페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

Anxiously I peered out upon the waters, tied my handkerchief to the end of my walkwatching the chips, the bubbles, and dead ing-stick, and flourished it like a flag high weed that floated past in tiny armadas. over my head, while I strained my lungs for Yes, the tide had turned. It was coming a loud hail-in vain, all in vain! The fishin, slowly as yet, but the decisive change ers were busy with their nets and lines, or had begun. What was I to do? I was in trimming their boats, or something: they awfully frightened. There was reason for did not observe me, and presently the last alarm, indeed, and I take no shame to my- lug-sail and brown hull faded away into the self for the frank avowal. I was worse off deepening night. More sultry and heavy than the gladiator condemned to the beasts, grew the air ; one or two big fat drops of in the old Roman day. He, the gladiator, rain fell with a plash upon the sand there was allowed a weapon, a spear, a club, some was a premonitory growl of thunder, and thing wherewith to fight to the death : at the then a hush succeeded. last, he had his sinewy hands and brawny I turned my face to the land. The lights arms to rely upon, and he might be the con- began to twinkle in the windows of the disqueror of the Libyan lion or the German tant town; far off, too, on lonely cliffs, and bear. But I had to deal with a foe of an- spits of land that ran far out into the wild other sort, invulnerable, vast, resistless- sea, and on the decks of light-ships anchored the sea! I could not swim. I had never in dangerous places, the warning-beacons before particularly regretted my lack of that began to blaze. I saw the red gleams far accomplishment; now, I would gladly have across the waters wherever I turned: they bartered all the learning, professional or va- were signs of human pity, of human watchrious, that I had ever attained, my languages, fulness, and charity. But they could not geometry, and pure mathematics, my forti- save me. The fishing-boats were all gone. fication, company and battalion drill, and all The tide was encroaching, stealthily at first, that I had crammed to win my staff ap- then more swiftly. Line upon line, the litpointment, for the power of swimming a tle foamy walls of water came sweeping on, mile or two in broken water. And yet, even arching and breaking into froth, each passcould I swim, the quicksands, the sandbars, ing its predecessor by a very little space, the strong currents, left me small chance of but pressing on, surely, steadily pressing reaching the mainland. Oh, for a boat! I on. My only hopemand be sure that my ran round to the seaward face of the shoal. fancy was busy was that I might be missed At a considerable distance, I descried sev- at the hotel, that inquiry might be made, eral fishing-smacks, their red-brown sails and a boat sent back to fetch me off the looming black through the dusk. Much fur- Goodwin. But this was but a frail thread ther off were sundry brigs and schooners on of a chance. I was fond of rambles, and their course up Channel, under shortened not punctual as to hours; I had not ordered sail. There was a threatening bank of my dinner, having told the landlady that I clouds to windward over the moaning sea ; would " see about it" after my return, the pile above pile, peak over peak, towered time of which was doubtful. Perhaps in whole Alps of slate-colored vapor, gloomy those idle words I had spoken my own senand menacing. I remembered the waiter's tence of death! The wind whistled in a prediction of " dirty weather," and felt any- louder key, shriller and more shrill ; the thing but comfortable. The air was op- lights on shore shone out, peaceful and tanpressive, too, in spite of the chilly breeze, talizing. I would have changed conditions which came in sudden cat’s-paws, that ruf- with the poorest cottager from whose winAled the water like the sweep of a gigantic dow poured one of those rays. wing, and then lulled abruptly. Even the Help at last! What was that? A seamost inexperienced could not have failed to mew flitting over me had uttered its melansee the signs of a coming storm. My only choly wail with startling suddenness-that hope was in the fishing-boats; they were was all. I watched the bird, and envied the not very far off; some of the men on board strong white wings that bore it so fast might see me, might notice my signals, and through the air shorewards. More big Alat bear down to the rescue. I waved my hat- drops of rain; regular thunder-shower. I shouted till I was hoarse and husky-I What a flash, lighting up land and sea, and sandbars and foamy water, and dazzling me rolled and the arrowy lightning glanced over 80 that I shade my eyes involuntarily; and the crests of the waves. A sensation of cold then what an awful diapason follows, rolling, in my feet made me look down ; I was acroaring from one end to another of the tually standing in the water ; it had oozed stormy sky. Flash again, and roll and roar, through the treacherous sand. Very little as if the heavens were rent to fragments ; of the Great Goodwin was now left clear. I and how much blacker grows the night for cast a despairing glance at the town-lights the lurid glare of the lightning. I had seen and the beacons on shore ; the waves reached and admired storms at sea ; I had even en- nearly to my feet; I sank on my knees on joyed the elemental strife; but then I was the wet sand, and prayed as I had never on the safe shore, or in a stout ship, not on prayed. A loud report, sharper and more the Great Goodwin. Peal after peal, flash ringing than the deep tone of Heaven's artilafter flash, and the rain lashing my face as lery made me start: I looked up. Another I turned despairingly from side to side, gaz- report_a cannona signal. Did it promise ing out into the night. How the tide comes help? Ah, no. I bitterly felt that I had not on, like an invading host! The waves been missed ; I was a stranger ; no wife, no mounted rapidly as the wind increased, and mother, no friend, would ask anxiously after came leaping, wolfish and eager, up the me, much less seek me amid the waste of shore of the sandbank. The sea encroached waters. In no family circle would my abwith terrible speed; I saw yard after yard sence make a gap. There was no hope. of dry sand covered by the tumbling water : Bang! went the gun again. I saw the ruddy the billows grew in size like Frankenstein's flash and heard the sharp ring of the dismonster, and their clamor was as the hun-charge, and then I knew it was a signal of gry voices of beasts of prey. The wind distress. A rift in the clouds let in a parmoaned and shrieked fitfully as the storm tial flood of gray light, and I saw driving gathered strength. Ah! it was all very before the gale, a large two-masted vessel. well to lie on the smooth sand, basking in Whether this vessel had been schooner or the warm sunshine, and to indulge in pleas-brigantine, I could not tell, for only the ant fancies of Neptune and Amphitrite, of stumps of her masts were standing, and she their tritons in waiting, and nereid maids of heeled over fearfully, overweighted by the honor, and conch-shells, and mermaidens, mass of broken spars and torn rigging that and chariot drawn by dolphing it was all encumbered her side. The gun was fired very well to think of these things when I again, and a loud outcry of human voices expected to finish the evening with a nice rose at the same moment, and was swept little dinner at my hotel, and a comfortable away by the furious storm. The ship was bottle of the yellow-sealed wine. But now evidently rushing to her doom ; stem on, she marine things were hateful in my eyes. was driving towards the Goodwin. With a Still the pitiless sea came on, on. It drove dreadful crash, she struck upon the shoal, me back again and again. Very little dry embedding her bows in the sand ; the waves ground left now, and even that must be leaped over her in a white flood like a cataswallowed up in a short time. I remembered ract. But the sight I thus witnessed gave the curious French tale of the man who me new hope, and promised shelter. Even owned a magic slip of shagreen skin, which the wreck might be a refuge for a time; if shrank with every accomplished wish, and I could reach it, I should be reprieved at as it shrank, his life dwindled to the last least, and might have a chance of safety. span. Even so, but without the power of Splashing through the knee-deep water, I volition over the progress, I beheld my life reached the vessel, and by dint of great exshrinking and contracting, foot by foot, inch ertion got a grip of the bowsprit, an by inch

