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

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provocation that I lifted my hand and struck
her. Then she quailed, and while shrinking
under my eyes, she said, " James, your conduct



is that of a madman !" Since then, I know she
sits with me in silent terror, longing to escape
and find some one to listen to her grievances.
But I shall keep strict ward that she does no-
thing of the kind. I will not have my foes of
my own household, and no spying relatives shall
come between us to put asunder those whom
God has joined together.

Acapulco, March 17, 1831.

It is six months since I wrote the above. In
the interval I have been miserably ill, griev-
ously tormented both in mind and body; but
now. that I have got safely away from them all,
with the Atlantic between myself and my
wicked wife, whose conduct towards me I
will never forgive, I can collect my powers of
mind, and bend them again to my work. Burton
came out in the same ship with me to engage
in the same enterprise. After a few days' rest
we intend setting out on our journey to the
mining districts, where we are to act. My head
feels perfectly light and clear, all my impres-
sions are distinct and vivid again, and I can i
get through a hard day's close study without
inconvenience. There was nothing but my mi-
serable liver to blame, and when that was set
right, all my imaginary phantoms disappeared.
Umpleby said it had been coming on gradually
for months, and that there was nothing at all
extraordinary in my delusions ; my diseased
state was one always so attended more or
less. And Anne, in her cowardly malignity,
would have consigned me for life to a lunatic
asylum ! It was Umpleby who saved me, and
I have put his name down in my will for a
handsome remembrance. As for Anne, she has
chosen to return to her family, and they may
keep her ; she will never see my face again, of
my free will, as long as I live.

The pieturesqueness of this place is not note-
worthy in any high degree. The harbour is en-
closed by a chain of mountains, and has two
entrances formed by the island of Roquetta ;
the castle of St. Diego commands the town and
the bay, standing on a spur of the hills. Burton
has been to and fro on his rambles ever since
we landed ; but I find the heat too great for
much exertion, and when we begin our journey
into the interior I shall have need of all my
forces ; therefore, better husband them now.

Mexico, April 24, 1831.

We are better off here than we anticipated.
Burton has found an old fellow-pupil engaged
as engineering tutor in the School of Mines, and
there are civilised amusements which we neither
of us had any hope of finding. The city is full
of ancient relics, and Burton is on foot explor-
ing, day by day. I prefer the living interests of
this strange place, and sometimes early in the
morning I betake myself to the market-place,
and watch the Indians dress their stalls. No
matter what they sell, they decorate their shops
with fresh herbs and flowers until they are
sheltered under a bower of verdure. They dis-
play their fruit in open basket-work, laying the



Charles Dlckeni.]



A MESSAGE FROM TI:E SEA.



[Deoambor 13, I860.] 23



pears and raisins below, and covering them
above with odorous flowers. An artist might
make a pretty picture here, when the Indians
arrive at sunrise in their boats loaded with the
produce of their floating gardens. Next week,
1. urton, his friend, and I, are to set out for the
mines of Moran and Real del Monte. I should
have preferred to delay our journey a while
longer for reasons of my own, but Burton
presses, and feels we have already delayed
longer than enough.

Moran, July 4, 1831.

I am sick of this place, but our business here
is now on the verge of completion, and in a few
days we start on our expedition to the mines of
Guanamato. The director, Burton, and myself,
are all of opinion that immense advantages are
to be gained by improving the working of the
mines, which is, at present, in a very defective
condition. There is great mortality amongst
the Indians, who are the beasts of burden of the
mines ; they carry on their backs, loads of metal
of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
and fifty pounds at a time, ascending and de-
scending thousands of steps, in files which con-
tain old men of seventy, and mere children. I
have not been very well here, having had some
return of old symptoms, but under proper treat-
ment they dispersed ; however, I shall be thank-
ful to be on tne move again.

Pascuaro, August 11, 1831.

Can any^ man evade his thoughts, impalpable
curses sitting on his heart, mocking like fiends ?
I cannot evade mine. All yesterday I was
haunted by a terrible anxiety and dread. At
every turn, at every moment, I expected to see
Honor Livingston appear before me, but I did
not see her. The day and the night passed, and
I wag freed from that great horror how great
I had not realised until its hour had gone and
left no trace. This morning I am myself again ;
my spirits revive ; I have escaped my enemy,
and have proved that it was, indeed, but a subtle
emanation of my own diseased body and mind.
But these thoughts, these troublesome persist-
ent thoughts, how combat them ? Burton, very
observant of me at all times, was yesterday
watchful as an inquisitor ; he said he hoped I
was not going to have the frightful fever which
is prevailing here, but I know he meant some-
thing else. I have not a doubt now, that Anne
and all that confederacy warned him before we
set sail, to beware of me, for I had been mad ;
that is the cursed lie they set abroad. Mad !
All the world's mad, or on the way to it !

