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The Stolen Singer
by Martha Idell Fletcher Bellinger
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"No, dear friend, not yet," said Melanie, drawing away her hand, yet not very quickly after all. "There is much yet to say to you, and I have been wondering how to say it, but I shall do it now. Like the heroes in the novels," she smiled again, "I am going to tell you the story of my life."

"Good!" said Aleck. "All ready for chapter one. But your maid wants you at the door."

"Go away, Sophie," said Melanie. "Serve luncheon to Madame Reynier alone. I shall wait; and you'll have to wait, too, poor man!" She looked scrutinizingly at Aleck. "Or are you, perhaps, hungry? I'm not going to talk to a hungry man," she announced.

"Not a bite till I've heard chapter thirty-nine!" said Aleck.

In a moment she became serious again.

"I have lived in England and here in America," she began, "long enough to understand that the differences between your people and mine are more than the differences of language and climate; they are ingrained in our habits of thought, our education, our judgments of life and of people. My childhood and youth were wholly different from yours, or from what an American girl's could be; and yet I think I understand your American women, though I suppose I am not in the least like them.

"But I, on the other hand, have seen the dark side of life, and particularly of marriage. When I was a child I was more important in my own country than I am now, since it seemed then that my father would succeed to the throne. I was brought up to feel that I was not a woman, but a pawn in the game of politics. When I had been out of the convent for a year or more, I loved a youth, and was loved in return, but our marriage was laughed at, put aside, declared impossible, because he was of a rank inferior to my own. My lover disappeared, I know not where or how. Then affairs changed. My father died, and it transpired that I had been officially betrothed since childhood to Duke Stephen's brother, the Count Lorenzo. The duke was my guardian, and there was no one else to whom I could appeal; but the very week set for the wedding I faced the duke and declared I would never marry the count. His Highness raged and stormed, but I told him a few things I knew about his brother, and I made him see that I was in earnest. The next day I left Krolvetz, and the duke gave out that I was ill and had gone to a health resort; that the wedding was postponed. I went to France and hid myself with my aunt, took one of my own middle names and her surname, and have been known for some time, as you know, as Melanie Reynier."

"I know you wish to tell me all these things, Melanie, but I do not want you to recall painful matters of the past now," said Aleck gently. "You shall tell me of them at another time."

The color brightened in Melanie's face, her eyes glowed.

"No, not another time; you must understand now, especially because all this preface leads me to what I really want to say to you. It is this: I do not now care for the man I loved at nineteen, nor for any of the other men of my country who have been pleased to honor me with their regard. But ever since those early days I have had a dream of a home—a place different from Duke Stephen's home, different from the homes of many people of my rank. My dream has a husband in it who is a companion, a friend, my equal in love, my superior in strength." Melanie's eyes lifted to meet Aleck's, and they were full of an almost tragic passion; but it was a passion for comprehension and love, not primarily for the man sitting before her. She added simply: "And for my dream I'd give all the wealth, all the love, I have."

The room was very still. Aleck Van Camp sat quiet and grave, his forehead resting on his hand. He looked up, finally, at Melanie, who was beside him, pale and quite worn.

"Poor child! You needed me more than I thought!" was what he said.

But Melanie had not quite finished. "No, that is not enough, that I should need you. You must also need me, want what I alone can give you, match my love with yours. And this, I think, you do not do. You calculate, you remain cool, you plan your life like a campaign, and I am part of your equipment. You are a thousand times better than Count Lorenzo, but I think your principles of reasoning are the same. You do not love me enough, and that is why I can not say yes."

Aleck had taken this last blow standing. He walked slowly around and stood before Melanie, much as he had stood before her when he first asked her to marry him; and this time, as he looked down on her fairness, there was infinite gentleness and patience and love in his eyes. He bent over, lifted Melanie's two hands, and drew her bodily out of her seat. She was impassive. Her quick alertness, her vitality, her passionate seriousness, had slipped away. Aleck put his arms around her very tenderly, and kissed her lips; not a lover's kiss exactly, and yet nothing else. Then he looked into her face.

"I shall not do this again, Melanie dear, till you give me leave. But I have no mind to let you go, either. You and Madame Reynier are going on a cruise with me; will you? Get your maid to pack your grip. It will be better for you than the 'professional advice' which you came to New York for."

Aleck stopped suddenly, his practical sense coming to the surface. "Heavens! You haven't had any lunch, and it's all times of the day!" He rang the bell, begged the maid to fetch bread and butter and tea and to ask Madame Reynier to come to the drawing-room. When she appeared, he met her with a grave, but in no wise a cowed, spirit.

"Madame Reynier, your niece refuses, for the present, to consider herself engaged to me; I, however, am unequivocally betrothed to her. And I shall be endlessly grateful if you and Miss Reynier will be my guests on the Sea Gull for as long a time as you find it diverting. We shall cruise along the coast and put into harbor at night, if it seems best; and I'll try to make you comfortable. Will you come?"

Madame Reynier was willing if Melanie was; and Melanie had no strength, if she had the will, to combat Aleck's masterful ways. It was soon settled. Aleck swung off down the street, re-reading Jim's letter, intent only on the Sea Gull and the preparations for his guests. But at the back of his mind he was thinking, "Poor girl! She needs me more than I thought!"



CHAPTER VI

ON BOARD THE JEANNE D'ARC

If hard usage and obstacles could cure a knight-errant of his sentiment, then Jimmy Hambleton had been free of his passion for the Face. His plunge overboard had been followed by a joyous swim, a lusty call to the yacht for "Help," and a growing amazement when he realized that it was the yacht's intention to pass him by. He had swum valiantly, determined to get picked up by that particular craft, when suddenly his strength failed. He remembered thinking that it was all up with him, and then he lost consciousness.

When he awoke he was on a hard bunk in a dim place, and a sailor was jerking him about. His throat burned with a fiery liquid. Then he felt the plunging and rising of the boat, and came to life sufficiently to utter the stereotyped words, "Where am I?"

In Jim's case the question did not imply the confused groping back to sense that it usually indicates, but rather an actual desire to know whether or not he was on board the Jeanne D'Arc. Plainly his wits had not been badly shattered by his experience overboard. But the sailor who was attending him with such ministrations as he understood, answered him with a sample of French which Jim had never met with in his school-books, and he was not enlightened for some hours.

It turned out, indeed, to be the Jeanne D'Arc, as Jim proved for himself the next day, and he was lying in the seamen's quarters in the fo'cas'le. By morning he felt much better, hungry, and prepared in his mind for striking a bargain with one of the sailors for clothes. He could make out their lingo soon, he guessed, and then he would get a suit of clothes and fare on deck. Suddenly he grasped his waist, struck with an unpleasant thought; his money-belt was gone! He was wearing a sailor's blue flannel shirt and nothing else. He turned over on his hard bunk, thinking that he would have to wait a while before making his entrance on the public stage of the Jeanne D'Arc.

And wait he did. Not a rag of clothing was in sight, and no cajolery or promise of reward could persuade the ship's men into supplying his need. He received consignments of food; short rations they would be, he judged, for an able-bodied seaman. But inactivity and confinement to the fo'cas'le soon worked havoc with his physique, so that appetite, and even desire of life itself, temporarily disappeared in the gloom of seasickness.

In spite of difficulties, Jim tried to find out something about the boat. The seamen were none too friendly; but by patching up his almost forgotten French and by signs, he learned something. His sudden failure of strength in the water had been due to a blow from a floating spar, as a bruise on his forehead testified; "the old man," whom Jim supposed to be the captain, was a hard master; Monsieur Chatelard was owner, or at least temporary proprietor, of the yacht; and the present voyage was an unlucky one by all the signs and omens known to the seamen's horoscope.

The sullenness of the men was apparent, and was not caused by the enforced presence of a stranger among them. In fact, their bad temper became so conspicuous that Jim began to believe that it might have something to do with the mysterious actions of the man on shore. He pondered the situation deeply; he evolved many foolish schemes to compass his own enlightenment, and dismissed them one by one. He grimly reflected that a man without clothes can scarcely be a hero, whatever his spirit. Not since the days of Olympus was there any record of man or god being received into any society whatever without his sartorial shell, thought Jimmy. But in spite of his discomfort, he was glad he was there. The intuition that had led him since that memorable Sunday afternoon was strong within him still, and he never questioned its authority. He believed his turn would come, even though he were a prisoner in the fo'cas'le of the Jeanne D'Arc.

As the violence of his sickness passed, Jim began to cast about for some means of helping himself. Gradually he was able to dive into the forgotten shallows of his French learning. By much wrinkling of brows he evolved a sentence, though he had to wait some hours before there was a favorable chance to put it to use. At last his time came, with the arrival of his former friend, the sailor.

"Oo avay-voo cashay mon money-belt?" he inquired with much confidence, and with pure Yankee accent.

The sailor answered with a shrug and a spreading of empty hands.

"Pas de money-belt, pas de pantalon, pas de tous! Dam queer Amayricain!"

Jim was not convinced of the sailor's innocence, but perceived that he must give him the benefit of the doubt. As the sailor intimated, Jim, himself, was open to suspicion, and couldn't afford to be too zealous in calumniating others. He fell to thinking again, and attacked the next Frenchman that came into the fo'cas'le with the following:

"Kond j'aytay malade don ma tate, kee a pree mon money-belt?"

