Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

upland. Here she heard from behind though she could not have explained her the church clock which she knew the cause. The excitement of her so well, striking midnight. The path mind did not fail after its first rise, but was no longer familiar to her, but she varied and prolonged itself during her knew the direction she had to take, minuter examination of all that lay and her task increased in seriousness before her. The moonbeams shifted and interest the more completely she slowly as the luminary journeyed on appeared engaged in it. The downs and stooped towards the horizon. arose grim and grey before her, and Here and there the stars were faintly after exploring for a few minutes, she reflected in the gauze-veiled mirror. struck into the path that climbed their The ship passed on in silent ghostlisides, and felt that she had entered on ness, and disappeared, while the weak a new world. But she began to be a murmur of the waters on the shore belittle fatigued, and mounted the hills neath came to her as if whispering a with less quickness than she crossed secret which she vainly strained her the valley. Still she met no human ear to catch. She stood charmed to being. The moon was rising above the spot, until the first glimses of the her head and displayed her road, and early dawn began to mingle with the she thought that she perceived the gleams of night. And now she drank fresh sea-breeze blowing down from in with a mighty insatiable thirst each the heights upon her face. As she moment of the great unfolding vision. drew nearer and nearer to this aërial The brightening clouds—the strengthsummit, which she had so often looked ening breeze—the cold sad sparkling at almost with tears, she could hardly of the sea under the eye of day—the believe the reality of her own happi- colouring of the landscape, and the nese. In spite of her weariness, her starting into clearness of many vessels heart was borne up with wings. She -all these were memorable events to paused for a moment a few yards be- Jane. But the weariness of the body low the top of the ascent, and then ran and the exhaustion of the over-excited headlong on—and stopped.

mind compelled her to rest, and by There lay the sea beneath her, one the increasing light she saw a few sheet of indistinct grey and moonshine, yards beneath her a small hollow in with the dark land running off on either the hill

, marked by an old thorn-tree side. In the obscurity an angelic vi- which shaded a few large stones. On sion moved along with the moon one of them she sat and watched the glancing on its white face; it must be scene before her, till in spite of her -could it be?-a ship! She felt how efforts, her eyes closed against the deep were her own emotions at the light, and her head drooped sideways aspect of immense and unknown power, against the bank.

CHAPTER. II.

Jane had lost all consciousness, and but I could not help calling out when I was recalled from sleep only by a found you here, where I expected only voice at which she started, and the the old thorn-tree." first object that caught her eyes was “Oh, no," she answered, “it is my a young man who stood before her fault—that is, I believe I have been with the broad sunshine streaming asleep, and it is very wrong.” like a glory round his face, and with “ Well, I do not see much harm, a figure so graceful and an attitude of unless you had fallen asleep when it surprise so lively, that Jane in the was your watch on deck, and you're midst of her fear could not but think hardly a sailor yet. But if I may him the most beautiful object she had make so bold, it must be something ever seen. It was a young sailor, out of the way that brings you here who had taken off his hat to enjoy the at this hour of the morning. The air while climbing up the steep cliffs, sun is not above half an hour up. I and whose exclamation on seeing the have been this way pretty well at all sleeping girl had disturbed the dreams hours, and I never found any one here of her native village and her cottage yet but an old shepherd, and perhaps hearth.

sometimes of an evening a pair of “ No offence, I hope, young woman; sweethearts; and you are none of the

one

neighbours I know them young and one on shore, younger and prettier than old for three miles round.”

my poor mother, who may remember Then came the explanation of Jane's me when I am away, as I should readventure; and in telling it slightly as member her." she did, there was to her own feelings If Jane had been a lady she would a strain of extravagance in it, which hardly have answered,— Well, when she had never perceived until now, I have nothing to do, I mostly think of when she was compelled to speak of the sea, and how men pass their lives it. The stranger was full of wonder, upon it, and what sights they have to but he thought, from her look and look at.” manner, she must be telling the truth. And all this though you have no His determination to find out how this friend a sailor-no brother or cousin, or was gained strength perhaps from lad that you used to play with when his sense of her personal charms; for you were both children ?" the rounded active figure and the soft She blushed, and said, “No-10 face, with her bright eyes, and long one. My mother's father was a sailor, pale hair cıưling from under her bon- and I have read of many more in books, net, were not lost on one who in his but I never saw to speak to voyages had seen many a pretty before.” maiden, but never a prettier than Jane “ And have you never thought if Martin.

