By Hugh J. Cannon
The tropical sun had scarcely arisen from its bed in the sea when Nell and her friend started for the cemetery where John Terry and his wife reposed. There was a burial place much nearer the town than this one, but it lacked the beauty and picturesqueness of the spot which, as Hawley remembered the story form his parents, had appealed to Mr. Terry and where he, anticipating an early death, had chosen his final resting place. Though the unceasing roar of the surf and the musical whispering of palm branches would fall on cold ears, he was sure his sleep would be sweeter if these familiar and loved sounds floated over his tomb.
The visitors drove through one of the greatest cocoanut plantations in the world, comprising several thousand acres. There were literally millions and millions of nuts on the ground, and these were being gathered and broken by the natives. Raising and shipping copra is one of the chief industries of the Navigator Islands.
A small corner of this tract had been set apart as a cemetery. It overlooked the ocean and it seemed to Nell the most peaceful nook she had ever seen. It was not easy to repress a feeling of envy for the silent sleepers. Without difficulty the graves were located. The officer walked away and left the girl alone with her thoughts and her dead. The inscription on Mr. Terry’s headstone gave the usual information concerning date and place of birth and of death; that over his wife’s grave, besides giving the usual data, informed the reader that she was Nelly Alder, who forfeited her life in a successful effort to save that of her beautiful little daughter.
After a long interval, this daughter found her companion sitting on the spot where he had held her as a tiny child when she was crying from excitement and the discomfort of an oppressive day. Now she came to him similarly oppressed. He found a cocoanut as he had done on the former occasion, expertly stripped off the tough outer husk, and with a few deft blows from a rock broke off the head of it, leaving a perfect cup filled with cool and refreshing liquid. She took it gladly.
“Be careful,” he cautioned, “the shell is still moist from the juice of the husk, and a drop of that on your white dress will leave a stain that will never come off.”
“Did you say something like that when we sat here before?” she queried.
“I have tried to make this as near like the former occasion as I dared.”
After some little searching, Dick succeeded in finding a suitable cottage which the American girl was able to rent for an indefinite period. It was sufficiently near the sea to gratify a life-long desire on her part to be awakened in the morning by the music of the waves breaking over the reef and ending on the sandy beach. Sometimes this resembled a celestial symphony more than anything she had ever heard, or she could hear in it the majestic tones of a great pipe organ; while at other times it was like the thundering roar and crash of a combination of all known instruments.
In the garden were many flowers, also a fine patch of taro which on the islands usually takes the place of potatoes. There were also cocoanut, banana and breadfruit trees, much more than to supply her modest needs. An elderly native woman was engaged to assist her in the care of fruit, vegetables and flowers, and indeed, to do anything else that was required of her. The natives usually dislike acting as servants to the whites, but in this instance for some reason all of her neighbors were eager to render assistance. Though she entered upon her housekeeping duties with enthusiasm, the languorous sunshine was so enervating and brought with it such a spirit of indolence that she was willing to leave much of the work to others.
After a stay of two weeks in and about Apia, Commodore and Mrs. King continued their journey. Earlier even than this, Hawley had unexpectedly and much to his chagrin received instructions to proceed to other islands on a cruise which promised to consume several months. The pain in Nell’s heart at parting with these friends was akin to that endured when she left her own land and dear ones. Then, she had the novelty of the approaching trip to sustain her; now nothing was in prospect – only a drab and interminable existence, forever expatriated, owning no race and no home. She imagined that the whites if they knew the truth would not accept her as one of them, and her whole soul rebelled at thought of considering herself as belonging to her mother’s detested people. She had not yet learned always to differentiate between the Samoans and the Fijians.
The girl was anxious to honor her father’s memory, but was forced to acknowledge a certain weakness of character in him of which she could not be proud. He had run away from home merely because a woman designed to inveigle him in marriage; he had succumbed to temptation and married another woman though his own soul assuredly revolted at the match, and had intentionally deceived his dearest friend in regard to the matter. This last act was the least excusable of all his delinquencies, deceit being the one weakness which she could not condone.
