Flotsam and Jetsam: Part Iii
I FOLDED up the sheet, and laid it on the Doctor’s little tabic.
It had grown late while I read and thought and remembered ; and the sound of a church-clock striking eleven came swelling and sinking on the wind. It was enough like a knell to make me shudder. And I began to think of the same sound with the foam rushing over the Inch Cape Rock, and all the time the ghastly procession of the prison-bell marshalled itself before my eyes.
One or two growls of distant thunder betokened the clearing-up shower. In all the tumultuousness of the earth and heaven resounded still the great monotone of the surf. I went to the window and looked out, for a nightstorm always makes me as restless as it does a cat; and I can quote the witty Adolphe d’Houdetot with feeling when, in remembering that the deluge took place in order to punish men for their iniquities, he asks himself if we have always been wise enough not to experience a secret apprehension while it rains. The only light to be seen was that of a distant corner-lamp flickering and flaring windily over the blackness of its desolate region ; everything in the house was still, even to the mouse of the wainscot; the rain ran in rivulets down the cold pane against which my forehead was pressed. I wondered if Lucian Jouvency heard it beat against his prison-window, or if little Joey Hazard looked out, as I did, at the night, and shivered at the wild, sad cry of the wind. All the pressure of others’ troubles lowered my moral temperature till I seemed to feel the habit of misfortune upon me, till I grew nervous, and torebo Jed a hundred ills to befall the Doctor. When I turned, I found the fire had lallen, and die room was cold ; to give the grate again its cheerful blaze required me to bestir myself, and the movement quickly swept all the cobwebs out of my sky. Then, as the most trivial things will swarm into the mind after any long or serious strain, 1 fell to considering whether or not the rain had hurt my ivy, not yet brought within doors ; if it would be followed by a black frost ; if the pears I had wrapped in paper and laid in a drawer were mellowed yet. I wished the Isabellas had been gathered before the weather changed; I brought out the great globe of a decanter for the firelight to set a flame in, and piled the basket with the little red-jewelled clusters of the new vines, shedding their sweet-spiced savor as soon as they felt the fire. So much for beauty. And then I considered that a gallop through the storm would give a man keen relish for more substantial things than dainties ; and as Elizabeth had long been in bed and the fire in ashes, I laid a little gridiron on the parlor coals, and proceeded to toast the side of a chicken with the best art I had.
While I still bent over the fire, toasting my own face as well, there came the clatter of wheels up the street; I did not think it could be the Doctor, for he had gone on horseback; but, while I was telling myself so, the door was thrown open, there were voices in the entry, I ran forward, toasting-fork in hand, in time to see the Doctor and some one else assisting a third person up stairs, by the light of the hanging lamp, and into my best bedroom. While I looked after them, and stupidly congratulated myself that the place had been freshly set to rights that morning. the Doctor called to me to mull some wine; one of the strangers —it was the man that had called the Doctor— came down with the lantern, by whose help they had steered through the outer darkness, put Chestnut up for the night, — he having been led home by the bridle,—got into his wagon, and drove off at a rattlingspeed. The Doctor then appeared for the wine, and by the time it was ready the chicken was scorched to a crisp ; at which vexation overcame me, and I told him I was no more born for a cook than he for a gardener. “ Never mind,” said he, “ I can pull enough off it for him. Don’t believe it will hurt him ; don’t care if it does. Keep him alive till tomorrow ; he may die next day for all of me.”
“But the chicken was for you! ” said I.
“ Never mind me, I say. I ’ll find a bite in the buttery. Where’s the knife ? O, here.”
“ How gay you are ! One would think a ride of three miles in water up to your knees was a tonic.”
“ A shrewd little woman. The best of tonics. I would n’t change places with the man that rules Christendom to-night ! ” declared he, rapidly separating thh most delicate morsels, and seasoning them.
“ I believe you are a little out of your head. What have you got up stairs ?”
“ You had better ask me whom. Now go to bed, — I shall be up half the night. I don’t speak another word to you, my dear ; for if you once get excited there ’ll be no sleep, and I want you to take a trip with me bright and early to-morrow.”
“ A trip ? Where ? For how long ? What shall I need to take ? ”
“A trip, — yes. Where, — no matter. How long, — more time or less. I shall put a tooth-brush in my pocket. I suppose you ’ll want that slatted treasury-chest that has given the spinecomplaint to every porter that ever set eyes on it and you together.”
“ How absurd you are! As if porters had any spines ! ”
“ Popular fallacy. Hark! The storm’s begun to fall, — pleasant day to-morrow. That was a good idea ol yours, the drum in the chimney overhead, — takes off all the chill. What are you hanging about me for ? ” suddenly asked the Doctor, looking up at me in a savage way, and then stooping and kissing me quite as if we were silly young people once more. “ Now I Ve seen all I want to of my wife to-night, and off with you ! ” And though after my head was on the pillow I heard him come up stairs whistling his favorite air of “Deep-Sea Dredging,” —
Along the ripple edging,
And shoot away with daring oars
To deep-sea dredging.
Hut let the bitter waves arise,
My dory darkly hedging,
And I myself must lie the prize
Of deep-sea dredging,” —
the whistle softened into mere tuneful breath, and was silence itself before he entered the opposite room, where the dimly burning gas lighted his labors till long past midnight.
