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

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beside the grave of Christien Baumanu, in the
village burial-ground.

This is my brother's Ghost Story. ,

The chairman now announced that the clock
declared the teetotum spun out, and that the
meeting was dissolved. Yet even then, the
young fisherman could not refrain from once
more asking his question. This occasioned the
Gentlemen King Arthurs, as they got on their
hats and great coats, evidently to regard him as
a young fisherman who was touched in his head,



Charles Dickens.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, I960.] 31



and some of them even cherished the idea that
the captain was his keeper.

As no man dared to awake the mighty Parvis,
it was resolved that a heavy member of the
society should fall against him as it were by ac-
cident, and immediately withdraw to a safe dis-
tance. The experiment was so happily accom-
plished, that Mr. Parvis started to his feet on
the best terms with himself, as a light sleeper
whose wits never left him, and who could al-
ways be broad awake on occasion. Quite an airy
jocundity sat upon this respectable man in con-
sequence. And he rallied the briskest member of
the fraternity on being " a sleepy-head," with an
amount of humour previously supposed to be
quite incompatible with his responsible circum-
stances in life.

Gradually, the socie'ty departed into the cold
night, and the captain and his young companion
were left alone. The captain had so refreshed
himself by shaking hands with everybody to an
amazing extent, that he was in no hurry to go
to bed.

" To-morrow morning," said the captain, " we
must find out the lawyer and the clergyman here ;
they are the people to consult on our business.
And I'll be up and out early, and asking ques-
tions of everybody I see ; thereby propagating
at least one of the Institutions of my native
country."

As the captain was slapping his leg, the land-
lord appeared with two small candlesticks.

" Your room," said he, " is at the top of the
house. An excellent bed, but you'll heau the
wind."

"I've heerd it afore," replied the captain.
" Come and make a passage with me, and you
shall hear it."

"It's considered to blow, here," said the
landlord.

" Weather gets its young strength here," re-
plied the captain ; " goes' into training for the
Atlantic Ocean. Yours are little winds just be-
ginning to feel their way and crawl. Make a
voyage with me, and I'll show you a grown-up
one out on business. But you haven't told my
friend where he lies."

" It's the room at the head of the stairs, be-
fore you take the second staircase through the
wall," returned the landlord. " You can't mis-
take it. It's a double-bedded room, because
there's no other."

" The room where the seafaring man is ?"
said the captain.

" The room where the seafaring man is."
^ " I hope he mayn't finish telling his story in
his sleep," remarked the captain. " Shall J turn
into the room where the seafaring man is,
Alfred?"

"No, Captain Jorgan, why should you?
There would be little fear of his waking me, even
if he told Ms whole story out."

" He's in the bed nearest the door," said the
landlord. " I've been in to look at him, once, aud
he's sound enough. Good night, gentlemen."

The captain immediately shook hands with
the landlord in quite an enthusiastic manner,



and having performed that national ceremony, us
if he had had no opportunity of performing it
for a long time, accompanied his young friend
up-stairs.

" Something tells me," said the captain as
they went, " that Miss Kitty Tregarthen's mar-
riage ain't put off for long, and that we shall
light on what we want."

" I hope so. When, do you think ?"

" Wa'al, I couldn't just say when, but soon.
Here's your room," said the captain, softly
opening the door and looking in ; " and here's
the berth of the seafaring man. I wonder what
like he is. He breathes deep ; don't he ?"

"Sleeping like a child, to judge from the
sound," said the young fisherman.

" Dreaming of home, maybe," returned the
captain. " Can't see him. Sleeps a deal more
wholesomely than Arson Parvis, but a'most as
sound ; don't he ? Good night, fellow-traveller."

"Good night, Captain Jorgan, and many,
many thanks !"

"I'll wait till I 'am 'em, boy, afore I take
'em," returned the captain, clapping him cheer-
fully on the back. " Pleasant dreams of you
know who !"

When the young fisherman had closed the
door, the captain waited a moment or two, lis-
tening for any stir on the part of the unknown
seafaring man. But, none being audible, the
captain pursued the way to his own chamber.

CHAPTER IV. THE SEAPARING- MAN.

