Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

the school-room scene, father and daugh- “And what about the hero?" exclaimter were locked in each other's arms in ed my companion. the old log-cabin at Napa. Time swept “Ah!” said I, “he is a native of Wales, by. This girl grew up to blooming wom- also, and his accomplished wife, as I have anhood, California changed from an al- shown, sprung from the same family. most uninhabited waste to an Eldora- The currents were widely separated for do, Napa Valley became a paradise. more than two centuries, but like the The young mountaineer had become an crystal waters of yonder river, they have old pioneer, and the old pioneer a mill- come together at last, in unison, after a ionaire; the little orphan a belle and an career so checkered.” heiress to his fortune. Sought by many, “But," rejoined my comrade, "you she accepted the hand of an honorable have not mentioned his name.” and highly esteemed gentleman, who “ Nor do I intend so to do," I ancame to San Francisco in 1849, and who swered. “Modern etiquette forbids it. still resides there, esteemed and respect. But if you will read the history of the ed by all the community, and who at United States on your return home to one time represented that city in the your country, you will find his kinsmen State Senate. The daughter of this figuring therein as Captain John Paul marriage is the heroine of my story." and Commodore Ap Catesby

[ocr errors]

JOHN WILDE.

“Fathoms deep the ship doth lie,

with which he bought a little piece of Wreath'd with ocean - weed and shell,

ground and erected this hut upon it. The cod slips past with round white eye,

He then retired from the fishing busi-
Still and deep the shadows lie,
Dusky as a forest dell:

1

ness — being the first and last of my Tangled in the twisted sail,

race who has been a man of leisure With the breathing of the sea,

and died six months afterward from Stirs the man who told this tale, Staring upward dreamilie."

over-indulgence in his own contraband

whisky. I was the only child of my T was at Seacomb, a diminutive fish- parents. My father was a great strong

ing hamlet on the south coast of hard-working man, kind to his wife, and England, that I met John Wilde, and it after his manner affectionate to me. But was there, in his lonely hut, one stormy he was a man of few words and of a winter night, that he told me a story very reserved disposition. He had an which I think ought to be recorded. idea that my great grandfather had died

“I was born here nearly fifty years very rich, and that his concealed treasago, and came of a race of fishermen, ure would turn up some day. My mothwho have starved here at Seacomber, dear heart, doated on me. during three hundred years, all poor as the one bright star on her dim road of the rocks they lived among, and well- life. nigh as ignorant, save one, my great “Of the first twelve years of my life grandfather, who ventured so far out of there is little to be said. I grew up wild the beaten track of his ancestors as to as the sea - birds, fearless as they of the do a little smuggling, and thereby man- great waters that rolled and roared conaged to scrape a few pounds together, tinually before me. My father was one

I was

ours.

of the boldest fishermen in Seacomb, the women wringing their hands and and I accompanied him upon his trips weeping, the men getting out the lifeat all times and in all weathers. He had boat. My father, perfectly calm now, no thought of teaching me anything more cheered on the latter, and was the first than how to sail a boat and catch fish, to spring into the boat and seize the and I had no higher ambition than to steering-oar. In a moment she was become master of those arts. But when manned, in another she was launched I was in my thirteenth year an event and riding high upon the waves. What happened which subsequently changed brave hearts there are in this world of the whole course of my existence.

Six times that boat was dashed "A heavy gale had been blowing in- back upon the beach, twice disabling shore with constantly increasing violence two of her crew, but in a flash their for several days, and at last culminated places were filled, and at the seventh in a terrific storm, the worst that had attempt the rollers were cleared and been known in these parts for many she struggled steadily toward the wreck years. On the night of this storm my and disappeared in the darkness. Scarmother and I were sitting here, she knit- ed and white were the faces in the group ting and I mending nets. It might have on the shore when the lightning flashed, been about eleven or twelve o'clock, and I thought then of the other white when suddenly the door opened and my faces that would be there, upturned and father rushed in violently, seized his lan- cold, before the day broke. Breathless. tern, which hung in a corner, lit it with ly we waited for the return of the lifetrembling hands, and rushed out again, boat; I can not tell how long, but it seemmuttering excitedly below his breath. ed hours. At last the group began to Alarmed at his unusual manner, we stir, and we looked in each other's faces. both rose quickly and followed him out “They are lost!' some one said, and the into the darkness; but he waited for women began to wail, when suddenly a nothing, so, following the direction taken great wave rolled in, and out of its black by the lantern, we looked toward the flashing bosom sprung the life-boat. Inbeach, and saw several lights moving stantly she was grasped by fifty pairs of hurriedly forward and backward, and up hands and hauled up high and dry, just and down; then above the shriek of the in time to save her from the reach of tempest we heard faintly the shouts of another great wave that rushed at her

greedily, as if anxious to recover the “It must be a wreck!' cried my prey its brother wave had lost. In the frightened mother, and she fled toward bottom of the boat lay the forms of those the beach.