When I woke the next morning the Doctor was already absent. I started in a panic, fearing I had overslept myself, and should, alter all, lose my Eve’s apple, but was soon reassured by a hearty voice below, rehearsing the breakfast’s bill of fare, and bidding Elizabeth make the coffee strong enough to hold up the spoon. I pulled aside the curtain to look for the vane. It was still east, though the storm was over, but it seemed as though tire weather, having had its crying-fit, must yet take a spell at pouting before the sun could shine again ; still the vane vacillated and had an eye to the south, so I made up my mind that it would clear by noon, and I should ride in my best rep. Having finished my arrangements I prepared to descend ; and the first thing I saw on opening my door was Elizabeth bringing up a tray to the occupant of the best room, followed by the hovering Doctor, who, with singular politeness, turned about and waited on me down. Then, having previously satisfied his own hunger, he carved for me, and was off up stairs again. Just hs I put the cream to my second cup a coach stopped at the curbstone, the stranger was helped down the stairway and into the coach, and the Doctor opened the door and looked at me.
“ Still in your cups ? ” said he. “ I am going now. Martin has put Chestnut in, and will drive you to the station, I
give you just fifteen minutes,” and he was gone.
At that, my spirit being up, althoughI love to take my leisure, I determined to be beforehand with him. We put old Chestnut to his mettle, and I was on the steps ready to welcome the Doctor when the coach drove up. I stood there, proud and smiling, looking up street and down, but no coach came ; I heard the first bell ring, and the second, and the snorting of the impatient engine, still no coach ; then the third bell began to toll, and with its sound the inquiring head of the Doctor peered round the corner. “Where did you come from ? ” exclaimed I. “ I have been waiting here all of the fifteen minutes.”
“ I dare say,” answered he with surly triumph. “ I came from the cars. You have twice as many seconds to reach them in,” and he seized my arm. “ What is in that ? ” looking at my innocent leather bag.
“ My night toilet.”
“ And that box ? ” with a terrible eye.
“ Why, 1 can’t travel in my silk, you know, and these are my muslins, and Your dress-coat and — ”
The Doctor tossed it into the chaise for Martin to take home again, and swept me away to the cars, settled me with a book, and betook himself to the other car, in whose private apartment he had made his patient comfortable. However, I found somebody to talk to ; and in good season we reached our destination. Then the Doctor unceremoniously hustled me into one coach and his charge into another, gave the coachman his directions, — he had on his business face, and I dared not ask a question, -—the door was slammed, and I was whirled away. On my feet once more, at last, and by the Doctor’s side again, 1 called my good genius to aid me, — I could but be killed, — and humbly demanded whither he was taking me.
“Into court,” answered he. “We are going to hear what they have to say in Lucian Jouvency’s defence.”
Then struggling through a throng, before I knew it I was wedged into a seat, patted on the shoulder (a favorite emollient application of the Doctor’s), and left to my own devices.
Little did I think last night that I should be here this morning! I conquered my giddiness, and surveyed my strange surroundings. They were just bringing in the prisoner. I should have known his stalwart and imposing aspect among a thousand, if there had been nothing else to mark him. That 3-ellow woman not far away, working Iter hands and her face perpetually must be Mrs. Hazard ; she had not been in court before, probably Joey had insisted upon her hearing what plea there was to make for Lucian. Was that Joey Hazard by her side, who had just thrown back her thick veil in order to return Lucian’s smile ? It must be she, because there was the piquant little nose, the rippling, bright hair, the shy, bewitching air, — but the eyes full of light in the Doctor’s story were to-day dull and heavy, not as if sodden with tears, but as if they had become blind to sunshine ; and that being she, where was all the changing color gone ? There were no roses now; it was winter there; and I even imagined that in the red gold of her hair one could see silver threads.
All had grown quiet in the court, preliminaries having been despatched while I looked at Joey and her two companions, and I was startled from my meditations by the voice of Lucian’s counsel as he rose and stated that he was about to ask a favor of the court which he felt sure would be granted him ; and that although he was aware it was entirely irregular to introduce testimony in that stage of the proceedings, yet he begged to do so, as the opportune arrival of a witness, since yesterday’s adjournment, had put him in possession of facts that gave an entirely new aspect to the case, and which, while they did away with the necessity of his own plea, would prevent the court’s wasting any further time upon the matter.
To this, of course, the prosecuting attorney, running his hand through his hair and making it stand on end, demurred, as he objected to anything that would deprive them of an opportunity to hear his learned brother’s eloquent periods, ore rotiindo.
The court took no notice of the objection, but inquired if the counsel could aver that the testimony was absolutely necessary ; and being answered in the affirmative',, accorded permission, to introduce it.
There was a little stir at the door. Suddenly the prisoner’s face flushed and paled again. 1 looked in the direction where I supposed the witnessbox to be, and trembled when 1 saw my husband standing there ; but immediately understood, as I detected him restoring the flask to his pocket, that he was only assisting the half-drowned patient up the step, before retiring. The new witness, just as he leaned against the rail, was a slender, easy fellow, looking taller than he was, nowise emaciated, but as a ray of struggling sunlight entered the chink of a shutter and overspread his face, one saw — even through the singular brown stain it wore, which affected one with the vague personal repulsion felt towards another race — that he was deathly pale. Nobody supposed there was anything on hand but some legal manoeuvre, and few looked that way while the oath was hurriedly administered, only I saw three blanching faces suddenly bend together towards him, and sharpen and whiten while they bent. The prosecutor cleared his throat for the first question, while the witness awaited him as a matadore in the ring awaits the onset.
