Illustration added by editor of this hypertext edition only.
"Didn't I send him off purty quick that day, captain!" said Paul to Captain Walters when, the bustle of departure bemg over, and the Mersey cleared, that gentleman had time to attend to private matters. " I'm thinkin' I soon cleared the stairs of him."
"You're a brick, Paul!" said the captain with a goodhumored smile; "my wife, who overheard all that passed, has a high, opinion of you ever since."
"0h me, your honor !" said Paul with becoming modesty, "why the lady is very good to think of me at all -- it's what I couldn t expect."
"But tell me this, Paul, if it be a fair question: what hold have you on this individual -- my wife says you seem to have him entirely under control."
"Well ! the question is fair enough, your honor," said Paul assuming a very innocent look, "but I'd rather not answer it at this time, for a little reason I have. No offense I hope, captain!"
"Oh! not the slightest, my good fellow! on second thoughts, I'm better pleased not to hear it. Secrets are heavy loads to carry, and I have no notion of troubling myself with other people's burdens. Only mind you keep a sharp look-out, as I will myself, and I think the two of us will certainly be a match for your friend's cunning!"
"There's another on the watch now, captain, so the deuce is in it if Herbert plays any pranks here."
"Who is the other, pray?"
" Oh bedad, a man that ought to be able to clear a fair any day, if his courage is equal to his size. Ite's the biggest man on board, your honor, and a blood relation of the little colleen's."
Hearing this the captain laughed heartily. "Truly," said he, " the little colleen, as you call her, has no lack of protection. Seeing that I have the Garrick and a dainty little wife to look after, I think r may safely leave Bess to yourself and the biggest man on board -- the least and the greatest, ha! ha! ha!"
" 'Deed you may, captain, 'deed you may, sir ! I'll do the business, Ned an' -- that's Ned Finigan, sir !"
It was wearing on towards evening, and a clear, bright evenlng, too. The cabin passengers were nearly all on the promenade deck enjoying the beauty of sky and sea, some pacing to and fro in solitary musing, others arm in arm with friends or acquaintances in lively and familiar conversation. Some were lounging idly and listlessly on the freshly-painted settees placed in a double row midway along the deck. One was leaning over the taffrail looking moodily down on the green waves as they rolled along in crested majesty towards the fast receding shores of England. Of what was he thinking, that lonely man, young and handsome, and of gentlemanly bearing? Why did he keep himself thus aloof from his fellow-passengers at the time when all were impelled to break down at once the icy barriers of reserve and make the acquaintance of those with whom they were bound to associate for some weeks at least? Was it sorrow for leaving home, and t friends, and native land? or was it anxious fears and doubts regarding his success in the New World? was the shadow that hung over him from the future or from the past?
None could tell what was passing in the young man's mind, except it might be Paul Brannigan whose large head and elfln eyes were visible at one end of the deck where he stood
on the companion-ladder eyeing the solitary watcher with a Inn half humorous half malicious. It was like a cat watching a mouse of whose final capture she was sufficiently certain. After gazing a few moments with that sort of basilisk expres sion which must have fascinated the other had he turned towards him, the head disappeared, its owner being doubtless satisfied with his observation.
But still the young man stirred not. His eyes were fixed in deep thought, and gradually a darker expression overspread hie features, and his brows contracted with an wary frown.
" What a fool they take me for!" he said within himself, " to think that I -- I -- Henry Herbert -- am leaving friends and country to follow a smooth-faced country girl across the ocean ! Her own conceit led her into that notion when she saw me on board, and, of course, I didn t put her off the scent. Well ! I believe I have a fancy for the girl, but nothinglike what she and others seem to suppose. But then that abominable hunchback -- to think of him starting up as if the Old Boy sent him on purpose to torment me, just when I thought I was rid of him anyhow. He haunts me like a ghost -- go where I will I cannot shake him of. Is it fate -- or -- or what ? But why does he follow me in this way? what vain would my exposure be to him? No matter how it is, I must only put a bold face on the matter, and keep him of the track the best way I can -- ha! ha! let him follow his cursed nose and that will do for the present ! raise your head now. Henrv Herbert, like a man ! and drive dull care away -- sorrow 's time enough when it comes, my boy !"
