Charles Dickens.

A message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round online

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and went near to frightening me.

The moon got high in the heavens, and the
light of her lay all in a flood on the sand before
me, on the rocks that jutted out from it, and
on the calm sea beyond. I was thinking of
Margaret wondering if the moon was shining
on our little bay at Steepways, and if she was
looking at it too when I saw a man's shadow
steal over the white of the sand. He was lurk-
ing near me again ! In a minute, he came into
view. The moonshine glinted on his blue spec-
tacles, and glimmered on his bald head. He
stooped as he passed by the rocks and looked
about for a loose stone : he found a large one,
and came straight with it on tiptoe, up to the
fire. I showed myself to him on a sudden, in
the red of the flame, with the pistol in my
hand. He dropped the stone, and shrank back,
at the sight of it. When he was close to the
sea, he stopped, and screamed out at me, " The
ship's coming ! The ship's coming ! The ship
shall never find you!" That notion of the
ship, and that other notion of killing me before
help came to us, seemed never to have left
him. When he turned, and went back by the
way he had come, lie was still shouting out
! those same words. For a quarter of an hour
or more, I heard him, till the silence swallowed



up his ravings, and led me back again to my
thoughts of home.

Those thoughts kept with me, till the moon
was on the wane. It was darker now, and stiller
than ever. I had not fed the signal-fire for half
an hour or more, and had roused myself up, at
the mouth of the cavern, .to do it, when I saw
the dyin gleams of moonshine over the sea on
either siae of me change colour, and turn red.
Black shadows, as from low-flying clouds, swept
after each other over the deepening redness.
The air grew hot a sound came nearer and
nearer, from above me and behind me, like the
rush of wind and the roar of water, botli toge-
ther, and 'both far off. I ran out on to the sand,
and looked back. The island was on fire !

On fire at the point of it opposite to me on
fire in one great sheet of flame that stretched
right across the island, and bore down on me
steadily before the light westerly wind which
was blowing at the time. Only one hand could
have kindled that terrible flame the hand of
the lost wretch who had left me, with the mad
threat on his lips and the murderous notion
of burning me out of my refuge, working in his
crazy brain. On his side of the island (where
the fire had begun), the dry grass and scrub grew
all round the little hollow in the earth which I
had left to him for his place of refuge. If he
had had a thousand lives to lose, he would
have lost that thousand already !

Having nothing to feed on but the dry scrub,
the flame swept forward with such a frightful
swiftness, that I had barely time, after master-
ing my own scattered senses, to turn back into
the cavern to get my last drink of water and my
last mouthful of food, before I heard the fiery
scorch crackling over the thatched-roof which
my own hands had raised. I ran across the
beach to the spur of rock which jutted out into
the sea, and there crouched down on the farthest
edge I could reach to. There was nothing for
the fire to lay hold of between me and the top
of the island-bank. I was far enough away to
be out of the lick of the flames, and low enough
down to get air under the sweep of the smoke.
You may well wonder why, with death by starva-
tion threatening me close at hand, I should have
schemed and struggled as I did, to save myself
from a quicker death by suffocation in the smoke.
I can only answer to that, that I wonder too
but so it was.

The flames eat their way to the edge of the
bank, and lapped over it as if they longed to
lick me up. The heat scorched nearer than I
had thought, and the smoke poured lower and
thicker. I lay down sick and weak on the rock,
with my face close over the calm cool water.
When 1 ventured to lift myself up again, the
top of the island was of a ruby red, the smoke
rose slowly in little streams, and the air above
was quivering with the heat. While I looked
at it, I felt a kind of surging and sinking in my
head, and a deadly faintness and coldness crept
all over me. I took the bottle that held the
Message from my pocket, and dropped it into
the sea then crawled a little way back over



44 [December 13, 18CO.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



the rocks, and fell forward on them before I
could get as far as the sand. The last I re-
member was trying to say my prayers losing
the words losing my sight losing the sense
of where I was losing everything.

The day was breaking again, when I was roused
up by feeling rough hands on me. Naked
savages some on the rocks, some in the water,
some in two long canoes were clamouring and
crowding about on all sides. They bound me,
and took me off at once to one of the canoes.
The other kept company and both were paddled
back to that high land which I had seen in the
south. Death had passed me by once more
and Captivity had come in its place.