“What is your name?” was asked.
“Geordie Romilly,” was replied.
Sudden stillness took the place of the hum and buzz of the electrified court. It was followed by a cry of amaze, and then a cheer; and “ O my boy, my boy!” gasped Mrs. Romilly-
Joey only stirred to catch the fainting mother in her arms. Mrs. Hazard lifted her tall javelin of a form, and wavered, and darted through tile press, and in a moment had flung herself on Ceorclie’s neck, and was embracing him in an actual frenzy of delight. “There, there, Mother Hazard,” said he. “There’ll be no need of any one to certify my identity now. ’T was a lucky shipwreck drove me ashore last night. Jouvency, old boy, you felt the air beneath your feet. That’s law ail'd land-sharks ! ”
“Silence in the court!” was cried as it had been cried and disregarded before.
Looking very much like a spider that has lost a fly, the prosecuting attorney rose, fumbling among his papers. “ It may be all a very pretty piece of acting,” said he ; “ but for my part I should like the affirmation of a few of the previous witnesses, to convince the jury that this is no imposture.” Both John T.urbox and my husband deposed as he desired, and lastly Joey Hazard was called.
This was a piece of maliciousness in the attorney ; he understood that Joey was in court, and he wanted to see,— as he thought likely everybody c!se did, — the little pinch of white and red that had made all this stir.
Joey left Mrs, Romilly with me, — for I had reached her side,—and stood before him. Everybody must have been sorely disappointed ; for, set and colorless, she stood like a piece of stone, in the very climax of all her weeks of calm.
“ You can solemnly swear that this is Geordie Romilly, for whose supposed murder Lucian Jouvency is now on trial ? ”
It was with such an effort that Joey’s words came that one anticipated a rush.
“ I can — T do — O you wicked man ! it is you that ought to be tried for wishing to murder Lucian ! ” And with the passionate words the floods broke and poured down, a perfect debacle of them, bidding fair to wash Joey herself away with them.
“ One word more with the young man,” said the prosecutor, dryly, and Geordie replaced her.
“We should like now to hear what you have to say for yourself,” remarked the prosecutor, leaning back and biting his pen.
“ I dare say you would, sir ! ” cried Geordie, turning his eyes in a blue fury upon him. “But except that 1 fell from the foretop in a lurch, was picked up, exchanged and wrecked, you Ye heard all you ’ll ever hear from me ! ”
“We should be gratified,” said the judge, urbanely, “to receive a brief explanation from you, Mr. Romilly. ’
“ Your honor, I ’ll be glad to relate everything in private, if you 'll come over to my mother’s house in Netherby. But as for that weasel, he ’s meddled just as much in my loveaffairs as 1 care to have him !”
“The young people are rather severe with me,” said the prosecutor, with a wry face. “ And to show them I am not quite such a bad fellow as they take me to be, I move, your Honor, that the case be given to the jury with instructions to acquit. I ’ll have nothing more to do with a business in which the grave gives up its dead! ”
Meanwhile Mrs. Hazard had insisted upon reaching Lucian, and he stood there supporting her as she sobbed with her face hidden in his breast, his proud white throat bare, Ids head a little lifted, as if for a moment he saw beyond this scene. The judge looked at Lucian, and looked at the jury, comprehended with a glance the complete reversion th'eir poor brains had undergone, made them a little speech, gave them a point of law, and requested their verdict.
It was given on the spot.
Then lie took off his spectacles and wiped them, bent his ear to listen to a whisper of the clerk, nodded, readjusted the glasses.
“ Proceed with your next case, Mr. Attorney,” said he, phlegmatically; and in another minute was clown shaking Lucian’s hand as if he meant to shake it off.
“ Well, well,” muttered Geordie in no measured tone, “you must have done your work well, Doctor ! It takes twelve men to decide whether I ’m alive or not.”
Of course we all went down to Netlierby together, for though 1 hesitated and told the Doctor he was the last person they would ever want to see there again, he, elated out of my reach by the last piece of testimony he had presented, — indeed, for a time we called Geordie by no other name than that of the Doctor’s Testimony, — insisted that anything was best that would keep them from thinking of themselves till they became accustomed to this new phase of things ; that nobody’s Doctor was any restraint upon them, and that he and I were one ; and Mrs, Hazard came to me in her tears, begging we would not think of going anywhere but with her, in a manner that convinced me she was never the woman I had taken her to be. The Doctor, unhappy without his patient, — for Geordie was plucking up life and health with every breath of fresh air, and was no longer the tottering thing that I saw helped into the house last night,— filled his place with Joey, made her up a little bed in the carcloset, and had her joggled off to sleep as we rushed along. Then, as both the boys were busy with their mothers, he came and paid his wife a little attention ; but when Joey woke at the junction, where we changed cars, lie was beside her again for a word or two of rational conversation, as he said,— I always told him he was an eclectic physician, doctoring now people’s bodies and now their souls, and turning his observations upon the stars in the intervening periods,— and by the time we had reached the cottage on the hill, though she was still a little fluttered, Joey’s equanimity was sufficiently restored to enable her, in welcoming us, to play the pretty hostess to a charm.