He immediately proposed, you would like to have a friend who as he had no business that could not had made many a voyage? Would it wait, to take care of her back to her not be pleasant to be able to fancy that father's She refused with a deep one you knew was on the wide waves, blush and downcast look ; and wish- and thinking of you while you would be ing him a good morning, had turned remembering him ?—some one whose to go, but her steps faltered partly return you would look for, and who doubtless from fatigue. In a moment would bring you new stories every trip the young sailor was at her side, and of all he had fallen in with, and perhaps insisted that she was too weak to re some pretty trifles, and gowns and lace turn without his help. The arrange- from foreign parts ?". ment was soon made; and at four It was with a low deep longing o'clock in the morning the pair set off voice that she answered, “Oh, that on their walk, which according to Jane's would be too much happiness !" Then design ought to have ended about the she hung her head and hid her face same hour.

from him, but leaned the more clingThe road however was now down ingly on his arm. In truth she was hill. She had succeeded in the great- almost overpowered by fatigue and est aim she had ever conceived, and her want of sleep, and they were now at companion's arm was of much as- last within a stone's-throw of her fasistance. Jane discovered in the first ther's door. She turned from the lane half-hour of their acquaintance, that they were walking in, and passed over he was the son of a fisherman's widow a stile into one of his fields; and when living in a cottage at the foot of the they reached the orchard behind the cliff. He had early gone to sea, and cottage she begged William to remain now at the age of twenty-two, had at its little gate while she went for. risen to be second mate of a merchant- ward, for she did not know in what man in which he had made a voyage to state she might find her father on acthe Mediterranean. He had been on count of her absence. He remained returning to England on a visit to his leaning on the gate for a few seconds mother, and had set out that morning till startled by a woman's scream, to walk across the country to South- when he hurried in, and pushing port, where he hoped again to obtain through a passage which contained employment, and perhaps in a better three or four persons, all in confusion, situation than his last. After se- he found himself in the old man's bedveral other questions and replies, room. There were several neighbours “How,” she said, “ do you pass the round the bed, on which he lay appahours when there is nothing to be done rently insensible, and Jane stood supin the ship ?"

porting herself by one of the bedposts, “I read or sing, or think of my and with her eyes fixed on his face. friends at home; and I fancy that William went to her side, and saw the some day or other there may be some closed eyes gradually open, and the

father began to see. The first objects have been ready to toil for her father's he beheld were his daughter, and the comfort, had he lived, his death was young man standing by her in his far from overpowering her. Naysailor's dress. He looked at them though it is a severe truth-she felt long and sadly, and at last muttered, relieved from his silent forebodings, “I was sure it would be so."

and seemed to belong more entirely to Jane now begged that she might be William, now that all other claims on left alone with her father, who was her had ceased. used to her attendance, and specially Not long after this William's morequested William, as he was a stran- ther was taken ill, and he was sent for ger, to stay in the outer-room till she to see her. She died before his recould go and speak to him. Reluc- turn, and both were now deprived of tantly, and shaking their heads, the all they had much loved beyond each neighbours went away. The father other. In a few weeks it became newas still very feeble, and it was only cessary for William to go again to his after long delay, broken by floods of former home, in order to sell the furtears from her, that she could com- niture and let the cottage, and Jane municate to him the story of her own proposed to accompany him. She proceedings, and could learn what he rejoiced in the thought of again seeing had to tell. On getting up, and not the place where they had first met, finding her in the house, he had hur- and of knowing more familiarly that ried about his own premises; and still ocean which she had obtained so inmissing her, had alarmed the neigh- sufficient a glimpse of. They went bours nearest him, and sent in differ- thither, and took up their abode in the ent directions to look for her. But on sea-side cottage. All about it spoke two or three of the messengers re- of maritime occupation. The house turning without any tidings, he had was partly constructed of wreck. The fainted away, and a crowd had ga- paling around the puny garden was of thered round him, as he lay on his the broken and pitchy boarding of bed, the moment before Jane arrived. boats, and the shingle lay driven in In an hour he felt sufficiently strong barren heaps against it. Within a to rise; and he and his daughter went stone's-throw two or three fishingto rejoin the sailor, and offered him boats were drawn up on the beach, breakfast, of which they partook with and the children of the fishers' famihim. But his fresh and lively look lies played along the shore. Within was very different from the stern sad- the cottage there was great want of ness of the father, and from Jane's many of the inland comforts Jane had deep and confused dejection. He was been used to, but there were a lew arnot, however, discouraged from speak- ticles of transmarine curiosity, brought ing, nor she from listening. Even the home by William, such as uncut coral old man relaxed into civility before he and pink hearted shells. took his leave.

