The Lady of the Aroostook
W. D. Howells
Part 3 out of 5
"You don't mean to say you don't think him good looking?"
"No,--oh, no, I mean--that is--I don't know anything about his looks.
But he resembles a lady who used to come from Boston, summers. I
thought he must be her brother."
"Oh, then you think he looks effeminate!" cried Staniford, with inner
joy. "I assure you," he added with solemnity, "Dunham is one of the
manliest fellows in the world!"
"Yes?" said Lydia.
Staniford rose. He was smiling gayly as he looked over the broad
stretch of empty deck, and down into Lydia's eyes. "Wouldn't you like
to take a turn, now?"
"Yes," she said promptly, rising and arranging her wrap across her
shoulders, so as to leave her hands free. She laid one hand in his arm
and gathered her skirt with the other, and they swept round together
for the start and confronted Hicks.
"Oh!" cried Lydia, with what seemed dismay, "I promised Mr. Hicks to
practice a song with him." She did not try to release her hand from
Staniford's arm, but was letting it linger there irresolutely.
Staniford dropped his arm, and let her hand fall. He bowed with icy
stiffness, and said, with a courtesy so fierce that Mr. Hicks, on whom
he glared as he spoke, quailed before it, "I yield to your prior
It was nothing to Staniford that she should have promised Hicks to
practice a song with him, and no process of reasoning could have made
it otherwise. The imaginary opponent with whom he scornfully argued
the matter had not a word for himself. Neither could the young girl
answer anything to the cutting speeches which he mentally made her
as he sat alone chewing the end of his cigar; and he was not moved
by the imploring looks which his fancy painted in her face, when he
made believe that she had meekly returned to offer him some sort of
reparation. Why should she excuse herself? he asked. It was he who
ought to excuse himself for having been in the way. The dialogue went
on at length, with every advantage to the inventor.
He was finally aware of some one standing near and looking down at
him. It was the second mate, who supported himself in a conversational
posture by the hand which he stretched to the shrouds above their
heads. "Are you a good sailor, Mr. Staniford?" he inquired. He and
Staniford were friends in their way, and had talked together before
"Do you mean seasickness? Why?" Staniford looked up at the
"Well, we're going to get it, I guess, before long. We shall soon
be off the Spanish coast. We've had a great run so far."
"If it comes we must stand it. But I make it a rule never to be
"Well, I ain't one to borrow trouble, either. It don't run in the
family. Most of us like to chance things, I chanced it for the whole
war, and I come out all right. Sometimes it don't work so well."
"Ah?" said Staniford, who knew that this was a leading remark, but
forbore, as he knew Mason wished, to follow it up directly.
"One of us chanced it once too often, and of course it was a woman."
"Not the risk. My oldest sister tried tamin' a tiger. Ninety-nine
times out of a hundred, a tiger won't tame worth a cent. But her pet
was such a lamb most the while that she guessed she'd chance it.
It didn't work. She's at home with mother now,--three children, of
course,--and he's in hell, I s'pose. He was killed 'long-side o' me
at Gettysburg. Ike was a good fellow when he was sober. But my souls,
the life he led that poor girl! Yes, when a man's got that tiger in
him, there ought to be some quiet little war round for puttin' him out
of his misery." Staniford listened silently, waiting for the mate to
make the application of his grim allegory. "I s'pose I'm prejudiced;
but I do _hate_ a drunkard; and when I see one of 'em makin' up
to a girl, I want to go to her, and tell her she'd better take a real
tiger out the show, at once."
The idea which these words suggested sent a thrill to Staniford's
heart, but he continued silent, and the mate went on, with the queer
smile, which could be inferred rather than seen, working under his
mustache and the humorous twinkle of his eyes evanescently evident
under his cap peak.
"I don't go round criticisn' my superior officers, and _I_ don't
say anything about the responsibility the old man took. The old man's
all right, accordin' to his lights; he ain't had a tiger in the
family. But if that chap was to fall overboard,--well, I don't know
_how_ long it would take to lower a boat, if I was to listen to
my _conscience_. There ain't really any help for him. He's begun
too young ever to get over it. He won't be ashore at Try-East an hour
before he's drunk. If our men had any spirits amongst 'em that could
be begged, bought, or borrowed, he'd be drunk now, right along. Well,
I'm off watch," said the mate, at the tap of bells. "Guess we'll get
our little gale pretty soon."
"Good-night," said Staniford, who remained pondering. He presently
rose, and walked up and down the deck. He could hear Lydia and Hicks
trying that song: now the voice, and now the flute; then both
together; and presently a burst of laughter. He began to be angry with
her ignorance and inexperience. It became intolerable to him that a
woman should be going about with no more knowledge of the world than
a child, and entangling herself in relations with all sorts of people.
It was shocking to think of that little sot, who had now made his
infirmity known for all the ship's company, admitted to association
with her which looked to common eyes like courtship. From the mate's
insinuation that she ought to be warned, it was evident that they
thought her interested in Hicks; and the mate had come, like Dunham,
to leave the responsibility with Staniford. It only wanted now that
Captain Jenness should appear with his appeal, direct or indirect.
While Staniford walked up and down, and scorned and raged at the idea
that he had anything to do with the matter, the singing and fluting
came to a pause in the cabin; and at the end of the next tune, which
brought him to the head of the gangway stairs, he met Lydia emerging.
He stopped and spoke to her, having instantly resolved, at sight of
her, not to do so.
"Have you come up for breath, like a mermaid?" he asked. "Not that
I'm sure mermaids do."
"Oh, no," said Lydia. "I think I dropped my handkerchief where we
Staniford suspected, with a sudden return to a theory of her which
he had already entertained, that she had not done so. But she went
lightly by him, where he stood stolid, and picked it up; and now he
suspected that she had dropped it there on purpose.
"You have come back to walk with me?"
"No!" said the girl indignantly. "I have not come back to walk with
you!" She waited a moment; then she burst out with, "How dare you say
such a thing to me? What right have you to speak to me so? What have
I done to make you think that I would come back to--"
The fierce vibration in her voice made him know that her eyes were
burning upon him and her lips trembling. He shrank before her passion
as a man must before the justly provoked wrath of a woman, or even of
a small girl.
"I stated a hope, not a fact," he said in meek uncandor. "Don't you
think you ought to have done so?"
"I don't--I don't understand you," panted Lydia, confusedly arresting
her bolts in mid-course.
Staniford pursued his guilty advantage; it was his only chance. "I
gave way to Mr. Hicks when you had an engagement with me. I thought--
you would come back to keep your engagement." He was still very meek.
"Excuse me," she said with self-reproach that would have melted the
heart of any one but a man who was in the wrong, and was trying to
get out of it at all hazards. "I didn't know what you meant--I--"
"If I had meant what you thought," interrupted Staniford nobly, for
he could now afford to be generous, "I should have deserved much more
than you said. But I hope you won't punish my awkwardness by refusing
to walk with me."
He knew that she regarded him earnestly before she said, "I must get
my shawl and hat."
"Let me go!" he entreated.
"You couldn't find them," she answered, as she vanished past him.
She returned, and promptly laid her hand in his proffered arm; it
was as if she were eager to make him amends for her harshness.
Staniford took her hand out, and held it while he bowed low toward
her. "I declare myself satisfied."
"I don't understand," said Lydia, in alarm and mortification.
"When a subject has been personally aggrieved by his sovereign,
his honor is restored if they merely cross swords."
The girl laughed her delight in the extravagance. She must have been
more or less than woman not to have found his flattery delicious.
"But we are republicans!" she said in evasion.
"To be sure, we are republicans. Well, then, Miss Blood, answer
your free and equal one thing: is it a case of conscience?"
"How?" she asked, and Staniford did not recoil at the rusticity. This
how for what, and the interrogative yes, still remained. Since their
first walk, she had not wanted to know, in however great surprise
she found herself.
"Are you going to walk with me because you had promised?"
"Why, of course," faltered Lydia.
"That isn't enough."
"Not enough. You must walk with me because you like to do so."
Lydia was silent.
"Do you like to do so?"
"I can't answer you," she said, releasing her hand from him.
"It was not fair to ask you. What I wish to do is to restore the
original status. You have kept your engagement to walk with me, and
your conscience is clear. Now, Miss Blood, may I have your company for
a little stroll over the deck of the Aroostook?" He made her another
very low bow.
"What must I say?" asked Lydia, joyously.
"That depends upon whether you consent. If you consent, you must say,
'I shall be very glad.'"
"And if I don't?"
"Oh, I can't put any such decision into words."
Lydia mused a moment. "I shall be very glad," she said, and put her
hand again into the arm he offered.
As happens after such a passage they were at first silent, while they
walked up and down.
"If this fine weather holds," said Staniford, "and you continue as
obliging as you are to-night, you can say, when people ask you how you
went to Europe, that you walked the greater part of the way. Shall you
continue so obliging? Will you walk with me every fine night?" pursued
"Do you think I'd better say so?" she asked, with the joy still
in her voice.
"Oh, I can't decide for you. I merely formulate your decisions after
you reach them,--if they're favorable."
"Well, then, what is this one?"
"Is it favorable?"
"You said you would formulate it." She laughed again, and Staniford
started as one does when a nebulous association crystallizes into a
distinctly remembered fact.
"What a curious laugh you have!" he said. "It's like a nun's laugh.
Once in France I lodged near the garden of a convent where the nuns
kept a girls' school, and I used to hear them laugh. You never
happened to be a nun, Miss Blood?"
"No, indeed!" cried Lydia, as if scandalized.
"Oh, I merely meant in some previous existence. Of course, I didn't
suppose there was a convent in South Bradfield." He felt that the
girl did not quite like the little slight his irony cast upon South
Bradfield, or rather upon her for never having been anywhere else.
He hastened to say, "I'm sure that in the life before this you were
of the South somewhere."
"Yes?" said Lydia, interested and pleased again as one must be in
romantic talk about one's self. "Why do you think so?"