But if Honor had come back to me yesterday,
we might have gone and have looked down to-
gether into hell, through the ovens of Jornlla.
The missionaries cursed this frightful place,
generations since; and it is accursed, if ever
land was. Nothing more awful than this deso-
late burning waste, which the seas could not
quench. When I remember it, and all I under-
went yesterday, the confusion and horror return
upon me again, and my brain swerves like the
brain of a drunken man. I will write no more



sufficient to record that the appointed time
came and went, and Honor Livingston did not
keep her word with me.

New Orleans, February, 1832.
I left Burton still in Mexico, and came here
alone. His care and consideratcness were more
than I could put up with, and after two or three
ineffectual remonstrances, we came to a violent
rupture, and I determined to throw up my en-
gagement, rather than carry it out in conjunc-
tion with such a man. There vras no avoiding
the quarrel. Was I to be tutored day by day,
and the wine-bottle removed out of my reach ?
He dared to tell me that when I was cool, clear
myself, in short there was no man my master
in our profession ; but that when I had drunk
freely 1 was unmanageable as a lunatic! A
lie, of course ; but unscrupulous persecutors are
difficult to circumvent. Anne's malice pursues
me even here. When I was out yesterday, my
footsteps were dogged pertinaciously wherever I
went, and perhaps an account of my doings will
precede me home ; but if they do, I defy them
all to do their worst.

Ashendell, August 9, 1839.

This old book turned up to-day, amongst some
traps that have lain by in London all the years
that I have spent, first in Spain and afterwards
in Russia. What fool's-talk it is ; but I sup-
pose it was true at the time. I know I was in
a wretched condition while I was in Mexico and
in the States, but I have been sane enough and
sound enough ever since the illness I had at
Baltimore. To prove how little hold on me my
ancient horrors have retained, I find myself at
Ashendell in the very season of the year when.
Honor Livingston destroyed herself to-morrow
is the anniversary of her death. So I take my
enemy by the throat, and crush him ! These
fantastical maladies will not stand against
a determined will. At Moscow, at Cherson, at
Archangel, the tenth of August has come and
gone, unmarked. Honor failed of her threat
everywhere except at Lisbon. I saw her there
twice, just before we sailed. I saw her, when
we were off that coast where we so nearly es-
caped wreck, rising and falling upon the waves.
I saw her in London, that day 1 appointed to
see Anne. But I know what it means : it means
that I must put myself in Umpleby's hands for
a few weeks, and that the shadows will forth-
with vanish. Shadows they are, out of my own
brain, and they take the shape of Honor because
I have let her become a fixed idea in my mind.
Yet it is very strange that the last time she ap-
peared to me, I heard her speak. I fancied she
said that it was Almost time ; and then louder,
" I'll haunt you, James, until you come to the
Ashenfall, where I am going now !" And with
that she vanished. Eancy plays strange tricks
with us, and makes cowards of us almost as
cleverly as conscience.

August 10.

I have had a very unpleasant impression on
me all day. I wish I had resisted lonchley's



