schooner, having made a short board to the N.E., came about and made a long board due west, which was as near as she could lie to the wind. On this Captain Moreland laid the steamboat’s head due north. This brought the vessels rapidly together.

When they were about two miles distant, the stranger slackened sail and hove-to; hoisting stars and stripes at her mizzen. The union jack went up the shrouds of the Springbok directly, and she pursued her course, but gradually slackened her steam.

General Rolleston walked the deck in great agitation, and now indulged in wild hopes, which Captain Moreland thought it best to discourage at once.

“Ah, sir,” he said; “don’t you run into the other extreme, and imagine he has come on our business. It is at sea as it is ashore: if a man goes out of his course to speak to you, it is for his own sake, not yours. This Yankee has got men sick with scurvy, and is come for lime juice. Or his water is out. Or—hallo, savages aboard.”

It was too true. The schooner had a cargo of savages male and female; the males were nearly naked, but the 357 females, strange to say, were dressed to the throat in ample robes with broad and flowing skirts, and had little coronets on their heads. As soon as the schooner hove-to, the fiddle had struck up, and the savages were now dancing in parties of four; the men doing a sort of monkey hornpipe in quick pace with their hands nearly touching the ground: the women, on the contrary, erect and queenly, swept about in slow rhythm, with most graceful and coquettish movements of the arms and hands, and bewitching smiles.

The steamboat came alongside, but at a certain distance, to avoid all chance of collision; and the crew clustered at the side and cheered the savages dancing. The poor general was forgotten at the merry sight.

Presently a negro in white cotton, with a face blacker than the savages, stepped forward and hoisted a board, on which was printed very large: Are you

Having allowed this a moment to sink into the mind, he reversed the board, and showed these words, also printed large: The Springbok?

There was a thrilling murmur on board; and after a pause of surprise, the question was answered by a loud cheer and waving of hats.

The reply was perfectly understood; almost immediately a boat was lowered by some novel machinery, and pulled towards the steamer. There were two men in it: the skipper and the negro. The skipper came up the side of the Springbok. He was loosely dressed in some light drab-colored stuff and a huge straw hat; a man with a long Puritanical head, a nose inclined to be aquiline, a face bronzed by weather and heat, thin resolute lips, and a square chin. But for a certain breadth between his keen gray eyes, which revealed more intellect than Cromwell’s Ironsides were encumbered with, he 358 might have passed for one of that hard-praying, harder-hitting fraternity.

He came on deck, just touched his hat, as if to brush away a fly, and, removing an enormous cigar from his mouth, said, “Wal, and so this is the Springbok. Spry little boat she is: how many knots can ye get out of her now? Not that I am curious.”

“About twelve knots.”

“And when the steam’s off the bile how many can you sail? Not that it is my business.”

“Eight or nine. What is your business?”

“Hum! You have been over some water looking for that gal. Where do ye hail from last?”

“The Society Islands. Did you board me to hear me my catechism?”

“No, I am not one of your prying sort. Where are ye bound for now?”

“I am bound for Easter Island.”

“Have you heard anything of the gal?”

“No.”

“And when do ye expect to go back to England as wise as ye came?”

“Never while the ship can swim,” cried Moreland, angrily, to hide his despondency from this stranger. “And now it is my turn, I think. What schooner is this? by whom commanded, and whither bound?”

“The Julia Dodd; Joshua Fullalove; bound for Juan Fernandez with the raw material of civilization—look at the varmint skippin’—and a printing press; an’ that’s the instrument of civilization, I rather think.”

“Well, sir; and why in heaven’s name did you change your course?”

“Wal, I reckon I changed it—to tell you a lie.”

“To tell us a lie?”

“Ay; the darndest etarnal lie that ever came out of a 359 man’s mouth. Fust, there’s an unknown island somewheres about. That’s a kinder nourish beforehand. On that island there’s an English gal wrecked.”

Exclamations burst forth on every side at this.

“And she’s so tarnation cute, she’s flying ducks all over creation with a writing tied to their legs, telling the tale, and setting down the longitude. There, if that isn’t a buster, I hope I may never live to tell another.”

“God bless you, sir!” cried the general. “Where is the island?”

“What island?”

“The island where my child is wrecked.”

“What, are you the gal’s father?” said Joshua, with a sudden touch of feeling.

“I am, sir. Pray withhold nothing from me you know.”

“Why, cunnle,” said the Yankee, soothingly; “don’t I tell you it’s a buster? However, the lie is none o’ mine. It’s that old cuss Skinflint set it afloat; he is always pisoning these peaceful waters.”

Rolleston asked eagerly who Skinflint was, and where he could be found.

“Wal, he’s a sorter sea Jack-of-all-trades, etarnally cruising about to buy gratis,—those he buys of call it stealing. Got a rotten old cutter, manned by his wife and fam’ly. They get coal out of me for fur, and sell the coal at double my price; they kill seals and dress the skins aboard; kill fish and salt ’em aboard. Ye know when that fam’ly is at sea by the smell that pervades the briny deep an’ heralds their approach. Yesterday the air smelt awful: so I said to Vespasian here, I think that sea-skunk is out, for there’s something a‑pisoning the cerulean waves an’ succumambient air. We hadn’t sailed not fifty miles more before we run agin him. Their clothes were drying all about the rigging. Hails 360 me, the varmint does. Vesp and I, we work the printing-press together, an’ so order him to looward, not to taint our Otaheitans, that stink of ile at home, but I had ’em biled before I’d buy ’em, an’ now they’re vilets. ‘Wal, now, Skinflint,’ says I; ‘I reckon you’re come to bring me that harpoon o’ mine you stole last time you was at my island?’ ‘I never saw your harpoon,’ says he; ‘I want to know, have you come across the Springbok?’ ‘Mebbe I have,’ says I; ‘why do you ask?’ ‘Got news for her,’ says he; ‘and can’t find her nowheres.’ So then we set to and fenced a bit; and this old varmint, to put me off the truth, told me the buster. A month ago or more he was boarded—by a duck. And this ’ere duck had a writing tied to his leg, and this ’ere writing said an English gal was wrecked on an island, and put down the very longitude. ‘Show me that duck,’ ses I, ironical. ‘D’ye take us for fools?’ ses he; ‘we ate the duck for supper.’ ‘That was like ye,’ says I; ‘if an angel brought your pardon down from heights celestial, you’d roast him and sell his feathers for swan’s-down; mebbe you ate the writing? I know you’re a hungry lot.’ ‘The writing is in my cabin,’ says he. ‘Show it me,’ says I, ‘an mebbe I’ll believe ye.’ No, the cuss would only show it to the Springbok; ‘there’s a reward,’ says he. ‘What’s the price of a soul aboard your cutter?’ I asked him. ‘Have you parted with yours as you wants to buy one?’ says he. ‘Not one as would carry me right slick away to everlasting blazes,’ says I. So then we said good morning, and he bore away for Valparaiso. Presently I saw your smoke, and that you would never overhaul old Stinkamalee on that track: so I came about. Now I tell you that old cuss knows where the gal is, and mebbe has got her tied hand and fut in his cabin. An’ I’m kinder sot on English gals: they put me in mind of butter and honey. Why, my 361 schooner is named after one. So, now, cunnle, clap on steam for Valparaiso, and you’ll soon overhaul the old stink-pot; you may know him by the brown patch in his jib-sail, the ontidy varmint. Pull out your purse and bind him to drop lying about ducks and geese, and tell you the truth; he knows where your gal is, I swan. Wal, ye needn’t smother me.” For by this time he was the centre of a throng, all pushing and driving to catch his words.

Captain Moreland begged him to step down into his cabin, and there the general thanked him with great warmth and agitation for his humanity. “We will follow your advice at once,” he said. “Is there anything I can offer you, without offence?”

“Wal,” drawled the Yankee, “I guess not. Business and sentiment won’t mix nohow. Business took me to the island, sentiment brought me here. I’ll take a shake-hand all round; and if y’have got live fowls to spare I’ll be obliged to you for a couple. Ye see I’m colonizing that darned island: an’ sowing it with grain, an’ apples, an’ Otaheitans, an’ niggers, an’ Irishmen, an’ all the other cream o’ creation; an’ I’d be glad of a couple o’ Dorkins to crow the lazy varmint up.”

This very moderate request was very readily complied with, and the acclamations and cheers of the crew followed this strange character to his schooner, at which his eye glistened and twinkled with quiet satisfaction, but he made it a point of honor not to move a muscle.

Before he could get under way the Springbok took a circuit, and passing within a hundred yards of him, fired a gun to leeward by way of compliment, set a cloud of canvas, and tore through the water at her highest speed. Outside the port of Valparaiso she fell in with Skinflint, and found him not quite so black as he was painted. The old fellow showed some parental feeling, produced 362 the bag at once to General Rolleston, and assured him a wearied duck had come on board, and his wife had detached the writing.

They took in coal, and then ran westward once more, every heart beating high with confident hope.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLIV

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Chapters XLIV-XLVII originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 17 (25 April 1868), numbered as Chapters XLVII-L.

The captain explained kindly
[The balance of power between Captain Moreland and General Rolleston—who has chartered the ship—seems to be more reasonable than that between the crew of the Proserpine and John Penfold-Seaton-Hazel—who is merely a last-minute passenger.]

But now she has come about and beating to windward.
[I expected “bearing”, but Once a Week has the same thing.]

the two courses might be represented with tolerable accuracy by the following diagram
[. . . in which the two ships would seem to be moving away from each other.]

Are you / The Springbok?
[I’m not going to plunge into a fresh round of research, but I’m pretty sure ships today are required to have some visible identification. Every boat moored at my local marina, down to the smallest dinghy, definitely displays its name in bold clear letters.]

“About twelve knots.”
[The ships’ captains know how knots work, even while the authors speaking in their own voices say “knots per hour”. Perhaps the authors think “knots” by itself is some specialized nautical usage, and are patting themselves on the back for getting it right.]

The Julia Dodd; Joshua Fullalove; bound for Juan Fernandez
[His name came up in Chapter XXXVIII: “coal, which was furnished at a wickedly high price by Mr. Joshua Fullalove, who had virtually purchased the island from Chili”.]

she’s so tarnation cute
[Acute, that is. Helen’s wits have gotten sharper in the course of the book, though the reader knows the ducks were not her idea.]

I had ’em biled before I’d buy ’em
apostrophe in second “’em” missing

“Wal,” drawled the Yankee, “I guess not.
[Color me astounded. Fullalove struck me as more of the “please, no applause—just money” sort.]

363

CHAPTER XLV.

Helen’s act was strange, and demands a word of explanation. If she had thought the steamboat was a strange vessel, she would have lighted the bonfire: if she had known her father was on board, she would have lighted it with joy. But Hazel, whose every word now was gospel, had said it was Arthur Wardlaw in that boat, searching for her.

Still, so strong is the impulse in all civilized beings to get back to civilization, that she went up that hill as honestly intending to light the bonfire, as Hazel intended it should be lighted. But as she went her courage cooled, and her feet began to go slowly, as her mind ran swiftly forward to consequence upon consequence. To light that bonfire was to bring Arthur Wardlaw down upon herself and Hazel living alone and on intimate terms. Arthur would come and claim her to his face. Could she disallow his claim? Gratitude would now be on his side as well as good faith. What a shock to Arthur! What torture for Hazel! torture that he foresaw, or why the face of anguish, that dragged even now at her heart-strings? And then it could end only in one way; she and Hazel would leave the island in Arthur’s ship. What a voyage for all three! She stood transfixed by shame, her whole body blushed at what she saw coming. Then once more Hazel’s face rose before her; poor crippled Hazel! her hero and her patient. She sat down and sighed, and could no more light the fire, than she could have put it out if another had lighted it.

She was a girl that could show you at times she had a 364 father as well as a mother; but that evening she was all woman.

They met no more that night.

In the morning his face was haggard, and showed a mental struggle; but hers was placid and quietly beaming, for the very reason that she had made a great sacrifice. She was one of that sort.

And this difference between them was a foretaste.

His tender conscience pricked him sore. To see her sit beaming there, when, if he had done his own duty with his own hands, she would be on her way to England! Yet his remorse was dumb; for, if he gave it vent, then he must seem ungrateful to her for her sacrifice.

She saw his deep and silent compunction, approved it secretly, said nothing, but smiled, and beamed, and soothed. He could not resist this; and wild thrills of joy and hope passed through him, visions of unbroken bliss far from the world.

But this sweet delirium was followed by misgivings of another kind. And here she was at fault. What could they be?

It was the voice of conscience telling him that he was really winning her love once inaccessible; and, if so, was bound to tell her his whole story, and let her judge between him and the world, before she made any more sacrifices for him. But it is hard to stop great happiness: harder to stop it and ruin it. Every night as he lay alone he said, “To-morrow I will tell her all, and make her the judge.” But in the morning her bright face crushed his purpose by the fear of clouding it. His limbs got strong and his heart got weak; and they used to take walks; and her head came near his shoulder; and the path of duty began to be set thicker than ever with thorns, and the path of love with primroses. One day she made him sit to her for his portrait; and, under 365 cover of artistic enthusiasm, told him his beard was godlike, and nothing in the world could equal it for beauty; she never saw but one at all like it, poor Mr. Seaton’s; but even that was very inferior to his: and then she dismissed the sitter. “Poor thing,” said she, “you are pale and tired.” And she began to use ornaments, took her bracelets out of her bag, and picked pearls out of her walls, and made a coronet, under which her eyes flashed at night with superlative beauty, conscious beauty admired and looked at by the eye she desired to please.

She revered him. He had improved her character, and she knew it, and often told him so. “Call me Hazelia,” she said; “make me liker you, still.”

One day he came suddenly through the jungle and found her reading her prayer-book.

He took it from her, not meaning to be rude neither, but inquisitive.

It was open at the marriage-service, and her cheeks were dyed scarlet.

His heart panted. He was a clergyman: he could read that service over them both.

Would it be a marriage?

Not in England; but in some countries it would. Why not in this? This was not England.

He looked up. Her head was averted; she was downright distressed.

He was sorry to have made her blush; so he took her hand and kissed it tenderly, so tenderly, that his heart seemed to go into his lips. She thrilled under it, and her white brow sank upon his shoulder.

The sky was a vault of purple with a flaming topaz in the centre; the sea, a heavenly blue; the warm air breathed heavenly odors; naming macaws wheeled overhead; humming-birds, more gorgeous than any flower, buzzed round their heads, and amazed the eye with delight, then cooled 366 it with the deep green of the jungle into which they dived.

It was a Paradise, with the sun smiling down on it, and the ocean smiling up, and the air impregnated with love. Here they were both content now to spend the rest of their days—

“The world forgetting; by the world forgot.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLV

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Arthur Wardlaw in that boat, searching for her
text has seaching

his beard was godlike, and nothing in the world could equal it for beauty; she never saw but one at all like it, poor Mr. Seaton’s
[That answers that question. Helen’s wits seem to wax and wane.]

humming-birds, more gorgeous than any flower, buzzed round their heads
[I don’t think so. There are two species of hummingbird on the Juan Fernandez islands, but Godsend Island is much further into the Pacific.]

367

CHAPTER XLVI.

The Springbok arrived in due course at longitude 103° 30’, but saw no island. This was dispiriting; but still Captain Moreland did not despair.

He asked General Rolleston to examine the writing carefully, and tell him was that Miss Rolleston’s handwriting.

The general shook his head sorrowfully.

“No,” said he; “it is nothing like my child’s hand.”

“Why, all the better,” said Captain Moreland; “the lady has got somebody about her who knows a thing or two. The man that could catch wild ducks and turn ’em into postmen, could hit on the longitude somehow; and he doesn’t pretend to be exact in the latitude.”

Upon this he ran northward four hundred miles; which took him three days; for they stopped at night.

No island.

He then ran south five hundred miles; stopping at night.

No island.

Then he took the vessel zigzag.

Just before sunset, one lovely day, the man at the mast-head sang out:

“On deck there!”

“Hullo!”

“Something in sight; on our weather-bow.”

“What is it?”

“Looks like a mast. No. Don’t know what it is.”

“Point.”

The sailor pointed with his finger.

368

Captain Moreland ordered the ship’s course to be altered accordingly. By this time, General Rolleston was on deck. The ship ran two miles on the new course; and all this time the topman’s glass was levelled, and the crew climbed about the rigging, all eyes and ears.

At last the clear hail came down.

“I can make it out now, sir.”

“What is it?”

“It is a palm-tree.”

The captain jumped on a gun, and waved his hat grandly, and instantly the vessel rang with a lusty cheer; and, for once, sailors gabbled like washerwomen.

They ran till they saw the island in the moonlight, and the giant palm, black, and sculptured out of the violet sky; then they set the lead going, and it warned them not to come too close. They anchored off the west coast.

At daybreak, they moved slowly on, still sounding as they went; and, rounding the west point, General Rolleston saw written on the guanoed rocks in large letters:—

AN ENGLISH LADY WRECKED HERE.
HASTE TO HER RESCUE.

He and Moreland shook hands; and how their eyes glistened!

Presently there was a stranger inscription still upon the rocks—a rough outline of the island on an enormous scale, showing the coast-line, the reefs, the shallow water, and the deep water.

“Ease her! Stop her!”

The captain studied this original chart with his glass, and crept slowly on for the west passage.

369

But warned by the soundings marked on the rock, he did not attempt to go through the passage, but came to an anchor and lowered his boat.

The sailors were all on the qui vive to land; but the captain, to their infinite surprise, told them only three persons would land that morning—himself, his son, and General Rolleston.

The fact is, this honest captain had got a misgiving, founded on a general view of human nature. He expected to find the girl with two or three sailors, one of them united to her by some nautical ceremony, duly witnessed, but such as a military officer of distinction could hardly be expected to approve. He got into the boat in a curious state of delight, dashed with uncomfortable suspense; and they rowed gently for the west passage.

As for General Rolleston, now it was he needed all his fortitude. Suppose the lady was not Helen! After all, the chances were against her being there. Suppose she was dead and buried in that island! Suppose that fatal disease, with which she had sailed, had been accelerated by hardships, and Providence permitted him only to receive her last sigh. All these misgivings crowded on him the moment he drew so near the object, which had looked all brightness, so long as it was unattainable. He sat, pale and brave, in the boat; but his doubts and fears were greater than his hope.

They rounded Telegraph Point, and in a moment Paradise Bay burst upon them, and Hazel’s boat within a hundred yards of them. It was half tide. They beached the boat, and General Rolleston landed. Captain Moreland grasped his hand, and said, “Call us if it is all right.”

General Rolleston returned the pressure of that honest hand, and marched up the beach just as if he were going into action.

370

He came to the boat. It had an awning over the stern, and was clearly used as a sleeping-place. A series of wooden pipes standing on uprights, led from this up to the cliff. The pipes were in fact mere sections of the sago tree with the soft pith driven out. As this was manifestly a tube of communication, General Rolleston followed it until he came to a sort of veranda with a cave opening on it; he entered the cave, and was dazzled by its most unexpected beauty. He seemed to be in a gigantic nautilus. Roof and sides, and the very chimney, were one blaze of mother-of-pearl. But, after the first start, brighter to him was an old shawl he saw on a nail; for that showed it was a woman’s abode. He tore down the old shawl and carried it to the light. He recognized it as Helen’s. Her rugs were in a corner; he rushed in and felt them all over with trembling hands. They were still warm, though she had left her bed some time. He came out wild with joy, and shouted to Moreland, “She is alive! She is alive! She is alive!” Then fell on his knees and thanked God.

A cry came down to him from above; he looked up as he knelt, and there was a female figure dressed in white, stretching out its hands as if it would fly down to him. Its eyes gleamed; he knew them all that way off. He stretched out his hands as eloquently, and then he got up to meet her; but the stout soldier’s limbs were stiffer than of old; and he got up so slowly, that, ere he could take a step, there came flying to him with little screams and inarticulate cries, no living skeleton, nor consumptive young lady, but a grand creature, tanned here and there, rosy as the morn, and full of lusty vigor; a body all health, strength, and beauty, a soul all love. She flung herself all over him in a moment, with cries of love unspeakable; and then it was, “Oh, my darling! my darling! Oh, my own, own! Ha! ha! ha! ha! 371 Oh! oh! oh! oh! Is it you? is it? can it! Papa! papa!” then little convulsive hands patting him and feeling his beard and shoulders; then a sudden hail of violent kisses on his head, his eyes, his arms, his hands, his knees. Then a stout soldier, broken down by this, and sobbing for joy. “Oh, my child! My flesh and blood! Oh! oh! oh!” Then all manhood melted away, except paternity; and a father turned mother, and clinging, kissing, and rocking to and fro with his child, and both crying for joy as if their hearts would burst.

A sight for angels to look down at and rejoice.

But what mortal pen could paint it?

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLVI

a grand creature, tanned here and there, rosy as the morn, and full of lusty vigor
[Don’t worry, General. Just get Helen back to England, and she will soon revert to her former ladylike feebleness.]

372

CHAPTER XLVII.

They gave a long time to pure joy before either of them cared to put questions or compare notes. But at last he asked her, “Who was on the island beside her?”

“Oh,” said she, “only my guardian angel. Poor Mr. Welch died the first week we were here.”

He parted the hair on her brow and kissed it tenderly.

“And who is your guardian angel?”

“Why, you are now, my own papa: and well you have proved it. To think of your being the one to come at your age!”

“Well, never mind me. Who has taken such care of my child?—this the sick girl they frightened me about!”

“Indeed, papa, I was a dying girl. My very hand was wasted. Look at it now; brown as a berry, but so plump; you owe that to him: and, papa, I can walk twenty miles without fatigue: and so strong; I could take you up in my arms and carry you, I know. But I am content to eat you.” (A shower of kisses.) “I hope you will like him.”

“My own Helen. Ah! I am a happy old man this day. What is his name?”

“Mr. Hazel. He is a clergyman. Oh, papa, I hope you will like him, for he has saved my life more than once: and then he has been so generous, so delicate, so patient; for I used him very ill at first: and you will find my character as much improved as my health: and all owing to Mr. Hazel. He is a clergyman: and, oh, 373 so good, so humble, so clever, so self-denying! Ah! how can I ever repay him?”

“Well, I shall be glad to see this paragon, and shake him by the hand. You may imagine what I feel to any one that is kind to my darling. An old gentleman? About my age?”

“Oh no, papa.”

“Hum!”

“If he had been old I should not be here; for he has had to fight for me against cruel men with knives: and work like a horse. He built me a hut, and made me this cave, and almost killed himself in my service. Poor Mr. Hazel!”

“How old is he?”

“Dearest papa, I never asked him that: but I think he is four or five years older than me, and a hundred years better than I shall ever be, I am afraid. What is the matter, darling?”

“Nothing, child, nothing.”

“Don’t tell me. Can’t I read your dear face?”

“Come, let me read yours. Look me in the face, now; full.”

He took her by the shoulders, firmly, but not the least roughly, and looked straight into her hazel eyes. She blushed at this ordeal, blushed scarlet; but her eyes, pure as Heaven, faced his fairly, though with a puzzled look.

He concluded this paternal inspection by kissing her on the brow. “I was an old fool,” he muttered.

“What do you say, dear papa?”

“Nothing, nothing. Kiss me again. Well, love, you had better find this guardian angel of yours, that I may take him by the hand and give him a father’s blessing, and make him some little return by carrying him home to England along with my darling.”

374

“I’ll call him, papa. Where can he be gone, I wonder?”

She ran out to the terrace and called:

“Mr. Hazel! Mr. Hazel! I don’t see him; but he can’t be far off. Mr. Hazel!”

Then she came back and made her father sit down: and she sat at his knee, beaming with delight.

“Ah, papa,” said she, “it was you who loved me best in England. It was you that came to look for me.”

“No,” said he, “there are others there that love you as well in their way. Poor Wardlaw! on his sick-bed for you, cut like a flower the moment he heard you were lost in the Proserpine. Ah, and I have broken faith.”

“That is a story,” said Helen; “you couldn’t.”

“For a moment, I mean; I promised the dear old man—he furnished the ship, the men, and the money, to find you. He says you are as much his daughter as mine.”

“Well, but what did you promise him?” said Helen, blushing and interrupting hastily, for she could not bear the turn matters were now taking.

“Oh, only to give you the second kiss from Arthur. Come, better late than never.” She knelt before him and put out her forehead instead of her lips. “There,” said the general, “that kiss is from Arthur Wardlaw, your intended. Why, who the deuce is this?”

A young man was standing wonder-struck at the entrance, and had heard the general’s last words; they went through him like a knife. General Rolleston stared at him.

Helen uttered an ejaculation of pleasure, and said, “This is my dear father, and he wants to thank you—”

“I don’t understand this,” said the general. “I thought you told me there was nobody on the island but you and your guardian angel. Did you count this 375 poor fellow for nobody? Why, he did you a good turn once.”

“Oh, papa!” said Helen reproachfully. “Why, this is my guardian angel. This is Mr. Hazel.”

The general looked from one to another in amazement, then he said to Helen, “This your Mr. Hazel?”

“Yes, papa.”

“Why, you don’t mean to tell me you don’t know this man?”

“Know him, papa! why, of course I know Mr. Hazel; know him and revere him, beyond all the world, except you.”

The general lost patience. “Are you out of your senses?” said he; “this man here is no Hazel. Why, this is James Seaton—our gardener—a ticket-of-leave man.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLVII

All corrections in this chapter were verified from Once a Week.

“Why, you are now, my own papa
comma after “now” missing

But I am content to eat you.”
close quote missing

he has had to fight for me against cruel men with knives
word “for” missing

376

CHAPTER XLVIII.

 
 

THIS fearful insult Helen drew back from her father with a cry of dismay, and then moved towards Hazel with her hands extended, as if to guard him from another blow, and at the same time deprecate his resentment. But then she saw his dejected attitude; and she stood confounded, looking from one to the other.

“I knew him in a moment by his beard,” said the general, coolly.

“Ah!” cried Helen, and stood transfixed. She glared at Hazel and his beard with dilating eyes, and began to tremble.

Then she crept back to her father and held him tight; but still looked over her shoulder at Hazel with dilating eyes and paling cheek.

As for Hazel, his deportment all this time went far towards convicting him; he leaned against the side of the cave, and hung his head in silence: and his face was ashy pale. When General Rolleston saw his deep distress, and the sudden terror and repugnance the revelation seemed to create in his daughter’s mind, he felt sorry he had gone so far, and said, “Well, well; it is not for me to judge you harshly; for you have laid me under a deep obligation: and, after all, I can see good reasons why you should conceal your name from other people. But you ought to have told my daughter the truth.”

Helen interrupted him; or rather, she seemed unconscious he was speaking. She had never for an instant taken her eye off the culprit: and now she spoke to him:

377

“Who, and what, are you, sir?”

“My name is Robert Penfold.”

“Penfold!—Seaton!” cried Helen. “Alias upon alias!” And she turned to her father in despair. Then to Hazel again, “Are you what papa says?”

“I am.”

“Oh, papa! papa!” cried Helen, “then there is no truth nor honesty in all the world.” And she turned her back on Robert Penfold, and cried and sobbed upon her father’s breast.

Oh, the amazement and anguish of that hour! The pure affection and reverence, that would have blessed a worthy man, wasted on a convict! Her heart’s best treasures flung on a dunghill! This is a woman’s greatest loss on earth. And Helen sank, and sobbed under it.

General Rolleston, whose own heart was fortified, took a shallow view of the situation; and, moreover, Helen’s face was hidden on his bosom; and what he saw was Hazel’s manly and intelligent countenance, pale, and dragged with agony and shame.

“Come, come,” he said gently, “don’t cry about it; it is not your fault: and don’t be too hard on the man; you told me he had saved your life.”

“Would he had not!” said the sobbing girl.

“There, Seaton,” said the general. “Now you see the consequences of deceit: it wipes out the deepest obligations.” He resumed, in a different tone, “But not with me. This is a woman: but I am a man, and know how a bad man could have abused the situation in which I found you two.”

“Not worse than he has done,” cried Helen.

“What do you tell me, girl!” said General Rolleston, beginning to tremble in his turn.

“What could he do worse than steal my esteem and 378 veneration, and drag my heart’s best feelings in the dirt? Oh, where—where—can I ever look for a guide, instructor, and faithful friend, after this? He seemed all truth; and he is all a lie: the world is all a lie: would I could leave it this moment!”

“This is all romantic nonsense,” said General Rolleston, beginning to be angry. “You are a little fool, and, in your ignorance and innocence, have no idea how well this young fellow has behaved on the whole. I tell you what; in spite of this one fault, I should like to shake him by the hand. I will, too: and then admonish him afterwards.”

“You shall not. You shall not,” cried Helen, seizing him almost violently by the arm. “You take him by the hand! A monster! How dare you steal into my esteem! How dare you be a miracle of goodness, self-denial, learning, and every virtue that a lady might worship, and thank God for, when all the time you are a vile, convicted—”

“I’ll thank you not to say that word,” said Hazel, firmly.

“I’ll call you what you are, if I choose,” said Helen, defiantly. But for all that she did not do it. She said piteously, “What offence had I ever given you? What crime had I ever committed, that you must make me the victim of this diabolical deceit? Oh, sir, what powers of mind you have wasted to achieve this victory over a poor unoffending girl! What was your motive? What good could come of it to you? He won’t speak to me. He is not even penitent. Sullen and obstinate! He shall be taken to England, and well punished for it. Papa, it is your duty.”

“Helen,” said the general, “you ladies are rather too fond of hitting a man when he is down. And you speak daggers, as the saying is; and then wish you had bitten 379 your tongue off sooner. You are my child, but you are also a British subject; and, if you charge me on my duty to take this man to England and have him imprisoned, I must. But, before you go that length, you had better hear the whole story.”

“Sir,” said Robert Penfold, quietly, “I will go back to prison this minute, if she wishes it.”

“How dare you interrupt papa?” said Helen, haughtily, but with a great sob.

“Come, come,” said the general, “be quiet, both of you, and let me say my say. (To Robert.) You had better turn your head away, for I am a straightforward man, and I’m going to show her you are not a villain, but a madman. This Robert Penfold wrote me a letter, imploring me to find him some honest employment, however menial. That looked well; and I made him my gardener. He was a capital gardener; but one fine day he caught sight of you. You are a very lovely girl; though you don’t seem to know it; and he is a madman; and he fell in love with you.” Helen uttered an ejaculation of great surprise. The general resumed, “He can only have seen you at a distance, or you would recognize him; but (really it is laughable) he saw you somehow, though you did not see him, and— Well, his insanity hurt himself, and did not hurt you. You remember how he suspected burglars, and watched night after night under your window. That was out of love for you. His insanity took the form of fidelity and humble devotion. He got a wound for his pains, poor fellow! and you made Arthur Wardlaw get him a clerk’s place.”

“Arthur Wardlaw!” cried Seaton. “Was it to him I owed it?” and he groaned aloud.

Said Helen, “He hates poor Arthur, his benefactor.” Then to Penfold, “If you are that James Seaton, you received a letter from me.”