He bent a little over toward her, so as to look into the face she
instinctively averted, while she could not help glancing at him
from the corner of her eye. "You have the color and the light of the
South," he said. "When you get to Italy, you will live in a perpetual
mystification. You will go about in a dream of some self of yours that
was native there in other days. You will find yourself retrospectively
related to the olive faces and the dark eyes you meet; you will
recognize sisters and cousins in the patrician ladies when you see
their portraits in the palaces where you used to live in such state."
Staniford spiced his flatteries with open burlesque; the girl entered
into his fantastic humor. "But if I was a nun?" she asked, gayly.
"Oh, I forgot. You were a nun. There was a nun in Venice once, about
two hundred years ago, when you lived there, and a young English lord
who was passing through the town was taken to the convent to hear
her sing; for she was not only of 'an admirable beauty,' as he says,
but sang 'extremely well.' She sang to him through the grating of the
convent, and when she stopped he said, 'Die whensoever you will, you
need to change neither voice nor face to be an angel!' Do you think--
do you dimly recollect anything that makes you think--it might--
Consider carefully: the singing extremely well, and--" He leant over
again, and looked up into her face, which again she could not wholly
"No, no!" she said, still in his mood.
"Well, you must allow it was a pretty speech."
"Perhaps," said Lydia, with sudden gravity, in which there seemed to
Staniford a tender insinuation of reproach, "he was laughing at her."
"If he was, he was properly punished. He went on to Rome, and when he
came back to Venice the beautiful nun was dead. He thought that his
words 'seemed fatal.' Do you suppose it would kill you _now_ to
be jested with?"
"I don't think people like it generally."
"Why, Miss Blood, you are intense!"
"I don't know what you mean by that," said Lydia.
"You like to take things seriously. You can't bear to think that
people are not the least in earnest, even when they least seem so."
"Yes," said the girl, thoughtfully, "perhaps that's true. Should
you like to be made fun of, yourself?"
"I shouldn't mind it, I fancy, though it would depend a great deal
upon who made fun of me. I suppose that women always laugh at men,--at
their clumsiness, their want of tact, the fit of their clothes."
"I don't know. I should not do that with any one I--"
"You liked? Oh, none of them do!" cried Staniford.
"I was not going to say that," faltered the girl.
"What were you going to say?"
She waited a moment. "Yes, I was going to say that," she assented
with a sigh of helpless veracity. "What makes you laugh?" she asked,
"Something I like. I'm different from you: I laugh at what I like;
I like your truthfulness,--it's charming."
"I didn't know that truth need be charming."
"It had better be, in women, if it's to keep even with the other
thing." Lydia seemed shocked; she made a faint, involuntary motion
to withdraw her hand, but he closed his arm upon it. "Don't condemn
me for thinking that fibbing is charming. I shouldn't like it at all
in you. Should you in me?"
"I shouldn't in any one," said Lydia.
"Then what is it you dislike in me?" he suddenly demanded.
"I didn't say that I disliked anything in you."
"But you have made fun of something in me?"
"Then it wasn't the stirring of a guilty conscience when you asked
me whether I should like to be made fun of? I took it for granted
you'd been doing it."
"You are very suspicious."
"Yes; and what else?"
"Oh, you like to know just what every one thinks and feels."
"Go on!" cried Staniford. "Analyze me, formulate me!"
"All I come to?"
"All I have to say."
"That's very little. Now, I'll begin on you. You don't care what
people think or feel."
"Oh, yes, I do. I care too much."
"Do you care what I think?"
"Then I think you're too unsuspicious."
"Ought I to suspect somebody?" she asked, lightly.
"Oh, that's the way with all your sex. One asks you to be suspicious,
and you ask whom you shall suspect. You can do nothing in the
abstract. I should like to be suspicious for you. Will you let me?"
"Oh, yes, if you like to be."
"Thanks. I shall be terribly vigilant,--a perfect dragon. And you
really invest me with authority?"
"That's charming." Staniford drew a long breath. After a space of
musing, he said, "I thought I should be able to begin by attacking
some one else, but I must commence at home, and denounce myself as
quite unworthy of walking to and fro, and talking nonsense to you.
You must beware of me, Miss Blood."
"Why?" asked the girl.
"I am very narrow-minded and prejudiced, and I have violent
antipathies. I shouldn't be able to do justice to any one
"I think that's the trouble with all of us," said Lydia.
"Oh, but only in degree. I should not allow, if I could help it,
a man whom I thought shabby, and coarse at heart, the privilege of
speaking to any one I valued,--to my sister, for instance. It would
shock me to find her have any taste in common with such a man, or
amused by him. Don't you understand?"
"Yes," said Lydia. It seemed to him as if by some infinitely subtle
and unconscious affinition she relaxed toward him as they walked.
This was incomparably sweet and charming to Staniford,--too sweet as
recognition of his protecting friendship to be questioned as anything
else. He felt sure that she had taken his meaning, and he rested
content from further trouble in regard to what it would have been
impossible to express. Her tacit confidence touched a kindred spring
in him, and he began to talk to her of himself: not of his character
or opinions,--they had already gone over them,--but of his past life,
and his future. Their strangeness to her gave certain well-worn topics
novelty, and the familiar project of a pastoral career in the far West
invested itself with a color of romance which it had not worn before.
She tried to remember, at his urgence, something about her childhood
in California; and she told him a great deal more about South
Bradfield. She described its characters and customs, and, from no
vantage-ground or stand-point but her native feeling of their oddity,
and what seemed her sympathy with him, made him see them as one might
whose life had not been passed among them. Then they began to compare
their own traits, and amused themselves to find how many they had in
common. Staniford related a singular experience of his on a former
voyage to Europe, when he dreamed of a collision, and woke to hear
a great trampling and uproar on deck, which afterwards turned out to
have been caused by their bare escape from running into an iceberg.
She said that she had had strange dreams, too, but mostly when she
was a little girl; once she had had a presentiment that troubled her,
but it did not come true. They both said they did not believe in such
things, and agreed that it was only people's love of mystery that kept
them noticed. He permitted himself to help her, with his disengaged
hand, to draw her shawl closer about the shoulder that was away from
him. He gave the action a philosophical and impersonal character by
saying immediately afterwards: "The sea is really the only mystery
left us, and that will never be explored. They circumnavigate the
whole globe,--" here he put the gathered shawl into the fingers which
she stretched through his arm to take it, and she said, "Oh, thank
you!"--"but they don't describe the sea. War and plague and famine
submit to the ameliorations of science,"--the closely drawn shawl
pressed her against his shoulder; his mind wandered; he hardly knew
what he was saying,--"but the one utterly inexorable calamity--the
same now as when the first sail was spread--is a shipwreck."
"Yes," she said, with a deep inspiration. And now they walked back
and forth in silence broken only by a casual word or desultory phrase.
Once Staniford had thought the conditions of these promenades
perilously suggestive of love-making; another time he had blamed
himself for not thinking of this; now he neither thought nor blamed
himself for not thinking. The fact justified itself, as if it had been
the one perfectly right and wise thing in a world where all else might
"Isn't it pretty late?" she asked, at last.
"If you're tired, we'll sit down," he said.
"What time is it?" she persisted.
"Must I look?" he pleaded. They went to a lantern, and he took out his
watch and sprang the case open. "Look!" he said. "I sacrifice myself
on the altar of truth." They bent their heads low together over the
watch; it was not easy to make out the time. "It's nine o'clock,"
"It can't be; it was half past when I came up," answered Lydia.
"One hand's at twelve and the other at nine," he said, conclusively.
"Oh, then it's a quarter to twelve." She caught away her hand from
his arm, and fled to the gangway. "I didn't dream it was so late."
The pleasure which her confession brought to his face faded at sight
of Hicks, who was turning the last pages of a novel by the cabin lamp,
as he followed Lydia in. It was the book that Staniford had given her.
"Hullo!" said Hicks, with companionable ease, looking up at her.
"Been having quite a tramp."
She did not seem troubled by the familiarity of an address that
incensed Staniford almost to the point of taking Hicks from his seat,
and tossing him to the other end of the cabin. "Oh, you've finished
my book," she said. "You must tell me how you like it, to-morrow."
"I doubt it," said Hicks. "I'm going to be seasick to-morrow. The
captain's been shaking his head over the barometer and powwowing with
the first officer. Something's up, and I guess it's a gale. Good-by;
I shan't see you again for a week or so."
He nodded jocosely to Lydia, and dropped his eyes again to his book,
ignoring Staniford's presence. The latter stood a moment breathing
quick; then he controlled himself and went into his room. His coming
roused Dunham, who looked up from his pillow. "What time is it?" he
"Twelve," said Staniford.
"Had a pleasant walk?"
"If you still think," said Staniford, savagely, "that she's painfully
interested in you, you can make your mind easy. She doesn't care for
either of us."
"_Either_ of us?" echoed Dunham. He roused himself.
"Oh, go to sleep; _go_ to sleep!" cried Staniford.
The foreboded storm did not come so soon as had been feared, but the
beautiful weather which had lasted so long was lost in a thickened
sky and a sullen sea. The weather had changed with Staniford, too.
The morning after the events last celebrated, he did not respond to
the glance which Lydia gave him when they met, and he hardened his
heart to her surprise, and shunned being alone with her. He would not
admit to himself any reason for his attitude, and he could not have
explained to her the mystery that at first visibly grieved her, and
then seemed merely to benumb her. But the moment came when he ceased
to take a certain cruel pleasure in it, and he approached her one
morning on deck, where she stood holding fast to the railing where
she usually sat, and said, as if there had been no interval of
estrangement between them, but still coldly, "We have had our last
walk for the present, Miss Blood. I hope you will grieve a little
for my loss."
She turned on him a look that cut him to the heart, with what he
fancied its reproach and its wonder. She did not reply at once,
and then she did not reply to his hinted question.
"Mr. Staniford," she began. It was the second time he had heard her
pronounce his name; he distinctly remembered the first.
"Well?" he said.
"I want to speak to you about lending that book to Mr. Hicks. I ought
to have asked you first."
