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vivid glare on the surrounding ocean, and
showed me the vessel disappearing among the
billows. Hundreds of people lay gasping in
the water near her. Men, women, and chil-
dren writhed together in agonizing struggles,
and uttered soul-harrowing cries; and their
countenances, as they gradually stiffened under
the hand of death, were all turned towards me
with glassy stare, while the lurid expression of
their glistening eyes upbraided me with having
been the cause of their untimely end. Never
shall I forget these looks. They haunt me
wherever I am asleep and awake night and
day. I have kept this tale of horror secret till
now, and do not know if I shall ever have
95



388



THE FLOATING BEACON.



courage to relate it again. The masts of the
vessel projected above the surface of the sea
for several months after she was lost, as if to
keep me in recollection of the night on which
so many human creatures perished in conse-
quence of my neglect and carelessness. Would
that I had no memory! 1 sometimes think I
am going mad. The past and present are
equally dreadful to me; and I dare not antici-
pate the future."

I felt a sort of superstitious dread steal over
me while Morvalden related his story, and we
continued walking the deck in silence till the
period of his watch expired. I then went be-
low and took refuge in my berth, though I
was but little inclined for sleep. The gloomy
ideas and dark forebodings expressed by
Horvalden weighed heavily upon my mind,
without my knowing why; and my situation,
which had at first seemed only dreary and
depressing, began to have something indefin-
itely terrible in its aspect.

[Next day, when Morvalden proceeded as
usual to put the beacon in order, he called
upon Angerstoff to come and assist him, which
the latter peremptorily refused to do. There
was a quarrel: Morvalden struck Angerstoff,
and Marietta interfered. Thereupon her hus-
band went on deck, without speaking a word,
and hurriedly resumed the work he had been
engaged in previous to the quarrel.]

Neither of the two men seemed at all dis-
posed for a reconciliation, and they had no
intercourse during the whole day, except angry
and revengeful looks. I frequently observed
Marietta in deep consultation with Angerstoff,
and easily perceived that the subject of debate
had some relation to her injured husband,
whosemanner evinced much alarm and anxiety,
although he endeavoured to look calm and
cheerful. He did not make his appearance
at meals, but spent all his time upon deck.
Whenever AngerstofF accidentally passed him,
he shrunk back with an expression of dread,
and intuitively, as it were, caught hold of a
rope, or any other object to which he could
cling. The day proved a wretched and fear-
ful one to me, for I momentarily expected that
some terrible affray would occur on board, and
that I would be implicated in it. I gazed
upon the surrounding sea almost without inter-
mission, ardently hoping that some boat might
approach near enough to afford me an oppor-
tunity of quitting the horrid and dangerous
abode to which I was imprisoned.

It was AngerstofF's watch on deck till mid-
night ; and as I did not wish to have any com-
munication with him, I remained below. At



twelve o'clock Morvaldcn got up and relieved
him, and he came down to the cabin, and soon
after retired to his berth. Believing, from this
arrangement, that they had no hostile inten-
tions, I lay down in bed with composure, and
fell asleep. It was not long before a noise
overhead awakened me. I started up, and
listened intently. The sound appeared to be
that of two persons scuffling together, for a
succession of irregular footsteps beat the deck,
and I could hear violent blows given at inter-
vals. I got out of my berth and entered the
cabin, where I found Marietta standing alone,
with a lamp in her hand.

"Do you hear that?" cried I.

"Hear what?" returned she; "I have had
a dreadful dream I am all trembling."

"Is AngerstofF below?" demanded I.

"No Yes, I mean," said Marietta. "Why
do you ask that? He went up stairs."

"Your husband and he are fighting. We
must part them instantly."

"How can that be?" answered Marietta:
" AngerstofF is asleep."

"Asleep! Didn't you say he went upstairs."

" I don't know," returned she; " I am hardly
awake yet. Let us listen a moment."

Everything was still for a few seconds; then
a voice shrieked out, "Ah! that knife! You
are murdering me! Draw it out! No help!
Are you done? Now now now!"

A heavy body fell suddenly along the deck,
and some words were spoken in a faint tone,
but the roaring of the sea prevented me from
hearing what they were.

I rushed up the cabin stairs and tried to
push open the folding doors at the head of them,
but they resisted my utmost efforts. I knocked
violently and repeatedly to no purpose.

"Some one is killed," cried I. "The per-
son who barred these doors on the outside is
guilty.

