THE FLOATING BEACON.

[MAGA. October 1821.]

One dark and stormy night we were on a voyage from Bergen to Christiansand in a small sloop. Our captain suspected that he had approached too near the Norwegian coast, though he could not discern any land, and the wind blew with such violence that we were in momentary dread of being driven upon a lee-shore. We had endeavoured, for more than an hour, to keep our vessel away; but our efforts proved unavailing, and we soon found that we could scarcely hold our own. A clouded sky, a hazy atmosphere, and irregular showers of sleety rain, combined to deepen the obscurity of night, and nothing whatever was visible, except the sparkling of the distant waves, when their tops happened to break into a wreath of foam. The sea ran very high, and sometimes broke over the deck so furiously that the men were obliged to hold by the rigging, lest they should be carried away. Our captain was a person of timid and irresolute character, and the dangers that environed us made him gradually lose confidence in himself. He often gave orders, and countermanded them in the same moment, all the while taking small quantities of ardent spirits at intervals. Fear and intoxication soon stupified him completely, and the crew ceased to consult him, or to pay any respect to his authority, in so far as regarded the management of the vessel.

About midnight our mainsail was split, and shortly after we found that the sloop had sprung a leak. We had before shipped a good deal of water through the hatches, and the quantity that now entered from below was so great that we thought she would go down every moment. Our only chance of escape lay in our boat, which was immediately lowered. After we had all got on board of her, except the captain, who stood leaning against the mast, we called to him, requesting that he would follow us without delay. “How dare you quit the sloop without my permission?” cried he, staggering forwards. “This is not fit weather to go a-fishing. Come back—back with you all!”—“No, no,” returned one of the crew; “we don’t want to be sent to the bottom for your obstinacy. Bear a hand there, or we’ll leave you behind.”—“Captain, you are drunk,” said another; “you cannot take care of yourself. You must obey us now.”—“Silence! mutinous villain!” answered the captain. “What are you all afraid of? This is a fine breeze—Up mainsail, and steer her right in the wind’s eye.”

The sea knocked the boat so violently and constantly against the side of the sloop, that we feared the former would be injured or upset if we did not immediately row away; but, anxious as we were to preserve our lives, we could not reconcile ourselves to the idea of abandoning the captain, who grew more obstinate the more we attempted to persuade him to accompany us. At length one of the crew leaped on board the sloop, and having seized hold of him, tried to drag him along by force; but he struggled resolutely, and soon freed himself from the grasp of the seaman, who immediately resumed his place among us, and urged that we should not any longer risk our lives for the sake of a drunkard and a madman. Most of the party declared they were of the same opinion, and began to push off the boat; but I entreated them to make one effort more to induce their infatuated commander to accompany us. At that moment he came up from the cabin, to which he had descended a little time before, and we immediately perceived that he was more under the influence of ardent spirits than ever. He abused us all in the grossest terms, and threatened his crew with severe punishment, if they did not come on board, and return to their duty. His manner was so violent that no one seemed willing to attempt to constrain him to come on board the boat; and after vainly representing the absurdity of his conduct; and the danger of his situation, we bid him farewell, and rowed away.

The sea ran so high, and had such a terrific appearance, that I almost wished myself in the sloop again. The crew plied the oars in silence, and we heard nothing but the hissing of the enormous billows as they gently rose up, and slowly subsided again, without breaking. At intervals our boat was elevated far above the surface of the ocean, and remained for a few moments trembling upon the pinnacle of a surge, from which it would quietly descend into a gulf so deep and awful that we often thought the dense black mass of waters which formed its sides were on the point of over-arching us, and bursting upon our heads. We glided with regular undulations from one billow to another; but every time we sank into the trough of the sea my heart died within me, for I felt as if we were going lower down than we had ever done before, and clung instinctively to the board on which I sat.

Notwithstanding my terrors, I frequently looked towards the sloop. The fragments of her mainsail, which remained attached to the yard, and fluttered in the wind, enabled us to discern exactly where she lay, and showed, by their motion, that she pitched about in a terrible manner. We occasionally heard the voice of her unfortunate commander, calling to us in tones of frantic derision, and by turns vociferating curses and blasphemous oaths, and singing sea-songs with a wild and frightful energy. I sometimes almost wished that the crew would make another effort to save him, but next moment the principle of self-preservation repressed all feelings of humanity, and I endeavoured, by closing my ears, to banish the idea of his sufferings from my mind.

