The Blue lagoon: A Romance
H. de Vere Stacpoole
Part 1 out of 5
Stacpoole's The Blue Lagoon: A Romance
by Edward A. Malone
University of Missouri-Rolla
Born on April 9, 1863, in Kingstown, Ireland, Henry de Vere
Stacpoole grew up in a household dominated by his mother and
three older sisters. William C. Stacpoole, a doctor of divinity
from Trinity College and headmaster of Kingstown school, died
some time before his son's eighth birthday, leaving the
responsibility of supporting the family to his Canadian-born wife,
Charlotte Augusta Mountjoy Stacpoole. At a young age, Charlotte
had been led out of the Canadian backwoods by her widowed mother
and taken to Ireland, where their relatives lived. This experience
had strengthened her character and prepared her for single
Charlotte cared passionately for her children and was perhaps
overly protective of her son. As a child, Henry suffered from
severe respiratory problems, misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis
by his physician, who in the winter of 1871 advised that the boy
be taken to Southern France for his health. With her entire family
in tow, Charlotte made the long journey from Kingstown to London
to Paris, where signs of the Franco-Prussian War were still
evident, settling at last in Nice at the Hotel des Iles Britannique.
Nice was like paradise to Henry, who marveled at the city's
affluence and beauty as he played in the warm sun.
After several more excursions to the continent, Stacpoole was
sent to Portarlington, a bleak boarding school more than 100
miles from Kingstown. In contrast to his sisters, the
Portarlington boys were noisy and uncouth. As Stacpoole writes
in his autobiograhy Men and Mice, 1863-1942 (1942), the boys
abused him mentally and physically, making him feel like "a
little Arthur in a cage of baboons." One night, he escaped through
an adjacent girls' school and returned to Kingstown, only to be
betrayed by his family and dragged back to school by his eldest
When his family moved to London, he was taken out of
Portarlington and enrolled at Malvern College, a progressive
school with refined students and plenty of air and sunshine.
Stacpoole thoroughly enjoyed his new surroundings, which he
associated with the description of Malvern Hills in Elizabeth
Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1857): "Keepers of Piers
Plowman's visions / Through the sunshine and the snow." This
environment encouraged his interest in literature and writing.
The idyll ended, however, when Stacpoole began his medical
training. At his mother's prodding, he entered the medical school
at St. George's Hospital. Twice a day, he had to traverse a park
frequented by perambulating nursemaids, and he became
romantically involved with one of them. When his mother
discovered their affair, she insisted that he transfer to
University College, and he complied.
More interested in literature than corpses, Stacpoole began to
neglect his studies and miss classes, especially the required
dissections. Finally, the dean of the medical school confronted
him, and their argument drove Stacpoole to St. Mary's Hospital,
where he completed his medical training and qualified L. S. A. in
1891. At some point after this date, Stacpoole made several sea
voyages into the tropics (at least once as a doctor aboard a cable-
mending ship), collecting information for future stories.
Stacpoole's literary career, which he once described as being
"more like a Malay fishing prahu than an honest-to-God English
literary vessel," began inauspiciously with the publication of
The Intended (1894), a tragic novel about two look-alikes, one
rich, the other poor, who switch places on a whim. Bewildered by
the novel's lack of success, Stacpoole consulted his friendly
muse, Pearl Craigie, alias John Oliver Hobbes, who suggested a
comic rather than tragic treatment. Years later, Stacpoole retold
the story in The Man Who Lost Himself (1918), a commercially
successful comic novel about a down-and-out American who
impersonates his wealthy look-alike in England.
Set in France during the Franco-Prussian War, Stacpoole's second
novel, Pierrot (1896), recounts a French boy's eerie
relationship with a patricidal doppelganger. Like its predecessor,
it was a commercial failure, and it was at this point, perhaps,
that Stacpoole began to view literary success only in terms of
sales figures and numbers of editions.
A strange tale of reincarnation, cross dressing, and uxoricide,
Stacpoole's third novel, Death, the Knight, and the Lady (1897),
purports to be the deathbed confession of Beatrice Sinclair, who
is both a reincarnated murderer (male) and a descendant of the
murder victim (female). She falls in love with Gerald Wilder, a
man disguised as a woman, who is both a reincarnated murder
victim (female) and the descendant of the murderer (male).
Despite its originality, the novel was killed by "Public
Indifference" (Stacpoole's term), which also killed The Rapin
(1899), a novel about an art student in Paris.
Stacpoole spent the summer of 1898 in Sommerset, where he took
over the medical practice of an ailing country doctor. So peaceful
were his days in this pastoral setting that he had time to write
The Doctor (1899), a novel about an old-fashioned physician
practicing medicine in rural England. "It is the best book I have
written," Stacpoole declared more than forty years later. He
could also say, in retrospect, that the book's weak sales were a
disguised blessing, "for I hadn't ballast on board in those days to
stand up to the gale of success, which means incidentally money."
He would be spared the gale of success for nine more years,
during which he published seven books, including a collection of
children's stories and two collaborative novels with his friend
William Alexander Bryce.
In 1907, two events occurred that altered the course of
Stacpoole's life: he wrote The Blue Lagoon and he married
Margaret Robson. Unable to sleep one night, he found himself
thinking about and envying the caveman, who in his primitiveness
was able to marvel at such commonplace phenomena as sunsets
and thunderstorms. Civilized, technological man had unveiled
these mysteries with his telescopes and weather balloons, so
that they were no longer "nameless wonders" to be feared and
contemplated. As a doctor, Stacpoole had witnessed countless
births and deaths, and these events no longer seemed miraculous
to him. He conceived the idea of two children growing up alone on
an island and experiencing storms, death, and birth in almost
complete ignorance and innocence. The next morning, he started
writing The Blue Lagoon. The exercise was therapeutic because
he was able to experience the wonders of life and death
vicariously through his characters.
The Blue Lagoon is the story of two cousins, Dicky and
Emmeline Lestrange, stranded on a remote island with a beautiful
lagoon. As children, they are cared for by Paddy Button, a portly
sailor who drinks himself to death after only two and a half years
in paradise. Frightened and confused by the man's gruesome
corpse, the children flee to another part of Palm Tree Island. Over
a period of five years, they grow up and eventually fall in love.
Sex and birth are as mysterious to them as death, but they
manage to copulate instinctively and conceive a child. The birth is
especially remarkable: fifteen-year-old Emmeline, alone in the
jungle, loses consciousness and awakes to find a baby boy on the
ground near her. Naming the boy Hannah (an example of
Stacpoole's penchant for gender reversals), the Lestranges live in
familial bliss until they are unexpectedly expelled from their
The parallels between The Blue Lagoon and the Biblical story of
Adam and Eve are obvious and intentional, but Stacpoole was also
influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
(1865), which he invokes in a passage describing the castaways'
approach Palm Tree Island:
"One could see the water swirling round the coral piers, for the
tide was flooding into the lagoon; it had seized the little dinghy
and was bearing it along far swifter than the sculls could have
driven it. Seagulls screamed about them, the boat rocked and
swayed. Dick shouted with excitement, and Emmeline shut her
"Then, as though a door had been swiftly and silently closed, the
sound of the surf became suddenly less. The boat floated on an
even keel; she opened her eyes and found herself in Wonderland."
This direct reference to Wonderland prepares the reader for the
many parallels that follow. When their adventures begin, both
girls are about the same age, Alice seven and a half, Emmeline
exactly eight. Just as Alice joins a tea party in Wonderland,
Emmeline plays with her tiny tea set on the beach after they land.
Emmeline's former pet, like the Cheshire Cat, "had white stripes
and a white chest, and rings down its tail" and died "showing its
teeth." Whereas Alice looks for a poison label on a bottle that
says "Drink Me," Emmeline innocently tries to eat "the never-
wake-up berries" and receives a stern rebuke and a lecture about
poison from Paddy Button. "The Poetry of Learning" chapter
echoes Alice's dialogue with the caterpillar. Like the wily
creature smoking a hookah, Paddy smokes a pipe and shouts
"Hurroo!" as the children teach him to write his name in the sand.
The children lose "all count of time," just as the Mad Hatter does.
Whereas Alice grows nine feet taller, Dick sprouts "two inches
taller" and Emmeline "twice as plump." Like the baby in the "Pig
and Pepper," Hannah sneezes at the first sight of Dicky. The novel
is artfully littered with references to wonder, curiosity, and
strangeness--all evidence of Stacpoole's conscious effort to
invoke and honor his Victorian predecessor.
Stacpoole presented The Blue Lagoon to Publisher T. Fisher
Unwin in September 1907 and went to Cumberland to assist
another ailing doctor in his practice. Every day from Eden Vue in
Langwathby, Stacpoole wrote to his fiancee, Margaret Robson (or
Maggie, as he called her), and waited anxiously for their wedding
day. On December 17, 1907, the couple were married and spent
their honeymoon at Stebbing Park, a friend's country house in
Essex, about three miles from the village of Stebbing. It was
there that they stumbled upon Rose Cottage, where Stacpoole
lived for several years before he moved to Cliff Dene on the Isle
of Wight in the 1920s.