" I know nothingof that," returned Marietta.
"We can't be of any use now. Come here
again! How dreadfully quiet it is. What's
that? A drop of blood has fallen through the
sky-light. What faces are yon looking down
upon us? But this lamp is going out. We
must be going through the water at a terrible
rate. How it rushes past us! I am getting
dizzy. Do you hear these bells ringing? and
strange voices "

The cabin doors were suddenly burst open,
and AngerstofF next moment appeared before
us, crying out, "Morvalden has fallen over-
board. Throw a rope to him! He will be
drowned."

His hands and dress were marked with blood,



THE FLOATING BEACON.



339



and he had a frightful look of horror and con-
fusion.

"You are a murderer!" exclaimed I, almost
involuntarily.

"How do you know that?" said he, stag-
gering back; " I'm sure you never saw

"Hush, hush," cried Marietta to him; "are
you mad? Speak again! What frightens
you ? Why don't you run and help Morval-
den?"

" Has anything happened to him ?" inquired
Angerstoff, with a gaze of consternation.

"You told us he had fallen overboard,"
returned Marietta. "Must my husband
perish?"

"Give me some water to wash my hands,"
said Angerstoff, growing deadly pale, and
catching hold of the table for support.

I now hastened upon deck, but Morvalden
was not there. I then went to the side of the
vessel and put my hands on the gunwale, while
I leaned over and looked downwards. On
taking them off, I found them marked with
blood. I grew sick at heart, and began to
identify myself with Angerstoff the murderer.
The sea, the beacon, and the sky appeared of
a sanguine hue; and I thought I heard the
dying exclamations of Morvalden sounding a
hundred fathom below me, and echoing through
the caverns of the deep. I advanced to the
cabin door, intending to descend the stairs,
but found that some one had fastened it
firmly on the inside. I felt convinced that I
was intentionally shut out, and a cold shud-
dering pervaded my frame. I covered my
face with my hands, not daring to look around;
for it seemed as if I was excluded from the
company of the living, and doomed to be the
associate of the spirits of drowned and murdered
men. After a little time I began to walk
hastily backwards and forwards; but the light
of the lantern happened to flash on a stream
of blood that ran along the deck, and I could
not summon up resolution to pass the spot
where it was a second time. The sky looked
black and threatening the sea had a fierceness
in its sound and motions and the wind swept
over its bosom with melancholy sighs. Every-
thing was sombre and ominous; and I looked
in vain for some object that would, by its
soothing aspect, remove the dark impressions
which crowded upon my mind.

While standing near the bows of the vessel,
I saw a hand and arm rise slowly behind the
stern, and wave from side to side. I started
back as far as I could go in horrible affright,
and looked again, expecting to behold the en-
tire spectral figure of which I supposed they



formed a part. But nothing more was visible.
I struck my eyes till the light flashed from
them, in hopes that my senses had been im-
posed upon by distempered vision however,
it was in vain, for the hand still motioned me
to advance, and I rushed forwards with wild
desperation and caught hold of it. I was
pulled along a little way notwithstanding the
resistance 1 made, and soon discovered a man
stretched along the stern-cable, and clinging
to it in a convulsive manner. It was Morval-
den. He raised his head feebly and said
something, but I could only distinguish the
words "murdered overboard reached this
rope terrible death. "

I stretched out my arms to support him,
butat that moment the vessel plunged violently,
and he was shaken off the cable, and dropped
among the waves. He floated for an instant,
and then disappeared under the keel.

I seized the first rope I could find, and threw
one end of it over the stern, and likewise flung
some planks into the sea thinking that the
unfortunate Morvalden might still retain
strength enough to catch hold of them if they
came within his reach. I continued on the
watch for a considerable time, but at last
abandoned all hopes of saving him, and made
another attempt to get down to the cabin
the doors were now unfastened, and I opened
them without any difficulty. The first thing
I saw on going below, was Angerstoff stretched
along the floor, and fast asleep. His torpid
look, flushed countenance, and uneasy respira-
tion convinced me that he h;;d taken a large
quantity of ardent spirits. Marietta was in
her own apartment. Even the presence of a
murderer appeared less terrible than the fright-
ful solitariness of the deck, and I lay down
upon a bench, determining to spend the re-
mainder of the night there. The lamp that
hung from the roof soon went out, and left
me in total darkness. Imagination began to
conjure up a thousand appalling forms, and
the voice of Angerstoff speaking in his sleep
filled my ears at intervals "Hoist up the
beacon! the lamps won't burn horrible!
they contain blood instead of oil. Is that a
boat coming? Yes, yes, I hear the oars.
Curses! why is that corpse so long of sink-
ing? If it doesn't go down soon, they'll find
me out How terribly the wind blows! We
are driving ashore See! see! Morvalden is
swimming after us How he writhes in the
water ! "