Her mother, the girl concluded, was a more forceful character. That she had succeeded in winning John Terry in spite of the natural repugnance he must have felt to such a union was certain evidence of a will power not easily discouraged. And in that quality the daughter was determined to follow the mother’s example. There were hours when, overcome by homesickness and discouragement, she could not be cheerful; but there was no day that she did not follow the old lady’s advice, and had adopted this as a regular morning slogan. “Smile, for it is God’s way of letting sunshine and peace into the troubled soul.” Sometimes, however, there was a smile on her lips though her eyes were dim with tears.
Very little time passed until Nell numbered among her friends the entire white population of Apia and the adjoining villages of Pesega and Vailima, as well as a host of natives. Though she could remember no word of the language upon her arrival, it came to her with singular ease. She had confided no part of her history to anyone except Dick, and, without anything to that effect having been said, the idea prevailed that she was studying native habits with the intention of writing a book. They were all acquainted with Robert Louis Stevenson, and this conclusion was a natural one. She was surprised when asked the direct question by an inquisitive friend whether or not this was purpose, but the query opened a new line of work of which heretofore there had been no thought.
Her popularity, apparently already established, took on new growth because of this gossip, and she frequently participated in feasts given in her honor, and was always invited when some important visitor was entertained. She learned to sit cross-legged on mats on the ground while eating and listening to endless speeches. She became acquainted with the appealing music and watched the rhythmical dances in which graceful hands and arms and swaying bodies play a greater part than the feet; she witnessed the elaborate courtliness attending the dignified drinking of kava, by which chiefs of surrounding villages welcome noted visitors. Ex-king Malietoa and his queen, who reigned in Samoa before it was taken over by the Germans, lived in a modest cottage not far from hers and had become dear friends.
Her first meeting with these people was at a feast given for Commodore King and his wife. In keeping with his kingly dignity, Malietoa was well dressed for the occasion, having on a shirt and coat in addition to the lava lava, but of course the royal feet and legs were bare. As a special guest, Nell was given a place between the king and queen and was amused at the thought of royalty, sitting on the ground bare-legged and cross-legged. Before her was a roast chicken which looked appetizing, but she was at a loss how to carve it. The king solved the difficulty by taking it in his hands and tearing it in half, giving one part to her and retaining the other for himself. The young lady’s first thought was that he should have shown his queen more attention, but as she looked at that robust person who was forced to admit that the queen was quite able to take care of herself.
Before the meal was finished, however, Nell came to the conclusion that strangers manifest an inexcusable narrowness of character if they judge these people by American standards. This conclusion was abundantly confirmed in subsequent experiences, and she learned that for genuine dignity, courtesy, generous hospitality and many other desirable characteristics the white race, boasting of a much higher civilization, might profitably come to the natives of the Pacific isles for models.
On this occasion she ventured to ask if anyone remembered John Terry and his wife. All the older people did and were eager to relate in their limited English stories of the couple and to describe their tragic end.
“Did you know them?” Malietoa asked, and then added courteously, “But that could not be; you are much too young.”
“I often heard my parents speak of them. They knew Mr. Terry well before he came to the Islands, but of course never met his wife. She was born in these parts, I understand.”
“Yes, in Fiji,” answered one of the old white residents. “I wonder what became of their little daughter. Our curiosity was stirred a short time ago by a visit from a chap named Gray who was asking about the family and particularly about Mrs. Terry’s parents.”
Mistaking his listener’s perturbation for interest, the man continued: “I guess it had something to do with property, for Mrs. Terry’s father was pretty well off and this child was probably the only heir. And now I think of it, Miss Redfield, you have the same name as the gentleman who came with his wife and took the little girl away. Are you related?”
Nell felt justified in deceiving the inquirer, inasmuch as it could be done without falsehood. “No, we are not related; at least if we are it is so far back that relationship has not been traced, but my father took a great interest in the case.”
“Did you know Miss Terry? She must be about your own age.”