WHO was the Seafaring Man ? And what
might he have to say for himself ? He answers
those questions in his own words :

I begin by mentioning what happened on my
journey, northwards, from Falmouth in Corn-
wall, to Steepways in Devonshire. I have no
occasion to say (being here) that it brought me
last night to Lanrean. I had business in hand
which was part very serious, and part (as I
hoped) very joyful and this business, you will
please to remember, was the cause of my
journey.

After landing at Falmouth, I travelled on foot ;
because of the expense of riding, and because I
had anxieties heavy on my mind, and walking
was the best way I knew of to lighten them.
The first two days of my journey the weather
was fine and soft, the wind being mostly light
airs from south, and south and by west. On
the third day, I took a wrong turning, and
had to fetch a long circuit to get right again.
Towards evening, while I was still on the road,
the wind shifted ; and a sea-fog came rolling
in on the land. I went on through, what I ask
leave to call, the white darkness ; keeping the
sound of the sea on my left hand for a guide,
and feeling those anxieties of mine before men-
tioned, pulling heavier and heavier at my mind,
as the fog thickened aud the wet trickled down
my face.

It was still early in the evening, when I
heard a dog bark, away in the distance, on the
right-hand side of me. Eoliowing the sound as
well as I could, and shouting to the clog, from



32 [December 13, I860.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



time to time, to set him barking again, I stumbled
up at last against the back of a house; and,
hearing voices inside, groped my way round to
the door, and knocked on it smartly with the
flat of my hand.

The door was opened by a slip-slop young
hussey in a torn gown ; and the first inquiries I
made of her discovered to me that the house
was an inn.

Before I could ask more questions, the land-
lord opened the parlour door of the inn and came
out. A clamour of voices, and a fine comforting
smell of fire and grog and tobacco, came out,
also, along with him.

"The taproom fire's out, says the landlord.
" You don't think you would dry more comfort-
able, like, if you went to bed?" "says he, looking
hard at me.

" No," says I, looking hard at him ; " I
don't."

Before more words were spoken, a jolly voice
hailed us from inside the parlour.

" What's the matter, landlord ?" says the jolly
voice. " Who is it ?"

"A seafaring man, by the looks of him," says
the landlord, turning round from me, and speak-
ing into the parlour.

" Let's have the seafaring man in," says the
voice. " Let's vote him free of the Club, for
this night only."

A lot of other voices thereupon said, " Hear !
hear !" in a solemn manner, as if it was church
service. After which there was a hammering,
as if it was a trunk-maker's shop. After which
the landlord took me by the arm ; gave me a
pusli into the parlour ; and there I was, free of
the Club.

The change from the fog outside to the warm
room and the shining caudles so completely
dazed me, that I stood blinking at the company
more like an owl than a man. Upon which the
company again said, " Hear ! hear !" Upon
which I returned for answer, " Hear ! hear !"
considering those words to mean, in the Club's
language, something similar to "How-d'ye-do."
The landlord then took me to a round table by
the fire, where I got my supper, together with
the information that my bedroom, when I wanted
it, was number four, up-stairs.

I noticed before I tell to with my knife and
fork that the room was full, and that the chair-
man at the top of the table was the man with
the jolly voice, and was seemingly amusing the
company by telling them a story, I paid more
attention to my supper than to what he was
saying ; and all I can now report of it is, that
his story-telling and my eating and drinking
both came to an end together.

" Now," says the chairman, " I have told my
story to start you all. Who comes next ?"
He took up a teetotum, and gave it a spin on
the table. When it toppled over, it fell oppo-
site me ; upon which the chairman said, " It's
your turn next. Order ! order ! I call on the
seafaring man to tell the second story!" He
finished the words off with a knock of his
hammer ; and the Club (having nothing else to



say, as I suppose) tried back, and once again
sang out altogether, " Hear ! hear !"

" I hope you will please to let me off," I said
to the chairman, " for the reason that I have
got no story to tell." .

" No story to tell !" says he. " A sailor
without a story ! Who ever heard of such a
thing? Nobody 1"

" Nobody," says the Club, bursting out alto-
gether at last with a new word, by way of a
change.

I can't say I quite relished the chairman's
talking of me as if I was before the mast. A
man likes his true quality to be known, when he
is publicly spoken to among a party of strangers.
I made my true quality known to the chairman
and company, in these words :

" All men who follow the sea, gentlemen, are
sailors," I said. " But there's degrees aboard
ship as well as ashore. My rating, if you please,
is the rating of a second mate."

