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His troubled disciples, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid." And through the darkness and the storm I seemed to hear the clear tones of that gentle voice saying once more after the lapse of ages, “It is I, be not afraid.” And if He, indeed, were there, and had He not said to His followers, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,”—and why should He not be there in our hour of need, on the angry waters of the English Channel as on the surging sea of Galilee, though our eyes being holden we might not discern the formand face of Him in whom we trusted ?—if He, indeed, were there, why need we fear? It was a great comfort to think that Christ in heaven knew our need, that He had shared our frail humanity, and that He would surely guide our little boat in safety, and take us back again to shore, or else—take us quickly into port, into the haven of joy unspeakable and everlasting peace. And ringing in my ears were the words of a favourite old song of Charlie Craven's
Come to Thy God in time,
Come to Thy God at last.” Ah! should I ever see Charlie again? That was as God willed it. And I should surely see him in the world beyond the grave. And as a great wave broke over us and drenched me with bitter brine, I thought how surprised Martin and Margery would be that I followed them so quickly into the kingdom.
And still we struggled on, fighting that cruel sea with dauntless spirit; and at last we came near the ship, so near that we could see the eager pale faces on board, straining out into the livid darkness and watching our approach. Now we seemed almost alongside the vessel ; she was going to pieces rapidly, rolling and pitching wildly, and the savage rocks grinding her at every turn; and now a mighty wave rose up between us and the wreck, and shut it from our sight. To get to the ill-fated ship seemed at first impossible, for she was whirled about as if she had been a toy-ship instead of a stately East Indiaman of some hundreds of tons burden; and we could hear her timbers creaking and splitting as she lurched heavily upon the Cupples, the name of the reef upon which she had grounded.
Suddenly, so suddenly, that at the moment it appeared little less than a miracle, the wind dropped, the blinding rain ceased, and the clouds, parting overhead, dispelled the unnatural darkness, which had awed us even more than the great tempest. We could see our position as well as that of those we came, if possible, to succour. Right on the breast of a great broad wave we were borne to the ship's side. We flung out our ropes, and in another minute the captain and I were on board the wreck. She had got out her own lifeboat, and it was already full of women and children; but no one knew the shore, and they had scarce a hope that the boat would live to reach the land. One of our crew went with them to steer; the rest of us took the crew and the few remaining passengers aboard as fast as we could ; it was a work of difficulty and of danger. Happily there were not so many passengers as usual; a large number of French people, bomeward bound, had been landed at Bordeaux, and the crew had not its usual complement. We saw every man, woman, and child safe off the wreck, which, just as we were leaving her, parted amidships. Then we rowed for dear life, for our freight was heavy enough, and sank us perilously deep; also we feared to be struck or capsized by some flying spar or floating timber of the shattered vessel, which was going to pieces and drifting with the tide rapidly.
But the wind and the tide did us good service as soon as we were clear of the Tarbutt and the treacherous Cupples. We were soon in deep water, and then it scarcely needed our oars to speed us to the shore. We returned in a quarter of the time it had taken us to get out to the ship. The other lifeboat followed closely in our wake, and so we got to land. But before we could set a man ashore fragments of the wreck were washed up at the feet of those who awaited our arrival.
Not a life lost, not a person injured, so far as we knew, thank God!
CHAPTER XXVII.-MY VISITOR. There was no lack of hospitality that day, and the shipwrecked mariners were easily disposed of. By the time we got to land the beach was lined with people, for news of what was happening had reached Dovercourt, and all the village had turned out to cross the heights and come down to the scene of action. The crew for the most part were sheltered among the fishermen in the Chine. Mr. Drew and the landlord of the Dovercourt Arms, Mr. Dumbleton and others, carried off the passengers. The captain fell to my share ; I invited him to come and take his Christmas dinner with me at the Gate-house.
I had half-scolded Rebecca for making a plum-pudding and getting in a fine piece of sirloin of beef; anything like feasting seemed so incongruous in the house of mourning. But Rebecca had replied, “Sure, Master Hugh, we must go on eating; the blessed dears that are gone would never wish us to starve ourselves, I'm sure, and on Christmas-day of all days in the year. And it's not more inconsistent with real grief and a proper respect to eat beef than to eat mutton, and a pudding is really no worse than bread and butter. Besides, we can give away what we do not want ourselves."
I was very glad now that I had yielded to Rebecca, though I am afraid she would have done exactly as she chose even had I not succumbed. She gave me all honour as the master," but then I knew that she held that “the best of the men-creatures were a little daft at times.''
Rebecca had stopped at home to roast the beef and boil the pudding, and my solitary dinner was to be served at two o'clock precisely. It was now almost half-past three, but news of the wreck had reached the Gate-house, and she concluded that I had gone down to the shore after morning service; so at once she“ backened the dinner,” whatever that may mean, and waited patiently till I made my appearance. Mr. Dumbleton had called too, and told her that I was coming presently and bringing a gentleman with me, so she was fully prepared, and had made up roaring fires, and laid another knife and fork forthwith. ,
“And to think you've been out with the lifeboat, Master Hugb,” she said, after we had conferred about lodging our stranger guest. “I knew you'd be down on the beach, for you and mischief must go together, I know ; indeed, I would have gone myself if it hadn't been for the dinner. Oh ! dear me, if I had only known where you were I should never have had the heart to baste the meat or to get the vegetables ready."
“I am glad you did not know then, and I am glad I let you have your own way in the matter of the dinner. I thought of your beef and pudding when I invited Captain Hyde; I should scarcely have ventured to ask him to dine on cold mutton and bread and cheese.”