Published in January 1908, The Blue Lagoon was an immediate
success, both with reviewers and the public. "[This] tale of the
discovery of love, and innocent mating, is as fresh as the ozone
that made them strong," declared one reviewer. Another claimed
that "for once the title of `romance,' found in so many modern
stories, is really justified." The novel was reprinted more than
twenty times in the next twelve years and remained popular in
other forms for more than eighty years. Norman MacOwen and
Charlton Mann adapted the story as a play, which ran for 263
performances in London from August 28, 1920, to April 16, 1921.
Film versions of the novel were made in 1923, 1949, and 1980.
Stacpoole also wrote two successful sequels: The Garden of
God (1923) and The Gates of Morning (1925). These three
books and two others were combined to form The Blue Lagoon
Omnibus in 1933. The Garden of God was filmed as Return to
the Blue Lagoon in 1992.
This Gutenberg etext of The Blue Lagoon: A Romance is based
on the 1908 first American edition published by J. B. Lippincott
Company of Philadelphia.
The Blue lagoon: A Romance
by H. de Vere Stacpoole
I. WHERE THE SLUSH LAMP BURNS
II. UNDER THE STARS
III. THE SHADOW AND THE FIRE
IV. AND LIKE A DREAM DISSOLVED
V. VOICES HEARD IN THE MIST
VI. DAWN ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA
VII. STORY OF THE PIG AND THE BILLY-GOAT
IX. SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
X. THE TRAGEDY OF THE BOATS
XI. THE ISLAND
XII. THE LAKE OF AZURE
XIII. DEATH VEILED WITH LICHEN
XIV. ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND
XV. FAIR PICTURES IN THE BLUE
XVI. THE POETRY OF LEARNING
XVII. THE DEVIL'S CASK
XVIII. THE RAT HUNT
XIX. STARLIGHT ON THE FOAM
XX. THE DREAMER ON THE REEF
XXI. THE GARLAND OF FLOWERS
XXIII. THEY MOVE AWAY
I. UNDER THE ARTU TREE
II. HALF CHILD_HALF SAVAGE
III. THE DEMON OF THE REEF
IV. WHAT BEAUTY CONCEALED
V. THE SOUND OF A DRUM
VI. SAILS UPON THE SEA
VII. THE SCHOONER
VIII. LOVE STEPS IN
IX. THE SLEEP OF PARADISE
X. AN ISLAND HONEYMOON
XI. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE
XII. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE (CONTINUED)
XIII. THE NEWCOMER
XV. THE LAGOON OF FIRE
XVI. THE CYCLONE
XVII. THE STRICKEN WOODS
XVIII. A FALLEN IDOL
XIX. THE EXPEDITION
XX. THE KEEPER OF THE LAGOON
XXI. THE HAND OF THE SEA
I. MAD LESTRANGE
II. THE SECRET OF THE AZURE
III. CAPTAIN FOUNTAIN
IV. DUE SOUTH
THE BLUE LAGOON
WHERE THE SLUSH LAMP BURNS
Mr Button was seated on a sea-chest with a fiddle under his left
ear. He was playing the "Shan van vaught," and accompanying the
tune, punctuating it, with blows of his left heel on the fo'cs'le
"O the Frinch are in the bay,
Says the Shan van vaught."
He was dressed in dungaree trousers, a striped shirt, and a jacket
baize--green in parts from the influence of sun and salt. A typical
old shell-back, round-shouldered, hooked of finger; a figure with
strong hints of a crab about it.
His face was like a moon, seen red through tropical mists; and as
he played it wore an expression of strained attention as though
the fiddle were telling him tales much more marvellous than the
old bald statement about Bantry Bay.
"Left-handed Pat," was his fo'cs'le name; not because he was
left-handed, but simply because everything he did he did wrong--
or nearly so. Reefing or furling, or handling a slush tub--if a
mistake was to be made, he made it.
He was a Celt, and all the salt seas that had flowed between him
and Connaught these forty years and more had not washed the
Celtic element from his blood, nor the belief in fairies from his
soul. The Celtic nature is a fast dye, and Mr Button's nature was
such that though he had been shanghaied by Larry Marr in 'Frisco,
though he had got drunk in most ports of the world, though he had
sailed with Yankee captains and been man-handled by Yankee
mates, he still carried his fairies about with him--they, and a
very large stock of original innocence.
Nearly over the musician's head swung a hammock from which
hung a leg; other hammocks hanging in the semi-gloom called up
suggestions of lemurs and arboreal bats. The swinging kerosene
lamp cast its light forward past the heel of the bowsprit to the
knightheads, lighting here a naked foot hanging over the side of a
bunk, here a face from which protruded a pipe, here a breast
covered with dark mossy hair, here an arm tattooed.
It was in the days before double topsail yards had reduced ships'
crews, and the fo'cs'le of the Northumberland had a full
company: a crowd of packet rats such as often is to be found on a
Cape Horner "Dutchmen" [sic] Americans--men who were farm
labourers and tending pigs in Ohio three months back, old
seasoned sailors like Paddy Button--a mixture of the best and the
worst of the earth, such as you find nowhere else in so small a
space as in a ship's fo'cs'le.
The Northumberland had experienced a terrible rounding of the
Horn. Bound from New Orleans to 'Frisco she had spent thirty days
battling with head-winds and storms--down there, where the
seas are so vast that three waves may cover with their amplitude
more than a mile of sea space; thirty days she had passed off
Cape Stiff, and just now, at the moment of this story, she was
locked in a calm south of the line.
Mr Button finished his tune with a sweep of the bow, and drew
his right coat sleeve across his forehead. Then he took out a sooty
pipe, filled it with tobacco, and lit it.
"Pawthrick," drawled a voice from the hammock above, from
which depended the leg, "what was that yarn you wiz beginnin' to
spin ter night 'bout a lip-me-dawn?"
"A which me-dawn?" asked Mr Button, cocking his eye up at the
bottom of the hammock while he held the match to his pipe.
"It vas about a green thing," came a sleepy Dutch voice from a
"Oh, a Leprachaun, you mane. Sure, me mother's sister had one
down in Connaught."
"Vat vas it like?" asked the dreamy Dutch voice--a voice
seemingly possessed by the calm that had made the sea like a
mirror for the last three days, reducing the whole ship's company
meanwhile to the level of wasters.
"Like? Sure, it was like a Leprachaun; and what else would it be
"What like vas that?" persisted the voice.
"It was like a little man no bigger than a big forked radish, an' as
green as a cabbidge. Me a'nt had one in her house down in
Connaught in the ould days. O musha! musha! the ould days, the
ould days! Now, you may b'lave me or b'lave me not, but you could
have put him in your pocket, and the grass-green head of him
wouldn't more than'v stuck out. She kept him in a cupboard, and
out of the cupboard he'd pop if it was a crack open, an' into the
milk pans he'd be, or under the beds, or pullin' the stool from
under you, or at some other divarsion. He'd chase the pig--the
crathur!--till it'd be all ribs like an ould umbrilla with the fright,
an' as thin as a greyhound with the runnin' by the marnin; he'd
addle the eggs so the cocks an' hens wouldn't know what they wis
afther wid the chickens comin' out wid two heads on them, an'
twinty-seven legs fore and aft. And you'd start to chase him, an'
then it'd be main-sail haul, and away he'd go, you behint him, till
you'd landed tail over snout in a ditch, an' he'd be back in the
"He was a Troll," murmured the Dutch voice.
"I'm tellin' you he was a Leprachaun, and there's no knowin' the
divilments he'd be up to. He'd pull the cabbidge, maybe, out of the
pot boilin' on the fire forenint your eyes, and baste you in the
face with it; and thin, maybe, you'd hold out your fist to him, and
he'd put a goulden soverin in it."
"Wisht he was here!" murmured a voice from a bunk near the
"Pawthrick," drawled the voice from the hammock above, "what'd
you do first if you found y'self with twenty pound in your
"What's the use of askin' me?" replied Mr Button. "What's the use
of twenty pound to a sayman at say, where the grog's all wather
an' the beef's all horse? Gimme it ashore, an' you'd see what I'd
do wid it!"
"I guess the nearest grog-shop keeper wouldn't see you comin' for
dust," said a voice from Ohio.
"He would not," said Mr Button; "nor you afther me. Be damned to
the grog and thim that sells it!"
"It's all darned easy to talk," said Ohio. "You curse the grog at sea
when you can't get it; set you ashore, and you're bung full."
"I likes me dhrunk," said Mr Button, "I'm free to admit; an' I'm the
divil when it's in me, and it'll be the end of me yet, or me ould
mother was a liar. `Pat,' she says, first time I come home from
say rowlin', `storms you may escape, an wimmen you may escape,
but the potheen 'ill have you.' Forty year ago--forty year ago!"
"Well," said Ohio, "it hasn't had you yet."
"No," replied Mr Button, "but it will."
UNDER THE STARS
It was a wonderful night up on deck, filled with all the majesty
and beauty of starlight and a tropic calm.
The Pacific slept; a vast, vague swell flowing from far away
down south under the night, lifted the Northumberland on its
undulations to the rattling sound of the reef points and the
occasional creak of the rudder; whilst overhead, near the fiery
arch of the Milky Way, hung the Southern Cross like a broken kite.