bled on board. As I reached the forecastle, Another eldritch scream-it was but a I could see that although the stern was swept white sea-gull, as before, that wheeled round by the waves, and the poop deluged, the me, piping out its plaintive cry, but I shud- greater part of the deck was free, Under dered at the sound. Nearer came the seeth- the bulwarks to leeward crouched two or ing water, eager for my life, hungering for three figures, dimly visible. I approached, its prey; and all this while the thunder I and found the group to be composed of an

scramas a seaman.

aged gentleman, whose white hair floated in air will go nigh to kill him, even should aid the wind, as his head was bare, and he was arrive." clinging to the bulwarks; a young lady, ap- I now noticed that while the old man had parently his daughter ; and a negro, dressed been tenderly wrapped in a boat-cloak and

The last lay insensible upon shawls, the daughter wore but a simple white the wet deck, and there were stains of blood wrapper, which she had probably put on on his sable face and woolly hair.

when hastily aroused from rest, and which Papa, here is help!” cried the girl as was wet through with the drizzling spray. she looked up and beheld a stranger. “We But she never complained ; and through a are saved."

long hour-an hour that seemed an age “Alas, no," said I sadly; “I am but a she was the one whose spirit quailed the least fellow-sufferer, not a deliverer. I have been in the presence of danger the most immileft by accident on this shoal, and have nent. The only hope we could entertain was scrambled on board the wreck as a drown- that the wreck might hold together until the ing man might catch at a straw. If the sig- lifeboat could arrive. The cannon must nals have been noticed on shore"

have been heard on shore, and the gallantry "O sir,” cried the young lady, " they of the Kentish boatmen was proverbial. have left us, cruelly deserted us, in spite of The waves beat upon the vessel with as much all we could urge.”

fury as if they were eager to end their cruel " Who?"

work before help could reach us. The The girl pointed to where a boat, full of schooner reeled from stem to stern beneath men, could be faintly descried, tossing on their blows, and quivered like a thing in the crest of an enormous wave.