"Oh, no," said Staniford. "It was yours."
"You gave it to me," she returned.
"Well, then, it was yours,--to keep, to lend, to throw away."
"And you didn't mind my lending it to him?" she pursued. "I--"
She stopped, and Staniford hesitated, too. Then he said, "I didn't
dislike your lending it; I disliked his having it. I will acknowledge
She looked up at him as if she were going to speak, but checked
herself, and glanced away. The ship was plunging heavily, and the
livid waves were racing before the wind. The horizon was lit with a
yellow brightness in the quarter to which she turned, and a pallid
gleam defined her profile. Captain Jenness was walking fretfully to
and fro; he glanced now at the yellow glare, and now cast his eye
aloft at the shortened sail. While Staniford stood questioning whether
she meant to say anything more, or whether, having discharged her
conscience of an imagined offense, she had now reached one of her
final, precipitous silences, Captain Jenness suddenly approached them,
and said to him, "I guess you'd better go below with Miss Blood."
The storm that followed had its hazards, but Staniford's consciousness
was confined to its discomforts. The day came, and then the dark
came, and both in due course went, and came again. Where he lay in
his berth, and whirled and swung, and rose and sank, as lonely as a
planetary fragment tossing in space, he heard the noises of the life
without. Amidst the straining of the ship, which was like the sharp
sweep of a thunder-shower on the deck overhead, there plunged at
irregular intervals the wild trample of heavily-booted feet, and now
and then the voices of the crew answering the shouted orders made
themselves hollowly audible. In the cabin there was talking, and
sometimes even laughing. Sometimes he heard the click of knives and
forks, the sardonic rattle of crockery. After the first insane feeling
that somehow he must get ashore and escape from his torment, he
hardened himself to it through an immense contempt, equally insane,
for the stupidity of the sea, its insensate uproar, its blind and
ridiculous and cruel mischievousness. Except for this delirious
scorn he was a surface of perfect passivity.
Dunham, after a day of prostration, had risen, and had perhaps
shortened his anguish by his resolution. He had since taken up his
quarters on a locker in the cabin; he looked in now and then upon
Staniford, with a cup of tea, or a suggestion of something light
to eat; once he even dared to boast of the sublimity of the ocean.
Staniford stared at him with eyes of lack-lustre indifference,
and waited for him to be gone. But he lingered to say, "You would
laugh to see what a sea-bird our lady is! She hasn't been sick a
minute. And Hicks, you'll be glad to know, is behaving himself very
well. Really, I don't think we've done the fellow justice. I think
you've overshadowed him, and that he's needed your absence to show
himself to advantage."
Staniford disdained any comment on this except a fierce "Humph!" and
dismissed Dunham by turning his face to the wall. He refused to think
of what he had said. He lay still and suffered indefinitely, and no
longer waited for the end of the storm. There had been times when
he thought with acquiescence of going to the bottom, as a probable
conclusion; now he did not expect anything. At last, one night, he
felt by inexpressibly minute degrees something that seemed surcease
of his misery. It might have been the end of all things, for all he
cared; but as the lull deepened, he slept without knowing what it
was, and when he woke in the morning he found the Aroostook at anchor
in smooth water.
She was lying in the roads at Gibraltar, and before her towered
the embattled rock. He crawled on deck after a while. The captain
was going ashore, and had asked such of his passengers as liked,
to go with him and see the place. When Staniford appeared, Dunham was
loyally refusing to leave his friend till he was fairly on foot. At
sight of him they suspended their question long enough to welcome him
back to animation, with the patronage with which well people hail a
convalescent. Lydia looked across the estrangement of the past days
with a sort of inquiry, and Hicks chose to come forward and accept
a cold touch of the hand from him. Staniford saw, with languid
observance, that Lydia was very fresh and bright; she was already
equipped for the expedition, and could never have had any doubt in
her mind as to going. She had on a pretty walking dress which he had
not seen before, and a hat with the rim struck sharply upward behind,
and her masses of dense, dull black hair pulled up and fastened
somewhere on the top of her head. Her eyes shyly sparkled under
the abrupt descent of the hat-brim over her forehead.
His contemptuous rejection of the character of invalid prevailed
with Dunham; and Staniford walked to another part of the ship, to
cut short the talk about himself, and saw them row away.
"Well, you've had a pretty tough time, they say," said the second
mate, lounging near him. "I don't see any fun in seasickness
"It's a ridiculous sort of misery," said Staniford.
"I hope we shan't have anything worse on board when that chap gets
back. The old man thinks he can keep an eye on him." The mate was
looking after the boat.
"The captain says he hasn't any money," Staniford remarked carelessly.
The mate went away without saying anything more, and Staniford
returned to the cabin, where he beheld without abhorrence the
preparations for his breakfast. But he had not a great appetite, in
spite of his long fast. He found himself rather light-headed, and came
on deck again after a while, and stretched himself in Hicks's steamer
chair, where Lydia usually sat in it. He fell into a dull, despairing
reverie, in which he blamed himself for not having been more explicit
with her. He had merely expressed his dislike of Hicks; but expressed
without reasons it was a groundless dislike, which she had evidently
not understood, or had not cared to heed; and since that night, now
so far away, when he had spoken to her, he had done everything he
could to harden her against himself. He had treated her with a stupid
cruelty, which a girl like her would resent to the last; he had forced
her to take refuge in the politeness of a man from whom he was trying
to keep her.
His heart paused when he saw the boat returning in the afternoon
without Hicks. The others reported that they had separated before
dinner, and that they had not seen him since, though Captain Jenness
had spent an hour trying to look him up before starting back to the
ship. The captain wore a look of guilty responsibility, mingled with
intense exasperation, the two combining in as much haggardness as his
cheerful visage could express. "If he's here by six o'clock," he said,
grimly, "all well and good. If not, the Aroostook sails, any way."
Lydia crept timidly below. Staniford complexly raged to see that
the anxiety about Hicks had blighted the joy of the day for her.
"How the deuce could he get about without any money?" he demanded
of Dunham, as soon as they were alone.
Dunham vainly struggled to look him in the eye. "Staniford," he
faltered, with much more culpability than some criminals would confess
a murder, "I lent him five dollars!"
"You lent him five dollars!" gasped Staniford.
"Yes," replied Dunham, miserably; "he got me aside, and asked me
for it. What could I do? What would you have done yourself?"
Staniford made no answer. He walked some paces away, and then returned
to where Dunham stood helpless. "He's lying about there dead-drunk,
somewhere, I suppose. By Heaven, I could almost wish he was. He
couldn't come back, then, at any rate."
The time lagged along toward the moment appointed by the captain,
and the preparations for the ship's departure were well advanced,
when a boat was seen putting out from shore with two rowers, and
rapidly approaching the Aroostook. In the stern, as it drew nearer,
the familiar figure of Hicks discovered itself in the act of waving
a handkerchief He scrambled up the side of the ship in excellent
spirits, and gave Dunham a detailed account of his adventures since
they had parted. As always happens with such scapegraces, he seemed
to have had a good time, however he had spoiled the pleasure of the
others. At tea, when Lydia had gone away, he clapped down a sovereign
near Dunham's plate.
"Your five dollars," he said.
"Why, how--" Dunham began.
"How did I get on without it? My dear boy, I sold my watch! A ship's
time is worth no more than a setting hen's,--eh, captain?--and why
take note of it? Besides, I always like to pay my debts promptly:
there's nothing mean about me. I'm not going ashore again without
my pocket-book, I can tell you." He winked shamelessly at Captain
Jenness. "If you hadn't been along, Dunham, I couldn't have made
a raise, I suppose. _You_ wouldn't have lent me five dollars,
"No, I wouldn't," said the captain, bluntly.
"And I believe you'd have sailed without me, if I hadn't got back
"I would," said the captain, as before.
Hicks threw back his head, and laughed. Probably no human being had
ever before made so free with Captain Jenness at his own table; but
the captain must have felt that this contumacy was part of the general
risk which he had taken in taking Hicks, and he contented himself
with maintaining a silence that would have appalled a less audacious
spirit. Hicks's gayety, however, was not to be quelled in that way.
"Gibraltar wouldn't be a bad place to put up at for a while," he said.
"Lots of good fellows among the officers, they say, and fun going all
the while. First-class gunning in the Cork Woods at St. Roque. If it
hadn't been for the _res angusta domi_,--you know what I mean,
captain,--I should have let you get along with your old dug-out, as
the gentleman in the water said to Noah." His hilarity had something
alarmingly knowing in it; there was a wildness in the pleasure with
which he bearded the captain, like that of a man in his first cups;
yet he had not been drinking. He played round the captain's knowledge
of the sanative destitution in which he was making the voyage with
mocking recurrence; but he took himself off to bed early, and the
captain came through his trials with unimpaired temper. Dunham
disappeared not long afterwards; and Staniford's vague hope that Lydia
might be going on deck to watch the lights of the town die out behind
the ship as they sailed away was disappointed. The second mate made
a point of lounging near him where he sat alone in their wonted place.
"Well," he said, "he did come back sober."
"Yes," said Staniford.
"Next to not comin' back at all," the mate continued, "I suppose it
was the best thing he could do." He lounged away. Neither his voice
nor his manner had that quality of disappointment which characterizes
those who have mistakenly prophesied evil. Staniford had a mind to
call him back, and ask him what he meant; but he refrained, and he
went to bed at last resolved to unburden himself of the whole Hicks
business once for all. He felt that he had had quite enough of it,
both in the abstract and in its relation to Lydia.
Hicks did not join the others at breakfast. They talked of what Lydia
had seen at Gibraltar, where Staniford had been on a former voyage.
Dunham had made it a matter of conscience to know all about it
beforehand from his guide-books, and had risen early that morning to
correct his science by his experience in a long entry in the diary
which he was keeping for Miss Hibbard. The captain had the true
sea-farer's ignorance, and was amused at the things reported by his
passengers of a place where he had been ashore so often; Hicks's
absence doubtless relieved him, but he did not comment on the
cabin-boy's announcement that he was still asleep, except to order
him let alone.