Stars in the sky, stars in the sea, stars by the million and the
million; so many lamps ablaze that the firmament filled the mind
with the idea of a vast and populous city--yet from all that living
and flashing splendour not a sound.
Down in the cabin--or saloon, as it was called by courtesy--were
seated the three passengers of the ship; one reading at the table,
two playing on the floor.
The man at the table, Arthur Lestrange, was seated with his
large, deep-sunken eyes fixed on a book. He was most evidently in
consumption--very near, indeed, to reaping the result of that last
and most desperate remedy, a long sea voyage.
Emmeline Lestrange, his little niece--eight years of age, a
mysterious mite, small for her age, with thoughts of her own,
wide-pupilled eyes that seemed the doors for visions, and a face
that seemed just to have peeped into this world for a moment ere
it was as suddenly withdrawn--sat in a corner nursing something
in her arms, and rocking herself to the tune of her own thoughts.
Dick, Lestrange's little son, eight and a bit, was somewhere under
the table. They were Bostonians, bound for San Francisco, or
rather for the sun and splendour of Los Angeles, where Lestrange
had bought a small estate, hoping there to enjoy the life whose
lease would be renewed by the long sea voyage.
As he sat reading, the cabin door opened, and appeared an angular
female form. This was Mrs Stannard, the stewardess, and Mrs
Stannard meant bedtime.
"Dicky," said Mr Lestrange, closing his book, and raising the
table-cloth a few inches, "bedtime."
"Oh, not yet, daddy!" came a sleep-freighted voice from under the
table; "I ain't ready. I dunno want to go to bed, I-- Hi yow!"
Stannard, who knew her work, had stooped under the table, seized
him by the foot, and hauled him out kicking and fighting and
blubbering all at the same time.
As for Emmeline, she having glanced up and recognised the
inevitable, rose to her feet, and, holding the hideous rag-doll she
had been nursing, head down and dangling in one hand, she stood
waiting till Dicky, after a few last perfunctory bellows, suddenly
dried his eyes and held up a tear-wet face for his father to kiss.
Then she presented her brow solemnly to her uncle, received a
kiss, and vanished, led by the hand into a cabin on the port side of
Mr Lestrange returned to his book, but he had not read for long
when the cabin door was opened, and Emmeline, in her nightdress,
reappeared, holding a brown paper parcel in her hand, a parcel of
about the same size as the book you are reading.
"My box," said she; and as she spoke, holding it up as if to prove
its safety, the little plain face altered to the face of an angel.
She had smiled.
When Emmeline Lestrange smiled it was absolutely as if the light
of Paradise had suddenly flashed upon her face: the happiest form
of childish beauty suddenly appeared before your eyes, dazzled
them and was gone.
Then she vanished with her box, and Mr Lestrange resumed his
This box of Emmeline's, I may say in parenthesis, had given more
trouble aboard ship than all of the rest of the passengers' luggage
It had been presented to her on her departure from Boston by a
lady friend, and what it contained was a dark secret to all on
board, save its owner and her uncle; she was a woman, or, at all
events, the beginning of a woman, yet she kept this secret to her-
self--a fact which you will please note.
The trouble of the thing was that it was frequently being lost.
Suspecting herself, maybe, as an unpractical dreamer in a world
filled with robbers, she would cart it about with her for safety,
sit down behind a coil of rope and fall into a fit of abstraction; be
recalled to life by the evolutions of the crew reefing or furling or
what not, rise to superintend the operations--and then suddenly
find she had lost her box.
Then she would absolutely haunt the ship. Wide-eyed and
distressed of face she would wander hither and thither, peeping
into the galley, peeping down the forescuttle, never uttering a
word or wail, searching like an uneasy ghost, but dumb.
She seemed ashamed to tell of her loss, ashamed to let any one
know of it; but every one knew of it directly they saw her, to use
Mr Button's expression, "on the wandher," and every one hunted
Strangely enough it was Paddy Button who usually found it. He
who was always doing the wrong thing in the eyes of men,
generally did the right thing in the eyes of children. Children, in
fact, when they could get at Mr Button, went for him con amore.
He was as attractive to them as a Punch and Judy show or a
Mr Lestrange after a while closed the book he was reading, looked
around him and sighed.
The cabin of the Northumberland was a cheerful enough place,
pierced by the polished shaft of the mizzen mast, carpeted with
an Axminster carpet, and garnished with mirrors let into the
white pine panelling. Lestrange was staring at the reflection of
his own face in one of these mirrors fixed just opposite to where
His emaciation was terrible, and it was just perhaps at this
moment that he first recognised the fact that he must not only
die, but die soon.
He turned from the mirror and sat for a while with his chin
resting upon his hand, and his eyes fixed on an ink spot upon the
table-cloth; then he arose, and crossing the cabin climbed
laboriously up the companionway to the deck.
As he leaned against the bulwark rail to recover his breath, the
splendour and beauty of the Southern night struck him to the
heart with a cruel pang. He took his seat on a deck chair and gazed
up at the Milky Way, that great triumphal arch built of suns that
the dawn would sweep away like a dream.
In the Milky Way, near the Southern Cross, occurs a terrible
circular abyss, the Coal Sack. So sharply defined is it, so
suggestive of a void and bottomless cavern, that the
contemplation of it afflicts the imaginative mind with vertigo.
To the naked eye it is as black and as dismal as death, but the
smallest telescope reveals it beautiful and populous with stars.
Lestrange's eyes travelled from this mystery to the burning
cross, and the nameless and numberless stars reaching to the
sea-line, where they paled and vanished in the light of the rising
moon. Then he became aware of a figure promenading the quarter-
deck. It was the "Old Man."
A sea captain is always the "old man," be his age what it may.
Captain Le Farges' age might have been forty-five. He was a sailor
of the Jean Bart type, of French descent, but a naturalised
"I don't know where the wind's gone," said the captain as he drew
near the man in the deck chair. "I guess it's blown a hole in the
firmament, and escaped somewheres to the back of beyond."
"It's been a long voyage," said Lestrange; "and I'm thinking,
Captain, it will be a very long voyage for me. My port's not
'Frisco; I feel it."
"Don't you be thinking that sort of thing," said the other, taking
his seat in a chair close by. "There's no manner of use forecastin'
the weather a month ahead. Now we're in warm latitoods, your
glass will rise steady, and you'll be as right and spry as any one
of us, before we fetch the Golden Gates."
"I'm thinking about the children," said Lestrange, seeming not to
hear the captain's words. "Should anything happen to me before
we reach port, I should like you to do something for me. It's only
this: dispose of my body without--without the children knowing.
It has been in my mind to ask you this for some days. Captain,
those children know nothing of death."
Le Farge moved uneasily in his chair.
"Little Emmeline's mother died when she was two. Her father--
my brother--died before she was born. Dicky never knew a
mother; she died giving him birth. My God, Captain, death has laid
a heavy hand on my family; can you wonder that I have hid his very
name from those two creatures that I love!"
"Ay, ay," said Le Farge, "it's sad! it's sad! "
"When I was quite a child," went on Lestrange, "a child no older
than Dicky, my nurse used to terrify me with tales about dead
people. I was told I'd go to hell when I died if I wasn't a good
child. I cannot tell you how much that has poisoned my life, for
the thoughts we think in childhood, Captain, are the fathers of the
thoughts we think when we are grown up. And can a diseased
father have healthy children?"
"I guess not."
"So I just said, when these two tiny creatures came into my care,
that I would do all in my power to protect them from the terrors
of life--or rather, I should say, from the terror of death. I don't
know whether I have done right, but I have done it for the best.
They had a cat, and one day Dicky came in to me and said: `Father,
pussy's in the garden asleep, and I can't wake her.' So I just took
him out for a walk; there was a circus in the town, and I took him
to it. It so filled his mind that he quite forgot the cat. Next day he
asked for her. I did not tell him she was buried in the garden, I
just said she must have run away. In a week he had forgotten all
about her--children soon forget."
"Ay, that's true," said the sea captain. "But 'pears to me they must
learn some time they've got to die."
"Should I pay the penalty before we reach land, and be cast into
that great, vast sea, I would not wish the children's dreams to be
haunted by the thought: just tell them I've gone on board another
ship. You will take them back to Boston; I have here, in a letter,
the name of a lady who will care for them. Dicky will be well off,
as far as worldly goods are concerned, and so will Emmeline. Just
tell them I've gone on board another ship-- children soon forget."
"I'll do what you ask," said the seaman.
The moon was over the horizon now, and the Northumberland
lay adrift in a river of silver. Every spar was distinct, every reef
point on the great sails, and the decks lay like spaces of frost cut
by shadows black as ebony.
As the two men sat without speaking, thinking their own
thoughts, a little white figure emerged from the saloon hatch. It
was Emmeline. She was a professed sleepwalker--a past
mistress of the art.
Scarcely had she stepped into dreamland than she had lost her
precious box, and now she was hunting for it on the decks of the
Mr Lestrange put his finger to his lips, took off his shoes and
silently followed her. She searched behind a coil of rope, she
tried to open the galley door; hither and thither she wandered,
wide-eyed and troubled of face, till at last, in the shadow of the
hencoop, she found her visionary treasure. Then back she came,
holding up her little nightdress with one hand, so as not to trip,
and vanished down the saloon companion very hurriedly, as if
anxious to get back to bed, her uncle close behind, with one hand
outstretched so as to catch her in case she stumbled.