“At one time we lived in the same town and I knew her rather well, but afterward she moved away. I believe she was engaged to be married.”
Nell was physically as well as mentally uncomfortable. She had sat cross-legged so long that the ache in her feet and limbs was unbearable, but it would certainly be discourteous to arise before the others. After some mental debate as to which would be the most graceful – or rather, the least disgraceful – position, to kneel or to sit flat on the ground, she decided on the latter course. Malietoa, guessing the cause of her discomfort, said: “Miss Redfield, we excuse visitors if, when their feet get too tired, they stick them out in front and cover them with a mat.”
During the ensuing and comforting change of base, the girl’s former interlocutor was disposing of a generous supply of chicken, pork, beef, fish, and almost every imaginable kind of fruit and vegetable, and washing it down with liquid contents of fresh cocoanuts.
“You say she was engaged, but I’ll bet there’ll be no marriage,” he resumed. “Guess I was wrong in thinking this man Gray’s visit was made because of property. Now another idea has come into my head. Would you like to hear what I think?”
“Certainly, if it will relieve you to tell it.” The girl’s tone was almost waspish and the man, though not highly sensitive, looked at her doubtfully. “Pardon my rude answer,” she hastened to say. “I shall be very glad to listen.”
“Well, we all remembered afterwards that this chap didn’t talk much except to ask questions but he surely asked plenty of them.”
The man looked at Nell quizzically. “Did you ever hear anything about Mrs. Terry?”
“I have heard since being here that she was beautiful and accomplished.”
“And I can tell you she was, but there’s another thing I can say which was not said during John Terry’s life out of respect to him – aye, and respect to his wife also; but Mrs. Terry’s mother was quarter Fijian which would make Mrs. Terry an eighth and her daughter a sixteenth. This man Gray got affidavits on this point from me and some others and took them back to the states, and you may be sure Miss Terry will not have a chance to marry a white man of any consequence.”
“If she is a girl of any character she wouldn’t want to.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that; her mother wanted to badly enough and did, and she was the strongest character I ever knew in a woman.”
“But what kind of character did the man have who would enter into such a marriage?” The girl put the question hesitantly. She wanted no public criticism of her father, but those immediately around her were busy with their eating and were talking in their own language. Besides, she knew they understood but little English.
“Well, John Terry’s character was positive enough. I knew him and Miss Alder, who afterwards became his wife, in Fiji, where everybody gossiped about her determination to win him. But about this time he had a long spell of sickness which I guess broke down his will power as it certainly did his body. Besides, you must remember that mixed marriages are not looked upon here as they are in the United States, and after a man has been on the Islands a number of years a real strong temptation to marry a native, particularly if she’s beautiful, will usually get him. It’s the loneliness of the thing. He can stand it for a time but not for always.”
The subject was a painful one to the girl, and she was glad the feast came to an end at this juncture. The man looked at her so intently and seemed so determined to tell all he knew about her father and mother, that she was very uncomfortable.
“Miss Redfield,” her tormenter proceeded, happily unconscious of her inward feelings, “when you hold your mouth that way, you remind me of Mrs. Terry.”
“Do I look like a Fijian?” the girl asked, her tone indicating both fright and anger.
The man hastened to correct his blunder. “Of course you don’t. Neither did Mrs. Terry. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and I only intended to pay you a compliment.”
In the ensuing six months Nell became thoroughly acclimated to island life. In that time she had seen no one to whom she could talk confidentially, for Dick Hawley had not touched at Apia since her arrival. Now there was a prospect of his coming, a brief and friendly note having been received, stating that on his return journey to Pago Pago it might be possible to stop over for a day or two.
Sitting on the porch of her trim little cottage with Hawley’s letter in her lap, she reflected on the young fellow’s kindness and his too evident interest in her. This was not the first time he had written, and experience told her that if he came again it might no be easy, nor even possible, to divert him from making serious love. He was a rough and ready, companionable chap, with a sufficient amount of acquired culture; she liked him heartily and except for this fear would be delighted to see him. Of course there was no place in her heart for any such feeling as he hoped to inspire, and a convulsive pain seized her as she thought of how completely her love was already given. Even if Nate had not existed she would not marry; this was an unalterable determination. She lived in the hope that after a while enough joy could be extracted from hard work and the fame which must follow to bring at least a partial surcease form the constant agony.