They were seated at their one o'clock dinner before the recluse made
any sign. Then he gave note of his continued existence by bumping and
thumping sounds within his state-room, as if some one were dressing
there in a heavy sea.
"Mr. Hicks seems to be taking his rough weather retrospectively,"
said Staniford, with rather tremulous humor.
The door was flung open, and Hicks reeled out, staying himself by
the door-knob. Even before he appeared, a reek of strong waters had
preceded him. He must have been drinking all night. His face was
flushed, and his eyes were bloodshot. He had no collar on; but he
wove a cravat and otherwise he was accurately and even fastidiously
dressed. He balanced himself by the door-knob, and measured the
distance he had to make before reaching his place at the table,
smiling, and waving a delicate handkerchief, which he held in his
hand: "Spilt c'logne, tryin' to scent my hic--handkerchief. Makes
deuced bad smell--too much c'logne; smells--alcoholic. Thom's, bear
a hand, 's good f'low. No? All right, go on with your waitin'.
B-ic--business b'fore pleasure, 's feller says. Play it alone,
The boy had shrunk back in dismay, and Hicks contrived to reach his
place by one of those precipitate dashes with which drunken men attain
a point, when the luck is with them. He looked smilingly round the
circle of faces. Staniford and the captain exchanged threatening looks
of intelligence, while Mr. Watterson and Dunham subordinately waited
their motion. But the advantage, as in such cases, was on the side of
Hicks. He knew it, with a drunkard's subtlety, and was at his ease.
"No app'tite, friends; but thought I'd come out, keep you from feeling
lonesome." He laughed and hiccuped, and smiled upon them all. "Well,
cap'n," he continued, "'covered from 'tigues day, sterday? You look
blooming's usual. Thom's, pass the--pass the--victuals lively, my son,
and fetch along coffee soon. Some the friends up late, and want their
coffee. Nothing like coffee, carry off'fee's." He winked to the men,
all round; and then added, to Lydia: "Sorry see you in this state--I
mean, sorry see me--Can't make it that way either; up stump on both
routes. What I mean is, sorry hadn't coffee first. But _you're_
all right--all right! Like see anybody offer you disrespec', 'n I'm
around. Tha's all."
Till he addressed her, Lydia had remained motionless, first with
bewilderment, and then with open abhorrence. She could hardly have
seen in South Bradfield a man who had been drinking. Even in haying,
or other sharpest stress of farmwork, our farmer and his men stay
themselves with nothing stronger than molasses-water, or, in extreme
cases, cider with a little corn soaked in it; and the Mill Village,
where she had taught school, was under the iron rule of a local vote
for prohibition. She stared in stupefaction at Hicks's heated, foolish
face; she started at his wild movements, and listened with dawning
intelligence to his hiccup-broken speech, with its thickened sibilants
and its wandering emphasis. When he turned to her, and accompanied
his words with a reassuring gesture, she recoiled, and as if breaking
an ugly fascination she gave a low, shuddering cry, and looked at
"Thomas," he said, "Miss Blood was going to take her dessert on deck
Dunham sprang to his feet, and led her out of the cabin.
The movement met Hicks's approval. "Tha's right; 'sert on deck, 'joy
landscape and pudding together,--Rhine steamer style. All right. Be
up there m'self soon's I get my coffee." He winked again with drunken
sharpness. "I know wha's what. Be up there m'self, 'n a minute."
"If you offer to go up," said Staniford, in a low voice, as soon as
Lydia was out of the way, "I'll knock you down!"
"Captain," said Mr. Watterson, venturing, perhaps for the first time
in his whole maritime history, upon a suggestion to his superior
officer, "shall I clap him in irons?"
"Clap him in irons!" roared Captain Jenness. "Clap him in bed! Look
here, you!" He turned to Hicks, but the latter, who had been bristling
at Staniford's threat, now relaxed in a crowing laugh:--
"Tha's right, captain. Irons no go, 'cept in case mutiny; bed
perfectly legal 't all times. Bed is good. But trouble is t' enforce
"Where's your bottle?" demanded the captain, rising from the seat in
which a paralysis of fury had kept him hitherto. "I want your bottle."
"Oh, bottle's all right! Bottle's under pillow. Empty,--empty's
Jonah's gourd; 'nother sea-faring party,--Jonah. S'cure the shadow
ere the substance fade. Drunk all the brandy, old boy. Bottle's a
canteen; 'vantage of military port to houseless stranger. Brought the
brandy on board under my coat; nobody noticed,--so glad get me back.
Prodigal son's return,--fatted calf under his coat."
The reprobate ended his boastful confession with another burst of
hiccuping, and Staniford helplessly laughed.
"Do me proud," said Hicks. "Proud, I 'sure you. Gentleman, every time,
Stanny. Know good thing when you see it--hear it, I mean."
"Look here, Hicks," said Staniford, choosing to make friends with
the mammon of unrighteousness, if any good end might be gained by it.
"You know you're drunk, and you're not fit to be about. Go back to
bed, that's a good fellow; and come out again, when you're all right.
You don't want to do anything you'll be sorry for."
"No, no! No, you don't, Stanny. Coffee'll make me all right. Coffee
always does. Coffee--Heaven's lash besh gift to man. 'Scovered
subse-subs'quently to grape. See? Comes after claret in course of
nature. Captain doesn't understand the 'lusion. All right, captain.
Little learning dangerous thing." He turned sharply on Mr. Watterson,
who had remained inertly in his place. "Put me in irons, heh!
_You_ put me in irons, you old Triton. Put _me_ in irons,
will you?" His amiable mood was passing; before one could say so, it
was past. He was meditating means of active offense. He gathered up
the carving-knife and fork, and held them close under Mr. Watterson's
nose. "Smell that!" he said, and frowned as darkly as a man of so
little eyebrow could.
At this senseless defiance Staniford, in spite of himself, broke
into another laugh, and even Captain Jenness grinned. Mr. Watterson
sat with his head drawn as far back as possible, and with his nose
wrinkled at the affront offered it. "Captain," he screamed, appealing
even in this extremity to his superior, "shall I fetch him
"No, no!" cried Staniford, springing from his chair; "don't hit him!
He isn't responsible. Let's get him into his room."
"Fetch me _one_, heh?" said Hicks, rising, with dignity, and
beginning to turn up his cuffs. "_One_! It'll take more than one,
fetch _me_. Stan' up, 'f you're man enough." He was squaring
at Mr. Watterson, when he detected signs of strategic approach in
Staniford and Captain Jenness. He gave a wild laugh, and shrank into
a corner. "No! No, you don't, boys," he said.
They continued their advance, one on either side, and reinforced by
Mr. Watterson hemmed him in. The drunken man has the advantage of his
sober brother in never seeming to be on the alert. Hicks apparently
entered into the humor of the affair. "Sur-hic-surrender!" he said,
with a smile in his heavy eyes. He darted under the extended arms of
Captain Jenness, who was leading the centre of the advance, and before
either wing could touch him he was up the gangway and on the deck.
Captain Jenness indulged one of those expressions, very rare with him,
which are supposed to be forgiven to good men in moments of extreme
perplexity, and Mr. Watterson profited by the precedent to unburden
his heart in a paraphrase of the captain's language. Staniford's laugh
had as much cursing in it as their profanity.
He mechanically followed Hicks to the deck, prepared to renew the
attempt for his capture there. But Hicks had not stopped near Dunham
and Lydia. He had gone forward on the other side of the ship, and
was leaning quietly on the rail, and looking into the sea. Staniford
paused irresolute for a moment, and then sat down beside Lydia, and
they all tried to feign that nothing unpleasant had happened, or was
still impending. But their talk had the wandering inconclusiveness
which was inevitable, and the eyes of each from time to time furtively
turned toward Hicks.
For half an hour he hardly changed his position. At the end of that
time, they found him looking intently at them; and presently he began
to work slowly back to the waist of the ship, but kept to his own
side. He was met on the way by the second mate, when nearly opposite
where they sat.
"Ain't you pretty comfortable where you are?" they heard the mate
asking. "Guess I wouldn't go aft any further just yet."
"_You're_ all right, Mason," Hicks answered. "Going below--down
cellar, 's feller says; go to bed."
"Well, that's a pious idea," said the mate. "You couldn't do better
than that. I'll lend you a hand."
"Don't care 'f I do," responded Hicks, taking the mate's proffered
arm. But he really seemed to need it very little; he walked perfectly
well, and he did not look across at the others again.
At the head of the gangway he encountered Captain Jenness and Mr.
Watterson, who had completed the perquisition they had remained
to make in his state-room. Mr. Watterson came up empty-handed;
but the captain bore the canteen in which the common enemy had been
so artfully conveyed on board. He walked, darkly scowling, to the
rail, and flung the canteen into the sea. Hicks, who had saluted his
appearance with a glare as savage as his own, yielded to his whimsical
sense of the futility of this vengeance. He gave his fleeting, drunken
laugh: "Good old boy, Captain Jenness. Means well--means well. But
lacks--lacks--forecast. Pounds of cure, but no prevention. Not much
on bite, but death on bark. Heh?" He waggled his hand offensively
at the captain, and disappeared, loosely floundering down the cabin
stairs, holding hard by the hand-rail, and fumbling round with his
foot for the steps before he put it down.
"As soon as he's in his room, Mr. Watterson, you lock him in." The
captain handed his officer a key, and walked away forward, with a
hang-dog look on his kindly face, which he kept averted from his
The sound of Hicks's descent had hardly ceased when clapping and
knocking noises were heard again, and the face of the troublesome
little wretch reappeared. He waved Mr. Watterson aside with his left
hand, and in default of specific orders the latter allowed him to
mount to the deck again. Hicks stayed himself a moment, and lurched
to where Staniford and Dunham sat with Lydia.
"What I wish say Miss Blood is," he began,--"what I wish say is,
peculiar circumstances make no difference with man if man's gentleman.