As for Mrs. Hazard, — though she had a long nervous fever afterward, from which nothing saved Joey but youth and elasticity, — she bustled and beamed to-day; beamed not because of her naturally golden tint, but because of the sunshine in her spirit and bustled, that she might set the best she had before Geordie, get her spare chamber ready for him, and make him as much the son of the house as Lucian. Every other minute, in passing, she paused to lay her two hands on Lucian’s hair, to bend back his head and make sure it was he,—-while he lifted the large eyes to hers, — to ask him some question, to beg his forgiveness, to give him some comfort he had been denied ; and the smiles that she shed upon Geordie, where he sat beside his mother or wherever she came across him, were sacrifices of all past rancor on his shrine;—if he had died and become an archangel, he would have been of no more importance in her eyes. He was suddenly become a demigod ; Orion had forsaken belt, sword, and shield to come down from his stars and save her son. But Lucian did not long remain at rest; he was out and about the place, examining every cranny, reinstating himself in his world that had so nearly given him the slip, bringing in wood for the small servant, hanging the squashes over the kitchen shelf for his mother,—being to all appearance in garret and cellar and garden at once, as if it were impossible to assure himself of his freedom ; while the other, growing every minute brighter and stronger, sufficiently attested that he was Geordie by insisting on tasting everything that was being compounded in the kitchen, by playing off all his old juggling tricks in a single fan de joie, and when Lucian’s voice, large-lunged and deep, came in from the distance on some wild burden, by making a chorus of it with his sweeter and more delicate note. And in it all, tie iittle Mrs. Rom illy, whom 1 had looked to see so pale and frail, sat rosily warmed through and through with unspeakable happiness, but taking the pleasant household scene as if with a premonition that her tent was struck ; yet since it was Geordie that had struck it, it was plainly for the best in her eyes. Meanwhile joey, having withdrawn, did not appear at all till just before the supper for the whole dinnerless party was on the table. Then, when most of us were sitting round the fire that with the chilly nightfall had routed the summer’s green boughs from the great chimney-place, — then it was Joey Hazard appeared, blush after blush flitting across her cheek, eyes demurely downcast and shiningunder their lashes, bashful in air, yet with the quip ready to fly and sparkle from her tongue ; and she wore the pink gown with its white finishings, and the identical jet button, as of old. Lucian, sitting in the corner, had fallen naturally enough to carving jackstraws again ; the place by his side was vacant save for whittlings ; Joey never cast her eyes at it, but made in my direction, when Geordie, who was going up and down in the room seeking what he might devour, went towards her, took her hand gravely, swept off the whittlings, and seated her. Lucian threw down his knife, and as the good Doctor’s wife was busy with her knitting, and all the rest too much engaged on other matters to heed a pair of lovers, quietly passed his arm round her and leaned forward smiling in her face. But Joey looked the other way. The little imp of perversity possessed her to-night, — she needed perhaps a trifle more of the lesson that had just been read her.
“Joey,” murmured Lucian,“if I should live a hundred years, serving you in all of them, I should never thank you worthily, my deaf, for what you said to me in — ”
“ O,” answered Joey, with the shadow of a shrug, “it was because they said I must.”
Lucian slipped his arm away, picked up his knife, and went on cutting jackstraws.
Now this -was the rest of the scene in the cell as it really occurred on the day that Joey with Mrs. Romilly visited Lucian in prison, and as the Doctor had heard it from the counsel. The lawyer, on that occasion, who was a man acquainted with human nature, understood at once that, unless he pinned Miss Joey on the spot and in her excitement, he should never learn what he wished. Perhaps he felt that it was his duty to obtain all the information there was to be had, although he knew the interrogation he was about to make had no real bearing on the case, and would be inadmissible upon the trial. It couldn’t have been from curiosity, because we know very well that men have none. At any rate, he desired to see its effect upon Lucian. So, detaining Joev, he told her he wished to ask her a question. Apparently it came over her in a wave what the question was to be, for she grasped the back of her chair tightly, and stood, without refusing to answer, but white as death, and her eyes fixed on the counsel as if for that moment she drew her breath only through him. He stated to her that, as this was a case in which life was at stake, he trusted she would allow no false shame to prevent her indicating with whom her choice really did lie, —Geordie Romilly or Lucian Jouvency.
“ O sir,” whispered she, hoarsely, and still keeping her scared eyes fixed, “I can’t say that ! ”
“ I must beg that you will,” answered he, gently.
Her eyes wavered a moment, she cast one quick swallow’s flight of a glance about her, and it rested on Lucian where lie sat on the corner of the table, as quiet and composed as if by their own fireside. The prison, to be sure, had bleached the tint that sun and sea once lent him; he had trembled visibly, an instant, while she was being asked that question, but neither that, nor any inward consciousness, nor any certainty of impending doom, had abated his proud nobility of bearing. Pie raised his eagle eyes in the silence, and they met her own. With a heart-beat, Joey’s face was redder than the reddest rose that ever bloomed ; she put up both her little shaking hands to cover it, yet hesitated. Lucian bent forward, — I know how he did it, — his life was in his eyes. " You need n’t speak unless you choose, Joey,” said he, in a clear, strong tone. “ But there’s nobody except God and me to mind what you say. And you know, you know, dear, the one word I’d rather hear than the foreman’s ‘ Not Guilty.’ ” There was silence again for a longmoment. Then a faint low tone slid through it.
“ You, Lucian. I — I love — I mean — I would — I — But you never asked me.”
“ God bless you, Joey ! ” said he, as if there were no one there but themselves, yet as if he dared not touch her while there was a spot upon his honor. And before the words were well uttered she had fled.