the sea had yielded up-yielded up, but “Her words appalled me. I had not without a ransom, for three of the never seen a wreck, but I knew our crew were missing. Carefully the bodbreakers well enough to know what fear- ies were lifted and laid upon the sand. ful work they would make if ever a ship They were nine in all — two women, six got among them. Straining my gaze sea- men, and a little girl. Of these, the two ward, I soon made out a dark troubled women and one of the men were stone object close in with the shore, and the dead. Gently they were borne in strong next moment a flash of lightning dis- arms up to the cottages, and there cared closed the waves beating mercilessly for as the humble inmates never cared over a great broken dismasted ship. for themselves. The little girl was carHurrying down to the beach I found ried to our house; not by father, howmost of the village congregated there — ever, for he had been injured by one of

VOL. 15. - 24.

men.

[ocr errors]

a

the shocks received at setting out, and when I reached the house I found could scarcely drag his weight along. the child in bed and sleeping soundly; Arrived at home, my father went to bed father was also in bed &tossing about at once, and the child was soon brought and moaning painfully, for he was sadly to by the exertions of my mother and a hurt. Mother sat by his side bathing neighbor.

his fevered brow, and looking very pale “How can I describe the babe as she and worn. I showed her the box, and lay there before the fire! Her image, she bade me put it on the shelf for the God knows, is engraved upon my heart. present, and be quiet. But how shall I describe her? She was “During the next two days there was about seven years old; her hair of golden a great stir at Seacomb. Many stranbrown lay in disheveled masses about gers came down from the great cities her fair pale face, and its metallic lustre inland to identify and carry away the shot flame for flame against the fire; dead and to see after the rescued cargo. her features were of that refined and on the third night one of the passendelicate type which can only be pro- gers who had been saved, an elderly duced by many generations of gentle gentleman, came to our house and in: birth. But why should I attempt to de- quired for my mother. He had heard, scribe her? I can never do her beauty he said, that she had a box which had justice. I know that, in my eyes, ac- been washed up from the wreck. He customed only to the brown coarse had lost a similar box, containing many features of my playmates, she did not valuable papers and some money. If seem to be a mortal child. That was this was his, his name would be upon the rst night in which her face entered it. Would she let him see it? Mother my dreams; since then it has rarely showed it to him, and it proved to be been absent from them.

his. He told us the whole story of the “At day-break I was out upon the wreck, which I need not repeat, and beach again to see the wreck. The said the ship was from the East Indies, storm had subsided, but the sea still and had many passengers aboard. He ran high. The ship had been literally then opened the box and took from it battered into fragments, which lay scat- a bundle of papers and a roll of banktered all along the shore. A great notes. They were very slightly damnumber of people were busy gathering, aged, as the box was nearly water-tight. the different articles as they were wash- The former he replaced, and the latter ed up, and piling them beyond the reach he handed to mother, begging her to acof the waves. At some little distance cept the money as a token of his gratiwere a number of bodies lying in a row tude for the recovery of the papers. At upon the sand, and partially covered with first mother seemed inclined to refuse; a sail. This sight so horrified me that but he pressed the gift upon her, saying I turned to go up to the house again, that he was rich, that the papers were when I noticed that, as a wave receded worth a hundred times the amount, and a few yards from me, it left a small square that the money would help to cure her object behind it. I hastened to rescue husband. Then she looked at my fathit, and found it to be a tin box about a er's white face and took the money. foot long and six inches wide, securely Before leaving he stepped up to the locked, and having a handle on top, and cot in which the child lay sleeping. what I suppose were letters- I could ““"Poor little motherless one,' he said, not read then-on its side. This I as he looked at her, 'you have lost more picked up, and carried to my mother. than any of us.'

“Do you know anything about her, child ! of her early history; she had livsir?' inquired mother.

ed, she said, with her father and moth"Nothing,' he answered, “except that er, and many servants and many soldiers; she was on board with her mother, a and her father was a soldier and was stately pleasant lady, named Mrs. Has- killed, and her mother and she were tings, and an East Indian nurse. She coming to England to live, when the will doubtless be fetched away from here wreck happened; and then she would before long. Poor child, hers has been cover her face with her little hands and a terrible loss.' With that he left, and cry bitterly. But gradually she grew to we never saw him again.

forget these things, or at least to speak "So things went on for some weeks, less of them. And so the years went and still the child was not fetched. But on and she became one of us. she gradually regained her strength, and “But my story grows long, and I must would have done so rapidly had she not hasten on to its close. It is needless to pined and cried so unceasingly for her say that I grew to love her with the dead mother. In the meantime my poor whole strength of my heart. And she father died of the injuries he had sus- knew it, and in her gentle way returned tained, which so weakened my mother my love; but I think hers was more the that she took to her bed and would have love of a sister for a brother than the died, too, had it not been for the care stronger passion I would have given my taken of her by the neighbors. Ah, we life to see. My mother looked upon our were a sad household in those days ! union as a settled thing, and its accom