What I say is, everybody 'spec's--What I say is, circumstances don't
alter cases; lady's a lady--What I want do is beg you fellows'
pardon--beg _her_ pardon--if anything I said that firs'
"Go away!" cried Staniford, beginning to whiten round the nostrils.
"Hold your tongue!"
Hicks fell back a pace, and looked at him with the odd effect of now
seeing him for the first time. "What _you_ want?" he asked. "What
you mean? Slingin' criticism ever since you came on this ship! What
you mean by it? Heh? What you mean?"
Staniford rose, and Lydia gave a start. He cast an angry look at her.
"Do you think I'd hurt him?" he demanded.
Hicks went on: "Sorry, very sorry, 'larm a lady,--specially lady we
all respec'. But this particular affair. Touch--touches my honor.
You said," he continued, "'f I came on deck, you'd knock me down. Why
don't you do it? Wha's the matter with you? Sling criticism ever since
you been on ship, and 'fraid do it! 'Fraid, you hear? 'F-ic--'fraid,
I say." Staniford slowly walked away forward, and Hicks followed him,
threatening him with word and gesture. Now and then Staniford thrust
him aside, and addressed him some expostulation, and Hicks laughed
and submitted. Then, after a silent excursion to the other side of
the ship, he would return and renew his one-sided quarrel. Staniford
seemed to forbid the interference of the crew, and alternately soothed
and baffled his tedious adversary, who could still be heard accusing
him of slinging criticism, and challenging him to combat. He leaned
with his back to the rail, and now looked quietly into Hicks's crazy
face, when the latter paused in front of him, and now looked down
with a worried, wearied air. At last he crossed to the other side,
and began to come aft again.
"Mr. Dunham!" cried Lydia, starting up. "I know what Mr. Staniford
wants to do. He wants to keep him away from me. Let me go down to the
cabin. I can't walk; _please_ help me!" Her eyes were full of
tears, and the hand trembled that she laid on Dunham's arm, but she
controlled her voice.
He softly repressed her, while he intently watched Staniford.
"But he can't bear it much longer," she pleaded. "And if he should--"
"Staniford would never strike him," said Dunham, calmly. "Don't be
afraid. Look! He's coming back with him; he's trying to get him below;
they'll shut him up there. That's the only chance. Sit down, please."
She dropped into her seat, hid her eyes for an instant, and then fixed
them again on the two young men.
Hicks had got between Staniford and the rail. He seized him by the
arm, and, pulling him round, suddenly struck at him. It was too much
for his wavering balance: his feet shot from under him, and he went
backwards in a crooked whirl and tumble, over the vessel's side.
Staniford uttered a cry of disgust and rage. "Oh, you little brute!"
he shouted, and with what seemed a single gesture he flung off his
coat and the low shoes he wore, and leaped the railing after him.
The cry of "Man overboard!" rang round the ship, and Captain Jenness's
order, "Down with your helm! Lower a boat, Mr. Mason!" came, quick as
it was, after the second mate had prepared to let go; and he and two
of the men were in the boat, and she was sliding from her davits,
while the Aroostook was coming up to the light wind and losing
When the boat touched the water, two heads had appeared above the
surface terribly far away. "Hold on, for God's sake! We'll be there
in a second."
"All right!" Staniford's voice called back. "Be quick." The heads rose
and sank with the undulation of the water. The swift boat appeared to
By the time it reached the place where they had been seen, the heads
disappeared, and the men in the boat seemed to be rowing blindly
about. The mate stood upright. Suddenly he dropped and clutched at
something over the boat's side. The people on the ship could see three
hands on her gunwale; a figure was pulled up into the boat, and proved
to be Hicks; then Staniford, seizing the gunwale with both hands,
swung himself in.
A shout went up from the ship, and Staniford waved his hand. Lydia
waited where she hung upon the rail, clutching it hard with her hands,
till the boat was along-side. Then from white she turned fire-red,
and ran below and locked herself in her room.
Dunham followed Staniford to their room, and helped him off with his
wet clothes. He tried to say something ideally fit in recognition
of his heroic act, and he articulated some bald commonplaces of
praise, and shook Staniford's clammy hand. "Yes," said the latter,
submitting; "but the difficulty about a thing of this sort is that
you don't know whether you haven't been an ass. It has been pawed
over so much by the romancers that you don't feel like a hero in
real life, but a hero of fiction. I've a notion that Hicks and I
looked rather ridiculous going over the ship's side; I know we did,
coming back. No man can reveal his greatness of soul in wet clothes.
Did Miss Blood laugh?"
"Staniford!" said Dunham, in an accent of reproach. "You do her great
injustice. She felt what you had done in the way you would wish,--if
"What did she say?" asked Staniford, quickly.
"That's an easy way of expressing one's admiration of heroic behavior.
I hope she'll stick to that line. I hope she won't feel it at all
necessary to say anything in recognition of my prowess; it would be
extremely embarrassing. I've got Hicks back again, but I couldn't
stand any gratitude for it. Not that I'm ashamed of the performance.
Perhaps if it had been anybody but Hicks, I should have waited for
them to lower a boat. But Hicks had peculiar claims. You couldn't let
a man you disliked so much welter round a great while. Where is the
poor old fellow? Is he clothed and in his right mind again?"
"He seemed to be sober enough," said Dunham, "when he came on board;
but I don't think he's out yet."
"We must let Thomas in to gather up this bathing-suit," observed
Staniford. "What a Newportish flavor it gives the place!" He was
excited, and in great gayety of spirits.
He and Dunham went out into the cabin, where they found Captain
Jenness pacing to and fro. "Well, sir," he said, taking Staniford's
hand, and crossing his right with his left, so as to include Dunham
in his congratulations, "you ought to have been a sailor!" Then he
added, as if the unqualified praise might seem fulsome, "But if you'd
been a sailor, you wouldn't have tried a thing like that. You'd have
had more sense. The chances were ten to one against you."
Staniford laughed. "Was it so bad as that? I shall begin to respect
The captain did not answer, but his iron grip closed hard upon
Staniford's hand, and he frowned in keen inspection of Hicks, who
at that moment came out of his state-room, looking pale and quite
sobered. Captain Jenness surveyed him from head to foot, and then
from foot to head, and pausing at the level of his eyes he said, still
holding Staniford by the hand: "The trouble with a man aboard ship
is that he can't turn a blackguard out-of-doors just when he likes.
The Aroostook puts in at Messina. You'll be treated well till we get
there, and then if I find you on my vessel five minutes after she
comes to anchor, I'll heave you overboard, and I'll take care that
nobody jumps after you. Do you hear? And you won't find me doing any
such fool kindness as I did when I took you on board, soon again."
"Oh, I say, Captain Jenness," began Staniford.
"He's all right," interrupted Hicks. "I'm a blackguard; I know it;
and I don't think I was worth fishing up. But you've done it, and
I mustn't go back on you, I suppose." He lifted his poor, weak, bad
little face, and looked Staniford in the eyes with a pathos that
belied the slang of his speech. The latter released his hand from
Captain Jenness and gave it to Hicks, who wrung it, as he kept looking
him in the eyes, while his lips twitched pitifully, like a child's.
The captain gave a quick snort either of disgust or of sympathy, and
turned abruptly about and bundled himself up out of the cabin.
"I say!" exclaimed Staniford, "a cup of coffee wouldn't be bad, would
it? Let's have some coffee, Thomas, about as quick as the cook can
make it," he added, as the boy came out from his stateroom with a lump
of wet clothes in his hands. "You wanted some coffee a little while
ago," he said to Hicks, who hung his head at the joke.
For the rest of the day Staniford was the hero of the ship. The
men looked at him from a distance, and talked of him together. Mr.
Watterson hung about whenever Captain Jenness drew near him, as if
in the hope of overhearing some acceptable expression in which he
could second his superior officer. Failing this, and being driven
to despair, "Find the water pretty cold, sir?" he asked at last;
and after that seemed to feel that he had discharged his duty as
well as might be under the extraordinary circumstances.
The second mate, during the course of the afternoon, contrived to
pass near Staniford. "Why, there wa'n't no _need_ of your doing
it," he said, in a bated tone. "I could ha' had him out with the boat,
Staniford treasured up these meagre expressions of the general
approbation, and would not have had them different. From this time,
within the narrow bounds that brought them all necessarily together
in some sort, Hicks abolished himself as nearly as possible. He chose
often to join the second mate at meals, which Mr. Mason, in accordance
with the discipline of the ship, took apart both from the crew and his
superior officers. Mason treated the voluntary outcast with a sort of
sarcastic compassion, as a man whose fallen state was not without its
points as a joke to the indifferent observer, and yet might appeal to
the pity of one who knew such cases through the misery they inflicted.
Staniford heard him telling Hicks about his brother-in-law, and
dwelling upon the peculiar relief which the appearance of his name
in the mortality list gave all concerned in him. Hicks listened in
apathetic patience and acquiescence; but Staniford thought that he
enjoyed, as much as he could enjoy anything, the second officer's
frankness. For his own part, he found that having made bold to
keep this man in the world he had assumed a curious responsibility
towards him. It became his business to show him that he was not
shunned by his fellow-creatures, to hearten and cheer him up. It was
heavy work. Hicks with his joke was sometimes odious company, but
he was also sometimes amusing; without it, he was of a terribly dull
conversation. He accepted Staniford's friendliness too meekly for
good comradery; he let it add, apparently, to his burden of gratitude,
rather than lessen it. Staniford smoked with him, and told him
stories; he walked up and down with him, and made a point of parading
their good understanding, but his spirits seemed to sink the lower.