Marietta now rushed from her room with a
light in her hand, and seizing Angerstoff by
the arm, tried to awake him. He soon rose



540



THE FLOATING BEACON.



tip with chattering teeth and shivering limbs,
and was on the point of speaking, but she pre-
vented him, and he staggered away to his berth,
and lay down in it.

Next morning when I went upon deck, after
a short and perturbed sleep, I found Marietta
dashing water over it, that she might efface all
vestige of the transactions of the preceding night.
Angerstoff did not make his appearance till
noon, and his looks were ghastly and agonized.
He seemed stupified with horror, and sometimes
entirely lost all perception of the things around
him for a considerable time. He suddenly
came close up to me, and demanded, with a
bold air but quivering voice, what I had meant
by calling him a murderer?

"Why, that you are one," replied I, after a
pause.

" Beware what you say," returned he fiercely,
"you cannot escape my power now I tell
you, sir, Morvalden fell overboard."

" Whence,then, came that blood that covered
the deck ? " inquired I.

He grew pale, and then cried, "You lie
you lie infernally there was none!"

" I saw it," said I. " I saw Morvalden him-
self long after midnight. He was clinging
to the stern-cable, and said

"Ha, ha, ha!" exclaimed Angerstoff. "Did
you hear me dreaming? I was mad last
night Come, come, come! We shall tend
the beacon together Let us make friends,
and don't be afraid, for you'll find me a good
fellow in the end."

He now forcibly shook hands with me, and
then hurried down to the cabin.

In the afternoon, while sitting on deck, I
discerned a boat far off, but I determined to
conceal this from Angerstoff and Marietta, lest
they should use some means to prevent its ap-
proach. I walked carelessly about, casting a
glance upon the sea occasionally, and meditat-
ing how I could best take advantage of the
means of deliverance which I had in prospect.
After the lapse of an hour the boat was not
more than half a mile distant from us, but she
tuddenly changed her course, and bore away
towards the shore. 1 immediately shouted
and waved a handkerchief over my head, as
signals for her to return. Angerstoff rushed
from the cabin, and seized my arm, threatening
at the same time to push me overboard if I
attempted to hail her again. I disengaged
myself from his grasp, and dashed him violently
from me.

The noise brought Marietta upon deck, who
immediately perceived the cause of the affray,
and cried, "Does the wretch mean to make his



escape? See you prevent the possibility of
that."

"Yes, yes," returned Angerstoff; "he never
shall leave the vessel He had as veil take
care lest I do to him what I did to

'To Morvalden, I suppose you mean, ''said I.

"Well, well, speak it out," replied lie fero-
ciously; "there is no one here to listen to your
lies, and I'll not be fool enough to give you an
opportunity of uttering them elsewhere. I'll
strangle you the next time you tell these lies
about "

"Come," interrupted Marietta, "don't be
uneasy the boat will soon be far enough away
if he wants to give you the slip, he must
leap overboard."

I was irritated and disappointed beyond
measure at the failure of the plan of escape I
had formed, but thought it most prudent to
conceal my feelings. I now perceived the
rashness and bad consequences of my bold as-
sertions respecting the murder of Morvalden;
for Angerstoff evidently thought that his per-
sonal safety, and even his life would be endan-
gered, if I ever found an opportunity of accusing
and giving evidence against him. All my
motions were now watched with double vigi-
lance. Marietta and her paramour kept upon
deck by turns during the whole clay, and the
latter looked over the surrounding ocean,
through a glass at intervals, to discover if any
boat or vessel was approaching us. He often
muttered threats as he walked past me, and
more than once seemed waiting for an oppor-
tunity to push me overboard. Marietta and
he frequently whispered together, and I always
imagined I heard my name mentioned in the
course of these conversations.