THE SHADOW AND THE FIRE
It was the fourth day of the long calm. An awning had been rigged
up on the poop for the passengers, and under it sat Lestrange,
trying to read, and the children trying to play. The heat and
monotony had reduced even Dicky to just a surly mass, languid in
movement as a grub. As for Emmeline, she seemed dazed. The rag-
doll lay a yard away from her on the poop deck, unnursed; even the
wretched box and its whereabouts she seemed to have quite
"Daddy!" suddenly cried Dick, who had clambered up, and was
looking over the after-rail.
Lestrange rose to his feet, came aft and looked over the rail.
Down in the vague green of the water something moved,
something pale and long--a ghastly form. It vanished; and yet
another came, neared the surface, and displayed itself more fully.
Lestrange saw its eyes, he saw the dark fin, and the whole
hideous length of the creature; a shudder ran through him as he
"Ain't he fine?" said the child. "I guess, daddy, I'd pull him aboard
if I had a hook. Why haven't I a hook, daddy? Why haven't I a hook,
daddy?-- Ow, you're SQUEEZIN' me!"
Something plucked at Lestrange's coat: it was Emmeline--she
also wanted to look. He lifted her up in his arms; her little pale
face peeped over the rail, but there was nothing to see: the forms
of terror had vanished, leaving the green depths untroubled and
"What's they called, daddy?" persisted Dick, as his father took
him down from the rail, and led him back to the chair.
"Sharks," said Lestrange, whose face was covered with
He picked up the book he had been reading--it was a volume of
Tennyson--and he sat with it on his knees staring at the white
sunlit main-deck barred with the white shadows of the standing
The sea had disclosed to him a vision. Poetry, Philosophy, Beauty,
Art, the love and joy of life--was it possible that these should
exist in the same world as those?
He glanced at the book upon his knees, and contrasted the
beautiful things in it which he remembered with the terrible
things he had just seen, the things that were waiting for their
food under the keel of the ship.
It was three bells--half-past three in the afternoon--and the
ship's bell had just rung out. The stewardess appeared to take the
children below; and as they vanished down the saloon
companionway, Captain Le Farge came aft, on to the poop, and
stood for a moment looking over the sea on the port side, where a
bank of fog had suddenly appeared like the spectre of a country.
"The sun has dimmed a bit," said he; "I can a'most look at it. Glass
steady enough--there's a fog coming up--ever seen a Pacific
"Well, you won't want to see another," replied the mariner,
shading his eyes and fixing them upon the sea-line. The sea-line
away to starboard had lost somewhat its distinctness, and over
the day an almost imperceptible shade had crept.
The captain suddenly turned from his contemplation of the sea
and sky, raised his head and sniffed.
"Something is burning somewhere--smell it? Seems to me like an
old mat or summat. It's that swab of a steward, maybe; if he isn't
breaking glass, he's upsetting lamps and burning holes in the
carpet. Bless MY soul, I'd sooner have a dozen Mary Anns an' their
dustpans round the place than one tomfool steward like Jenkins."
He went to the saloon hatch. "Below there!"
"Ay, ay, sir."
"What are you burning?"
"I an't burnin' northen, sir."
"Tell you, I smell it!"
"There's northen burnin' here, sir."
"Neither is there; it's all on deck. Something in the galley,
maybe-- rags, most likely, they've thrown on the fire."
"Captain!" said Lestrange.
"Come here, please."
Le Farge climbed on to the poop.
"I don't know whether it's my weakness that's affecting my eyes,
but there seems to me something strange about the main-mast."
The main-mast near where it entered the deck, and for some
distance up, seemed in motion--a corkscrew movement most
strange to watch from the shelter of the awning.
This apparent movement was caused by a spiral haze of smoke so
vague that one could only tell of its existence from the mirage-
like tremor of the mast round which it curled.
"My God!" cried Le Farge, as he sprang from the poop and rushed
Lestrange followed him slowly, stopping every moment to clutch
the bulwark rail and pant for breath. He heard the shrill bird-like
notes of the bosun's pipe. He saw the hands emerging from the
forecastle, like bees out of a hive; he watched them surrounding
the main-hatch. He watched the tarpaulin and locking-bars
removed. He saw the hatch opened, and a burst of smoke--black,
villainous smoke--ascend to the sky, solid as a plume in the
Lestrange was a man of a highly nervous temperament, and it is
just this sort of man who keeps his head in an emergency, whilst
your level-headed, phlegmatic individual loses his balance. His
first thought was of the children, his second of the boats.
In the battering off Cape Horn the Northumberland lost several
of her boats. There were left the long-boat, a quarter-boat, and
the dinghy. He heard Le Farge's voice ordering the hatch to be
closed and the pumps manned, so as to flood the hold; and,
knowing that he could do nothing on deck, he made as swiftly as
he could for the saloon companionway.
Mrs Stannard was just coming out of the children's cabin.
"Are the children lying down, Mrs Stannard?" asked Lestrange,
almost breathless from the excitement and exertion of the last
The woman glanced at him with frightened eyes. He looked like
the very herald of disaster.
"For if they are, and you have undressed them, then you must put
their clothes on again. The ship is on fire, Mrs Stannard."
"Good God, sir!"
"Listen!" said Lestrange.
From a distance, thin, and dreary as the crying of sea-gulls on a
desolate beach, came the clanking of the pumps.
AND LIKE A DREAM DISSOLVED
Before the woman had time to speak a thunderous step was heard
on the companion stairs, and Le Farge broke into the saloon. The
man's face was injected with blood, his eyes were fixed and
glassy like the eyes of a drunkard, and the veins stood on his
temples like twisted cords.
"Get those children ready!" he shouted, as he rushed into his own
cabin. "Get you all ready--boats are being swung out and
victualled. Ho! where are those papers?"
They heard him furiously searching and collecting things in his
cabin--the ship's papers, accounts, things the master mariner
clings to as he clings to his life; and as he searched, and found,
and packed, he kept bellowing orders for the children to be got on
deck. Half mad he seemed, and half mad he was with the
knowledge of the terrible thing that was stowed amidst the
Up on deck the crew, under the direction of the first mate, were
working in an orderly manner, and with a will, utterly
unconscious of there being anything beneath their feet but an
ordinary cargo on fire. The covers had been stripped from the
boats, kegs of water and bags of biscuit placed in them. The
dinghy, smallest of the boats and most easily got away, was
hanging at the port quarter-boat davits flush with the bulwarks;
and Paddy Button was in the act of stowing a keg of water in her,
when Le Farge broke on to the deck, followed by the stewardess
carrying Emmeline, and Mr Lestrange leading Dick. The dinghy was
rather a larger boat than the ordinary ships' dinghy, and
possessed a small mast and long sail. Two sailors stood ready to
man the falls, and Paddy Button was just turning to trundle
forward again when the captain seized him.
"Into the dinghy with you," he cried, "and row these children and
the passenger out a mile from the ship--two miles, three miles,
make an offing."
"Sure, Captain dear, I've left me fiddle in the--"
Le Farge dropped the bundle of things he was holding under his
left arm, seized the old sailor and rushed him against the
bulwarks, as if he meant to fling him into the sea THROUGH the
Next moment Mr Button was in the boat. Emmeline was handed to
him, pale of face and wide-eyed, and clasping something wrapped
in a little shawl; then Dick, and then Mr Lestrange was helped
"No room for more!" cried Le Farge. "Your place will be in the long-
boat, Mrs Stannard, if we have to leave the ship. Lower away,
The boat sank towards the smooth blue sea, kissed it and was
Now Mr Button, before joining the ship at Boston, had spent a
good while lingering by the quay, having no money wherewith to
enjoy himself in a tavern. He had seen something of the lading of
the Northumberland, and heard more from a stevedore. No
sooner had he cast off the falls and seized the oars, than his
knowledge awoke in his mind, living and lurid. He gave a whoop
that brought the two sailors leaning over the side.
"Run for your lives I've just rimimbered--there's two bar'ls of
blastin' powther in the houldt."
Then he bent to his oars, as no man ever bent before. Lestrange,
sitting in the stern-sheets clasping Emmeline and Dick, saw
nothing for a moment after hearing these words. The children,
who knew nothing of blasting powder or its effects, though half
frightened by all the bustle and excitement, were still amused
and pleased at finding themselves in the little boat so close to
the blue pretty sea.
Dick put his finger over the side, so that it made a ripple in the
water (the most delightful experience of childhood). Emmeline,
with one hand clasped in her uncle's, watched Mr Button with a
grave sort of half pleasure.
He certainly was a sight worth watching. His soul was filled with
tragedy and terror. His Celtic imagination heard the ship blowing
up, saw himself and the little dinghy blown to pieces--nay, saw
himself in hell, being toasted by "divils."