"Deuce take him!" mused his benefactor; "he's in love with her!" But
he now had the satisfaction, such as it was, of seeing that if he was
in love he was quite without hope. Lydia had never relented in her
abhorrence of Hicks since the day of his disgrace. There seemed no
scorn in her condemnation, but neither was there any mercy. In her
simple life she had kept unsophisticated the severe morality of a
child, and it was this that judged him, that found him unpardonable
and outlawed him. He had never ventured to speak to her since that
day, and Staniford never saw her look at him except when Hicks was not
looking, and then with a repulsion which was very curious. Staniford
could have pitied him, and might have interceded so far as to set
him nearer right in her eyes; but he felt that she avoided him, too;
there were no more walks on the deck, no more readings in the cabin;
the checker-board, which professed to be the History of England, In
2 Vols., remained a closed book. The good companionship of a former
time, in which they had so often seemed like brothers and sister, was
gone. "Hicks has smashed our Happy Family," Staniford said to Dunham,
with little pleasure in his joke. "Upon my word, I think I had better
have left him in the water." Lydia kept a great deal in her own room;
sometimes when Staniford came down into the cabin he found her there,
talking with Thomas of little things that amuse children; sometimes
when he went on deck in the evening she would be there in her
accustomed seat, and the second mate, with face and figure half
averted, and staying himself by one hand on the shrouds, would be
telling her something to which she listened with lifted chin and
attentive eyes. The mate would go away when Staniford appeared, but
that did not help matters, for then Lydia went too. At table she said
very little; she had the effect of placing herself more and more under
the protection of the captain. The golden age, when they had all
laughed and jested so freely and fearlessly together, under her pretty
sovereignty, was past, and they seemed far dispersed in a common
exile. Staniford imagined she grew pale and thin; he asked Dunham if
he did not see it, but Dunham had not observed. "I think matters have
taken a very desirable shape, socially," he said. "Miss Blood will
reach her friends as fancy-free as she left home."
"Yes," Staniford assented vaguely; "that's the great object."
After a while Dunham asked, "She's never said anything to you about
your rescuing Hicks?"
"Rescuing? What rescuing? They'd have had him out in another minute,
any way," said Staniford, fretfully. Then he brooded angrily upon the
subject: "But I can tell you what: considering all the circumstances,
she might very well have said something. It looks obtuse, or it looks
hard. She must have known that it all came about through my trying to
keep him away from her."
"Oh, yes; she knew that," said Dunham; "she spoke of it at the time.
But I thought--"
"Oh, she did! Then I think that it would be very little if she
recognized the mere fact that something had happened."
"Why, you said you hoped she wouldn't. You said it would be
embarrassing. You're hard to please, Staniford."
"I shouldn't choose to have her speak for _my_ pleasure,"
Staniford returned. "But it argues a dullness and coldness in her--"
"I don't believe she's dull; I don't believe she's cold," said
"What _do_ you believe she is?"
"Pshaw!" said Staniford.
The eve of their arrival at Messina, he discharged one more duty
by telling Hicks that he had better come on to Trieste with them.
"Captain Jenness asked me to speak to you about it," he said. "He
feels a little awkward, and thought I could open the matter better."
"The captain's all right," answered Hicks, with unruffled humility,
"but I'd rather stop at Messina. I'm going to get home as soon as
I can,--strike a bee-line."
"Look here!" said Staniford, laying his hand on his shoulder. "How
are you going to manage for money?"
"Monte di Pieta," replied Hicks. "I've been there before. Used to
have most of my things in the care of the state when I was studying
medicine in Paris. I've got a lot of rings and trinkets that'll
carry me through, with what's left of my watch."
"Are you sure?"
"Because you can draw on me, if you're going to be short."
"Thanks," said Hicks. "There's something I should like to ask you,"
he added, after a moment. "I see as well as you do that Miss Blood
isn't the same as she was before. I want to know--I can't always be
sure afterwards--whether I did or said anything out of the way in
"You were drunk," said Staniford, frankly, "but beyond that you were
irreproachable, as regarded Miss Blood. You were even exemplary."
"Yes, I know," said Hicks, with a joyless laugh. "Sometimes it takes
that turn. I don't think I could stand it if I had shown her any
disrespect. She's a lady,--a perfect lady; she's the best girl
I ever saw."
"Hicks," said Staniford, presently, "I haven't bored you in regard to
that little foible of yours. Aren't you going to try to do something
"I'm going home to get them to shut me up somewhere," answered Hicks.
"But I doubt if anything can be done. I've studied the thing; I am
a doctor,--or I would be if I were not a drunkard,--and I've diagnosed
the case pretty thoroughly. For three months or four months, now, I
shall be all right. After that I shall go to the bad for a few weeks;
and I'll have to scramble back the best way I can. Nobody can help
me. That was the mistake this last time. I shouldn't have wanted
anything at Gibraltar if I could have had my spree out at Boston. But
I let them take me before it was over, and ship me off. I thought I'd
try it. Well, it was like a burning fire every minute, all the way.
I thought I should die. I tried to get something from the sailors;
I tried to steal Gabriel's cooking-wine. When I got that brandy
in Gibraltar I was wild. Talk about heroism! I tell you it was
superhuman, keeping that canteen corked till night! I was in hopes
I could get through it,--sleep it off,--and nobody be any the wiser.
But it wouldn't work. O Lord, Lord, Lord!"
Hicks was as common a soul as could well be. His conception of life
was vulgar, and his experience of it was probably vulgar. He had a
good mind enough, with abundance of that humorous brightness which
may hereafter be found the most national quality of the Americans; but
his ideals were pitiful, and the language of his heart was a drolling
slang. Yet his doom lifted him above his low conditions, and made him
tragic; his despair gave him the dignity of a mysterious expiation,
and set him apart with all those who suffer beyond human help. Without
deceiving himself as to the quality of the man, Staniford felt awed
by the darkness of his fate.
"Can't you try somehow to stand up against it, and fight it off?
You're so young yet, it can't--"
The wretched creature burst into tears. "Oh, try,--try! You don't know
what you're talking about. Don't you suppose I've had reasons for
trying? If you could see how my mother looks when I come out of one
of my drunks,--and my father, poor old man! It's no use; I tell you
it's no use. I shall go just so long, and then I shall want it, and
_will_ have it, unless they shut me up for life. My God, I wish
I was dead! Well!" He rose from the place where they had been sitting
together, and held out his hand to Staniford. "I'm going to be off in
the morning before you're out, and I'll say good-by now. I want you
to keep this chair, and give it to Miss Blood, for me, when you get
"I will, Hicks," said Staniford, gently.
"I want her to know that I was ashamed of myself. I think she'll
like to know it."
"I will say anything to her that you wish," replied Staniford.
"There's nothing else. If ever you see a man with my complaint fall
overboard again, think twice before you jump after him."
He wrung Staniford's hand, and went below, leaving him with a dull
remorse that he should ever have hated Hicks, and that he could not
quite like him even now.
But he did his duty by him to the last. He rose at dawn, and was on
deck when Hicks went over the side into the boat which was to row him
to the steamer for Naples, lying at anchor not far off. He presently
returned, to Staniford's surprise, and scrambled up to the deck of
the Aroostook. "The steamer sails to-night," he said, "and perhaps
I couldn't raise the money by that time. I wish you'd lend me ten
napoleons. I'll send 'em to you from London. There's my father's
address: I'm going to telegraph to him." He handed Staniford a card,
and the latter went below for the coins. "Thanks," said Hicks, when
he reappeared with them. "Send 'em to you where?"
"Care Blumenthals', Venice. I'm going to be there some weeks."
In the gray morning light the lurid color of tragedy had faded out of
Hicks. He was merely a baddish-looking young fellow whom Staniford had
lent ten napoleons that he might not see again. Staniford watched the
steamer uneasily, both from the Aroostook and from the shore, where he
strolled languidly about with Dunham part of the day. When she sailed
in the evening, he felt that Hicks's absence was worth twice the
The young men did not come back to the ship at night, but went to a
hotel, for the greater convenience of seeing the city. They had talked
of offering to show Lydia about, but their talk had not ended in
anything. Vexed with himself to be vexed at such a thing, Staniford at
the bottom of his heart still had a soreness which the constant sight
of her irritated. It was in vain that he said there was no occasion,
perhaps no opportunity, for her to speak, yet he was hurt that she
seemed to have seen nothing uncommon in his risking his own life for
that of a man like Hicks. He had set the action low enough in his
own speech; but he knew that it was not ignoble, and it puzzled him
that it should be so passed over. She had not even said a word of
congratulation upon his own escape. It might be that she did not know
how, or did not think it was her place to speak. She was curiously
estranged. He felt as if he had been away, and she had grown from a
young girl into womanhood during his absence. This fantastic conceit
was strongest when he met her with Captain Jenness one day. He had
found friends at the hotel, as one always does in Italy, if one's
world is at all wide,--some young ladies, and a lady, now married,
with whom he had once violently flirted. She was willing that he
should envy her husband; that amused him in his embittered mood; he
let her drive him about; and they met Lydia and the captain, walking
together. Staniford started up from his lounging ease, as if her
limpid gaze had searched his conscience, and bowed with an air
which did not escape his companion.
"Ah! Who's that?" she asked, with the boldness which she made pass
"A lady of my acquaintance," said Staniford, at his laziest again.
"A lady?" said the other, with an inflection that she saw hurt.
"Why the marine animal, then? She bowed very prettily; she blushed
"She's a very pretty girl," replied Staniford.
"Charming! But why blush?"
"I've heard that there are ladies who blush for nothing."
"Is she Italian?"
"Oh, an American _prima donna_!" Staniford did not answer.
"Who is she? Where is she from?"
"South Bradfield, Mass." Staniford's eyes twinkled at her pursuit,
which he did not trouble himself to turn aside, but baffled by mere
The party at the hotel suggested that the young men should leave their
ship and go on with them to Naples; Dunham was tempted, for he could
have reached Dresden sooner by land; but Staniford overruled him, and
at the end of four days they went back to the Aroostook. They said it
was like getting home, but in fact they felt the change from the airy
heights and breadths of the hotel to the small cabin and the closets
in which they slept; it was not so great alleviation as Captain
Jenness seemed to think that one of them could now have Hicks's
stateroom. But Dunham took everything sweetly, as his habit was; and,
after all, they were meeting their hardships voluntarily. Some of the
ladies came with them in the boat which rowed them to the Aroostook;
the name made them laugh; that lady who wished Staniford to regret
her waved him her hand kerchief as the boat rowed away again. She had
with difficulty been kept from coming on board by the refusal of the
others to come with her. She had contrived to associate herself with
him again in the minds of the others, and this, perhaps, was all that
she desired. But the sense of her frivolity--her not so much vacant-
mindedness as vacant-heartedness--was like a stain, and he painted
in Lydia's face when they first met the reproach which was in his
Her greeting, however, was frank and cordial; it was a real welcome.