It was the ship's cook this time, and he turned and stared at Jimmy as though he had seen a ghost. When he found tongue he uttered a volume of opinion and abuse which Jimmy knew by instinct was not fit to be translated, and then he fled up the ladder.

On the fourth day, toward evening, James had a visitor. All day the yacht had been pitching and rolling, and by afternoon she was laboring in the violence of a storm and was listing badly.

James was a fearless seaman, but it crossed his mind more than once that if he were captain, and if there were a port within reach, he would put into it before midnight. But he could tell nothing of the ship's course. He turned the subject over in his mind as he lay on his bunk in that peculiar state half-way between sickness and health, when the body is relaxed by a purely accidental illness and the mind is abnormally alert. He wished intensely for a bath, a shave, and a fair complement of clothes. He longed also to go up the hatchway for a breath of air, and was considering the possibility of doing this later, with a blanket and darkness for a shield, when he became conscious of a pair of neatly trousered legs descending the ladder. It was quite a different performance from the catlike climbing up and down of the sailors.

Jimmy watched in the dim light until the whole figure was complete, fantastically supplying, in his imagination, the coat, the shirt, the collar and the tie to go with the trousers—all the things which he himself lacked. Was there also a hat? Jimmy couldn't make out, and so he asked.

"Have you got on a hat?"

A frigid voice answered, "I beg your pardon!"

"I said, are you wearing a hat? I couldn't see, you know."

"Monsieur takes the liberty of being impertinent."

"Oh, excuse me—I beg your pardon. But it's so beastly hot and dark in here, you know, and I've never been seasick before."

"No? Monsieur is fortunate." The visitor advanced a little, drew from a recess a shoe-blacking outfit, pulled over it one of the stiff blankets from a neighboring bunk, and sat down rather cautiously. Little by little James made out more of the look of the man. He was large and rather blond, well-dressed, clean-shaven. He spoke English easily, but with a foreign accent.

"I wish to inquire to what unfortunate circumstances we are indebted for your company on board the Jeanne D'Arc." The voice was cool, and sharp as a meat-ax.

"Why, to your own kind-heartedness. I was a derelict and you took me in—saved my life, in fact; for which I am profoundly grateful. And I hope my presence here is not too great a burden?"

"I am obliged to say that your presence here is most unwelcome. Moreover, I am aware that your previous actions are open to suspicion, to express it mildly. You threw yourself off the tug; and as this as not a pleasure yacht, but the vessel of a high official speeding on a most important business matter, I said to the captain, 'Let him swim! Or, if he wishes to die, why should we thwart him?' But the captain referred to the 'etiquette of the line,' as he calls it, and picked you up. So you have not me to thank for not being among the fishes this minute."

Jimmy pulled his blanket about and sat up on his bunk. The sarcastic voice stirred his bile, and suddenly there boomed in his memory a woman's call for help. The hooded motor-car, the muffled cry of terror, the inert figure being lifted over the side of the yacht—these things crowded on his brain and fired him to a sudden, unreasoning fury. He leaned over, looking sharply into the other's face.

"You damned scoundrel!" he said, choking with his anger. The blood surged into his face and eyes; he was, for an instant, a primitive savage. He could have laid violent hands on the other man and done him to death, in the fashion of the half-gods who lived in the twilight of history.

The visitor in the fo'cas'le exhibited a neat row of teeth and no resentment whatever at Jim's remark, But a sharp glitter shot from his eyes as he replied suavely:

"Monsieur has doubtless mistaken this ship, and probably its master also, for some other less worthy adventurer on the sea. For that very reason I have come to set you right. It may be that I have my quixotic moments. At any rate, I have a fancy to give you a gentleman's chance. Monsieur, I regret the necessity of being inhospitable, but I am forced to say that you must quit the shelter of this yacht within twenty-four hours."

The thin, sarcastic voice and clean-cut syllables fanned the flame of Jimmy's rage. He felt impotent, moreover, which never serves as a poultice to anger. But he got himself in hand, though imitation courtesy was not much in his line. He tuned his big hearty voice to a pitch with the Frenchman's nasal pipe, and clipped off his words in mimicry.

"And to whom, pray, shall I have the honor to say farewell, at the auspicious moment when I jump overboard?"

"Gently, you American, gently!" said the other. "My friends, and some of my enemies, know me as Monsieur Chatelard." As he paused for an impressive instant, Jim, grabbing his blanket, stood up in derision and executed an elaborate bow in as foreign a manner as he could command. Monsieur Chatelard politely waved him down and continued:

"But pray do not trouble to give me your card! I had rather say adieu to Monsieur the Unknown, whose daring and temper I so much admire. But I certainly misunderstood your violent remark a moment ago, did I not? You can not possibly have any ground of quarrel with me."

"I thought you stole my money-belt."

Monsieur smiled and waved a deprecatory hand. "You have already dismissed that idea, I am certain. A money-belt, between gentlemen! Moreover, you should thank me for so much as recognizing the gentleman in you, since you are without the customary trappings of our class."

"Oh, I don't know," said Jim. But Monsieur Chatelard was now imperturbable. He continued blandly:

"Since you are fond of sea-baths, you will no doubt enjoy a plunge—to-night possibly. As we have made rather slow progress, we are really not so far from shore. Yes, on second thought, I would by all means advise you to take your departure tonight. Swim back to shore the way you came. In any case, your absence is desired. There will be no room or provision or water for you on board the Jeanne D'Arc after to-night. Is my meaning clear?"

Jim was watching, as well as he could, the immobile, expressionless face, and did not immediately note that Monsieur Chatelard had drawn a small, shiny object from his hip pocket and was holding it carelessly in his lap. As his gaze focussed on the revolver, however, he did the one thing, perhaps, which at that moment could have put the Frenchman off his guard. He threw his head back and laughed aloud.

But before his laugh had time to echo in the narrow fo'cas'le, Jim leaped from his bunk upon his tormentor, like a cat upon a mouse, seized his right hand in a paralyzing grip, and was himself thrown violently to the floor. The struggle was brief, for the Frenchman was no match for Jim in strength and scarcely superior to him in skill; but it took one of Jim's old wrestling feints to get the better of his opponent. He came out, in five seconds, with the pistol in his hand. Monsieur Chatelard, a bit breathless, but not greatly discomposed, peered out at him from the edge of the opposite bunk, where he sat uncomfortably. His cynical voice capped the struggle like a streak of pitch.

"Pray keep the weapon. You are welcome, though your methods are somewhat surprising. Had I known them earlier, I might have offered you my little toy."

"Oh, don't mention it," said Jimmy. "I thought you might not be used to firearms, that's all."

The varnished surface of Monsieur Chatelard's countenance gave no evidence of his having heard Jim's remark.

"Don't fancy that your abrupt movements, have deprived me of what authority I may happen to possess on this vessel. My request as to your future action still stands, unless you had rather one of my faithful men should assist you in carrying out my purpose."

Hambleton stood with legs wide apart to keep his balance, regarding the weapon in his hand, from which his gaze traveled to the man on the bunk. When it came to dialogue, he was no match for this sarcastic purveyor of words. He wondered whether Monsieur Chatelard was actually as cool as he appeared. As he stood there, the Jeanne D'Arc pitched forward until it seemed that she could never right herself, then slowly and laboriously she rode the waves again.

"You are a more picturesque villain than I thought," remarked James. "You have all the tricks of the stage hero—secret passages, fancy weapons, and—crowning glory—a fatal gift of gab!"

Monsieur Chatelard arose, making his way toward the hatch.

"Many thanks. I can not return the compliment in such a happy choice of English," he scoffed, "but I can truthfully say that I have rarely seen so striking and unique a figure as I now behold; certainly never on the stage, to which you so politely refer."

But James was too deeply intent on his next move to be embarrassed by his lack of clothes. Not in vain had his gorge risen almost at first sight of this man. He stepped quickly in front of Monsieur Chatelard, blocking his exit up the ladder, while the revolver in his hand looked straight between the Frenchman's eyes.

Whatever Chatelard's crimes were, he was not a coward. He did not flinch, but his eyes gleamed like cold steel as Jim cornered him.

"Now," said Jim, "I have my turn." Wrath burned in his heart.

"Captain Paquin! Antoine, Antoine!" called Chatelard. No one answered the call of the master of the ship, but even as the two men measured their force one against the other, they were arrested by a commotion above. Voices were heard shouting, trampling feet were running back and forth over the deck, and a moment later the ship's cook came tumbling down the hatchway, screaming in terror. He glared unheeding at the two men, and his teeth chattered. Fear had possession of him.

Jim lifted his revolver well out of reach, and backed off from Chatelard. For the first time during the interview between the American and the Frenchman, the two now faced each other as man to man, with the mask of their suspicions, their vanities and their hate cast aside.

"What is the matter? What is this fool saying?" Jim asked in loathing.

At last Monsieur Chatelard looked at Jim with eyes of fear. His face became so pale and drawn that it resembled a sponge from which the last drop of water had been pressed.

"He says the yacht is half full of water—that she is sinking," the Frenchman said.

"Sinking!" echoed Jim, bearing down again, with lowered revolver, on his enemy. "Well and good! You're going to be drowned, not shot, after all! And now you shall speak, you scamp! Your game's up, whatever happens. Get up and lead the way, quick, and show me in what part of this infernal boat you are hiding Agatha Redmond."