But tragedy and terror could find no room for expression on his
fortunate or unfortunate face. He puffed and he blew, bulging his
cheeks out at the sky as he tugged at the oars, making a hundred
and one grimaces--all the outcome of agony of mind, but none
expressing it. Behind lay the ship, a picture not without its
lighter side. The long-boat and the quarter-boat, lowered with a
rush and seaborne by the mercy of Providence, were floating by
the side of the Northumberland.
From the ship men were casting themselves overboard like
water-rats, swimming in the water like ducks, scrambling on
board the boats anyhow.
From the half-opened main-hatch the black smoke, mixed now
with sparks, rose steadily and swiftly and spitefulIy, as if driven
through the half-closed teeth of a dragon.
A mile away beyond the Northumberland stood the fog bank. It
looked solid, like a vast country that had suddenly and strangely
built itself on the sea--a country where no birds sang and no
trees grew. A country with white, precipitous cliffs, solid to look
at as the cliffs of Dover.
"I'm spint!" suddenly gasped the oarsman, resting the oar handles
under the crook of his knees, and bending down as if he was
preparing to butt at the passengers in the stern-sheets. "Blow up
or blow down, I'm spint, don't ax me, I'm spint."
Mr Lestrange, white as a ghost, but recovered somewhat from his
first horror, gave the Spent One time to recover himself and
turned to look at the ship. She seemed a great distance off, and
the boats, well away from her, were making at a furious pace
towards the dinghy. Dick was still playing with the water, but
Emmeline's eyes were entirely occupied with Paddy Button. New
things were always of vast interest to her contemplative mind,
and these evolutions of her old friend were eminently new.
She had seen him swilling the decks, she had seen him dancing a
jig, she had seen him going round the main deck on all fours with
Dick on his back, but she had never seen him going on like this
She perceived now that he was exhausted, and in trouble about
something, and, putting her hand in the pocket of her dress, she
searched for something that she knew was there. She produced a
Tangerine orange, and leaning forward she touched the Spent
One's head with it.
Mr Button raised his head, stared vacantly for a second, saw the
proffered orange, and at the sight of it the thought of "the
childer" and their innocence, himself and the blasting powder,
cleared his dazzled wits, and he took to the sculls again.
"Daddy," said Dick, who had been looking astern, "there's clouds
near the ship."
In an incredibly short space of time the solid cliffs of fog had
broken. The faint wind that had banked it had pierced it, and was
now making pictures and devices of it, most wonderful and weird
to see. Horsemen of the mist rode on the water, and were dis-
solved; billows rolled on the sea, yet were not of the sea;
blankets and spirals of vapour ascended to high heaven. And all
with a terrible languor of movement. Vast and lazy and sinister,
yet steadfast of purpose as Fate or Death, the fog advanced,
taking the world for its own.
Against this grey and indescribably sombre background stood the
smouldering ship with the breeze already shivering in her sails,
and the smoke from her main-hatch blowing and beckoning as if to
the retreating boats.
"Why's the ship smoking like that?" asked Dick. "And look at those
boats coming--when are we going back, daddy?"
"Uncle," said Emmeline, putting her hand in his, as she gazed
towards the ship and beyond it, "I'm 'fraid."
"What frightens you, Emmy?" he asked, drawing her to him.
"Shapes," replied Emmeline, nestling up to his side.
"Oh, Glory be to God!"gasped the old sailor, suddenly resting on
his oars. "Will yiz look at the fog that's comin'--"
"I think we had better wait here for the boats," said Mr
Lestrange; "we are far enough now to be safe if anything happens."
"Ay, ay," replied the oarsman, whose wits had returned. "Blow up
or blow down, she won't hit us from here."
"Daddy," said Dick, "when are we going back? I want my tea."
"We aren't going back, my child," replied his father. "The ship's on
fire; we are waiting for another ship."
"Where's the other ship?" asked the child, looking round at the
horizon that was clear.
"We can't see it yet," replied the unhappy man, "but it will come."
The long-boat and the quarter-boat were slowly approaching. They
looked like beetles crawling over the water, and after them
across the glittering surface came a dullness that took the
sparkle from the sea--a dullness that swept and spread like an
Now the wind struck the dinghy. It was like a wind from
fairyland, almost imperceptible, chill, and dimming the sun. A
wind from Lilliput. As it struck the dinghy, the fog took the
It was a most extraordinary sight, for in less than thirty seconds
the ship of wood became a ship of gauze, a tracery flickered, and
was gone forever from the sight of man.
VOICES HEARD IN THE MIST
The sun became fainter still, and vanished. Though the air round
the dinghy seemed quite clear, the on-coming boats were hazy and
dim, and that part of the horizon that had been fairly clear was
now blotted out.
The long-boat was leading by a good way. When she was within
hailing distance the captain's voice came.
"Fetch alongside here!"
The long-boat ceased rowing to wait for the quarter-boat that
was slowly creeping up. She was a heavy boat to pull at all times,
and now she was overloaded.
The wrath of Captain Le Farge with Paddy Button for the way he
had stampeded the crew was profound, but he had not time to give
vent to it.
"Here, get aboard us, Mr Lestrange!" said he, when the dinghy was
alongside; "we have room for one. Mrs Stannard is in the quarter-
boat, and it's overcrowded; she's better aboard the dinghy, for she
can look after the kids. Come, hurry up, the smother is coming
down on us fast. Ahoy!"--to the quarter-boat, "hurry up, hurry
The quarter-boat had suddenly vanished.
Mr Lestrange climbed into the long-boat. Paddy pushed the dinghy
a few yards away with the tip of a scull, and then lay on his oars
"Ahoy! ahoy!" cried Le Farge.
"Ahoy!" came from the fog bank.
Next moment the long-boat and the dinghy vanished from each
other's sight: the great fog bank had taken them.
Now a couple of strokes of the port scull would have brought Mr
Button alongside the long-boat, so close was he; but the quarter-
boat was in his mind, or rather imagination, so what must he do
but take three powerful strokes in the direction in which he
fancied the quarter-boat to be.
The rest was voices.
"Don't be shoutin' together, or I'll not know which way to pull.
Quarter-boat ahoy! where are yez?"
"Port your helm!"
"Ay, ay!" putting his helm, so to speak, to starboard--"I'll be wid
yiz in wan minute, two or three minutes' hard pulling."
"Ahoy !"--much more faint.
"What d'ye mane rowin' away from me?"--a dozen strokes.
"Ahoy!" fainter still.
Mr Button rested on his oars.
"Divil mend them I b'lave that was the long-boat shoutin'."
He took to his oars again and pulled vigorously.
"Paddy," came Dick's small voice, apparently from nowhere,
"where are we now?"
"Sure, we're in a fog; where else would we be? Don't you be
"I ain't affeared, but Em's shivering."
"Give her me coat," said the oarsman, resting on his oars and
taking it off. "Wrap it round her; and when it's round her we'll all
let one big halloo together. There's an ould shawl som'er in the
boat, but I can't be after lookin' for it now."
He held out the coat and an almost invisible hand took it; at the
same moment a tremendous report shook the sea and sky.
"There she goes," said Mr Button; "an' me old fiddle an' all. Don't
be frightened, childer; it's only a gun they're firin' for divarsion.
Now we'll all halloo togither--are yiz ready?"
"Ay, ay," said Dick, who was a picker-up of sea terms.
"Halloo!" yelled Pat.
"Halloo! Halloo!" piped Dick and Emmeline.
A faint reply came, but from where, it was difficult to say. The
old man rowed a few strokes and then paused on his oars. So still
was the surface of the sea that the chuckling of the water at the
boat's bow as she drove forward under the impetus of the last
powerful stroke could be heard distinctly. It died out as she lost
way, and silence closed round them like a ring.
The light from above, a light that seemed to come through a vast
scuttle of deeply muffed glass, faint though it was, almost to
extinction, still varied as the little boat floated through the
strata of the mist.
A great sea fog is not homogeneous--its density varies: it is
honeycombed with streets, it has its caves of clear air, its cliffs
of solid vapour, all shifting and changing place with the subtlety
of legerdemain. It has also this wizard peculiarity, that it grows
with the sinking of the sun and the approach of darkness.
The sun, could they have seen it, was now leaving the horizon.
They called again. Then they waited, but there was no response.
"There's no use bawlin' like bulls to chaps that's deaf as adders,"
said the old sailor, shipping his oars; immediately upon which
declaration he gave another shout, with the same result as far as
eliciting a reply.
"Mr Button!" came Emmeline's voice.
"What is it, honey?"
"You wait wan minit till I find the shawl-- here it is, by the same
token!--an' I'll wrap you up in it."
He crept cautiously aft to the stern-sheets and took Emmeline in
"Don't want the shawl," said Emmeline; "I'm not so much afraid in
your coat." The rough, tobacco-smelling old coat gave her courage
"Well, thin, keep it on. Dicky, are you cowld?"
"I've got into daddy's great coat; he left it behind him."
"Well, thin, I'll put the shawl round me own shoulders, for it's
cowld I am. Are ya hungray, childer?"
"No," said Dick, "but I'm direfully slapy?"
"Slapy, is it? Well, down you get in the bottom of the boat, and
here's the shawl for a pilla. I'll be rowin' again in a minit to keep
He buttoned the top button of the coat.
"I'm a'right," murmured Emmeline in a dreamy voice.