Staniford wondered if it were not more frank and cordial than he quite
liked, and whether she was merely relieved by Hicks's absence, or had
freed herself from that certain subjection in which she had hitherto
been to himself.
Yet it was charming to see her again as she had been in the happiest
moments of the past, and to feel that, Hicks being out of her world,
her trust of everybody in it was perfect once more. She treated that
interval of coldness and diffidence as all women know how to treat a
thing which they wish not to have been; and Staniford, a man on whom
no pleasing art of her sex was ever lost, admired and gratefully
accepted the effect of this. He fell luxuriously into the old habits
again. They had still almost the time of a steamer's voyage to Europe
before them; it was as if they were newly setting sail from America.
The first night after they left Messina Staniford found her in her
place in the waist of the ship, and sat down beside her there, and
talked; the next night she did not come; the third she came, and he
asked her to walk with him. The elastic touch of her hand on his arm,
the rhythmic movement of her steps beside him, were things that seemed
always to have been. She told him of what she had seen and done in
Messina. This glimpse of Italy had vividly animated her; she had
apparently found a world within herself as well as without.
With a suddenly depressing sense of loss, Staniford had a prevision
of splendor in her, when she should have wholly blossomed out in that
fervid air of art and beauty; he would fain have kept her still a
wilding rosebud of the New England wayside. He hated the officers who
should wonder at her when she first came into the Square of St. Mark
with her aunt and uncle.
Her talk about Messina went on; he was thinking of her, and not of her
talk; but he saw that she was not going to refer to their encounter.
"You make me jealous of the objects of interest in Messina," he said.
"You seem to remember seeing everything but me, there."
She stopped abruptly. "Yes," she said, after a deep breath, "I saw you
there;" and she did not offer to go on again.
"Where were you going, that morning?"
"Oh, to the cathedral. Captain Jenness left me there, and I looked
all through it till he came back from the consulate."
"Left you there alone!" cried Staniford.
"Yes; I told him I should not feel lonely, and I should not stir
out of it till he came back. I took one of those little pine chairs
and sat down, when I got tired, and looked at the people coming to
worship, and the strangers with their guide-books."
"Did any of them look at you?"
"They stared a good deal. It seems to be the custom in Europe; but
I told Captain Jenness I should probably have to go about by myself
in Venice, as my aunt's an invalid, and I had better get used to it."
She paused, and seemed to be referring the point to Staniford.
"Yes,--oh, yes," he said.
"Captain Jenness said it was their way, over here," she resumed;
"but he guessed I had as much right in a church as anybody."
"The captain's common sense is infallible," answered Staniford. He
was ashamed to know that the beautiful young girl was as improperly
alone in church as she would have been in a cafe, and he began to
hate the European world for the fact. It seemed better to him that the
Aroostook should put about and sail back to Boston with her, as she
was,--better that she should be going to her aunt in South Bradfield
than to her aunt in Venice. "We shall soon be at our journey's end,
now," he said, after a while.
"Yes; the captain thinks in about eight days, if we have good
"Shall you be sorry?"
"Oh, I like the sea very well."
"But the new life you are coming to,--doesn't that alarm you
"Yes, it does," she admitted, with a kind of reluctance.
"So much that you would like to turn back from it?"
"Oh, no!" she answered quickly. Of course not, Staniford thought;
nothing could be worse than going back to South Bradfield. "I keep
thinking about it," she added. "You say Venice is such a very strange
place. Is it any use my having seen Messina?"
"Oh, all Italian cities have something in common."
"I presume," she went on, "that after I get there everything will
become natural. But I don't like to look forward. It--scares me.
I can't form any idea of it."
"You needn't be afraid," said Staniford. "It's only more beautiful
than anything you can imagine."
"Yes--yes; I know," Lydia answered.
"And do you really dread getting there?"
"Yes, I dread it," she said.
"Why," returned Staniford lightly, "so do I; but it's for a different
reason, I'm afraid. I should like such a voyage as this to go on
forever. Now and then I think it will; it seems always to have gone
on. Can you remember when it began?"
"A great while ago," she answered, humoring his fantasy, "but I can
remember." She paused a long while. "I don't know," she said at last,
"whether I can make you understand just how I feel. But it seems to me
as if I had died, and this long voyage was a kind of dream that I was
going to wake up from in another world. I often used to think, when
I was a little girl, that when I got to heaven it would be lonesome--I
don't know whether I can express it. You say that Italy--that Venice
--is so beautiful; but if I don't know any one there--" She stopped,
as if she had gone too far.
"But you do know somebody there," said Staniford. "Your aunt--"
"Yes," said the girl, and looked away.
"But the people in this long dream,--you're going to let some of them
appear to you there," he suggested.
"Oh, yes," she said, reflecting his lighter humor, "I shall want to
see them, or I shall not know I am the same person, and I must be sure
of myself, at least."
"And you wouldn't like to go back to earth--to South Bradfield
again?" he asked presently.
"No," she answered. "All that seems over forever. I couldn't go back
there and be what I was. I could have stayed there, but I couldn't
Staniford laughed. "I see that it isn't the other world that's got
hold of you! It's _this_ world! I don't believe you'll be unhappy
in Italy. But it's pleasant to think you've been so contented on the
Aroostook that you hate to leave it. I don't believe there's a man
on the ship that wouldn't feel personally flattered to know that you
liked being here. Even that poor fellow who parted from us at Messina
was anxious that you should think as kindly of him as you could. He
knew that he had behaved in a way to shock you, and he was very sorry.
He left a message with me for you. He thought you would like to know
that he was ashamed of himself."
"I pitied him," said Lydia succinctly. It was the first time that she
had referred to Hicks, and Staniford found it in character for her
to limit herself to this sparse comment. Evidently, her compassion
was a religious duty. Staniford's generosity came easy to him.
"I feel bound to say that Hicks was not a bad fellow. I disliked him
immensely, and I ought to do him justice, now he's gone. He deserved
all your pity. He's a doomed man; his vice is irreparable; he can't
resist it." Lydia did not say anything: women do not generalize in
these matters; perhaps they cannot pity the faults of those they do
not love. Staniford only forgave Hicks the more. "I can't say that up
to the last moment I thought him anything but a poor, common little
creature; and yet I certainly did feel a greater kindness for him
after--what I--after what had happened. He left something more than
a message for you, Miss Blood; he left his steamer chair yonder,
"For me?" demanded Lydia. Staniford felt her thrill and grow rigid
upon his arm, with refusal. "I will not have it. He had no right
to do so. He--he--was dreadful! I will give it to you!" she said,
suddenly. "He ought to have given it to you. You did everything
for him; you saved his life."
It was clear that she did not sentimentalize Hicks's case; and
Staniford had some doubt as to the value she set upon what he had
done, even now she had recognized it.
He said, "I think you overestimate my service to him, possibly.
I dare say the boat could have picked him up in good time."
"Yes, that's what the captain and Mr. Watterson and Mr. Mason all
said," assented Lydia.
Staniford was nettled. He would have preferred a devoted belief that
but for him Hicks must have perished. Besides, what she said still
gave no clew to her feeling in regard to himself. He was obliged to
go on, but he went on as indifferently as he could. "However, it was
hardly a question for me at the time whether he could have been got
out without my help. If I had thought about it at all--which I
didn't--I suppose I should have thought that it wouldn't do to
take any chances."
"Oh, no," said Lydia, simply, "you couldn't have done anything less
than you did."
In his heart Staniford had often thought that he could have done very
much less than jump overboard after Hicks, and could very properly
have left him to the ordinary life-saving apparatus of the ship. But
if he had been putting the matter to some lady in society who was
aggressively praising him for his action, he would have said just what
Lydia had said for him,--that he could not have done anything less.
He might have said it, however, in such a way that the lady would
have pursued his retreat from her praises with still fonder applause;
whereas this girl seemed to think there was nothing else to be said.
He began to stand in awe of her heroic simplicity. If she drew
every-day breath in that lofty air, what could she really think of
him, who preferred on principle the atmosphere of the valley? "Do
you know, Miss Blood," he said gravely, "that you pay me a very high
"How?" she asked.
"You rate my maximum as my mean temperature." He felt that she
listened inquiringly. "I don't think I'm habitually up to a thing
of that kind," he explained.
"Oh, no," she assented, quietly; "but when he struck at you so,
you had to do everything."
"Ah, you have the pitiless Puritan conscience that takes the life
out of us all!" cried Staniford, with sudden bitterness. Lydia seemed
startled, shocked, and her hand trembled on his arm, as if she had a
mind to take it away. "I was a long time laboring up to that point.
I suppose you are always there!"
"I don't understand," she said, turning her head round with the slow
motion of her beauty, and looking him full in the face.
"I can't explain now. I will, by and by,--when we get to Venice,"
he added, with quick lightness.
"You put off everything till we get to Venice," she said,
"I beg your pardon. It was you who did it the last time."
"Was it?" She laughed. "So it was! I was thinking it was you."
It consoled him a little that she should have confused them in her
thought, in this way. "What was it you were to tell me in Venice?"
"I can't think, now."
"Very likely something of yourself--or myself. A third person might
say our conversational range was limited."
"Do you think it is very egotistical?" she asked, in the gay tone
which gave him relief from the sense of oppressive elevation of mind
"It is in me,--not in you."
"But I don't see the difference."
"I will explain sometime,"
"When we get to Venice?"
