« ZurückWeiter »
who is an Englishwoman like you, will do all she can to make you comfortable. And I tell you what it is, Miss: if I was in any way pious, I should just thank the Almighty that I happened to see that there bit of a flag with my spy-glass as I was sailing along the coast at sun-up this morning, for I had no intention of putting in at this creek, but at one twenty miles along. And now, Miss, if you'll go aboard, some of us will stop and just tuck up the dead gentleman as well as we can."
Augusta thanked him from her heart, and, going into the hut, got her hat and the roll of sovereigns which had been Mr. Meeson's, but which he had told her to take, leaving the blankets to be brought by the
Then two of the sailors got into the little boat belonging to the Kangaroo, in which Augusta had escaped, and rowed her and Dick away from that hateful shore to where the whaler was lying at anchor. As they drew near, she saw the rest of the crew of the Harpoon, among whom was a woman, watching their advent from the deck, who, when she got her foot upon the companionladder, one and all set up a hearty cheer. In another moment she was on deck-which, notwithstanding its abominable smell of oil, seemed to her the fairest and most delightful place that her eyes had ever rested on -and being almost hugged by Mrs. Thomas, a pleasantlooking woman of about thirty, the daughter of a Suffolk farmer who had emigrated to the States. And then,
of course, she had to tell her story all over again; after which she was led off to the cabin occupied by the captain and his wife, and which thenceforth was occupied by Augusta, Mrs. Thomas, and little Dick, the captain shaking down where he could. And here, for the first time for nearly a week, she was able to wash and dress herself properly. And oh, the luxury of it! Nobody knows what the delights of clean linen really mean till he or she has been forced to dispense with it under circumstances of privation; nor have they the slightest idea of what a difference to one's well-being and comfort is made by the possession or non-possession of an article so common as a comb. Whilst Augusta was still combing out her hair with sighs of delight, Mrs. Thomas knocked at the door and was admitted.
"My, Miss! what beautiful hair you have, now that it is combed out!" she said in admiration; "why, whatever is that upon your shoulders?"
Then Augusta had to tell the tale of the tattooing, which by the way, it struck her, it was wise to do, seeing that she thus secured a witness to the fact that she was already tattooed on leaving Kerguelen Land, and that the operation had been of such recent infliction that the flesh was still inflamed with it. This was the more necessary as the tattooing was undated.
Mrs. Thomas listened to the story with her mouth open, lost between admiration at Augusta's courage, and regret that her neck should have been ruined in that fashion.
"Well, the least that he" (alluding to Eustace) "can do is to marry you after you have spoilt yourself in that fashion for his benefit," said the practical Mrs. Thomas.
"Nonsense! Mrs. Thomas," said Augusta, blushing violently, and stamping her foot with such energy that her hostess jumped.
There was no reason why she should give an innocent remark such a warm reception; but then, as the reader will no doubt have observed, the reluctance that some young women show to talking of the possibility of their marriage to the man they happen to have set their hearts on, is only equalled by the alacrity with which they marry him when the time comes.
Having set Dick and Augusta down to a breakfast of porridge and coffee, which both of them thought delicious, though the fare was really rather coarse, Mrs. Thomas, being unable to restrain her curiosity, rowed off to the land to see the huts and also Mr. Meeson's remains, which, though not a pleasant sight, were undoubtedly an interesting one. With her, too, went most of the crew, bent upon the same errand, and also on obtaining water, of which the Harpoon was short.
As soon as she was left alone, Augusta went back to the cabin, taking Dick with her, and laid herself down on the berth with a feeling of safety and thankfulness to which she had long been a stranger, where very soon she fell sound asleep.
WHEN Augusta opened her eyes again she became conscious of a violent rolling motion that she could not mistake. They were at sea.
She got up, smoothed her hair, and went on deck, to find that she had slept for many hours, for the sun was setting. She walked aft to where Mrs. Thomas was sitting near the wheel with little Dick beside her, and after greeting them, turned to watch the sunset. The sight was a beautiful one enough, for the great waves, driven by the westerly wind, which in these latitudes is nearly always blowing half a gale, were rushing past them wild and free, and the sharp spray from their foaming crests struck upon her forehead like a whip. The sun was setting, and the arrows of his dying light flew fast and far across the billowy bosom of the deep. Fast and far they flew from the stormy glory in the west, lighting up the pale surfaces of cloud, and tinging the grey waters of that majestic sea with a lurid hue of blood. They kissed the bellying sails, and seemed to rest upon the vessel's lofty trucks, and then travelled on and away and away, through the great em
pyrean of space till they broke and vanished upon the horizon's rounded edge. There behind them-miles behind-Kerguelen Land reared its fierce cliffs against the twilight sky. Clear and desolate they towered in an unutterable solitude, and on their snowy surfaces the sunbeams beat coldly as the warm breath of some human passion beating on Aphrodite's marble heart.
Augusta gazed upon those drear cliffs that had so nearly proved her monumental pile, and shuddered. It was as a hideous dream.
And then the dark and creeping shadows of the night threw their veils around and over them, and they vanished. They were swallowed up in blackness, and she lost sight of them and of the great seas that for ever beat and churn about their stony feet; nor, except in dreams, did she again set her eyes upon their measureless solitude.
The night arose in strength and shook a golden dew of stars from the tresses of her streaming clouds, till the wonderful deep heavens sparkled with a myriad gemmy points. The west wind going on his way sung a wild chant amongst the cordage, and rushed among the sails as with a rush of wings. The ship leaned over like a maiden shrinking from a kiss, then, shivering, fled away, leaping from billow to billow as they rose and tossed their white arms about her, fain to drag her down and hold her to ocean's heaving breast.
The rigging tautened, and the huge sails flapped in thunder as the Harpoon sped upon her course, and all