After a little time the shivering canvass disappeared, and we heard a tumultuous roaring and bursting of billows, and saw an unusual sparkling of the sea about a quarter of a mile from us. One of the sailors cried out that the sloop was now on her beam ends, and that the noise to which we listened was that of the waves breaking over her. We could sometimes perceive a large black mass heaving itself up irregularly among the flashing surges, and then disappearing for a few moments, and knew but too well that it was the hull of the vessel. At intervals a shrill and agonised voice uttered some exclamations, but we could not distinguish what they were, and then a long-drawn shriek came across the ocean, which suddenly grew more furiously agitated near the spot where the sloop lay, and in a few moments she sank down, and a black wave formed itself out of the waters that had engulfed her, and swelled gloomily into a magnitude greater than that of the surrounding billows.

The seamen dropped their oars, as if by one impulse, and looked expressively at each other, without speaking a word. Awful forebodings of a fate similar to that of the captain appeared to chill every heart, and to repress the energy that had hitherto excited us to make unremitting exertions for our common safety. While we were in this state of hopeless inaction, the man at the helm called out that he saw a light ahead. We all strained our eyes to discern it, but at the moment the boat was sinking down between two immense waves, one of which closed the prospect, and we remained in breathless anxiety till a rising surge elevated us above the level of the surrounding ocean. A light like a dazzling star then suddenly flashed upon our view, and joyful exclamations burst from every mouth. “That,” cried one of the crew, “must be the floating beacon which our captain was looking out for this afternoon. If we can but gain it, we’ll be safe enough yet.” This intelligence cheered us all, and the men began to ply the oars with redoubled vigour, while I employed myself in baling out the water that sometimes rushed over the gunnel of the boat when a sea happened to strike her.

An hour’s hard rowing brought us so near the lighthouse that we almost ceased to apprehend any further danger; but it was suddenly obscured from our view, and at the same time a confused roaring and dashing commenced at a little distance, and rapidly increased in loudness. We soon perceived a tremendous billow rolling towards us. Its top, part of which had already broke, overhung the base, as if unwilling to burst until we were within the reach of its violence. The man who steered the boat brought her head to the sea, but all to no purpose, for the water rushed furiously over us, and we were completely immersed. I felt the boat swept from under me, and was left struggling and groping about in hopeless desperation for something to catch hold of. When nearly exhausted, I received a severe blow on the side from a small cask of water which the sea had forced against me. I immediately twined my arms round it, and, after recovering myself a little, began to look for the boat, and to call to my companions; but I could not discover any vestige of them, or of their vessel. However, I still had a faint hope that they were in existence, and that the intervention of the billows concealed them from my view. I continued to shout as loud as possible, for the sound of my own voice in some measure relieved me from the feeling of awful and heart-chilling loneliness which my situation inspired; but not even an echo responded to my cries, and, convinced that my comrades had all perished, I ceased looking for them, and pushed towards the beacon in the best manner I could. A long series of fatiguing exertions brought me close to the side of the vessel which contained it, and I called out loudly, in hopes that those on board might hear me and come to my assistance; but no one appearing, I waited patiently till a wave raised me on a level with the chains, and then caught hold of them, and succeeded in getting on board.

As I did not see any person on deck, I went forwards to the skylight, and looked down. Two men were seated below at a table; and a lamp, which was suspended above them, being swung backwards and forwards by the rolling of the vessel, threw its light upon their faces alternately. One seemed agitated with passion, and the other surveyed him with a scornful look. They both talked very loudly, and used threatening gestures, but the sea made so much noise that I could not distinguish what was said. After a little time they started up, and seemed to be on the point of closing and wrestling together, when a woman rushed through a small door and prevented them. I beat upon deck with my feet at the same time, and the attention of the whole party was soon transferred to the noise. One of the men immediately came up the cabin stairs, but stopped short on seeing me, as if irresolute whether to advance or hasten below again. I approached him, and told my story in a few words, but instead of making any reply, he went down to the cabin, and began to relate to the others what he had seen. I soon followed him, and easily found my way into the apartment where they all were. They appeared to feel mingled sensations of fear and astonishment at my presence, and it was some time before any of them entered into conversation with me, or afforded those comforts which I stood so much in need of.