Thinking of pain brought her thoughts back to Hawley. He would come soon and, once he had made up his mind to speak, was not the kind that could easily be restrained.
The secret of her birth she was determined should never be communicated to any who did not already know it, and that number was now limited to the Everetts, Gray, Mr. and Mrs. Redfield and herself. But it hurt her even to think of causing distress and especially to one like her old friend Dick. The father’s abhorrence of trifling with affections apparently had been bequeathed to the daughter, and to permit this man to cultivate feelings which must inevitably result in sorrow was almost equally reprehensible. And yet he could not be told of Nate or of her determination to remain single without her detestable secret being revealed.
One afternoon Nell accepted an invitation to visit a native woman at whose home she often called. No longer was the house, merely an elliptical thatched roof supported by uprights, a novelty to her. Neither was it distressing to sit for a reasonable length of time, native fashion, on a mat spread over the loose smooth pebbles composing the floor.
The girl’s own home, like those belonging to most of the whites and occasionally to an islander, was a frame cottage not unlike modest homes in other lands. The typical native house, while usually open, is provided with mats which can be rolled up or down, curtain-like, thus shutting out a driving rain or the too inquisitive glances of a chance passer while the ladies of the household are making their toilettes. Nell had noticed with a degree of shame that such offensive curiosity was almost invariably exhibited by visiting whites, seldom or never by natives. Naturally in this equable climate, the Samoan group or Navigator Islands, being almost on the equator, no provision is or need be made to keep out the cold.
A shock of black hair, a boyish, good-natured face and a dusky figure clad in the usual scant costume appeared. The little fellow bore news of the arrival of an American ship and said he had accompanied a white naval officer from the waterfront to Miss Redfield’s home, and that the man was now waiting for her on the porch.
Nell returned to her cottage deeply thoughtful. Of course the visitor must be Hawley and there was a strange conflict in her breast between pleasure and fear. She had practically reached the conclusion that the wiser plan – the one most likely to avoid unhappy complications – would be to swallow pride and frankly tell the young fellow her story. She realized that he, knowing her parents, might not be surprised.
Eagerly Hawley ran forward as the girl came into view. Every line of his bronzed face showed pleasure – and something more. And Nell, too, was happy in the meeting, for in spite of the determination to permit no recurrence of their childish relations he was nearer to her than anyone she had met since her expatriation.
After months of loneliness during which every natural desire to converse about personal matters had been suppressed, it was a pleasure to be able to talk with some degree of freedom of herself and her problems. The person in a strange land who will listen sympathetically and with interest to a wanderer’s talk of home and loved ones has laid a foundation upon which a most desirable future can be built. This age-old truth dawned upon Nell as Hawley listened attentively to her talk.
In return he described, at her request, his latest trip. The assignment had been made him because of his intimate knowledge of native life and, indeed, to that fact his presence in this part of the world was due. The account he now gave of his visit to the Solomon Islands was most fascinating to the girl. There had been an uprising among the natives, and he had arrived barely in time to rescue Missionary Parker, who was scheduled to furnish the chief item on the menu of a feast which was being prepared to celebrate the native victory over the whites.
“Do you mean to say they would have eaten him?” the girl asked, horror-stricken.
“That was certainly their intention, and they were as disappointed as an American crowd would be if someone had stolen their Thanksgiving turkey. This missionary seems to bear a charmed life,” he continued. “It was the third time he has been billed for this same part in their feasts. Twice before, on the Ellice Islands, he was condemned to be eaten, but the chief cook declared he was too thin to make a good meal.”
Nell laughingly avowed that before going to those groups she would diet to the point of emaciation. But almost instantly she was sobered by the thought that her great grandparents, or perhaps even her grandparents, had indulged in such odious feasts.