"Shut your eyes tight," replied Mr Button, "or Billy Winker will be
dridgin' sand in them.
`Shoheen, shoheen, shoheen, shoheen,
Shoheen, shoheen, shoheen, shoheen,
Hush a by the babby 0.'"
It was the tag of an old nursery folk-song they sing in the hovels
of the Achill coast fixed in his memory, along with the rain and
the wind and the smell of the burning turf, and the grunting of the
pig and the knickety-knock of a rocking cradle.
"She's off," murmured Mr Button to himself, as the form in his
arms relaxed. Then he laid her gently down beside Dick. He shifted
forward, moving like a crab. Then he put his hand to his pocket for
his pipe and tobacco and tinder box. They were in his coat pocket,
but Emmeline was in his coat. To search for them would be to
The darkness of night was now adding itself to the blindness of
the fog. The oarsman could not see even the thole pins. He sat
adrift mind and body. He was, to use his own expression,
"moithered." Haunted by the mist, tormented by "shapes."
It was just in a fog like this that the Merrows could be heard
disporting in Dunbeg bay, and off the Achill coast. Sporting and
laughing, and hallooing through the mist, to lead unfortunate
Merrows are not altogether evil, but they have green hair and
teeth, fishes' tails and fins for arms; and to hear them walloping
in the water around you like salmon, and you alone in a small
boat, with the dread of one coming floundering on board, is enough
to turn a man's hair grey.
For a moment he thought of awakening the children to keep him
company, but he was ashamed. Then he took to the sculls again,
and rowed "by the feel of the water." The creak of the oars was
like a companion's voice, the exercise lulled his fears. Now and
again, forgetful of the sleeping children, he gave a halloo, and
paused to listen. But no answer came.
Then he continued rowing, long, steady, laborious strokes, each
taking him further and further from the boats that he was never
destined to sight again.
DAWN ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA
"Is it aslape I've been?" said Mr Button, suddenly awaking with a
He had shipped his oars just for a minute's rest. He must have
slept for hours, for now, behold, a warm, gentle wind was
blowing, the moon was shining, and the fog was gone.
"Is it dhraming I've been?" continued the awakened one.
"Where am I at all, at all? O musha! sure, here I am. O wirra!
wirra! I dreamt I'd gone aslape on the main-hatch and the ship
was blown up with powther, and it's all come true."
"Mr Button!" came a small voice from the stern-sheets
"What is it, honey?"
"Where are we now?"
"Sure, we're afloat on the say, acushla; where else would we be?"
"He's beyant there in the long-boat--he'll be afther us in a minit."
"I want a drink."
He filled a tin pannikin that was by the beaker of water, and gave
her a drink. Then he took his pipe and tobacco from his coat
She almost immediately fell asleep again beside Dick, who had
not stirred or moved; and the old sailor, standing up and steadying
himself, cast his eyes round the horizon. Not a sign of sail or boat
was there on all the moonlit sea.
From the low elevation of an open boat one has a very small
horizon, and in the vague world of moonlight somewhere round
about it was possible that the boats might be near enough to show
up at daybreak.
But open boats a few miles apart may be separated by long
leagues in the course of a few hours. Nothing is more mysterious
than the currents of the sea.
The ocean is an ocean of rivers, some swiftly flowing, some slow,
and a league from where you are drifting at the rate of a mile an
hour another boat may be drifting two.
A slight warm breeze was frosting the water, blending moonshine
and star shimmer; the ocean lay like a lake, yet the nearest
mainland was perhaps a thousand miles away.
The thoughts of youth may be long, long thoughts, but not longer
than the thoughts of this old sailor man smoking his pipe under
the stars. Thoughts as long as the world is round. Blazing bar
rooms in Callao--harbours over whose oily surfaces the sampans
slipped like water-beetles--the lights of Macao--the docks of
London. Scarcely ever a sea picture, pure and simple, for why
should an old seaman care to think about the sea, where life is all
into the fo'cs'le and out again, where one voyage blends and
jumbles with another, where after forty-five years of reefing
topsails you can't well remember off which ship it was Jack
Rafferty fell overboard, or who it was killed who in the fo'cs'le
of what, though you can still see, as in a mirror darkly, the fight,
and the bloody face over which a man is holding a kerosene lamp.
I doubt if Paddy Button could have told you the name of the first
ship he ever sailed in. If you had asked him, he would probably
have replied: "I disremimber; it was to the Baltic, and cruel cowld
weather, and I was say-sick till I near brought me boots up; and it
was 'O for ould Ireland!' I was cryin' all the time, an' the captin
dhrummin me back with a rope's end to the tune uv it--but the
name of the hooker--I disremimber--bad luck to her, whoever she
So he sat smoking his pipe, whilst the candles of heaven burned
above him, and calling to mind roaring drunken scenes and
palmshadowed harbours, and the men and the women he had
known--such men and such women! The derelicts of the earth and
the ocean. Then he nodded off to sleep again, and when he awoke
the moon had gone.
Now in the eastern sky might have been seen a pale fan of light,
vague as the wing of an ephemera. It vanished and changed back to
Presently, and almost at a stroke, a pencil of fire ruled a line
along the eastern horizon, and the eastern sky became more
beautiful than a rose leaf plucked in May. The line of fire
contracted into one increasing spot, the rim of the rising sun.
As the light increased the sky above became of a blue impossible
to imagine unless seen, a wan blue, yet living and sparkling as if
born of the impalpable dust of sapphires. Then the whole sea
flashed like the harp of Apollo touched by the fingers of the god.
The light was music to the soul. It was day.
"Daddy!" suddenly cried Dick, sitting up in the sunlight and rubbing
his eyes with his open palms. "Where are we?"
"All right, Dicky, me son!" cried the old sailor, who had been
standing up casting his eyes round in a vain endeavour to sight the
boats. "Your daddy's as safe as if he was in hivin; he'll be wid us
in a minit, an' bring another ship along with him. So you're awake,
are you, Em'line?"
Emmeline, sitting up in the old pilot coat, nodded in reply without
speaking. Another child might have supplemented Dick's enquiries
as to her uncle by questions of her own, but she did not.
Did she guess that there was some subterfuge in Mr Button's
answer, and that things were different from what he was making
them out to be? Who can tell?
She was wearing an old cap of Dick's, which Mrs Stannard in the
hurry and confusion had popped on her head. It was pushed to one
side, and she made a quaint enough little figure as she sat up in
the early morning brightness, dressed in the old salt-stained coat
beside Dick, whose straw hat was somewhere in the bottom of
the boat, and whose auburn locks were blowing in the faint
"Hurroo!" cried Dick, looking around at the blue and sparkling
water, and banging with a stretcher on the bottom of the boat.
"I'm goin' to be a sailor, aren't I, Paddy? You'll let me sail the
boat, won't you, Paddy, an' show me how to row?"
"Aisy does it," said Paddy, taking hold of the child. "I haven't a
sponge or towel, but I'll just wash your face in salt wather and
lave you to dry in the sun."
He filled the bailing tin with sea water.
"I don't want to wash!" shouted Dick.
"Stick your face into the water in the tin," commanded Paddy. "You
wouldn't be going about the place with your face like a sut-bag,
"Stick yours in!" commanded the other.
Button did so, and made a hub-bubbling noise in the water; then he
lifted a wet and streaming face, and flung the contents of the
bailing tin overboard.
"Now you've lost your chance," said this arch nursery strategist,
"all the water's gone."
"There's more in the sea."
"There's no more to wash with, not till to-morrow--the fishes
don't allow it."
"I want to wash," grumbled Dick. "I want to stick my face in the
tin, same's you did; 'sides, Em hasn't washed."
"I don't mind," murmured Emmeline.
"Well, thin," said Mr Button, as if making a sudden resolve, "I'll ax
the sharks." He leaned over the boat's side, his face close to the
surface of the water. "Halloo there!" he shouted, and then bent his
head sideways to listen; the children also looked over the side,
"Halloo there! Are y'aslape? Oh, there y'are! Here's a spalpeen
with a dhirty face, an's wishful to wash it; may I take a bailin'
tin of-- Oh, thank your 'arner, thank your 'arner--good day to you,
and my respects."
"What did the shark say, Mr Button?" asked Emmeline.
"He said: `Take a bar'l full, an' welcome, Mister Button; an' it's
wishful I am I had a drop of the crathur to offer you this fine
marnin'.' Thin he popped his head under his fin and went aslape
agin; leastwise, I heard him snore."
Emmeline nearly always "Mr Buttoned" her friend; sometimes she
called him "Mr Paddy." As for Dick, it was always "Paddy," pure
and simple. Children have etiquettes of their own.
It must often strike landsmen and landswomen that the most
terrible experience when cast away at sea in an open boat is the
total absence of privacy. It seems an outrage on decency on the
part of Providence to herd people together so. But, whoever has
gone through the experience will bear me out that the human mind
enlarges, and things that would shock us ashore are as nothing out
there, face to face with eternity.
If so with grown-up people, how much more so with this old
shell-back and his two charges?
And indeed Mr Button was a person who called a spade a spade,
had no more conventions than a walrus, and looked after his two
charges just as a nursemaid might look after her charges, or a
walrus after its young.