Chatelard started toward the hatchway, followed sharply by Jim's revolver, but at the foot of the ladder he turned his contemptuous, sneering face toward Jim, with the remark:

"Your words are the words of a fool, you pig of an American! There is no lady aboard this yacht, and I never so much as heard of your Agatha Redmond. Otherwise, I'd be pleased to play Mercury to your Venus."

To Jim's ears, every syllable the Frenchman spoke was an insult, and the last words rekindled the fire in his blood.

"You shall pay for that speech here and now!" he yelled; and, discarding his revolver, he dealt the Frenchman a short-arm blow. Chatelard, trying to dodge, tripped over the base of the ladder and went down heavily on the floor of the fo'cas'le. He had apparently lost consciousness.

As Jim saw his victim stretched on the floor, he turned away with loathing. He picked up his revolver and went up the ladder. It was already dark, and confusion reigned on deck. But through the clamor, Jim made out something near the truth: the Jeanne D'Arc was leaking badly, and no time was to be lost if she, with her passengers and crew, were to be saved.



CHAPTER VII

THE ROPE LADDER

The near prospect of a conclusive struggle for life is a sharp tonic to the adventurous soul. The actual final summons to that Other Room is met variously. There is Earthly Dignity, who answers even this last tap at the door with a fitting and quotable rejoinder; there is Deathbed Repentance, whose unction in momento mortis is doubtless a comfort to pious relatives; and there are Chivalry and Valor, twin youths who go to the unknown banquet singing and bearing their garlands of joy.

But with the chance of a fight for life, there is a sharp-sweet tang that sends some spirits galloping to the contest. "Dauntless the slughorn to his lips he set—" making ready for the last good run.

When Jim descended the hatchway after reconnoitering on deck, Chatelard was gone. The ship's cook was rummaging in a sailor's kit that he had drawn from a locker. Jim mentally considered the situation. The seamen had no doubt exaggerated the calamity, but without question there was serious trouble. Were the pumps working? How far were they from shore? If hopelessly distant from shore, were they in the course of passing steamers? Would any one look after Miss Redmond's safety? Monsieur Chatelard had said that she was not on board, but James did not believe it.

While these thoughts new through his mind, James had been absently watching while the cook turned his treasures out upon his bunk, and pawed them over with trembling hands. There were innumerable little things, besides a stiff white shirt, a cheap shiny Bible, a stuffed parrot and several wads of clothes. And among the mess Jim caught sight of a piece of stitched canvas that looked familiar.

"Hi, you there! That's my money-belt!" he cried, and jumped forward to claim his own. But in his movement he failed to calculate with the waves. The yacht gave another of her deep-sea plunges, and Jimmy, thrown against his bunk, saw the cook grab his kit and make for the ladder. He regained his feet only in time to follow at arm's length up the hatchway. At the top he threw himself down, like a baseball runner making his base, after the seaman's legs; but instead of a foot, he found himself clutching one of the wads of clothes that trailed after the cook's bundle. He caught it firmly and kept it, but the ship's cook and the rest of his booty disappeared like a rabbit into its burrow.

Jim sat down at the top of the ladder and examined his haul. It was a pair of woolen trousers, and they were of generous size. He spread them out on the deck. Round him were unmistakable signs of demoralization. The second officer was ordering the men to the pumps in stern tones; the yacht was pitching wildly and growing darkness was settling on the face of the turbulent waters. But in spite of it all, Jimmy's spirit leaped forth in laughter as he thought of his brief, frantic chase, and its result in this capture of the characteristic vestiture of man.

"What's money for, anyway!" he laughed, as he got up and clothed himself once more.

There followed hours of superhuman struggle to save the Jeanne D'Arc. Her crew, sufficient in ordinary weather, was too small to cope with the storm and the leaking ship. Ballast had to be shifted or flung overboard. Repairs had to be attempted in the hold; the pumps had to be worked incessantly, It transpired that the yacht had gone far out of her course during the fog the night before, and had tried to turn inshore, even before the leak was discovered. No one knew what waters they were that lashed so furiously about the disabled craft. The storm overhead had abated, but the rage of the sea was unquelled. Before long the engine was stopped by the rising water, and then the hand pumps were used. There was some hope that the leak had been discovered and at least partly repaired. The captain thought that, if carefully managed, the yacht might hold till daylight.

Jimmy joined the gang and worked like a Trojan, helping wherever a man was needed, shifting ballast, untackling the boats, handling the pump. It was at the pump that he found himself, some time during the night, working endlessly, it seemed. Not once had he lost sight of the real purpose of his presence on the yacht. If Agatha Redmond were aboard the unlucky vessel—and he had moments of curious perplexity about it—he was there to watch for her safety. He pictured her sitting somewhere in the endangered vessel. She could not but be terrified at her predicament. Whether shipwreck or abduction threatened her, she must feel that she had indeed fallen into the hands of her enemies.

He worked his turn at the pump, then made up his mind to risk no further delay, but to search the ship's cabins. She was in one of them, he believed; frightened she must be, possibly ill. He had done all that the furthest stretch of duty could demand in assistance to the ship. He would find Agatha Redmond at any cost, if she were aboard the Jeanne D'Arc. Again he thought to himself that he was glad he was there. Whatever purpose her enemies had, he alone was on her side, he alone could do something to save her.

It was now long past midnight, but not pitch dark either on deck or on the sea. The electric lights had gone out long before, but lanterns had been swung here and there from the deck fixtures. As Jimmy came up, he thought the men were preparing to lower the boats, but when he asked about it in his difficult French, the sailor shook his head. There were more people about than he supposed the yacht carried: several seamen, three or four other men, and a fat woman sitting apathetically on a pile of rope. He went from group to group, and from end to end of the yacht, looking for one woman's face and figure. He saw Monsieur Chatelard, examining one of the boats. He ran down the saloon stairway, determined to search the cabins before he gave up his quest. One moment he prayed that the words of Chatelard might be true, and that she had never been aboard the yacht; the next moment he prayed he might find her behind the next closed door.

As James searched below deck, a house palatial disclosed itself, even in the dim light of the little lanterns. Cabins roomy and comfortable, furnishings of exquisite taste, all the paraphernalia of the cultured and the rich were there. Some of the cabin doors were standing open, and none was locked. Jimmy beat on them, called from room to room, finding nothing. Every human occupant was gone. Sick at heart, he again rushed on deck. Was he mistaken, after all? Or had they hidden her in some secret part of the ship where he could not find her?

When Jimmy got back to the deck he saw that the groups had gathered on the port side. Sharp orders were being given. He crowded to the railing, straining his eyes to see, and found that they were transferring the ship's company to the boats, A rope ladder swung from the deck to a boat beneath, which bobbed like a cork beside, the big, plunging yacht. Two people were in the boat, a sailor standing at the bow, and a large muffled figure of a woman sitting in the stern. Jimmy at once knew her to be the apathetic fat woman he had seen a few minutes before on deck. His eye searched the company crowded about the top of the rope ladder, and suddenly his heart leaped. There she was, at the edge of the deck, waiting for the captain to give the word for her to descend to the boat below. As Jimmy's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he saw her more and more plainly: a pale face framed in a dark hood, a tall, cloaked figure waiting calmly to obey the word from the superior officer.

It was the third time Jimmy had seen her, but he felt as if he had found one dearer than himself. His eyes dwelt on her. She was not terrified; her nerves were not shaken. "I am ready," she said, turning to the captain. It was the same fine, free voice, suggesting—Oh, what did it not suggest! Never this dark, wild night of danger! Jimmy thrilled to it again as he had thrilled to it once before. He waved jubilant hands. "Agatha Redmond!" he called, across the space and heads that divided them.

Whether she heard his call he did not know. At that moment the word was given, and she turned an almost smiling face to the captain in reply. She knelt to the deck and got footing on the slippery rope. Men above held it and helped as best they could, while the sailor below waited to receive her into the little boat. She was steady and quick as a woman in such a perilous position could be. As she descended, the rowboat, insecurely held to the Jeanne D'Arc, slid sternward a few feet; and while she waited in midair for the boat to be brought up again, the Jeanne D'Arc gave a mighty plunge. The captain shouted from the deck, a sailor yelled, then another; the dipping sea tossed the yacht so that for an instant the boat below and the woman on the ladder were hidden from Jim's view. He climbed over the rail and edged along the narrow margin of the deck until he was a few feet nearer the rope, his heart thumping with fear of calamity.

And even as the thought came, the thing happened. The wrenching of the ropes, the insecurity of their fastenings, some blunder on the part of the seamen—whatever it was, the rope loosened like a filament of gauze, and, with its precious burden, dropped into the angry water. Before a breath could be drawn, the black waves churned over her head.

As, for the second time, Jim saw disaster engulf the Vision that had such power over him, he was seized by a cold numbness.

"Oh, you brutes!" he groaned aloud; but his groan had scarcely escaped him when he heard loud altercation among the men, and in a moment the nasal tones of Monsieur Chatelard commanding: "Never mind! Quick with the boat on the other side!"

The seamen rushed to the opposite side, now impatient to make the boats. In the fear that was growing momently upon the men, there was no one to give a thought to the vanished woman. Jimmy clung to the rail for a second, peering over the water. With a cry of gladness he saw her pale face rise to the surface of the water several feet away and toward the bow.