pain. The planks groaned, the timbers “It is too true, sir,” said the old man in creaked ominously, and still the surges a feeble voice ; "the wretches have aban- mounted like warriors rushing to scale the doned the ship in a selfish, senseless panic. walls of a beleaguered fort. As the tide I warned them that no boat could live, and rose, the wreck became more deeply subassured them that our only hope was to stick merged, and the waves washed over the bul. to the wreck, and signal to the shore ; but warks, or swept along the deck, drenching they would not listen to me, because I was us afresh at every moment. The old man, only a passenger; the captain died a week benumbed by cold and wet, lay helpless ago, and the mate was coward enough to against the wooden screen, and never spoke take the lead in abandoning us.”

except when at intervals he muttered his " They will have brought the penalty on daughter's name, “Edith, Edith!” like a their own heads," said I, glancing to sea- sick child calling on his nurse. The young ward, “ for I am sure no common boat can lady, forgetful of herself, knelt beside him, reach the land in such a raging sea. Are and tried to chafe his cold hands and to you, sir, and this young lady the only pas- cheer up his failing spirits. Suddenly she sengers ?"

turned to me. “I have been thinking," she The girl replied in the affirmative; add- said, “ that if aid should arrive, our friends ing, that the vessel was a Spanish one, could not find the wreck in this dark night. bound from a South American port to Lon- We ought to show a light on one of those don.

broken masts." The justness of this ob“ We were the only English on board,” servation struck me. With great trouble, I said she, “and, as heretics, they had the opened the fore-hatch, went below, and after less compunction in deserting us. The only much groping, to my infinite delight, I manone of the crew left is this poor fellow the aged to secure a lantern and a box of black cook of the schooner—who has been matches. I lighted the lantern, carefully stunned by the fall of the topmast. I fear closed it, and returned to the deck. To he is badly hurt, poor man; but unless fasten the light thus obtained to the top of Providence watches over our safety, we shall one of the shattered masts, was less easy, none of us live to see the daybreak. My for the ship shook all over at every blow of father is in bad health, and I fear that the the waves, and the sloping position of the exposure to drenching spray and the night- deck rendered it hard to keep one's footing.

66

rose.

But for the help of that brave girl, I never were tossed high on the crest of a giant should have accomplished it, but we con- wave, now they were sunk so low in the holtrived at last to establish our sad little bea- low as to be hidden from our eyes, and then con. Its rays fell on the pale beauty of a they would re-appear, dripping, baffled, but lovely face, the face of a charming girl about true as steel. The waves leaped and roared nineteen, whose dishevelled hair, of a golden like lions, and we could hardly hold on, brown, flowed loosely in the wind. This while the boats were still out of reach. was the first glimpse I had had of her linea- Keep your hearts up, there !” called out ments, although from the clear melody of the rugged old steersman of the nearest her voice, I could have sworn that she was boat, as the gleam of the lantern fell on his beautiful.

bronzed face and grizzled hair. “Never deWe went back to our post beside the spair, my pretty lady, we'll not go back withbulwarks. Minutes flew by, long minutes, out you all. Pull, lads, altogether-pull, I for every nerve was strained to the utmost say." The oars flashed, dipped, and bent to tension, and death was around us, beneath the strain of eight pair of sturdy arms. The us, everywhere. The dreadful conviction boat darted in.

« Now heave the ropeforced itself upon me, that the ship was set- cool and steady, sir ; we'll not have another tling down in the sand. Meanwhile the tide chance mayhap." I flung it as steadily and

The waves now curled, white and strongly as I could. All our lives hung angry, over the side, overlapping the bul- upon that toss, I felt. Hurrah! the rope warks, and nearly washing us away. I did was caught, and in a moment the boat was what I could to shelter poor Edith, who de- alongside. Mr. Hethington—such was the voted all her care to her feeble parent, and old man's name—had to be lifted over the showed no fear. Suddenly she uttered a side, like the black sailor, who, poor fellow, loud cry, a cry that reached the ears even never recovered. We followed. In a minof the almost inanimate old man: “Saved, ute more, we were bounding over the wild saved ! I saw them, close to us!” and she sea, safe, by comparison, in a stout little held up her hands, clasped together as they craft that laughed at the rough weather, and were, and a flush of joy came over her beau- whose gallant crew knew every current and tiful face. I looked too. Yes, there was a sandbank of that dangerous coast. In less boat, a life-boat; another, a large smack, than two hours we were on shore. I have lugger-rigged, under a tiny modicum of little more to tell. Mr. Hethington, a rich storm-sail, and manned by brave seamen. man, on his recovery from the illness brought Words cannot picture our anxiety as they on by the hardships of that night, rewarded fought with the billows, and struggled to the brave fellows who had rescued him and approach us. Their oars were out, pulled his, with great liberality. The intimacy by strong and willing hands, and they faced which arose between us in that memthe angry sea with dauntless courage, as it orable scene of peril was not brought to beat them back, and spun them round, and close by its termination. I called at the dashed columns of water over them, so that Hethingtons' house on the first day of their several were employed in baling, while oth- coming to London; and I may as well meners rowed. We crawled as near the gang- tion briefly that I have been the happy husway as we dared. I had a rope ready to band of the fair Edith for more than two throw it to them, should they get within years past. reach, but every moment it seemed as if But neither of us will ever forget the hours they must perish or give up the generous we spent between life and death among the effort to save us. Manfully they battled Goodwin Sands. with the bursting. water; now their boats