There was a large bag of biscuits in the boat, and some tinned
I have known a sailor to open a box of sardines with a tin tack. He
was in prison, the sardines had been smuggled into him, and he
had no can-opener. Only his genius and a tin tack.
Paddy had a jack-knife, however, and in a marvellously short time
a box of sardines was opened, and placed on the stern-sheets
beside some biscuits.
These, with some water and Emmeline's Tangerine orange, which
she produced and added to the common store, formed the feast,
and they fell to. When they had finished, the remains were put
carefully away, and they
proceeded to step the tiny mast.
The sailor, when the mast was in its place, stood for a moment
resting his hand on it, and gazing around him over the vast and
The Pacific has three blues: the blue of morning, the blue of
midday, and the blue of evening. But the blue of morning is the
happiest: the happiest thing in colour--sparkling, vague, newborn-
-the blue of heaven and youth.
"What are you looking for, Paddy?" asked Dick.
"Say-gulls," replied the prevaricator; then to himself: "Not a sight
or a sound of them! Musha! musha! which way will I steer--north,
south, aist, or west? It's all wan, for if I steer to the aist, they
may be in the west; and if I steer to the west, they may be in the
aist; and I can't steer to the west, for I'd be steering right in the
wind's eye. Aist it is; I'll make a soldier's wind of it, and thrust
He set the sail and came aft with the sheet. Then he shifted the
rudder, lit a pipe, leaned luxuriously back and gave the bellying
sail to the gentle breeze.
It was part of his profession, part of his nature, that, steering,
maybe, straight towards death by starvation and thirst, he was as
unconcerned as if he were taking the children for a summer's sail.
His imagination dealt little with the future; almost entirely
influenced by his immediate surroundings, it could conjure up no
fears from the scene now before it. The children were the same.
Never was there a happier starting, more joy in a little boat.
During breakfast the seaman had given his charges to understand
that if Dick did not meet his father and Emmeline her uncle in a
"while or two," it was because he had gone on board a ship, and
he'd be along presently. The terror of their position was as deeply
veiled from them as eternity is veiled from you or me.
The Pacific was still bound by one of those glacial calms that can
only occur when the sea has been free from storms for a vast
extent of its surface, for a hurricane down by the Horn will send
its swell and disturbance beyond the Marquesas. De Bois in his
table of amplitudes points out that more than half the sea
disturbances at any given space are caused, not by the wind, but
by storms at a great distance.
But the sleep of the Pacific is only apparent. This placid lake,
over which the dinghy was pursuing the running ripple, was
heaving to an imperceptible swell and breaking on the shores of
the Low Archipelago, and the Marquesas in foam and thunder.
Emmeline's rag-doll was a shocking affair from a hygienic or
artistic standpoint. Its face was just inked on, it had no features,
no arms; yet not for all the dolls in the world would she have
exchanged this filthy and nearly formless thing. It was a fetish.
She sat nursing it on one side of the helmsman, whilst Dick, on
the other side, hung his nose over the water, on the look-out for
"Why do you smoke, Mr Button?" asked Emmeline, who had been
watching her friend for some time in silence.
"To aise me thrubbles," replied Paddy.
He was leaning back with one eye shut and the other fixed on the
luff of the sail. He was in his element: nothing to do but steer and
smoke, warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze. A landsman
would have been half demented in his condition, many a sailor
would have been taciturn and surly, on the look-out for sails, and
alternately damning his soul and praying to his God. Paddy
"Whoop!" cried Dick. "Look, Paddy!'
An albicore a few cables-lengths to port had taken a flying leap
from the flashing sea, turned a complete somersault and vanished.
"It's an albicore takin' a buck lep. Hundreds I've seen before this;
he's bein' chased."
"What's chasing him, Paddy?"
"What's chasin' him? why, what else but the gibly-gobly ums!"
Before Dick could enquire as to the personal appearance and
habits of the latter, a shoal of silver arrow heads passed the boat
and flittered into the water with a hissing sound.
"Thim's flyin' fish. What are you sayin'?--fish can't fly! Where's
the eyes in your head?"
"Are the gibblyums chasing them too?" asked Emmeline fearfully.
"No; 'tis the Billy balloos that's afther thim. Don't be axin' me any
more questions now, or I'll be tellin' you lies in a minit."
Emmeline, it will be remembered, had brought a small parcel with
her done up in a little shawl; it was under the boat seat, and
every now and then she would stoop down to see if it were safe.
STORY OF THE PIG AND THE BILLY-GOAT
Every hour or so Mr Button would shake his lethargy off, and rise
and look round for "seagulls," but the prospect was sail-less as
the prehistoric sea, wingless, voiceless. When Dick would fret
now and then, the old sailor would always devise some means of
amusing him. He made him fishing tackle out of a bent pin and
some small twine that happened to be in the boat, and told him to
fish for "pinkeens"; and Dick, with the pathetic faith of childhood,
Then he told them things. He had spent a year at Deal long ago,
where a cousin of his was married to a boatman.
Mr Button had put in a year as a longshoreman at Deal, and he had
got a great lot to tell of his cousin and her husband, and more
especially of one, Hannah; Hannah was his cousin's baby--a most
marvellous child, who was born with its "buck" teeth fully
developed, and whose first unnatural act on entering the world
was to make a snap at the "docther." "Hung on to his fist like a
bull-dog, and him bawlin' `Murther!'"
"Mrs James," said Emmeline, referring to a Boston acquaintance,
"had a little baby, and it was pink."
"Ay, ay," said Paddy; "they're mostly pink to start with, but they
fade whin they're washed."
"It'd no teeth," said Emmeline, "for I put my finger in to see."
"The doctor brought it in a bag," put in Dick, who was still
steadily fishing--"dug it out of a cabbage patch; an' I got a trow'l
and dug all our cabbage patch up, but there weren't any babies but
there were no end of worms."
"I wish I had a baby," said Emmeline, "and I wouldn't send it back
to the cabbage patch.
"The doctor," explained Dick, "took it back and planted it again;
and Mrs James cried when I asked her, and daddy said it was put
back to grow and turn into an angel."
"Angels have wings," said Emmeline dreamily.
"And," pursued Dick, "I told cook, and she said to Jane [that] daddy
was always stuffing children up with--something or 'nother. And
I asked daddy to let me see him stuffing up a child--and daddy
said cook'd have to go away for saying that, and she went away
"She had three big trunks and a box for her bonnet," said
Emmeline, with a far-away look as she recalled the incident.
"And the cabman asked her hadn't she any more trunks to put on
his cab, and hadn't she forgot the parrot cage," said Dick.
"I wish _I_ had a parrot in a cage," murmured Emmeline, moving
slightly so as to get more in the shadow of the sail.
"And what in the world would you be doin' with a par't in a cage?"
asked Mr Button.
"I'd let it out," replied Emmeline.
"Spakin' about lettin' par'ts out of cages, I remimber me
grandfather had an ould pig," said Paddy (they were all talking
seriously together like equals). "I was a spalpeen no bigger than
the height of me knee, and I'd go to the sty door, and he'd come to
the door, and grunt an' blow wid his nose undher it; an' I'd grunt
back to vex him, an' hammer wid me fist on it, an' shout `Halloo
there! halloo there!' and `Halloo to you!' he'd say, spakin' the pigs'
language. `Let me out,' he'd say, `and I'll give yiz a silver shilling.'
"`Pass it under the door,' I'd answer him. Thin he'd stick the snout
of him undher the door an' I'd hit it a clip with a stick, and he'd
yell murther Irish. An' me mother'd come out an' baste me, an'
well I desarved it.
"Well, wan day I opened the sty door, an' out he boulted and away
and beyant, over hill and hollo he goes till he gets to the edge of
the cliff overlookin' the say, and there he meets a billy-goat, and
he and the billy-goat has a division of opinion.
"`Away wid yiz!' says the billy-goat.
"`Away wid yourself!' says he.
"`Whose you talkin' to?' says t'other.
"`Yourself,' says him.
"`Who stole the eggs?' says the billy-goat.
"`Ax your ould grandmother!' says the pig.
"`Ax me ould WHICH mother?' says the billy-goat.
"`Oh, ax me--' And before he could complete the sintence, ram,
blam, the ould billygoat butts him in the chist, and away goes the
both of thim whirtlin' into the say below.
"Thin me ould grandfather comes out, and collars me by the
scruff, and `Into the sty with you!' says he; and into the sty I
wint, and there they kep' me for a fortnit on bran mash and skim
milk--and well I desarved it."
They dined somewhere about eleven o'clock, and at noon Paddy
unstepped the mast and made a sort of little tent or awning with
the sail in the bow of the boat to protect the children from the
rays of the vertical sun.
Then he took his place in the bottom of the boat, in the stern,
stuck Dick's straw hat over his face to preserve it from the sun,
kicked about a bit to get a comfortable position, and fell asleep.
He had slept an hour and more when he was brought to his senses
by a thin and prolonged shriek. It was Emmeline in a nightmare, or
more properly a day-mare, brought on by a meal of sardines and
the haunting memory of the gibbly-gobbly-ums. When she was
shaken (it always took a considerable time to bring her to, from
these seizures) and comforted, the mast was restepped.