24 [December 13, I960.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA



[Conducted by



persuasions more steadily. I ought never to
nave come down here again. The excitement
of its miserable recollections is too much for
me. The man at the inn called me by my name
this morning, and said he recollected me look-
ing up towards the church as he spoke. Damn
him ! All day I seem to have been acting
against my will. What should possess me to
go there, this afternoon ? Round about among
the graves, until I came to the grassy hillock on
the north side of the church, where they buried
Honor that night, without a prayer. I sat down
en the low wall, and looked across to the hills
beyond the river, listening to the monotonous
sing-song of the fall. I would give all I possess
to-day, to be able to tread back or to untread a
score of the years of my life. It seems such a
blank ; of all I planned and schemed, how little
have I accomplished! Watching by Honor's
grave, I fell to thinking of her. What had either
of us done that we should be so wretched ? Is it
part and parcel of the great injustice of life, that
some must suffer so signally while others es-
cape? The coarse grass is never cut at the
north side of the church, nettles and brambles
grow about the grave. Honor was mad, poor
soul ; they might have given her a prayer for
rest, if they were forbidden to believe she died
in hope, t prayed for her to-day more need,
perhaps, to pray for myself and then there
came a crazed whirl in my brain, and I set off
to find Linchley. As I came down near the
water, the fall sounded very tumultuous ; it was
sultry hot, and I should have liked to turn
down by the river, but I said, " No, it is the
tenth of August ! If I am to meet Honor
Livingston to-day, I'll not meet her by Ashen-
fall !" So I came home to our lodgings, to find
that Linchley had gone over to Warfe, and had
left a message that he should not return until to-
morrow. I have the night before me alone ; it
is not like an English night at all ; it is like the
nights 1 remember at Cadiz, which always he-
ralded a tremendous storm. And I think we
shall have a storm here, too, before the morning.

Those were the last words James Lawrence ever
wrote, Gentlemen. Further than this, no man can
speak of his death ; it is plain to me that one of
his mad fits was coming on before he left Lis-
bon ; that it grew and increased until he came
here ; and that here it reached its climax and
urged him to his death. I believe in the
ghosts James Lawrence saw, as I believe in the
haunting power of any great misdeed that has
driven a fellow-creature into deadly sin.



When David Polreath had finished, the chair-
man gave the teetotum such a swift and sudden
twirl, to be beforehand with any interruption,
that it twirled among all the glasses and into all
corners of the table, and finally, flew off the
table and lodged in Captain Jorgan's waistcoat.

"A kind of a judgment!" said the captain,
taking it out. " What's to be done now ? /
know no story, except Down Easters, and they



didn't happen to myself, or any one of m
quaintance, and you couldn't enjoy 'cm wil



my ac- !
without

going out of your minds first. And perhaps the
company ain't prepared to do that ?"

The chairman interposed by rising and de-
claring it to be his perroud perrivilege to stop
preliminary observations.

"Wa'al," said the captain, "I defer to the
President which an't at all what they do in
my country, where they lay into him, head,
limbs, and body." Here he slapped his leg.
"But I beg to ask a preliminary question.
Colonel Polreath has read from a diary. Might
I read from a pipe-light ?"

The chairman requested explanation.

" The history of the pipe-light," said the cap-
tain, " is just this : that it's verses, and was
made on the voyage home by a passenger I
brought over. And he was a quiet crittur of
a middle-aged man with a pleasant countenance.
And he wrote it on the head of a cask. And
he was a most etarnal time about it tew. And
he blotted it as if he had wrote it in a continual
squall of ink. And then he took an indigestion,
and I physicked him for want of a better doctor.
And then to show his liking for me he copied
it out fair, and gave it to me for a pipe-light.
And it ain't been lighted yet, and that's a fact."

" Let it be read," said the chairman.

"With thanks to Colonel Polreath for setting
the example," pursued the captain, " and with
apologies to the Honourable A. Parvis and the
whole of the present company for this passen-
ger's having expressed his mind in verses
which he may have done along of bein' sea-sick,
and he was very the pipe-light, unrolled, comes
to this :



WE sit by the fire so wide and red,
With the dance of the young within,

Who have yet small learning of cold and dread,
And of sorrow no more than of sin ;

Nor dream of a night on a sleepless bed

Of waves, with their terrible wrecks o'erspread.

We sit round the hearth as red as gold,

And the legends beloved we tell,
How battles were won by the nobles bold, i

Where hamlets of villains fell:
And we praise our God, while we cut the bread,
And share the wine round, for our heroes dead.

And we talk of the Kings, fliose strong proud men,

Who ravaged, confessed, and died ;
And of churls who rabbled them oft and again,

Perchance with a kindred pride
Though the Kings built churches to pierce the sky,
And the rabbling churls in the cross-road lie.

Yet 'twixt the despot and slave half-free,

Old Truth may have message clear ;
Since the hard black yew, and the lithe young tree,

Belong to an age and a year,
And though distant in might and in leaf they be,

In right of the woods, they are near.

And old Truth's message, perchance, may be:
" Believe in thy /find, whatti'er the degree,
Be it King on his throne, or serf on his knee,
While Our Lord shmoers light, in his bounty free,
On the rook and ihe vale on the sand and the sea"



Charles Dlcken*.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, 1900.] 25



They are singing within, with their voices dear,
To the tunes which are dear as wo! I ;

And we sit and dream while the words we hear,
Having tale of our own to tell

Of a far midnight on the terrible sea,

Which comes back on the tune of their blithe old glee.