From All the Year Round. Learn nothing, forget nothing, should have THE LAST OF THE LAST LEWISES. been the motto on that watch seal. Wise, We are told when the unhappy“ desired” witty ex-Bishop Talleyrand; he knew them king was sent away bloodily from the world, well. They will learn nothing and forget that Monseigneur the Count of Provence nothing, until—Not so long back, the writer plain "Sir" he was usually called—the of this has been told by one who paid his king's brother, immediately issued his proc- respects to another of these theatricals, who lamation from the obscure corner of West- calls himself Henry the Fifth, and who, we phalia. A magniloquent document, charac- may take it, has a provisional watch seal teristic to the last degree, and truly Bourbon, also, that this sham monarch received a numwhich set out with a flourish of this sort : ber of faithful gentlemen in his garden of a "Louis Stanislas Xavier of France, Son of freezing morning, and actually kept them France, Regent of the Kingdom, to all whom walking up and down with him listening to these presents shall come, greeting !” with his royal observations with their hats off. copious fanfaronade as to the duties laid on Do what we will, it is impossible not to him “by the immutable laws of the French think of him as a sort of transpontine Lewis monarchy.” It proceeds to lay down a sort a sort of Bourbon minor actor-playing upon of programme that reads very conically and Royal Victoria boards of his own. He is forBourbonish, distinguished with a primo and ever“ striking " an attitude of the mucsulas secundo, and a tertio; so as to keep all dis- and melodramatic flavor, and, having made tinct and accurate. “We” constitute our- his point, stands in his curls and fillet and royselves regent of the kingdom--at least over al pink fleshings, waiting the expected burst all “whom it may concern ; ” and have in of applause. Perhaps, could wehave stood view, primo, the rescue of the young king, near enough to listen, the royal accents and, secundo, the punishment of the “ fero- would have fallen into the traditional husky cious usurper," and, tertio, the delegation of cadences, condoling with the Duchess d’Adpowers to “our dearly beloved brother, goulême as his “chee-ild," and denouncing, Charles Philippe de France, whom we have in language of severe reprehension, all pernominated and appointed Lieutenant-Gen- sons who were disinclined to fly to the aid eral of the Kingdom.” This precious docu- of females in distress. ment collapses suddenly at the end, in unbe- Thus, when he is peeping out very caucoming bathos. For it is “given under our tiously from afar off, as it were over the ordinary sign manual, and seal, which we blinds, from a mean little chamber in Veshall use in all acts of sovereignty until the rona, where he had been given shelter, waitseals of the kingdom, destroyed by faction, ing—a sort of Bourbon Micawber—for some have been renewed.” A watch seal, it is to thing to turn up-that something being a be feared, was the prosaic substitute, and we crown-news arrives post of poor little can look into the little chamber and see the Capet's being worried out of the world. pantomimists at their work—the watch seal And straight some noble pauper gentlemen, being solemnly affixed by “ the Regent” in also on their keeping from the Jacobin baipresence of “the Lieutenant-General of the liffs, repair to the little chamber, and raise a Kingdom," and of the “Ministers of State.” feeble cry of “Ave Cæsar ! ” “Long live

We dare not laugh at these comic doings, Louis the Eighteenth!” You see, by the for it remains a fact that this miserable gas- canons of legitimacy and divine right, if conade actually hurried on the death of the there had been fatal omission of this great wretched boy, who was still a hostage in the form, the mischief would have been prodihands of his jailors. It was a dear sacrifice gious ; and Cæsar, stepping forward, proto make for that selfish putting on of a the-ceeds to “ strike a favorite Victoria attiatrical crown and tinsel green-room finery. tude, and acknowledges the compliment This would have been criminal in common gracefully. As a matter of course, there organizations ; but for that dull cerebral sap was some fine writing on the occasion, and which fills Bourbon crania we must have in a few cabinet ministers of the older and more dulgence. This, however, remains certain— respectable courts were bored by the receipt their mummery was the death of little Capet. of some solemn, long-winded proclamations,

99

« 이전계속 »