The story of my life among the savages, having
no concern with the matter now in hand, maybe
passed by here in few words. They had seen the
fire on the island ; and paddling over to recon-
noitre, had found me. Not one 01 them had ever
set eyes on a white man before. I was taken away
to be shown about among them for a curiosity.
When they were tired of showing me, they
spared my life, finding my knowledge and
general handiness as a civilised man useful to
them in various ways. I lost all count of time
in my captivity and can only guess now that it
lasted more than one year and less than two. I
made two attempts to escape, each time in a
canoe, and was balked in both. Nobody at
home in England would ever, as I believe, have
seen me again, if an outward-bound vessel had
not touched at the little desert island for fresh
water. Finding none there, she came on to the ter-
ritory of the savages (which was an island too).
When they took me on board, I looked little
better than a savage myself, and could hardly
talk my own language. By the help of the kind-
ness shown to me, I was right again by the time
we spoke the first ship homeward-bound. To
that vessel I was transferred ; and, in her, I
worked my passage back to Falmouth.

CHAPTER V. THE RESTITUTION.

CAPTAIN JORGAN, up and out betimes, had
put the whole village of Lanrean under an
amicable cross-examination, and was returning
to the King Arthur's Arms to breakfast, none
the wiser for his trouble, when he beheld the
young fisherman advancing to meet him, ac-
companied by a stranger. A glance at this
stranger, assured the captain that he could be
no other than the Seafaring Man ; and the captain
was about to hail him as a fellow-craftsman,
when the two stood still and silent before the
captain, and the captain stood still silent, and
wondering before them.

" Why, what's this !" cried the captain, when
at last he broke the silence. " You two are
alike. You two are much alike ! What's this !"

Not a word was answered on the other side,
until after the seafaring brother had got hold of
the captain's right hand, and the fisherman bro-
ther had got hold of the captain's left hand ; and
if ever the captain had had his fill of hand-
shaking, from his birth to that hour, he had it



then. And presently up and spoke the two
brothers, one at a time, two at a time, two
dozen at a time for the bewilderment into which
they plunged the captain, until he gradually had
Hugh Kaybrock's deliverance made clear to him,
and also unravelled the fact that the person
referred to in the half-obliterated paper, was
Tregarthen himself.

" Formerly, dear Captain Jorgan," said Alfred,
" of Lanrean, you recollect ? Kitty and her father
came to live at Steepways, after Hugh shipped
on his last voyage."

" Ay, ay !" cried the captain, fetching a
breath. "Now you have me in tow. Then
your brother here, don't know his sister-in-law
that is to be, so much as by name ?"

" Never saw her ; never heard of her !"

"Ay, ay, ay!" cried the captain. "Why,
then we every one go back together paper,
writer, and all and take Tregarthen into the
secret we kept from him ?"

" Surely," said Alfred, "we can't help it
now. We must go through with our duty."

" Not a doubt," returned the captain. " Give
me an arm apiece, and let us set this ship-shape."

So, walking up and down in the shrill wind
on the wild moor, while the neglected breakfast
cooled within, the captain and the brothers
settled their course of action.

It was, that they should all proceed by the
quickest means they could secure, to Barnstaple,
and there look over the father's books and
papers in the lawyer's keeping : as Hugh had
proposed to himself to do, if ever he reached
home. That, enlightened or unenlightened, they
should then return to Steepways and go straight
to Mr. Tregarthen, and tell him all they knew,
and see what came of it, and act accordingly.
Lastly, that when they got there, they should
enter the village with all precautions against
Hugh's being recognised by any chance ; and
that to the captain should be consigned the task
of preparing his wife and mother for his re-
storation to this life.

" For, you see," quoth Captain Jorgan, touch-
ing the last head, " it requires caution any way ;
great joys being as dangerous as great griefs
if not more dangerous, as being more uncommon
(and therefore less provided against) in this
round world of ours. And besides, I should like
to free my name with the ladies, and take you
home again at your brightest and luckiest ; so
don't let's throw away a chance of success."

The captain was highly lauded by the bro-
thers for his kind interest and foresight.

"And now, stop !" said the captain, coming
to a stand-still, and looking from one brother to
the other, with quite a new rigging of wrinkles
about each eye ; " you are of opinion," to the
elder, " that you are ra'ather slow ?"