" Ay, ay, surely ?" says the chairman.
"Where did you leave your ship?"

"At the bottom of the sea," I made answer
which was, I am sorry to say, only too true.

" What ! you've been wrecked ?" says he.

Tell us all about it. A shipwreck-story is

just the sort of story we like. Silence there

all down the table ! silence for the second

mate !"

The Club, upon this, instead of keeping
silence, broke out vehemently with another new
word, and said, " Chair !" After which every
man suddenly held his peace, and looked at me.

I did a very foolish thing. Without stopping
to take counsel with myself, I started off at
score, and did just what the chairman had
bidden me. If they had waited the whole night
long for it, I should never have told them the
story they wanted from me at first, having all
my life been a wretched bad hand at such
matters for the reason, as I take it, that a
story is bound to be something which is not
true. But when I found the company willing,
on a sudden, to put up with nothing better than
the account of my shipwreck (which is riot a
story at all), the unexpected luck of being let
off with only telling the truth about myself, was
too much of a temptation for me so I up and
told it.

I got on well enough with the storm, and the
striking of the vessel, and the strange chance,
afterwards, which proved to be the saving of
my life the assembly all listening (to my great
surprise) as if they had never heard anything
of the sort before. But, when the necessity
came next for going further than this, and for
telling them wliat had happened to me after the
saving of my life or, to put it plainer, for tell-
ing them what place I was cast away on, and
what company I was cast away in the words
died straight off on my lips. For this reason
namely that those particulars of my statement
made up just that part of it which I couldn't,
and durstn't, let out to strangers no, not if
every man among them had offered me a
hundred pounds apiece, on the spot, to do it !



Charles Dickens.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Dwcmbcr 13, I860.] 33



"Go on !" says the chairman. " What hap-
pened next ? How did you get on shore ?"

Feeling what a fool I had been to run myself
headlong into a scrape, for want of thinking
before I spoke, I now cast about discreetly in
my mind for the best means of finishing off-hand
without letting out a word to the company con-
cerning those particulars before mentioned. I
' was some little time before seeing my way to
this ; keeping the chairman and company, all
the while, waiting for an answer. The Club,
losing patience inconsequence, got from staring
hard at me to drumming with their feet, and
then to calling out lustily, " Go on ! go on !
Chair ! Order !" and such like. In the midst
of this childish hubbub, I saw my way to what
I considered to be rather a neat finish and got
on my legs to ease them all off with it hand-
somely.

" Hear ! hear !" says the Club. " He's going
on again at last."

" Gentlemen !" I made answer ; " with your
permission I will now conclude by wishing'you
all good night." Saying which words, I gave
them a friendly nod, to make things pleasant*
and walked straight to the door. It's hardly
to be believed though nevertheless quite true
that these curious men all howled and groaned
at me directly, as if I had done them some
grievous injury. Thinking I would try to pacify
them with their own favourite catch-word, I said,
"Hear! hear!" as civilly as might be, where-
upon, they all returned for answer, " Oh ! oh !"
I never belonged to a Club of any kind, myself ;
and, after what I saw of that Club, I don't care
if I never do.

My bedroom, when I found my way up to it,
was large and airy enough, but not over-clean.
There were two beds in it, not over-clean either.
Both being empty, I had my choice. One was
near the window, and one near the door. I
thought the bed near the door looked a trifle
the sweetest of the two ; and took it.

After falling asleep, it was the grey of the morn-
ing before I woke. When I had fairly opened my
eyes and shook np my memory into telling me
where I was, I made two discoveries. First, that
the room was a deal colder in the new morning,
than it had beenover-night. Second, that theother
bed near the window had got some one sleeping in
it. Not that I could see the man from where I lay;
but I heard his breathing, plain enough. He must,
have come up into the room, of course, after I
had fallen asleep and he had tumbled himself
quietly into bed without disturbing me. There
was nothing wonderful in that ; and nothing
wonderful in the landlord letting the empty bed
if he could find a customer for it. I turned,
and tried to go to sleep again ; but I was out of
sorts out of sorts so badly, that even the
breathing of the man in the other bed fretted
and worried me. After tumbling and tossing
for a quarter of an hour or more, I got up for a
change ; and walked softly in my stockings, to
the window, to look at the morning.