"Keep up a second! It's all right!" he shouted. Quick as thought he snatched a life preserver from its place on the rail, and ran forward. He called thrice, "Keep up, I'm coming!" then threw the cork swiftly and accurately to the very spot where she floated. A second longer he watched, to see if she gained it. It seemed that she did, and yet something was wrong. She was not able to right herself immediately in the water, but floundered helplessly. Jimmy knew that her clothes were hampering her, or else that the rope ladder had entangled her feet.

He turned and got his balance on the narrow ledge, pointed his hands high above his head, and took a good breath. Then he dove toward the floating face. When he came to the surface she was there, not ten strokes away. He swam to her, placed firm hands under her arms, and steadied her while she cleared her feet from the entangling rope.

"Thank God!" he breathed. "I'll save you yet!"



CHAPTER VIII

ON THE BREAST OF THE SEA

"Can you keep afloat in this roughness?"

"I think so, now that I have the life preserver. But the rope scared me for a minute. It got wound about my feet."

"I thought so. But we are drifting away from the boats, and should swim back as fast as we can. Can you swim?"

"Yes; better when I get rid of this cloak. Which way is the yacht? I've lost my bearings."

"Behind us over there. Put your hand on my shoulder and I'll take you along until you get your breath. So!"

The girl obeyed implicitly, "as if she were a good, biddable child," thought Jim. There was none of the terrified clutching at a rescuer which sometimes causes disaster to two instead of one. Miss Redmond was badly shocked, it may be; but she was far from being in a panic.

"Now for the boat. Can you swim a little faster? They'll surely come back to pick us up," said Jim, with an assumption of confidence that he did not feel. They could hear voices from the yacht, and could follow, partially, what was going on. Miss Redmond cast loose her cloak, put a hand on Jim's shoulder, and together they swam nearer. "Ahoy!" shouted Jim. "Give us a hand!" But the boat with the large woman in it had put about to the other side of the yacht. "Ahoy! This way!" shouted Jim. "Throw us a rope!" he cried; but if any of the seamen of the Jeanne D'Arc heard, they paid no heed.

"Come this way," said James to his companion. "We'll catch them on the other side of the yacht."

"I can't swim much in all these clothes," said Agatha.

"Never mind, then. Hold on to the life preserver and to me, and we'll make it all right." On the crests of the swelling waves they swam round the dark bulk of the vessel, and heard plainly the clamor of the men as they embarked in the small boats. Two of them seemed to be fastened together, raft-like, on the starboard side of the yacht, and were quickly filled with men. Prayers and curses were audible, with the loose, wild inflexion of the man who is in the clutch of an overmastering fear. As long as there had been work for them to do on the ship, they had done it, though sullenly; they had even controlled themselves until the attempt was made to place the two women in safety. But after that their self-restraint vanished. The orders of the officers were unheeded; the men leaped and scrambled and slid into the boats, and in a minute more they had cut loose from the Jeanne D'Arc.

James dimly perceived that the boats were moving away from them into the darkness. Then he called, and called again, redoubling his speed in swimming; but only the beat of the oars came back to him over the water. The heart in him stood still with an unacknowledged fear. Was it possible they were absolutely leaving them behind? Surely there were other boats. He raised his voice and called again and again. At last one voice, careless and brutal, called back something in reply. Jim turned questioning eyes to the girl beside him, whose pale face was clearly discernible on the dark water.

"He says the boats are all full."

"Then we must hurry and make for the yacht. Where is she?"

The Jeanne D'Arc had slipped away from them into the darkness.

"She was this way, I thought. Yes, I am sure," said Agatha, pointing into the night. But though they swam that way, they did not come upon her. They turned a little, and then turned again, and presently they lost every sense of direction.

In all his life Jim was never again destined to go through so black an hour as that which followed the abandonment of the Jeanne D'Arc. His courage left him, and his spirit sank to that leaden, choking abyss where light did not exist. Since the immediate object of saving the ship, for which he had worked as hard as any other, had been given up, the next in importance was to save the woman who, for some mysterious reason, had been aboard. It was beyond his power of imagination to suppose that any other motive of action could possibly prevail, even among her enemies. That they should leave her to drown, while they themselves fled to comparative safety in a boat, was more than he could believe.

"Surely they do not mean it; they must return, for you, at least."

The girl beside him knew better, but she was conscious of the paralyzing despair in her companion's heart, and made a show of being cheerful.

"When they find they are safe they may think of us," she said. "But the men were already crazed with fear, even before the leak was discovered. One of their mates on the voyage over was a fortune-teller, and he prophesied danger to them all on their next trip. After they had come into port, the fortune-teller himself died. And who can blame them for their fear? They are all superstitious; and as no one ever regarded their fears, now they have no regard for anybody's feelings but their own."

"But we are in the middle of the Atlantic, no one knows where. We may drift for days—we may starve—the Lord only knows what will happen to us!"

Agatha, who had been floating, swam a little nearer and laid her hand on Jim's shoulder, until he looked into her face. It was full of strength and brightness.

"'The sea is His also,'" she quoted gently. "Besides, we may get picked up," she went on. "I'm very well off, for my part, as you see. Can swim or rest floating, thanks to this blessed cork thing, and not at all hurt by the fall from the rope. But I must get rid of my shoes and some of my clothes, if I have to swim."

It is awkward to kick off one's shoes and divest oneself of unnecessary clothing in the water, and Agatha laughed at herself as she did it. "Not exactly a bathing suit, but this one black skirt will have to do. The others must go. It was my skirts that caused the mischief with the rope at first. And I was scared!"

"You had a right to be." Jim helped her keep afloat, and presently he saw that, freed from the entanglement of so many clothes, she was as much at home in the water as he. Suddenly she turned to him, caught by some recollection that almost eluded her.

"I don't think we are anywhere near the middle of the Atlantic," she said thoughtfully. James was silent, eating the bitter bread of despair, in spite of the woman's brave wish to comfort him. They were swimming slowly as they talked, still hoping to reach the yacht. They rose on the breast of the waves, paused now and then till a quieter moment came, and always kept near each other in the pale blue darkness.

"Old Sophie said something—that some one had tampered with the wheel, I think. At any rate, she said we'd never get far from shore with this crew."

James considered the case. "But even suppose we are within a mile or two, say, of the shore, could you ever swim two miles in this heavy sea?"

"It is growing calmer every minute. See, I can do very well, even swimming alone. It must be near morning, too, and that's always, a good thing." There was the shadow of a laugh in her voice.

"Morning? That depends," growled Jim. He was being soothed in spite of himself, and in spite of the direfulness of their situation. But bad as the situation was, and would be in any case, he could not deny the proposition that morning and daylight would make it better.

"But aren't you tired already? You must be." James turned closer to her, trying to read her face. "It was a long night of anxiety, even before we left the boat. Weren't you frightened?"

"Yes, of course; but I've been getting used to frights of late, if one can get used to them." Again there was the laugh in her voice, under all its seriousness, even when she added: "I'm not sure that this isn't safer than being on board the Jeanne D'Arc, after all!"

It was characteristic of James that he forebore to take advantage of the opening this speech offered. The possible reason of her abduction, her treatment on board the yacht, her relation to Monsieur Chatelard—it was all a mystery, but he could not, at that moment, seek to solve it. Her remark remained unanswered for a little time; at last he said: "Then the Jeanne D'Arc must have been pretty bad."

"It was," she said simply.

Jim wondered whether she knew more about the crime of which she was the victim than he knew, or if she had discovered aught concerning it while she was a prisoner on the yacht. Granting that her person was so valuable that a man of Monsieur Chatelard's caliber would commit a crime to get possession of it, why should he have abandoned her when there was plainly some chance of safety in the boats? He could not conceive of Monsieur Chatelard's risking his neck in an affair of gallantry; cupidity alone would account for his part in the drama. James went over and over the situation, as far as he understood it, but he did none of his thinking aloud. It flashed on his mind that Miss Redmond must already have separated him, in her thoughts, from the other people on the yacht; though perhaps her trust was instinctive, arising from her own need of help. How could she know that he had risked his neck twice, now, to follow the Vision?

Swimming slowly, with Agatha's hand at times on his shoulder, James turned his mind sharply to a consideration of their present position. They had been alternately swimming and floating, hoping to come upon the yacht. The darkness of the night was penetrable, so that they could see a fairly large circle of water about them, but there was no shadow of the Jeanne D'Arc. Save for the running surge of the waters, all was silence. The pale forerunners of dawn had appeared. Their swim after the boats of the Jeanne D'Arc had warmed their blood, so that for a while they were not conscious of the chill of the water. But as the minutes lengthened, one by one, fatigue and cold numbed their bodies. It was a test of endurance for a strong man; as for the girl, Jim wondered at her strength and courage. She swam superbly, with unhurried, steady strokes. If she grew chatteringly cold, she would start into a vigorous swim, shoulder to shoulder with James. If she lost her breath with the hard exercise, she would take his hand, "so as not to lose you," she would say, and rest on the breast of the waves. The wind dropped and the sea grew quiet, so that they were no more cruelly buffeted, but rocked up and down on its heaving bosom.

Once, while they were "resting" on the water, Agatha broke a long silence with, "I wonder—" but did not at once say what she wondered at. Jim said nothing, but she knew he was waiting and listening.

"Suppose this should be the Great Gateway," she said at last, very slowly, but quite cheerfully and naturally. "I am wondering what there is beyond."

"I've often wondered, too," said Jim.

"I've sometimes thought, and I've said it, too, that I was crazy to die, just to see what happens," Agatha went on, laughing a little at her own memories. "But I find I'm not at all eager for it, now, when it would be so easy to go under and not come up again. Are you?"

"No, I've never felt eager to die; least of all, now."

Agatha was silent a while.

"What do you think death means? Shall we be we to-morrow, say, provided we can't keep afloat?" she asked by and by.

"Why, yes, I think so," said Jim. "I don't know why or how, but I guess we go on somewhere; and I rather think our best moments here—our moments of happiness or heroism, if we ever have any—are going to be the regular thing." Jim laughed a little, partly at his own lame ending, and partly because he felt Agatha's hand closing more tightly over his. He didn't want her to get blue just yet, after her brave fight.

But Agatha wasn't blue. She answered thoughtfully: "That isn't a bad idea," and then cheerfully turned to a consideration of the possibilities of a rescue at dawn.

James had evolved a plan to wait till enough light came to enable them to reach the Jeanne D'Arc, if she was still afloat; then to climb aboard and hunt for provisions and life preservers or something to use for a raft. If he could do this, then they would be in a somewhat better plight, at least for a time. He prayed that the Jeanne D'Arc might still be alive.

The two talked little, leaving silences between them full of wonder. The details of life, the ordinary personalities, were blotted out. Without explanation or speech of any kind, they understood each other. They were not, in this hour, members of a complex and artificial society; they were not even man and woman; they were two souls stripped of everything but the need for fortitude and sweetness.

At last came the dawn. Slowly the blue curtain of night lifted, lifted, until it became the blue curtain of sky, endlessly far away and far above. A twinkling star looked down on the cup of ocean, glimmered a moment and was gone. The light strengthened. A pearly, iridescent quiver came upon the waters, repeating itself wave after wave, and heralded the coming of the Lord Sun over the great murmuring sea. As the light grew, they could see a constantly widening circle of ocean, of which they were the center. As they rose and fell with the waves, the horizon fell and rose to their vision, dim and undefined. Hand in hand they floated in vaporous silver.

"The day has come at last, thank God!" breathed James.

"Yes, thank God!" answered the girl.

"Are you very cold?"

"The sun will soon warm us."

"Where did you learn to swim?"

"In England, mostly at the Isle of Wight, but I'm not half such a dolphin as you are."

"Oh, well, boys have to swim, you know, and I was a boy once," Jim answered awkwardly. Presently he asked, and his voice was full of awe: "Have you ever seen the dawn—a dawn like this—before?"

"Never one like this," she whispered.

When daylight came, they found they had not traveled far from the scene of the night's disaster; or, if they had, the Jeanne D'Arc had drifted with them. She was still afloat, and just as the sun rose they saw her, apparently not far away, tossing rudderless to the waves. There was no sign of the ship's boats.

At the renewed miracle of light, and at sight of the yacht, Jimmy's hopes were reborn. His spirit bathed in the wonder of the day and was made strong again. The night with its horrors of struggle and its darkness was past, forgotten in the flush of hope that came with the light.

Together they struck out toward the yacht, fresh with new courage. Now that he could see plainly, Jim swam always a little behind Agatha, keeping a watchful eye. She still took the water gallantly, nose and closed mouth just topping the wave, like a spaniel. An occasional side-stroke would bring her face level to the water, with a backward smile for her companion. He gloried in her spirit, even while he feared for her strength.

It was a longer pull to the yacht than they had counted upon, a heavy tax on their powers of endurance. Jim came up to find Agatha floating on her back and put his hand under her shoulders, steadying her easily.

"Now you can really rest," he said.

"I've looked toward the horizon so long, I thought I'd look up, way up, for a change," she said cheerfully. "That's where the skylarks go, when they want to sing—straight up into heaven!"

"Doesn't it make you want to sing?"

She showed no surprise at the question.

"Yes, it does, almost. But just as I thought of the skylarks, I remembered something else; something that kept haunting me in the darkness all night—

"'Master in song, good-by, good-by, Down to the dim sea-line—'

I thought something or somebody was surely lost down in 'the dim sea-line' last night."

"Who can tell? But I had a better thought than yours: Ulysses, like us, swimming over the 'wine-dark sea'! Do you remember it? 'Then two days and two nights on the resistless waves he drifted; many a time his heart faced death.'"

"That's not a bit better thought than mine; but I like it. And I know what follows, too. 'But when the fair-haired dawn brought the third day, then the wind ceased; there came a breathless calm; and close at hand he spied the coast, as he cast a keen glance forward, upborne on a great wave.' That's it, isn't it?"

"I don't know, but I hope it is. 'The wine-dark sea' and the 'rosy-fingered dawn' are all I remember; though I'm glad you know what comes next. It's a good omen. But look at the yacht; she's acting strange!"

As the girl turned to her stroke, their attention was caught and held by the convulsions of the Jeanne D'Arc. There was a grim fascination in the sight.

It was obvious that she was sinking. While they had been resting, her hull had sunk toward the water-line, her graceful bulk and delicate masts showing strange against ocean and sky. Now she suddenly tipped down at her stern; her bow was thrown up out of the water for an instant, only to be drawn down again, slowly but irresistibly, as if she were pulled by a giant's unseen hand. With a sudden last lurch she disappeared entirely, and only widening circles fleetingly marked the place of her going.

The two in the water watched with fascinated eyes, filled with awe. When it was all over Agatha turned to her companion with a long-drawn breath. Jim looked as one looks whose last hope has failed.

"I could never have let you go aboard, anyway!" He loved her anew for that speech, but knew not how to meet her eyes.

"Well, Ulysses lost his raft, too!" he managed to say.

"He saw the sunrise, too, just as we have seen it; and he saw a distant island, 'that seemed a shield laid on the misty sea.' Let's look hard now, each time the wave lifts us. Perhaps we also shall see an island."

"We must swim harder; you are chilled through."

"Oh, no," she laughed. "I shivered at the thought of what a fright I must look. I always did hate to get my hair wet."

"You look all right to me."

They were able to laugh, and so kept up heart. They tried to calculate the direction the yacht had taken when she left port, and where the land might lie; and when they had argued about it, they set out to swim a certain way. In their hearts each felt that any calculation was futile, but they pretended to be in earnest. They could not see far, but they created for themselves a goal and worked toward it, which is of itself a happiness.

So they watched and waited, ages long. Hope came to them again presently. James, treading water, thrust up his head and scented the air.

"I smell the salt marsh, which means land!" He sniffed again. "Yes, decidedly!"

A moment later it was there, before their vision—that "shield laid on the misty sea" which was the land. Only it was not like a shield, but a rocky spit of coast land, with fir trees farther back. James made for the nearest point, though his heart shrank to see how far away it was. Fatigue and anxiety were taking their toll of his vigor. Neither one had breath to spare even for exultation that the land was in sight. Little by little Agatha grew more quiet, though not less brave. It took all her strength to fight the water—that mighty element which indifferently supports or engulfs the human atom. If she feared, she made no sign. Bravely she kept her heart, and carefully she saved her strength, swimming slowly, resting often, and wasting no breath in talk.

But more and more frequently her eyes rested wistfully on James, mutely asking him for help. He watched her minute by minute, often begging her to let him help her.

"Oh, no, not yet; I can go on nicely, if I just rest a little. There—thank you."

Once she looked at him with such pain in her eyes that he silently took her hands, placed them on his shoulder and carried her along with his stronger stroke. She was reassured by his strength, and presently she slipped away from him, smiling confidently again as she swam alongside.

"I'm all right now; but I suddenly thought, what if anything should happen to you, and I be left alone! Or what if I should get panicky and clutch you and drag you down, the way people do sometimes!"

"But I shan't leave you alone, and you're not going to do that!"

Agatha smiled, but could only say, "I hope not!"

She forged ahead a little, and presently had another moment of fright on looking round and finding that Jim had disappeared. He had suddenly dived, without giving her warning. He came up a second later, puffing and spitting the bitter brine; but his face was radiant.

"Rocks and seaweed!" he cried. "The land is near. Come; I can swim and take you, too, easily. And now I know certainly just which way to go. Come, come!"

Agatha heard it all, but this time she was unable to utter a word. Jim saw her stiff lips move in an effort to smile or speak, but he heard no voice.

"Keep up, keep up, dear girl!" he cried. "We'll soon be there. Try, try to keep up! Don't lose for a moment the thought that you are near land, that you are almost there. We are safe, you can go on—only a few moments more!"

Poor Agatha strove as Jim bade her, gallantly, hearing his voice as through a thickening wall; but she had already done her best, and more. She struggled for a few half-conscious moments; then suddenly her arms grew limp, her eyes closed, and her weight came upon Jim as that of a dead person. Then he set his teeth and nerved himself to make the effort of his life.

It is no easy thing to strain forward, swimming the high seas, bearing above the surface a load which on land would make a strong man stagger. One must watch one's burden, to guard against mishap; one must save breath and muscle, and keep an eye for direction, all in a struggle against a hostile element.

The goal still seemed incredibly far, farther than his strength could go. Yet he swam on, fighting against the heartbreaking thought that his companion had perhaps gone "down to the dim sea-line" in very truth. She had been so brave, so strong. She had buoyed up his courage when it had been fainting; she had fought splendidly against the last terrible inertia of exhaustion.

"Courage!" he told himself. "We must make the land!" But it took a stupendous effort. His strokes became unequal, some of them feeble and ineffective; his muscles ached with the strain; now and then a strange whirring and dizziness in his head caused him to wonder dimly whether he were above or below water. He could no longer swim with closed lips, but constantly threw his head back with the gasp that marks the spent runner.

Holding Agatha Redmond in front of him, with her head well above the water and her body partly supported by the life preserver, he swam sometimes with one hand, sometimes only with his legs. He dared not stop now, lest he be too late in reaching land or wholly unable to regather his force. The dizziness increased, and a sharp pain in his eyeballs recurred again and again. He could no longer see the land; it seemed to him that it was blood, not brine, that spurted from nose and mouth; but still he swam on, holding the woman safe. He made a gigantic effort to shout, though he could scarcely hear his own voice. Then he fixed his mind solely on his swimming, counting one stroke after another, like a man who is coaxing sleep.

How long he swam thus, he did not know; but after many strokes he was conscious of a sense of happiness that, after all, it wasn't necessary to reach land or to struggle any more. Rest and respite from excruciating effort were to be had for the taking—why had he withstood them so long? The sea rocked him, the surge filled his ears, his limbs relaxed their tension. Then it was that a strong hand grasped him, and a second later the same hand dealt him a violent blow on the face.

He had to begin the intolerable exertion of swimming again, but he no longer had a burden to hold safe; there was no burden in sight. Half-consciously he felt the earth once more beneath his feet, but he could not stand. He fell face forward into the water again at his first attempt; and again the strong hand pulled him up and half-carried him over some slimy rocks. It was an endless journey before the strong hand would let him sit or lie down, but at last he was allowed to drop.

He vaguely felt the warmth of the sun drying his skin while the sea hummed in his ears; he felt distinctly the sharp pain between his eyes, and a parching thirst. He groped around in a delirious search for water, which he did not find; he pressed his head and limbs against the earth in an exquisite relief from pain; and at last his bruised feet, his aching bones and head constrained him to a lethargy that ended in sleep.



CHAPTER IX

THE CAMP ON THE BEACH

Sunset of the day that had dawned so strangely and wonderfully for those two wayfarers of earth, James and Agatha, fell on a little camp near the spit of coast-land toward which they had struggled. The point lifted itself abruptly into a rocky bank which curved in and out, yielding to the besieging waves. Just here had been formed a little sandy cove partly protected by the beetling cliff. At the top was verdure in abundance. Vines hung down over the face of the wall, coarse grasses and underbrush grew to its very edge, and sharp-pointed fir trees etched themselves against the clear blue of the sky. Below, the white sand formed a sickle-shaped beach, bordered by the rocky wall, with its sharp point dipping far out to sea. High up on the sand a small rowboat was beached. There was no path visible up from the shingle, but it was evident that the ascent would be easy enough.

Nevertheless, the campers did not attempt it. Instead, they had made a fire of driftwood on the sand out of reach of the highest tide. Near the fire they had spread fir boughs, and on this fragrant couch James was lying. He was all unconscious, apparently, of the primitive nature of his surroundings, the sweetness of his balsam bed, and the watchful care of his two nurses.

Jim was in a bad way, if one could trust the remarks of his male nurse, who spoke to an invisible companion as he gathered chips and other bits of wood from the beach. He was a young, businesslike fellow with a clean, wholesome face, dressed only in gauze shirt, trousers, and boots without stockings; this lack, of course, was not immediately apparent. The tide had just turned after the ebb, and he went far down over the wet sand, sometimes climbing over the rocks farther along the shore until he was out of sight of the camp.

Returning from one of these excursions, which had been a bit longer than he intended, he looked anxiously toward the fire before depositing his armful of driftwood. The blaze had died down, but a good bed of coals remained; and upon this the young man expertly built up a new fire. It crackled and blazed into life, throwing a ruddy glow over the shingle, the rocks behind, and the figure lying on the balsam couch. James's face was waxen in its paleness, save for two fiery spots on his cheeks; and as he lay he stirred constantly in a feverish unrest. His bare feet were nearest the fire; his blue woollen trousers and shirt were only partly visible, being somewhat covered by a man's tweed coat.

The fire lighted up, also, the figure of Agatha Redmond. She was kneeling at the farther end of Jim's couch, laying a white cloth, which had been wet, over his temples. Her long dark hair was hanging just as it had dried, except that it was tied together low in the back with a string of slippery seaweed. Her neck was bare, her feet also; her loose blouse had lost all semblance of a made-to-order garment, but it still covered her; while a petticoat that had once been black satin hung in stiff, salt-dried creases from her waist to a little below her knees. She had the well-set head and good shoulders, with deep chest, which make any garb becoming; her face was bonny, even now, clouded as it was with anxiety and fatigue. She greeted the young man eagerly on his return.

"If you could only find a little more fresh water, I am sure it would help. The milk was good, only he would take so little. I think I shall have to let you go this evening to hunt for the farm-house."

"Yes, Mademoiselle," the young man replied. He had wanted to go earlier in the day, but the man was too ill and the woman too exhausted to be left alone. He went on speaking slowly, after a pause. "I can find the farm-house, I am sure, only it may take a little time. Following the cattle would have been the quickest way; but I can find the cowpath soon, even as it is. If you wouldn't be uneasy with me gone, Mademoiselle!"

"Oh, no, we shall be all right now, till you can get back!" As she spoke, Agatha's eyes rested questioningly on the youth who, ever since she had revived from her faint of exhaustion, had teased her memory. He had seen them struggling in the sea, and had swum out to her aid, she knew; and after leaving her lying on a slimy, seaweed-covered rock, he had gone out again and brought in her companion in a far worse condition than herself. The young man, also, was a survivor of the Jeanne D'Arc, having come from the disabled craft in the tiny rowboat that was now on the beach. More than this she did not know, yet something jogged her memory every now and then—something that would not shape itself definitely. Indeed, she had been too much engrossed in the serious condition of her companion and the work necessary to make the camp, to spend any thought on unimportant speculations.

But now, as she listened to the youth's respectful tones, it suddenly came back to her. She looked at him with awe-struck eyes.

"Oh, now I know! You are the new chauffeur; 'queer name, Hand!' Yes, I remember—I remember."

"What you say is true, Mademoiselle."

He stood before her, a stubbornly submissive look on his face, as a servant might stand before his betrayed master. It was as if he had been waiting for that moment, waiting for her anger to fall on him. But Agatha was speechless at her growing wonder at the trick fate had played them. Her steady gaze, serious and earnest now, without a hint of the laughter that usually came so easily, dwelt on the young man's eyes for a moment, then she turned away as if she were giving up a puzzling question. She looked at James, whose stubbly-bearded face was now quiet against its green pillow, as if seeking a solution there; but she had to fall back, at last, on the youth.

"Do you know who this man is?" she asked irrelevantly.

"No, Mademoiselle. He was picked up in New York harbor, the night we weighed anchor. I have not seen him since until to-day."

"'The night we weighed anchor!' What night was that?"

"Last Monday, Mademoiselle; at about six bells."

"And what day is to-day?"

"Saturday, Mademoiselle; and past four bells now."

"Monday—Saturday!" Agatha looked abstractedly down on Jimmy asleep, while upon her mind crowded the memories of that week. This man who had dragged her and her rescuer from the water, who had made fire and a bed for them, who had got milk for their sustenance, had been almost the last person her conscious eyes had seen in that half-hour of terror on the hillside. Her next memory, after an untold interval, was the rocking of the ship, an old woman who treated her obsequiously, a man who was her servile attendant and yet her jailer—but then, suddenly, as she knelt there, mind and body refused their service. She crumpled down on the soft sand, burying her head in her arms.

Hand came nearer and bent awkwardly over her, as if to coax her confidence.

"It's all right now, Mademoiselle. Whatever you think of me, you can trust me to do my best for you now."

"Oh, I'm not afraid of you now," Agatha moaned in a muffled voice. "Only I'm so puzzled by it all—and so tired!"

"'Twas a fearful strain, Mademoiselle. But I can make you a bed here, so you can sleep."

Agatha shook her head. "I can sleep on the sand, just as well."

"I think, Mademoiselle, I'd better be going above and look for help from the village, as soon as I've supplied the fire. I'll leave these few matches, too, in case you need them."

"Yes, you'd better go, Hand; and wait a minute, until I think it out." Agatha sat up and pressed her palm to her forehead, straining to put her mind upon the problem at hand. "Go for a doctor first, Hand; then, if you can, get some food—bread and meat; and, for pity's sake, a cloak or long coat of some kind. Then find out where we are, what the nearest town is, and if a telegraph station is near. And stay; have you any money?"

"A little, Mademoiselle; between nine and ten dollars."

"That is good; it will serve for a little while. Please spend it for me; I will pay you. As soon as we can get to a telegraph station I can get more. Get the things, as I have said; and then arrange, if you can, for a carriage and another man, besides yourself and the doctor, to come down as near this point as possible. You two can carry him"—she looked wistfully at James—"to the carriage, wherever it is able to meet us. But you will need to spend money to get all these things; especially if you get them to-night, as I hope you may."

"I will try, Mademoiselle." The ex-chauffeur stood hesitating, however. At last, "I hate to leave you here alone, with only a sick man, and night coming on," he said.