By the time Herbert had reached this conclusion the weather had undergone a remarkable change. Dark masses of clouds were gathering around the setting sun, and the billows were heaving with sudden and strong commotion. All at once the seamen were observed moving hither and thither with in creased activity, and the deep voices of the officers were heard fore and aft giving orders:
"Reef the top -- sail ther!" -- "Haul in the lanyards!"
The passengers on deck were all more or less alarmed by the sudden change in the weather and the corresponding movements amongst the crew. Captain Walters came himself, too, and spoke in nautical phrase to the man at the wheel, a sturdy mariner of mature years.
" Tack about," said he, " and keep to windward -- look out for the Irish coast !"
"Ay, ay, sir!" The seaman's heavy features were stirred by no emotion, but hard and fast he turned the wheel, as beneath his guiding hand the vessel slowly turned her head, and she reeled like a drunken man as the rising breeze shook her shrouds and bent her taper spars. The helmsman looked up at the darkening sky whence the sun had long since vanished, and he smiled grimly at the captain who was watching his face.
"No sleep tonight, Bill!" said the captain in a lower voice.
"Mayhap more than we bargain for," was the curt and gloomy reply. The captain nodded and turned away quickly. He was instantly beset by an anxious crowd of the passengers, chiefly of the gentler sex.
" GIood heavens, Captain Walters ! is there any danger?"
" Dear me, captain ! are we going to have a storm?"
" Only a squall, madam ! only a squall."
" But ts there any danger ?"
" I hope not -- be so good as to let me pass, ladies!"
" But what are we to do?"
" Keep quiet -- that is all."
Captain Walters was a good-natured man and a gentleman, moreover, but to be thus hemmed in at such a moment and besieged with what he considered idle questions was more than flesh and blood could bear. So he began to elbow one out of his way here and another there, and at last succeeded In making his retreat to the companion-ladder, muttering between his teeth:
"Those good old monks were about right after all. Plague on them for women!"
When the captain had done all that he could to provide for the safety of the vessel, the storm beginning to rage with great violence, he stole for a moment from his arduous duties to see how his wife was affected by the threatening aspect of affairs. He found her pale, calm and collected, sitting, or trying to sit, by a table in their little cabin, whilst Bessy Conway knelt in a corner saying her beads aloud and with great fervor
"Well, Addie, my dear!" said the captain with a forced smile, as he took his wife's hand and pressed it between his own, "this is rather a stiff breeze we've got -- all of a sudden, too. I hope you're not frightened !"
"Well no, not exactly frightened, William, but -- but a storm is always awful."
"Yes, yes, but my little wife has seen the Garrick weather worse storms than this is -- yet. If we can only keep clear of that dreary Irish coast till the gale has spent its fury, I have no fears for the rest. The Carrie is strong enough for any breeze, if she have but sea-room. Keep up your heart, my precious one ! for as yet there is no immediate danger."
" I will, dear, I wills" said the wife in a low tone, " but oh t William, if I could only pray -- if I could -- but I cannot. "
" Why, I think you have no need to trouble yourself, Addie," said the captain with a poor attempt at laughing. "If praying will do, this girl of yours appears to be praying enough for both. Goodbye ! sweetheart, I will come aaain as soon as I can."
"For God's sake, do, William! I am not afraid, but oh ! it is a fearful storm !"
"Can't you go join the other ladies for company ?"
"Oh no ! no ! I am better alone -- their company would but make me worse ! -- but go, William, go ! let me not detain you a moment. Oh God ! what a tempest !" she cried, as the door slammed after her husband and the ship plunged down into the ocean depths.