Through the greater part of the day It was not many days till he came the husband and wife were busy in again, and Jane soon learned that he their household affairs, examining and had put off his journey to Southport. arranging their new possessions. But Thenceforth they met frequently ; and in the evening they felt themselves in the summer evenings he was seen more at liberty, and they strolled towalking about the quiet country lanes gether along the shore.' Jane knew with Jane leaning on his arm. It was, not what it was that attracted her, but therefore, no surprise to the village, she had an obscure notion of a wonwhen the banns were read in the derful and friendly power in the sea, church for the marriage of Jane Mar. as if its movements had been the beattin and William Laurence. With ings of a mighty paternal breast on slow gestures and thoughtful eyes her which she could lay her head. She father gave her to her husband. They walked along the outermost line of returned to live with him ; and, in the foam, and every wave that broke defirst glad flush of their love, the old lighted, her, while at intervals she man died. His death was a shock to turned and stood, and looked over the Jane, but not a lasting grief. She waters with vague but deep emotion. loved William too fully and entirely A child who has been gazing at a to feel any gap in her life while she lovely star till he almost fancies it is his possessed him; and though she would own, would not be more gratified by

seeing it suddenly drop from the skies markable, but not as if it had been of into his lap

any real importance. My mother had “ Jane,” said William, " you seem heard him describe the figure so often, as much pleased as a child with a new that she said she felt as if she had seen toy; yet the sea is not to be joked it herself. After she had been married with. Though there is only a little for some months, she went with her ripple on it now, I have seen a swell husband to pay her father a visit, be. that frightened the best seaman on fore she should sail on what he intended board ; and many a hundred—ay, should be his last voyage. He had many a thousand ships, with all their laid out most of his property in a cargo crews, have gone to the bottom, smooth for the vessel, and expected to make as you may think it atop. I must tell a great deal of money by it. The you some stories of shipwrecks, that evening before he was to sail, he was you may not fancy it all plain sailing, returning from the harbour to the and may be willing to go back home, house he lived in, a mile or two out of away from the surf.”

Southport. The way lay along the “ You need not,” said Jane; “[ sea-side, and it was a beautiful sumheard plenty such stories from my mer evening, with a slight sunny mist mother, and I have not forgotten one spread over the water. After he had of them. Besides, the woman with got clear of the town, he turned round the green hair, who appeared to my to look at the masts of his ship, which grandfather, is dreadful enough.” were plain enough to be seen, and he

“ The woman with the green hair!” noticed an odd movement, with some said William suddenly. ~ Who saw faint lines in the sunshine, above the that? who told you of it ?"

water. It grew clearer and clearer, “My grandfather saw it twice, and till he saw that it was the woman with my mother told me of it. He used to the green hair. He could have thought make voyages to Holland and Ger- it an hour since he last saw her, so many, I think, for I remember my exactly was she the same, except that mother showing me the places in our now a weak yellow brightness from old map. Once he had not long left the sun fell over her grey dress and the port, somewhere abroad, when the pale green hair. She waved her hand fog began to thicken round him, and and looked at him, so that he underthe wind, at the same time, to rise. stood well enough that she warned The sailors wanted him to turn back, him not to go back to the ship. At but he would not, for he was a very first, he owned, he was dreadfully bold and obstinate man. The weather frightened, but as she did not cease grew worse and worse; and at last, her warnings, he turned his head from when he had just refused the advice of her and proceeded on his way. He all on board to go back into harbour, did not dare to look back again till he he saw a figure rise out of the water had struck into a path that led down on the side nearest the wind, and float a hollow, so that the sea was hidden in the air against the fog, close to the from him. There was then no apmast. She put out her hands, as if to pearance of the figure. He came push him and his ship back, and he home much changed in his manner, noticed her so well that he could de- and his face and voice were very sad scribe her as he could any of his when he told his wife and daughter friends. She was young and hand- what had happened to him. But he some, in a long grey dress, with pale could not afford to give up his voyage; green hair hanging down over her and, besides, he would not have borne neck. My grandfather would not to be laughed at by his friends, as he heed, and that night his ship was must have been had he staid on shore dashed upon the shore, and he lost for such a reason." every thing he had; all his crew were 66 And what came of it?" drowned, and he was thrown upon My mother never saw him after the beach himself, almost a corpse. the next morning, when he went to