After I had refreshed myself with food, and been provided with a change of clothing, I went upon deck, and surveyed the singular asylum in which Providence had enabled me to take refuge from the fury of the storm. It did not exceed thirty feet long, and was very strongly built, and completely decked over, except at the entrance to the cabin. It had a thick mast at midships, with a large lantern, containing several burners and reflectors, on the top of it; and this could be lowered and hoisted up again as often as required, by means of ropes and pulleys. The vessel was firmly moored upon an extensive sand-bank, the beacon being intended to warn seamen to avoid a part of the ocean where many lives and vessels had been lost in consequence of the latter running aground. The accommodations below decks were narrow, and of an inferior description; however, I gladly retired to the berth that was allotted me by my entertainers, and fatigue and the rocking of billows combined to lull me into a quiet and dreamless sleep.

Next morning, one of the men, whose name was Angerstoff, came to my bedside, and called me to breakfast in a surly and imperious manner.

Others looked coldly and distrustfully when I joined them, and I saw that they regarded me as an intruder and an unwelcome guest. The meal passed without almost any conversation, and I went upon deck whenever it was over. The tempest of the preceding night had in a great measure abated, but the sea still ran very high, and a black mist hovered over it, through which the Norwegian coast, lying at eleven miles distance, could be dimly seen. I looked in vain for some remains of the sloop or boat. Not a bird enlivened the heaving expanse of waters, and I turned shuddering from the dreary scene, and asked Morvalden, the youngest of the men, when he thought I had any chance of getting ashore. “Not very soon, I’m afraid,” returned he. “We are visited once a-month by people from yonder land, who are appointed to bring us supply of provisions and other necessaries. They were here only six days ago, so you may count how long it will be before they return. Fishing-boats sometimes pass us during fine weather, but we won’t have much of that this moon at least.”

No intelligence could have been more depressing to me than this. The idea of spending perhaps three weeks in such a place was almost insupportable, and the more so, as I could not hasten my deliverance by any exertions of my own, but would be obliged to remain, in a state of inactive suspense, till good fortune, or the regular course of events, afforded me the means of getting ashore. Neither Angerstoff nor Morvalden seemed to sympathise with my distress, or even to care that I should have it in my power to leave the vessel, except in so far as my departure would free them from the expense of supporting me. They returned indistinct and repulsive answers to all the questions I asked, and appeared anxious to avoid having the least communication with me. During the greater part of the forenoon, they employed themselves in trimming the lamps and cleaning the reflectors, but never conversed any. I easily perceived that a mutual animosity existed between them, but was unable to discover the cause of it. Morvalden seemed to fear Angerstoff, and at the same time to feel a deep resentment towards him, which he did not dare to express. Angerstoff apparently was aware of this, for he behaved to his companion with the undisguised fierceness of determined hate, and openly thwarted him in everything.

Marietta, the female on board, was the wife of Morvalden. She remained chiefly below decks, and attended to the domestic concerns of the vessel. She was rather good-looking, but so reserved and forbidding in her manners that she formed no desirable acquisition to our party, already so heartless and unsociable in its character.

When night approached, after the lapse of a wearisome and monotonous day, I went on deck to see the beacon lighted, and continued walking backwards and forwards till a late hour. I watched the lantern, as it swung from side to side, and flashed upon different portions of the sea alternately, and sometimes fancied I saw men struggling among the billows that tumbled around, and at other times imagined I could discern the white sail of an approaching vessel. Human voices seemed to mingle with the noise of the bursting waves, and I often listened intently, almost in the expectation of hearing articulate sounds. My mind grew sombre as the scene itself, and strange and fearful ideas obtruded themselves in rapid succession. It was dreadful to be chained in the middle of the deep—to be the continual sport of the quietless billows—to be shunned as a fatal thing by those who traversed the solitary ocean. Though within sight of the shore, our situation was more dreary than if we had been sailing a thousand miles from it. We felt not the pleasure of moving forwards, nor the hope of reaching port, nor the delights arising from favourable breezes and genial weather. When a billow drove us to one side, we were tossed back again by another; our imprisonment had no variety or definite termination; and the calm and the tempest were alike uninteresting to us. I felt as if my fate had already become linked with that of those who were on board the vessel. My hopes of being again permitted to mingle with mankind died away, and I anticipated long years of gloom and despair in the company of these repulsive persons into whose hands fate had unexpectedly consigned me.