As Mr Button stood with his hand on the spar looking round him
before going aft with the sheet, an object struck his eye some
three miles ahead. Objects rather, for they were the masts and
spars of a small ship rising from the water. Not a vestige of sail,
just the naked spars. It might have been a couple of old skeleton
trees jutting out of the water for all a landsman could have told.
He stared at this sight for twenty or thirty seconds without
speaking, his head projected like the head of a tortoise. Then he
gave a wild "Hurroo! "
"What is it, Paddy?" asked Dick.
"Hurroo!" replied Button. "Ship ahoy! ship ahoy! Lie to till I be
afther boardin' you. Sure, they are lyin' to--divil a rag of canvas
on her--are they aslape or dhramin'? Here, Dick, let me get aft
wid the sheet; the wind'll take us up to her quicker than we'll
He crawled aft and took the tiller; the breeze took the sail, and
the boat forged ahead.
"Is it daddy's ship?" asked Dick, who was almost as excited as his
"I dinno; we'll see when we fetch her."
"Shall we go on her, Mr Button?" asked Emmeline.
"Ay will we, honey."
Emmeline bent down, and fetching her parcel from under the seat,
held it in her lap.
As they drew nearer, the outlines of the ship became more
apparent. She was a small brig, with stump topmasts, from the
spars a few rags of canvas fluttered. It was apparent soon to the
old sailor's eye what was amiss with her.
"She's derelick, bad cess to her!" he muttered; "derelick and done
for--just me luck!"
"I can't see any people on the ship," cried Dick, who had crept
forward to the bow. "Daddy's not there."
The old sailor let the boat off a point or two, so as to get a view
of the brig more fully; when they were within twenty cable
lengths or so he unstepped the mast and took to the sculls.
The little brig floated very low on the water, and presented a
mournful enough appearance; her running rigging all slack, shreds
of canvas flapping at the yards, and no boats hanging at her
davits. It was easy enough to see that she was a timber ship, and
that she had started a butt, flooded herself and been abandoned.
Paddy lay on his oars within a few strokes of her. She was
floating as placidly as though she were in the harbour of San
Francisco; the green water showed in her shadow, and in the green
water waved the tropic weeds that were growing from her copper.
Her paint was blistered and burnt absolutely as though a hot iron
had been passed over it, and over her taffrail hung a large rope
whose end was lost to sight in the water.
A few strokes brought them under the stern. The name of the ship
was there in faded letters, also the port to which she belonged. "
Shenandoah. Martha's Vineyard."
"There's letters on her," said Mr Button. "But I can't make thim
out. I've no larnin'."
"I can read them," said Dick.
"So c'n I," murmured Emmeline.
"S_H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A H," spelt Dick.
"What's that?" enquired Paddy.
"I don't know," replied Dick, rather downcastedly.
"There you are!" cried the oarsman in a disgusted manner, pulling
the boat round to the starboard side of the brig. "They pritind to
tache letters to childer in schools, pickin' their eyes out wid
book-readin', and here's letters as big as me face an' they can't
make hid or tail of them--be dashed to book-readin'!
The brig had old-fashioned wide channels, regular platforms; and
she floated so low in the water that they were scarcely a foot
above the level of the dinghy.
Mr Button secured the boat by passing the painter through a
channel plate, then, with Emmeline and her parcel in his arms or
rather in one arm, he clambered over the channel and passed her
over the rail on to the deck. Then it was Dick's turn, and the
children stood waiting whilst the old sailor brought the beaker of
water, the biscuit, and the tinned stuff on board.
It was a place to delight the heart of a boy, the deck of the
Shenandoah; forward right from the main hatchway it was
laden with timber. Running rigging lay loose on the deck in coils,
and nearly the whole of the quarter-deck was occupied by a deck-
house. The place had a delightful smell of sea-beach, decaying
wood, tar, and mystery. Bights of buntline and other ropes were
dangling from above, only waiting to be swung from. A bell was
hung just forward of the foremast. In half a moment Dick was
forward hammering at the bell with a belaying pin he had picked
from the deck.
Mr Button shouted to him to desist; the sound of the bell jarred
on his nerves. It sounded like a summons, and a summons on that
deserted craft was quite out of place. Who knew what mightn't
answer it in the way of the supernatural?
Dick dropped the belaying pin and ran forward. He took the
disengaged hand, and the three went aft to the door of the deck-
house. The door was open, and they peeped in.
The place had three windows on the starboard side, and through
the windows the sun was shining in a mournful manner. There was
a table in the middle of the place. A seat was pushed away from
the table as if someone had risen in a hurry. On the table lay the
remains of a meal, a teapot, two teacups, two plates. On one of
the plates rested a fork with a bit of putrifying bacon upon it that
some one had evidently been conveying to his mouth when
something had happened. Near the teapot stood a tin of condensed
milk, haggled open. Some old salt had just been in the act of
putting milk in his tea when the mysterious something had
occurred. Never did a lot of dead things speak so eloquently as
these things spoke.
One could conjure it all up. The skipper, most likely, had finished
his tea, and the mate was hard at work at his, when the leak had
been discovered, or some derelict had been run into, or whatever
it was had happened--happened.
One thing was evident, that since the abandonment of the brig she
had experienced fine weather, else the things would not have been
left standing so trimly on the table.
Mr Button and Dick entered the place to prosecute enquiries, but
Emmeline remained at the door. The charm of the old brig
appealed to her almost as much as to Dick, but she had a feeling
about it quite unknown to him. A ship where no one was had about
it suggestions of "other things."
She was afraid to enter the gloomy deckhouse, and afraid to
remain alone outside; she compromised matters by sitting down
on the deck. Then she placed the small bundle beside her, and
hurriedly took the rag-doll from her pocket, into which it was
stuffed head down, pulled its calico skirt from over its head,
propped it up against the coaming of the door, and told it not to be
There was not much to be found in the deck -house, but aft of it
were two small cabins like rabbit hutches, once inhabited by the
skipper and his mate. Here there were great findings in the way of
rubbish. Old clothes, old boots, an old top-hat of that extra-
ordinary pattern you may see in the streets of Pernambuco,
immensely tall, and narrowing towards the brim. A telescope
without a lens, a volume of Hoyt, a nautical almanac, a great bolt
of striped flannel shirting, a box of fish hooks. And in one corner-
- glorious find!--a coil of what seemed to be ten yards or so of
"Baccy, begorra!" shouted Pat, seizing upon his treasure. It was
pigtail. You may see coils of it in the tobacconists' windows of
seaport towns. A pipe full of it would make a hippopotamus
vomit, yet old sailors chew it and smoke it and revel in it.
"We'll bring all the lot of the things out on deck, and see what's
worth keepin' an' what's worth leavin'," said Mr Button, taking an
immense armful of the old truck; whilst Dick, carrying the top-
hat, upon which he had instantly seized as his own special booty,
led the way.
"Em," shouted Dick, as he emerged from the doorway, "see what
He popped the awful-looking structure over his head. It went right
down to his shoulders.
Emmeline gave a shriek.
"It smells funny," said Dick, taking it off and applying his nose to
the inside of it--"smells like an old hair brush. Here, you try it
Emmeline scrambled away as far as she could, till she reached
the starboard bulwarks, where she sat in the scupper, breathless
and speechless and wide-eyed. She was always dumb when
frightened (unless it were a nightmare or a very sudden shock),
and this hat suddenly seen half covering Dick frightened her out
of her wits. Besides, it was a black thing, and she hated black
things--black cats, black horses; worst of all, black dogs.
She had once seen a hearse in the streets of Boston, an old-time
hearse with black plumes, trappings and all complete. The sight
had nearly given her a fit, though she did not know in the least the
meaning of it.
Meanwhile Mr Button was conveying armful after armful of stuff
on deck. When the heap was complete, he sat down beside it in the
glorious afternoon sunshine, and lit his pipe.
He had searched neither for food or water as yet; content with the
treasure God had given him, for the moment the material things of
life were forgotten. And, indeed, if he had searched he would have
found only half a sack of potatoes in the caboose, for the
lazarette was awash, and the water in the scuttle-butt was
Emmeline, seeing what was in progress, crept up, Dick promising
not to put the hat on her, and they all sat round the pile.
"Thim pair of brogues," said the old man, holding a pair of old
boots up for inspection like an auctioneer, "would fetch half a
dollar any day in the wake in any sayport in the world. Put them
beside you, Dick, and lay hold of this pair of britches by the ends
of em'--stritch them."
The trousers were stretched out, examined and approved of, and
laid beside the boots.
"Here's a tiliscope wid wan eye shut," said Mr Button, examining
the broken telescope and pulling it in and out like a concertina.
"Stick it beside the brogues; it may come in handy for somethin'.
Here's a book"--tossing the nautical almanac to the boy. "Tell me
what it says."
Dick examined the pages of figures hopelessly.
"I can't read 'em," said Dick; "it's numbers."
"Buzz it overboard," said Mr Button.
Dick did what he was told joyfully, and the proceedings resumed.
He tried on the tall hat, and the children laughed. On her old
friend's head the thing ceased to have terror for Emmeline.
She had two methods of laughing. The angelic smile before
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