In Suva, Fiji, some of the marines from Hawley’s boat had become involved in a quarrel with the natives and adjustment of this trouble delayed his return considerably.
“Are the Fijians quarrelsome?” the girl asked.
“No, usually they are a good-natured lot, but like most human beings, they’ll respond if a fight is forced upon them, and you know that an American sailor on shore leave, especially if he’s had two or three drinks, thinks he owns the earth.”
When the proprieties seemed to demand departure, he said, “It will be a glorious moonlight night. Won’t you let me come over in the cutter and take you for a spin? There’s something I want to say to you.” Dick’s face had taken on a serious air which Nell had never seen there before.
“That sounds like an invitation for a sleighride back in the States,” she laughed.
“So it does. But our motor boat is quite unlike the cutter you have in mind, and there sure is something incongruous in the thought of sleighriding in these tropics, even if it is December.” And Dick mopped his perspiring brow. “May I come?”
“I shall be glad of the ride, and I’ve something to say to you. A woman is said to demand the last word, but in this instance I choose to have the first.”
“Won’t you say it now?”
“No, it’s a long story and can best be told on the water – and in the darkness.” The last words were said to herself.
One designing to make love might vainly have searched this terrestrial globe for a better setting than that furnished by the Apia harbor in the brilliant tropical moonlight, with the verdant hills in the background. Hills and heavens were reflected and their beauty needlessly exaggerated in the placid water which had just enough swell to break in rhythmical music upon the coral reef, furnishing a fitting accompaniment for the amatory pleading of a nearby Samoan Romeo who was endeavoring to win some dusky Juliet with a charming song. The crumbling skeleton of the Adler. Alone reminded the onlooker that tragedy still exists in this beautiful world.
Hawley assisted his companion into the boat and started the motor. They shot out through the opening in the submerged reef, passed the anchored gunboat, the girl’s American heart beating faster as she saw the Stars and Stripes floating in the breeze. Then ensued a period of dreamy reminiscence, exquisitely sweet.
This young woman had been loved and petted all her life, and her hungry heart called out imperiously for affection. Could Dick but have understood and not misinterpreted her motives she would have put her arms around his neck and given him what in her opinion was a sisterly kiss. And yet in a vague and contradictory way she realized that brotherly affection was not exactly what she craved. She was beginning to like this young fellow immensely. The romance of the scene was getting into her blood, and it would be so delightful to listen amid these surroundings to tales of love.
“I’m in love with love,” she said to herself, “and that’s the only lover I can ever have.”
There was necessity of diverting her thoughts. “Tell me the story of the great storm and of these wrecks,” she commanded.
“But you were to have the first word.”
“I claim a woman’s right to change her mind. Perhaps I shall not tell tonight the story that was in my mind this afternoon.”
Hawley opened his mouth to say something. His companion hastened to ask:
“You will tell me about the storm?”
“It has always been a fascinating story to me,” proceeded the officer, though somewhat reluctantly. “In addition to the personal interest I feel, due to having passed through it, no naval disaster, outside of those occurring in battle, equals it as far as I know. Acts of individual heroism were numerous and collectively the sailors, representing three different nations, behaved in a manner which brought glory to our profession.
“You of course have cause to remember the date on which the storm commenced. My father was running a schooner between these Islands and those of the Friendly and Society groups, buying copra and trading with the natives. On many of these expeditions I accompanied him, but often, unless it was possible for her to go also, my mother kept me at home, much against my will, to attend the school she was holding for children, native and white, who cared to come. Dear old mother! She worked herself nearly to death on this island.”
“I see every day the fruits of her labors,” interposed the girl. “You have reason to be proud of her record. But go on with your story.”
“At the time of which we are speaking there had been frequent disturbances among the Samoans themselves, and these had been fomented, intentionally or otherwise, by the Germans who gave somewhat serious offense to our own country and also to England by their activities. As a result of these feelings, Rear Admiral Kimberly was ordered here by our government with the Trenton, his flagship, the Vendalia and the Nipnic The Germans had the Adler, the Eber and the Olga the British had the Calliope. These seven warships were anchored about where we are now. My father had a contract to furnish the vessels with fruit, and I was frequently aboard all of them and made many friends among officers and men who were amused at my ability to talk with the natives in their own language.