I now felt completely miserable, being satis-
fied that Angerstoff was bent upon my destruc-
tion. I wandered in a state of fearful circum-
spection from one part of the vessel to the other,
not knowing how to secure myself from his de-
signs. Every time he approached me my heart
palpitated dreadfully; and when night came on
I was agonized with terror, and could not remain
inone spot, but hurried backwards and forwards
between the cabin and the deck, looking wildly
I from side to side, and momentarily expecting
to feel a cold knife entering my vitals. My
forehead began to burn, and my eyes dazzled;
I became acutely sensitive, and the slightest
murmur, or the faintest breath of wind, set
my whole frame in a state of uncontrollable
vibration. At first I sometimes thought of
throwing myself into the sea; but I soon ac-
quired such an intense feeling of existence,
that the mere idea of death was horrible to me.



THE FLOATING BEACON.



341



Shortly after midnight I lay down in my
berth, almost exhausted by the harrowing
emotions that had careered through my mind
during the past day. I felt a strong desire to
sleep, yet dared not indulge myself; soul and
body seemed at war. Every noise excited my
imagination, and scarcely a minute passed in
the course of which 1 did not start up and look
around. Angerstoff paced the deck overhead,
and when the sound of his footsteps accidentally
ceased at any time, I grew deadly sick at heart,
expecting that he was silently coming to mur-
der me. At length I thought I heard some
one near my bed I sprung from it, and, hav-
ing seized a bar of iron that lay on the floor,
rushed into the cabin. I found AngerstofF
there, who started back when he saw me, and
said,

"What is the matter? Did you think that
I want you to watch the beacon, that I may
have some rest. Follow me upon deck, and I
will give you directions about it."

I hesitated a moment, and then went up
the gangway stairs behind him. We walked
forward to the mast together, and he showed
how I was to lower the lantern when any of
the lamps happened to go out, and bidding
me beware of sleep, returned to the cabin.
Most of my fears forsook me the moment he
disappeared. I felt nearly as happy as if I j
had been set at liberty, and for a time forgot
that my situation had anything painful or
alarming connected with it. AngerstofF re-
sumed his station in about three hours, and
I again took refuge in my berth, where I en-
joyed a short but undisturbed slumber.

Next day while I was walking the deck,
and anxiously surveying the expanse of ocean
around, AngerstofF requested me to come down
to the cabin. I obeyed his summons, and
found him there. He gave me a book, saying
it was very entertaining and would serve to
amuse me during my idle hours; and then
went above, shutting the doors carefully behind
him. I was struck with his behaviour, but
felt no alarm, for Marietta sat at work near
me, apparently unconscious of what had passed.
I began to peruse the volume I held in my
hand, and found it so interesting that I paid
little attention to anything else, till the dash-
ing of oars struck my ear. I sprung from my
chair, with the intention of hastening upon
deck, but Marietta stopped me, saying,

" It is of no use. The gangway doors are
fastened. "

Notwithstanding this information, I made
an attempt to open them, but could not succeed.
I was now convinced, by the percussion against



the vessel, that a boat lay alongside, and I
heard a strange voice addressing AngerstofF.
Fired with the idea of deliverance, I leaped
upon a table which stood in the middle of the
cabin, and tried to push off the sky-light, but
was suddenly stunned by a violent blow on the
back of my head. I staggered back and looked
round. Marietta stood close behind me bran-
dishing an axe, as if in the act of repeating
the stroke. Her face was flushed with rage,
and, having seized my arm, she cried,

"Come down instantly, accursed villain! I
know you want to betray us, but may we all go
to the bottom if you find a chance of doing so."

I struggled to free myself from her grasp,
but being in a state of dizziness and confu-
sion, 1 was unable to effect this, and she soon
pulled me to the ground. At that moment
Angerstoff hurriedly entered the cabin, ex-
claiming,

"What noise is this? Oh, just as I expected!
Has that devil that spy been trying to get
above boards? Why haven't I the heart to
despatch him at once? But there's no time
now. The people are waiting Marietta, come
and lend a hand."

They now forced me down upon the floor,
and bound me to an iron ring that was fixed
in it. This being done, Angei-stoff directed
his female accomplice to prevent me from
speaking, and went upon deck again.

While in this state of bondage, I heard dis-
tinctly all that passed without. Some one
asked Angerstoff how Morvalden did.

"Well, quite well," replied the former;
but he's below, and so sick that he can't see
any person."

"Strange enough," said the first speaker,
laughing. " Is he ill and in good health at
the same time? he had as well be overboard
as in that condition."