They both laughed. It was very nonsensical; but nonsense is sometimes
When they were serious again, "Tell me," he said, "what you thought
of that lady in Messina, the other day."
She did not affect not to know whom he meant. She merely said,
"I only saw her a moment."
"But you thought something. If we only see people a second we form
some opinion of them."
"She is very fine-appearing," said Lydia.
Staniford smiled at the countrified phrase; he had observed that when
she spoke her mind she used an instinctive good language; when she
would not speak it, she fell into the phraseology of the people with
whom she had lived. "I see you don't wish to say, because you think
she is a friend of mine. But you can speak out freely. We were not
friends; we were enemies, if anything."
Staniford's meaning was clear enough to himself; but Lydia paused,
as if in doubt whether he was jesting or not, before she asked,
"Why were you riding with her then?"
"I was driving with her," he replied, "I suppose, because she
"_Asked_ you!" cried the girl; and he perceived her moral recoil
both from himself and from a woman who could be so unseemly. That
lady would have found it delicious if she could have known that a girl
placed like Lydia was shocked at her behavior. But he was not amused.
He was touched by the simple self-respect that would not let her
suffer from what was not wrong in itself, but that made her shrink
from a voluntary semblance of unwomanliness. It endeared her not
only to his pity, but to that sense which in every man consecrates
womanhood, and waits for some woman to be better than all her sex.
Again he felt the pang he had remotely known before. What would she
do with these ideals of hers in that depraved Old World,--so long past
trouble for its sins as to have got a sort of sweetness and innocence
in them,--where her facts would be utterly irreconcilable with her
ideals, and equally incomprehensible?
They walked up and down a few turns without speaking again of that
lady. He knew that she grew momently more constrained toward him; that
the pleasure of the time was spoiled for her; that she had lost her
trust in him, and this half amused, half afflicted him. It did not
surprise him when, at their third approach to the cabin gangway, she
withdrew her hand from his arm and said, stiffly, "I think I will go
down." But she did not go at once. She lingered, and after a certain
hesitation she said, without looking at him, "I didn't express what
I wanted to, about Mr. Hicks, and--what you did. It is what I thought
you would do."
"Thanks," said Staniford, with sincere humility. He understood how
she had had this in her mind, and how she would not withhold justice
from him because he had fallen in her esteem; how rather she would
be the more resolute to do him justice for that reason.
He could see that she avoided being alone with him the next day, but
he took it for a sign of relenting, perhaps helpless relenting, that
she was in her usual place on deck in the evening. He went to her,
and, "I see that you haven't forgiven me," he said.
"Forgiven you?" she echoed.
"Yes," he said, "for letting that lady ask me to drive with her."
"I never said--" she began.
"Oh, no! But I knew it, all the same. It was not such a very wicked
thing, as those things go. But I liked your not liking it. Will you
let me say something to you?"
"Yes," she answered, rather breathlessly.
"You must think it's rather an odd thing to say, as I ask leave.
It is; and I hardly know how to say it. I want to tell you that I've
made bold to depend a great deal upon your good opinion for my peace
of mind, of late, and that I can't well do without it now."
She stole the quickest of her bird-like glances at him, but did
not speak; and though she seemed, to his anxious fancy, poising
for flight, she remained, and merely looked away, like the bird
that will not or cannot fly.
"You don't resent my making you my outer conscience, do you, and
my knowing that you're not quite pleased with me?"
She looked down and away with one of those turns of the head, so
precious when one who beholds them is young, and caught at the
fringe of her shawl. "I have no right," she began.
"Oh, I give you the right!" he cried, with passionate urgence. "You
have the right. Judge me!" She only looked more grave, and he hurried
on. "It was no great harm of her to ask me; that's common enough; but
it was harm of me to go if I didn't quite respect her,--if I thought
her silly, and was willing to be amused with her. One hasn't any
right to do that. I saw this when I saw you." She still hung her head,
and looked away. "I want you to tell me something," he pursued. "Do
you remember once--the second time we talked together--that you said
Dunham was in earnest, and you wouldn't answer when I asked you about
myself? Do you remember?"
"Yes," said the girl.
"I didn't care, then. I care very much now. You don't think me--you
think I can be in earnest when I will, don't you? And that I can
regret--that I really wish--" He took the hand that played with the
shawl-fringe, but she softly drew it away.
"Ah, I see!" he said. "You can't believe in me. You don't believe
that I can be a good man--like Dunham!"
She answered in the same breathless murmur, "I think you are good."
Her averted face drooped lower.
"I will tell you all about it, some day!" he cried, with joyful
vehemence. "Will you let me?"
"Yes," she answered, with the swift expulsion of breath that sometimes
comes with tears. She rose quickly and turned away. He did not try to
keep her from leaving him. His heart beat tumultuously; his brain
seemed in a whirl. It all meant nothing, or it meant everything.
"What is the matter with Miss Blood?" asked Dunham, who joined him at
this moment. "I just spoke to her at the foot of the gangway stairs,
and she wouldn't answer me."
"Oh, I don't know about Miss Blood--I don't know what's the matter,"
said Staniford. "Look here, Dunham; I want to talk with you--I want
to tell you something--I want you to advise me--I--There's only one
thing that can explain it, that can excuse it. There's only one thing
that can justify all that I've done and said, and that can not only
justify it, but can make it sacredly and eternally right,--right for
her and right for me. Yes, it's reason for all, and for a thousand
times more. It makes it fair for me to have let her see that I thought
her beautiful and charming, that I delighted to be with her, that
I--Dunham," cried Staniford, "I'm in love!"
Dunham started at the burst in which these ravings ended. "Staniford,"
he faltered, with grave regret, "I _hope_ not!"
"You hope not? You--you--What do you mean? How else can I free myself
from the self-reproach of having trifled with her, of--"
Dunham shook his head compassionately. "You can't do it that way.
Your only safety is to fight it to the death,--to run from it."
"But if I don't _choose_ to fight it?" shouted Staniford,--"if
I don't _choose_ to run from it? If I--"
"For Heaven's sake, hush! The whole ship will hear you, and you
oughtn't to breathe it in the desert. I saw how it was going! I
dreaded it; I knew it; and I longed to speak. I'm to blame for not
"I should like to know what would have authorized you to speak?"
demanded Staniford, haughtily.
"Only my regard for you; only what urges me to speak now! You
_must_ fight it, Staniford, whether you choose or not. Think of
yourself,--think of her! Think--you have always been my ideal of honor
and truth and loyalty--think of her husband--"
"Her husband!" gasped Staniford. "Whose husband? What the deuce--
_who_ the deuce--are you talking about, Dunham?"
"Mrs. Rivers? That flimsy, feather-headed, empty-hearted--eyes-maker!
That frivolous, ridiculous--Pah! And did you think that I was talking
of _her_? Did you think I was in love with _her_?"
"Why," stammered Dunham, "I supposed--I thought--At Messina, you
"Oh!" Staniford walked the deck's length away. "Well, Dunham," he
said, as he came back, "you've spoilt a pretty scene with your rot
about Mrs. Rivers. I was going to be romantic! But perhaps I'd better
say in ordinary newspaper English that I've just found out that I'm
in love with Miss Blood."
"With _her_!" cried Dunham, springing at his hand.
"Oh, come now! Don't _you_ be romantic, after knocking
"Why, but Staniford!" said Dunham, wringing his hand with a lover's
joy in another's love and his relief that it was not Mrs. Rivers.
"I never should have dreamt of such a thing!"
"Why?" asked Staniford, shortly.
"Oh, the way you talked at first, you know, and--"
"I suppose even people who get married have something to take back
about each other," said Staniford, rather sheepishly. "However,"
he added, with an impulse of frankness, "I don't know that I should
have dreamt of it myself, and I don't blame you. But it's a fact,
"Why, of course. It's splendid! Certainly. It's magnificent!" There
was undoubtedly a qualification, a reservation, in Dunham's tone. He
might have thought it right to bring the inequalities of the affair
to Staniford's mind. With all his effusive kindliness of heart and
manner, he had a keen sense of social fitness, a nice feeling for
convention. But a man does not easily suggest to another that the
girl with whom he has just declared himself in love is his inferior.
What Dunham finally did say was: "It jumps with all your ideas--all
your old talk about not caring to marry a society girl--"
"Society might be very glad of such a girl!" said Staniford,
"Yes, yes, certainly; but I mean--"
"Oh, I know what you mean. It's all right," said Staniford. "But it
isn't a question of marrying yet. I can't be sure she understood me,
--I've been so long understanding myself. And yet, she must, she must!
She must believe it by this time, or else that I'm the most infamous
scoundrel alive. When I think how I have sought her out, and followed
her up, and asked her judgment, and hung upon her words, I feel that
I oughtn't to lose a moment in being explicit. I don't care for
myself; she can take me or leave me, as she likes; but if she doesn't
understand, she mustn't be left in suspense as to my meaning." He
seemed to be speaking to Dunham, but he was really thinking aloud,
and Dunham waited for some sort of question before he spoke. "But it's
a great satisfaction to have had it out with myself. I haven't got
to pretend any more that I hang about her, and look at her, and go
mooning round after her, for this no-reason and that; I've got the
best reason in the world for playing the fool,--I'm in love!" He drew
a long, deep breath. "It simplifies matters immensely to have reached
the point of acknowledging that. Why, Dunham, those four days at
Messina almost killed me! They settled it. When that woman was in
full fascination it made me gasp. I choked for a breath of fresh air;
for a taste of spring-water; for--Lurella!" It was a long time since
Staniford had used this name, and the sound of it made him laugh.
"It's droll--but I always think of her as Lurella; I wish it _was_
her name! Why, it was like heaven to see her face when I got back to
the ship. After we met her that day at Messina, Mrs. Rivers tried her
best to get out of me who it was, and where I met her. But I flatter
myself that I was equal to _that_ emergency."
Dunham said nothing, at once. Then, "Staniford," he faltered, "she
got it out of me."
"Did you tell her who Lu--who Miss Blood was?"
"And how I happened to be acquainted with her?"
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