Angerstoff and Morvalden tended the beacon alternately during the night. The latter had the watch while I remained upon deck. His appearance and manner indicated much perturbation of mind, and he paced hurriedly from side to side, sometimes muttering to himself, and sometimes stopping suddenly to look through the skylight, as if anxious to discover what was going on below. He would then gaze intently upon the heavens, and next moment take out his watch, and contemplate the motions of its hands. I did not offer to disturb these reveries, and thought myself altogether unobserved by him, till he suddenly advanced to the spot where I stood, and said, in a loud whisper, “There’s a villain below—a desperate villain—this is true—he is capable of anything—and the woman is as bad as him.” I asked what proof he had of all this. “Oh, I know it,” returned he; “that wretch Angerstoff, whom I once thought my friend, has gained my wife’s affections. She has been faithless to me—yes, she has. They both wish I were out of the way. Perhaps they are now planning my destruction. What can I do? It is very terrible to be shut up in such narrow limits with those who hate me, and to have no means of escaping, or defending myself from their infernal machinations.”—“Why do you not leave the beacon,” inquired I, “and abandon your companion and guilty wife?”—“Ah, that is impossible,” answered Morvalden; “if I went on shore I would forfeit my liberty. I live here that I may escape the vengeance of the law, which I once outraged for the sake of her who has now withdrawn her love from me. What ingratitude! Mine is indeed a terrible fate, but I must bear it. And shall I never again wander through the green fields, and climb the rocks that encircle my native place? Are the weary dashings of the sea, and the moanings of the wind, to fill my ears continually, all the while telling me that I am an exile?—a hopeless despairing exile. But it won’t last long,” cried he, catching hold of my arm; “they will murder me!—I am sure of it—I never go to sleep without dreaming that Angerstoff has pushed me overboard.”

“Your lonely situation and inactive life dispose you to give way to these chimeras,” said I; “you must endeavour to resist them. Perhaps things aren’t so bad as you suppose.”—“This is not a lonely situation,” replied Morvalden, in a solemn tone. “Perhaps you will have proof of what I say before you leave us. Many vessels used to be lost here, and a few are wrecked still; and the skeletons and corpses of those who have perished lie all over the sand-bank. Sometimes, at midnight, I have seen crowds of human figures moving backwards and forwards upon the surface of the ocean, almost as far as the eye could reach. I neither knew who they were, nor what they did there. When watching the lantern alone, I often hear a number of voices talking together, as it were, under the waves; and I twice caught the very words they uttered, but I cannot repeat them—they dwell incessantly in my memory, but my tongue refuses to pronounce them, or to explain to others what they meant.”

“Do not let your senses be imposed upon by a distempered imagination,” said I; “there is no reality in the things you have told me.”—“Perhaps my mind occasionally wanders a little, for it has a heavy burden upon it,” returned Morvalden. “I have been guilty of a dreadful crime. Many that now lie in the deep below us might start up and accuse me of what I am just going to reveal to you. One stormy night, shortly after I began to take charge of this beacon, while watching on deck, I fell into a profound sleep. I know not how long it continued, but I was awakened by horrible shouts and cries. I started up, and instantly perceived that all the lamps in the lantern were extinguished. It was very dark, and the sea raged furiously; but notwithstanding all this, I observed a ship aground on the bank, a little way from me, her sails fluttering in the wind, and the waves breaking over her with violence. Half frantic with horror, I ran down to the cabin for a taper, and lighted the lamps as fast as possible. The lantern, when hoisted to the top of the mast, threw a 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 children writhed together in agonising 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 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 in which so many human creatures perished, in consequence of my neglect and carelessness. Would to God I had no memory! I sometimes think I am getting mad. The past and present are equally dreadful to me; and I dare not anticipate 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 below, and took refuge in my berth, though I was but little inclined for sleep. The gloomy ideas and dark forebodings expressed by Morvalden 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 indefinitely 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. Morvalden then went down to the cabin, where his companion was, and requested to know why his orders were not obeyed. “Because I hate trouble,” replied Angerstoff. “I am master here,” said Morvalden, “and have been intrusted with the direction of everything. Do not attempt to trifle with me.”—“Trifle with you!” exclaimed Angerstoff, looking contemptuously. “No, no, I am no trifler; and I advise you to walk up-stairs again, lest I prove this to your cost.” “Why, husband,” cried Marietta, “I believe there are no bounds to your laziness. You make this young man toil from morning to night, and take advantage of his good nature in the most shameful manner.”—“Peace, infamous woman!” said Morvalden; “I know very well why you stand up in his defence; but I’ll put a stop to the intimacy that exists between you. Go to your room instantly! You are my wife, and shall obey me.” “Is this usage to be borne?” exclaimed Marietta, “Will no one step forward to protect me from his violence?” “Insolent fellow!” cried Angerstoff, “don’t presume to insult my mistress.”—“Mistress!” repeated Morvalden. “This to my face!” and struck him a severe blow. Angerstoff sprung forward, with the intention of returning it, but I got between them, and prevented him. Marietta then began to shed tears, and applauded the generosity her paramour had evinced in sparing her husband, who immediately went upon deck, without speaking a word, and hurriedly resumed the work that had engaged his attention previous to the quarrel.