And remembering, as I glanced at the two, tins little experience of theirs, I understood Joey’s mood at once, and thought if I had been Lucian I should not have slipped my arm away, nor picked up my knife, nor gone on cutting jackstraws.
“There ! ” said Mrs. Hazard, coming in and leaning on the back of Lucian’s chair, which, rising instantly, he offered her. “No, no, child, keep your easy degree. Supper ’ll be ready directly. She can do the rest. You’re starved, poor boy, I know you ’re starved. I declare, Geordie Romilly, tire blind would open their eyes to see you; but how you came here I can’t get through my head! ”
“ There ’ll never be a better chance than now to tell you,” he answered, throwing himself down where he could bask in the firelight and lay his head occasionally in his mother’s lap. “You see, Jouvency, when I ran up those ropes I’d no idea of anything but sport. But after you had called at me in that tone to come down, I’d have been hung at the yard-arm first. Then I saw you throw away your knife, and made up my mind it intended mischief; and as I knew I was no match for you, it seemed a better plan to stay where I was, and hinder your doing something you kl be sorry for. Then I liked to defy you, — you were master, I was man ; then, too, there is a streak of wickedness in me, though — ”
“ Though you never knew fear of anything in the flesh, Geordie.”
“ I don’t know,” said Geordie, his eyes askance at Joey, “ though perhaps it was a devilkin, after all. So I sat there, and looked down over the white steep of the sails, and saw you striding beneath, this way and that, keeping both watches at once, like a pendulum itself, steady and even. And as 1 looked, and saw you so sober and sad, I began to repent, and I wondered it I cared enough for any woman to let her serve us this turn ; and I thought, sooner than have a breach between us, I 'd be sawn in sunder ; for you were a part of myself then, mate, though I doubt — ”
“ Don’t you be gasing, old fellow,” said Lucian, whittling intently.
“ The wild deer sheds his horns, mate. You see,” said Geordie, turning to the Doctor, “Jouveney has a drop of this wild liquor that bubbles and boils in my veins. He ’s different from all these clods. Strike him, and he shows sparks.”
“ And the foretop ? ” asked Lucian.
“ Well; then I remembered the letter from Joey that had been knocked overboard that morning. I’d have liked to see her little marks. And at that I fouled again; for I knew well that it was no picture of Joey’s, — as you thought it was, Jouveney, — but my own that she !d sent back to me ; for I’d stolen hers and left mine behind with her. Then I took out the little case from where I always carried it, and there was Joey smiting at me, bright as if she had n’t been shut up in the dark so long, with her pretty head on one side, and all her girlish air ; and I kissed it, and put my fist through it, and pitched it after the other one. And the memory of long days with you, and evenings with Joey, and nuttings in the field together, all began to steal over me, and I was half sorry that ever I ’d tried to cut across your hawse. Then at last I bethought me, brother, that there was my shadow lying at the bottom of the sea, and perhaps I could do no better than go after it. And I wondered how it would seem to be taking one’s last look of sky and sea, and I lifted my eyes to view the deep dark heaven move over us, with its stars lying upon it like jewels ; and I cast them abroad on the wide bloomy purple waters, singing softly to themselves, —just a breath of wind was blowing, but as I gazed it was rising to a breeze, the little waves were springing to catch it and feather their snow upon it, and far, far away a vapor or a sail took shape, -—and suddenly the stars had gone, ancl the sky was a great rose, and the sun himself was floating up like a fiery spirit, and every wave beneath him was a kindled flame, and it was morning, with no mad riot of bird-singing as on shore, but everywhere a hush of murmuring waters that made one drowse. And all at once your voice rose in a volley, Jouveney, there was a lurch, just as you dashed the brine over Jacky Tar and his weight fell forward on the wheel, and with it I was flying through the air, grazing a shroud that broke my fall, and parting the waters, and plunging down, down — ”
“Then I killed you, after all, Geordie ! ” cried Lucian.
“ And this is my ghost.”
“ But why did n't you halloo ? ”
' “O, I should have screamed ! ” said joey.
“ Perhaps I did. I don’t know. Only you were making so much noise yourself, Jouveney, that I should n’t have been heard. And then I was possessed of Satan. And if it struck your ear at all, you thought my splash no more than that of a leaping fish. When I rose, and shook the water from my eyes, and tried to strike out, the bark was far, far ahead, and I was at sea on my own account, with a broken arm for ballast, Then it smote me like a blow, the strange sail or vapor on the horizon. And 1 began to fear that it meant more than I had known, and that it was a spirit-sail bearing down upon me ; and as all the deeds of their lives rush blindingly over drowning people, so I fancied that in recalling our pleasant past, as I swung in the foretop, I had begun beforehand. But that was only one wild moment; for I had always known I was never born to be drowned'; it does n't run in our line,” said Geordie, with a short laugh and a quick glance at his mother,—-“a line that dances through this world and into the next, so fond of its dance that at last it dances on nothing; and remembering the fact, I gathered heart and contrived to keep afloat,—half an hour, I afterwards learned ; all day, I should have said. The waters were warm and pleasant. I was only afraid of sharks, I meant to turn them my broken arm first;. and at last giving one final look all round at the great blue, shining, heedless sky, I saw the strange sail like a mountain of snow on the weather, — it seemed a mountain to me, —and then came an agony! If I should sink, and that in sight! And in due course of time, just as all manner of strange faces and burning colors were crowding upon my eyes,— I’ve seen them once again since then, Doctor, — 1 was picked up, and taken aboard of her. She was a man-of-war bound for the Pacific. 1 left her at Fiji — French leave — for a returning whaler, and we went ashore last night across the bay. That’s all you kl care to hear,” said Geordie.