“Like many tropical storms this one came on with practically no warning. The vessels had but little steam up and the hurricane was upon them before they could move out to sea. Extra anchors were dropped and for a time these held the ships in place, but when the full fury of the storm broke, in spite of anchors and skillful maneuvering by their officers, for every moment their steam pressure was increased, the Eber and the Adler were driven on the sharp coral reef with such violence that they were completely wrecked. I well recall that after the storm subsided the beach was covered with their broken timbers and furnishings. But the loss of the ships themselves was comparatively insignificant. One hundred brave fellows from these two vessels were drowned or beaten to death on the rocks.
“Through the fiercest night they had ever known, officers and men of the remaining five ships worked like despairing demons to get their vessels away from the threatening reef and into the open ocean. No longer was there lack of steam, but steam was pitted against a mightier power. With propellers racing at full speed, with bows pointed seaward, all anchors down, they could not withstand the gale, but in spite of every possible maneuver were slowly driven toward the rocks and destruction. Occasionally there would be a slight relaxation of the elements when the vessels succeeded, by fighting desperately, in regaining a few rods of water which had been lost; but each passing hour found them inches and often yards nearer the pitiless reef over which the breakers were roaring and grinding,.
“While this was occurring at sea, the havoc on shore was scarcely less disastrous. Many houses were demolished and nearly all were seriously damaged. Can you imagine those stately cocoanut trees bending to the ground? I remember that for a few moments my fear was submerged because of delight in being able to pick cocoanuts without having to climb the trees. Knowing the natives, you can perhaps imagine their terror; it cannot be described.
“Saturday morning came but brought with it no abatement of the storm. The captain of the Nipnic, convinced that he could not successfully withstand the gale and hoping the hundreds of natives lining the beach might be able to save at least some of his men, deliberately drew up on shore, succeeding in turning the boat toward shore and with fulls team ahead drove her as high on the rocks as possible. It was a courageous act, for the loss of his vessel means almost everything to a naval officer, but human lives were in the balance, and the captain chose the more heroic course. But you are trembling, Miss Nell, we’d better change the subject.”
“Here on the very place where all this occurred, it seems so real. And you know that storm changed the course of my life. But I want you to go on.”
“All the heroes were not on shipboard. At the risk of their own lives, native volunteers dashed with a life-line into the breakers, only to be beaten into unconsciousness by waves seemingly possessed of demoniacal fury. To reach the stricken ship was declared by many experienced ones a feat impossible of accomplishment, but as fast as one man was dragged back, another took his place, and at last one of them succeeded in reaching the vessel, and most of the crew were saved.
“About this time or a little prior thereto, the British Calliope, the largest and most powerful of the seven vessels, found that with all anchors down and propellers going at the limit of their speed she was holding her own against the hurricane. With waning hopes revived, her stokers redoubled their seemingly superhuman efforts. Gradually it became apparent that she was gaining though only by a hair’s breadth; almost imperceptibly her anchor chains slackened; the great ‘mud hooks’ were hoisted and inch by inch the Calliope fought her way to sea and comparative safety. With every officer and man and every engine working at highest tension she crept slowly by the American ships, and as she did so our boys, the pluckiest lads in all the world because trained under dear Old Glory, though everything pointed to a violent end for themselves, paused in their fight with death long enough to cheer sailors of another nation who, through good fortune supplemented by courage and skill, were escaping the fate which was reaching out for them; and as their applause rose above the thundering of the storm, the band, which had been summoned to a protected corner of the deck, amid that chaos of roaring wind and threatening breakers, played ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves.’ Needless to say the Britons responded right lustily to the cheers of our boys. What voice could have failed to give the doomed men an encouraging word?