The heavens were brightening into daylight,



and the mists were blowing off, past the window,
like puffs of smoke. "When I got even with
the second bed, I stopped to look at the man in
it. lie lay, sound asleep, turned towards the
window ; and the end 01 the counterpane was
drawn up over the lower half of his face. Some-
thing struck me, on a sudden, in his hair, and
his forehead; and, though not an inquisitive
man by nature, I. stretched out my hand to the
end of the counterpane, in spite of myself.

I uncovered his face softly ; and there, in the
morning light, I saw my brother, Alfred Ray-
brock.

What I ought to have done, or what other
men might have done in my place, I don't know.
What I really did, was to drop back a step to
steady myself, with my hand, on the sill of the
window and to stand so, looking at him.
Three years ago, I had said good-by to my wife,
to my' little child, to my old mother, and to
brother Alfred here, asleep under my eyes. For
all those three years, no news from me had
reached them and the underwriters, as I knew,
must have long since reported that the ship I
sailed in was lost, and that all hands on board
had perished. My heart was heavy when I
thought of my kindred at home, and of the
weary time they must have waited and sorrowed
before they gave me up for dead. Twice I
readied out my hand, to wake Alfred, and to
ask him about my wife and my child; and twice
I drew it back again, in fear of what might
happen if he saw me, standing by his bed-head
in the grey morning, like Hugh Raybrock risen
up from the grave.

I drew my hand back the second time, and
waited a minute. In that minute he woke. I
had not moved, or spoken a word, or touched
him I had only looked at him longingly. If
such things could be, I should say it was my
looking that woke him. His eyes, when they
opened under mine, passed on a sudden from
fast asleep to broad awake. They first settled
on my face with a startled look which passed
directly. He lifted himself on his elbow, and
opened his lips to speak, but never said a word.
His eyes strained and strained into mine ; and
his face turned all over of a ghastly white.
"Alfred!" I said, "don't you know me?"
There seemed to be a deadly terror pent up in
him, and I thought my voice might set it free. I
took fast hold of him by the hands, and spoke
again. "Alfred !" I said

Oh, sirs ! where can a man like me find words
to tell all that was said and all that was thought
between us two brothers ? Please to pardon my
not saying more of it than I say here. We
sat down together, side by side. The poor
lad burst out crying and got vent that way. I
kept my hold of his hands, and waited a bit
before I spoke to him again. I think I was
worst off, now, of the two no tears came to
help me I haven't got my brother's quickness,
any way ; and my troubles have roughened and
hardened me, outside. Bat, God knows, I felt
it keenly ; all the more keenly, maybe, because I
was slow to show it.



34 [December 13, I860.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



After a little, I put the questions to Mm
which I had been longing to ask, from the time
when I first saw his face on the pillow. Had
they all given me up at home, for dead (I
asked) ? Yes ; after long, long hoping, one by
one they liad given me up my wife (God bless
her !) last of all. I meant to ask next if my wife
was alive and well ; but, try as I might, I could
only say " Margaret ?" and look hard in my
brother's face. He knew what I meant. Yes
(he said), she was living; she was at home;
she was in her widow's weeds poor soul ! her
widow's weeds ! I got on better with my next
question about the child. Was it born alive?
Yes. Boy or girl ? Girl. And living now ; and
much grown? Living, surely, and grown
poor little thing, what a question to ask !
grown of course, in three years ! And mother ?
Well, mother was a trifle fallen away, and more
silent within herself than she used to be
fretting at times ; fretting (like my wife) on
nights when the sea rose, and the windows shook
and shivered in the wind. Thereupon, my brother
and I waited a bit again I with my questions,
and he with his answers and while we waited,
I thanked God, inwardly, with all my heart and
soul, for bringing me back, living, to wife and
kindred, while wile and kindred were living too.

My brother dried the tears off his face ; and
looked at me a little. Then he turned aside sud-
denly, as if he remembered something; and stole
his hand in a hurry, under the pillow of his bed.
Nothing came out from below the pillow but his
black neck-handkerchief, which he now unfolded
slowly, looking at me, all the while, with some-
thing strange in his face that I couldn't make out.

"What are you doing ?" T asked him. " What
are you looking at me like that for ?"