380

“I did,” said Penfold; and putting his hand in his bosom he drew out a letter and showed it to her.

“Let me see it,” said Helen.

“Oh, no! don’t take this from me, too,” said he, piteously.

General Rolleston continued. “The day you sailed he disappeared; and I am afraid not without some wild idea of being in the same ship with you. This was very reprehensible. Do you hear, young man? But what is the consequence? you get shipwrecked together, and the young madman takes such care of you that I find you well and hearty, and calling him your guardian angel. And, another thing to his credit, he has set his wits to work to restore you to the world. These ducks, one of which brings me here! Of course it was he who contrived that, not you. Young man, you must learn to look things in the face; this young lady is not of your sphere, to begin; and, in the next place, she is engaged to Mr. Arthur Wardlaw; and I am come out in his steamboat to take her to him. And as for you, Helen, take my advice, think what most convicts are compared to this one. Shut your eyes entirely to his folly, as I shall; and let you and me think only of his good deeds, and so make him all the return we can. You and I will go on board the steamboat directly; and, when we are there, we can tell Moreland there is somebody else on the island.” He then turned to Penfold, and said, “My daughter and I will keep in the after-part of the vessel, and anybody that likes can leave the ship at Valparaiso. Helen, I know it is wrong; but what can I do?—I am so happy. You are alive and well: how can I punish or afflict a human creature to-day? and, above all, how can I crush this unhappy young man, without whom I should never have seen you again in this world? My daughter! my dear lost child!” and 381 he held her at arm’s length and gazed at her, and then drew her to his bosom, and for him Robert Penfold ceased to exist, except as a man that had saved his daughter.

“Papa,” said Helen, after a long pause, “just make him tell me why he could not trust to me. Why, he passed himself off to me for a clergyman.”

“I am a clergyman,” said Robert Penfold.

“Oh!” said Helen, shocked to find him so hardened, as she thought. She lifted her hands to heaven, and the tears streamed from her eyes. “Well, sir,” said she, faintly. “I see I cannot reach your conscience. One question more, and then I have done with you forever. Why, in all these months that we have been alone, and that you have shown me the nature, I don’t say of an honest man, but of an angel—yes, papa, of an angel—why could you not show me one humble virtue, sincerity? It belongs to a man. Why could you not say, ‘I have committed one crime in my life, but repented forever; judge by this confession, and by what you have seen of me, whether I shall ever commit another. Take me as I am, and esteem me as a penitent and more worthy man; but I will not deceive you and pass for a paragon.’ Why could you not say as much as this to me? If you loved me, why deceive me so cruelly?”

These words, uttered no longer harshly, but in a mournful, faint, despairing voice, produced an effect the speaker little expected. Robert Penfold made two attempts to speak, but, though he opened his mouth, and his lips quivered, he could get no word out. He began to choke with emotion; and, though he shed no tears, the convulsion, that goes with weeping in weaker natures, overpowered him in a way that was almost terrible.

“Confound it!” said General Rolleston; “this is 382 monstrous of you, Helen; it is barbarous. You are not like your poor mother.”

She was pale and trembling, and the tears flowing; but she showed her native obstinacy. She said, hoarsely, “Papa, you are blind. He must answer me. He knows he must!”

“I must,” said Robert Penfold, gasping still. Then he manned himself by a mighty effort, and repeated with dignity, “I will.”

There was a pause while the young man still struggled for composure and self-command.

“Was I not often on the point of telling you my sad story? Then is it fair to say that I should never have told it you? But, oh! Miss Rolleston, you don’t know what agony it may be to an unfortunate man to tell the truth. There are accusations so terrible, so defiling, that, when a man has proved them false, they still stick to him and soil him. Such an accusation I labor under, and a judge and jury have branded me. If they had called me a murderer I would have told you; but that is such a dirty crime. I feared the prejudices of the world. I dreaded to see your face alter to me. Yes, I trembled, and hesitated, and asked myself whether a man is bound to repeat a foul slander against himself, even when thirteen shallow men have said it, and made the lie law.”

“There,” said General Rolleston, “I thought how it would be, Helen; you have tormented him into defending himself, tooth and nail; so now we shall have the old story; he is innocent; I never knew a convict that wasn’t, if he found a fool to listen to him. I decline to hear another word; you needn’t excuse yourself for changing your name; I excuse it, and that is enough. But the boat is waiting, and we can’t stay to hear you justify a felony.”

“I am not a felon. I am a martyr.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLVIII

Chapters XLVIII-XLIX originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 18 (2 May 1868), numbered as Chapters LI-LII.

and the sudden terror and repugnance the revelation seemed to create in his daughter’s mind
text has and sudden terror
[Missing word “the” supplied from Once a Week.]

383

CHAPTER XLIX.

Robert Penfold drew himself up to his full height, and uttered these strange words with a sad majesty that was very imposing. But General Rolleston, steeled by experience of convicts, their plausibility, and their histrionic powers, was staggered only for a moment. He deigned no reply, but told Helen that Captain Moreland was waiting for her, and she had better go on board at once.

She stood like a statue.

“No, papa, I’ll not turn my back on him till I know whether he is a felon or a martyr.”

“My poor child, has he caught you at once with a clever phrase? A judge and a jury have settled that.”

“They settled it as you would settle it, by refusing to hear me.”

“Have I refused to hear you?” said Helen. “What do I care for steamboats and captains? If I stay here to all eternity, I’ll know from your own lips and your own face, whether you are a felon or a martyr. It is no phrase, papa. He is a felon, or a martyr; and I am a most unfortunate girl, or else a base, disloyal one.”

“Fiddle-dee,” said General Rolleston, angrily. Then looking at his watch: “I give you five minutes to humbug us in—if you can.”

Robert Penfold sighed patiently. But from that moment he ignored General Rolleston, and looked to Helen only. And she fixed her eyes upon his face with a tenacity and an intensity of observation, that surpassed anything he had ever seen in his life. It dazzled him; but it did not dismay him.

384

“Miss Rolleston,” said he, “my history can be told in the time my prejudiced judge allows me. I am a clergyman, and a private tutor at Oxford. One of my pupils was—Arthur Wardlaw. I took an interest in him because my father, Michael Penfold, was in Wardlaw’s employ. This Arthur Wardlaw had a talent for mimicry; he mimicked one of the college officers publicly and offensively, and that would have ruined his immediate prospects; for his father is just but stern. I fought hard for him, and, being myself popular with the authorities, I got him off. He was grateful, or seemed to be, and we became greater friends than ever. We confided in each other; he told me he was in debt in Oxford, and much alarmed lest it should reach his father’s ears, and lose him the promised partnership; I told him I was desirous to buy a small living near Oxford, which was then vacant; but I had only saved four hundred pounds, and the price was a thousand pounds; I had no means of raising the balance. Then he said, ‘Borrow two thousand pounds of my father; give me fourteen hundred of it, and take your own time to repay the six hundred pounds. I shall be my father’s partner in a month or two,’ said he; ’you can pay us back by instalments.’ I thought this very kind of him. I did not want the living for myself, but to give my dear father certain comforts, and country air every week; he needed it; he was born in the country. Well, I came to London about this business: and a stranger called on me, and said he came from Mr. Arthur Wardlaw, who was not well enough to come himself. He produced a note of hand for two thousand pounds, signed John Wardlaw, and made me indorse it, and told me where to get it cashed; he would come next day for Arthur Wardlaw’s share of the money. Well, I suspected no ill; would you? I went and got the note discounted, 385 and locked the money up: it was not my money: the greater part was Arthur Wardlaw’s. That same evening a policeman called, and asked several questions, which of course I answered. He then got me out of the house on some pretence, and arrested me as a forger.”

“Oh!” cried Helen.

“I forgot the clergyman: I was a gentleman, and a man, insulted, and I knocked the officer down directly. But his myrmidons overpowered me. I was tried at the Central Criminal Court on two charges. First, the Crown (as they call the attorney that draws the indictment) charged me with forging the note of hand; and then with not forging it, but passing it, well knowing that somebody else had forged it. Well, Undercliff, the expert, swore positively that the forged note was not written by me; and the Crown, as they call it, was defeated on that charge; but being proved a liar in a court of justice did not abash my accuser; the second charge was pressed with equal confidence. The note, you are to understand, was forged: that admits of no doubt: and I passed it; the question was whether I passed it knowing it to be forged. How was that to be determined? And here it was that my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, destroyed me. Of course, as soon as I was put in prison, I wrote and sent to Arthur Wardlaw. Would you believe it? he would not come to me. He would not even write. Then as the time drew near, I feared he was a traitor. I treated him like one. I told my solicitor to drag him into court as my witness, and make him tell the truth. The clerk went down accordingly, and found he kept his doors always locked; but the clerk outwitted him, and served him with the subpœna in his bedroom, before he could crawl under the bed. But he baffled us at last: he never appeared in the witness-box; and, when my counsel asked the 386 court to imprison him, his father swore he could not come: he was dying, and all out of sympathy with me. Fine sympathy! that closed the lips, and concealed the truth; one syllable of which would have saved his friend and benefactor from a calamity worse than death. Is the truth poison, that to tell it makes a sick man die? Is the truth hell, that a dying man refuses to speak it? How can a man die better than speaking the truth? How can he die worse than withholding it? I believe his sickness and his death were lies like himself. For want of one word from Arthur Wardlaw, to explain that I had every reason to expect a note of hand from him, the jury condemned me. They were twelve honest, but shallow men—invited to go inside another man’s bosom and guess what was there. They guessed that I knew and understood a thing, which to this hour I neither know nor understand, by God.”

He paused a moment, then resumed,—

“I believe they founded their conjecture on my knocking down the officer. There was a reason for you! Why, forgers and their confederates are reptiles, and have no fight in them. Experience proves this. But these twelve men did not go by experience. They guessed, like babies, and, after much hesitation, condemned me; but recommended me to mercy. Mercy! What mercy did I deserve? Either I was innocent, or hanging was too good for me. No: in their hearts they doubted my guilt; and their doubt took that timid form, instead of acquitting me. I was amazed at the verdict, and asked leave to tell the judge why Arthur Wardlaw had defied the court, and absented himself as my witness. Had the judge listened for one minute, he would have seen I was innocent. But no. I was in England, where the mouth of the accused is stopped, if he is fool enough to employ counsel. The judge stopped my mouth, as your 387 father just now tried to stop it; and they branded me as a felon.

“Up to that moment my life was honorable and worthy. Since that moment I have never wronged a human creature. Men pass from virtue to vice, from vice to crime; this is the ladder a soul goes down; but you are invited to believe that I jumped from innocence into a filthy felony, and then jumped back again none the worse, and was a gardener that fought for his employer, and a lover that controlled his passion. It is a lie. A lie that ought not to take in a child. But prejudice degrades a man below the level of a child. I’ll say no more: my patience is exhausted by wrongs and insults. I am as honest a man as ever breathed, and the place where we stand is mine, for I made it. Leave it and me this moment. Go to England, and leave me where the animals, more reasonable than you, have the sense to see my real character. I’ll not sail in the same ship with any man, nor any woman either, who can look me in the face, and take me for a felon.”

He swelled and towered with the just wrath of an honest man driven to bay; and his eye shot black lightning. He was sublime.

Helen cowered; but her spirited old father turned red, and said, haughtily, “We take you at your word, and leave you, you insolent vagabond. Follow me this instant, Helen!”

And he marched out of the cavern in a fury.

But, instead of following him, Helen stood stock-still and cowered, and cowered till she seemed sinking forward to the ground, and she got hold of Robert Penfold’s hand, and kissed it, and moaned over it.

“Martyr! Martyr!” she whispered, and still kissed his hand, like a slave offering her master pity, and asking pardon.

388

“Martyr! Martyr! Every word is true—true as my love.”

In this attitude, and with these words on her lips, they were surprised by General Rolleston, who came back, astonished at his daughter not following him. Judge of his amazement now.

“What does this mean?” he cried, turning pale with anger.

“It means that he has spoken the truth, and that I shall imitate him. He is my martyr and my love. When others cast shame on you, then it is time for me to show my heart. James Seaton, I love you for your madness, and your devotion to her whom you had only seen at a distance. Ah! that was love. John Hazel, I love you for all that has passed between us. What can any other man be to me? or woman to you? But most of all, I love you, Robert Penfold,—my hero and my martyr. When I am told to your face that you are a felon, then to your face I say you are my idol, my hero, and my martyr. Love! the word is too tame, too common. I worship you: I adore you. How beautiful you are when you are angry! How noble you are now you forgive me; for you do forgive me, Robert; you must, you shall. No; you will not send your Helen away from you, for her one fault so soon repented. Show me you forgive me; show me you love me still, almost as much as I love you. He is crying. Oh, my darling! my darling! my darling!” And she was round his neck in a moment, with tears and tender kisses, the first she had ever given him.

Ask yourself whether they were returned.

A groan, or rather we might say, a snort of fury, interrupted the most blissful moment either of these young creatures had ever known. It came from General Rolleston, now white with wrath and horror.

389

“You villain!” he cried.

Helen threw herself upon him, and put her hand before his mouth.

“Not a word more, or I shall forget I am your daughter. No one is to blame but I. I love him. I made him love me. He has been trying hard not to love me so much. But I am a woman; and could not deny myself the glory and the joy of being loved better than woman was ever loved before. And so I am; I am. Kill me, if you like; insult me, if you will: but not a word against him, or I give him my hand, and we live and die together on this island. Oh, papa! he has often saved that life you value so; and I have saved his. He is all the world to me. Have pity on your child! Have pity on him who carries my heart in his bosom!”

She flung herself on her knees, and strained him tight, and implored him, with head thrown back, and little clutching hands, and eloquent eyes.

Ah! it is hard to resist the voice and look and clinging of a man’s own flesh and blood. Children are so strong—upon their knees: their dear faces, bright copies of our own, are just the height of our hearts then.

The old man was staggered, was almost melted. “Give me a moment to think,” said he, in a broken voice. “This blow takes my breath away.”

Helen rose and laid her head upon her father’s shoulder, and still pleaded for her love by her soft touch and her tears that now flowed freely.

He turned to Penfold with all the dignity of age and station. “Mr. Penfold,” said he, with grave politeness, “after what my daughter has said, I must treat you as a man of honor, or I must insult her. Well then, I expect you to show me you are what she thinks you, and are not what a court of justice has proclaimed you. Sir, this young lady is engaged with her own free will to a gentleman 390 who is universally esteemed, and has never been accused to his face of an unworthy act. Relying on her plighted word, the Wardlaws have fitted out a steamer and searched the Pacific, and found her. Can you, as a man of honor, advise her to stay here and compromise her own honor in every way? Ought she to break faith with her betrothed on account of vague accusations made behind his back?”

“It was only in self-defence I accused Mr. Arthur Wardlaw,” said Robert Penfold.

General Rolleston resumed.

“You said just now there are accusations which soil a man. If you were in my place, would you let your daughter marry a man of honor, who had unfortunately been found guilty of a felony?”

Robert groaned and hesitated, but he said, “No.”

“Then what is to be done? She must either keep her plighted word, or else break it. For whom? For a gentleman she esteems and loves, but cannot marry. A leper may be a saint; but I would rather bury my child than marry her to a leper. A convict may be a saint; but I’ll kill her with my own hand sooner than she shall marry a convict: and in your heart and conscience you cannot blame me. Were you a father you would do the same. What then remains for her and me, but to keep faith; and what can you do better, than leave her, and carry away her everlasting esteem and her father’s gratitude? It is no use being good by halves, or bad by halves. You must either be a selfish villain, and urge her to abandon all shame and live here on this island with you forever, or you must be a brave and honest man, and bow to a parting that is inevitable. Consider, sir; your eloquence and her pity have betrayed this young lady into a confession that separates you. Her enforced residence here with you has been innocent. It 391 would be innocent no longer, now she has been so mad as to own she loves you. And I tell you frankly, if after that confession, you insist on going on board the steamer with her, I must take you; humanity requires it; but if I do, I shall hand you over to the law as a convict escaped before his time. Perhaps I ought to do so as it is; but that is not certain: I don’t know to what country this island belongs; I may have no right to capture you in strange dominions; but an English ship is England,—and if you set your foot on the Springbok you are lost. Now then, you are a man of honor; you love my child truly, and not selfishly; you have behaved nobly until to-day; go one step farther on the right road: call worldly honor, and the God whose vows you have taken, sir, to your aid, and do your duty.”

“Oh, man! man!” cried Robert Penfold, “you ask more of me than flesh and blood can bear. What shall I say? What shall I do?”

Helen replied, calmly: “Take my hand, and let us die together, since we cannot live together with honor.”

General Rolleston groaned. “For this, then, I have traversed one ocean, and searched another, and found my child. I am nothing to her—nothing. Oh, who would be a father!” He sat down oppressed with shame and grief, and bowed his stately head in manly but pathetic silence.

“Oh, papa! papa!” cried Helen, “forgive your ungrateful child!” and she kneeled and sobbed, with her forehead on his knees.

Then Robert Penfold, in the midst of his own agony, found room in that great suffering heart of his for pity. He knelt down himself, and prayed for help in this bitter trial. He rose haggard with the struggle, but languid and resigned, like one whose death-warrant has been read.

392

“Sir,” said he, “there is but one way. You must take her home; and I shall stay here.”

“Leave you all alone on this island!” said Helen. “Never! If you stay here, I shall stay to comfort you.”

“I decline that offer. I am beyond the reach of comfort.”

“Think what you do, Robert,” said Helen, with unnatural calmness. “If you have no pity on yourself, have pity on us. Would you rob me of the very life you have taken such pains to save? My poor father will carry nothing to England but my dead body. Long before we reach that country I loved so well, and now hate it for its stupidity and cruelty to you, my soul will have flown back to this island to watch over you, Robert. You bid me abandon you to solitude and despair. Neither of you two love me half as much as I love you both.”

General Rolleston sighed deeply. “If I thought that,” said he—then in a faint voice, “my own courage fails me now. I look into my heart, and I see my child’s life is dearer to me than all the world. She was dying, they say. Suppose I send Moreland to the continent for a clergyman, and marry you. Then you can live on this island forever. Only you must let me live here too: for I could never show my face again in England after acting so dishonorably. It will be a miserable end of a life passed in honor; but I suppose it will not be for long. Shame can kill as quickly as disappointed love.”

“Robert! Robert!” cried Helen in agony.

The martyr saw that he was master of the situation, and must be either base or very noble—there was no middle way. He leaned his head on his hands, and thought with all his might.

“Hush!” said Helen: “he is wiser than we are. Let him speak.”

“If I thought you would pine and die upon the voyage, 393 no power should part us. But you are not such a coward. If my life depended on yours, would you not live?”

“You know I would.”

“When I was wrecked on White Water Island, you played the man. Not one woman in a thousand could have launched a boat, and sailed it with a boat-hook for a mast, and—”

Helen interrupted him. “It was nothing; I loved you. I love you better now.”

“I believe it, and therefore I ask you to rise above your sex once more, and play the man for me. This time it is not my life you are to rescue, but that which is more precious still: my good name.”

“Ah! that would be worth living for,” cried Helen.

“You will find it very hard to do; but not harder for a woman, than to launch a boat, and sail her without a mast. See my father, Michael Penfold. See Undercliff, the expert. See the solicitor—the counsel. Sift the whole story; and above all, find out why Arthur Wardlaw dared not enter the witness-box. Be obstinate as a man; be supple as a woman; and don’t talk of dying, when there is a friend to be rescued from dishonor by living and working.”

“Die! while I can rescue you from death or dishonor! I will not be so base. Ah, Robert, Robert, how well you know me!”

“Yes, I do know you, Helen. I believe that great soul of yours will keep your body strong to do this great work for him you love, and who loves you. And as for me, I am man enough to live for years upon this island, if you will only promise me two things.”

“I promise, then.”

“Never to die, and never to marry Arthur Wardlaw, until you have reversed that lying sentence which has blasted me. Lay your hand on your father’s head, and promise me that.”

394

Helen laid her hand upon her father’s head, and said, “I pledge my honor not to die, if life is possible, and never to marry any man, until I have reversed that lying sentence, which has blasted the angel I love.”

“And I pledge myself to help her,” said General Rolleston, warmly, “for now I know you are a man of honor. I have too often been deceived by eloquence to listen much to that. But now you have proved by your actions what you are. You, pass a forged check, knowing it to be forged! I’d stake my salvation it’s a lie. There’s my hand. God comfort you! God reward you, my noble fellow!”

“I hope He will, sir,” sobbed Robert Penfold. “You are her father; and you take my hand; perhaps that will be sweet to think of by-and-by; but no joy can enter my heart now; it is broken. Take her away at once, sir. Flesh is weak. My powers of endurance are exhausted.”

General Rolleston acted promptly on this advice. He rolled up her rugs, and the things she had made, and Robert had the courage to take them down to the boat. Then he came back, and the general took her bag to the boat.

All this time the girl herself sat wringing her hands in anguish, and not a tear. It was beyond that now.

As he passed Robert, the general said, “Take leave of her alone. I will come for her in five minutes. You see, how sure I feel you are a man of honor.”

When Robert went in, she rose and tottered to him, and fell on his neck. She saw it was the death-bed of their love, and she kissed his eyes, and clung to him. They moaned over each other, and clung to each other, in mute despair.

395

The general came back, and he and Robert took Helen, shivering and fainting, to the boat. As the boat put off, she awoke from her stupor, and put out her hands to Robert with one piercing cry.

They were parted.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLIX

skip to next chapter

I can’t help thinking that Penfold’s narrative would have been more effective if he had carefully withheld the name “Arthur Wardlaw” until the very end, saving it for a final dramatic reveal.

the Crown . . . charged me with forging the note of hand; and then with not forging it, but passing it, well knowing that somebody else had forged it
[Now, wait a minute. You can’t charge a man with two mutually exclusive offences. You have to pick one, and pursue it.]

but being proved a liar in a court of justice did not abash my accuser
text has in a / a court at line break

I believe they founded their conjecture on my knocking down the officer.
[There is a similar line of judicial reasoning in Dorothy Sayers’ Strong Poison. If Harriet Vane is willing to commit the ghastly sin of living with a man without marriage, why would she not also be willing to commit murder?]

Either I was innocent, or hanging was too good for me.
[They couldn’t have hanged him anyway. Forgery ceased to be a capital crime in 1836, as part of the first great wave of criminal reforms. There was further cleaning-up in 1861; did the authors get their legislative reforms mixed up?]

you are invited to believe that I jumped from innocence into a filthy felony, and then jumped back again none the worse
[And why not? That is precisely the premise of Trollope’s Orley Farm.]

She flung herself on her knees, and strained him tight, and implored him, with head thrown back, and little clutching hands
[It all reads like a stage direction, doesn’t it? But in spite of the extreme stageyness of this whole chapter, very little of it made its way into Act II, Scene 4 of the play.]

396

CHAPTER L.

 
 
 

THAT curious compound the human heart, a respectable motive is sometimes connected with a criminal act. And it was so with Joseph Wylie; he had formed an attachment to Nancy Rouse, and her price was two thousand pounds.

This Nancy Rouse was a character. She was General Rolleston’s servant for many years; her place was the kitchen; but she was a woman of such restless activity, and so wanting in the proper pride of a servant, that she would help a housemaid, or a lady’s maid, or do anything almost, except be idle. To use her own words, she was one as couldn’t abide to sit mumchance. That fatal foe to domestic industry, the London Journal, fluttered in vain down her area, for she could not read. She supported a sick mother out of her wages, aided by a few presents of money and clothes from Helen Rolleston, who had a great regard for Nancy, and knew what a hard fight she had to keep a sick woman out of her twenty pounds a year.

In love, Nancy was unfortunate; her buxom looks, and sterling virtues, were balanced by a provoking sagacity, and an irritating habit of speaking her mind. She humbled her lovers’ vanity one after another, and they fled. Her heart smarted more than once.

Nancy was ambitious; and her first rise in life took place as follows: When the Rollestons went to Australia, she had a good cry at parting with Helen; but there was no help for it, she could not leave her mother. However, she told Helen she could not stomach any other service, 397 and, since she must be parted, was resolved to better herself. This phrase is sometimes drolly applied by servants, because they throw Independence into the scale. In Nancy’s case it meant setting up as a washerwoman. Helen opened her hazel eyes with astonishment at this, the first round in the ladder of Nancy’s ambition; however, she gave her ten pounds, and thirty introductions, twenty-five of which missed fire, and with the odd five Nancy set up her tub in the suburbs, and by her industry, geniality, and frugality, got on tolerably well. In due course she rented a small house backed by a small green, and advertised for a gentleman lodger. She soon got one; and soon got rid of him. However, she was never long without one.

Nancy met Joseph Wylie in company; and, as sailors are brisk wooers, he soon became her acknowledged suitor, and made some inroad into her heart, though she kept on the defensive, warned by past experience.

Wylie’s love-making had a droll feature about it; it was most of it carried on in the presence of three washerwomen, because Nancy had no time to spare from her work, and Wylie had no time to lose in his wooing, being on shore for a limited period. And this absence of superfluous delicacy on his part gave him an unfair advantage over the tallow-chandler’s foreman, his only rival at present. Many a sly thrust, and many a hearty laugh, from his female auditors, greeted his amorous eloquence; but, for all that, they sided with him, and Nancy felt her importance, and brightened along with her mates at the sailor’s approach, which was generally announced by a cheerful hail. He was good company, to use Nancy’s own phrase, and she accepted him as a sweetheart on probation. But, when Mr. Wylie urged her to marry him, she demurred, and gave a string of reasons, all of which the sailor and his allies, the subordinate washerwomen, combated in full conclave.

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Then she spoke out, “My lad, the wash-tub is a saddle as won’t carry double. I’ve seen poverty enough in my mother’s house, it sha’n’t come in at my door to drive love out o’ window. Two comes together with just enough for two; next year instead of two they are three, and one of the three can’t work and wants a servant extra, and by and by there is half a dozen, and the money coming in at the spigot and going out at the bung-hole.”

One day, in the middle of his wooing, she laid down her iron, and said, “You come along with me. And I wonder how much work will be done whilst my back is turned, for you three gabbling and wondering whatever I’m going to do with this here sailor.”

She took Wylie a few yards down the street, and showed him a large house with most of the windows broken. “There,” said she, “there’s a sight for a seafaring man. That’s in chancery.”

“Well, it’s better to be there than in H——,” said Wylie, meaning to be sharp.

“Wait till you’ve tried ’em both,” said Nancy.

Then she took him to the back of the house, and showed him a large garden attached to it.

“Now, Joseph,” said she, “I’ve showed you a lodging-house and a drying-ground; and I’m a cook and a clear starcher, and I’m wild to keep lodgers and do for ’em, washing and all. Then, if their foul linen goes out, they follows it: the same if they has their meat from the cook-shop. Four hundred pounds a year lies there a‑waiting for me. I’ve been at them often to let me them premises; but they says no, we have got no horder from the court to let. Which the court would rather see ’em go to rack and ruin for nothing, than let ’em to an honest woman as would pay the rent punctual, and make her penny out of ’em, and nobody none the worse. And to sell them, the price is two thousand pounds, and if I 399 had it I’d give it this minnit; but where are the likes of you and me to get two thousand pounds? But the lawyer he says, ‘Miss Rouse, from you one thousand down, and the rest on mortgige at forty-five pounds the year,’ which it is dirt cheap, I say. So now, my man, when that house is mine, I’m yours. I’m putting by for it o’ my side. If you means all you say, why not save a bit o’ yours? Once I get that house and garden, you needn’t go to sea no more: nor you sha’n’t. If I am to be bothered with a man, let me know where to put my finger on him at all hours, and not lie shivering and shaking at every window as creaks, and him out at sea. And if you are too proud to drive the linen in a light cart, why I could pay a man.” In short, she told him plainly she would not marry till she was above the world; and the road to above the world was through that great battered house and seedy garden, in chancery.

Now it may appear a strange coincidence that Nancy’s price to Wylie was two thousand pounds, and Wylie’s to Wardlaw was two thousand pounds; but the fact is, it was a forced coincidence. Wylie, bargaining with Wardlaw, stood out for two thousand pounds, because that was the price of the house and garden and Nancy.

Now when Wylie returned to England safe after his crime and his perils, he comforted himself with the reflection that Nancy would have her house and garden, and he should have Nancy.

But young Wardlaw lay on his sick bed; his father was about to return to the office, and the gold disguised as copper was ordered up to the cellars in Fenchurch Street. There, in all probability, the contents would be examined ere long, the fraud exposed, and other unpleasant consequences might follow over and above the loss of the promised two thousand pounds.

Wylie felt very disconsolate, and went down to Nancy 400 Rouse depressed in spirits. To his surprise she received him with more affection than ever, and, reading his face in a moment, told him not to fret.

“It will be so in your way of life,” said this homely comforter; “your sort comes home empty-handed one day, and money in both pockets the next. I’m glad to see you home at all, for I’ve been in care about you. You’re very welcome, Joe. If you are come home honest and sober, why that is the next best thing to coming home rich.”

Wylie hung his head and pondered these words; and well he might, for he had not come home either so sober or so honest as he went out, but quite as poor.

However his elastic spirits soon revived in Nancy’s sunshine, and he became more in love with her than ever.

But when, presuming upon her affection, he urged her to marry him, and trust to Providence, she laughed in his face.

“Trust to himprovidence you mean,” said she; “no, no, Joseph. If you are unlucky, I must be lucky, before you and me can come together.”

Then Wylie resolved to have his two thousand pounds at all risks. He had one great advantage over a landsman who has committed a crime; he could always go to sea, and find employment, first in one ship and then in another. Terra firma was not one of the necessaries of life to him.

He came to Wardlaw’s office to feel his way, and talked guardedly to Michael Penfold about the loss of the Proserpine. His apparent object was to give information, his real object was to gather it. He learned that old Wardlaw was very much occupied with fitting out a steamer, that the forty chests of copper had actually come up from the Shannon and were under their feet at that 401 moment, and that young Wardlaw was desperately ill, and never came to the office. Michael had not at that time learned the true cause of young Wardlaw’s illness. Yet Wylie detected that young Wardlaw’s continued absence from the office gave Michael singular uneasiness. The old man fidgeted, and washed the air with his hands, and with simple cunning urged Wylie to go and see him about the Proserpine, and get him to the office, if it was only for an hour or two. “Tell him we are all sixes and sevens, Mr. Wylie; all at sixes and sevens.”

“Well,” said Wylie, affecting a desire to oblige, “give me a line to him, for I’ve been twice and could never get in.”

Michael wrote an earnest line to say that Wardlaw senior had been hitherto much occupied in fitting out the Springbok, but that he was going into the books next week. What was to be done?

The note was received; but Arthur declined to see the bearer. Then Wylie told the servant it was Joseph Wylie, on a matter of life and death. “Tell him I must stand on the staircase and hallo it out, if he won’t hear it any other way.”