“ It ’s nothing less than a miracle !’’ exclaimed Mrs. Hazard.
“It is a nightmare,” sighed Mrs. Rom illy.
“Is it strange to be here, Geordie, among us all, beside the tire, and with the storm just over ? ” asked Joey.
“And the Doctor here, — as if it were just the next night to one before I went away. Yes. But I’m of the light, loose kind ; out of sight, out of mind. And you "ll all be changed in a day or two. You 'll be a will-o’-the-wisp, lending one a dance over bog and brier no longer, Joey, but a little sober lantern for Lucian to carry in his hand.”
•‘No,” said the Doctor, as Joey’s chin began to rise, “but a happy chirping chimney-cricket for us all.”
“Anything you please,” answered Geordie, “only changed. Then he’s gone through what will quench his fire forme,— I’ve drifted off from Jouvency, I 've cast loose from you, Joey. I used to be in love with you,” said Geordie, with his reckless freedom and disregard ; “ to-day your cheeks are too pale. Besides, if I loved any woman, I think I would n’t marry her ; I’d thank the man that took her, though wanting to see him no more, — for I should break her heart.”
“ That is wicked nonsense, Geordie! ” said Lucian.
“ Yes,” continued Geordie, “ it seems now as if I’d never been away; it seemed then as if I had never been here. I doubt would I have returned at all, but for you, little woman. I 'm a worthless dog ; mother’s love is the only love that lasts with me. You took me early back into Christendom with you, I cut my teeth on your coral, — mother’s milk diluted, it could never drown out the wild tang of my blood. And now the gadfly is on us, and I think we ’ll leave these parts.”
“ O Geordie ! ” said Joey.
“ I’m only half-civilized, Joey. I can’t cling to your customs. I was rocked in a cradle, yet there’s no bed to me like hemlock-boughs. Once I could be vexed at your Gypsy Geordies and little flings, — I don’t know why it shamed me to trace my brown skin back to the old kings that wore the tint before me, — the old shepherd king of Egypt. We are wanderers on the face of the earth ; and having bound her fate with ours, my mother lias been long enough in one place to start again. And here comes the stew! Jove! if it were boiling on a crotch-stick over a fire filched from a fence, and to be eaten with a splinter for a fork ! ”
“For shame, Geordie!” said his mother ; but he laughed back at her so roguishly that all the grave faces relaxed, and every one was puzzled to know how much truth there was in a word he said.
“ Mother,” said Lucian then, standing a moment opposite Mrs. Hazard, as we gathered round the cloth, “ I am going to ask the Elder to come up here this evening. But I don’t know as that need hinder our thanking God, now. that we sit all together at this table once more, heart-safe, hands clean, and honor bright.”And with this model grace concluded, we took our seats. I had expected something of the kind before, and wondered at its omission, but my husband, to whom my unfortunate iace is transparent, had privately hinted to me that, when the engine is suddenly reversed, things do not immediately find their equilibrium.
All the time that Geordie had been rambling on, Joey had sat quite turned awav from Lucian, her eyes upon Geordie’s, and her whole attention apparently surrendered to him ; and directly alter we were engaged at the table it was plain that the naughty hussy had been touched by his boast of freedom from her chain, and was determined to give him vet another taste of her power. It was a pretty game to watch ; but one was saved from condemning the little witch’s conduct as utterly reprehensible by remembering that she had yet by no means recovered from the fever of her late excitement; that she was still in the reaction of all her long-torced calmness, and was incapable of seeing things in their true light and magnitude. In fact, Joey, with her glistering glance, with the color fixed to damask in her check, with her breathless manner, was the least in the world beside herself, and consequently governed by her former habit; this trifling, twittering, sparkling joey would to-morrow be the staid, quiet little housewife, the happiness ol the hearth. While she coquetted with all her bewildering ways, Geordie, having decided after a few moments that Lucian was equal to the occasion, left off driving a half-dollar through his tumbler,— it must have been one of those the Doctor put in the pocket of his new clothes that morning,—and lent himself to her whim. And if, to reward him for the part he played, he was made subject to a bit of the old intoxication and pain, it was no more than he deserved. “Ah, Joey,” whispered the Doctor at the other side, “if I were your lover — ”
“Which one of them?” she quickly whispered back.
“ Have you any right to more than one ? ”
Joey bit her lip, and salted her tea, and spilled the contents of the saltspoon over the cloth. There was a general laugh among the rest of us as Mrs. Hazard scrambled to throw over her shoulder some that had fallen between herself and Geordie.
“You shouldn’t talk to me so,” murmured Joey, under shelter of the sound. “ He don’t care about me. I had to say before everybody that I did!” and the little red lip trembled too much to continue the coherency.
“ I was only telling you what my treatment of your present indisposition would be, Dr. Joey,” was the answer. “I shouldn't put you into a straitjacket exactly, but you should speedily find yourselves in bonds ! ”
“ Oh,” said Joey, her imp uppermost again. “ You think I need a bridle to tame me.”
“ Because you ’vc just missed the halter,” was on the tip of the Doctor’s tongue ; but it was too wicked for him to say, so he kept it between his teeth.