“So the months rolled on and were plishment was the aim and end of her gathered into years, and still the child life. But there was something stood remained with us. “Waif' we called her, between us of which I only was aware. her own name sounding strange and un- I was constantly oppressed with a sense homelike to my ears. After my father's of my own inferiority when in the presdeath, a brother of my mother's came to ence of Waif. There was an indefinalive with us, and thus things went on ble air about her that stamped her as my much as of old, except that the fair young superior; no matter how gentle, how face made sunshine in the hitherto gloomy loving she was to me, I always felt that

I household. Not that the child was mer- she somehow lowered herself when she ry-on the contrary, she was sad and spoke to me. I struggled hard to rid quiet—but her sweet gentle disposition myself of this feeling, but could not; was something foreign to Seacomb, and she was ever the delicate lily-I the we cherished her as an exotic flower. coarse sea-weed; she the lady, no matMy mother grew to love her as her own ter how homely her garb — I the rustic child, and she grew to love my mother boor. Worship her -ay, love her - I as her own parent. How gracious, how might, but mate with her-never! good she was to me, who worshiped her. "One night when my mother, in Waif's We were constantly together when I was absence, twitted me on my pale looks, not fishing, and in the long evenings she laughingly saying something about 'lovewould tell me what she knew of the sickness,' I astonished her by exclaimstrange land she was born in or had ing suddenly, “Mother, Waif can never lived in ever since she could remember; be my wife !' and bursting into tears. of the great elephants and the gorgeous Then, in answer to her anxious inquibirds, of the mighty forests, of the palms, ries, I told her all my secret-how that and wonderful fruits and flowers. But Waif knew everything, and I nothing; she could recollect little enough, poor how that she was a lady, and I a fisher

[ocr errors]

boy. “But, my son, you must be crazed,” me and begged me not to go; you see she said; ‘Waif can do little more than she did not know why I wanted to learn. read or write herself, and as for being a She said she should be afraid of me lady, I should like to see the lady who when I came back, I should know so is too good for my brave big-hearted much, and finally she made me promise John. Has the child herself put this to come down to Seacomb as often as I into your head, my son?'

could. "No, no, mother,' I answered, quick- “This was the beginning of the end. ly; 'how can you wrong her by such a For five years I labored day and night thought! But I know it, I feel it; and as few men have labored; and during while I feel it I would sooner die than all that time I could only spare time and ask her to mate with me.'

money enough to visit Seacomb twice, “Then mother laughed again, and said, though I wrote very often. At first it kissing me: “Well, well, John, you are was terrible work, and my progress was only sixteen, and she is a mere child; very slow. I had to begin at the very time enough to talk about marrying a bottom of things, and my talent, I fear, half-dozen

years from now, and by then was not great; but by degrees I improryou will have outgrown this foolish ed, and it came easier toward the end. crotchet.' But for all her affected cheer- I lived upon next to nothing, but I was fulness she seemed concerned and dis- used to that. At the end of the fifth appointed; it was evident I had set her year I came down to Seacomb for the thinking. A few days after this she last time before my final return, which called me to her, and said: “John, I was to be twelve months later. Then it have been considering what you said to was that I spoke out to Waif, and she me the other day, and I have found a promised to be my

wife. remedy.'

“The day before I left I was walking 66 • What is it, mother?'

with my betrothed along a retired part You complained of being beneath of the beach, beyond the heads up yonWaif, and were troubled because you der, when we were approached by a knew nothing. You shall be her equal, stranger, to me at least, who came down if learning can make you so, and you are from the cliffs to meet us. He was a willing to learn. You remember the tall well-built man, of some thirty or money the gentleman gave us for sav- thirty-five years, fashionably but plainly ing his box? Well, except what I spent dressed. As he drew nearer, I saw that to bury your father, I have got that mon- he was handsome, but looked rather disey yet; I kept it all for you—and Waif. sipated; he was evidently a gentleman, You shall go to the great city, John, and as far as the social sense of the word learn, and be her equal. I have spoken goes. I was about to bid him good-day to the clergyman over at Pencliffe about and pass on, when to my astonishment it, and have shown him the money, and he raised his hat gracefully to Waif, and, he says that though it is not much, yet coming up to us, offered her his hand you are so used to a hard life that it will as if he were an old acquaintance. be enough, and he has promised to ar- “Ah, Waif, good-morning,' he said; range everything for you.'

'pray who is this friend of yours?' “I was too much confused to reply- "Why, this is John - John Wilde but there, I will not trouble you with de- whom I have told you so much about. tails. Suffice it to say, I went, though John, this is Captain Ogilvie.' the parting from Waif and mother was a I was utterly confounded, and stood terrible trial. The poor girl clung to staring stupidly at him. He smiled lan

« AnteriorContinua »