As old as the hills, and as old as the sky,

As the King on his throne, as the serf on his

knee,

A song wherein rich can with poor agree,
With its chorus to make them laugh or cry
Which the young are singing, with no thought nigh,
Of a night on a terrible sea :

" I care for nobody ; no, not I,
Since nobody cares for me."



The storm had its will. There was wreck there was

flight
O'er an ocean of Alps, through, the pitch-black

night,

When a good ship sank, and a few got free,
To cope in their boat with the terrible sea.

And when the day broke, there was blood on the sea,
From the wild hot eye of the sun outshed,

For the heaven was a-flame as with fire from Hell,
And a scorching calm on the waters fell,

As if Ruin had won, and with fiendish glee,
Sailed forth in his galley to number the dead.

And they rowed their boat o'er the terrible sea,
As mute as a crew made of ghosts might be :
For the best in his heart had not manhood to say,
That the land was five hundred miles away.

A day and a week There was bread for one man;

The water was dry. And on this, the few
Who were rowing their boat o'er the terrible sea,
To murmur, to curse, and to crave began.

And how 'twas agreed on, no one knew,
But the feeble and famished and scorched by the

sun,

With his pitiless eye, drew lots to agree,
What their hideous morrow of meat must be.

then were the faces frightful to read,
Of ravening hope, and of cowardly pride
That lies to the last, its sharp terror to hide ;

And a stillness as though 'twere some game of the

Dead,
While they waited the number their lot to decide

There were nine in that boat on the terrible sea,

And he who drew NINE, was the victim to be.

You may think what a ghastly shiver there ran,
From mate to his mate, as the doom began.

Six had a wife with a wild rose cheek ;

Two a brave boy, not a year yet old ;
EIGHT his last sister, lame and weak,

Who quivered with palsy more than with cold.

You may think what a breath the respited drew,
And how wildly still, sat the rest of the crew ;
How the voice as it called spoke hoarser and slower ;
The number it next dared to speak was FOUR.

'Twas the rude black man, who had handled an oar
The best on that terrible sea of the few.

And ugly and grim in the sunshine glare
Were his thick parched lips, and his dull small
eyes,

And the tangled fleece of his rusty hair

'Ere the next of the breathless the death-lot drew,
His shout like a sword pierced the silence through.



" Let the play end, with your Number Four.

What need to draw ? Live along, you few
Who have hopes to save and have wives to cry

O'er the cradles of children free !
What matter if folk without home should die,
And be eaten by land or sea ?
I care for nobody ; no, not I,
Since nobody cares for me !"

And with that, a knife and a heart struck through
And the warm red blood, and the cold black clay,

And the famine withdrawn from among the few,
By their horrible meal for another day !



So the eight, thus fed, came at last to land,
And the tale of their shipmate told,

As of water found in the burning sand,
Which braves not the thirsty, cold.

But the love of the listener, safe and free,

Goes forth to that slave on that terrible sea.

For, fancies from hearth and from home will stray,

Though within are the dance and the song ;
And a grave tale told, if the tune be gay,

Says little to scare the young.
While they sing, with their voices clear as can be,
Having called, once more, for the blithe old glee
" I care for nobody, no, not I,
Since nobody cares for me."

But the careless tune, it saith to the old,

Who sit by the hearth as red as gold,

When they think of their tale of the terrible sea :

" Believe in thy kind, whatever the degree,

Be it King on his throne, or serf on his knee,

While Our Lord showers good from his bounty free t

Over storm, over calm, over land, over sea"



Mr. Parvis had so greatly disquieted the
minds of the Gentlemen King Arthurs for some
minutes, by snoring with strong symptoms of
apoplexy which, in a mild form, was his normal
state of health that it was now deemed expe-
dient to wake him and entreat him to allow him-
self to be escorted home. Mr. Parvis's reply to
this friendly suggestion could not be placed on
record without the aid of several dashes, and is
therefore omitted. It was conceived in a spirit
of the profoundest irritation, and executed with
vehemence, contempt, scorn, and disgust. There
was nothing for it, but to let the excellent
gentleman alone, and he fell without loss of time
into a defiant slumber.