Instead of making answer, lie took a crumpled
morsel of paper out of his neck-handkerchief,
opened it carefully, and held it to the light to
let me see what it was. Lord in Heaven ! my
own writing the morsel of paper I had com-
mitted, long, long since, to the mercy of the deep.
Thousands and thousands of miles away, I had
trusted that Message to the waters and here it
was now, in my brother's hands ! A chilly fear
came over me at the seeing it again. Scrap of
paper as it was, it looked to my eyes like the
ghost of my own past self, gone home before me
invisibly over the great wastes of the sea.

My brother pointed down solemnly to the
writing.

" Hugh," he said, " were you in your right
mind when you wrote those words ?"

"Tell me, first," I made answer, "how and
when the Message came to you. I can't quiet
myself fit to talk till I know that."

He told me how the paper had come to hand
also, how his good friend, the captain, having
promised to help him, was then under the same
roof with our two selves. But there he stopped.
It was not till later in the day that I heard of
what had happened (through this dreadful doubt
about the money) in the matter of his sweetheart
and his marriage.

The knowledge that the Message had reached



him by mortal means on the word of a seaman,
I half doubted it when I first set eyes on the
paper ! eased me in ray mind ; and I now did
my best to quiet Alfred, in my turn. I told him
that I was in my right senses, though sorely
troubled, when my hand had written those words.
Also, that where the writing was rubbed out, I
could tell him for his necessary guidance and
mine, what once stood in the empty places.
Also, that I knew no more what the real truth
might be than he did, till inquiry was made, and
the slander on father's good name was dragged
boldly into daylight to show itself for what it
was worth. Lastly, that all the voyage home,
there was one hope and one determination up-
permost in my mindthe hope, that I might get
safe to England, and find my wife and kindred
alive to take me back among them again the
determination, that I would put tie doubt
about father's five hundred nound to the proof,
if ever my feet touched English land once more,

" Come out with me now, Alfred," I said,
after winding up as above ; " and let me tell
you in the quiet of the morning how that Mes-
sage came to be written and committed to the
sea."

We went down stairs softly, and let ourselves
out without disturbing any one. The sun was
just rising when we left the village and took
our way slowly over the cliffs. As soon as the
sea began to open on us, I returned to that true
story of mine which I had left but half told,
the night before and, this time, I went through
with it to the end.

I shipped, as you may remember (were my
first words to Alfred), in a second mate's berth,
on board the Peruvian, nine hundred tons' bur-
den. We carried an assorted cargo, and we
were bound, round the Horn, to Truxillo and
Guayaquil, on the western efoast of South Ame-
rica. Prom this last port na-mely, Guayaquil
we were to go back to Truxillo, and there to
take in another cargo for the return voyage.
Those were all the instructions communicated
to me when I signed articles with the owners,,
in London city, three years ago.

After we had been, I think, a week at sea, I
heard from the first mate who had himself
heard it from the captain that the supercargo
we were taking with us, on the outward voyage,
was to be left at Truxillo, and that another
supercargo (also connected with our firm, and
latterly "employed by them as their foreign
agent) was to ship^ with us at that port, for the
voyage home. His name on the captain's in-
structions was, Mr, Lawrence Clissold. None
of us had ever set eyes on him to our know-
ledge, and none of us knew more about him than
what I have told you here.

We had a wonderful voyage out especially
round the Horn. I never' before saw such fair
weather in that infernal latitude, and I never
expect to see the like again. We followed ouu
instructions to the letter ; discharging our cargo
in fine condition, and returning to Truxillo to
load again as directed. .. ; At this place, I was so



Charles Dickons.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, I860.] 35



unfortunate as to be seized with the fever of the
country, which laid me on my back, while we
were in harbour ; and which only let me return
to my duty after we had been ten days at sea,
on the voyage home again. For this reason,
the first morning when I was able to get on
deck, was also the first time of my setting eyes
on our new supercargo, Mr. Lawrence Clissold.

I found him to be a long, lean, wiry man,
with some complaint in his eyes which forced
him to wear spectacles of blue glass. His age
appeared to be fifty-six, or thereabouts ; but he
might well have been more. There was not
above a handful of grey hair, altogether, on his
bald head and, as for the wrinkles at the corners


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