“To be sure. I knew you would see the sense of it, though you were so hard upon me yesterday after the funeral. It seemed to me the queerest thing in the world that we should eat cold boiled
scrag of mutton or pick bare beef-bones, for there was nothing left but bones and fat. Those men, the bearers, ate so hearty, and there was a double set of them; and as for that undertaker, I should think he hadn't had his belly full since the summer. What was I saying ? Oh! it seemed queer that we should pick bones because master and mistress had gone to heaven. And now you'll just enjoy a nice hot dinner. It's as fine a piece of beef as ever I cooked, and none the worse for being backened. I put on the potatoes the moment I saw you coming. As for the pudding, why you know you can't boil a handsome plum-pudding too long."
I didn't know, but I supposed Rebecca did, for she had quite established her fame as a genius in cookery. It did seem odd though that one might go on boiling a plum-pudding the whole year round and it be none the worse.
Rebecca continued, “So that's all right; and the cheese is good, and I've got up a splendid head of celery, and a stick of horseradish, and I've made some mustard that will bite your tongue; and Mrs. Miller has sent down a big raised pie of some sort, and mincepies, and sweets, and a lot of hothouse grapes. She might have known we were going to have company. Oh, we shall do!”
“Do! I should think so. And now, Rebecca, dish up as fast as you can, for I am furiously hungry, and of course the captain is half-starved. I'm downright glad it's not the residue of the mutton.”
Thus adjured, Rebecca bustled about in the kitchen. We had bestowed our guest in my own room, as it was the best in the house, and a fire had been lighted in it since morning. When I had changed my clothes, and made myself generally presentable, I went to the Gate-chamber to see if the captain was ready to descend. I had given him some of Martin's clothes, for mine would have been useless, I being a slim youth, and he a stout, middle-aged gentleman; and when I entered the room, I was for a moment startled at the sight of the familiar garments, especially the dressing-gown—the marchioness's last present to the dear old manwhich Captain Hyde had folded over his knees, very much as Martin habitually did when he could persuade himself to take the liberty of wearing “her leddyship's gradely goun.”
But I was not the only person who was startled. My visitor rose from his arm-chair by the fire, and faced me as I came into the room.
I think he was advancing to meet me, but after about two steps he stopped as if suddenly rooted to the ground, and seemed as if he were determined to stare me out of countenance. Of course I stared again; I began to be afraid the man's anxiety and misfortune had turned his brain, for there was nothing in my appearance to cause so much astonishment, not to say consternation. His face was paler than when I first spoke with him on board his sinking ship, and I perceived that he drew his breath quickly and painfully. And then this was not our first interview: he had spoken with me before unmoved except, by the danger and distress which pressed so sorely on him. I had only washed my face and brushed up my hair, and changed my drenched clothes ; that was all!
“Captain Hyde, is anything the matter?” I asked as quietly as I could.
The sound of my voice did not seem to reassure hiin; he turned, if possible, paler than before, and said, “For God's sake, what is your name?
Can the sea give up its dead ? " "My name is Hugh Travis, at your service.”
And I gave a great gulp, because I could not add-Vassall This continual repression, as it were, of my true identity was becoming insupportable; I felt, I knew that it was not to be borne much longer.
“Travis! Ah! I thought it must be—Vassall! And yet
It was my turn to start now, and turn pale and red by turns. “Why did you think so ? ” I asked, scarce knowing what I said.
“Because you are the living image of a man whom I loved better than my own life-a man whom I buried in deep-sea tropical waters almost seventeen years ago! When I heard your voice from the lifeboat, it sounded familiar, and I thought I must have met you somewhere before-I meet so many people, you see, in my travels by land and by water; your face too seemed not at all strange, but you looked so differently in that shaggy pilot jacket, and your hat tied over your head with that thing of a plaid. Now I see you as you are, and you might be my own old captain of the Wild Duck risen from the dead! Only-fool that I am-I forgot how time
he would have been a man of my own age by this time, not a stripling such as you are,—though you are a right gallant stripling, sir. Still, Hugh Vassall had a son—dear me! how he used to talk about his baby-boy at home; and you might well have been he! Of course you are not, or your name would be his, not Travis."
To describe my feelings would be impossible ; what could I say? To deny my parentage was not to be thought of; and yet I dared not speak the truth—the truth in which I only gloried. I was so proud of being Hugh Vassall's son, and yet I could not proclaim myself as such. Oh, mother! mother! why did you do it; or, having done it, why did you not leave me in far-away Cumberland to claim kindred only with the humble Wrays ? I knew that my face was crimson, that my lips trembled, that large hot tears which I could scarcely repress were starting to my eyes. I had wondered whether Captain Hyde had become suddenly insane; what must he not imagine concerning me?
“I beg your pardon," he said presently; "I am afraid I have said something painful, something that I had better have left unsaid?” And he looked much concerned.
“No, no," I replied hurriedly, for the life of me not knowing how to answer him.
“And yet what you said did suggest some painful thoughts. I know I am like Captain Vassall; I have been told so more than once. Also I have seen his portrait, and I think I really do resemble him, only I am not nearly so handsome. I am very proud to be like him, for he was a truly good man!”
“More! far more than that!” cried Captain Hyde, impulsively grasping my hand; "he was noble as he was good; he was clever, kind,-always kind to the poorest and the most erring. He did not preach religion much, but he simply lived it. Perhaps I shoula best honour his memory if I said that his life was truly Christ-like. My face was all aglow now with something that was not con