“Instead of abating, the storm increased in intensity, though one would have thought that already all the winds of heaven were concentrated at this particular point. Can you imagine a hurricane so fierce that powerful warships with fulls team on and three anchors down cannot face it? It is not easy on these peaceful waters to form a picture of it. These vessels were as invincible as human skill could make them, they were manned by officers and crews trained for just such emergencies; but when actually matched against the power of omnipotence they were as impotent as childish toys.
“The Vandalia was the next to meet defeat. In spite of anchors and steam, after a sixteen hour fight she crashed stern first on the reef. With amazing power the monstrous waves would pick her up and drop her again on the rocks until she was completely crushed. As the water washed over her decks hundreds of men were seen clinging to the rigging. Wearied by hours of ceaseless effort, many lost their holds and were swept overboard; others voluntarily jumped, in the hope that they could swim ashore, but most of these were carried out to sea, though a few escaped with minor injuries. Others were thrown up on the sand but were so beaten that life was extinct before help could be rendered. The onlookers running excitedly to and fro on the beach were as powerless as the stricken vessels.”
“And I was in that storm!” The Girl shuddered. The terror in her eyes made the officer want to take her in his arms for comfort. “Please go on with your story.”
“The captain of the Olga next realized the futility of fighting longer. Hoping to avoid serious loss of life he followed the example of the Nipaic and voluntarily ran his ship on the reef. As in the other case this course resulted in saving all his men.
“Rear Admiral Kimberly’s flagship Trenton alone remained. With the darkness of Saturday evening, nearly thirty hours after the commencement of the hurricane, she was still fighting doggedly for her life. When new orders had to be given, the officers were obliged to out-roar the thunder. At times the vessel made headway, drew up her anchors and was on the verge of making the open sea, but was never quite successful. The elements seemed to be playing with her as a cat does with a mouse. At the moment when emergence from the harbor was all but accomplished, a sea, mountain high, would break over her bows and she would be driven back in spite of the most masterly maneuvering. All after hope and despair alternated in the hearts of the crew and hardly less so in the breasts of watchers on shore. The latter could only see the outlines of the ship. They could not discern the unflinching figure much less the immobile face of the grim old sea lion pacing the bridge, his fighting spirit in no wise subdued by the strain of a thirty-hour conflict. If courage, if indomitable determination, if skilled seamanship would save the vessel, surely the Trenton and her crew would escape. But evidently fate had ruled otherwise. In the fading light the watchers could see her drifting toward the reef where her companion, the Vandalia, was impaled. There was a crash which could be heard in all parts of the little town, louder than the thundering waters and howling wind, and all knew that the last of the vessels was wrecked.
“In the darkness and storm nothing could be done for the men. If the vessel held together until daylight, there was hope – that was their only chance. Fortunately with the dawn of the Sabbath morning came an abatement of the storm. The crew of the Trenton had stuck to their ship and all were saved.
“And it was during this hurricane, Nell, that the great calamity came into your life. I need not relate the details of that accident, for doubtless you have heard them many times, and as a matter of fact most of them are unknown to me. Much of what I have told you has been picked upon subsequent visits, for, though it seems to me I never left the beach, I could, of course, not comprehend all that was going on.”
“It is a thrilling story.” The girl spoke softly, as though fearful of disturbing the dead over whose grave they were idly drifting. “And told so graphically that I can see the distressed vessels and their heroic men. It recalls to my memory the shrieking wind, the roaring waves and oh, the crash of shattered houses. I can almost feel the weight of my mother’s body falling over me,” she concluded in a frightened whisper.
For a time they drifted in silence. Nell was thinking of her mother, so heroic, so beautiful, and of such shameful birth. At last she roused herself.
“Thanks for the story. I appreciate it, even though you did make it seem so painfully real.”
“But that isn’t the story I came out to tell you tonight. I – ”
“Remember, Mr. Hawley, there was a definite understanding that I should have the first word.”
“And you changed your mind.”
“Yes, and have changed it again. The account you have just given reminds me that the noblest thing in life is to meet its storms courageously. If running one’s ship upon the rocks is the right thing to do, it is cowardly not to do it.”