"You need not be afraid for me," replied Agatha coldly. Her nerves had given way, now that the need for active exertion was past, and were almost at the breaking point. It came back to her again, moreover, how this man and another had made her a prisoner in the motor-car, and at the moment she felt foolish in trusting to him for further help. It came into her mind that he was only seeking an excuse to run away, in fear of being arrested later. A second time she looked up into his eyes with her serious, questioning gaze.

"I don't know why you were in the plot to do as you did—last Monday afternoon," she said slowly; "but whatever it was, it was unworthy of you. You are not by nature a criminal and a stealer of women, I know. And you have been kind and brave to-day; I shall never forget that. Do you really mean now to stay by me?"

Hand's gaze was no less earnest than her own; and though he flinched at "criminal," his eyes met hers steadily.

"As long as I can help you, Mademoiselle, I will do so."

At his words, spoken with sincerity, Agatha's spirit, tired and overwrought as it was, rose for an instant to its old-time buoyancy. She smiled at him.

"You mean it?" she asked. "Honest true, cross your heart?"

Hand's businesslike features relaxed a little. "Honest true, cross my heart!" he repeated.

"All right," said Agatha, almost cheerfully. "And now you must go, before it gets any darker. Don't try to return in the night, at the risk of losing your way. But come as soon as you can after daylight; and remember, I trust to you! Good-by."

Hand already, earlier in the day, had made a path for himself up the steep bank through the underbrush, and now Agatha went with him to the edge of the thicket. She watched and listened until the faint rustling of his footsteps ceased, then turned back to the camp on the beach. She went to the fire and stirred up its coals once more before returning to James. He was sleeping, but his flushed face and unnatural breathing were signs of ill. Now and then he moved restlessly, or seemed to try to speak, but no coherent words came. She sat down to watch by him.

After Agatha and James had been brought ashore by the capable Mr. Hand, it had needed only time to bring Agatha back to consciousness. Both she and James had practically fainted from exhaustion, and James had been nearly drowned, at the last minute. Agatha had been left on the rocks to come to herself as she would, while Hand had rubbed and pummeled and shaken James until the blood flowed again. It had flowed too freely, indeed, at some time during his ordeal; and tiny trickles of blood showed on his lips. Agatha, dazed and aching, was trying to crawl up to the sand when Hand came back to her, running lightly over the slippery rocks. They had come in on the flowing tide, which had aided them greatly; and now Hand helped her the short distance to the cove and mercifully let her lie, while he went back to his work for James.

Later he had got a little bucket, used for bailing out the rowboat, and dashed hurriedly into the thicket above after some tinkling cowbells. Though she was too tired to question him, Agatha supposed he had tied one of the cows to a tree, since he returned three or four times to fill the pail. What a wonderful life-giver the milk was! She had drunk her fill and had tried to feed it to James, who at first tasted eagerly, but had, on the whole, taken very little. He was only partly awake, but he shivered and weakly murmured that he was cold. Agatha quickly grew stronger; and she and Hand set to work to prepare the fire and the bed. Almost while they were at this labor, the sun had gone down.

Sitting by Jim's couch, Agatha grew sleepy and cold, but there were no more coverings. Hand's coat was over Jim, and as Agatha herself felt the cold more keenly she tucked it closer about him. Alone as she was now, in solitude with this man who had saved her from the waters, with darkness and the night again coming on, her spirit shrank; not so much from fear, as from that premonition of the future which now and then assails the human heart.

As she knelt by Jim's side, covering his feet with the coat and heaping the fir boughs over him, she paused to look at his unconscious face. She knew now that he did not belong to the crew of the Jeanne D'Arc; but of his outward circumstances she knew nothing more. Thirty she guessed him to be, thereby coming within four years of the truth. His short mustache concealed his mouth, and his eyes were closed. It was almost like looking at the mask of a face. The rough beard of a week's growth made a deep shadow over the lower part of his face; and yet, behind the mask, she thought she could see some token of the real man, not without his attributes of divinity. In the ordeal of the night before he had shown the highest order of patience, endurance and courage, together with a sweetness of temper that was itself lovable. But beyond this, what sort of man was he? Agatha could not tell. She had seen many men of many types, and perhaps she recognized James as belonging to a type; but if so, it was the type that stands for the best of New England stock. In the centuries back it may have brought forth fanatics and extremists; at times it may have built up its narrow walls of prejudice and pride; but at the core it was sound and manly, and responsive to the call of the spirit.

Something of all this passed through Agatha's mind, as she tried to read Jim's face; then, as he stirred uneasily and tried to throw off the light boughs that she had spread over him, she got up and went to the edge of the water to moisten afresh the bandage for his forehead. Involuntarily she shuddered at sight of the dark water, though the lapping waves, pushing up farther and farther with the incoming tide, were gentle enough to soothe a child.

She hurried back to Jim's couch and laid the cooling compress across his forehead. The balsam boughs about them breathed their fragrance on the night air, and the pleasant gloom rested their tired eyes. Gradually he quieted down again; his restlessness ceased. The long twilight deepened into darkness, or rather into that thin luminous blue shade which is the darkness of starlit summer nights. The sea washed the beach with its murmuring caress; somewhere in the thicket above a night-bird called.

In a cranny of the rocks Agatha hollowed out the sand, still warm beneath the surface here where the sun had lain on it through long summer days, and made for herself a bed and coverlet and pillow all at once. With the sand piled around and over her, she could not really suffer; and she was mortally tired.

She looked up toward the clear stars, Vega and the jeweled cross almost in the zenith, and ruddy Antares in the body of the shining Scorpion. They were watching her, she thought, to-night in her peace as they had watched her last night in her struggle, and as they would watch after all her days and nights were done. And then she thought no more. Sleep, blessed gift, descended upon her.



CHAPTER X

THE HEART OF YOUTH

"Agatha Redmond, can you hear me?"

She caught the voice faintly, as if it were a child's cry.

"I'm right here, yes; only wait just a second." She could not instantly free herself from her sandy coverings, but she was wide awake almost at the first words James had spoken. Faint as the voice had been, she recognized the natural tones, the strongest he had uttered since coming out of the water.

The night had grown cold and dark, and at first she was a trifle bewildered. She was also stiff and sore, almost beyond bearing. She had to creep along the sand to where Jim lay. The fire had burned wholly out, and the sand felt damp as she crawled over it. When she came near, she reached out her hand and laid it on Jim's forehead. He was shivering with cold.

"You poor man! And I sleeping while I ought to be taking care of you! I'll make the fire and get some milk; there is still a little left."

As she tried to make her aching bones lift her to her feet, she became aware that the man was fumbling at his coverings and trying to say something.

She bent down to hear his words, which were incredibly faint.

"I don't want any fire or any milk. I only wanted to know if you were there," he said diffidently, as if ashamed of his childishness.

She leaned over him, speaking gently and touching his head softly with her firm, cool hands.

"You're a little better now, aren't you, after your sleep? Don't you feel a little stronger?"

"Yes, I'm better, lots better," he whispered. "I must have been sleeping for ages. When I woke up I thought I had a beastly chill or something; but I'm all right now; only suddenly I felt as if I must know if you were there, and if it was you."

He smiled at his own words, and Agatha was reassured.

"I think you'll be still better for a little milk," she said, and crept away to get the pail, which had been hidden on a shelf of rock. When she came back with it, James tried manfully to sit up; but Agatha slipped an arm under his neck, in skilful nurse fashion, and held the bucket while he drank, almost greedily. As he sank back on his bed he whispered: "You are very good to take care of me."

"Oh, no; I'm only too glad! And now I'm going to build up the fire again; your hands are quite cold."

"No, don't go," he pleaded. "Please stay here; I'm not cold any more. And you must go to sleep again. I ought not to have wakened you; and, really, I didn't mean to."

"Yes, you ought. I've had lots of sleep; I don't want any more."

"It's dark, but it's better than it was that other night, isn't it?" said James.

"Much better," answered Agatha.

James visibly gathered strength from the milk, and presently he took some more. Agatha watched, and when he had finished, patted him approvingly on the hand, "Good boy! You've done very well," she cried.

"I was so thirsty, I thought the whole earth had run dry. Will you think me very ungrateful if I say now I wish it had been water?"

"Oh, no; I wish so, too. But Mr. Hand could only get us a little bit from a spring, for there isn't any other pail."

It was some time before Jim made out to inquire, "Who's Mr. Hand?"

"He's the man that helped us—out of the water—when we became exhausted."

Agatha hesitated to speak of the night's experience, uncertain how far Jim's memory carried him, and not knowing how a sick man, in his weakness, might be affected. Still, now that he seemed almost himself again, save for the chill, she ventured to refer to the event, speaking in a matter-of-fact way, as if such endurance tests were the most natural events in the world. James' speech was quite coherent and distinct, but very slow, as if the effort to speak came from the depths of a profound fatigue.

"Hand—that's a good name for him. I thought it was the hand of God, which plucked me, like David, or Jonah, or some such person, out of the seething billows. But I didn't think of there being a man behind." Then, after a long silence, "Where is he?"

"He's gone off to find somebody to help us get away from here: a carriage or wagon of some sort, and some food and clothes."

Something caused Jim to ejaculate, though quite feebly, "You poor thing!" And then he asked, very slowly, "Where is 'here'?"

"I don't know; and Mr. Hand doesn't know."

"And we've lost our tags," laughed Jim faintly.