"Overboard!" repeated Angerstoff; "what!
how do you mean? all false! but listen
to me. Are there any news stirring ashore!"

"Why," said the stranger, "the chief talk
there just now is about a curious thing that
happened this morning. A dead man was
found upon the beach, and they suspect from
the wounds on his body that he hasn't got
fair play. They are making a great noise
about it, and government means to send out a
boat, with an officer on board who is to visit
all the shipping round this, that he may ascer-
tain if any of them has lost a man lately. 'Tis
a dark business; but they'll get to the bottom
of it, I warrant ye Why, you look as pale as
if you knew more about this matter than you
choose to tell."



342



THE FLOATING BEACON.



"No, no, no," returned Angerstoff; "I never
heard of a murder, but I think of a friend of
mine who but I won't detain you, for the sea
is getting up We'll have a blowy night, I'm
afraid. "

"So you don't want any fish to-day?" cried
the stranger. " Then I'll be off Good morn-
ing, good morning. I suppose you'll have
the government boat alongside by-and-by. "

I now heard the sound of oars, and supposed,
from the conversation having ceased, that the
fishermen had departed. Angerstoff came down
to the cabin soon after, and released me without
speaking a word.

Marietta then approached him, and, taking
hold of his arm, said,

"Do you believe what that man has told
you?"

"Yes," cried he vehemently; "I suspect I
will find the truth of it soon enough."

"Oh!" exclaimed she, "what is to become
of us ? How dreadful! We are chained here,
and cannot escape."

"Escape what?" interrupted Angerstoff;
"girl, you have lost your senses. Why should
we fear the officers of justice? Keep a guard
over your tongue."

"Yes," returned Marietta, "I talk without
thinking, or understanding my own words;
but come upon deck, and let me speak with
you there."

They now went up the gangway stairs to-
gether, and continued in deep conversation for
some time.

Angerstoff gradually became more agitated
as the day advanced. He watched upon deck
almost without intermission, and seemed irre-
solute what to do, sometimes sitting down com-
posedly, and at other times hurrying backwards
and forwards, with clenched hands and blood-
less cheeks. The wind blew pretty fresh from
the shore, and there was a heavy swell; and I
supposed, from the anxious looks with which
he contemplated the sky, 'that he hoped the
threatening aspect of the weather would pre-
vent the government boat from putting out to
sea. He kept his glass constantly in his hand,
and surveyed the ocean through it in all direc-
tions.

At length he suddenly dashed the instrument
away, and exclaimed,

"They are coming now!"

Marietta, on hearing this, ran wildly towards
him, and put her hands in his, but he pushed
her to one side and began to pace the deck,
apparently in deep thought.' After a little
time he started, and cried,

"I have it now! It's the only plan I'll



manage the business yes, yes I'll cut the
cables, and off we'll go that's settled!"

He then seized an axe, and first divided the
hawser at the bows, and afterwards the one
attached to the stern.

The vessel immediately began to drift away,
and having no sails or helm to steady her,
rolled with such violence that I was dashed
from side to side several times. She often
swung over so much that I thought she would
not regain the upright position, and Angerstoff
all the while unconsciously strengthened this
belief, by exclaiming,

"She will capsize; shift the ballast, or we
must go to the bottom ! "

In the midst of this I kept my station upon
deck, intently watching the boat, which was
still several miles distant. I waited in fearful
expectation, thinking that every new wave
against which we were impelled would burst
upon our vessel and overwhelm us, while our
pursuers were too far off to afford any assist-
ance. The idea of perishing when on the point
of being saved was inexpressibly agonizing.

As the day advanced, the hopes I had enter-
tained of the boat making up with us gradually
diminished. The wind blew violently, and
we drifted along at a rapid rate, and the weather
grew so hazy that our pursuers soon became
quite undistinguishable. Marietta and Anger-
stoff appeared to be stupified with terror. They
stood motionless, holding firmly by the bul-
warks of the vessel ; and though the waves fre-
quently broke over the deck and rushed down
the gangway, they did not offer to shut the
companion door, which would have remained
open had not I closed it. The tempest, gloom,
and danger that thickened around us neither
elicited from them any expressions of mutual
regard, nor seemed to produce the slightest
sympathetic emotion in their bosoms. They
gazed sternly at each other and at me, and
every time the vessel rolled, clung with con-
vulsive eagerness to whatever lay within their
reach.

About sunset our attention was attracted by



Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 66 of 75)