" I assure you I am very slow," said the
honest Hugh.

" Wa'al," replied the captain, " I assure you
that to the best of my belief I am ra'ather
smart. Now, a slow man ain't good at quick
business ; is he ?"

That was clear to both.



Clinrlcs Jlloltrns.]



A MKSSACJK FROM TIIK



, 1W50.] 45



"You," said the captain, turning to the
younger brother, "arc a little in love; ain't
you?';

" Not a little, Captain Jorgan."

"Much or little, you're sort preoccupied;
ain't you?"

It was impossible to be denied.

" And a sort preoccupied man, ain't good at
quick business ; is he ?" said the captain.

Equally clear on all sides.

"Now," said the captain, "I ain't in love
myself, and I've made many a smart run across
the ocean, and I should like to carry on and go
ahead with this affair of yours and make a run
slick through it. Shall 1 try ? Will you hand
it over to me ?"

They were both delighted to do so, and
thanked him heartily.

" Good," said the captain, taking out his
watch. "This is half-past eight A.M., Friday
morning. I'll jot that down, and we'll compute
how many hours we've been out, when we run
into your mother's post-office. There ! The
entry's made, and now we go ahead."

They went ahead so well, that before the
Barnstaple lawyer's office was open next morn-
ing, the captain was sitting whistling on the step
of the door, waiting for the clerk to come down
the street with his key and open it. But, instead
of the clerk, there came the master : with whom
the captain fraternised on the spot, to an extent
that utterly confounded him.

As he personally knew both Hugh and Alfred,
there was no difficulty in obtaining immediate
access to such of the father's papers as were in
his keeping. These were chiefly old letters and
cash accounts : from which the captain, with a
shrewdness and despatch that left the lawyer
far behind, established with perfect clearness,
by noon, the following particulars.

That, one Lawrence Clissold had borrowed of
the deceased, at a time when lie was a thriving
young tradesman in the town of Barnstaple, the
sum of five hundred pounds. That, he had bor-
rowed it, on the written statement that it was to
be laid out in furtherance of a speculation,
which he expected would raise him to independ-
ence : he being, at the time of writing that
letter, no more than a clerk in the house of
Dringworth Brothers, America-square, London.
That, the money was borrowed for a stipulated
period ; but that \vhen the term was out, the
aforesaid speculation had failed, and Clissold
was without means of repayment. That, here-
upon, he had written to his creditor, in no
very persuasive terms, vaguely requesting fur-
ther time. That, the creditor had refused this
concession, declaring that he could not afford
delay. That, Clissold then paid the debt, accom-
panying the remittance of the money, with an
angry letter, describing it as having been ad-
vanced by a relative to save him from ruin.
That, in acknowledging the receipt, Raybrock
had cautioned Clissold to seek to borrow money
of him no more, as he would never so risk
money again.

Before the lawyer, the captain said never a ,



word in reference to th i Jut when

the papers had been put back in their box, and
he and his two companions \vrro well out of the
office, his right leg suficred for it, and h<; said :
"So far, this run's begun with a fair wind
and a prosperous for don't you see that all this
agrees with that dutiful trust in his father, main-
tained by the slow member of the Raybrock
family?"

Whether the brothers had seen it before or
no, they saw it now. Not that the captain gave
them much time to contemplate the state of
things at their ease, for he instantly whipped
them into a chaise again, and bore them off to
Steepways. Although the afternoon was but
just beginning to decline when they reached it,
and it was broad daylight, still they had no
difficulty, by dint of muffling the returned sailor
up, and ascending the village rather than de-
scending it, in reaching Tregarthen' s cottage
unobserved. Kitty was not visible, and they
surprised Tregarthen sitting writing in the
small bay-window of his little room.

"Sir," said the captain, instantly shaking
hands with him, pen and all, "I'm glad to
see you, sir. How do you do, sir ? I told you
you'd think better of me by-and-by, and I con-
gratulate yon on going to do it."

Here, the captain's eye fell on Tom Pettifer
Ho, engaged in preparing some cookery at the
fire.

" That crittur," said the captain, smiting his
leg, "is a born steward, and never ought to have
been in any Other way of life. Stop where you
are, Tom, and make yourself useful. Now,
Tregarthen, I'm agoing to try a chair."