This threat obtained his admission to Arthur Wardlaw. The sailor found him on a sofa in a darkened room, pale and worn to a shadow.

“Mr. Wardlaw,” said Wylie, firmly, “you mustn’t think I don’t feel for you; but, sir, we are gone too far to stop, you and me. There are two sides to this business; it is a hundred and fifty thousand pounds for you, and two thousand pounds for me, or it is—”

“What do I care for money now?” groaned Wardlaw. “Let it all go to the devil, who tempted me to destroy her I loved better than money, better than all the world.”

“Well, but hear me out,” said Wylie. “I say it is a hundred and fifty thousand pounds to you, and two thousand 402 pounds to me, or else it is twenty years’ penal servitude to both on us.”

“Penal servitude!” And the words roused the merchant from his lethargy like a shower-bath.

“You know that well enough,” said Wylie. “Why, ’twas a hanging matter a few years ago. Come, come, there are no two ways: you must be a man, or we are undone.”

Fear prevailed in that timorous breast, which even love of money had failed to rouse. Wardlaw sat up, staring wildly, and asked Wylie what he was to do.

“First let me ring for a bottle of that old brandy of yours.”

The brandy was got. Wylie induced him to drink a wineglassful neat, and then to sit at the table, and examine the sailors’ declaration and the log. “I’m no great scholard,” said he. “I warn’t a‑going to lay these before the underwriters, till you had overhauled them. There, take another drop now,—’twill do you good,—while I draw up this thundering blind.”

Thus encouraged and urged, the broken-hearted schemer languidly compared the seaman’s declaration with the log; and, even in his feeble state of mind and body, made an awkward discovery at once.

“Why, they don’t correspond,” said he.

“What don’t correspond?”

“Your men’s statement and the ship’s log. The men speak of one heavy gale after another, in January, and the pumps going; but the log says, ‘A puff of wind from the N.E.’ And here, again, the entry exposes your exaggeration; one branch of our evidence contradicts the other. This comes of trying to prove too much. You must say the log was lost: went down with the ship.”

“How can I?” cried Wylie. “I have told too many I had got it safe at home.”

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“Why did you say that? What madness!”

“Why were you away from your office at such a time? How can I know everything, and do everything? I counted on you for the head-work ashore. Can’t ye think of any way to square the log to that part of our tale? Might paste in a leaf or two, eh?”

“That would be discovered at once. You have committed an irremediable error. What broad strokes this Hudson makes! He must have written with the stump of a quill.”

Wylie received this last observation with a look of contempt for the mind that could put so trivial a question in so great an emergency.

“Are you quite sure poor Hudson is dead?” asked Wardlaw, in a low voice.

“Dead! Don’t I tell you I saw him die!” said Wylie, trembling all of a sudden.

He took a glass of brandy, and sent it flying down his throat.

“Leave the paper with me,” said Arthur, languidly, “and tell Penfold I’ll crawl to the office to-morrow. You can meet me there. I shall see nobody else.”

Wylie called next day at the office, and was received by Penfold, who had now learned the cause of Arthur’s grief, and ushered the visitor in to him with looks of benevolent concern. Arthur was seated like a lunatic, pale and motionless. On the table before him was a roast fowl and a salad, which he had forgotten to eat. His mind appeared to alternate between love and fraud, for, as soon as he saw Wylie, he gave himself a sort of a shake, and handed Wylie the log and the papers.

“Examine them. They agree better with each other now.”

Wylie examined the log, and started with surprise and superstitious terror. “Why, Hiram’s ghost has been 404 here at work!” said he. “It is his very handwriting.”

“Hush!” said Wardlaw; “not so loud. Will it do?”

“The writing will do first-rate; but any one can see this log has never been to sea.”

Inspired by the other’s ingenuity, he then, after a moment’s reflection, emptied the salt-cellar into a plate, and poured a little water over it. He wetted the leaves of the log with this salt water, and dog’s-eared the whole book.

Wardlaw sighed. “See what expedients we are driven to,” said he. He then took a little soot from the chimney, and mixed it with salad-oil. He applied some of this mixture to the parchment cover, rubbed it off, and, by much manipulation, gave it a certain mellow look, as if it had been used by working-hands.

Wylie was armed with these materials, and furnished with money to keep his sailors to their tale, in case of their being examined.

Arthur begged, in his present affliction, to be excused from going personally into the matter of the Proserpine; and said that Penfold had the ship’s log, and the declaration of the survivors, which the insurers could inspect, previously to their being deposited at Lloyds’.

The whole thing wore an excellent face, and nobody found a peg to hang suspicion on so far.

After this preliminary, and the deposit of the papers, nothing was hurried. The merchant, absorbed in his grief, seemed to be forgetting to ask for his money. Wylie remonstrated; but Arthur convinced him they were still on too ticklish ground to show any hurry, without exciting suspicion.

And so passed two weary months, during which Wylie fell out of Nancy Rouse’s good graces for idling about doing nothing.

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“Be you a-waiting for the plum to fall into your mouth, young man?” said she.

The demand was made on the underwriters, and Arthur contrived that it should come from his father. The firm was of excellent repute, and had paid hundreds of insurances without a loss to the underwriters. The Proserpine had foundered at sea. Several lives had been lost; and of the survivors, one had since died, owing to the hardships he had endured. All this betokened a genuine calamity. Nevertheless, one ray of suspicion rested on the case at first. The captain of the Proserpine had lost a great many ships; and, on the first announcement, one or two were resolved to sift the matter on that ground alone. But, when five eye-witnesses, suppressing all mention of the word “drink,” declared that Captain Hudson had refused to leave the vessel, and described his going down with the ship, from an obstinate and too exalted sense of duty, every chink was closed; and, to cut the matter short, the insurance money was paid to the last shilling, and Benson, one of the small underwriters, ruined. Nancy Rouse, who worked for Mrs. Benson, lost eighteen shillings and sixpence, and was dreadfully put out about it.

Wylie heard her lamentations, and grinned; for now his two thousand pounds was as good as in his pocket, he thought. Great was his consternation when Arthur told him that every shilling of the money was forestalled, and that the entire profit of the transaction was yet to come; viz., by the sale of the gold-dust.

“Then sell it,” said Wylie.

“I dare not. The affair must cool down before I can appear as a seller of gold: and even then, I must dribble it out with great caution. Thank Heaven it is no longer in those cellars!”

“Where is it, then?”

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“That is my secret. You will get your two thousand all in good time; and, if it makes you one-tenth part as wretched as it has made me, you will thank me for all these delays.”

At last Wylie lost all patience, and began to show his teeth; and then Arthur Wardlaw paid him his two thousand pounds in forty crisp notes.

He crammed them into a side pocket, and went down triumphant to Nancy Rouse. Through her parlor window he saw the benign countenance of Michael Penfold. He then remembered Penfold had told him, some time before, that he was going to lodge with her, as soon as the present lodger should go.

This, however, rather interrupted Wylie’s design of walking in and chucking the two thousand pounds into Nancy’s lap. On the contrary, he shoved them deeper down in his pocket, and resolved to see the old gentleman to bed, and then produce his pelf, and fix the wedding-day with Nancy.

He came in, and found her crying, and Penfold making weak efforts to console her. The tea-things were on the table, and Nancy’s cup half emptied.

Wylie came in and said, “Why, what is the matter now?”

He said this mighty cheerfully, as one who carried the panacea for all ills in his pocket, and a medicine peculiarly suited to Nancy Rouse’s constitution. But he had not quite fathomed her yet.

As soon as ever she saw him she wiped her eyes, and asked him, grimly, what he wanted there. Wylie stared at the reception, but replied, stoutly, that it was pretty well known by this time what he wanted in that quarter.

“Well, then,” said Nancy, “want will be your master. Why did you never tell me Miss Helen was in that ship? my sweet, dear mistress as was, that I feel for like a 407 mother. You left her to drown, and saved your own great useless carcass, and drownded she is, poor dear. Get out o’ my sight, do.”

“It wasn’t my fault, Nancy,” said Wylie, earnestly. “I didn’t know who she was, and I advised her to come with us; but she would go with that parson chap.”

“What parson chap? What a liar you be! She is Wardlaw’s sweetheart, and don’t care for no parsons. If you didn’t know who was to blame, why didn’t you tell me a word of your own accord? You kept dark. Do you call yourself a man, to leave my poor young lady to shift for herself?”

“She had as good a chance to live as I had,” said Wylie, sullenly.

“No, she hadn’t; you took care o’ yourself. Well, since you are so fond of yourself, keep yourself to yourself, and don’t come here no more. After this, I hate the sight on ye. You are like the black dog in my eyes, and always will be. Poor, dear Miss Helen! Ah, I cried when she left—my mind misgave me; but little I thought she would perish in the salt seas, and all for want of a man in the ship. If you had gone out again after in the steamboat—Mr. Penfold have told me all about it—I’d believe you weren’t so much to blame. But no; lolloping and looking about all day for months. There’s my door, Joe Wylie; I can’t cry comfortable before you, as had a hand in drownding of her. You and me is parted forever. I’ll die as I am, or I’ll marry a man; which you ain’t one, nor nothing like one. Is he waiting for you to hold the door open, Mr. Penfolds? or don’t I speak plain enough? Them as I gave the sack to afore you didn’t want so much telling.”

“Well, I’m going,” said Wylie, sullenly; then, with considerable feeling, “This is hard lines.”

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But Nancy was inexorable, and turned him out, with the two thousand pounds in his pocket.

He took the notes out, and flung them furiously down in the dirt.

Then he did what everybody does under similar circumstances: he picked them up again, and pocketed them along with the other dirt they had gathered.

Next day he went down to the docks, and looked out for a ship; he soon got one, and signed as second mate. She was to sail in a fortnight.

But, before a week was out, the banknotes had told so upon him, that he was no longer game to go to sea. But the captain he had signed with was a Tartar, and not to be trifled with. He consulted a knowing friend, and that friend advised him to disguise himself till the ship had sailed. Accordingly, he rigged himself out with a long coat, and a beard, and spectacles, and hid his sea-slouch as well as he could, and changed his lodgings. Finding he succeeded so well, he thought he might as well have the pleasure of looking at Nancy Rouse, if he could not talk to her. So he actually had the hardihood to take the parlor next door; and by this means he heard her move about in her room, and caught a sight of her at work on her little green; and he was shrewd enough to observe she did not sing and whistle as she used to do. The dog chuckled at that.

His banknotes worried him night and day. He was afraid to put them in a bank, afraid to take them about with him into his haunts; afraid to leave them at home; and out of his perplexity arose some incidents worth relating in their proper order.

Arthur Wardlaw returned to business, but he was a changed man. All zest in the thing was gone. His 409 fraud set him above the world, and that was now enough for him, in whom ambition was dead, and, indeed, nothing left alive in him but deep regrets.

He drew in the horns of speculation, and went on in the old safe routine; and to the restless activity that had jeopardized the firm, succeeded a strange torpidity. He wore black for Helen, and sorrowed without hope. He felt he had offended Heaven, and had met his punishment in Helen’s death.

Wardlaw senior retired to Elmtrees, and seldom saw his son. When they did meet, the old man sometimes whispered hope, but the whisper was faint and unheeded.

One day Wardlaw senior came up express, to communicate a letter to Arthur from General Rolleston, written at Valparaiso. In this letter General Rolleston deplored his unsuccessful search, but said he was going westward, upon the report of a Dutch whaler, who had seen an island reflected in the sky, while sailing between Juan Fernandez and Norfolk Isle.

Arthur only shook his head with a ghastly smile. “She is in heaven,” said he, “and I shall never see her again, neither here nor hereafter.”

Wardlaw senior was shocked at this speech, but he made no reply. He pitied his son too much to criticise the expressions into which his bitter grief betrayed him. He was old, and had seen the triumphs of time over all things human, sorrow included. These, however, as yet, had done nothing for Arthur Wardlaw. At the end of six months his grief was as sombre and as deadly as the first week.

But one day, as this pale figure in deep mourning sat at his table, going listlessly and mechanically through the business of scraping money together for others to enjoy, whose hearts, unlike his, might not be in the grave, his father burst in upon him, with a telegram in 410 his hand, and waved it over his head in triumph. “She is found! she is found!” he roared: “read that!” and thrust the telegram into his hands.

Those hands trembled, and the languid voice rose into shrieks of astonishment and delight, as Arthur read the words, “We have got her alive and well: shall be at Charing Cross Hotel, 8 P.M.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter L

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Chapters L-LI originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 19 (9 May 1868), numbered as Chapters LIII-LIV.

This Nancy Rouse was a character.
[In the stage play, Nancy Rouse is in fact the only female character—apart from Helen Rolleston, of course. I had long since forgotten her existence, but she was named in Chapter VI and makes a longer appearance in Chapter XIV.]

her buxom looks, and sterling virtues, were balanced by a provoking sagacity, and an irritating habit of speaking her mind
[In a mid-Victorian novel, you can see where the latter two attributes would weigh against her.]

an unfair advantage over the tallow-chandler’s foreman
text has tallowchandler’s
[Hyphen supplied from Once a Week.]

Now when Wylie returned to England safe
text has returnd

What broad strokes this Hudson makes! He must have written with the stump of a quill.
[Spoken like an experienced forger, to be sure.]

“Dead! Don’t I tell you I saw him die!” said Wylie
[For variety’s sake, he is telling the truth. Captain Hudson went down with the ship, less out of nobility than because he was too drunk to get away.]

Is he waiting for you to hold the door open, Mr. Penfolds?
[Nancy Rouse’s linguistic flag, which we first saw in Chapter XIV.]

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CHAPTER LI.

Whilst the boat was going to the Springbok, General Rolleston whispered to Captain Moreland; and what he said may be almost guessed from what occurred on board the steamer soon afterwards. Helen was carried trembling to the cabin, and the order was given to heave the anchor and get under way. A groan of disappointment ran through the ship; Captain Moreland expressed the general’s regret to the men, and divided two hundred pounds upon the capstan, and the groan ended in a cheer.

As for Helen’s condition, that was at first mistaken for ill health. She buried herself for two whole days in her cabin; and from that place faint moans were heard now and then. The sailors called her the sick lady.

Heaven knows what she went through in that forty-eight hours.

She came upon deck at last in a strange state of mind and body, restless, strung up, absorbed. The rare vigor she had acquired on the island came out now with a vengeance. She walked the deck with a briskness and a pertinacity that awakened admiration in the crew at first, but by and by superstitious awe. For, while the untiring feet went briskly to and fro over leagues and leagues of plank every day, the great hazel eyes were turned inwards, and the mind, absorbed with one idea, skimmed the men and things about her listlessly.

She had a mission to fulfil, and her whole nature was stringing itself up to do the work.

She walked so many miles a day, partly from excitement, partly with a deliberate resolve to cherish her 412 health and strength. “I may want them both,” said she, “to clear Robert Penfold.” Thought and high purpose shone through her so, that after awhile nobody dared trouble her much with commonplaces. To her father she was always sweet and filial, but sadly cold compared with what she had always been hitherto. He was taking her body to England, but her heart stayed behind upon that island; he saw this, and said it.

“Forgive me,” said she, coldly, and that was all her reply.

Sometimes she had violent passions of weeping: and then he would endeavor to console her: but in vain. They ran their course, and were succeeded by the bodily activity and concentration of purpose they had interrupted for a little while.

At last, after a rapid voyage, they drew near the English coast; and then General Rolleston, who had hitherto spared her feelings, and been most indulgent and considerate, felt it was high time to come to an understanding as to the course they should both pursue.

“Now, Helen,” said he, “about the Wardlaws!”

Helen gave a slight shudder. But she said, after a slight hesitation, “Let me know your wishes.”

“Oh, mine are, not to be too ungrateful to the father, and not to deceive the son.”

“I will not be ungrateful to the father, nor deceive the son,” said Helen, firmly.

The general kissed her brow, and called her his brave girl. “But,” said he, “on the other hand, it must not be published that you have been for eight months on an island alone with a convict. Anything sooner than that. You know the malice of your own sex; if one of the ladies, who kiss you at every visit, gets hold of that, you will be an outcast from society.”

Helen blushed and trembled. “Nobody need be told 413 that but Arthur; and I am sure he loves me well enough not to injure me with the world.”

“But he would be justified in declining your hand, after such a revelation.”

“Quite. And I hope he will decline it, when he knows I love another, however hopelessly.”

“You are going to tell Arthur Wardlaw all that?”

“I am.”

“Then all I can say is, you are not like other women.”

“I have been brought up by a man.”

“If I were Arthur Wardlaw, it would be the last word you should ever speak to me.”

“If you were Arthur Wardlaw, I should be on that dear island now.”

“Well, suppose his love should be greater than his spirit, and&—”;

“If he does not go back, when he hears of my hopeless love, I don’t see how I can. I shall marry him: and try with all my soul to love him. I’ll open every door in London to Robert Penfold: except one; my husband’s. And that door, while I live, he shall never enter. Oh, my heart; my heart!” She burst out sobbing desperately: and her father laid her head upon his bosom, and sighed deeply, and asked himself how all this would end.

Before they landed, her fortitude seemed to return; and of her own accord she begged her father to telegraph to the Wardlaws.

“Would you not like a day to compose yourself, and prepare for this trying interview?” said he.

“I should: but it is mere weakness. And I must cure myself of weakness, or I shall never clear Robert Penfold. And then, papa, I think of you. If old Mr. Wardlaw heard you had been a day in town, you might suffer in his good opinion. We shall be in London at 414 seven. Ask them at eight. That will be one hour’s respite. God help me!”

Long before eight o’clock that day, Arthur Wardlaw had passed from a state of sombre misery and remorse to one of joy, exultation, and unmixed happiness. He no longer regretted his crime, nor the loss of the Proserpine: Helen was alive and well, and attributed not her danger but only her preservation to the Wardlaws.

Wardlaw senior kept his carriage in town, and precisely at eight o’clock they drove up to the door of the hotel.

They followed the servant with bounding hearts, and rushed into the room where the general and Helen stood ready to receive them. Old Wardlaw went to the general with both hands out, and so the general met him, and between these two it was almost an embrace. Arthur ran to Helen with cries of joy and admiration, and kissed her hands again and again, and shed such genuine tears of joy over them that she trembled all over, and was obliged to sit down. He kneeled at her feet, and still imprisoned one hand, and mumbled it, while she turned her head away and held her other hand before her face to hide its real expression, which was a mixture of pity and repugnance. But, as her face was hidden, and her eloquent body quivered, and her hand was not withdrawn, it seemed a sweet picture of feminine affection to those who had not the key.

At last she was relieved from a most embarrassing situation by old Wardlaw; he cried out on this monopoly, and Helen instantly darted out of her chair and went to him and put up her cheek to him, which he kissed; and then she thanked him warmly for his courage in not despairing of her life, and his goodness in sending out a ship for her.

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Now, the fact is, she could not feel grateful; but she knew she ought to be grateful, and she was ashamed to show no feeling at all in return for so much; so she was eloquent, and the old gentleman was naturally very much pleased at first; but he caught an expression of pain on Arthur’s face, and then he stopped her. “My dear,” said he, “you ought to thank Arthur, not me; it is his love for you which was the cause of my zeal. If you owe me anything, pay it to him, for he deserves it best. He nearly died for you, my sweet girl. No, no, you mustn’t hang your head for that, neither. What a fool I am to revive our sorrows! Here we are, the happiest four in England.” Then he whispered to her, “Be kind to poor Arthur, that is all I ask. His very life depends on you.”

Helen obeyed this order, and went slowly back to Arthur; she sat, cold as ice, on the sofa beside him, and he made love to her. She scarcely heard what he said; she was asking herself how she could end this intolerable interview, and escape her father’s looks, who knew the real state of her heart.

At last she rose and went and whispered to him, “My courage has failed me. Have pity on me and get me away. It is the old man; he kills me.”

General Rolleston took the hint, and acted with more tact than one would have given him credit for. He got up and rang the bell for tea; then he said to Helen, “You don’t drink tea now, and I see you are excited more than is good for you. You had better go to bed.”

“Yes, papa,” said Helen.

She took her candle, and as she passed young Wardlaw she told him, in a low voice, she would be glad to speak to him alone to-morrow.

“At what hour?” said he, eagerly.

“When you like. At one.”

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And so she retired, leaving him in ecstasies. This was the first downright assignation she had ever made with him.

They met at one o’clock; he radiant as the sun, and with a rose in his button-hole; she sad and sombre, and with her very skin twitching at the thought of the explanation she had to go through.

He began with amorous commonplaces; she stopped him gravely. “Arthur,” said she, “you and I are alone now, and I have a confession to make. Unfortunately, I must cause you pain—terrible pain. Oh! my heart flinches at the wound I am going to give you; but it is my fate, either to wound you or to deceive you.”

During this preamble, Arthur sat amazed rather than alarmed. He did not interrupt her, though she paused, and would gladly have been interrupted, since an interruption is an assistance in perplexities.

“Arthur, we suffered great hardships in the boat, and you would have lost me but for one person. He saved my life again and again; I saved his upon the island. My constancy was subject to trials—oh, such trials! So great an example of every manly virtue forever before my eyes! My gratitude and my pity eternally pleading! England and you seemed gone forever. Make excuses for me if you can. Arthur—I—I have formed an attachment.”

In making this strange avowal she hung her head and blushed, and the tears ran down her cheeks. But we suspect they ran for him, and not for Arthur.

Arthur turned deadly sick at this tremendous blow, dealt with so soft a hand. At last he gasped out, “If you marry him you will bury me.”

“No, Arthur,” said Helen, gently; “I could not marry him, even if you were to permit me. When you know more, you will see that, of us three unhappy ones, you 417 are the least unhappy. But, since this is so, am I wrong to tell you the truth, and leave you to decide whether our engagement ought to continue? Of course, what I have owned to you releases you.”

“Releases me! But it does not unbind my heart from yours,” cried Arthur, in despair.

Then his hysterical nature came out, and he was so near fainting away, that Helen sprinkled water on his temples, and applied eau-de-cologne to his nostrils, and murmured, “Poor, poor Arthur; oh, was I born only to afflict those I esteem?”

He saw her with the tears of pity in her eyes, and he caught her hand, and said, “You were always the soul of honor; keep faith with me, and I will cure you of that unhappy attachment.”

“What? do you hold me to my engagement after what I have told you?”

“Cruel Helen! you know I have not the power to hold you.”

“I am not cruel; and you have the power. But, oh, think! For your own sake, not mine.”

“I have thought; and this attachment to a man you cannot marry is a mere misfortune, yours as well as mine. Give me your esteem until your love comes back, and let our engagement continue.”

“It was for you to decide,” said Helen, coldly, “and you have decided. There is one condition I must ask you to submit to.”

“I submit to it.”

“What, before you hear it?”

“Helen, you don’t know what a year of misery I have endured, ever since the report came of your death. My happiness is cruelly dashed now; but still it is great happiness by comparison. Make your conditions. You are my queen, as well as my love and my life.”

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Helen hesitated. It shocked her delicacy to lower the man she had consented to marry.

“Oh, Helen,” said Arthur, “anything but secrets between you and me. Go on as you have begun, and let me know the worst at once.”

“Can you be very generous, Arthur? generous to him who has caused you so much pain?”

“I’ll try,” said Arthur, with a groan.

“I would not marry him, unless you gave me up; for I am your betrothed, and you are true to me. I could not marry him, even if I were not pledged to you; but it so happens, I can do him one great service without injustice to you; and this service I have vowed to do before I marry. I shall keep that vow, as I keep faith with you. He has been driven from society by a foul slander; that slander I am to sift and confute. It will be long and difficult; but I shall do it; and you could help me if you chose. But that I will not be so cruel as to ask.”

Arthur bit his lip with jealous rage; but he was naturally cunning, and his cunning showed him there was at present but one road to Helen’s heart. He quelled his torture as well as he could, and resolved to take that road. He reflected a moment, and then he said,—

“If you succeed in that, will you marry me next day?”

“I will, upon my honor.”

“Then, I will help you.”

“Arthur, think what you say. Women have loved as unselfishly as this; but no man, that ever I heard of.”

“No man ever did love a woman as I love you. Yes, I would rather help you, though with a sore heart, than hold aloof from you. What have we to do together?”

“Did I not tell you? To clear his character of a foul stigma, and restore him to England, and to the world which he is so fitted to adorn.”

419

“Yes, yes,” said Arthur, “but who is it? Why do I ask, though? He must be a stranger to me.”

“No stranger at all,” said Helen; “but one who is almost as unjust to you, as the world has been to him;” then, fixing her eyes full on him, she said, “Arthur, it is your old friend and tutor, Robert Penfold.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LI

skip to next chapter

“Well, suppose his love should be greater than his spirit, and—”
text has and”—
[Punctuation corrected from Once a Week.]

and between these two it was almost an embrace
[Since they are both Englishmen, it could not be entirely an embrace.]

General Rolleston took the hint
[Somewhere in Joseph Moxon’s work on printing, he uses the word “hint” to refer to . . . several pages of discussion, including an itemized list. Here, two centuries later, the same word is used to describe . . . an explicit plea.]

“Arthur, it is your old friend and tutor, Robert Penfold.”
[The authors pat themselves on the back for this installment-ending cliffhanger, forgetting that the reader has known it all along.]

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CHAPTER LII.

 
 
 

WARDLAW was thunderstruck; and, for some time, sat stupidly staring at her. And to this blank gaze succeeded a look of abject terror, which seemed strange to her, and beyond the occasion. But this was not all; for, after glaring at her with scared eyes and ashy cheeks a moment or two, he got up and literally staggered out of the room without a word.

He had been taken by surprise, and, for once, all his arts had failed him.

Helen, whose eyes had never left his face, and had followed his retiring figure, was frightened at the weight of the blow she had struck; and strange thoughts and conjectures filled her mind. Hitherto, she had felt sure Robert Penfold was under a delusion as to Arthur Wardlaw, and that his suspicions were as unjust as they certainly were vague. Yet, now, at the name of Robert Penfold, Arthur turned pale and fled like a guilty thing. This was a coincidence that confirmed her good opinion of Robert Penfold, and gave her ugly thoughts of Arthur. Still, she was one very slow to condemn a friend, and too generous and candid to condemn on suspicion; so she resolved as far as possible to suspend her unfavorable judgment of Arthur, until she should have asked him why this great emotion, and heard his reply.

clean-shaven young man with hand on doorlatch as young woman looks on

Moreover, she was no female detective, but a pure creature bent on clearing innocence. The object of her life was, not to discover the faults of Arthur Wardlaw, or any other person, but to clear Robert Penfold of a crime. Yet Arthur’s strange behavior was a great shock 421 to her; for here, at the very outset, he had somehow made her feel she must hope for no assistance from him. She sighed at this check, and asked herself to whom she should apply first for aid. Robert had told her to see his counsel, his solicitor, his father, and Mr. Undercliff, an expert, and to sift the whole matter.

Not knowing exactly where to begin, she thought she would, after all, wait a day or two to give Arthur time to recover himself, and decide calmly whether he would co-operate with her or not.

In this trying interval she set up a diary, for the first time in her life; for she was no egotist: and she noted down what we have just related, only in a very condensed form, and wrote at the margin: Mysterious.

Arthur never came near her for two whole days. This looked grave. On the third day she said to General Rolleston:

“Papa, you will help me in the good cause, will you not?”

He replied that he would do what he could, but feared that would be little.

“Will you take me down to Elmtrees this morning?”

“With all my heart.”

He took her down to Elmtrees. On the way she said: “Papa, you must let me get a word with Mr. Wardlaw, alone.”

“Oh, certainly. But of course you will not say a word to hurt his feelings.”

“Oh, papa!”

“Excuse me: but, when a person of your age is absorbed with one idea, she sometimes forgets that other people have any feelings at all.”

Helen kissed him meekly, and said that was too true; and she would be upon her guard.

To General Rolleston’s surprise, his daughter no sooner 422 saw old Wardlaw than she went—or seemed to go—into high spirits, and was infinitely agreeable.

But, at last, she got him all to herself, and then she turned suddenly grave, and said:

“Mr. Wardlaw, I want to ask you a question. It is something about Robert Penfold.”

Wardlaw shook his head. “That is a painful subject, my dear. But what do you wish to know about that unhappy young man?”

“Can you tell me the name of the counsel who defended him at the trial?”

“No, indeed, I cannot.”

“But perhaps you can tell me where I could learn that.”

“His father is in our office still; no doubt he could tell you.”

Now, for obvious reasons, Helen did not like to go to the office; so she asked faintly if there was nobody else who could tell her.

“I suppose the solicitor could.”

“But I don’t know who was the solicitor,” said Helen, with a sigh.

“Hum!” said the merchant. “Try the bill-broker. I’ll give you his address;” and he wrote it down for her.

Helen did not like to be too importunate, and she could not bear to let Wardlaw senior know she loved anybody better than his son: and yet some explanation was necessary: so she told him as calmly as she could that her father and herself were both well acquainted with Robert Penfold, and knew many things to his credit.

“I am glad to hear that,” said Wardlaw; “and I can believe it. He bore an excellent character here, till, in an evil hour, a strong temptation came, and he fell.”

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“What! You think he was guilty?”

“I do. Arthur, I believe, has his doubts still. But he is naturally prejudiced in his friend’s favor: and, besides, he was not at the trial; I was.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wardlaw,” said Helen, coldly; and, within five minutes, she was on her way home.

“Arthur prejudiced in Robert Penfold’s favor!” That puzzled her extremely.

She put down the whole conversation while her memory was fresh. She added this comment: “What darkness I am groping in!”

Next day she went to the bill-broker, and told him Mr. Wardlaw senior had referred her to him for certain information. Wardlaw’s name was evidently a passport. Mr. Adams said obsequiously, “Anything in the world I can do, madam?”

“It is about Mr. Robert Penfold. I wish to know the name of the counsel he had at his trial.”

“Robert Penfold! What, the forger?”

“He was accused of that crime,” said Helen, turning red.

“Accused, madam! He was convicted. I ought to know; for it was my partner he tried the game on. But I was too sharp for him. I had him arrested before he had time to melt the notes; indicted him, and sent him across the herring pond, in spite of his parson’s coat, the rascal.”

Helen drew back, as if a serpent had stung her.

“It was you who had him transported!” cried she, turning her eyes on him with horror.

“Of course it was me,” said Mr. Adams, firing up; “and I did the country good service. I look upon a forger as worse than a murderer. What is the matter? You are ill.”

The poor girl was half-fainting at the sight of the man who had destroyed her Robert, and owned it.

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“No, no,” she cried, hastily; “let me get away—let me get away from here—you cruel, cruel man.”

She tottered to the door, and got to her carriage, she scarcely knew how, without the information she went for.

The bill-broker was no fool; he saw now how the land lay; he followed her down the stairs, and tried to stammer excuses.

“Charing Cross Hotel,” said she, faintly, and hid her face against the cushion to avoid the sight of him.