Meanwhile Lucian, who had been hurt, indignant, and amazed, by the fireside, had now, perhaps, fully resolved upon his line of action, and was about to teach Joey a lesson for life. Lie had scarcely eaten anything himself, but sat there assisting every one else, alert and alive, with his great dark eyes fully lifted and letting out a dazzle ; and if through honesty or fearlessness he had ever at any other time been of slower comprehension, which I doubted, tonight he seemed to feel everything through the very pores of his skin.
When we were rising, Lucian came round and asked the Doctor if he could walk with him for a short time; and the Doctor, giving Miss Joey the benefit of his face, which evidently meant mischief, proceeded to accompany him.
“ You don’t ask me, Jouvency ? ” said Geordie.
“ You and I must have many a walk,” said Lucian, with a certain sweet complaisance. “ But we ’ll go out now, and have a look at our stars together till the Doctor is ready to join us.” And as we could hear them pacing up and down the path, the Doctor made no motion to increase their number, but stood watching Joey where she sat on a low stool holding her chin in her hand, and absently humming,
Nothing at nil, — nothing at all,—
Only my shadow is dancing there,
All by itself to a phantom air,”
till Geordie, coming in, tossed down his hat and told him Jouvency waited. “ He has his grand air to-night,” said Geordie. “ I can tell you what! when he stood there this morning, holding you, Mrs. Hazard, with his head up, and his eyes looking out beyond the whole kit of them, I expected nothing but be kl declare he was as innocent when they meant to destroy him as now when they meant to acquit him, and refuse the benefit of clergy. Joey, you ’ll have a husband in a thousand.”
“How do you know I will?” asked Miss Joey, brushing up the hearth with vigor.
“ He has just told me so.”
“ Self-praise goes no great ways,” was the sententious reply!
“ It is self-praise, I allow now,” said the daring Geordie, “for a man to declare he is to be Joey’s husband.”
“ I did n’t mean that, you know,” replied the sprite.
But Geordie had obtained a glimpse of his long tin whistle, that had hung in die branches of the fan-coral this year and more, and had caught it down, and sent his nimble half-dollar through it, as a duster apparently. “That will give it a silver ring,” said he, and went to blowing out strange sad strains with a forgetfulness of all about him. For though it was possible for nobody less than a wizard to obtain the softness of wood from the base metal, Geordie had a gift at his tin pipe, and he charmed the rude ear with its shrill sweetness as no Lydian flute could have clone. They were tranquillizing tunes that he played, — such melancholy melodies as he had heard the winds sing in the shrouds, as he had heard the leaves murmur in the forest, the sedges in the lakes. There was a subtile art in the long slow notes. They took the fancy away toother scenes, — a valley among high mountains, the gloom beneath a hill, the sea creaming along the shore at dawn, — they spread a magic through the air ; and as she listened Joey grew more quiet, her nervous fingers lay idly in her lap, and her eyes gazed vaguely into the fire as if she could not see for the tears that filmed them. It was driftwood burning there, fragments of unknown wrecks, once copper-sheathecl, long wave-washed, and impregnated with the salts of the sea that decomposed in a blaze of splendid color, in short, crisp tongues of sulphurous azure, and great green sheets that might have been the exhalation of some single emerald surge, and seemed not so much shifting flame as the very spirit of fire itself. One felt that the noise of tempestuous nights and tossing breakers roared up the chimney ; it was a glare that should have illuminated long stretches of dark angry water; in the hissing and oozing, and crackling, and crepitation one fancied the confusion of creaking cordage and starting plank and hurried cry, and it seemed as if the ghost of all that departed sound were striving again for utterance. Yet, in spite of such association, there was an unavoidable sense of cheer about the dancing coruscations, in which all the sublimated quintessence of the sea was evoked by the touch of its mighty adverse element; and they dissipated the mournfulness of Geordie’s music for us all, and for himself as well ; and when he laid down his pipe Joey was gently chanting to herself the burden of an old hymn. Perhaps she was but half aware of her revery ; but she sung out her thoughts to us in the sweet and solemn words, —-
Watch and ward o’er thee to keep.
Though thou walk through hostile regions,
Though in desert wilds thou sleep.
Before she had finished, the Doctor came in, followed presently by Lucian.
“ Cleared off cold,” said the Doctor, rubbing his hands before the fire, “ Brisk weather outside. Stars are bright enough to make the sky look as if it had been out all night in the frost.” Then lie came and sat down by me. "Well,” said he, under pretence of winding up his watch, speaking with bated breath, “ we did what we set out to do. Overcame some difficulties, — the town-clerk had his scruples, — looked for Lucian’s handcuffs,— seemed,” said the Doctor, for my ear alone, “ actually to fear the social consequences of the Shakespearian theory of marrying a gallows and begetting young gibbets.”
“ Doctors are hard-hearted things ! ” I said.
“ Right, my dear,” he answered. “ An organ in such constant requisition becomes like a housemaid’s hand.”
But Geordie’s ear, always quick as the fox, was open.
“One man’s meat and another man’s poison?” suggested he to us, without turning his head.
“If ’t were done when ’t is done ! ” said I.
“ Catch her first and tame her afterward,” said the Doctor, still under his breath, and then looked inquiringly at Lucian, on whom Geordie’s glance had for some time been bent.