The teetotum being twirled again, so buzzed
and bowed in the direction of the young fisher-
man, that Captain Jorgan advised him to be
bright and prepare for the worst. But, it started
off at a tangent, late in its career, and fell before
a well-looking bearded man (one who made
working drawings for machinery, the captain was
informed by his next neighbour), who promptly
took it up like a challenger's glove.

" Oswald Penrewen !" said the chairman.

" Here's Unchris'en at last !" the captain
whispered Alfred Raybrock. " Unchris'en goes
ahead, right smart ; don't he ?"

He did, without one introductory word.

MINE is my brother's Ghost Story. It hap.
pened to my brother about thirty years ago,



26 [Decembw 13, I960.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



while he was wandering, sketch-book in hand,
among the High Alps, picking up subjects for an
illustrated work on Switzerland. Having entered
the Oberland by the Brunig Pass, and filled his
portfolio with what he used to call " bits " from
the neighbourhood of Meyringen, he went over
the Great Scheideck to Grindlewald, where he
arrived one dusky September evening, about
three-quarters of an hour after sunset. There
had been a fair that day, and the place was
crowded. In the best inn there was not an inch
of space to spare there were only two inns at
Grindlewald, thirty years ago so my brother
went to one at the end of the covered bridge next
the church, and there, with some difficulty,
obtained the promise of a pile of rugs and a
mattress, in a room which was already occu-
pied by three other travellers.

The Adler was a primitive hostelry, half
farm, half inn, with great rambling galleries
outside, and a huge general room, like a barn.
At the upper end of this room stood long stoves,
like metal counters, laden with steaming-pans,
and glowing underneath like furnaces. At the
lower end, smoking, supping, and chatting, were
congregated some thirty or forty guests, chiefly
mountaineers, char drivers, and guides. Among
these my brother took his seat, and was served,
like the rest, with a bowl of soup, a platter of
beef, a flagon of country wine, and a loaf made of
Indian corn. Presently, a huge St. Bernard dog
came and laid his nose upon my brother's arm.
In the mean time he fell into conversation with
two Italian youths, bronzed and dark-eyed, near
whom he happened to be seated. They were
Florentines. Their names, they told him, were
Stefano and Battisto. They had been travelling
for some months on commission, selling cameos,
mosaics, sulphur casts, and the like pretty Italian
trifles, and were now on their way to Inter-
laken and Geneva. Weary of the cold North,
they longed, like children, for the moment
which should take them back to their own blue
hills and grey-green olives ; to their workshop on
the Ponte Vecchio, and their home down by the
Arno.

It was quite a relief to my brother, on going up
to bed, to find that these youths were to be two
of his fellow-lodgers. The third was already there,
and sound asleep, with his face to the wall. They
scarcely looked at this third. They were all tired,
and all anxious to rise at daybreak, having agreed
to walk together over the Wengern Alp as far as
Lauterbrunnen. So, my brother and the two
youths exchanged a brief good night, and, before
many minutes, were all as far away in the land
of dreams as their unknown companion.

My brother slept profoundly so profoundly
that, being roused in the morning by a clamour
of merry voices, he sat up dreamily in his rugs,
and wondered where he was.

"Good day, signer," cried Battisto. "Here
is a fellow-traveller going the same way as our.
selves."
"Christien Baumann, native of Kandersteg



musical-box maker by trade, stands five feet
eleven in his shoes, and is at monsieur's service
o command," said the sleeper of the night
)efore.

He was as fine a yotmg fellow as one would
wish to see. Light, and strong, and well pro-
portioned, with curling brown hair, and bright,
lonest eyes that seemed to dance at every
word he uttered.

"Good morning," said my brother. "You
were asleep last night when we came up."

' Asleep ! I should think so, after being all
day in the fair, and walking from Meyringen the
vening before. What a capital fair it was !"

"Capital, indeed," said Battisto. "We sold
cameos and mosaics yesterday, for nearly fifty
francs."

" Oh, you sell cameos and mosaics, you two !
Show me your cameos, and I will show you my
musical boxes. I have such pretty ones, with
coloured views of Geneva and Chillon on the lids,
playing two, four, six, and even eight tunes.
Bah ! I will give you a concert !"

And with this he unstrapped his pack, dis-
played his little boxes on the table, and wound


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Online LibraryCharles DickensA message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round → online text (page 6 of 12)