When she got home, she cried bitterly at her feminine weakness and her incapacity; and she entered this pitiable failure in her journal with a severity our male readers will hardly, we think, be disposed to imitate; and she added, by way of comment,—“Is this how I carry out my poor Robert’s precept: Be obstinate as a man; be supple as a woman?”

That night she consulted her father on this difficulty, so slight to any but an inexperienced girl. He told her there must be a report of the trial in the newspapers, and the report would probably mention the counsel; she had better consult a file.

Then the thing was, where to find a file. After one or two failures, the British Museum was suggested. She went thither, and could not get in to read without certain formalities. While these were being complied with, she was at a stand-still.

That same evening came a line from Arthur Wardlaw:—

Dearest Helen,—I hear from Mr. Adams that you desire to know the name of the counsel who defended Robert Penfold. It was Mr. Tollemache. He has chambers in Lincoln’s Inn.

Ever devotedly yours,

Arthur Wardlaw.

425

Helen was touched with this letter, and put it away, indorsed with a few words of gratitude and esteem; and copied it into her diary, and remarked, “This is one more warning not to judge hastily. Arthur’s agitation was probably only great emotion at the sudden mention of one, whose innocence he believes, and whose sad fate distresses him.” She wrote back and thanked him sweetly, and in terms that encouraged a visit. Next day she went to Mr. Tollemache. A seedy man followed her at a distance. Mr. Tollemache was not at his chambers, not expected till four o’clock. He was in court. She left her card, and wrote on it in pencil that she would call at four.

She went at ten minutes after four. Mr. Tollemache declined through his clerk to see her if she was a client; he could only be approached by her solicitor. She felt inclined to go away and cry; but this time she remembered she was to be obstinate as a man, and supple as a woman. She wrote on a card, “I am not a client of Mr. Tollemache, but a lady deeply interested in obtaining some information, which Mr. Tollemache can with perfect propriety give me. I trust to his courtesy as a gentleman not to refuse me a short interview.”

“Admit the lady,” said a sharp little voice.

She was ushered in, and found Mr. Tollemache standing before the fire.

“Now, madam, what can I do for you?”

“Some years ago you defended Mr. Robert Penfold; he was accused of forgery.”

“Oh, was he? I think I remember something about it. A banker’s clerk, wasn’t he?”

“Oh, no, sir. A clergyman.”

“A clergyman? I remember it perfectly. He was convicted.”

“Do you think he was guilty, sir?”

426

“There was a strong case against him.”

“I wish to sift that case.”

“Indeed. And you want to go through the papers.”

“What papers, sir?”

“The brief for the defence.”

“Yes,” said Helen, boldly; “would you trust me with that, sir? Oh, if you knew how deeply I am interested!” The tears were in her lovely eyes.

“The brief has gone back to the solicitor, of course. I dare say he will let you read it upon a proper representation.”

“Thank you, sir. Will you tell me who is the solicitor, and where he lives?”

“Oh, I can’t remember who was the solicitor. That is the very first thing you ought to have ascertained. It was no use coming to me.”

“Forgive me for troubling you, sir,” said Helen, with a deep sigh.

“Not at all, madam; I am only sorry I cannot be of more service. But do let me advise you to employ your solicitor to make these preliminary inquiries. Happy to consult with him, and re-open the matter, should he discover any fresh evidence.” He bowed her out, and sat down to a brief while she was yet in sight.

She turned away heart-sick. The advice she had received was good: but she shrank from baring her heart to her father’s solicitor.

She sat disconsolate a while, then ordered another cab, and drove to Wardlaw’s office. It was late, and Arthur was gone home; so, indeed, was everybody, except one young subordinate, who was putting up the shutters. “Sir,” said she, “can you tell me where old Mr. Penfold lives?”

“Somewhere in the subbubs, miss.”

“Yes, sir, but where?”

427

“I think it is out Pimlico way.”

“Could you not give me the street? I would beg you to accept a present if you could.”

This sharpened the young gentleman’s wits; he went in and groped here and there, till he found the address; and gave it her: No. 3, Fairfield Cottages, Primrose Lane, Pimlico. She gave him a sovereign, to his infinite surprise and delight; and told the cabman to drive to the hotel.

The next moment the man, who had followed her, was chatting familiarly with the subordinate, and helping him put up the shutters.

“I say, Dick,” said the youngster, “Penfolds is up in the market; a duchess was here just now, and gave me a sov. to tell her where he lived. Wait a moment till I spit on it for luck.”

The agent however did not wait to witness this interesting ceremony. He went back to his hansom round the corner, and drove at once to Arthur Wardlaw’s house with the information.

Helen noted down Michael Penfold’s address in her diary, and would have gone to him that evening, but she was to dine tête-à-tête with her father.

Next day she went down to 3, Fairfield Cottages, at half-past four. On the way her heart palpitated, for this was a very important interview. Here at least she might hope to find some clew, by following out which she would sooner or later establish Robert’s innocence. But then came a fearful thought. “Why had not his father done this already, if it was possible to do it? His father must love him. His father must have heard his own story and tested it in every way. Yet his father remained the servant of a firm, the senior partner of which had told her to her face Robert was guilty.”

It was a strange and terrible enigma. Yet she clung 428 to the belief that some new light would come to her from Michael Penfold. Then came bashful fears. “How should she account to Mr. Penfold for the interest she took in his son, she who was affianced to Mr. Penfold’s employer?” She arrived at 3, Fairfield Cottages, with her cheeks burning, and repeating to herself, “Now is the time to be supple as a woman; but obstinate as a man.”

She sent the cabman in to inquire for Mr. Penfold; a sharp girl of about thirteen came out to her, and told her Mr. Penfold was not at home.

“Can you tell me when he will be at home?”

“No, miss. He have gone to Scotland. A telegraphum came from Wardlaw’s last night, as he was to go to Scotland, first thing this morning; and he went at six o’clock.”

“Oh, dear! How unfortunate!”

“Who shall I say called, miss?”

“Thank you, I will write. What time did the telegram come?”

“Between five and six last evening, miss.”

She returned to the hotel. Fate seemed to be against her. Baffled at the very threshold! At the hotel she found Arthur Wardlaw’s card, and a beautiful bouquet.

She sat down directly, and wrote to him affectionately, and asked him in the postscript if he could send her a report of the trial. She received a reply directly, that he had inquired in the office, for one of the clerks had reports of it; but this clerk was unfortunately out, and had locked up his desk.

Helen sighed. Her feet seemed to be clogged at every step in this inquiry.

Next morning, however, a large envelope came for her, and a Mr. Hand wrote to her thus:—

429

Madam,—Having been requested by Mr. Arthur Wardlaw to send you my extracts of a trial, the Queen v. Penfold, I herewith forward the same, and would feel obliged by your returning them at your convenience.

Your obedient servant,

James Hand.

Helen took the enclosed extracts to her bedroom, and there read them over many times.

In both these reports the case for the Crown was neat, clear, cogent, straightforward, and supported by evidence. The defence was chiefly argument of counsel to prove the improbability of a clergyman and a man of good character passing a forged note. One of the reports stated that Mr. Arthur Wardlaw, a son of the principal witness, had taken the accusation so much to heart that he was now dangerously ill at Oxford. The other report did not contain this, but, on the other hand, it stated that the prisoner after conviction had endeavored to lay the blame on Mr. Arthur Wardlaw, but that the judge had stopped him, and said he could only aggravate his offence by endeavoring to cast a slur upon the Wardlaws, who had both shown a manifest desire to shield him, but were powerless for want of evidence.

In both reports the summing up of the judge was moderate in expression, but leaned against the prisoner on every point, and corrected the sophistical reasoning of his counsel very sensibly. Both the reports said an expert was called for the prisoner, whose ingenuity made the court smile, but did not counterbalance the evidence. Helen sat cold as ice with the extracts in her hand.

Not that her sublime faith was shaken. But that poor Robert appeared to have been so calmly and fairly dealt with by everybody. Even Mr. Hennessy, the counsel for the Crown, had opened the case with humane regret, and confined himself to facts, and said nobody would be 430 more pleased than he would, if this evidence could be contradicted, or explained in a manner consistent with the prisoner’s innocence.

What a stone she had undertaken to roll—up what a hill!

What was to be her next step? Go to the Museum, which was now open to her, and read more reports? She shrank from that.

“The newspapers are all against him,” said she; “and I don’t want to be told he is guilty, when I know he is innocent.”

She now re-examined the extracts with a view to names, and found the only names mentioned were those of the counsel. The expert’s name was not given in either. However, she knew that from Robert. She resolved to speak to Mr. Hennessy first, and try and get at the defendant’s solicitor through him.

She found him out by the Law Directory, and called at a few minutes past four.

Hennessy was almost the opposite to Tollemache. He was about the size of a gentleman’s wardrobe; and, like most enormous men, good-natured. He received her, saw with his practised eye that she was no common person, and, after a slight hesitation on professional grounds, heard her request. He sent for his note-book, found the case in one moment, re-mastered it in another, and told her the solicitor for the Crown in that case was Freshfield.

“Now,” said he, “you want to know who was the defendant’s solicitor? Jenkins, a stamped envelope. Write your name and address on that.”

While she was doing it, he scratched a line to Mr. Freshfield, asking him to send the required information to the enclosed address.

She thanked Mr. Hennessy with the tears in her eyes.

431

“I dare not ask you whether you think him guilty,” she said.

Hennessy shook his head with an air of good-natured rebuke.

“You must not cross-examine counsel,” said he; “but, if it will be any comfort to you, I’ll say this much, there was just a shadow of doubt, and Tollemache certainly let a chance slip. If I had defended your friend, I would have insisted on a postponement of the trial, until this Arthur Wardlaw” (looking at his note-book) “could be examined, either in court or otherwise, if he was really dying. Is he dead, do you know?”

“No.”

“I thought not. Sick witnesses are often at death’s door; but I never knew one pass the threshold. Ha! ha! The trial ought to have been postponed till he got well. If a judge refused me a postponement in such a case, I would make him so odious to the jury, that the prisoner would get a verdict in spite of his teeth.”

“Then, you think he was badly defended?”

“No; that is saying a great deal more than I could justify. But there are counsel, who trust too much to their powers of reasoning, and underrate a chink in the evidence pro or con. Practice, and a few blackfalls, cure them of that.”

Mr. Hennessy uttered this general observation with a certain change of tone, which showed he thought he had said as much or more than his visitor had any right to expect from him; and she, therefore, left him, repeating her thanks. She went home, pondering on every word he had said, and entered it all in her journal, with the remark, “How strange! the first doubt of Robert’s guilt comes to me from the lawyer who caused him to be found guilty. He calls it the shadow of a doubt.”

That very evening, Mr. Freshfield had the courtesy to 432 send her by messenger the name and address of the solicitor who had defended Robert Penfold. Lovejoy and James, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. She called on them, and sent in her card. She was kept waiting a long time in the outer office, and felt ashamed, and sick at heart, seated among young clerks. At last she was admitted, and told Mr. Lovejoy she and her father, General Rolleston, were much interested in a late client of his, Mr. Robert Penfold, and would he be kind enough to let her see the brief for the defence?

“Are you a relation of the Penfolds, madam?”

“No, sir,” said Helen, blushing.

“Humph!” said Lovejoy.

He touched a hand-bell. A clerk appeared.

“Ask Mr. Upton to come to me.”

Mr. Upton, the managing clerk, came in due course, and Mr. Lovejoy asked him,—

“Who instructed us in the Queen v. Penfold?”

“It was Mr. Michael Penfold, sir.”

Mr. Lovejoy then told Helen that she must just get a line from Mr. Michael Penfold, and then the papers should be submitted to her.

“Yes; but, sir,” said Helen, “Mr. Penfold is in Scotland.”

“Well, but you can write to him.”

“No; I don’t know in what part of Scotland he is.”

“Then you are not very intimate with him?”

“No, sir; my acquaintance is with Mr. Robert Penfold.”

“Have you a line from him?

“I have no written authority from him; but will you not take my word that I act by his desire?”

“My dear madam,” said the lawyer, “we go by rule. There are certain forms to be observed in these things. I am sure your own good sense will tell you it would be cruel and improper of me to submit those papers without 433 an order from Robert or Michael Penfold. Pray consider this as a delay, not a refusal.”

“Yes, sir,” said Helen: “but I meet with nothing but delays, and my heart is breaking under them.”

The solicitor looked sorry, but would not act irregularly. She went home sighing, and condemned to wait the return of Michael Penfold.

The cab-door was opened for her by a seedy man she fancied she had seen before.

Baffled thus, and crippled in every movement she made, however slight, in favor of Robert Penfold, she was seduced on the other hand into all the innocent pleasures of the town. Her adventure had transpired somehow or other, and all General Rolleston’s acquaintances hunted him up: and both father and daughter were courted by people of ton as lions. A shipwrecked beauty is not offered to society every day. Even her own sex raved about her, and about the chain of beautiful pearls she had picked up somehow on her desolate island. She always wore them; they linked her to that sacred purpose she seemed to be forgetting. Her father drew her with him into the vortex, hiding from her that he embarked in it principally for her sake, and she went down the current with him out of filial duty. Thus unfathomable difficulties thrust her back from her uphill task: and the world, with soft but powerful hand, drew her away to it. Arthur brought her a choice bouquet, or sent her a choice bouquet, every evening, but otherwise did not intrude much upon her; and though she was sure he would assist her, if she asked him, gratitude and delicacy forbade her to call him again to her assistance. She preferred to await the return of Michael Penfold. She had written to him at the office to tell him she had news of his son, and begged him to give her instant notice of his return from Scotland.

434

Day after day passed, and he did not write to her. She began to chafe, and then to pine. Her father saw, and came to a conclusion that her marriage with Arthur ought to be hastened. He resolved to act quietly but firmly towards that end.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LII

Chapters LII-LIV originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 20 (16 May 1868), numbered as Chapters LV-LVII.

he got up and literally staggered out of the room
[To paraphrase R. A. Lafferty: How would you stagger out of a room figuratively?]

[Illustration]
[This Maurier illustration from Once a Week didn’t make it into the Chatto & Windus edition.]

435

CHAPTER LIII.

Up to this time Helen’s sex, and its attributes, had been a great disadvantage to her. She had been stopped on the very threshold of her inquiry by petty difficulties, which a man would have soon surmounted. But one fine day the scale gave a little turn, and she made a little discovery, thanks to her sex. Women, whether it is that they are born to be followed, or are accustomed to be followed, seem to have eyes in the backs of their heads, and instinct to divine when somebody is after them. This inexperienced girl, who had missed seeing many things our readers have seen, observed in merely passing her window a seedy man in the court-yard of the hotel. Would you believe it, she instantly recognized the man who had opened her cab-door for her in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Quick as lightning it passed through her mind, “Why do I see the same figure in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and at Charing Cross?” At various intervals she passed the window; and twice she saw the man again. She pondered, and determined to try a little experiment. Robert Penfold, it may be remembered, had mentioned an expert as one of the persons she was to see. She had looked for his name in the Directory; but experts were not down in the book. Another fatality! But at last she had found Undercliff, a lithographer, and she fancied that he must be the same person. She did not hope to learn much from him; the newspapers said his evidence had caused a smile. She had a distinct object in visiting him, the nature of which will appear. She ordered a cab and dressed herself. She came down and entered 436 the cab; but instead of telling the man where to drive, she gave him a slip of paper, containing the address of the lithographer. “Drive there,” said she, a little mysteriously. The cabman winked, suspecting an intrigue, and went off to the place. There she learned that Mr. Undercliff had moved to Frith Street, Soho, number not known. She told the cabman to drive slowly up and down the street, but could not find the name. At last she observed some lithographs in a window. She let the cabman go all down the street, then stopped him and paid him off. She had no sooner done this than she walked very briskly back and entered the little shop, and inquired for Mr. Undercliff. He was out, and not expected back for an hour. “I will wait,” said Helen; and she sat down with her head upon her white hand. A seedy man passed the window rapidly with a busy air; and if his eye shot a glance into the shop, it was so slight and careless that nobody could suspect he was a spy, and had done his work effectually as he flashed by. In that moment the young lady, through the chink of her fingers, which she had opened for that purpose, not only recognized the man, but noticed his face, his hat, his waistcoat, his dirty linen, and the pin in his neck-tie.

“Ah!” said she, and flushed to the brow.

She lifted up her head and became conscious of a formidable old woman, who was standing behind the counter at a side door, eying her with the severest scrutiny. This old woman was tall and thin, and had a fine face, the lower part of which was feminine enough; but the forehead and brows were alarming. Though her hair was silvery, the brows were black and shaggy, and the forehead was divided by a vertical furrow into two temples. Under those shaggy eyebrows shone dark gray eyes that passed for black with most people; and those eyes were fixed on Helen, reading her. Helen’s light 437 hazel eyes returned their gaze. She blushed, and still looking, said, “Pray, madam, can I see Mr. Undercliff?”

“My son is out for the day, miss,” said the old lady, civilly.

“Oh, dear! how unfortunate I am,” said Helen, with a sigh.

“He comes back to-night. You can see him to-morrow at ten o’clock. A question of handwriting?”

“Not exactly,” said Helen; “but he was witness in favor of a person, I know was innocent.”

“But he was found guilty,” said the other, with cool keenness.

“Yes, madam: and he has no friend to clear him, but me; a poor weak girl, baffled and defeated whichever way I turn.” She began to cry.

The old woman looked at her crying, with that steady composure which marks her sex on these occasions, and, when she was better, said quietly, “You are not so weak as you think.” She added after a while, “If you wish to retain my son, you had better leave a fee.”

“With pleasure, madam. What is the fee?”

“One guinea. Of course there is a separate charge for any work he may do for you.”

“That is but reasonable, madam.” And with this she paid the fee, and rose to go.

“Shall I send any one home with you?”

“No, thank you,” said Helen. “Why?”

“Because you are followed, and because you are not used to be followed.”

“Why, how did you find that out?”

“By your face, when a man passed the window—a shabby-genteel fellow. He was employed by some gentleman, no doubt. Such faces as yours will be followed in London. If you feel uneasy, miss, I will put on my bonnet, and see you home.”

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Helen was surprised at this act of substantial civility from the Gorgon. “Oh, thank you, Mrs. Undercliff,” said she. “No, I am not the least afraid. Let them follow me; I am doing nothing that I am ashamed of. Indeed, I am glad I am thought worth the trouble of following. It shows me I am not so thoroughly contemptible. Good-by! and many thanks. Ten o’clock to-morrow.”

And she walked home without looking once behind her till the hotel was in sight; then she stopped at a shop-window, and in a moment her swift eye embraced the whole landscape. But the shabby-genteel man was nowhere in sight.

439

CHAPTER LIV.

When Joseph Wylie disappeared from the scene, Nancy Rouse made a discovery, which very often follows the dismissal of a suitor: that she was considerably more attached to him than she had thought. The house became dull; the subordinate washerwomen languid: their taciturnity irritated and depressed Nancy by turns.

In the midst of this, Michael Penfold discovered that Helen had come back safe. He came into Nancy’s parlor, beaming with satisfaction, and told her of the good news. It gave her immense delight at first. But, when she had got used to her joy on that score, she began to think she had used Joe Wylie very ill. Now that Helen was saved, she could no longer realize that Wylie was so very much to blame.

She even persuaded herself that his disappearance was the act of a justly offended man; and, as he belonged to a class of whose good-sense she had a poor opinion, she was tormented with fears that he would do some desperate act,—drown himself, or go to sea; or, worst of all, marry some trollop. She became very anxious and unhappy. Before this misfortune, she used to go about singing the first verse of a song, and whistling the next, like any ploughboy,—an eccentric performance, but it made the house gay. Now, both song and whistle were suspended; and, instead, it was all hard work and hard crying, turn about.

She attached herself to Michael Penfold, because he had known trouble, and was sympathetic; and these two 440 opened their hearts to one another, and formed a friendship that was very honest and touching.

The scene of their conversation and mutual consolation was Nancy’s parlor,—a little mite of a room she had partitioned off from her business. “For,” said she, “a lady I’ll be—after my work is done—if it is only in a cupboard.” The room had a remarkably large fireplace, which had originally warmed the whole floor; but now was used as a ventilator only. The gas would have been stifling without it. As for lighting a fire in it, that was out of the question.

On a certain evening, soon after Mr. Penfold’s return from Scotland, the pair sat over their tea, and the conversation fell on the missing sweetheart. Michael had been thinking it over, and was full of encouragement. He said,—

“Miss Rouse, something tells me that if poor Mr. Wylie could only know your heart, he would turn up again directly. What we ought to do is to send somebody to look for him in all the sailors’ haunts: some sharp fellow—dear me, what a knocking they keep up next door!”

“Oh, that is always the way when one wants a quiet chat! Drat the woman! I’ll have her indicted.”

“No, you won’t, Miss Rouse; she is a poor soul, and has got no business, except letting lodgings. She is not like you. But I do hope she will be so considerate as not to come quite through the wall.”

“Dear heart,” said Nancy, “go on, and never mind her noise, which it is worse than a horgan-grinder.”

“Well, then, if you can’t find him that way, I say—advertise.”

“Me!” cried Nancy, turning very red. “Do I look like a woman as would advertise for a man?”

“No, ma’am: quite the reverse. But what I mean is, 441 you might put in something not too plain. For instance: If J. W. will return to N. R., all will be forgotten and forgiven.”

“He’d have the upper hand of me for life,” said Nancy. “No, no; I won’t advertise for the fool. What right had he to run off at the first word? He ought to know my bark is worse than my bite by this time. You can, though.”

“Me bite, ma’am?” said the old gentleman.

“Bite? No; advertise, since you’re so fond of it. Come, you sit down, and write one; and I’ll pay for it, for that matter.”

Michael sat down, and drew up the following: “If Mr. Joseph Wylie will call on Michael Penfold, at No. 3, F. C., he will hear of something to his advantage.”

“To his advantage?” said Nancy, doubtfully. “Why not tell him the truth?”

“Why, that is the truth, ma’am. Isn’t it to his advantage to be reconciled to an honest, virtuous, painstaking lady, that honors him with her affection, and me with her friendship? Besides, it is the common form; and there is nothing like sticking to form.”

“Mr. Penfolds,” said Nancy, “any one can see you was born a gentleman; and I am a deal prouder to have you, and your dirty linen, as I should him as pays you your wages: pale eyes, pale hair, pale eyelashes. I wouldn’t trust him to mangle a duster.”

“Oh, Miss Rouse! pray don’t disparage my good master to me.”

“I can’t help it, sir: thought is free, especially in this here compartment. Better speak one’s mind than die o’ the sulks. So, shut your ear, when my music jars. But one every other day is enough. If he won’t come back for that, why, he must go, and I must look out for another. There’s as good fish in the sea as ever came 442 out of it. Still, I’ll not deny I have a great respect for poor Joe. O Mr. Penfold! what shall I do? Oh! oh! oh!”

“There, there,” said Michael, “I’ll put this into the Times every day.”

“You are a good soul, Mr. Penfolds. Oh! oh! oh!”

When he had finished the advertisement, in a clerkly hand, and she had finished her cry, she felt comparatively comfortable, and favored Mr. Penfold with some reflections.

“Dear heart, Mr. Penfolds, how you and I do take to one another, to be sure. But so we ought; for we are honest folk, the pair, and has had a hard time. Don’t it never strike you rather curious that two thousand pounds was at the bottom of both our troubles, yourn and mine? I might have married Joe, and been a happy woman with him; but the devil puts in my head— There you go again, hammering! Life ain’t worth having, next door to that lodging-house. Drat the woman! if she must peck, why don’t she go in the churchyard, and peck her own grave, which we shall never be quiet till she is there; and these here gimcrack houses they won’t stand no more pecking at than a soapsud. Ay, that’s what hurts me, Mr. Penfold: the Lord had given him and me health and strength and honesty. Our betters had wed for love, and wrought for money, as the saying is; but I must go again nature, that cried, ‘Come couple,’ and must bargain for two thousand pounds. So, now I’ve lost the man, and not got the money, nor never shall; and, if I had, I’d burn— Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!”

This tirade ended in stifled screams of terror, caused by the sudden appearance of a human hand, in a place and in a manner well adapted to shake the stoutest laundress’s nerves.

443

This hand came through the brick-work of the chimney-piece, and there remained a moment or two; then slowly retired, and, as it retired, something was heard to fall upon the shavings and tinsel of the fireplace.

Nancy, by a feminine impulse, put her hands before her face to hide this supernatural hand; and, when she found courage to withdraw them, and glare at the place, there was no aperture whatever in the brick-work, and, consequently, the hand appeared to have traversed the solid material, both coming and going.

“O Mr. Penfolds,” cried Nancy, “I’m a sinful woman; this comes of talking of the devil arter sunset,” and she sat trembling so that the very floor shook.

Mr. Penfold’s nerves were not strong. He and Nancy both huddled together for mutual protection, and their faces had not a vestige of color left in them.

However, after a period of general paralysis, Penfold whispered,—

“I heard it drop something on the shavings.”

“Then we shall be all in a blaze o’ brimstone,” shrieked Nancy, wringing her hands.

And they waited to see.

Then, as no conflagration took place, Mr. Penfold got up, and said he must go and see what it was the hand had dropped.

Nancy, in whom curiosity was beginning to battle with terror, let him go to the fireplace without a word of objection, and then cried out,—

“Don’t go anigh it, sir; it will do you a mischief; don’t touch it whatever. Take the tongs.

He took the tongs, and presently flung into the middle of the room a small oilskin packet. This, as it lay on the ground, they both eyed like two deer glowering at a piece of red cloth, and ready to leap back again over the moon if it should show signs of biting. But oilskin is 444 not preternatural, nor has tradition connected it, however remotely, with the Enemy of man.

Consequently, a great revulsion took place in Nancy, and she passed from fear to indignation at having been frightened so.

She ran to the fireplace, and, putting her head up the chimney, screamed, “Heave your dirt where you heave your love, ye Brazen.”

While she objurgated her neighbor, whom, with feminine justice, she held responsible for every act done in her house, Penfold undid the packet, and Nancy returned to her seat, with her mind more at ease, to examine the contents.

“Banknotes!” cried Penfold.

“Ay,” said Nancy incredulously, “they do look like banknotes, and feel like ’em; but they ain’t wrote like them. Banknotes ain’t wrote black like that in the left-hand corner.”

Penfold explained.

“Ten-pound notes are not, nor fives; but large notes are. These are all fifties.”

“Fifty whats?”

“Fifty pounds.”

“What, each of them bits of paper worth fifty pounds?”

“Yes. Let us count them; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35,—oh, Lord!—40. Why, it is two thousand pounds—just two thousand pounds. It is the very sum that ruined me; it did not belong to me, and its being in the house ruined my poor Robert. And this does not belong to you. Lock all the doors, bar all the windows, and burn them before the police come.”

“Wait a bit,” said Nancy, “wait a bit.”

They sat on each side of the notes; Penfold agitated and terrified, Nancy confounded and perplexed.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LIV

The scene of their conversation and mutual consolation
text has consola-/lation at line break

This hand came through the brick-work of the chimney-piece
[Once a Week has “chimney-place”. It’s hard to decide which is better.]

445

CHAPTER LV.

 
 

AT TEN o’clock, Helen returned to Frith Street, and found Mr. Undercliff behind a sort of counter, employed in tracing; a workman was seated at some little distance from him, both bent on their work.

“Mr. Undercliff?” said Helen.

He rose and turned towards her politely; a pale, fair man, with a keen gray eye, and a pleasant voice and manner: “I am Edward Undercliff. You come by appointment?”

“Yes, sir.”

“A question of handwriting?”

“Not entirely, sir. Do you remember giving witness in favor of a young clergyman, Mr. Robert Penfold, who was accused of forgery?”

“I remember the circumstance, but not the details.”

“Oh, dear, that is unfortunate,” said Helen, with a deep sigh; she often had to sigh now.

“Why, you see,” said the expert, “I am called on such a multitude of trials. However, I take notes of the principal ones. What year was it in?”

“In 1864.”

Mr. Undercliff went to a set of drawers arranged chronologically, and found his notes directly. “It was a forged bill, madam, indorsed and presented by Penfold. I was called to prove that the bill was not in the handwriting of Penfold. Here is my facsimile of the Robert Penfold indorsed upon the bill by the prisoner.” He handed it to her, and she examined it with interest. “And here are facsimiles of genuine 446 writing by John Wardlaw, and here is a copy of the forged note.”

He laid it on the table before her. She started, and eyed it with horror. It was a long time before she could speak. At length she said, “And that wicked piece of paper destroyed Robert Penfold.”

“Not that piece of paper, but the original; this is a facsimile, so far as the writing is concerned. It was not necessary in this case to imitate paper and color. Stay, here is a sheet on which I have lithographed the three styles, that will enable you to follow my comparison. But perhaps that would not interest you?” Helen had the tact to say it would. Thus encouraged, the expert showed her that Robert Penfold’s writing had nothing in common with the forged note. He added, “I also detected in the forged note habits which were entirely absent from the true writing of John Wardlaw. You will understand there were plenty of undoubted specimens in court to go by.”

“Then, oh, sir,” said Helen, “Robert Penfold was not guilty.”

“Certainly not of writing the forged note. I swore that, and I’ll swear it again. But, when it came to questions, whether he had passed the note, and whether he knew it was forged, that was quite out of my province.”

“I can understand that,” said Helen; “but you heard the trial; you are very intelligent, sir; you must have formed some opinion as to whether he was guilty or not.”

The expert shook his head. “Madam,” said he, “mine is a profound and difficult art, which aims at certainties. Very early in my career I found that to master that art I must be single-minded, and not allow my ear to influence my eye. By purposely avoiding all reasoning from external circumstances, I have distanced my competitors in expertise; but I sometimes think I have rather weakened 447 my powers of conjecture through disuse. Now, if my mother had been at the trial, she would give you an opinion of some value on the outside facts. But that is not my line. If you feel sure he was innocent, and want me to aid you, you must get hold of the handwriting of every person who was likely to know old Wardlaw’s handwriting, and so might have imitated it; all the clerks in his office, to begin with. Nail the forger, that is your only chance.”

“What, sir!” said Helen, with surprise, “if you saw the true handwriting of the person who wrote that forged note, should you recognize it?”

“Why not? It is difficult; but I have done it hundreds of times.”

“Oh, is forgery so common?”

“No: but I am in all the cases; and, besides, I do a great deal in a business that requires the same sort of expertise—anonymous letters. I detect assassins of that kind by the score. A gentleman or lady, down in the country, gets a poisoned arrow by the post, or perhaps a shower of them. They are always in disguised handwriting; those who receive them, send them up to me, with writings of all the people they suspect. The disguise is generally more or less superficial; five or six unconscious habits remain below it, and often these undisguised habits are the true characteristics of the writer. And I’ll tell you something curious, madam; it is quite common for all the suspected people to be innocent; and then I write back, ‘Send me the handwriting of the people you suspect the least;’ and amongst them I often find the assassin.”

“Oh, Mr. Undercliff,” said Helen, “you make my heart sick.”