Neither of the two men seemed at all disposed 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, whose manner 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 shrank 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 fearful 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 intermission, ardently hoping that some boat might approach near enough to afford me an opportunity of quitting the horrid and dangerous abode in which I was imprisoned.

It was Angerstoff’s watch on deck till midnight; and as I did not wish to have any communication with him, I remained below. At twelve o’clock Morvalden 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 intentions, 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 intervals. 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 up-stairs?”—“I don’t know,” returned she; “I am hardly awake yet—Let us listen for 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 person who barred these doors on the outside is guilty.”—“I know nothing of that,” returned Marietta. “We can’t be of any use now.—Come here again!—how dreadfully quiet it is. My God!—a drop of blood has fallen through the skylight.—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 overboard. Throw a rope to him!—He will be drowned.” His hands and dress were marked with blood, and he had a frightful look of horror and confusion. “You are a murderer!” exclaimed I, almost involuntarily.—“How do you know that?” said he, staggering 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 Morvalden?” “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 shuddering 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. Everything 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 entire 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 imposed 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 I made, and soon discovered a man stretched along the stern-cable, and clinging to it in a convulsive manner. It was Morvalden. 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, but at 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 respiration, convinced me that he had taken a large quantity of ardent spirits. Marietta was in her own apartment. Even the presence of a murderer appeared less terrible than the frightful solitariness of the deck, and I lay down upon a bench determining to spend the remainder 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. Damnation!—why is that corpse so long of sinking?—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 up with chattering teeth and shivering limbs, and was on the point of speaking, but she prevented 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 agonised. 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 himself—long after midnight. He was clinging to the stern-cable, and said”—“Ha, ha, ha—devils!—curses!” 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 approach. I walked carelessly about, casting a glance upon the sea occasionally, and meditating 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 suddenly changed her course, and bore away towards the shore. I 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? For Godsake, prevent the possibility of that!”—“Yes, yes,” returned Angerstoff; “he never shall leave the vessel—He had as well 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 he ferociously; “there is no one here to listen to your damnable falsehoods, 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 assertions respecting the murder of Morvalden; for Angerstoff evidently thought that his personal safety, and even his life, would be endangered, if I ever found an opportunity of accusing and giving evidence against him. All my motions were now watched with double vigilance. Marietta and her paramour kept upon deck by turns during the whole day, 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 opportunity 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 satisfied that Angerstoff was bent upon my destruction. I wandered, in a state of fearful circumspection, from one part of the vessel to the other, not knowing how to secure myself from his designs. Every time he approached me, my heart palpitated dreadfully; and when night came on, I was agonised with terror, and could not remain in one spot, but hurried backwards and forwards between the cabin and the deck, looking wildly 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 acquired such an intense feeling of existence, that the mere idea of death was horrible to me.

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 I 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 murder me. At length I thought I heard some one near my bed—I sprung from it, and, having 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 had been set at liberty, and, for a time, forgot that my situation had anything painful or alarming connected with it. Angerstoff resumed his station in about three hours, and I again took refuge in my berth, where I enjoyed 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 dashing of oars struck my ear. I sprang 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 skylight, 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, brandishing 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 confusion, I was unable to effect this, and she soon pulled me to the ground. At that moment, Angerstoff hurriedly entered the cabin, exclaiming, “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, Angerstoff directed his female accomplice to prevent me from speaking, and went upon deck again.