Accordingly, the captain drew one close to
him, and went on :

" This loving member of the Raybrock
family you know, sir. This slow member of the
same family, you don't know, sir. Wa'al, these
two are brothers fact ! Hugh's come to life
again, and here he stands. Now, see here, my
friend ! You don't want to be told that he was
cast away, but you do want to be told (for
there's a purpose in it) that he was cast away
with another man. That man, by name, was
Lawrence Clissold."

At the mention of this name, Tregarthen
started and changed colour. "What's the
matter ?" said the captain.

" He was a fellow-clerk of mine, thirty five-
and-thirty years ago."

" True," said the captain, immediately catch-
ing at the clue : " Dringworth Brothers, Ame-
rica-square, London City."

The other started as:ain, nodded, and said,
" That was the House." .

" Now," pursued the captain, " between those
two men cast away, there arose a mystery con-
cerning the round sum of five hundred pound."

Again Tregarthen started and changed colour.
Lgain the captain said, " What's the matter ?"

As Tregarthen only answered, " Please to go
on," the captain recounted, very tersely and
plainly, the nature of Clissold's wanderings on
the barren island, as he had condensed them



46 [December 13, I860.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



in his mind from the seafaring man. Tregarthen
became greatly agitated during this recital, and
at length exclaimed :

" Clissold was the man who ruined me! I have
suspected it for many a long year, and now I
know it."

"And how," said the captain, drawing his
chair still closer to Tregarthen, and clapping
his hand upon his shoulder, "how may you
know it ?"

" When we were fellow-clerks/' replied Tre-
garthen, " in that London House, it was one of
my duties to enter daily in a certain book, an
account of the suras received that day by the
firm, and afterwards paid into the banker's. One
memorable day a Wednesday, the black day of
my life among the sums I so entered, was one
of five hundred pounds."

" I begin to make it out," said the captain.
"Yes?"

" It was one of Clissold's duties to copy from
this entry, a memorandum of the sums which
the clerk employed to go to the banker's paid
in there. It was my duty to hand the money
to Clissold ; it was Clissold's to hand it to the
clerk, with that memorandum of his writing.
On that Wednesday, I entered a sum of five
hundred pounds received. I handed that sum,
as I handed the other sums in the day's entry, to
Clissold. I was absolutely certain of it at the
time ; I have been absolutely certain of it ever
since. A sum of five hundred pounds was after-
wards found by the House to have been that day
wanting from, the bag, from Clissold's memo-
randum, and from the entries in my book. Clissold,
being questioned, stood upon his perfect clear-
ness in the matter, and emphatically declared that
he asked no better than to be tested by ' Tre-
garthen's book.' My book was examined, and
the entry of five hundred pounds was not there."

"How not there," said the captain, "when
you made it yourself?"

Tregarthen continued :

" I was then questioned. Had I made the
entry ? Certainly I had. The House produced
my book, and it was not there. I could not
deny my book ; I could not deny my writing. I
knew there must be forgery by some one ; but
the writing was wonderfully like mine, and I
could impeach no one if the House could not.
I was required to pay the money back. I did
so, and I left the House, almost broken-hearted,
rather than remain there even if I could have
done so with a dark shadow of suspicion always
on me. I returned to my native place, Lanreau,
and remained there, clerk to a mine, until I was
appointed to my little post here."

"I well remember," said the captain, "that
I told jou that if you had had no experience of
ill-judgments on deceiving appearances, you were
a lucky man. You were hurt at that, and I see
why. I'm sorry."

" Thus it is," said Tregarthen. " Of my own
innocence, I have of course been sure ; it has
been at once my comfort, and my trial. Of
Clissold I have always had suspicions almost
amounting to certainty, but they have never



been confirmed until now. For my daughter's
sake and for my own, I have carried this subject
in my own heart, as the only secret of my life, and
have long believed that it would die with me."

" Wa'al, my good sir," said the captain, cor-
dially, "the present question is, and will be long,
I hope, concerning living, and not dying. Now,
here are our two honest friends, the loving Ray-
brock and the slow. Here they stand, agreed on
one point, on which I'd back 'em round the
world, and right across it from north to south,
and then again from east to west, and through
it, from your deepest Cornish mine to China.
It is, that they will never use this same so-
often-mentioned sum of money, and that resti-
tution of it must be made to you. These two,
the loving member and the slow, for the sake of
the right and of their father's memory, will have
it ready for you to-morrow. Take it, and ease
their minds and mine, and end a most unfort'-
nate transaction."