“It is a vile world, for that matter,” said the expert; “and the country no better than the town, for all it looks 448 so sweet with its green fields and purling rills. There they sow anonymous letters like barley; the very girls write anonymous letters, that make my hair stand on end. Yes, it is a vile world.”

“Don’t you believe him, miss,” said Mrs. Undercliff, appearing suddenly. Then, turning to her son, “How can you measure the world? You live in a little one of your own; a world of forgers and anonymous writers; you see so many of these, you fancy they are common as dirt; but they are only common to you, because they all come your way.”

“Oh, that is it, is it?” said the expert, doubtfully.

“Yes, that is it, Ned,” said the old lady, quietly; then after a pause, she said, “I want you to do your very best for this young lady.”

“I always do,” said the artist. “But how can I judge without materials? And she brings me none.”

Mrs. Undercliff turned to Helen, and said, “Have you brought him nothing at all, no handwritings—in your bag?”

Then Helen sighed again. “I have no handwriting except Mr. Penfold’s; but I have two printed reports of the trial.”

“Printed reports,” said the expert; “they are of no use to me. Ah! here is an outline I took of the prisoner during the trial. You can read faces: tell the lady whether he is guilty or not;” and he handed the profile to his mother with an ironical look; not that he doubted her proficiency in the rival art of reading faces, but that he doubted the existence of the art.

Mrs. Undercliff took the profile, and coloring slightly, said to Miss Rolleston, “It is living faces I profess to read: there I can see the movement of the eyes and other things, that my son, here, has not studied.” Then she scrutinized the profile. “It is a very handsome face,” said she.

449

The expert chuckled. “There’s a woman’s judgment,” said he. “Handsome! the fellow I got transported for life down at Exeter was an Adonis, and forged wills, bonds, and powers of attorney by the dozen.”

“There’s something noble about this face,” said Mrs. Undercliff, ignoring the interruption; “and yet something simple. I think him more likely to be a cats-paw than a felon.” Having delivered this with a certain modest dignity, she laid the profile on the counter before Helen.

The expert had a wonderful eye and hand; it was a good thing for society he had elected to be gamekeeper, instead of poacher; detector of forgery, instead of forger. No photograph was ever truer than this outline. Helen started, and bowed her head over the sketch to conceal the strong and various emotions that swelled at the sight of the portrait of her martyr. In vain; if the eyes were hidden, the tender bosom heaved, the graceful body quivered, and the tears fell fast upon the counter.

Mrs. Undercliff was womanly enough, though she looked like the late Lord Thurlow in petticoats; and she instantly aided the girl to hide her beating heart from the man, though that man was her son. She distracted his attention. “Give me all your notes, Ned,” said she, “and let me see whether I can make something of them; but first, perhaps, Miss Rolleston will empty her bag on the counter. Go back to your work a moment, for I know you have enough to do.”

The expert was secretly glad to be released from a case in which there were no materials; and so Helen escaped unobserved except by one of her own sex. She saw directly what Mrs. Undercliff had done for her, and lifted her sweet eyes, thick with tears, to thank her. Mrs. Undercliff smiled maternally, and next these two ladies did a stroke of business in the twinkling of an 450 eye, and without a word spoken; whereof anon. Helen being once more composed, Mrs. Undercliff took up the prayer-book, and asked her with some curiosity what could be in that.

“Oh,” said Helen, “only some writing of Mr. Penfold. Mr. Undercliff does not want to see that; he is already sure Robert Penfold never wrote that wicked thing.”

“Yes, but I should like to see some more of his handwriting for all that,” said the expert, looking suddenly up.

“But it is only in pencil.”

“Never mind; you need not fear I shall alter my opinion.”

Helen colored high. “You are right; and I should disgrace my good cause by withholding anything from inspection. There, sir.” And she opened the prayer-book and laid Cooper’s dying words before the expert; he glanced over them with an eye like a bird, and compared them with his notes.

“Yes,” said he, “that is Robert Penfold’s writing; and I say again, that hand never wrote the forged note.”

“Let me see that,” said Mrs. Undercliff.

“Oh, yes,” said Helen, rather irresolutely, “but you look into the things as well as the writing, and I promised papa”—

“Can’t you trust me?” said Mrs. Undercliff, turning suddenly cold and a little suspicious.

“Oh, yes, madam: and indeed I have nothing to reproach myself with. But my papa is anxious— However, I am sure you are my friend; and all I ask is that you will never mention to a soul what you read there.”

“I promise that,” said the elder lady, and instantly bent her black brows upon the writing. And, as she did 451 so, Helen observed her countenance rise, as a face is very apt to do when its owner enters on congenial work.

“You would have made a great mistake to keep this from me,” said she, gravely. Then she pondered profoundly; then she turned to her son and said, “Why, Edward, this is the very young lady who was wrecked in the Pacific Ocean, and cast on a desolate island. We have all read about you in the papers, miss: and I felt for you, for one, but, of course, not as I do now I have seen you. You must let me go into this with you.”

“Ah, if you would,” said Helen. “Oh, madam, I have gone through tortures already for want of somebody of my own sex to keep me in countenance. Oh, if you could have seen how I have been received! with what cold looks, and sometimes with impertinent stares before I could even penetrate into the region of those cold looks, and petty formalities. Any miserable straw was excuse enough to stop me on my errand of justice, and mercy, and gratitude.”

“Gratitude?”

“Oh, yes, madam. The papers have only told you that I was shipwrecked and cast away. They don’t tell you that Robert Penfold warned me the ship was to be destroyed, and I disbelieved and affronted him in return, and he never reproached me, not even by a look. And we were in a boat with the sailors, all starved—not hungry: starved—and mad with thirst, and yet in his own agony he hid something for me to eat. All his thought, all his fear, was for me. Such things are not done in those great extremities of the poor, vulgar, suffering body, except by angels in whom the soul rises above the flesh. And he is such an angel. I have had a knife lifted over me to kill me, madam,—yes: and again it was he who saved me. I owe my life to him on the island over and over again; and in return I have 452 promised to give him back his honor, that he values far more than life, as all such noble spirits do. Ah, my poor martyr, how feebly I plead your cause. Oh, help me! pray, pray, help me! All is so dark, and I so weak, so weak.” Again the loving eyes streamed; and this time not an eye was dry in the little shop.

The expert flung down his tracing with something between a groan and a curse. “Who can do that drudgery,” he cried, “whilst the poor young lady— Mother, you take it in hand; find me some material, though it is no bigger than a fly’s foot, give me but a clew no thicker than a spider’s web, and I’ll follow it through the whole labyrinth. But you see I’m impotent; there’s no basis for me. It is a case for you. It wants a shrewd sagacious body that can read facts and faces; and—I won’t jest any more, Miss Rolleston, for you are deeply in earnest. Well, then, she really is a woman with a wonderful insight into facts and faces. She has got a way of reading them as I read handwriting; and she must have taken a great fancy to you, for as a rule she never does us the honor to meddle.”

“Have you taken a fancy to me, madam?” said Helen, modestly and tenderly, yet half archly.

“That I have,” said the other. “Those eyes of yours went straight into my heart last night, or I should not be here this morning. That is partly owing to my own eyes being so dark, and yours the loveliest hazel. It is twenty years since eyes like yours have gazed into mine. Diamonds are not half so rare, nor a tenth part so lovely, to my fancy.”

She turned her head away, melted, probably, by some tender reminiscence. It was only for a moment. She turned round again, and said, quietly, “Yes, Ned, I should like to try what I can do; I think you said these are reports of his trial. I’ll begin by reading them.”

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She read them both very slowly and carefully, and her face grew like a judge’s, and Helen watched each shade of expression with deep anxiety.

That powerful countenance showed alacrity and hope at first; then doubt and difficulty, and at last dejection. Helen’s heart turned cold, and for the first time she began to despair. For now, a shrewd person with a plain prejudice in her favor and Robert’s, was staggered by the simple facts of the trial.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LV

skip to next chapter

Chapters LV-LVIII originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 21 (23 May 1868), numbered as Chapters LVIII-LXI.

I am disappointed that Undercliff and his mother do not appear in the stage play at all. They deserve to be the stars of their own show, a mother-and-son detective duo.

What year was it in?” / “In 1864.”
[This is impossible.]

“Then, oh, sir,” said Helen, “Robert Penfold was not guilty.”
[I don’t see how that follows at all. If he were really a skilled forger, then of course the forged note would not look like his own handwriting.]

454

CHAPTER LVI.

Mrs. Undercliff, having read the reports, avoided Helen’s eye—(another bad sign). She turned to Mr. Undercliff, and probably because the perusal of the reports had disappointed her, said, almost angrily, “Edward, what did you say to make them laugh at that trial? Both these papers say that ‘an expert was called, whose ingenuity made the court smile, but did not counterbalance the evidence.’”

“Why, that is a falsehood on the face of it,” said the expert, turning red. “I was called simply and solely to prove Penfold did not write the forged note! I proved it to the judge’s satisfaction, and he directed the prisoner to be acquitted on that count. Miss Rolleston, the lawyers often do sneer at experts; but then, four experts out of five are rank impostors; a set of theorists, who go by arbitrary rules framed in the closet, and not by large and laborious comparison with indisputable documents. These charlatans are not aware that five thousand cramped and tremulous, but genuine, signatures are written every day by honest men, and so they denounce every cramped or tremulous writing as a forgery. The varieties in a man’s writing, caused by his writing with his glove on, or off, with a quill, or a bad steel pen, drunk or sober, calm or agitated, in full daylight or dusk, etc., etc., all this is a dead letter to them, and they have a bias towards suspicion of forgery; and a banker’s clerk, with his mere general impression, is better evidence than they are. But I am an artist of a very different stamp. I never reason à priori. I compare, and 455 I have no bias. I never will have. The judges know this, and the pains and labor I take to be right, and they treat me with courtesy. At Penfold’s trial the matter was easy; I showed the court he had not written the note, and my evidence crushed the indictment so far. How could they have laughed at my testimony? Why, they acted upon it. Those reports are not worth a straw. What journals were they cut out of?”

“I don’t know,” said Helen.

“Is there nothing on the upper margin to show?”

“No.”

“What, not on either of them?”

“No.”

“Show them me, please. This is a respectable paper, too; the Daily News.”

“Oh, Mr. Undercliff, how can you know that?”

“I don’t know it; but I think so, because the type and paper are like that journal; the conductors are fond of clean type; so am I. Why, here is another misstatement; the judge never said he aggravated his offence by trying to cast a slur upon the Wardlaws. I’ll swear the judge never said a syllable of the kind. What he said was, ’you can speak in arrest of judgment on grounds of law, but you must not impugn the verdict with facts.’ That was the only time he spoke to the prisoner at all. These reports are not worth a button.”

Helen lifted up her hands and eyes in despair. “Where shall I find the truth?” said she. “The world is a quicksand.”

“My dear young lady,” said Mrs. Undercliff, “don’t you be discouraged; there must be a correct report in some paper or other.”

“I am not so sure of that,” said Undercliff. “I believe the reporters trundle off to the nearest public house together, and light their pipes with their notes, and 456 settle something or other by memory. Indeed, they have reached a pitch of inaccuracy that could not be attained without co-operation. Independent liars contradict each other; but these chaps follow one another in falsehood, like geese toddling after one another across a common.”

“Come, come,” said Mrs. Undercliff, “if you can’t help us, don’t hurt us. We don’t want a man to talk yellow jaundice to us. Miss Rolleston must employ somebody to read all the other papers, and compare the reports with these.”

“I’ll employ nobody but myself,” said Helen. “I’ll go to the British Museum, directly.”

“The Museum!” cried Mr. Undercliff, looking up with surprise. “Why, they will be half an hour groping for a copy of the Times. No, no; go to Peele’s Coffee House.” He directed her where to find that place; and she was so eager to do something for Robert, however small, that she took up her bag, directly, and put up the prayer-book, and was going to ask for her extracts, when she observed Mr. Undercliff was scrutinizing them with great interest, so she thought she would leave them with him; but, on looking more closely, she found that he was examining, not the reports, but the advertisements and miscellanea on the reverse side.

She waited out of politeness, but she colored, and bit her lip. She could not help feeling hurt and indignant. “Any trash is more interesting to people than poor Robert’s case,” she thought. And, at last, she said, bitterly,—

“Those advertisements seem to interest you, sir; shall I leave them with you?”

“If you please,” said the expert, over whose head, bent in dogged scrutiny, this small thunderbolt of feminine wrath passed unconscious.

457

Helen drove away to Peele’s Coffee House.

Mrs. Undercliff pondered over the facts that had been elicited in this conversation; the expert remained absorbed in the advertisements at the back of Helen’s reports.

When he had examined every one of them, minutely, he held the entire extracts up to the light, and looked through them; then he stuck a double magnifier in his eye, and looked through them with that. Then he took two pieces of card, wrote on them Re Penfold, and looked about for his other materials, to put them all neatly together. Lo! the profile of Robert Penfold was gone.

“Now that is too bad,” said he. “So much for her dovelike eyes, that you admired so. Miss Innocence has stolen that profile.”

“Stolen! she bought it—of me.”

“Why, she never said a word.”

“No; but she looked a look. She asked me with those sweet, imploring eyes, might she have it; and I looked yes; then she glanced towards you, and put down a note. Here it is.”

“Why, you beat the telegraph, you two. Ten pounds for that thing! I must make it up to her, somehow.”

“I wish you could. Poor girl, she is a lady every inch. But she is in love with that Penfold. I am afraid it is a hopeless case.”

“I have seen a plainer. But hopeless it is not. However, you work your way, and I’ll work mine.”

“But you can’t; you have no materials.”

“No; but I have found a door that may lead to materials.”

Having delivered himself thus mysteriously, he shut himself up in obstinate silence, until Helen Rolleston called again, two days afterwards. She brought a bag 458 full of manuscript this time; to wit, copies in her own handwriting of eight reports, the Queen v. Penfold. She was in good spirits, and told Mrs. Undercliff that all the reports were somewhat more favorable than the two she had left; and she was beginning to tell Mr. Undercliff he was quite right in his recollection, when he interrupted her and said, “All that is secondary now. Have you any objection to answer me a question?”

She colored; but said, “Oh, no. Ask me anything you like;” then she blushed deeper.

“How did you become possessed of those two reports you left with me the other day?”

At this question, so different from what she feared, Helen cleared up and smiled, and said, “From a Mr. Hand, a clerk in Mr. Wardlaw’s office; they were sent me at my request.”

The expert seemed pleased at this reply; his brow cleared, and he said, “Then I don’t mind telling you that those two reports will bring Penfold’s case within my province. To speak plainly, Miss Rolleston, your newspaper extracts—ARE FORGERIES.”

459

CHAPTER LVII.

Forgeries!” cried Helen, with innocent horror.

Rank forgeries,” repeated the expert, coolly.

“Forgeries!” cried Helen. “Why, how can printed things be that?”

“That is what I should like to know,” said the old lady.

“Why, what else can you call them?” said the expert. “They are got up to look like extracts from newspapers. But they were printed as they are, and were never in any journal. Shall I tell you how I found that out?”

“If you please, sir,” said Helen.

“Well, then, I looked at the reverse side, and I found seven misprints in one slip, and five in the other. That was a great number to creep into printed slips of that length. The trial part did not show a single erratum. ‘Hullo!’ said I to myself; ‘why, one side is printed more carefully than the other.’ And that was not natural. The printing of advertisements is looked after quite as sharply as any other part in a journal. Why, the advertisers themselves cry out if they are misprinted.”

“Oh, how shrewd!” cried Helen.

“Child’s play,” said the expert. “Well, from that blot I went on. I looked at the edges, and they were cut too clean. A gentleman with a pair of scissors can’t cut slips out of a paper like this. They were cut in the printer’s office. Lastly, on holding them to the light, I found they had not been machined upon the plan now adopted by all newspapers; but worked by hand. In one word—forgeries!”

460

“Oh!” said Helen. “To think I should have handled forgeries, and shown them to you for real. Ah! I’m so glad; for now I have committed the same crime as Robert Penfold; I have uttered a forged document. Take me up and have me put in prison, for I am as guilty as ever he was.” Her face shone with rapture at sharing Robert’s guilt.

The expert was a little puzzled by sentiments so high-flown and unpractical.

“I think,” said he, “you are hardly aware what a valuable discovery this may prove to you. However, the next step is to get me a specimen of the person’s handwriting who furnished you with these. The chances are, he is the writer of the forged note.”

Helen uttered an exclamation that was almost a scream. The inference took her quite by surprise. She looked at Mrs. Undercliff.

“He is right, I think,” said the old lady.

“Right or wrong,” said the expert, “the next step in the inquiry is to do what I said. But that demands great caution. You must write a short civil note to Mr. Hand, and just ask him some questions. Let me see; ask him what newspapers his extracts are from, and whether he has got any more. He will not tell you the truth; but no matter, we shall get hold of his handwriting.”

“But, sir,” said Helen, “there is no need for that. Mr. Hand sent me a note along with the extracts.”

“The deuce he did. All the better. Any words in it that are in the forged note? Is Penfold in it, or Wardlaw?”

Helen reflected a moment, and then said she thought both those names were in it.

“Fetch me that note,” said Undercliff, and his eyes sparkled. He was on a hot scent now.

461

“And let me study the genuine reports, and compare what they say with the forged ones,” said Mrs. Undercliff.

“Oh, what friends I have found at last!” cried Helen.

She thanked them both warmly, and hurried home, for it was getting late.

Next day she brought Hand’s letter to Mr. Undercliff, and devoured his countenance while he inspected it keenly, and compared it with the forged note.

The comparison was long and careful, but unsatisfactory. Mr. Undercliff could not conscientiously say whether Hand had written the forged note or not. There were pros and cons.

“We are in deeper water than I thought,” said he. “The comparison must be enlarged. You must write as I suggested, and get another note out of Mr. Hand.”

“And leave the prayer-book with me,” said Mrs. Undercliff.

Helen complied with these instructions, and in due course received a civil line from Mr. Hand to say that the extracts had been sent him from the country by one of his fellow clerks, and he had locked them up, lest Mr. Michael Penfold, who was much respected in the office, should see them. He could not say where they came from; perhaps from some provincial paper. If of any value to Miss Rolleston, she was quite at liberty to keep them. He added there was a coffee-house in the city where she could read all the London papers of that date. This letter, which contained a great many more words than the other, was submitted to Undercliff. It puzzled him so that he set to work, and dissected every curve the writer’s pen had made; but he could come to no positive conclusion, and he refused to utter his conjectures.

“We are in a deep water,” said he.

462

Finally he told his mother he was at a standstill for the present.

“But I am not,” said Mrs. Undercliff. She added, after a while, “I think there’s felony at the bottom of this.”

“Smells like it to me,” said the expert.

“Then I want you to do something very clever for me.”

“What is that?”

“I want you to forge something.”

“Come! I say.”

“Quite innocent, I assure you.”

“Well, but it is a bad habit to commence.”

“All depends on the object. This is to take in a forger; that is all.”

The expert’s eyes sparkled. He had always been sadly discontented with the efforts of forgers, and thought he could do better.

“I’ll do it,” said he gayly.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LVII

Rank forgeries,” repeated the expert, coolly.
[I am continually impressed at the various characters’ ready ability to speak in small capitals. (Helen’s similarly small-capped utterance gets a pass because it is the first word of a chapter.)]

she was quite at liberty to keep them.
text has keep him
[Corrected from Once a Week.]

463

CHAPTER LVIII.

General Rolleston and his daughter sat at breakfast in the hotel. General Rolleston was reading the Times, and his eye lighted on something that made him start. He looked towards Helen, and his first impulse was to communicate it to her; but, on second thoughts, he preferred to put a question to her first.

“You have never told the Wardlaws what those sailors said?”

“No, papa. I think they ought to have been told; but you know you positively forbade me.”

“Of course I did. Why afflict the old gentleman with such a tale? A couple of common sailors, who chose to fancy the ship was destroyed!”

“Who are better judges of such a thing than sailors?”

“Well, my child, if you think so, I can’t help it. All I say, spare the old gentleman such a report. As for Arthur, to tell you the truth, I have mentioned the matter to him.”

“Oh, papa! Then why forbid me to tell him? What did he say?”

“He was very much distressed. ‘Destroy the ship my Helen was in!’ said he: ‘if I thought Wylie had done that, I’d kill him with my own hand, though I was hanged for it next minute.’ I never saw the young fellow fire up so before. But when he came to think calmly over it a little while, he said: ‘I hope this slander will never reach my father’s ears; it would grieve him deeply. I only laugh at it.’

“Laugh at it! and yet talk of killing?”

464

“Oh, people say they laugh at a thing when they are very angry all the time. However, as you are a good girl, and mind what you are told, I’ll read you an advertisement that will make you stare. Here is Joseph Wylie, who, you say, wrecked the Proserpine, actually invited by Michael Penfold to call on him and hear of something to his advantage.”

“Dear me!” said Helen; “how strange! Surely Mr. Penfold cannot know the character of that man. Stop a minute! Advertise for him? Then nobody knows where he lives? There, papa; you see he is afraid to go near Arthur Wardlaw: he knows he destroyed the ship. What a mystery it all is! And so Mr. Penfold is at home, after all; and not to send me a single line. I never met so much unkindness and discourtesy in all my life.”

“Ah, my dear,” said the general, “you never defied the world before, as you are doing now.”

Helen sighed: but, presently recovering her spirit, said she had done without the world on her dear island, and she would not be its slave now.

As she was always as good as her word, she declined an invitation to play the lion, and, dressing herself in plain merino, went down that very evening to Michael Penfold’s cottage.

We run thither a little before her, to relate briefly what had taken place there.

Nancy Rouse, as may well be imagined, was not the woman to burn two thousand pounds. She locked the notes up; and, after that night, became very reserved on that head, so much so that, at last, Mr. Penfold saw it was an interdicted topic, and dropped it in much wonder.

When Nancy came to think of it in daylight, she could not help suspecting Wylie had some hand in it; and it occurred to her that the old gentleman who lodged 465 next door, might be an agent of Wylie’s and a spy on her. Wylie must have told him to push the two thousand pounds into her room: but what a strange thing to do! To be sure, he was a sailor, and sailors had been known to make sandwiches of bank-notes, and eat them. Still her good sense revolted against this theory, and she was sore puzzled; for, after all, there was the money, and she had seen it come through the wall. One thing appeared certain—Joe had not forgotten her; he was thinking of her as much as ever, or more than ever; so her spirits rose, she began singing and whistling again, and waited cunningly till Joe should reappear and explain his conduct. Hostage for his reappearance she held the two thousand pounds. She felt so strong and saucy, she was half sorry she had allowed Mr. Penfold to advertise; but, after all, it did not much matter, she could always declare to Joe she had never missed him, for her part, and the advertising was a folly of poor Mr. Penfold’s.

Matters were in this condition when the little servant came up one evening to Mr. Penfold, and said there was a young lady to see him.

“A young lady for me?” said he.

“Oh, she won’t eat you, while I am by,” said the sharp little girl. “It is a lady, and the same what come before.”

“Perhaps she will oblige me with her name,” said Michael, timidly.

“I won’t show her up till she do,” said this mite of a servant, who had been scolded by Nancy for not extracting that information on Helen’s last visit.

“Of course, I must receive her,” said Michael, half-consulting the mite. It belonged to a sex which promptly assumes the control of such gentle creatures as he was.

“Is Miss Rouse in the way?” said he.

The mite laughed, and said,—

466

“She is only gone down the street. I’ll send her in to take care on you.”

With this she went off, and in due course led Helen up the stairs. She ran in, and whispered in Michael’s ear,—

“It is Miss Helen Rolleston.”

Thus they announced a lady at No. 3.

Michael stared with wonder at so great a personage visiting him; and the next moment Helen glided into the room, blushing a little, and even panting inaudibly, but all on her guard. She saw before her a rather stately figure, and a face truly venerable, benignant, and beautiful, though deficient in strength. She cast a devouring glance on him as she courtesied to him; and it instantly flashed across her, “But for you there would be no Robert Penfold.” There was an unconscious tenderness in her voice as she spoke to him, for she had to open the interview.

“Mr. Penfold, I fear my visit may surprise you, as you did not write to me. But, when you hear what I am come about, I think you will not be displeased with me for coming.”

“Displeased, madam? I am highly honored by your visit—a lady, who, I understand, is to be married to my worthy employer, Mr. Arthur. Pray be seated, madam.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Helen began in a low, thrilling voice, to which, however, she gave firmness by a resolute effort of her will:

“I am come to speak to you of one who is very dear to you, and to all who really know him.”

“Dear to me? It is my son. The rest are gone. It is Robert.”

And he began to tremble.

“Yes, it is Robert,” said she, very softly; then turning her eyes away from him, lest his emotion should overcome her, she said,—

467

“He has laid me and my father under deep obligations.”

She dragged her father in; for it was essential not to show Mr. Penfold she was in love with Robert.

“Obligations to my Robert? Ah, madam, it is very kind of you to say that, and cheer a desolate father’s heart with praise of his lost son. But how could a poor unfortunate man in his position serve a lady like you?”

“He defended me against robbers, single-handed.”

“Ah,” said the old man, glowing with pride, and looking more beautiful than ever, “he was always as brave as a lion.”

“That is nothing; he saved my life again, and again, and again.”

“God bless him for it! and God bless you for coming and telling me of it. Oh, madam, he was always brave, and gentle, and just, and good; so noble, so unfortunate.”

And the old man began to cry.

Helen’s bosom heaved, and it cost her a bitter struggle not to throw her arms round the dear old man’s neck and cry with him. But she came prepared for a sore trial of her feelings, and she clenched her hands and teeth, and would not give way an inch.

“Tell me how he saved your life, madam.”

“He was in the ship, and in the boat with me.”

“Ah, madam,” said Michael, “that must have been some other Robert Penfold; not my son. He could not come home. His time was not up, you know.”

“It was Robert Penfold, son of Michael Penfold.”

“Excuse me a moment,” said Michael; and he went to a drawer, and brought her a photograph of Robert. “Was it this Robert Penfold?”

The girl took the photograph and eyed it, and lowered her head over it.

“Yes,” she murmured.

468

“And he was coming home in the ship with you. Is he mad? More trouble! more trouble!”

“Do not alarm yourself,” said Helen; “he will not land in England for years,”—here she stifled a sob—“and long ere that we shall have restored him to society.”

Michael stared at that, and shook his head.

“Never,” said he; “that is impossible.”

“Why impossible?”

“They all say he is a felon.”

“They all shall say that he is a martyr.”

“And so he is; but how can that ever be proved?”

“I don’t know. But I am sure that the truth can always be proved, if people have patience and perseverance.”

“My sweet young lady,” said Michael sadly, “you don’t know the world.”

“I am learning it fast, though. It may take me a few years perhaps to make powerful friends, to grope my way among forgers, and spies, and wicked dishonest people of all sorts, but so surely as you sit there, I’ll clear Robert Penfold before I die.”

The good feeble old man gazed on her with admiration and astonishment.

She subdued her flashing eye, and said with a smile, “And you shall help me. Mr. Penfold, let me ask you a question. I called here before; but you were gone to Edinburgh. Then I wrote to you at the office, begging you to let me know the moment you returned. Now, do not think I am angry; but pray tell me why you would not answer my letter.”

Michael Penfold was not burdened with amour propre; but who has not got a little of it in some corner of his heart? “Miss Rolleston,” said he, “I was born a gentleman, and was a man of fortune once, till false friends 469 ruined me. I am in business now, but still a gentleman: and neither as a gentleman nor as a man of business could I leave a lady’s letter unanswered. I never did such a thing in all my life. I never got your letter,” he said, quite put out, and his wrath was so like a dove’s, that Helen smiled and said,—

“But I posted it myself. And my address was in it; yet it was not returned.”

“Well, madam, it was not delivered, I assure you.”

“It was intercepted, then.”

He looked at her. She blushed, and said, “Yes, I am getting suspicious: ever since I found I was followed and watched. Excuse me a moment.” She went to the window and peered through the curtains. She saw a man walking slowly by; he quickened his pace the moment she opened the curtain.

“Yes,” said she, “it was intercepted, and I am watched wherever I go.”

Before she could say any more a bustle was heard on the stairs, and in bounced Nancy Rouse, talking as she came. “Excuse me, Mr. Penfolds, but I can’t wait no longer with my heart a‑bursting; it is! it is! Oh my dear, sweet young lady; the Lord be praised. You really are here alive and well. Kiss you I must and shall: come back from the dead; there—there—there!”

“Nancy! my good, kind Nancy,” cried Helen, and returned her embrace warmly.

Then followed a burst of broken explanations; and, at last, Helen made out that Nancy was the landlady, and had left Lambeth long ago.

“But dear heart,” said she, “Mr. Penfolds, I’m properly jealous of you. To think of her coming here to see you, and not me!”

“But I didn’t know you were here, Nancy.” Then 470 followed a stream of inquiries, and such warm-hearted sympathy with all her dangers and troubles, that Helen was led into revealing the cause of it all.

“Nancy,” said she, solemnly, “the ship was wilfully cast away; there was a villain on board that made holes in her on purpose, and sunk her.”

Nancy lifted up her hands in astonishment. But Mr. Penfold was far more surprised and agitated.

“For Heaven’s sake, don’t say that!” he cried.

“Why not, sir?” said Helen; “it is the truth; and I have got the testimony of dying men to prove it.”

“I am sorry for it. Pray don’t let anybody know. Why, Wardlaws would lose the insurance of a hundred and sixty thousand pounds.”

“Arthur Wardlaw knows it: my father told him.”

“And he never told me,” said Penfold, with growing surprise.

“Goodness me! what a world it is,” cried Nancy. “Why, that was murder, and no less. It is a wonder she wasn’t drownded, and another friend into the bargain that I had in that very ship. Oh, I wish I had the villain here that done it, I’d tear his eyes out.”

Here the mite of a servant bounded in, radiant and giggling, gave Nancy a triumphant glance, and popped out again, holding the door open, through which in slouched a seafaring man, drawn by Penfold’s advertisement, and decoyed into Nancy’s presence by the imp of a girl, who thought to please her mistress.

Nancy, who for some days had secretly expected this visit, merely gave a little squeak; but Helen uttered a violent scream; and, upon that, Wylie recognized her, and literally staggered back a step or two, and these words fell out of his mouth:—

“The sick girl!”

Helen caught them.

471

“Ay!” cried she; “but she is alive in spite of you: alive to denounce you and to punish you.”

She darted forward, and her eyes flashed lightning.

“Look at this man, all of you,” she cried. “Look at him well: This is the wretch that scuttled the Proserpine!

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LVIII

I only laugh at it.’”
inner (single) close quote supplied from Once a Week

it was essential not to show Mr. Penfold she was in love with Robert
[If he doesn’t figure it out within ninety seconds, I cannot say much for his powers of observation.]

Wylie recognized her, and literally staggered back
[This is the second time in a few chapters that someone has literally staggered.]

472

CHAPTER LIX.