"Say your prayers, ma'am dear !" said Bessy, whose pale cheek and quivering lip testified her emotion though she tried to appear composed; " say your prayers -- God will hear them!" Mrs. Walters involuntarily sank on her knees and buried her face in her hands
The ladies' cabin was by this time a scene of wild confusion. Some were crying and wringing their hands, some fainting away with terror, others endeavoring to console and encourage others, like Bessy Conway, kneeling in fervent supplication to the throne of Mercy. Husbands and fathers and brothers were there, some of them trying to keep up the failing spirits of their female relatives, others moodily pondering on the probable termination of the scene.
The sea was raging mountains high, and the hatches were nailed down by the captain's orders to protect all below from the ravages of the angry waters which ever and anon came sweeping over the deck with resistless fury. Amid the wild roar of the hurricane and the sound of rushing billows came dolefully from below the cries of the steerage and second cabin passenvers, terrified by the convulsive motions of the laboring vessel whose stout ribs cracked and quivered in the fierce blast
It was a dismal chorus, raging winds, storm-tossed waves and the voice of human anguish. And the scene which met the eye was no less dreary, whether one looked up to the pitchy sky or down to the boiling ocean or forward to the dickering lights which marked the rocky coast of Ireland. It would seem at first that the promenade deck, so lately crowded with well-dressed men and women, was now left to the wild solitude of the waters, and the motionless form of Bill, who was still at his post, "lashed to the helm." Not so, there was another there, another silent spectral-looking figure leaning against the capstan with folded arms, as though unconscious or at least regardless of the elemental war around him and the imminent danger to which he thus exposed himself.
Was it the demon of the stonn contemplating his own work and exulting in its ravages? No such thing, it was Henry Herbert who, sick of the scene in the cabin, had managed to make his way back thither, where he could at least see the extent of the danger. Seeing him there, the helmsman could at first hardly believe his eyes, and when once convinced of the reality of the vision, he supposed him one of those supernatural beings who figure so oft in the seaman's tales of wonder, and with great sang froid settled it in his own mind that it was Davy Jones himself come to look after the Garrick. In truth he was a wild unearthly figure, as he stood there in the black starless night, his uncovered head exposed to the fury of the elements, and his Hch brown hair dripping with the briny spray. His face was pale as a sheeted corpse, and his eyes were wild and haggard, as the fast-flashing lightning shone on his unsheltered form. His thoughts were of death -- death and judgment, but not of repentance. Fear and despair were in his soul, for he thought the hour of venĘeance was at hand and the arm of (pod raised to smite him. He had heard of eternal perdition, and he had laughed many a time at that "cock and bull story" -- now he felt its dread reality and began to feel what it was to fall into the hands of an angry God.
Hark ! was that an echo from within or without ? was that voice from heaven, or earth, or hells Again it spoke and Herbert's heart sank within him, and the blood in his veins ran cold as ice, and the hair on his head bristled up as if instinct with horror.
" Henry Herbert !" said the voice at his elbow, " does this night put you in mind of anything ? ha! ha! ha!" the laugh sounded dreary and sepulchral to Henry's ear, and he trembled from head to foot.
" Ho ! ho ! ho !" said the voice again, lowly and slowly, but fearfully distinct, "that was a brave stirring night in the place you know, when the winds, and the thunder, and the lightning were at work, and the sperits were peepin' in at the windows where they daren't put their noses -- eh. Henry ! wasn't it great fun entirely?"
"H ! it is you, then, misbegotten fiend ! I know you now, ' and turning with the fury of a maniac, Herbert clutched the thick bushy hair of the hunchback and held him fast.
" Ho ! ho ! ho ! do you mean to kill me!"
" I'll throw you overboard, I will by the " "Don't for your life swear an oath," said the little man stoutly, " you've brought this on us all -- don't make matters worse by your curses ! I know you're not hardened enough for murder, an' I don't want to expose you --
" You don't?" said Herbert scoffingly.
" No, I don't -- if I did it isn't there you'd be but out in the say, for if I only gave the sailors a hint of the thing you sailors, all the captains livin' wouldn't save you, for they'd think it was you brought the storm on us -- an', God knows, but may be it is! you raised it that other night as sure as death is death ! "
" What brought you here?" shrieked Herbert, but he let go his grasp.