Lucian stood by the fireside, and was gazing down at Joey, who kept her eyes persistently on the fire, till his voice commanded them. “Joey,” said lie, “ there are none here but our dear friends, you know, and to one of them we owe, not only the blessing of being under one roof this evening, but life itself and all the happiness we have to hope. And so I think I may say to you before them all, that the Elder is coming up the hill, and if there is any reason why he should not give you to me at once, speak now, or else forever after hold your peace.” And smiling down upon her, Lucian bent and raised her by the hand.
Joey lifted her eyes to Lucian’s again in a brief flash, looked round upon all our faces in a sudden frightened way, then snatched her hand away, and turned and hid her face in his open palm. “ O, I’m not good enough ! ” gasped she.
“ Perhaps the Elder’ll make you so,” said Lucian, still retaining her. “ I find you very good as Joey Hazard, but think myself you ’ll be better as Joey J ouvency ! ”
“ But, Lucian,” said Mrs. Hazard, with a horror of Netherby Corner, “she’s never been engaged!”
“ I don't approve of engagements, ma’am,” said the Doctor, with no appeal.
“ But marriage — ”
“Is a looking-glass to catch larks,” said Geordie.
“ Well, for the matter of that,” said Mrs. Hazard, pursuing her own thoughts, “ they’ve kept company this dozen years ; and — and—if the Doctor thinks’t will do,” concluded she in a tremble of real pleasure. “ But in her gingham ? ”
The blushing Joey turned at the word, holding out her pink skirt with both hands.
“ The gown of gowns for me,” said Lucian.
“ And not a speck of cake in the house!” resumed its mistress, “nor a drop of wine, —for I had n’t the heart to make any. But let me tell you, Miss Joey, there 'll have to be an end here of all your airs and graces, for they don’t set well on a married woman.” But suddenly Geordie silenced her in welcoming the Elder as if he were himself a pillar of the church.
I don’t know why it is, a wedding always makes me cry. I can compass heaven and earth to bring it about, but when it reaches the point I had as lief attend a funeral. Whether I think, when the bride goes rustling by in her shining veil and flowers, of the Iamb decked out for the altar, or whether I am oppressed by the mystery of the great sacrament, it is all the same ; and unless some blessed distraction comes to my relief,—-as once it did in the shape of my sea-green silk, every tear I dropped on which I knew would make a blue spot, — unless such counteracting commonplace preserves me, I am dissolved and lost. But there was nothing of the wedding about that evening’s ceremony,—there was only Lucian standing there devout and tender, and Joey longing to hide herself. Besides, I was not so much concerned in Joey’s future ; if she came across some pebbles in her path, I fancied they would do her no harm, and, for all her wiles just now, I did not believe that Lucian had reached the end of his troubles, and what feeling I had I reserved for him. But the Doctor was not of my opinion ; and I heard him at the conclusion of things playing the key-bugle with his handkerchief in a way to alarm one. Nevertheless, I had one person to agree with me, as Geordie’s congratulatory remark told, “ Ah, Joey,” said he, “you don’t need I should wish you joy. But as for Lucian ! — it’s my opinion, for all your blushes, that when one makes his bed on roses, he’s apt to be thorned to death ! ”
Meanwhile the quiet Mrs. Romilly looked at Geordie as if she remembered another and a different kind of bridal, and, going to Joey, took from her own bosom a tiny amulet. “You shall always wear it, my dear,” said she, “ and as long as he lives he shall love you.”
“ And as long as I wear it, shall you?” asked Joey, coquettish even to her kind.
“ You will never know any more whether I love you or not,” said the pale little creature with no identity of her own, “becau-se Geordie is going away now, and I suppose we shall never return.”
“ Not so fast,” said Geordie. “ Some time or other we must end our days ; we ’ll come back and do it here.”
“ My hearth will always be your hearth, Geordie,” said Lucian. And then the Elder pulled out the big Bible which Mrs. Hazard had perhaps always regardecl too reverentially to make free with, and hushed us with the touching texts and promises he found, as one by one he turned over the leaves ; and kneeling down, at last, he melted all our hearts into one with the prayer that he offered for those whose lives were united to all eternity, for him who had been given back in innocence and honor, and for him whom the sea had surrendered. And after he had ceased, the wide wings of a solemn thankfulness brooded over the still and happy house.
The years have slipped away since then, a half-score of them.
Joey Hazard, or Joey Jorbones, as the Netherby dialect renders her stately name, wears her matronly roses with pretty dignity, nor did it take another voyage of Lucian’s over-seas to make the ground good beneath her feet. Perhaps Lucian remembers a promise that once he gave the Doctor upon a certain night, but at any rate I fancy he has no occasion for any paroxysms now-a-days ; and I never agreed with the lawyers then, — for if the paroxysms evinced a violent temper, they evinced, in my opinion, an equal control of it, and were certainly not so much due to irascibility as to violent emotion, — and now he lives quietly at home, and watches another Joey open her roses under his eyes. But Geordie returns no more. Whether he has taken him to Lis wilds, or rests in foreign ports, or lies at last somewhere deep down between the still currents, rocked softh in his sleep far beneath all the restless tides that shift and roll above, no rumor comes to tell us. But still I fancy that Lucian looks for him ; and whenever a minute-gun sounds between the Tusks and the shore he is the first on the beach, the first to man the life-boat, the first to swim out with the life-line ; and on no stormy night is the curtain dropped in the window of the cottage on the hill, lest some wayfarer should miss the cordial welcome of his glowing hearth.