 
 
 

MISS HELEN, how can you say that?” cried Nancy, in utter dismay. “I’ll lay my life poor Joe never did no such wickedness.”

But Helen waved her off without looking at her, and pointed at Wylie.

“Are you blind? Why does he cringe and cower at sight of me? I tell you he scuttled the Proserpine, and the great auger he did it with, I have seen and handled. Yes, sir, you destroyed a ship, and the lives of many innocent persons, whose blood now cries to Heaven against you; and if I am alive to tell the cruel tale, it is no thanks to you; for you did your best to kill me, and, what is worse, to kill Robert Penfold, this gentleman’s son; for he was on board the ship. You are no better than an assassin.”

“I am a man that’s down,” said Wylie, in a low and broken voice, hanging his head. “Don’t hit me any more. I didn’t mean to take anybody’s life: I took my chance with the rest. Lady, as I’m a man, I have lain in my bed many’s the night, crying like a child, with thinking you were dead. And now I am glad you are alive, to be revenged on me. Well, you see, it is your turn now; you have lost me my sweetheart there; she’ll never speak to me again after this. Ah, the poor man gets all the blame. You don’t ask who tempted me; and, if I was to tell you, you’d hate me worse than ever; so I’ll belay. If I’m a sinner, I’m a sufferer: England’s too hot to hold me; I’ve only to go to sea, and get drowned the quickest way.” And with this he vented a deep sigh, and slouched out of the room.

four people of different ages and sexes gathered around a table

473

Nancy sank into a seat, and threw her apron over her head, and rocked and sobbed as if her heart would break.

As for Helen Rolleston, she still stood in the middle of the room, burning with excitement.

Then poor old Michael came to her, and said, almost in a whisper, “It is a bad business; he is her sweetheart, and she had the highest opinion of him.”

This softened Helen in a great measure. She turned and looked at Nancy, and said: “Oh, dear! what a miserable thing. But I couldn’t know that.”

After a while, she drew a chair, and sat down by Nancy, and said: “I won’t punish him, Nancy.”

Nancy burst out sobbing afresh.

“You have punished him,” said she, brusquely, “and me too, as never did you no harm. You have driven him out of the country, you have.”

At this piece of feminine justice Helen’s anger revived. “So, then,” said she, “ships are to be destroyed, and ladies and gentlemen murdered, and nobody is to complain, nor say an angry word, if the wretch happens to be paying his addresses to you: that makes up for all the crimes in the world. What! Can an honest woman like you lose all sense of right and wrong for a man? And such a man!”

“Why, he is as well-made a fellow as ever I saw,” sobbed Nancy.

“Oh, is he?” said Helen, ironically—her views of manly beauty were different, and black eyes a sine qua non with her—“then it is a pity his soul is not made to correspond. I hope by my next visit you will have learned to despise him as you ought. Why, if I loved a man ever so, I’d tear him out of my heart if he committed a crime; ay, though I tore my soul out of my body to do it.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” said Nancy, recovering some of 474 her natural pugnacity; “for we are all tarred with the same stick, gentle or simple.”

“But I assure you I would,” said Helen; “and so ought you.”

“Well, miss, you begin,” cried Nancy, suddenly firing up through her tears. “If the Proserpine was scuttled, which I’ve your word for it, Miss Helen, and I never knew you tell a lie, why, your sweetheart is more to blame for it than mine.”

Helen rose with dignity.

“You are in grief,” said she. “I leave you to consider whether you have done well to affront me in your own house.” And she was moving to the door with great dignity when Nancy ran and stopped her.

“Oh, don’t leave me so, Miss Helen,” she cried; “don’t you go to quarrel with me for speaking the truth too plain and rude, as is a plain-spoken body at the best; and in such grief myself, I scarce know what I do say. But, indeed, and in truth, you mustn’t go and put it abroad that the ship was scuttled; if you do, you won’t hurt Joe Wylie; he’ll get a ship, and fly the country. Who you’ll hurt will be your own husband, as is to be— Wardlaws.”

“Shall I, Mr. Penfold?” asked Helen disdainfully.

“Well, madam, certainly it might create some unworthy suspicion.”

“Suspicion?” cried Nancy. “Don’t you think to throw dust in my eyes. What had poor Joe to gain by destroying that there ship, and risking his own life?—you know very well he was bribed to do it. And who bribed him? Who should bribe him, but the man as owned the ship?”

“Miss Rouse,” said Mr. Penfold, “I sympathize with your grief, and make great allowance; but I will not sit here and hear my worthy employers blackened with such 475 terrible insinuations. The great house of Wardlaw bribe a sailor to scuttle their own ship, with Miss Rolleston and one hundred and sixty thousand pounds’ worth of gold on board! Monstrous—monstrous!”

“Then what did Joe Wylie mean?” replied Nancy. “Says he, ‘The poor man gets all the blame. If I was to tell you who tempted me,’ says he, ‘you’d hate me worse.’ Then I say, why should she hate him worse? Because it’s her sweetheart tempted mine. I stands to that.”

This inference, thus worded, struck Helen as so droll that she turned her head aside to giggle a little. But old Penfold replied loftily,—

“Who cares what a Wylie says against a great old mercantile house of London City?”

“Very well, Mr. Penfolds,” said Nancy, with one great final sob, and dried her eyes with her apron; and she did it with such an air, they both saw she was not going to shed another tear about the matter. “Very well; you be both against me; then I’ll say no more. But I know what I know.”

“And what do you know?” inquired Helen.

“Time will show,” said Nancy, turning suddenly very dogged. “Time will show.”

Nothing more was to be got out of her after that; and Helen, soon after, made her a civil though stiff little speech, regretted the pain she had inadvertently caused her, and went away, after leaving Mr. Penfold her address.

On her return home, she entered the whole adventure in her diary. She made a separate entry to this effect:—

Mysterious.—My letter to Mr. Penfold at the office intercepted.

Wylie hints that he was bribed by Messrs. Wardlaw.

476

Nancy Rouse suspects that it was Arthur, and says time will show.

As for me, I can neither see why Wylie should scuttle the ship unless he was bribed by somebody, nor what Arthur or his father could gain by destroying that ship. This is all as dark as that more cruel mystery, which alone I care to solve.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LIX

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Chapters LIX-LXI originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 22 (30 May 1868), numbered as Chapters LXII-LXIV.

he vented a deep sigh, and slouched out of the room
[But did he slouch literally?]

[Illustration]
[This Maurier illustration from Once a Week didn’t make it into the Chatto & Windus edition.]

your own husband, as is to be—Wardlaws
[Definitely a class marker. Here a Penfolds, there a Wardlaws. Elsewhere, there is even a “Proserpines”.]

477

CHAPTER LX.

Next morning, after a sleepless night, Nancy Rouse said to Mr. Penfold, “Haven’t I heard you say as bank-notes could be traced to folk?”

“Certainly, madam,” said Michael; “but it is necessary to take the numbers of them.”

“Oh! And how do you do that?”

“Why, every note has its own number.”

“La! ye don’t say so; then them fifties are all numbered, belike.”

“Certainly, and if you wish me to take down the numbers, I will do so.”

“Well, sir, some other day you shall. I could not bear the sight of them just yet; for it is them as has been the ruin of poor Joe Wylie, I do think.”

Michael could not follow this; but, the question having been raised, he advised her, on grounds of common prudence, not to keep them in the house without taking down their numbers.

“We will talk about that in the evening,” said Nancy.

Accordingly, at night, Nancy produced the notes, and Michael took down the numbers and descriptions in his pocketbook. They ran from 16,444 to 16,483. And he promised her to try and ascertain through what hands they had passed. He said he had a friend in the Bank of England, who might perhaps be able to discover to what private bank they had been issued in the first instance, and then those bankers, on a strong representation, might perhaps examine their books and say to whom they had paid them. He told her the notes were 478 quite new, and evidently had not been separated since their first issue.

Nancy caught a glimpse of his meaning, and set herself doggedly to watch until the person, who had passed the notes through the chimney, should come for them. “He will miss them,” said she, “you mark my words.”

Thus Helen, though reduced to a standstill herself, had set an inquiry on foot, which was alive and ramifying.

In the course of a few days she received a visit from Mrs. Undercliff. That lady came in, and laid a prayer-book on the table, saying, “I have brought it you back, miss; and I want you to do something for my satisfaction.”

“Oh, certainly,” said Helen. “What is it?”

“Well, miss, first examine the book and the writing. Is it all right?”

Helen examined it, and said it was. “Indeed,” said she, “the binding looks fresher, if anything.”

“You have a good eye,” said Mrs. Undercliff. “Well, what I want you to do is—of course Mr. Wardlaw is a good deal about you?”

“Yes.”

“Does he go to church with you ever?”

“No.”

“But he would if you were to ask him.”

“I have no doubt he would; but why?”

“Manage matters so that he shall go to church with you, and then put the book down for him to see the writing, all in a moment. Watch his face and tell me.”

Helen colored up and said, “No; I can’t do that. Why, it would be turning God’s temple into a trap. Besides—”

“The real reason first, if you don’t mind,” said this horribly shrewd old woman.

479

“Well, Mr. Arthur Wardlaw is the gentleman I am going to marry.”

“Good heavens!” cried Mrs. Undercliff, taken utterly aback by this most unexpected turn. “Why, you never told me that!”

“No,” said Helen blushingly. “I did not think it necessary to go into that. Well, of course it is not in human nature that Mr. Wardlaw should be zealous in my good work, or put himself forward; but he has never refused to lend me any help that was in his power; and it is repugnant to my nature to suspect him of a crime, and to my feelings to lay a trap for him.”

“Quite right,” said Mrs. Undercliff; “of course I had no idea you were going to marry Mr. Wardlaw. I made sure Mr. Penfold was the man.”

Helen blushed higher still, but made no reply.

Mrs. Undercliff turned the conversation directly. “My son has given many hours to Mr. Hand’s two letters, and he told me to say he is beginning to doubt whether Mr. Hand is a real person, with a real handwriting at all.”

“Oh, Mrs. Undercliff! Why, he wrote me two letters. However, I will ask Mr. Penfold whether Mr. Hand exists or not. When shall I have the pleasure of seeing you again?”

“Whenever you like, my dear young lady; but not upon this business of Penfold and Wardlaw. I have done with it forever; and my advice to you, miss, is not to stir the mud any more.” And with these mysterious words the old lady retired, leaving Helen deeply discouraged at her desertion.

However she noted down the conversation in her diary, and made this comment:—People find no pleasure in proving an accused person innocent; the charm is, to detect guilt. This day a good, kind friend abandons me because I will not turn aside from my charitable mission 480 to suspect another person who is as wrongfully suspected as he I love has been.

Mem.: To see, or make inquiries about, Mr. Hand.

General Rolleston had taken a furnished house in Hanover Square. He now moved into it, and Helen was compelled to busy herself in household arrangements.

She made the house charming; but unfortunately stood in a draught whilst heated, and caught a chill, which a year ago would very likely have gone to her lungs and killed her, but now settled on her limbs in violent neuralgic pains and confined her to her bed for a fortnight.

She suffered severely; but had the consolation of finding she was tenderly beloved. Arthur sent flowers every day and affectionate notes twice a day. And her father was constantly by her bedside.

At last she came down to the drawing-room, but lay on the sofa, well wrapped up, and received only her most intimate friends. The neuralgia had now settled on her right arm and hand, so that she could not write a letter; and she said to herself, with a sigh, “Oh, how unfit a girl is to do anything great. We always fall ill, just when health and strength are most needed.”

Nevertheless, during this period of illness and inaction, circumstances occurred that gave her joy.

Old Wardlaw had long been exerting himself in influential channels to obtain what he called justice for his friend Rolleston; and had received some very encouraging promises; for the general’s services were indisputable; and while he was stirring the matter, Helen was unconsciously co-operating by her beauty, and the noise her adventure made in society. At last a gentleman, whose wife was about the Queen, promised old Wardlaw one day that, if a fair opportunity should 481 occur, that lady should tell Helen’s adventure, and how the gallant old general, when everybody else despaired, had gone out to the Pacific and found his daughter and brought her home. This lady was a courtier of ten years’ standing, and waited her opportunity; but, when it did come, she took it, and she soon found that no great tact or skill was necessary on such an occasion as this. She was listened to with ready sympathy, and the very next day some inquiries were made, the result of which was that the Horse-Guards offered Lieutenant-General Rolleston the command of a crack regiment and a full generalship. At the same time, it was intimated to him from another official quarter that a baronetcy was at his service, if he felt disposed to accept it. The tears came into the stout old warrior’s eyes, at this sudden sunshine of royal favor, and Helen kissed old Wardlaw of her own accord; and the star of the Wardlaws rose into the ascendant, and for a time Robert Penfold seemed to be quite forgotten.

The very day General Rolleston became Sir Edward, a man and a woman called at the Charing Cross Hotel, and asked for Miss Helen Rolleston.

The answer was, she had left the hotel about ten days.

“Where is she gone, if you please?”

“We don’t know.”

“Why, hasn’t she left her new address?”

“No. The footman came for letters several times.”

No information was to be got here, and Mr. Penfold and Nancy Rouse went home greatly puzzled what to do.

At first sight it might appear easy for Mr. Penfold to learn the new address of Miss Rolleston. He had only to ask Arthur Wardlaw. But, to tell the truth, during the last fortnight Nancy Rouse had impressed her views steadily and persistently on his mind, and he had also 482 made a discovery that co-operated with her influence and arguments to undermine his confidence in his employer. What that discovery was, we must leave him to relate.

Looking, then, at matters with a less unsuspicious eye than heretofore, he could not help observing that Arthur Wardlaw never put into the office letter-box a single letter for his sweetheart. “He must write to her,” thought Michael: “but I am not to know her address. Suppose after all he did intercept that letter.”

And now, like other simple credulous men, whose confidence has been shaken, he was literally brimful of suspicions, some of them reasonable, some of them rather absurd.

He had too little art to conceal his change of mind, and so, very soon after his vain attempt to see Helen Rolleston at the inn, he was bundled off to Scotland on business of the office.

Nancy missed him sorely. She felt quite alone in the world. She managed to get through the day—work helped her; but at night she sat disconsolate and bewildered, and she was now beginning to doubt her own theory. For certainly, if all that money had been Joe Wylie’s, he would hardly have left the country without it.

Now, the second evening after Michael’s departure, she was seated in his room, brooding, when suddenly she heard a peculiar knocking next door.

She listened a little while, and then stole softly downstairs to her own little room.

Her suspicions were correct. It was the same sort of knocking that had preceded the phenomenon of the hand and bank-notes. She peeped into the kitchen and whispered, “Jenny—Polly—come here.”

A stout washerwoman and the mite of a servant came 483 wondering. “Now you stand there,” said Nancy, “and do as I bid you. Hold your tongues now. I know all about it.”

The myrmidons stood silent, but with panting bosoms; for the mysterious knocking now concluded, and a brick in the chimney began to move.

It came out, and immediately a hand, with a ring on it, came through the aperture and felt about.

The mite stood firm, but the big washerwoman gave signs of agitation that promised to end in a scream.

Nancy put her hand roughly before the woman’s mouth. “Hold your tongue, ye great soft—” And without finishing her sentence, she darted to the chimney, and seized the hand with both her own, and pulled it with such violence that the wrist followed it through the masonry, and a muffled roar was heard.

“Hold on to my waist, Polly,” she cried. “Jenny, take the poker, and that string, and tie his hand to it while we hold on. Quick! quick! Are ye asleep?”

Thus adjured, the mite got the poker against the wall, and tried to tie the wrist to it.

This, however, was not so easy: the hand struggled so desperately.

However, pulling is a matter of weight rather than muscle: and the weight of the two women pulling downwards overpowered the violent struggles of the man; and the mite contrived to tie the poker to the wrist, and repeat the ligatures a dozen times in a figure of eight.

Then the owner of the hand, who had hitherto shown violent strength taken at a disadvantage, now showed intelligence. Convinced that skill as well as force were against him, he ceased to struggle and became quite quiet.

The women contemplated their feat with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.

When they had feasted a reasonable time on the 484 imprisoned hand, and two of them, true to their sex, had scrutinized a green stone upon one of the fingers to see whether it was real or false, Nancy took them by the shoulders and bundled them good-humoredly out of the room.

She then lowered the gas and came out, and locked the room up, and put the key in her pocket.

“I’ll have my supper with you,” said she. “Come, Jenny, I’m cook; and you make the kitchen as a body could eat off it, for I expecs visitors.”

“La, ma’am,” said the mite; “he can’t get out of the chimbly to visit hus through the street door.”

“No, girl,” said Nancy. “But he can send a hambassador: so Show her heyes and plague her art, as the play says, for of all the dirty kitchens give me hers. I never was there but once, and my slipper came off for the muck, a‑sticking to a body like a birdlime.”

There was a knock at Nancy’s street; the little servant, full of curiosity, was for running to it on the instant. But Nancy checked her.

“Take your time,” said she. “It is only a lodging-house keeper.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LX

he was literally brimful of suspicions
[He wasn’t. He was figuratively brimful. Is it possible the authors think “literally” means something more like “veritably”? (In fairness, the word has gone through its fair share of semantic shifts. Mary Wollstonecraft, writing some seventy years earlier, consistently uses “literally” to mean something like “literarily”.)]

485

CHAPTER LXI.

Sir Edward Rolleston could not but feel his obligations to the Wardlaws, and, when his daughter got better, he spoke warmly on the subject, and asked her to consider seriously whether she had not tried Arthur’s affection sufficiently.

“He does not complain to you, I know,” said he; “but he feels it very hard, that you should punish him for an act of injustice which has already so deeply afflicted him. He says he believes some fool or villain heard him say that two thousand pounds was to be borrowed between them, and went and imposed on Robert Penfold’s credulity, meaning, perhaps, to call again after the note had been cashed, and get Arthur’s share of the money.”

“But why did not Arthur come forward?”

“He declares he did not know when the trial was, till a month after, and his father bears him out: says he was actually delirious, and his life in danger. I myself can testify that he was cut down just in this way, when he heard the Proserpine was lost, and you on board her. Why not give him credit for the same genuine distress at young Penfold’s misfortune? Come, Helen, is it fair to afflict and punish this gentleman for the misfortune of another, whom he never speaks of but with affection and pity? He says that if you would marry him at once, he thinks he should feel strong enough to throw himself into the case with you, and would spare neither money nor labor to clear Robert Penfold; but, as it is, he says he feels so wretched and so tortured with jealousy, that he can’t co-operate warmly with you, though his conscience 486 reproaches him every day. Poor young man! His is really a very hard case; for you promised him your hand before you ever saw Robert Penfold.”

“I did,” said Helen; “but I did not say when. Let me have one year for my good work, before I devote my whole life to Arthur.”

“Well, it will be a year wasted. Why postpone your marriage for that?”

“I promised.”

“Yes; but he chose to fancy young Wardlaw is his enemy. You might relax that, now Arthur tells you he will co-operate with you as your husband. Now, Helen, tell the truth—is it a woman’s work? Have you found it so? Will not Arthur do it better than you?”

Helen, weakened already by days of suffering, began to cry, and say, “What shall I do?—what shall I do?”

“If you have any doubt, my dear,” said Sir Edward, “then think of what I owe to the Wardlaws.”

And, with that, he kissed her, and left her in tears; and, soon after, sent Arthur himself up to plead his own cause.

It was a fine summer afternoon. The long French casements, looking on the garden of the square, were open, and the balmy air came in and wooed the beautiful girl’s cheek, and just stirred her hair at times.

Arthur Wardlaw came softly in, and gazed at her as she lay. Her loveliness filled his heart and soul. He came and knelt by her sofa, and took her hand, and kissed it, and his own eyes glistened with tenderness.

He had one thing in his favor. He loved her.

Her knowledge of this had more than once befriended him, and made her refuse to suspect him of any great ill; it befriended him now. She turned a look of angelic pity on him.

“Poor Arthur!” she said. “You and I are both unhappy.”

487

“But we shall be happy ere long, I hope,” said Arthur.

Helen shook her head.

Then he petted her, and coaxed her, and said he would be her servant as well as her husband, and no wish of her heart should go ungratified.

“None?” said she, fixing her eyes on him.

“Not one,” said he; “upon my honor!”

Then he was so soft and persuasive, and alluded so delicately to her plighted faith, that she felt like a poor bird, caught in a silken net.

“Sir Edward is very good,” said he; “he feels for me.”

At that moment a note was sent up.

“Mr. Wardlaw is here, and has asked me when the marriage is to be. I can’t tell him. I look like a fool.”

Helen sighed deeply, and began to shed those tears that weaken a woman. She glanced despairingly to and fro, and saw no escape. Then, Heaven knows why or wherefore,—probably with no clear design at all but a woman’s weak desire to cause a momentary diversion: to put off the inevitable for five minutes,—she said to Arthur, “Please give me that prayer-book. Thank you. It is right you should know this.” And she put Cooper’s deposition and Welch’s into his hands.

He devoured them, and started up in great indignation. “It is an abominable slander,” said he. “We have lost ten thousand pounds by the wreck of that ship, and Wylie’s life was saved by a miracle as well as your own. It is a foul slander. I hurl it from me.” And he made his words good by whirling the prayer-book out of the window.

Helen uttered a scream. “My mother’s prayer-book!” she cried.

“Oh! I beg pardon,” said he.

“And well you may,” said she. “Ring, and send George after it.”

488

“No, I’ll go myself,” said he. “Pray forgive me. You don’t know what a terrible slander they have desecrated your prayer-book with.”

He ran out, and was a long time gone. He came back at last, looking terrified.

“I can’t find it,” said he; “somebody has carried it off. Oh, how unfortunate I am!”

“Not find it!” said Helen. “But it must be found.”

“Of course, it must be found,” said Arthur. “A pretty scandal to go into the hands of Heaven knows who! I shall offer twenty guineas reward for it at once. I’ll go down to the Times this moment. Was ever anything so unlucky?”

“Yes, go at once,” said Helen, “and I’ll send the servants into the square. I don’t want to say anything unkind, Arthur, but you ought not to have thrown my prayer-book into the public street.”

“I know I ought not. I am ashamed of it myself.”

“Well, let me see the advertisement.”

“You shall. I have no doubt we shall recover it.”

Next morning the Times contained an advertisement, offering twenty guineas for a prayer-book lost in Hanover Square, and valuable not in itself, but as a relic of a deceased parent.

In the afternoon, Arthur called to know if anybody had brought the prayer-book back.

Helen shook her head sadly, and said, “No.”

He seemed very sorry, and so penitent, that Helen said, “Do not despair; and, if it is gone, why, I must remember you have forgiven me something, and I must forgive you.”

The footman came in.

“If you please, miss, here is a woman wishes to speak to you; says she has brought a prayer-book.”

“Oh, show her up at once!” cried Helen.

489

Arthur turned away his head to hide a cynical smile. He had good reasons for thinking it was not the one he had flung out of the window yesterday.

A tall woman came in, wearing a thick veil that concealed her features.

She entered on her business at once.

“You lost a prayer-book in this square yesterday, madam.”

“Yes.”

“You offer twenty guineas reward for it.”

“Yes.”

“Please to look at this one.”

Helen examined it, and said, with joy, it was hers.

Arthur was thunderstruck. He could not believe his senses.

“Let me look at it,” said he.

His eyes went at once to the writing. He turned as pale as death, and stood petrified.

The woman took the prayer-book out of his unresisting hand, and said,—

“You’ll excuse me, sir; but it is a large reward, and gentlefolks sometimes go from their word when the article is found.”

Helen, who was delighted at getting back her book, and rather tickled at Arthur having to pay twenty guineas for losing it, burst out laughing, and said: “Give her the reward, Arthur; I am not going to pay for your misdeeds.”

“With all my heart,” said Arthur, struggling for composure.

He sat down to draw a check.

“What name shall I put?”

“Hum! Edith Hesket.”

“Two t’s?”

“No, only one.”

490

“There.”

“Thank you, sir.”

She put the check into her purse, and brought the prayer-book to Helen.

“Lock it up at once,” said she, in a voice so low that Arthur heard a murmur, but not the words; and she retired, leaving Helen staring with amazement, and Arthur in a cold perspiration.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXI

skip to next chapter

Sir Edward Rolleston could not but feel his obligations
[If you want to be formal about it, his full name is now General Sir Edward Rolleston.]

if you would marry him at once, he thinks he should feel strong enough to throw himself into the case with you
[Don’t do it, Helen! If you would marry Arthur—whether at once or in ten years makes no difference—I know you should lose all capacity to act independently, especially in matters of law and finance.]

“Not one,” said he; “upon my honor!”
[Ooh, ooh, I know this one. As You Like It, Act I, Scene 2: “Of a certain knight that swore by his honour they were good pancakes and swore by his honour the mustard was naught: now I’ll stand to it, the pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and yet was not the knight forsworn.” And so on, and so on, leading to the explanation: “if you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn”.]

He seemed very sorry, and so penitent
[I am ashamed to say that it took me a full page to realize he is lying about the prayer-book being lost.]

He had good reasons for thinking it was not the one he had flung out of the window yesterday.
[In the same way that Simon in Brat Farrar has good reasons for thinking Brat is not really his long-lost twin brother Patrick.]

491

man with long beard on a bluff overlooking the ocean

A solitary figure was seen

CHAPTER LXII.

 
 
 

THE Springbok weighed anchor and left the island, a solitary form was seen on Telegraph Hill.

When she passed eastward, out of sight of that point, a solitary figure was seen on the cliffs.

When her course brought the island dead astern of her, a solitary figure stood on the east bluff of the island, and was the last object seen from the boat as she left those waters forever.

What words can tell the sickening sorrow and utter desolation that possessed that yearning bosom!

When the boat that had carried Helen away was out of sight, he came back with uneven steps to the cave, and looked at all the familiar objects with stony eyes, and scarce recognized them, for the sunshine of her presence was there no more. He wandered to and fro in a heavy stupor, broken every now and then by sharp pangs of agony that almost made him scream. And so the poor, bereaved creature wandered about all day. He could not eat, he could not sleep, his misery was more than he could bear. One day of desolation succeeded another. And what men say so hastily was true for once. “His life was a burden.” He dragged it about with him, he scarce knew how.

He began to hate all the things he had loved whilst she was there. The beautiful cave, all glorious with pearl, that he had made for her, he could not enter it; the sight killed him, and she not there.

He left Paradise Bay altogether at last, and anchored his boat in a nook of Seal Bay. And there he slept in 492 general. But sometimes he would lie down, wherever he happened to be, and sleep as long as he could.

To him to wake was a calamity. And, when he did wake, it was always with a dire sense of reviving misery, and a deep sigh at the dark day he knew awaited him.

His flesh wasted on his bones, and his clothes hung loosely about him. The sorrow of the mind reduced him almost to that miserable condition in which he had landed on the island.

The dog and the seal were faithful to him: used to lie beside him, and often whimpered; their minds, accustomed to communicate without the aid of speech, found out, Heaven knows how, that he was in grief or in sickness.

These two creatures, perhaps, saved his life, or his reason. They came between his bereaved heart and utter solitude.

Thus passed a month of wretchedness unspeakable.

Then his grief took a less sullen form.

He came back to Paradise Bay, and at sight of it burst into a passion of weeping.

These were his first tears, and inaugurated a grief more tender than ever, but less akin to madness and despair.

Now he used to go about and cry her name aloud, passionately, by night and day.

“Oh, Helen! Helen!”

And next, his mind changed in one respect, and he clung to every reminiscence of her. Every morning he went round her haunts, and kissed every place where he had seen her put her hand.

Only the cave he could not yet face.

He tried, too. He went to the mouth of it again and again, and looked in; but go into it and face it, empty of her—he could not.

493

He prayed often.

One night he saw her in a dream.

She bent a look of angelic pity on him, and said but these words, “Live in my cave,” then vanished.

Alone on an island in the vast Pacific, who can escape superstition? It fills the air. He took this communication as a command, and the next night he slept in the cave.

But he entered it in the dark and left it before dawn.

By degrees, however, he plucked up courage, and faced it in daylight. But it was a sad trial; he came out crying bitterly after a few minutes.

Still he persevered, because her image had bade him, and at last, one evening, he even lighted the lamp, and sat there, looking at the glorious walls and roof his hapless love had made.

Getting stronger by degrees, he searched about and found little relics of her, a glove, a needle, a great hat she had made out of some large leaves. And all these he wept over and cherished.

But one day he found at the very back of the cave a relic, that made him start as if a viper had stung his loving heart. It was a letter.

He knew it in a moment. It had already caused him many a pang; but now it almost drove him mad. Arthur Wardlaw’s letter.

He recoiled from it and let it lie. He went out of the cave, and cursed his hard fate. But he came back. It was one of those horrible things a man abhors, yet cannot keep away from. He took it up, and dashed it down with rage many times; but it all ended in his lighting the lamp at night, and torturing himself with every word of that loving letter.

And she was going home to the writer of that letter, and he was left prisoner on the island. He cursed his 494 generous folly, and writhed in agony at the thought. He raged with jealousy, so that his very grief was blunted for a time.

He felt as if he must go mad.

Then he prayed—prayed fervently. And at last, worn out with such fierce and contending emotions, he fell into a deep sleep, and did not wake till the sun was high in heaven.

He woke; and the first thing he saw was the fatal letter lying at his feet in a narrow stream of sunshine that came peering in.

He eyed it with horror. This, then, was to haunt him by night and day.

He eyed it, and eyed it. Then turned his face from it. But could not help eying it again.

And at last, certain words in this letter seemed to him to bear an affinity to another piece of writing that had also caused him a great woe. Memory, by its subtle links, connected these two enemies of his together. He eyed it still more keenly, and that impression became strengthened. He took the letter and looked at it close, and held it at arm’s length, and devoured it, and the effect of this keen examination was very remarkable. It seemed to restore the man to energy and to something like hope. His eyes sparkled, and a triumphant ah! burst from his bosom.

He became once more a man of action. He rose, and bathed, and walked rapidly to and fro upon the sands, working himself up to a daring enterprise. He took his saw into the jungle, and cut down a tree of a kind common enough there. It was wonderfully soft, and almost as light as cork. The wood of this tree was literally useless for any other purpose than that to which Penfold destined it. He cut a great many blocks of this wood, and drilled holes in them, and, having hundreds 495 of yards of good line, attached these quasi corks to the gunwale, so as to make a lifeboat. This work took him several days, during which time an event occurred that encouraged him.

One morning he saw about a million birds very busy in the bay, and it proved to be a spermaceti whale come ashore.

He went out to her directly with all his tools, for he wanted oil for his enterprise, and the seal oil was exhausted.