" What brought yourself here?" screamed the hunchback, elevating his shrill voice to the highest, and he chuckled at the thought of how nicely he had tricked the sailors when they drove all the rest down below and nailed the hatches on them, the creature !
"There they go," said the man at the wheel, "Lord ha' mercy! two of our poor fellows washed overboard! Down! down for your lives !"
Herbert flung himself down and wound his arms around the capstan; well for him he did, for the next moment a heavy sea washed the deck and surged over his prostrate head -- as it retired and left him in the same position. At the same moment a fearful crash was heard, and again the helmsman spoke:
"There ! the main mast's gone !"
"I hope to the Lord he's gone, to !" said Herbert to himself
as he scrambled to his feet. Little affected by the wonderful escape he had had, or even by the fatal event which had just taken place, lessening so fearfully their chance of ultimate safety, he thought only of the possibility that the waves had rid him once for all of the troublesome little hunchbaek. Another flash of lightning convinced him of his error, for within a few feet of him, kneeling close to the bulwark was the crouching form of Paul Brannigan, his hands clasped iu prayer, and his eyes raised through the awful depths of darkness overhead to the throne of the God of mercy.
The curse that rose to Herbert's lips was choked in his mouth by another fearful billow rolling over him, and stunned by the overwhelming force of the waters he lost all consciousness. The last sound that reached his ear as he sank on the deck was the halfsmothered voice of the helmsman answering a call from some of the of sailors. " Great God of heaven ! we are drifting on the rocks!" was Herbert's last thought. He heard or saw no more.
During all this time Bessy Conway was kneeling beside her mistress, now powerless with terror, now praying all the Court of Heaven to be propitious. At times she grew quite eloquent in urging her petition, addressing in particular the Blessed Mother of Christians.
" Oh ! dear Mother Mary !" she said with fervor, " you know you are called the Star of the Sea! -- all is dark with us now and we have no other star to give us light ! -- you're the Help of Christians, too, oh Blessed Mother ! Help us now, then, in our sore, sore need ! -- don't let us perish here on this dreadful ocean where we'd never get Christian burial -- I know, I know there's many a poor creature in this ship on their knees to you at this time -- hear our prayers, then, and don't desert your own poor children in the hour of need !"
Mrs. Walters listened half amused, half edified, and when Be.ssy was again silent she said to her with a dreary smile:
" I only wish your ' dear mother,' as you eall her, coxed hear your prayer and do something for us !"
" She can do it, Mrs. Walters, dear ! she can, and she will!"
The lady shook her head with a sad smile, and groaned in anguish as the shrieks and cries came louder from the adjoining cabin. Just then the fall of the mainmast made the ship's timbers quiver.
" Oh, Bessy, Bessy !" said the horror-stricken mistress, there's our mainmast gone ! -- there is little chance now ! -- oh ! my husband ! my dear husband ! why -- why does he not come to me?" And the lady wrung her white hands in anguish.
The sight of her despair made Bessy forget her own share in the danger. Keep up your heart, my dear mistress !" she said with tearful eyes, "my mother told me comin' away to remember always that ' God never deserts them that don't desert Him' -- now you'll sec what He'll do for us -- oh ! Blessed Mother ! what's that?"
The huge vessel gave a roll and a plunge and appeared to settle on one side.
"Oh God! oh God! she's going down!" Mrs.Walters cried in mortal terror.
" No, she isn't, ma'am dear ! she'll not go down!" answered Bessy. Back with another plunge went the ship to her former position, and at the same moment Captain Walters burst into the room, his face radiant with joy.
" Joy, Addie ! joy !" he cried catching his wife in his arms, " the wind has suddenly tacked about and is bearing us off the land -- the weather is calmer, too, than it was !"