Agatha couldn't resist the laugh, though the weakness in Jim's voice was almost enough to make her weep as well.

"Yes, we've lost our tags, more's the pity. Mr. Hand thinks we're either on the coast of Maine, of on an island somewhere near the coast. I myself think it must at least be Nova Scotia, or possibly Newfoundland. But Hand will find out and be back soon, and then we'll get away from here and go to some place where we'll all be comfortable."

Agatha stole away, and with much difficulty succeeded in kindling the fire again. She tended it until a good steady heat spread over the rocks, and then returned to James. She curled up, half sitting, half lying, against the rocks.

Clouds had risen during the recent hours, and it was much darker than the night before had been. The ocean, washing its million pebbles up on the little beach, moaned and complained incessantly. In the long intervals between their talk, Agatha's head would fall, her eyes would close, and she would almost sleep; but an undercurrent of anxiety concerning her companion kept her always at the edge of consciousness. James himself appeared to have no desire to sleep. He was trying to piece together, in his mind, his conscious and unconscious memories. At last he said:

"I guess I haven't been much good—for a while—have I?"

Agatha considered before replying. "You were quite exhausted, I think; and we feared you might be ill."

"And Handy Andy got my job?" She laughed outright at this, as much for the feeling of reassurance it gave her as for the jest itself.

"Handy Andy certainly had a job, with us two on his hands!" she laughed.

"I bet he did!" cried James, with more vigor than he had shown before. "He's a great man; I'm for him! When's he coming back?"

"Early in the morning, I hope," said Agatha, swallowing her misgivings.

"That's good," said James. "I think I'll be about and good for something myself by that time."

There was another long pause, so long that Agatha thought James must have gone to sleep again. He thought likewise of her, it appeared; for when he next spoke it was in a careful whisper:

"Are you still awake, Agatha Redmond?"

"Yes, indeed; quite. Do you want anything?"

"Yes, a number of things. First, are you quite recovered from the trouble—that night's awful trouble?" He seemed to be wholly lost as to time. "Did you come off without any serious injury? Do you look like yourself, strong and rosy-cheeked again?"

Agatha replied heartily to this, and her answer appeared to satisfy James for the moment. "Though," she added, "here in the dark, who can tell whether I have rosy cheeks or not?"

"True!" sighed James, but his sigh was not an unhappy one. Presently he began once more: "I want to know, too, if you weren't surprised that I knew your name?"

"Well, yes, a little, when I had time to think about it. How did you know it?"

James laughed. "I meant to keep it a secret, always; but I guess I'll tell, after all—just you. I got it from the program, that Sunday, you know."

"Ah, yes, I understand." She didn't quite understand, at first; for there had been other Sundays and other songs. But she could not weary him now with questions.

As they lay there the slow, monotonous susurrus of the sea made a deep accompaniment to their words. It was near, and yet immeasurably far, filling the universe with its soft but insistent sound and echoes of sound. At the back of her mind, Agatha heard it always, low, threatening, and strong; but on the surface of her thoughts, she was trying to decide what she ought to do. She was thinking whether she might question her companion a little concerning himself, when he answered her, in part, of his own accord.

"You couldn't know who I am, of course: James Hambleton, of Lynn. Jim, Jimmy, Jimsy, Bud—I'm called most anything. But I wanted to tell you—in fact, that's what I waked up expressly for—I wanted to tell you—"

He paused so long, that Agatha leaned over, trying to see his face. The violence of the chill had passed. His eyes were wide open, his face alarmingly pale. She felt a sudden qualm of pain, lest illness and exhaustion had wrought havoc in his frame deeper than she knew. But as she bent over him, his features lighted up with his rare smile—an expression full of happiness and peace. He lifted a hand, feebly, and she took it in both her own. She felt that thus, hand in hand, they were nearer; that thus she could better be of help to him.

"I wanted to tell you," he began again, "that whatever happens, I'm glad I did it."

"Did what, dear friend?" questioned Agatha, thinking in her heart that the fever had set his wits to wandering.

"Glad I followed the Face and the Voice," he answered feebly. Agatha watched him closely, torn with anxiety. She couldn't bear to see him suffer—this man who had so suddenly become a friend, who had been so brave and unselfish for her sake, who had been so cheerful throughout their night of trouble.

"I told old Aleck," James went on, "that I'd have to jump the fence; but that was ages ago. I've been harnessed down so long, that I thought I'd gone to sleep, sure enough." Agatha thought certainly that now he was delirious, but she had no heart to stop his gentle earnestness. He went on: "But you woke me up. And I wouldn't have missed this last run, not for anything. 'Twas a great night, that night on the water, with you; and whatever happens, I shall always think that worth living for; yes, well worth living for."

James's voice died away into incoherence and at last into silence. Agatha, holding his hands in hers, watched him as he sank away from her into some realm whither she could not follow. Either his hour of sanity and calmness had passed, and fever had taken hold upon his system; or fatigue, mental and physical, had overpowered him once more. Presently she dropped his hand gently, looked to the coverings of his couch, and settled herself down again to rest.

But no more sleep came to her eyes that night. She thought over all that James had said, remembering his words vividly. Then her thoughts went back over the years, recalling she knew not what irrelevant matters from the past. Perhaps by some underlying law of association, there came to her mind, also, the words of the song she had sung on the Sunday which James had referred to—

"Free of my pain, free of my burden of sorrow, At last I shall see thee—"

What ages it was since she had sung that song! And this man, this James Hambleton, it appeared, had heard her sing it; and somehow, by fate, he had been tossed into the same adventure with herself.

Unconsciously, Agatha's generous heart began to swell with pride in James's strength and courage, with gratitude for his goodness to her, and with an almost motherly pity for his present plight. She would admit no more than that; but that, she thought, bound her to him by ties that would never break. He would always be different to her, by reason of that night and what she chose to term his splendid heroism. She had seen him in his hour of strength, that hour when the overman makes half-gods out of mortals. It was the heart of youth, plus the endurance of the man, that had saved them both. It had been a call to action, dauntlessly answered, and he himself had avowed that the struggle, the effort, even the final pain, were "worth living for!" Thinking of his white face and feeble voice, she prayed that the high gods might not regard them worth dying for.



CHAPTER XI

THE HOME PORT

The darkness of the night slowly lifted, revealing only a gray, leaden sky. There was no dawn such as had gladdened their hearts the morning before, no fresh awakening of the day. Instead, the coldness and gloom of the night seemed but to creep a little farther away, leaving its shadow over the world. A drizzling rain began to fall, and the wanderers on the beach were destined to a new draft of misery. Only Agatha watched, however; James gave no sign of caring, or even of knowing, whether the sun shone or hid its face.

He had slept fitfully since their hour of wakefulness together in the night, and several times he had shown signs of extreme restlessness. At these periods he would talk incoherently, Agatha being able to catch only a word now and then. Once he endeavored to get up, bent, apparently, upon performing some fancied duty far away. Agatha soothed him, talked to him as a mother talks to a sick child, cajoled and commanded him; and though he was restless and voluble, yet he obeyed her readily enough.

As the rain began to descend, Agatha bethought herself earnestly as to what could be done. She first persuaded James to drink a little more of the milk, and afterward took what was left herself—less than half a cupful. Then she set the bucket out to catch the rain. She felt keenly the need of food and water; and now that there was no one to heed her movements, she found it difficult to keep up the show of courage. She still trusted in Hand; but even at best he might yet be several hours in returning; and cold and hunger can reduce even the stoutest heart. If Hand did not return—but there was no answer to that if. She believed he would come.

The soft rain cast a pall over the ocean, so that only a small patch of sea was visible; and it flattened the waves until the blue-flashing, white-capped sea of yesterday was now a smooth, gray surface, touched here and there by a bit of frothy scum. Agatha looked out through the deep curtain of mist, remembering the night, the Jeanne D'Arc, and her recent peril. Most vividly of all she heard in her memory a voice shouting, "Keep up! I'm coming, I'm coming!" Ah, what a welcome coming that had been! Was he to die, now, here on her hands, after the worst of their struggle was over? She turned quickly back to James, vowing in her heart it should not be; she would save him if it lay in human power to save.

Her hardest task was to move their camp up into the edge of the brushwood, where they might have the shelter of the trees. There was a place, near the handle of the sickle, where the rock-wall partly disappeared, and the undergrowth from the cliff reached almost to the beach. It was from here that Hand had begun his ascent; and here Agatha chose a place under a clump of bayberry, where she could make another bed for James. The ground there was still comparatively dry.

She coaxed James to his feet and helped him, with some difficulty, up to the more sheltered spot. He was stronger, physically, now in his delirium than he had been during his period of sanity in the night. She made him sit down while she ran back to gather an armful of the fir boughs to spread out for his bed; but she had scarcely started back for the old camp before James got to his feet and staggered after her. She met him just as she was returning, and had to drop her load, take her patient by the arm, and guide him back to the new shelter. He went peacefully enough, but leaned on her more and more heavily, until at last his knees weakened under him and he fell. Agatha's heart smote her.

They were near the bayberry bush, though entirely out from its protection. As the drizzling rain settled down thicker and thicker about them, Agatha tried again. Slowly she coaxed James to his knees, and slowly, she helped him creep, as she had crept toward him in the night, along between the stones and up into the sheltered corner under the bayberry. It was only a little better than the open, and it had taken such prodigies of strength to get there!

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