When he got near the whale in his boat, he observed a harpoon sticking in the animal’s back. He cut steps with his axe in the slippery carcass, and got up to it as well as he could, extracted it by cutting and pulling, and threw it down into his boat, but not till he had taken the precaution to stick a great piece of blubber on the barbed point. He then sawed and hacked under difficulties, being buffeted and bothered with thousands of birds, so eager for slices, that it was as much as he could do to avoid the making of minced fowl; but true to his gentle creed, he contrived to get three hundred weight of blubber without downright killing any of these greedy competitors, though he buffeted some of them, and nearly knocked out what little sense they had. He came ashore with his blubber and harpoon, and, when he came to examine the latter, he found that the name of the owner was cut deeply in the steel. Josh. Fullalove, J. Fernandez. This inscription had a great effect on Robert Penfold’s mind. It seemed to bring the island of Juan Fernandez, and humanity in general, nearer to him.

He boiled down the blubber, and put a barrel of oil on board his life-boat. He had a ship’s lantern to burn it in. He also pitched her bottom as far as he could get at it, and provisioned her for a long voyage; taking care 496 to lash the water-cask and beef-cask to the fore thwart and foremast, in case of rough water.

When he had done all this, it occurred to him suddenly, that should he ever escape the winds and waves, and get to England, he would then have to encounter difficulties and dangers of another class, and lose the battle by his poverty.

“I play my last stake now,” said he. “I will throw no chance away.”

He reflected, with great bitterness, on the misery that want of money had already brought on him, and he vowed to reach England rich, or go to the bottom of the Pacific.

This may seem a strange vow for a man to make on an unknown island; but Robert Penfold had a powerful understanding, sharpened by adversity, and his judgment told him truly that he possessed wealth on this island, both directly and indirectly. In the first place, knowledge is sometimes wealth, and the knowledge of this island was a thing he could sell to the American merchants on the coast of Chili; and with this view, he put on board his boat specimens of the cassia and other woods, fruit, spices, pitch, guano, pink and red coral, pearl oysters, shells, cochineal, quartz, cotton, etc., etc.

Then he took his chisel and struck all the larger pearls off the shells that lined Helen’s cave. The walls and roof yielded nine enormous pearls, thirty large ones, and a great many of the usual size.

He made a pocket inside his waistcoat to hold the pearls safe.

Then he took his spade and dug into the Spanish ship for treasure. But this was terrible work. The sand returned upon the spade and trebled his labor.

The condition to which time and long submersion had reduced this ship and cargo was truly remarkable. 497 Nothing to be seen of the deck but a thin brown streak that mingled with the sand in patches: of the timbers nothing but the uprights, and of those the larger half eaten and dissolved.

He dug five days and found nothing solid.

On the sixth, being now at the bottom of the ship, he struck his spade against something hard and heavy.

On inspection it looked like ore, but of what metal he could not tell; it was as black as a coal. He threw this on one side, and found nothing more; but the next day he turned up some smaller fragments, which he took home and cleaned with lime juice.

two lumps of stone

They came out bright in places like silver, and the preceding is a fair representation of their appearance.

One piece was evidently a conglomeration of several silver coins, and the other was a single coin encrusted with some marine growth or other.

This discovery threw light on the other. The piece of black ore, weighing about seven pounds, was in reality silver coin that a century of submersion had reduced to the very appearance it wore before it ever went into the furnace.

He dug with fresh energy on this discovery, but found nothing more in the ship that day.

498

Then it occurred to him to carry off a few hundred weight of pink coral.

He got some fine specimens; and, while he was at that work, he fell in with a piece that looked very solid at the root, and unnaturally heavy. On a nearer examination this proved to be a foreign substance encrusted with coral. It had twined and twisted and curled over the thing in a most unheard-of way. Robert took it home, and by rubbing here and there with lemon juice, at last satisfied himself that this object was a silver box about the size of an octavo volume.

It had no keyhole: had evidently been soldered up for greater security; and Robert was left to conjecture how it had come there. We subjoin a representation of this curious object.

small chest overgrown with coral

He connected it at once with the ship, and felt assured that some attempt had been made to save it. There it had lain by the side of the vessel all these years, but falling clear of the sand had been embraced by the growing coral, and was now a curiosity, if not a treasure.

499

He would not break the coral, but put it on board his life-boat just as it was.

And now be dug no more. He thought he could sell the galleon as well as the island, by sample, and he was impatient to be gone.

He reproached himself, a little unjustly, for allowing a woman to undertake the task of clearing him.

“To what annoyances, and perhaps affronts, have I exposed her!” said he. “No, it is a man’s business to defend, not to be defended.”

To conclude. At high tide one fine afternoon he went on board with Ponto, and, hoisting his foresail only, crossed the bay, ranging along the island till he reached the bluff. He got under this, and by means of his compass and previous observations, set the boat’s head exactly on the line the ducks used to take. Then he set his mainsail too, and stretched boldly out across the great Pacific Ocean.

Time seems to wear out everything, even bad luck. It ran strong against Robert Penfold for years: but, when it had struck its worst blow, and parted him and Helen Rolleston, it relaxed, and a tide of good luck set in, which, unfortunately, the broken-hearted man could not appreciate at the time. However, so it was. He wanted oil, and a whale came ashore. He wanted treasure, and the sea gave him a little back of all it had swallowed: and now he wanted fine weather; and the ocean for days and nights was like peach-colored glass, dimpled here and there: and soft westerly airs fanned him along by night and day.

To be sure, he was on the true Pacific Ocean, at a period when it is really free from storms. Still, even for that latitude, he had wonderful weather for six days, and on the seventh he fell in with a schooner, the skipper 500 and crew of which looked over the bulwarks at him with wonder and cordiality, and, casting out a rope astern, took him in tow.

The skipper had been eying him with amazement for some hours through his telescope: but he was a man that had seen a great many strange things, and it was also a point of honor with him never to allow that he was astonished, or taken by surprise, or greatly moved.

“Wal, stranger,” said he, “what craft is that?”

“The Helen.”

“Where d’ye hail from?—not that I am curious.”

“From an unknown island.”

“Do tell. What, another! Is it anyways nigh?”

“Not within seven hundred miles.”

“Je—rusalem! Have you sailed all that in a cockle shell?”

“Yes.”

“Why, what are ye? the Wandering Jew afloat, or the Ancient Mariner? or only a kinder nautilus?”

“I’m a landsman.”

“A landsman! then so is Neptune. What is your name, when you are ashore?”

“Robert Penfold. The Rev. Robert Penfold.”

“The Rev.!—Je—rusalem!”

“May I ask what is your name, sir?”

“Wal, I reckon you may, stranger. I’m Joshua Fullalove from the States, at present located on the island of Juan Fernandez.”

“Joshua Fullalove! That is lucky. I’ve got something that belongs to you.”

He looked about and found the harpoon, and handed it up in a mighty straightforward simple way.

Joshua stared at him incredulously at first: but afterwards with amazement. He handled the harpoon, and inquired where Robert had fallen in with it. Robert told him.

501

“You’re an honest man,” said Fullalove, “you air. Come aboard.” He was then pleased to congratulate himself on his strange luck in having drifted across an honest man in the middle of the ocean. “I’ve heerd,” said he, “of an old chap as groped about all his life with a lantern and couldn’t find one. Let’s liquor.”

He had some celestial mixture or other made, including rum, mint, and snow from the Andes, and then began his interrogatories again, disclaiming curiosity at set intervals.

“Whither bound, honest man?”

“The coast of Chili.”

“What for?”

“Trade.”

“D’ye buy or sell? Not that it is my business.”

“I wish to sell.”

“What’s the merchandise?”

“Knowledge: and treasure.”

Fullalove scratched his head. “Han’t ye got a few conundrums to swap for gold-dust as well?”

Robert smiled, faintly: the first time this six weeks.

“I have to sell the knowledge of an island, with rich products; and I have to sell the contents of a Spanish treasure ship, that I found buried in the sand of that island.”

The Yankee’s eyes glistened.

“Wal,” said he, “I do business in islands myself. I’ve leased this Juan Fernandez. But one of them is enough at a time. I’m monarch of all I survey: but then what I survey is a mixallaneous bilin’ of Irish and Otaheitans, that it’s pison to be monarch of. And now them darned Irish has taken to converting the heathens to superstition and the worship of images, and breaks their heads if they won’t: and the heathens are all smiles and sweetness and immorality. No, islands is no bait to me.”

502

“I never asked you,” said Robert. “What I do ask you is to land me at Valparaiso. There I’ll find a purchaser, and will pay you handsomely for your kindness.”

“That is fair,” said Fullalove, dryly. “What will you pay me?”

“I’ll show you,” said Robert. He took out of his pocket the smaller conglomeration of Spanish coin, and put it into Fullalove’s hand. “That,” said he, “is silver coin I dug out of the galleon.”

Fullalove inspected it keenly, and trembled slightly. Robert then went lightly over the taffrail and slid down the low rope into his boat. He held up the black mass we have described.

“This is solid silver. I will give it you, and my best thanks, to land me at Valparaiso.”

“Heave it aboard,” said the Yankee.

Robert steadied himself, and hove it on board. The Yankee caught it, heavy as it was, and subjected it to some chemical test directly.

“Wal,” said he, “that is a bargain. I’ll land ye at Valparaiso for this. Jack, lay her head S.S.E. and by E.”

Having given this order, he leaned over the taffrail and asked for more samples. Robert showed him the fruits, woods, and shells, and the pink coral; and bade him observe that the boat was ballasted with pearl oysters. He threw him up one, and a bunch of pink coral. He then shinned up the rope again, and the interrogatories recommenced. But this time he was questioned closely as to who he was, and how he came on the island? and the questions were so shrewd and penetrating that his fortitude gave way, and he cried out in anguish, “Man, man! do not torture me so. Oh! do not make me talk of my grief, and my wrongs; they are more than I can bear.”

503

Fullalove forbore directly, and offered him a cigar. He took it, and it soothed him a little; it was long since he had smoked one. His agitation subsided, and a quiet tear or two rolled down his haggard cheek.

The Yankee saw, and kept silence.

But when the cigar was nearly smoked out, he said he was afraid Robert would not find a customer for his island, and what a pity Joshua Fullalove was cool on islands just now.

“Oh!” said Robert, “I know there are enterprising Americans on the coast who will give me money for what I have to sell.”

Fullalove was silent a minute, then he got a piece of wood and a knife, and said, with an air of resignation:

“I reckon we’ll hev to deal.”

Need we say that to deal had been his eager desire from the first?

He now began to whittle a peg, and awaited the attack.

“What will you give me, sir?”

“What, money down? And you got nothing to sell but chances. Why, there’s an old cuss about, that knows where the island is as well as you do.”

“Then of course you will treat with him,” said Robert, sadly.

“Darned if I do,” said the Yankee. “You are in trouble, and he is not, nor never will be till he dies, and then he’ll get it hot I calc’late. He is a thief, and stole my harpoon; you are an honest man, and brought it back. I reckon I’ll deal with you and not with that old cuss; not by a jugfull! But it must be on a per-centage. You tell me the bearings of that there island, and I’ll work it and pay five per cent on the gross.”

“Would you mind throwing that piece of wood into the sea, Mr. Fullalove?” said Robert.

504

“Caen’t be done, nohow. I caen’t deal without whittlin’.”

“You mean you can’t take an unfair advantage without it. Come, Mr. Fullalove, let us cut this short. I am, as you say, an honest and most unfortunate man. Sir, I was falsely accused of crime and banished my country. I can prove my innocence now if I can but get home with a great deal of money. So much for me. You are a member of the vainest and most generous nation in the world.”

“Wal, now that’s kinder honey and vinegar mixed,” said Fullalove; “pretty good for a Britisher, though.”

“You are a man of that nation, which in all the agonies and unparalleled expenses of civil war, smarting, too, under anonymous taunts from England, did yet send over a large sum to relieve the distresses of certain poor Englishmen who were indirect victims of that same calamity. The act, the time, the misery relieved, the taunts overlooked, prove your nation superior to all others in generosity. At least my reading, which is very large, affords no parallel to it either in ancient or modern history. Mr. Fullalove, please to recollect that you are a member of that nation, and that I am very unhappy and helpless, and want money to undo cruel wrongs, but have no heart to chaffer much. Take the island and the treasure, and give me half the profits you make. Is not that fair?”

Fullalove wore a rueful countenance.

“Darn the critter,” said he, “he’ll take the skin off my bones if I don’t mind. Fust Britisher ever I met as had the sense to see that. T’was rather handsome, warn’t it? Wal, human nature is deep; every man you tackle in business larns ye something. What with picking ye out o’ the sea, and you giving me back the harpoon the cuss stole, and your face like a young calf, 505 when you are the cutest fox out, and you giving the great U-nited States their due, I’m no more fit to deal than mashed potatoes. Now I cave: it is only for once. Next time don’t you try to palaver me. Draw me a map of our island, Britisher, and mark where the Spaniard lies: I tell you I know her name, and the year she was lost in: larned that at Lima one day. Kinder startled me, you did, when you showed me the coin out of her. Wal, there’s my hand on haelf profits, and if I’m keen, I’m squar’.”

Soon after this he led Robert to his cabin, and Robert drew a large map from his models; and Fullalove, being himself an excellent draughtsman, and provided with proper instruments, aided him to finish it.

Next day they sighted Valparaiso, and hove-to outside the port.

All the specimens of insular wealth were put on board the schooner and secreted, for Fullalove’s first move was to get a lease of the island from the Chilian government, and it was no part of his plan to trumpet the article he was going to buy.

After a moment’s hesitation, he declined to take the seven pounds of silver. He gave as a reason, that having made a bargain which compelled him to go to Valparaiso at once, he did not feel like charging his partner a fancy price for towing his boat thither. At the same time he hinted that after all this, the next customer would find him a very difficult Yankee to get the better of.

With this understanding, he gave Robert a draft for eighty pounds on account of profits: and this enabled him to take a passage for England with all his belongings.

He arrived at Southampton very soon after the events last related, and thence went to London, fully alive to the danger of his position.

He had a friend in his long beard, but he dared not rely on that alone. Like a mole, he worked at night.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXII

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Chapter LXII originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 23 (6 June 1868), numbered as Chapter LXV.

It was a letter.
[If he weren’t so incurably depressed, Penfold-Seaton-Hazel might have cheered up, thinking that Helen had carelessly tossed Arthur’s letter because it no longer had any value for her.]

The wood of this tree was literally useless for any other purpose
[Nonsense. You can make model airplanes out of it.]

he contrived to get three hundred weight of blubber
text unchanged
[Once a Week has the expected “hundredweight” as one word. But a few pages along, it too has “hundred weight” in two words.]

should he ever escape the winds and waves, and get to England, he would then have to encounter difficulties and dangers of another class, and lose the battle by his poverty
[To say nothing of the fact that he remains a convict whose term of trans­portation is anything but completed. The book seems to forget this incon­venient fact for long stretches at a time. Or perhaps the authors hope the reader will forget it, since the plot requires everyone to be gathered in England for the dénouement.]

and stretched boldly out across the great Pacific Ocean
[. . . never to be seen again, if the novel is to possess any shadow of plausibility.]

He had some celestial mixture or other made, including rum, mint, and snow from the Andes
[Rum julep?]

“D’ye buy or sell? Not that it is my business.”
text has bye
[Corrected from Once a Week.]

T’was rather handsome, warn’t it?
text unchanged: expected ’Twas

Fullalove’s first move was to get a lease of the island from the Chilian government
[Chile is, no doubt, more than happy to grant a lease on an island they have never heard of and therefore cannot possibly own.]

506

CHAPTER LXIII.

 
 
 
 

ASKED Arthur Wardlaw why he was so surprised at the prayer-book being brought back. Was it worth twenty pounds to any one except herself?

Arthur looked keenly at her to see whether she intended more than met the ear, and then said that he was surprised at the rapid effect of his advertisement, that was all.

“Now you have got the book,” said he, “I do hope you will erase that cruel slander on one whom you mean to honor with your hand.”

This proposal made Helen blush, and feel very miserable. Of the obnoxious lines some were written by Robert Penfold, and she had so little of his dear handwriting. “I feel you are right, Arthur,” said she; “but you must give me time. They shall meet no eye but mine; and on our wedding-day—of course—all memorials of one—” Tears completed the sentence.

Arthur Wardlaw, raging with jealousy at the absent Penfold as heretofore Penfold had raged at him, heaved a deep sigh and hurried away, while Helen was locking up the prayer-book in her desk. By this means he retained Helen’s pity.

He went home directly, mounted to his bedroom, unlocked a safe, and plunged his hand into it. His hand encountered a book; he drew it out with a shiver, and gazed at it with terror and amazement.

It was the prayer-book he had picked up in the square and locked up in that safe. Yet that very prayer-book had been restored to Helen before his eyes, and was now 507 locked up in her desk. He sat down with the book in his hand, and a great dread came over him.

Hitherto Candor and Credulity only had been opposed to him, but now Cunning had entered the field against him; a master hand was co-operating with Helen.

Yet, strange to say, she seemed unconscious of that co-operation. Had Robert Penfold found his way home by some strange means? Was he watching over her in secret?

He had the woman he loved watched night and day, but no Robert Penfold was detected.

He puzzled his brains night and day, and at last he conceived a plan of deceit which is common enough in the East, where lying is one of the fine arts, but was new in this country, we believe, and we hope to Heaven we shall not be the means of importing it.

An old clerk of his father’s, now superannuated and pensioned off, had a son upon the stage in a very mean position. Once a year, however, and of course in the dogdays, he had a kind of benefit at his suburban theatre; that is to say, the manager allowed him to sell tickets, and take half the price of them. He persuaded Arthur to take some, and even to go to the theatre for an hour. The man played a little part, of a pompous sneak, with some approach to Nature. He seemed at home.

Arthur found this man out; visited him at his own place. He was very poor, and mingled pomposity with obsequiousness, so that Arthur felt convinced he was to be bought body and soul, what there was of him.

He sounded him accordingly, and the result was that the man agreed to perform a part for him.

Arthur wrote it, and they rehearsed it together. As to the dialogue, that was so constructed that it could be varied considerably according to the cues, which could be foreseen to a certain extent; but not precisely, since 508 they were to be given by Helen Rolleston, who was not in the secret.

But, whilst this plot was fermenting, other events happened, with rather a contrary tendency, and these will be more intelligible if we go back to Nancy Rouse’s cottage, where indeed we have kept Joseph Wylie in an uncomfortable position a very long time.

Mrs. James, from next door, was at last admitted into Nancy’s kitchen, and her first word was, “I suppose you know what I’m come about, ma’am.”

“Which it is to return me the sass-pan you borrowed, no doubt,” was Nancy’s ingenious reply.

“No, ma’am. But I’ll send my girl in with it, as soon as she have cleaned it, you may depend.”

“Thank ye, I shall be glad to see it again.”

“You’re not afeard I shall steal it, I hope?”

“La, bless the woman, don’t fly out at a body like that. I can’t afford to give away my sass-pan.”

“Sass-pans is not in my head.”

“Nor in your hand neither.”

“I’m come about my lodger; a most respectable gentleman, which he have met with an accident. He did but go to put something away in the chimbley, which he is a curious gent, and has travelled a good deal, and learned the foreign customs, when his hand was caught in the brick-work, somehows, and there he is hard and fast.”

“I know nothing about it, Mrs. James,” said Nancy. “Do you, girl?”

“No,” said the mite, with a countenance of polished granite.

“La, bless me!” said Nancy, with a sudden start. “Why, is she talking about the thief as you and I catched putting his hand through the wall into my room, and made him fast again the policeman comes round?”

“Thief?” cried Mrs. James: “no more a thief than 509 I am. Why, sure you wouldn’t ever be so cruel. Oh, dear!—oh, dear! Spite goes a far length. There, take an’ kill me, do; and then you’ll be easy in your mind. Ah, little my poor father thought as ever I should come down to letting lodgers, and being maltreated this way. I am—”

“Who is a maltreating of ye? Why, you’re dreaming. Have a drop o’ gin.”

“With them as takes the police to my lodger? It would choke me.”

“Well, have a drop, and we’ll see about it.”

“You’re very kind, ma’am, I’m sure. Heaven knows I need it. Here’s wishing you a good husband; and towards burying all unkindness.”

“Which you means drownding of it.”

“Ah, you’re never at a loss for a word, ma’am, and always in good spirits. But your troubles is to come. I’m a widdy. You will let me see what is the matter with my lodger, ma’am?”

“Why not? We’ll all go and have a look at him.”

Accordingly, the three women and the mite proceeded to the little room; Nancy turned the gas on, and they inspected the imprisoned hand. Mrs. James screamed with dismay, and Nancy asked her dryly whether she was to blame for seizing a hand which had committed a manifest trespass.

“You have got the rest of his body,” said she, “but this here hand belongs to me.”

“Lord, ma’am, what could he take out of your chimbley, without ’twas a handful of soot? Do pray let me loose him.”

“Not till I have said two words to him.”

“But how can you? He isn’t here to speak to; only a morsel of him.”

“I can go into your house and speak to him.”

510

Mrs. James demurred to that; but Nancy stood firm: Mrs. James yielded. Nancy whispered her myrmidons, and, in a few minutes, was standing by the prisoner, a reverend person in dark spectacles, and a gray beard, that created commiseration, or would have done so, but that this stroke of ill-fortune had apparently fallen upon a great philosopher. He had contrived to get a seat under him, and was smoking a pipe with admirable sang-froid.

At sight of Nancy, however, he made a slight motion, as if he would not object to follow his imprisoned hand through the party-wall. It was only for a moment though; the next, he smoked imperturbably.

“Well, sir,” said Nancy, “I hopes you are comfortable.”

“Thank ye, miss; yes. I am at double sheet anchor.”

“Why do you call me miss?”

“I don’t know. Because you are so young and pretty.”

“That will do. I only wanted to hear the sound of your voice, Joe Wylie.” And with the word she snatched his wig off with one hand, and his beard with the other, and revealed his true features to his astonished landlady.

“There, mum,” said she, “I wish you joy of your lodger.” She tapped the chimney three times with the poker, and telling Mr. Wylie she had a few words to say to him in private, retired for the present. Mrs. James sat down and mourned the wickedness of mankind, the loss of her lodger (who would now go bodily next door instead of sending his hand), and the better days she had by iteration brought herself to believe she had seen.

Wylie soon entered Nancy’s house, and her first question was, “The two thousand pounds, how did you get them?”

“No matter how I got them,” said Wylie, sulkily. “What have you done with them?”

511

“Put them away.”

“That is all right. I’m blest if I didn’t think they were gone forever.”

“I wish they had never come. Ill-gotten money is a curse.” Then she taxed him with scuttling the Proserpine, and asked him whether that money had not been the bribe. But Joe was obdurate. “I never split on a friend,” said he. “And you have nobody to blame but yourself; you wouldn’t splice without two thousand pounds. I loved you: and I got it how I could. D’ye think a poor fellow like me can make two thousand pounds in a voyage by hauling on ropes, and tying true lovers’ knots in the foretop?”

Nancy had her answer ready: but this remembrance pricked her own conscience and paved the way to a reconciliation.

Nancy had no high-flown notions. She loved money, but it must be got without palpable dishonesty; per contra, she was not going to denounce her sweetheart, but then again she would not marry him so long as he differed with her about the meaning of the eighth commandment.

This led to many arguments, some of them warm, some affectionate, and so we leave Mr. Wylie under the slow but salutary influence of love and unpretending probity.

He continued to lodge next door. Nancy would only receive him as a visitor. “No,” said she, “a little snapping and snarling is good for the health: but I don’t care to take the bread out of a neighbor’s mouth as keeps saying she have seen better days.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXIII

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Chapters LXIII-LXV originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 24 (13 June 1868), numbered as Chapters LXVI-LXVIII. The installment comes with a footnote: Notice to Managers.—A Drama on this subject has been written by the Authors of the Story.” Not only written but performed; according to the published script, it premiered on 28 May 1868, or about two weeks before this penultimate installment.

Towards the end of the chapter, Once a Week repeats its map of Godsend Island, this time printed in ordinary black-and-white.

An old clerk of his father’s . . . had a son upon the stage
[Oh, no. No. Not the clever-impersonation-pulled-off-by-a-trained-actor trope. Even in the present age of “Method” acting I would not believe it.]

and tying true lovers’ knots in the foretop?”
close quote missing

512

CHAPTER LXIV.

Helen had complained to Arthur, of all people, that she was watched and followed; she even asked him whether that was not the act of some enemy. Arthur smiled, and said, “Take my word for it, it is only some foolish admirer of your beauty; he wants to know your habits, in hopes of falling in with you; you had better let me go out with you for the next month or so; that sort of thing will soon die away.”

As a necessary consequence of this injudicious revelation, Helen was watched with greater skill and subtlety, and upon a plan well calculated to disarm suspicion: a spy watched the door, and by a signal unintelligible to any but his confederate, whom Helen could not possibly see, set the latter on her track.

They kept this game up unobserved for several days; but learned nothing, for Helen was at a standstill.

At last they got caught, and by a truly feminine stroke of observation.

A showily dressed man peeped into a shop where Helen was buying gloves.

With one glance of her woman’s eye she recognized a large breast-pin in the worst possible taste; thence her eye went up and recognized the features of her seedy follower, though he was now dressed up to the nine.

She withdrew her eye directly, completed her purchase, and went home, brooding defence and vengeance.

That evening she dined with a lady who had a large acquaintance with lawyers, and it so happened that Mr. Tollemache and Mr. Hennessy were both of the party.

513

Now, when these gentlemen saw Helen in full costume, a queen in form as well as face, coroneted with her island pearls, environed with a halo of romance, and courted by women as well as men, they looked up to her with astonishment, and made up to her in a very different style from that in which they had received her visit. Tollemache she received coldly; he had defended Robert Penfold feebly, and she hated him for it. Hennessy she received graciously, and remembering Robert’s precept, to be supple as a woman, bewitched him. He was good-natured, able, and vain. By eleven o’clock she had enlisted him in her service. When she had conquered him, she said, slyly, “But I ought not to speak of these things to you except through a solicitor.”

“That is the general rule,” said the learned counsel, “but in this case no dark body must come between me and the sun.”

In short he entered into Penfold’s case with such well-feigned warmth, to please the beauteous girl, that at last she took him by the horns and consulted.

“I am followed,” said she.

“I have no doubt you are; and on a large scale: if there is room for another I should be glad to join the train.”

“Ha! ha! I’ll save you the trouble. I’ll meet you half way. But, to be serious, I am watched, spied, and followed by some enemy to that good friend whose sacred cause we have undertaken. Forgive me for saying ‘we.’”

“I am too proud of the companionship to let you off. ‘We’ is the word.”

“Then advise me what to do. I want to retaliate. I want to discover who is watching me, and why. Can you advise me? Will you?”

The counsel reflected a moment, and Helen, who 514 watched him, remarked the power that suddenly came into his countenance and brow.

“You must watch the spies. I have influence in Scotland Yard, and will get it done for you. If you went there yourself they would cross-examine you and decline to interfere. I’ll go myself for you, and put it in a certain light. An able detective will call on you: give him ten guineas, and let him into your views in confidence: then he will work the public machinery for you.”

“Oh, Mr. Hennessy, how can I thank you?”

“By succeeding. I hate to fail: and now your cause is mine.”

Next day, a man with a hooked nose, a keen black eye, and a solitary foible (mosaic), called on Helen Rolleston, and told her he was to take her instructions. She told him she was watched, and thought it was done to baffle a mission she had undertaken: but, having got so far, she blushed and hesitated.

“The more you tell me, miss, the more use I can be,” said Mr. Burt.

Thus encouraged, and also remembering Mr. Hennessy’s advice, she gave Mr. Burt, as coldly as she could, an outline of Robert Penfold’s case, and of the exertions she had made, and the small result.

Burt listened keenly, and took a note or two, and, when she had done, he told her something in return.

“Miss Rolleston,” said he, “I am the officer that arrested Robert Penfold. It cost me a grinder that he knocked out.”

“Oh, dear,” said Helen, “how unfortunate! Then I fear I cannot reckon on your services.”

“Why not, miss? What, do you think I hold spite against a poor fellow for defending himself? Besides, Mr. Penfold wrote me a very proper note. Certainly, for a parson, the gent is a very quick hitter; but he wrote 515 very square,—said he hoped I would allow for the surprise and the agitation of an innocent man; sent me two guineas, too, and said he would make it twenty, but he was poor as well as unfortunate. That letter has stuck in my gizzard ever since; can’t see the color of felony in it. Your felon is never in a fault; and, if he wears a good coat, he isn’t given to show fight.”

“It was very improper of him to strike you,” said Helen, “and very noble of you to forgive it. Make him still more ashamed of it: lay him under a deep obligation.”

“If he is innocent, I’ll try and prove it,” said the detective. He then asked her if she had taken notes. She said she had a diary. He begged to see it. She felt inclined to withhold it, because of the comments; but, remembering that this was womanish, and that Robert’s orders to her were to be manly on such occasions, she produced her diary. Mr. Burt read it very carefully, and told her it was a very promising case. “You have done a great deal more than you thought,” he said. “You have netted the fish.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXIV

“The more you tell me, miss, the more use I can be,” said Mr. Burt.
[There is no character named Burt in the play; instead there is a Captain Hawkins of Scotland Yard, who shows up in Act III. It is possible Burt Hawkins had to be given a new name to avoid confusion with Burtenshaw, whose name is abbreviated “Burt.” in the script. But was he still portrayed as “mosaic”, as indicated in the book? The descriptor “Character Comedy” is pretty comprehensive.]

516

CHAPTER LXV.

I netted the fish! What fish?”

“The man who forged the promissory note.”

“O Mr. Burt!”

“The same man that forged the newspaper extracts to deceive you, forged the promissory note years ago; and the man who is setting spies on you is the man who forged those extracts; so we are sure to nail him. He is in the net, and very much to your credit. Leave the rest to me. I’ll tell you more about it to-morrow. You must order your carriage at one o’clock to-morrow, and drive down to Scotland Yard. Go into the Yard, and you will see me. Follow me without a word. When you go back, the other spies will be so frightened, they will go off to their employer, and so we shall nail him.”

Helen complied with these instructions strictly, and then returned home, leaving Mr. Burt to work. She had been home about half an hour, when the servant brought her up a message, saying that a man wanted to speak to her.

“Admit him,” said Helen.

“He is dressed very poor, miss.”

“Never mind; send him to me.”

She was afraid to reject anybody now, lest she might turn her back on information.

A man presented himself in well-worn clothes, with a wash-leather face and close-shaven chin. A little of his forehead was also shaven.

“Madam, my name is Hand.”

Helen started.

517

“I have already had the honor of writing to you.”

“Yes, sir,” said Helen, eying him with fear and aversion.