His wife could not answer from excess of joy, but Bessy jumped to her feet and clapped her hands. " I knew it," she cried, " I knew it -- didn't I tell you, ma'am, that God and the Blessed Virgin would befriend us ? ha ! ha ! ha ! sure I knew it vell enough!" And the excited girl burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, which at any other time would have startled and amazed the hearers. But for them they heeded her not
at all, being far too much absorbed in their own happiness to pay any attention to their little servant girl.
" Well, Lord bless me !" said Bessy to herself to be such good people as they are, isn't it curious how little thought of plod they have !"
" Do you think we're safe now, William q" asked Mrs. Walters.
" I'd fain hope so, my dear ! '
" And no one lost ?"
" I wish I could say yes," replied the captain, and his conntenance fell.
" Why who -- who is missing ?"
" Two of the crew—Sam Jones and Hal Herrick !"
" Dear ! dear ! how did that happen?"
" Washed overboard ! Goodbye, Addie ! I must go see the cabin passengers and relieve their fears !"
" And the steerage, sir?" said Bessy in a timid voice
" Oh ! they're all right, my girl," said the good-natured captain, "they're safe under the hatches, but we must keep them there till the danger is entirely over!" He had opiate i the door to go out, but started back with an exclamation of surprise:
" Why, who the mischief have we here?"
" It's only me, captain dear !" squeaked a shrill voice from the midst of a dripping bundle of clothes as it seemed at first then throwing back the cape of an oldfashioned "biff coat" in which he was enveloped, the ungainly form of the hunchback stood revealed.
" For the love of God let me in!" cried Paul in piteous acoents, whilst the captain stared at him in blank surprise.
" Where did you come from?" he asked with a strone temphtion to laugh.
" From the deck overheads your honor ! -- sure I hid myself for fear of bein' nailed down below, -- an' I wish I hadn't -- if I had only taken my chance with the rest, it's better of I'd be now."
" Let the poor fellow in," said Mrs. Walters. The hunchback tumbled in accordingly, while the captain laughed and passed on.
"God's blessin' be about you, ma'am," said Paul, " I hope you'll never want a shelter. Sure I wouldn't know where on earth to go to only I saw the light in your little windows here. There's another poor devil amost dead up above. I don't know but he's clean gone by this time "
" And who is that?" said Mrs. Walters compassionately.
" Well ! it's only an unlucky good-for-nothing of the name of Herbert !" said Paul with a stealthy glance at Bessy. " He's one of the cabin passengers whatever kept him on deck—"
"Did you say he vas lost?" asked Bessy in avoice that trembled in spite of her.
"Well ! he's not lost, a colleen, so long as a body know where he is ! But I'm not sure that the life is in him, for all he's sittin' propped up on the deck. I tried hard to do what I could for him, but it wasn't much—he had no sense or feelin' in him when I left him."
" Dear me ! is there no one there to look after him?" said Mrs. Walters anxiously. " Why, he should be seen to at once. I wish the captain had known."
" If only knew where it was, ma'am, I'd try and make him out,"'said Bessy with a blushing cheek; " it's hard to leave a Christian there at the mercy of the waves and the wind. Maybe he is dead by this time, as the decent man says."
" But how can thee help him, Bessy? -- it would be as much as your life or mine would be worth to venture out on the quarter-deck now !—remember the storm is not all over yet and the waves are washing the deck every few moments. '
" The more need to try and save him, ma'am -- oh think -- think of his poor soul! -- I'll go, Mrs. Walters, in God's name -- you'll see I'll save him."
"The girl's right,ma'am,"said the hunchback gathering himself up; " bad as he is, it wouldn't do to leave him where
(48) he is -- come along, Bessy ! I'll show you the way, and help you what I can."
"Well if you must go -- go!" said Mrs. Walters; "I do feel a little anxious myself. If you find him, bring him here!
"If we find him !" repeated Bessy in a low voices as she followed the hunchback, "Oh God forbid we didn't! Only for me he wouldn't be here," she said within herself, "and it will go hard with me or I'll save him!"
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