While in this state of bondage, I heard distinctly 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 ascertain 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.”—“No, no, no,” returned Angerstoff; “I never hear 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 morning, 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, by the eternal hell!” cried he, vehemently; “I suspect I will find the truth of it soon enough.” “My God!” 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.” “Oh,” 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 together, 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 irresolute what to do, sometimes sitting down composedly, and at other times hurrying backwards and forwards, with clenched hands and bloodless 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 prevent the government boat from putting out to sea. He kept his glass constantly in his hand, and surveyed the ocean through it in all directions.

At length he suddenly dashed the instrument away, and exclaimed, “God help us! 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 assistance. The idea of perishing when on the point of being saved was inexpressibly agonising.

As the day advanced, the hopes I had entertained 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 indistinguishable. Marietta and Angerstoff appeared to be stupified with terror. They stood motionless, holding firmly by the bulwarks of the vessel; and though the waves frequently broke over the deck, and rushed down the gangway, they did not offer to shut the companion door, which would have remained open had I not 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 convulsive eagerness to whatever lay within their reach.

About sunset our attention was attracted by a dreadful roaring, which evidently did not proceed from the waves around us; but the atmosphere being very hazy, we were unable to ascertain the cause of it for a long time. At length we distinguished a range of high cliffs, against which the sea beat with terrible fury. Whenever the surge broke upon them, large jets of foam started up to a great height, and flashed angrily over their black and rugged surfaces, while the wind moaned and whistled with fearful caprice among the projecting points of rock. A dense mist covered the upper part of the cliffs, and prevented us from seeing if there were any houses upon their summits, though this point appeared of little importance, for we drifted towards the shore so fast that immediate death seemed inevitable.

We soon felt our vessel bound twice against the sand, and in a little time after a heavy sea carried her up the beach, where she remained imbedded and hard aground. During the ebb of the waves there was not more than two feet of water round her bows. I immediately perceived this, and watching a favourable opportunity, swung myself down to the beach by means of part of the cable that projected through the hawse-hole. I began to run towards the cliffs the moment my feet touched the ground, and Angerstoff attempted to follow me, that he might prevent my escape; but, while in the act of descending from the vessel, the sea flowed in with such violence that he was obliged to spring on board again to save himself from being overwhelmed by its waters.

I hurried on and began to climb up the rocks, which were very steep and slippery; but I soon grew breathless from fatigue, and found it necessary to stop. It was now almost dark, and when I looked around, I neither saw anything distinctly, nor could form the least idea how far I had still to ascend before I reached the top of the cliffs. I knew not which way to turn my steps, and remained irresolute, till the barking of a dog faintly struck my ear. I joyfully followed the sound, and, after an hour of perilous exertion, discovered a light at some distance, which I soon found to proceed from the window of a small hut.

After I had knocked repeatedly, the door was opened by an old man, with a lamp in his hand. He started back on seeing me, for my dress was wet and disordered, my face and hands had been wounded while scrambling among the rocks, and fatigue and terror had given me a wan and agitated look. I entered the house, the inmates of which were a woman and a boy, and having seated myself near the fire, related to my host all that had occurred on board the floating beacon, and then requested him to accompany me down to the beach, that we might search for Angerstoff and Marietta. “No, no,” cried he; “that is impossible. Hear how the storm rages! Worlds would not induce me to have any communication with murderers. It would be impious to attempt it on such a night as this. The Almighty is surely punishing them now! Come here and look out.”

I followed him to the door, but the moment he opened it the wind extinguished the lamp. Total darkness prevailed without, and a chaos of rushing, bursting, and moaning sounds swelled upon the ear with irregular loudness. The blast swept round the hut in violent eddyings, and we felt the chilly spray of the sea driving upon our faces at intervals. I shuddered, and the old man closed the door, and then resumed his seat near the fire.

My entertainer made a bed for me upon the floor, but the noise of the tempest, and the anxiety I felt about the fate of Angerstoff and Marietta, kept me awake the greater part of the night. Soon after dawn my host accompanied me down to the beach. We found the wreck of the floating beacon, but were unable to discover any traces of the guilty pair whom I had left on board of it.