“Madam, I am come”—(he hesitated). “I am an unfortunate man. Weighed down by remorse for a thoughtless act that has ruined an innocent man, and nearly cost my worthy employer his life, I come to expiate as far as in me lies. But let me be brief, and hurry over a tale of shame. I was a clerk at Wardlaw’s office. A bill-broker, called Adams, was talking to me and my fellow-clerks, and boasting that nobody could take him in with a feigned signature. Bets were laid. Our vanity was irritated by his pretension. It was my fortune to overhear my young master and his friend Robert Penfold speak about a loan of two thousand pounds. In an evil hour I listened to the tempter, and wrote a forged note for that amount. I took it to Mr. Penfold; he presented it to Adams, and it was cashed. I intended, of course, to call next day, and tell Mr. Penfold, and take him to Adams, and restore the money, and get back the note. It was not due for three months. Alas! that very day it fell under suspicion. Mr. Penfold was arrested. My young master was struck down with illness at his friend’s guilt, though he never could be quite got to believe it; and I, miserable coward, dared not tell the truth. Ever since that day I have been a miserable man. The other day I came into money, and left Wardlaw’s service. But I carry my remorse with me. Madam, I am come to tell the truth. I dare not tell it to Mr. Wardlaw: I think he would kill me. But I will tell it to you, and you can tell it to him; ay, tell it to all the world. Let my shame be as public as his whom I have injured so deeply; but, Heaven knows, unintentionally. I—I—I—”

Mr. Hand sank all in a heap, where he sat, and could say no more.

518

Helen’s flesh crawled at this confession, and at the sight of this reptile, who owned that he had destroyed Robert Penfold in fear and cowardice. For a long time her wrath so overpowered all sense of pity, that she sat trembling; and, if eyes could kill, Mr. Hand would not have outlived his confession.

At last she contrived to speak. She turned her head away not to see the wretch, and said, sternly,—

“Are you prepared to make this statement on paper, if called on?”

Mr. Hand hesitated, but said, “Yes.”

“Then write down that Robert Penfold was innocent, and you are ready to prove it whenever you are called upon.”

“Write that down?” said Hand.

“Unless your penitence is feigned, you will.”

“Sooner than that should be added to my crime, I will avow all.”

He then wrote the few lines she required.

“Now your address, that I may know where to find you at a moment’s notice.”

He then wrote, “J. Hand, 11 Warwick Street, Pimlico.”

Helen then dismissed him, and wept bitterly. In that condition she was found by Arthur Wardlaw, who comforted her, and, on hearing her report of Hand’s confession, burst out into triumph, and reminded her he had always said Robert Penfold was innocent. “My father,” said he, “must yield to this evidence, and we will lay it before the Secretary of State, and get his pardon.”

“His pardon! when he is innocent!”

“Oh, that is the form; the only form! The rest must be done by the warm reception of his friends. I, for one, who all these years have maintained his innocence, will be the first to welcome him to my house, an honored guest. What am I saying? Can I? dare I? ought I? 519 when my wife— Ah! I am more to be pitied than my poor friend is: my friend, my rival. Well, I leave it to you whether he can come into your husband’s house.”

“Never!”

“But, at least I can send the Springbok out, and bring him home; and that I will do without one day’s delay.”

“Arthur!” cried Helen, “you set me an example of unselfishness.”

“I do what I can,” said Arthur. “I am no saint. I hope for a reward.”

Helen sighed. “What shall I do?”

“Have pity on me! your faithful lover, and to whom your faith was plighted before ever you saw or knew my unhappy friend. What can I do or suffer more than I have done and suffered for you? My sweet Helen, have pity on me, and be my wife.”

“I will, some day.”

“Bless you! bless you! One effort more: what day?”

“I can’t! I can’t! My heart is dead.”

“This day fortnight. Let me speak to your father; let him name the day.”

As she made no reply, he kissed her hand devotedly, and did speak to her father.

Sir Edward, meaning all for the best, said, “This day fortnight.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXV

“Madam, my name is Hand.”
[Sure it is. Suuure it is.]

Sir Edward, meaning all for the best, said, “This day fortnight.”
[That means a license, since banns require three consecutive Sundays. I’m frankly surprised Helen and her father would agree to anything so havey-cavey.]

520
 

CHAPTER LXVI.

NEXT morning came the first wedding presents from the jubilant bridegroom, who was determined to advance step by step, and give no breathing time.

When Helen saw them laid out by her maid she trembled at the consequences of not giving a plump negative to so brisk a wooer.

The second post brought two letters: one of them from Mrs. Undercliff; the other contained no words, but only a pearl of uncommon size and pear-shaped.

Helen received this at first as another wedding present, and an attempt on Arthur’s part to give her a pearl as large as those she had gathered on her dear island. But looking narrowly at the address, she saw it was not written by Arthur; and, presently, she was struck by the likeness of this pearl, in shape, to some of her own. She got out her pearls, laid them side by side, and began to be moved exceedingly. She had one of her instincts, and it set every fibre quivering with excitement. It was some time before she could take her eyes off the pearls, and it was with a trembling hand she opened Mrs. Undercliff’s letter.

My dear Young Lady,—A person called here last night and supplied the clew. If you have the courage to know the truth, you have only to come here, and to bring your diary, and all the letters you have received from any person or persons since you landed, in England.

I am, yours obediently,

Jane Undercliff.

521

The courage to know the truth!

This mysterious sentence affected Helen considerably. But her faith in Robert was too great to be shaken. She would not wait for the canonical hour at which young ladies go out, but put on her bonnet directly after breakfast.

Early as she was, a visitor came before she could start,—Mr. Burt, the detective. She received him in the library.

Mr. Burt looked at her dress and her little bag, and said, “I’m very glad I made bold to call so early.”

“You have got information of importance to communicate to me?”

“I think so, miss;” and he took out his notebook. “The person you are watched by is Mr. Arthur Wardlaw.”

The girl stared at him.

“Both spies report to him twice a day at his house in Russell Square.”

“Be careful, Mr. Burt; this is a serious thing to say, and may have serious consequences.”

“Well, miss, you told me you wanted to know the truth.”

“Of course I want to know the truth.”

“Then the truth is that you are watched by order of Mr. Wardlaw.”

Burt continued his report.

“A shabby-like man called on you yesterday.”

“Yes; it was Mr. Hand, Mr. Wardlaw’s clerk. And oh, Mr. Burt, that wretched creature came and confessed the truth. It was he who forged the note, out of sport, and for a bet, and then was too cowardly to own it.”

She then detailed Hand’s confession.

“His penitence comes too late,” said she, with a deep sigh.

“It hasn’t come yet,” said Burt, dryly. “Of course 522 my lambs followed the man. He went first to his employer, and then he went home. His name is not Hand. He is not a clerk at all, but a little actor at the Corinthian Saloon. Hand is in America; went three months ago. I ascertained that from another quarter.”

“Oh, goodness!” cried Helen; “what a wretched world. I can’t see my way a yard for stories.”

“How should you, miss? It is clear enough, for all that. Mr. Wardlaw hired this actor to pass for Hand, and tell you a lie that he thought would please you.”

Helen put her hand to her brow, and thought; but her candid soul got sadly in the way of her brain.

“Mr. Burt,” said she, “will you go with me to Mr. Undercliff, the expert?”

“With pleasure, ma’am; but let me finish my report. Last night there was something new. Your house was watched by six persons. Two were Wardlaw’s, three were Burt’s; but the sixth man was there on his own hook, and my men could not make him out at all; but they think one of Wardlaw’s men knew him; for he went off to Russell Square like the wind, and brought Mr. Wardlaw here in disguise. Now, miss, that is all; and shall I call a cab, and we’ll hear Undercliff’s tale?”

The cab was called, and they went to Undercliff. On the way Helen brooded; but the detective eyed every man and everything on the road with the utmost keenness.

Edward Undercliff was at work at lithographing. He received Helen cordially, nodded to Burt, and said she could not have a better assistant.

He then laid his fac-simile of the forged note on the table with John Wardlaw’s genuine writing and Penfold’s indorsement.

“Look at that, Mr. Burt.”

Burt inspected the papers keenly.

523

“You know, Burt, I swore at Robert Penfold’s trial that he never wrote that forged note.”

“I remember,” said Burt.

“The other day, this lady intrusted me to discover, if I could, who did write the forged note. But, unfortunately, the materials she gave me were not sufficient. But, last night, a young man dropped from the clouds, that I made sure was an agent of yours, Miss Rolleston. Under that impression I was rather unguarded, and I let him know how far we had got, and could get no farther. ‘I think I can help you,’ says this young man, and puts a letter on the table. Well, Mr. Burt, a glance at that letter was enough for me. It was written by the man who forged the note.”

“A letter!” said Helen.

“Yes. I’ll put the letter by the side of the forged note; and, if you have any eye for writing at all, you’ll see at once that one hand wrote the forged note and this letter. I am also prepared to swear that the letters signed Hand are forgeries by the same person.”

He then coolly put upon the table the letter from Arthur Wardlaw that Helen had received on board the Proserpine, and was proceeding to point out the many points of resemblance between the letter and the document, when he was interrupted by a scream from Helen.

“Ah!” she cried. “He is here. Only one man in the world could have brought that letter. I left it on the island. Robert is here; he gave you that letter.”

“You are right,” said the expert, “and what a fool I must be. I have no eye except for handwriting. He had a beard, and such a beard!”

“It is Robert!” cried Helen, in raptures. “He is come just in time.”

“In time to be arrested,” said Burt. “Why, his time is not out. He’ll get into a trouble again.”

524

“Oh, Heaven forbid!” cried Helen, and turned so faint, she had to be laid back on a chair, and salts applied to her nostrils.

She soon came to, and cried and trembled, but prepared to defend her Robert with all a woman’s wit.

Burt and Undercliff were conversing in a low voice, and Burt was saying he felt sure Wardlaw’s spies had detected Robert Penfold, and that Robert would be arrested and put into prison as a runaway convict.

“Go to Scotland Yard this minute, Mr. Burt,” said Helen, eagerly.

“What for?”

“Why, you must take the commission to arrest him. You are our friend.”

Burt slapped his thigh with delight.

“That is first-rate, miss,” said he; “I’ll take the real felon first, you may depend. Now, Mr. Undercliff, write your report, and hand it to Miss Helen, with facsimiles. It will do no harm if you make a declaration to the same effect before a magistrate. You, Miss Rolleston, keep yourself disengaged, and please don’t go out. You will very likely hear from me again to-day.”

He drove off, and Helen, though still greatly agitated by Robert’s danger, and the sense of his presence, now sat down, trembling a little, and compared Arthur’s letter with the forged document. The effect of this comparison was irresistible. The expert, however, asked her for some letter of Arthur’s that had never passed through Robert Penfold’s hands. She gave him the short note in which he used the very words, Robert Penfold. He said he would make that note the basis of his report.

While he was writing it, Mrs. Undercliff came in, and Helen told her all. She said, “I came to the same conclusion 525 long ago; but when you said he was to be your husband—”

“Ah,” said Helen, “we women are poor creatures; we can always find some reason for running away from the truth. Now explain about the prayer-book.”

“Well, miss, I felt sure he would steal it, so I made Ned produce a fac-simile. And he did steal it. What you got back was your mother’s prayer-book. Of course I took care of that.”

“Oh, Mrs. Undercliff,” cried Helen, “do let me kiss you.”

Then they had a nice little cry together, and, by the time they had done, the report was ready in duplicate.

“I’ll declare this before a magistrate,” said the expert, “and then I’ll send it to you.”

At four o’clock of this eventful day, Helen got a message from Burt to say that he had orders to arrest Robert Penfold, and that she must wear a mask and ask Mr. Wardlaw to meet her at old Mr. Penfold’s at nine o’clock. But she herself must be there at half-past eight, without fail, and bring Undercliff’s declaration and report with her, and the prayer-book, etc.

Accordingly, Helen went down to old Mr. Penfold’s at half-past eight, and was received by Nancy Rouse, and ushered into Mr. Penfold’s room; that is to say, Nancy held the door open, and, on her entering the room, shut it sharply and ran downstairs.

Helen entered the room; a man rose directly and came to her; but it was not Michael Penfold—it was Robert. A faint scream, a heavenly sigh, and her head was on his shoulder, and her arm round his neck, and both their hearts panting as they gazed, and then clung to each other, and then gazed again with love unutterable. After a while they got sufficient composure to sit down hand in hand and compare notes. And Helen showed him 526 their weapons of defence, the prayer-book, the expert’s report, etc.

young woman embracing bearded man

“Her head was on his shoulder, and her arm round his neck.”

A discreet tap was heard at the door. It was Nancy Rouse. On being invited to enter, she came in, and said, “Oh, Miss Helen, I’ve got a penitent outside, which he done it for love of me, and now he’ll make a clean breast, and the fault was partly mine. Come in, Joe, and speak for yourself.”

On this, Joe Wylie came in, hanging his head piteously.

“She is right, sir,” said he; “I’m come to ask your pardon and the lady’s. Not as I ever meant you any harm; but to destroy the ship, it was a bad act, and I’ve never throve since. Nance, she have got the money. I’ll give it back to the underwriters; and, if you and the lady will forgive a poor fellow that was tempted with love and money, why, I’ll stand to the truth for you, though it’s a bitter pill.”

“I forgive you,” said Robert; “and I accept your offer to serve me.”

“And so do I,” said Helen. “Indeed, it is not us you have wronged. But, oh, I am glad, for Nancy’s sake, that you repent.”

“Miss, I’ll go through fire and water for you,” said Wylie, lifting up his head.

Here old Michael came in to say that Arthur Wardlaw was at the door, with a policeman.

“Show him in,” said Robert.

“Oh no, Robert!” said Helen. “He fills me with horror.”

“Show him in,” said Robert, gently. “Sit down, all of you.”

Now Burt had not told Arthur who was in the house, so he came, rather uneasy in his mind, but still expecting only to see Helen.

527

Robert Penfold told Helen to face the door, and the rest to sit back; and this arrangement had not been effected one second, when Arthur came in, with a lover’s look, and, taking two steps into the room, saw the three men waiting to receive him. At sight of Penfold, he started, and turned pale as ashes; but, recovering himself, said,—

“My dearest Helen, this is indeed an unexpected pleasure. You will reconcile me to one, whose worth and innocence I never doubted, and tell him I have had some little hand in clearing him.”

His effrontery was received in dead silence. This struck cold to his bones, and, being naturally weak, he got violent. He said,—

“Allow me to send a message to my servant.”

He then tore a leaf out of his memorandum-book, wrote on it:—“Robert Penfold is here; arrest him directly, and take him away.” And, enclosing this in an envelope, sent it out to Burt by Nancy.

Helen seated herself quietly, and said,—

“Mr. Wardlaw, when did Mr. Hand go to America?”

Arthur stammered out, “I don’t know the exact date.”

“Two or three months ago?”

“Yes.”

“Then the person you sent me to tell me that falsehood was not Mr. Hand?”

“I sent nobody.”

“Oh, for shame! for shame! Why have you set spies? Why did you make away with my prayer-book; or what you thought was my prayer-book? Here is my prayer-book, that proves you had the Proserpine destroyed; and I should have lost my life but for another, whom you bad done your best to destroy. Look Robert Penfold in the face if you can.”

Arthur’s eyes began to waver.

528

“I can,” said he. “I never wronged him. I always lamented his misfortune.”

“You were not the cause?”

“Never!—so help me Heaven!”

“Monster!” said Helen, turning away in contempt and horror.

“Oh, that is it, is it?” said Arthur, wildly. “You break faith with me for him? You insult me for him? I must bear anything from you, for I love you; but, at least, I will sweep him out of the path.”

He ran to the door, opened it, and there was Burt, listening.

“Are you an officer?”

“Yes.”

“Then arrest that man this moment: he is Robert Penfold, a convict returned before his time.”

Burt came into the room, locked the door, and put the key in his pocket.

“Well, sir,” said Burt to Robert, “I know you are a quick hitter. Don’t let us have a row over it this time. If you have got anything to say, say it quiet and comfortable.”

“I will go with you on one condition,” said Robert. “You must take the felon as well as the martyr. This is the felon;” and he laid his hand on Arthur’s shoulder, who cowered under the touch at first, but soon began to act violent indignation.

“Take the ruffian away at once,” he cried.

“What! before I hear what he has got to say?”

“Would you listen to him against a merchant of the City of London, a man of unblemished reputation?”

“Well, sir, you see we have got a hint that you were concerned in scuttling a ship: and that is a felony. So I think I’ll just hear what he has got to say. You need not fear any man’s tongue if you are innocent.”

529

“Sit down, if you please, and examine these documents,” said Robert Penfold. “As to the scuttling of the ship, here is the deposition of two seamen, taken on their death-bed, and witnessed by Miss Rolleston and myself.”

“And that book he tried to steal,” said Helen.

Robert continued, “And here is Undercliff’s facsimile of the forged note. Here are specimens of Arthur Wardlaw’s handwriting, and here is Undercliff’s report.”

The detective ran his eye hastily over the report, which we slightly condense.

On comparing the forged note with genuine specimens of John Wardlaw’s handwriting, no less than twelve deviations from his habits of writing strike the eye: and every one of these twelve deviations is a deviation into a habit of Arthur Wardlaw, which is an amount of demonstration rarely attained in cases of forgery.

1. The capital L.—Compare in London (forged note) with the same letter in London in Wardlaw’s letter.

2. The capital D.—Compare this letter in Date with the same letter in Dearest.

3. The capital T.—Compare it in Two and Tollemache.

4. The word To; see To pay, in forged note and third line of letter.

5. Small o formed with a loop in the up-stroke.

6. The manner of finishing the letter v.

7. Ditto the letter w.

8. The imperfect formation of the small a. This and the looped o run through the forged note and Arthur Wardlaw’s letter, and are habits entirely foreign to the style of John Wardlaw.

9. See the th in connection.

10. Ditto the of in connection.

11. The incautious use of the Greek ε. John Wardlaw 531 never uses this ε. Arthur Wardlaw never uses any other, apparently. The writer of the forged note began right, but at the word Robert Penfold glided insensibly into his Greek ε, and maintained it to the end of the forgery. 532 This looks as if he was in the habit of writing those two words.

12. Compare the words Robert Penfold in the forged document with the same words in the letter. The similarity is so striking, that, on these two words alone, the writer could be identified beyond a doubt.

13. Great pains were taken with the signature, and it is like John Wardlaw’s writing on the surface; but go below the surface and it is all Arthur Wardlaw.

The looped o, the small r, the l dropping below the d, the open a, are all Arthur Wardlaw’s. The open loop of the final w is a still bolder deviation into A. W.’s own hand.

[530]

illustrations of handwriting as described in the text

The final flourish is a curious mistake. It is executed with skill and freedom; but the writer has made the lower line the thick one. Yet John Wardlaw never does this.

How was the deviation caused? Examine the final flourish in Arthur Wardlaw’s signature. It contains one stroke only; but then that stroke is a thick one. He thought he had only to prolong his own stroke and bring it round. He did this extremely well, but missed the deeper characteristic, the thick upper stroke. This is proof of a high character; and altogether I am quite prepared to testify upon oath that the writer of the letter to Miss Rolleston, who signs himself Arthur Wardlaw, is the person who forged the promissory note.

handwritten letter from Arthur Wardlaw to Helen

To enable the reader to follow all this we reproduce the materials of Mr. Undercliff’s judgment. To these twelve proofs one more was now added.

Arthur Wardlaw rose, and with his knees knocking together, said, “Don’t arrest him, Burt; let him go.”

“Don’t let him go,” cried old Penfold. “A villain! I have got the number of the notes from Benson. I can 533 prove he bribed this poor man to destroy the ship. Don’t let him go. He has ruined my poor boy.”

At this Arthur Wardlaw began to shriek for mercy.

“O Mr. Penfold,” said he, “you are a father, and hate me. But think of my father. I’ll say anything, do anything. I’ll clear Robert Penfold at my own expense. I have lost her. She loathes me now. Have mercy on me, and let me leave the country.”

He cringed and crawled so that he disarmed anger, and substituted contempt.

“Ay,” said Burt. “He don’t hit like you, Mr. Penfold; this is a chap that ought to have been in Newgate long ago. But take my advice; make him clear you on paper and then let him go. I’ll go down-stairs awhile. I mustn’t take part in compounding a felony.”

“Oh, yes, Robert,” said Helen; “for his father’s sake.”

“Very well,” said Robert. “Now then, reptile, take the pen and write in your own hand, if you can.”

He took the pen and wrote to dictation,—

“I, Arthur Wardlaw, confess that I forged the promissory note for two thousand pounds, and sent it to Robert Penfold, and that fourteen hundred pounds of it was to be for my own use, and to pay my Oxford debts. And I confess that I bribed Wylie to scuttle the ship Proserpine in order to cheat the underwriters.”

Penfold then turned to Wylie and asked him the true motive of this fraud.

“Why, the gold was aboard the Shannon,” said Wylie; “I played hanky-panky with the metals in White’s store.”

“Put that down,” said Penfold. “Now go on.”

“Make a clean breast,” said Wylie. “I have. Say as how you cooked the Proserpine’s log, and forged Hiram Hudson’s writing.”

534

“And the newspaper extracts you sent me,” said Helen, “and the letters from Mr. Hand.”

Arthur groaned. “Must I tell all that?” said he.

“Every word, or be indicted,” said Robert Penfold sternly.

He wrote it all down, and then sat staring stupidly.

And the next thing was, he gave a loud shriek and fell on the floor in a fit.

They sprinkled water over him, and Burt conveyed him home in a cab, advising him to leave the country, at the same time promising him not to exasperate those he had wronged so deeply, but rather to moderate them, if required. Then he gave Burt fifty guineas.

Robert Penfold, at Helen’s request, went with her to Mr. Hennessy, and with the proofs of Arthur’s guilt and Robert’s innocence; and he undertook that the matter should go in proper form before the Secretary of State. But, somehow, it transpired that the Proserpine had been scuttled, and several of the underwriters wrote to the Wardlaws to threaten proceedings. Wardlaw senior returned but one answer to these gentlemen: “Bring your proofs to me at my place of business next Monday at twelve, and let me judge the case, before you go elsewhere.”

“That is high and mighty,” said one or two; but they conferred and agreed to these terms, so high stood the old merchant’s name.

They came; they were received with stiff courtesy. The deposition of Cooper and Welch was produced, and Wylie, kept up to the mark by Nancy, told the truth, and laid his two thousand pounds intact down on the table.

“Now that is off my stomach,” said he, “and I’m a man again.”

“Ay, and I’ll marry you next week,” said Nancy.

535

“Well, gentlemen,” said old Wardlaw, “my course seems very clear. I will undo the whole transaction, and return you your money less the premiums, but plus five per cent interest.”

And this he did on the spot, for the firm was richer than ever.

When they were gone, Robert Penfold came in, and said,—

“I hear, sir, you devote this day to repairing the wrongs done by your firm. What can you do for me?”

He laid a copy of Arthur’s confession before him.

The old man winced a moment where he sat, and the iron passed through his soul.

It was a long time before he could speak. At last he said,—

“This wrong is irreparable, I fear.”

Robert said nothing. Sore as his own heart was, he was not the one to strike a grand old man, struggling so bravely against dishonor.

Wardlaw senior touched his hand-bell.

“Request Mr. Penfold to step this way.”

Michael Penfold came.

“Gentlemen,” said the old merchant, “the house of Wardlaw exists no more. It was built on honesty, and cannot survive a fraud. Wardlaw and Son were partners at will. I had decided to dissolve that partnership, wind up the accounts, and put up the shutters. But now, if you like, I will value the effects, and hand the business over to Penfold and Son, on easy terms. Robert Penfold has been accused of forging John Wardlaw’s name; to prove this was a calumny, I put Penfold over my door instead of Wardlaw. The City of London will understand that, gentlemen, believe me.”

“Mr. Wardlaw,” said Robert, “you are a just, a noble—”

536

He could say no more.

“Ah, sir,” said Michael, “if the young gentleman had only been like you.”

“Mention his name no more to me. His crime and his punishment have killed me.”

“Oh!” said Robert hastily, “he shall not be punished for your sake.”

“Not be punished? It is not in your hands to decide. God has punished him. He is insane.”

“Good heavens!”

“Quite mad; quite mad. Gentlemen, I can no longer support this interview. Send me your solicitor’s address; the deeds shall be prepared. I wish the new firm success. Probity is the road to it. Good-day.”

He wound up the affairs, had his name and Arthur’s painted out at his own expense, and directed the painters to paint the Penfolds’ in at theirs; went home to Elmtrees, and died in three days. He died lamented and honored, and Robert Penfold was much affected. He got it into his head that he had killed him with Arthur’s confession, putting it before him so suddenly.

“I have forgotten who said ‘Vengeance is mine,’” said Robert Penfold.

The merchant priest left the office to be conducted by his father; he used the credit of the new firm to purchase a living in the Vale of Kent, and thither he retired; grateful to Providence, but not easy in his conscience. He now accused himself of having often distrusted God, and seen his fellow-creatures in too dark a light. He turned towards religion and the care of souls.

Past suffering enlightens a man, and makes him tender: and people soon began to walk and drive considerable distances to hear the new vicar. He had a lake with a new peninsula, the shape of which he altered, at a great expense, as soon as he came there.

537

He wrote to Helen every day, and she to him. Neither could do anything con amore till the post came in.

One afternoon, as he was preaching with great unction, he saw a long puritanical face looking up at him with a droll expression of amazement and half irony. The stranger called on him, and began at once.

“Wal, parson, you are a buster, you air. You ginn it us hot, you did. I’m darned if I ain’t kinder ashamed to talk of this world’s goods to a saint upon airth like you. But I never knowed a parson yet as couldn’t collar the dollars.”

After this preamble he announced that he had got a lease of the island from Chili, dug a lot of silver plate out of the galleon, sold ten tons of choice coral, and a ship-load of cassia and cocoa-nuts. He had then disposed of his lease to a Californian company for a large sum. And his partner’s share of net profits came to £17,247 13s.d., which sum he had paid to Michael for Robert Penfold, in drafts on Baring, at thirty days after sight.

Robert shook his hand, and thanked him sincerely for his ability and probity. He stayed that night at the vicarage, and by that means fell in with another acquaintance. General Rolleston and his daughter drove down to see the parsonage. Helen wanted to surprise Robert; and, as often happens, she surprised herself. She made him show her everything; and so he took her on to his peninsula. Lo! the edges of it had been cut and altered, so that it presented a miniature copy of Godsend Island.

As soon as she saw this, Helen turned round with a sudden cry of love,—

“Oh, Robert!” and the lovers were in each other’s arms.

“What could any other man ever be to me?”

538

“And what could any other woman ever be to me?”

They knew that before. But this miniature island made them speak out and say it. The wedding day was fixed before she left.

Her Majesty pardoned this scholar, hero, and worthy, the crime he had never committed.

Nancy Rouse took the penitent Wylie without the two thousand pounds. But old Penfold, who knew the whole story, lent the money at three per cent; so the Wylies pay a ground rent of sixty pounds a year for a property which, by Mrs. Wylie’s industry and judgment, is worth at least four hundred pounds. She pays this very cheerfully, and appeals to Joe whether that is not better than the other way.

“Why, Joe,” says she, “to a woman like me, that’s a‑foot all day, ’tis worth sixty pounds a year to be a good sleeper; and I shouldn’t be that if I had wronged my neighbor.”

Arthur Wardlaw is in a private lunatic asylum, and is taken great care of. In his lucid intervals, he suffers horrible distress of mind; but, though sad to see, these agonies furnish the one hope of his ultimate recovery. When not troubled by these returns of reason, he is contented enough. His favorite employment is to get Mr. Undercliff’s fac-similes, and to write love-letters to Helen Rolleston, which are duly deposited in the post-office of the establishment. These letters are in the handwriting of Charles I., Paoli, Lord Bacon, Alexander Pope, Lord Chesterfield, Nelson, Lord Shaftesbury, Addison, the late Duke of Wellington, and so on; and, strange to say, the Greek ε never appears in any of them. They are admirably like, though of course the matter is not always equally consistent with the characters of those personages.

539

Helen Rolleston married Robert Penfold. On the wedding day, the presents were laid out, and, amongst them, there was a silver box encrusted with coral.

Female curiosity demanded that this box should be opened. Helen objected; but her bridesmaids rebelled: the whole company sided with them, and Robert smiled a careless assent.

A blacksmith and carpenter were both enlisted, and with infinite difficulty the poor box was riven open.

Inside was another box, locked, but with no key. That was opened with comparative ease, and then handed to the bride. It contained nothing but papal indulgences and rough stones, and fair throats were opened in some disappointment.

A lady, however, of more experience, examined the contents, and said that, in her opinion, many of them were uncut gems of great price; there were certainly a quantity of jaspers and blood-stones, and others of no value at all. “But look at these two pearl-shaped diamonds,” said she; “why, they are a little fortune; and, oh!”

The stone that struck this fair creature dumb was a rough ruby as big as a blackbird’s egg, and of amazing depth and fire.

“No lady in England,” said she, “has such a ruby to compare with this.”

The information proved correct. The box furnished Helen with diamonds and emeralds of great thickness and quality. But the huge ruby placed her on a level with sovereigns. She wears it now and then in London, but not often. It attracts too much attention, blazing on her fair forehead like a star, and eclipses everything.

Well, what her ruby is amongst stones, she is amongst wives. And he is worthy of her.

540

Through much suffering, injustice, danger, and trouble, they have passed to health, happiness, and peace, and that entire union of two noble hearts, in loyal friendship and wedded love, which is the truest bliss this earth affords.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter LXVI

Chapter LXVI originally appeared in Once a Week Series 3, Volume 1, No. 25 (20 June 1868), numbered as Chapter LXIX.

It must be said that this final chapter is exceptionally stagey. You can see the actors pulling out their respective stops, with a suitable measure of scenery-chewing, as we come to the dénouement.

Hand is in America; went three months ago.
[Good heavens. All this time I’d assumed “Hand” was simply invented by Arthur.]

’I think I can help you,’ says this young man, and puts a letter on the table.
[Aha! That’s why Helen forgot Arthur’s letter on the island. It was needed for plot purposes.]

when he was interrupted by a scream from Helen
text has whon

here is the deposition of two seamen, taken on their death-bed
[And written down in pencil by two persons closely concerned in the case. I have my doubts about how well that would hold up in court.]

no less than twelve deviations from his habits of writing
[In fact, more than twelve, since there are 13 numbered items.]

Arthur Wardlaw never uses any other, apparently.
missing comma supplied from Once a Week

the writer has made the lower line the thick one. Yet John Wardlaw never does this.
[Indeed, it is hard to see how Arthur achieved this, unless he is left-handed. Thick strokes with a quill pen are pulled strokes, while the direction of writing would seem to demand a pushed (lighter) stroke.]

the writer of the letter to Miss Rolleston, who signs himself Arthur Wardlaw, is the person who forged the promissory note
missing comma after “Wardlaw” supplied from Once a Week

we reproduce the materials of Mr. Undercliff’s judgment
[In both Once a Week and the printed book, the two illustrations of writing samples were placed where they would fit on the page. I’ve moved them down a few paragraphs.]

To these twelve proofs one more was now added.
[Making a total of fourteen.]

Then he gave Burt fifty guineas.
[Can’t say as how I think very highly of Burt’s ethics.]

And this he did on the spot, for the firm was richer than ever.
[How can it be, when Arthur has been running it into the ground ever since he took control?]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.