Tregarthen took the captain by the hand, and
gave his hand to each of the young men, but
positively and finally answered, No. He said,
they trusted to his word, and he was glad of it,
and at rest in his mind but there was no
proof, and the money must remain as it was.
All were very earnest over this ; and earnestness
in men, when they are right and true, is so im-
pressive, that Mr. Pettifer deserted his cookery
and looked on quite moved.

" And so," said the captain, " so we come as
that lawyer-crittur over yonder where we were
this morning, might to mere proof; do we?
We must have it ; "must we ? How ? From this
Clissold's wanderings, and from what you say, it
ain't hard to make out that there was'a neat'for-
gery of your writing committed by the too smart
Rowdy that was grease and ashes when I made
his acquaintance, and a substitution of a forged
leaf in your book for a real and true leaf torn
out. Now, was that real and true leaf then
and there destroyed ? No for says he, in his
drunken way, he slipped it into a" crack in his
own desk, because you came into the office
before there was time to burn it and could
never get back to it arterwards. Wait a bit.
Where is that desk now ? Do you consider it
likely to be in America-square, London City ?"

Tregarthen shook his head.

" The House has not, for years, transacted
business in that place. I have heard of it and
read of it, as removed, enlarged, every way
altered. Things alter so fast in these times."

" You think so," returned the captain, with
compassion; "but you should come over and
see me, afore you talk about that. Wa'al, now.
This desk, this paper this paper, this desk,"
said the captain, ruminating and walking about,
and looking, in his uneasy abstraction, into Mr.
Pettifer's hat on a table, among other things.
" This desk, this paper this paper, this desk,"
the captain continued, musing and roaming
about the room, " I'd give "

However, he gave nothing, but took up his
steward's hat instead, and stood looking into it,
as if he had just come into Church. After that



Charles Dickens.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, I860.]



he roamed again, and again said, "This desk,
belonging to this House of Dringworth Brothers,
America-square, London City "

Mr. Pettifer, still strangely moved and now
more moved than before, cut the captain off as
lie backed across the room, and bespake him
thus :

" Captain Jorgan, I have been wishful to en-
gage your attention, but I couldn't do it. I am
unwilling to interrupt, Captain Jorgan, but I
must do it. / know something about that
House."

The captain stood stock-still, and looked at
him with his (Mr. Pettifer's) hat under his arm.

" You're aware," pursued his steward, " that
I was once in the broking business, Captain
Jordan ?"

"I was aware," said the captain, "that you
had failed in that calling and in half the busi-
nesses going, Tom."

" Not quite so, Captain Jorgau ; but I failed
in the broking business. I was partners with
my brother, sir. There was a sale of old office
furniture at Dringworth Brothers when the
House was moved from America-square, and me
and my brother made what we call in the trade a
Deal there, sir. And I'll make bold to say, sir,
that the only thing I ever had from my brother,
or from any relation for my relations have
mostly taken property from me, instead of giving
me any was an old desk we bought at that
same sale, with a crack in it. My brother
wouldn't have given me even that, when we
broke partnership, if it had been worth anything."

"Where is that desk now?" said the captain.

" Well, Captain Jorgan," replied the steward,
" I couldn't say for certain where it is now ;
but when I saw it last which was last time we
were outward-bound it was at a very nice lady's
at Wapping, along with a little chest of mine
which was detained for a small matter of a bill
owing."

The captain, instead of paying that rapt at-
tention to his steward which was rendered by
the other three persons present, went to Church
again, in respect of the steward's hat. And a
most especially agitated and memorable face the
captain produced from it, after a short pause.

" Now, Tom," said the captain, " I spoke to
you, when we first came here, respecting your
constitutional weakness on the subject of sun-
stroke ?"

" You did, sir."

"Will my slow friend," said the captain,
"lend me his arm, or I shall sink right back'ards
into this blessed steward's cookery ? Now,
Tom," pursued the captain, when the required
assistance was given, " on your oath as a steward,
didn't you take that desk to pieces to make a
better one of it, and put it together fresh or
something of the kind ?"

" On my oath I did, sir," replied the steward.


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Online LibraryCharles DickensA message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round → online text (page 11 of 12)