“Well,” said William, “was that sea. He was washed overboard aud all ? did he ever see her again ?" drowned before the eyes of his crew.

“ Yes. For some years after this I was born three or four months after, he made successful voyages, and he and my mother was so affected by her spoke to his family of the sight he had loss, and by the story of the greenseen as of something strange and re- haired woman, that she thought the

impression made on he: had given me seat, the first thing that struck me was the same kind of features and look as -Well that girl is the likest I ever saw those of the appearance described by to the green-haired woman. Your my grandfather. My hair, indeed, has hair even had a little greenish look, never that I know of been green.” though that perhaps was from the

William was long silent, and at last shade of the old thorn-tree above you. he said, “ Jane, I must tell you what I have never since been able to get it I am thinking of. I heard this story out of my head that you and she are told by an old sailor of Southport somehow sisters, though I never saw who said he had sailed in the ship, two sisters so much alike. the master of which was lost as you Jane laughed, not very heartily, and have just related, though I had no owned it was strange that he as well as notion that he was your grandfather.- her mother should have noticed the But I have seen the green-haired wo- likeness. “ But you spoke,” she said, man twice myself. I was in the Med- “ of seeing this figure twice. How did iteranean, and was the mate keep- it happen the second time?" ing watch on deck. The night was “Oh! that was much less remark. cloudy, but every now and then we able. My old captain made my forhad a good glimpse of moonshine.- tune by promoting me to be a mate, The moon however was hidden when and getting me some education. Soon I happened to be looking towards the afterwards he gave up the ship, and as larboard bow, and I saw, right abreast he was walking home from the town, of the foremast, hanging against the I went half-a-mile or so with him to clouds, the sort of figure you spoke of, bid him good by; I was thanking him with her green hair falling about her. for his kindness, when he said he Her body and dress seemed much the wanted no thanks, but he would be colour of the clouds behind, so that I glad if I would promise him one thing, could not make out her shape, but and this was, that if ever by any just then a flash of moonshine came, chance he went to sea again, I would and I saw her as plain as I see you.— sail with him. I was looking up in She seemed, as you said to be signing his face, and was saying, Yes; when I to us to change our course. I called saw over his shoulder, above a clump one of the seamen to try if he could of trees on the top of the down where notice any thing in the direction in it looks along the sea the same figure which I saw her, but at the moment of the green-haired woman. It was of his turning his head she disappear. bright sunshine, and I saw her quite ed. I tried to think no more of it, plainly. She was frowning and mak. and an hour after a Greek pirate ing signs to me as if to prevent me came up and boarded us with a dozen from promising; but I was not to be men; we had to fight for it hand to stopped so easily, and I gave the old hand, and lost three lives before we man my word I would go with him got rid of the scoundrels, and I got immediately on his letting me know, a wound in my shoulder that I feel unless I should have taken a berth in even yet. Now it is strange that the another ship beforehand.” course the figure signed to us to steer, ** And would you go now, that you as we found the next day, would have are married ?" taken us clear away from the pirate “ To be sure I would -I must.into the midst of the British squadron Why, what harm should happen to of men-of-war. But there is some. you when I am away? And we should thing more curious than this. You be all the better pleased with each say your mother thought you had other on my return after a four or five taken after the build of the figure from months voyage.

But I don't think her hearing it spoken of by her father; there is much chance of it, for the old now when I saw you the first time man has made his fortune and is not that morning up yonder at the lover's likely to spend it."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER III.

The husband and wife returned in with them until their son was born.a few days from the sea-coast to their Young Richard, for so he was named inland farm, and time passed on quietly after his maternal grandfather, was a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »