THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS
BY FRANCIS O'CONNOR
could be "as tedious as a king," in analyzing those chivalrous
instincts of masculine youth that lured me from college at nineteen,
and away over the watery deserts of the sea; and, like Dogberry,
"I could find in my heart to bestow it all of your worships." But
since, like the auditor of that worthy, you do not want it, I will
pass over the embarkation, which was tedious, over the sea-sickness,
which was more tedious, over the home-sickness, over the monotonous
duties assigned me, and the unvarying prospect of sea and sky,
all so tedious that I grew as morose after a time as a travelling
Englishman. Neither was coasting, with restricted liberty and much
toil, amongst people whose language I could not speak, quite all
that my fancy painted it,—although Genoa, Venice, the Bay
of Naples,—crimsoned by Vesuvius, and canopied by an Italian
sky,—and the storied scenes of Greece, all rich in beauties
and historic associations, repaid many discomforts at the time and
remain to me forever as treasures of memory the more precious for
being dearly bought. But these, with the pleasures and displeasures
of Constantinople,—the limit of our voyage,—I will pass
over, to the midsummer eve when, with all the arrangements for
our return voyage completed, we swung slowly out of the northern
eddy of the Golden Horn into the clear blue Bosphorus.
Already the lengthening shadows of a thousand domes and minarets
stretched across its waters, and glimpses of sunlight lay between
them, like golden clasps linking continent to continent. Around us
were ships and sailors from all parts of the habitable globe; while
through shine and shadow flitted boats and caiques innumerable, and
except where these, or the rising of a porpoise, or the dipping
of a gull, broke the surface of the water, it lay as smooth as a
mirror, reflecting its palace-guarded shores.
The men were lounging about the deck or leaning over the bulwarks,
listening to a neighboring crew chanting their vespers, while we
awaited the coming on board of our captain. Meanwhile the shadows
crept up the Asian hills, till the last sombre answering smile to
the sun's good-night faded from the cypress-trees above the graves
Beside me, long in silent admiration of the scene, stood my messmates,
Fred Smith and Mike O'Hanlon,—two genuine specimens of Young
New York, the first of whom disappointed love had driven to sea,
whither also friendship and a reckless spirit of adventure had impelled
the second. Behind us was one, a just impression of whom—if
I could but convey it—would make what followed appear as
possible to you as it did to us who were long his companions. I
never knew to what country he belonged; for he spoke any language
occasion called for, with the same apparent ease and fluency. He
was far beyond the ordinary stature, yet it was only when you saw
him in comparison with other men that you observed anything gigantic
in his form. His hair was black, and hung in a smooth, heavy, even
wave down to his massive jaw, which was always clean shaved, if
indeed beard ever grew upon it. Neither could I guess his age;
for though he was apparently in manhood's prime, it often appeared
to me that the spirit I saw looking through his eyes must have
been looking from them for a thousand years.
And how I used to exult in watching him deal with matter! He never
took anything by the wrong end, nor failed to grasp a swinging
rope or a flapping sail, nor miscalculated the effort necessary
to the performance of whatever he undertook. He was silent, but
not morose. Yet there was something in his measured tones and the
gaze of his large gray eyes which Mike compared in their mingled
effects to the charms of sight and sound that the victims of the
rattlesnake's fascination are said to undergo. Whatever sensations
they occasioned, men shrank from renewing them, and the frankest and
boldest of the crew shunned occasions for addressing him. Stranger
still, this feeling, instead of wearing off by the close companionship
of our little bark, seemed to deepen and strengthen, until at length,
except myself, no one spoke to him who could avoid it. Even the
captain, when circumstances allowed him a choice, always directed
his orders to another, though this man's duties were performed
with the quiet promptness of a machine. If he was conscious of
anything peculiar in the behavior of his companions toward him,
he betrayed no indication of it. Such he was who stood listening,
with an appearance of interest unusual in him, to our otherwise
"You are bidding a very silent adieu to the Genius of the East,"
"Yes," Fred answered, "it's her first actual revelation to me, but
it's a glorious one."
"Let those who love to decipher illegible inscriptions, to contemplate
a throttled centaur on a dilapidated frieze, or a carved acanthus
on a fallen capital, grope over the Acropolis and invoke Athenian
Pallas," said Mike; "but for me these painted seraglios and terraced,
bower-canopied gardens, vocal with nightingales and seeming to
impregnate the very air with the pleasures of desire, justify the
decision of Paris. Hurrah for Asiatic Venus!"
"You are no true Christian knight," I said. "Your Rinaldos and
Sir Guyons always waste your gardens of voluptuous delight, and
wipe out their abominations."
"Yes," he retorted, "all but the abomination of desolation."
"But do you consider," said Fred, "how many sweet birds may be
looking out through the bars of those bright lattice cages even
now, who can follow neither their hearts' desires nor their souls'
aspirations, but whom fate has degraded to be the slaves of some
miserable old Blue Beard?"
"Why don't you sail in and rescue some of them?" said Mike mockingly.
"Tell the old tyrant to his cerulean beard that he has too many
strings to his bow, and he will undoubtedly spare a bow-string to
twine around your manly neck. But I guess you had better, after
all, leave the Fatimas to their fate. The barriers that fence them
in from their hearts' desires and souls' aspirations here are not
more real, if more palpable, than those that guard them in our
land of boasted freedom; neither are they altogether secure from
sale and barter there; and as for us outside barbarians, I'd as
lief be shut out by palace walls from a beauty I can only imagine,
as by custom still more insurmountable from beauty set visibly
before me and enhanced with intellectual and social graces."
I cited the lady in the song, who says:—
A tarry sailor I'll ne'er disdain,
But always I will treat the same,
as proof that such exclusiveness was far from being the universal
rule at home, and encouraged him to rival the "swabber, the boatswain
and mate" for "Moll, Mag, Marion, and Margery."
"Or," said he, "like the jolly tar you quote, dismiss both your
songs as 'scurvy tunes,' and, swigging at a black jack, say: Here's
"I am not sure," said Fred bitterly, thinking of his own rejected
suit, "that Stephano's philosophy is not the best for wretches
"Yes," said Mike, "until after the Millennium. Then the march of
civilization will be ended, and the ranks may be broken. Then soft
hands and hard hands may clasp each other. Then rays from the purest
and most refined souls may shine through bright eyes without being
especially chilled for those whom a cold destiny makes especially
needful of their heart-warming influences. Then you, poor as you
are, may aspire to wed the daughter of a banker, and Joe or I may
seek to satisfy the heart's desires of the Sultan's daughter, without
Aladdin's lamp or Oberon's whistle."
Here our strange auditor came forward with a small tin whistle in
his hand, and gravely presenting it to Fred, he advised him to try
its note on the hard-hearted parent who opposed his happiness. In
the deepening twilight, Fred and Mike, putting their heads together,
read the following legend graven upon it:—
O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad!
We all laughed outright, except the donor.
"This is not Oberon's whistle, at any rate," I said.
"No," he answered, "the inspiration of this is from Mammon, whose
gates I understood shut Mr. Smith out from his true love. A single
blast on it will, I dare say, open them wide enough to let him
"Then it's as good as money to you, Fred," said Mike.
"That's what our old boss used to tell us," answered Fred ruefully,
"when he gave us orders on a neighboring grocery, in lieu of cash
for our wages. But I must confess I have now, as I had then, a
prejudice in favor of the circulating medium."
"If so, whistle for it at once," said the other.
Fred looked at him, and then at Mike and me, with a puzzled expression
which seemed to ask: Is this a crazy freak, or an absurd, insulting
"Now," said the object of this scrutiny, turning to me, "I have a
talisman for you also, wherewith to entice the Sultan's daughter.
It is a ruby of rare size and color, and therefore valuable. But
the power of the spell it is said to possess remains to be tested.
I give it to you because in you, at this moment, are fulfilled
the conditions necessary to exercise this spell; which you do by
simply taking the jewel in your hand thus, and saying,—
Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."
"And she'll come, of course," said Mike, bantering me in his turn.
"Now hoist your signal and hail the daughter of the Grand Turk,
and let Fred pipe for his princess at the same auspicious moment."
"Amen!" I said, holding up the gem till the moonbeams blushed red in
it, and calling out with a strange, impulsive sense of power,—
"Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."
But no responsive tooting of the whistle echoed from the lips of
Fred. I looked toward him for an explanation of the silence, and
beheld him spitting out the fragments of the instrument, which
had gone to pieces in his mouth.
"What's all this?" he exclaimed, unrolling a little scroll of paper
that had been compressed within it, and holding it up to the light.
"See here, Joe, what do you make of this?"
"A draft for ten thousand pounds sterling, on the Bank of England,
duly signed and indorsed," I answered after scrutinizing it carefully.
We turned simultaneously for an explanation, but there was no one
to give it.
"I always suspected who he was," said Mike, "but he's got no
hold on me,—no claim to a bond signed with my blood.
See, there he goes!"
I looked, and saw a boat shooting across the stream with a swiftness
that argued some optical delusion. That unmistakable figure stood in
the stern, urging it with a single scull, and as it disappeared in
the confusion of boats and the darkness, a superstitious suspicion
crept over me that he might be the person Mike suggested. Soon the
captain came on board, and on learning the absence of the boat
and its occupant, he expressed considerable anxiety and impatience.
A breeze sprang up and began to curl the surface of the water,
and clouds obscured the moon. Then the wind freshened to a storm,
and lifted the waves on the channel, and roared in the cypress
forests above Pera and Scutari. Under the light sails already set,
the ship tugged hard at her cable. Yet the boat did not return.
The captain walked the deck nervously, and finally gave orders
to weigh anchor, when just as our bark, freed to the wind and the
current, sprang forward on her long voyage, the boat for which we
were looking shot suddenly under the prow, and in an instant our
mysterious comrade stepped in upon the deck from the bow-chains.
As he did so, the light of the mate's lantern fell full upon him,
and the scene it revealed will certainly never be forgotten by
anyone who witnessed it.
There he stood, looming out from the tempestuous darkness more
gigantic and terrible than ever, with the form of a beautiful girl,
gorgeously clad and flashing with jewels, held easily and firmly
by one encircling arm. His disengaged right hand was stained as
if with blood, and spots of the same sanguinary hue were on his
brow and his garments. The expression of his face was unmoved as
For a moment he permitted the slippered feet of the trembling girl
to rest upon the deck, though his arm still encompassed her shrinking
form, and, while her great dark eyes, dilated with horror, like
those of a captured bird, threw wild, eager glances to left and
right, as if in search of any desperate refuge from the terrors
that possessed her, he said in his usual quiet tones to the
"This is the passenger for whom I engaged the cabin. She will,
by your leave, take possession of it at once." So saying, he led
her gently forward and disappeared at the companion-way, conducted
by the captain.
Every face on deck had grown pale, and every heart throbbed with
the conviction that we had just beheld the consummation of a most
desperate and bloody deed. It was evident the girl had been snatched
suddenly from the harem of some palace, probably from the royal
seraglio itself, off which we had been lying. And the horror depicted
on her face, as well as the stains of blood on her abductor, told
with what ruthless violence. Here then, I thought, in all human
probability, was the royal maiden I had summoned; here was the
wildest vagary of my imagination realized. But how different from
the bright fancy was the woful reality!
Soon the captain returned on deck, pale and excited like the rest
of us, and ordered a rash amount of sail to be set. The mate, a
bluff, powerful man, swore an oath that we should first understand
the meaning of what had just transpired.
"I know no more about it than you do," avowed the captain, "except
that it's a piece of business very likely to bring all our heads
to the block unless we show a clean pair of heels for it. So now
avast jawing, and obey orders!"
"Never! boys," I said, "till we are assured of that girl's safety.
What's done cannot be helped; but if she suffers further wrong
in our midst, we ought all to be hanged as cowardly accessories
"Dismiss your uneasiness in that regard," said a voice behind us,
at whose sound there was a general start. "To keep her safe and
inviolate is more my right and interest than yours, and it must
therefore be my especial duty to do so; but if I fail in it, I
care not though you make my life the forfeit, nor by what mode you
So saying, he took his place at the helm, a press of sail was set,
and the ship fairly rent her way through the sea of Marmora before
the tempest. But the ship, like all around, seemed to acknowledge
his controlling power; and when I turned in with my watch, my sleep
was undisturbed by any fear of wind or water, though it was full
of troubled dreams. Now a lovely form in royal vesture beckoned
to me from a lattice; anon the gleam of a lantern flickered across
the terribly familiar face of a gnome, bearing out of a dark cavern
an armful of the most precious jewels, which had a wild appealing in
their light that puzzled me; while the roaring of the sea pervaded
it all with a kind of dream harmony.
After a time, the fury of the tempest abated; but the ship still
fled onward before strong gales, through those famous seas we had
cruised so often in youthful fancy with the Greek and the Trojan,
and the fear of pursuit ceased to haunt us.
Meanwhile we saw no more of our lovely passenger. Her strange guardian
kept a watch beside her cabin door as vigilant as that of a sentinel
at his post, or a saint before his shrine. His eye never swept the
horizon behind us with an anxious gaze, as ours did, while we looked
for the smoke of a pursuing steamer. Neither did it kindle at sight
of the famous landmarks that measured our rapid course, each of which
we hailed with delight as another harbinger of safety. He had ceased
to perform the duties of a seaman, and devoted himself entirely to
the care of the Invisible
Princess, as we grew to call her. But though invisible to our
eyes, hers was the pervading presence of our thoughts. Not a wave
rocked the ship, not a cloud overshadowed it, not a morning breeze
came fresh from the sea, or an evening breeze brought fragrance from
the shore, but was thought of in some relation with her. There was
none like her, we said, in the broad continents to right of us, to
left of us, or before us; and we doubted if there was her like in the
lands of enchantment we had left behind. Her wondrous beauty, the
flashing of the jewels that encrusted her belt, and that seemed to
gleam and sparkle all over her picturesque attire, the haunting look
of those great, lustrous eyes, all the reminiscence of that eventful
night,—how fondly we recurred to them again and again in the
forecastle or the night-watch, and with what pleasure we recognized
the first indications that her trance of terror had passed, and that
she had resumed a living interest in the strange world around her.
First the open window of the cabin gave evidence that the balmy
air and the pleasant shores we skirted were no longer indifferent
to her; then came flitting glimpses of bright garments and brighter
eyes quickly withdrawn from observation into the depths of the
fairy grotto she inhabited; and finally, one beautiful moonlight
evening, while most of the crew were on deck watching the lurid
peak of Etna and the pavement of golden waves stretching toward
it, and listening not to premonitions of Scylla or Charybdis, but
to the song of the nightingales from the dim shore, or to tales
of Enceladus and the Cyclops from Fred, and whimsical comments
from Mike, she came hesitatingly forth, arousing an excitement and
curiosity among us as intense as if she were a ghost arising from
the tomb. Her dress was the same in which she had been brought among
us, without addition of yashmak or veil of any kind,—excepting
the mistiness of the moonlight,—to conceal her face, though
there was a shy drawing down of the tasselled cap or turban she
wore, that shadowed it somewhat.
I need hardly say how soon the glories of earth, sea, and sky,
which we had been contemplating, shrank into mere accessories around
that one central figure, as she stood gazing upon them through the
shrouds and spars from our deck. But, notwithstanding the beauty of
the scene and the hour, she did not hold her position long to enjoy
them. She had, in appearing thus before strange men, evidently by a
great effort, done that which she shrank from doing; but whether
in obedience to her own will or to that of another, we could not
guess. The ice thus broken, however, she was the
no longer. Emboldened by two or three subsequent moonlight and
twilight ventures, she at length came out in the sunset, and I
doubt if the setting sun ever revealed a lovelier sight than greeted
our eyes on that evening. A glance in the clear light satisfied us
that the superhuman beauty we almost worshipped, and the splendor
that seemed too lavish to be real, were no mere glamor of lamplight
or moonlight, but surpassed in the reality all that our stunted,
sceptical, Western imaginations, even stimulated as they were,
had dared to anticipate.
I might attempt to describe her. I might tell you that her every
limb and every feature seemed perfect in its form and its harmony
with the others; that her complexion was a fresh, delicate bloom,
without spot or blemish; that the innumerable braids of her long,
black hair were ravishingly glossy and soft; that her great, dark
eyes were bewilderingly bright and wise, and expressive of everything
enchanting and good that eyes can express; that her smile,—but
no! her smile was an expression of her individuality too subtle
for words to catch; and without any power of revealing this
individuality, this all that distinguished her from merely mortal
woman and made her angelic, where is the use of attempting to describe
her? Of her garments, by a recurrence to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
for the names of them, I could give you a description, from the
golden-flowered, diamond-studded kerchief wreathed in her hair,
to the yellow Cinderella slippers that covered her fairy feet.
But the gauzy fabric that enfolded though it scarcely concealed
her bosom, the vest of white damask stuff inwoven and fringed with
gold and silver, the caftan, and the trousers of crimson embossed
and embroidered with flowers of the same gorgeous materials, all
were buttoned and guarded and overstrewn with jewels, while the
broad belt that confined them was literally encrusted with diamonds
and clasped by a magnificent bouquet of flowers wrought by the
lapidary from diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls,
so exquisitely that the artist showed a skill in them almost worthy
of his materials.
From our ardent gaze the beautiful vision was soon
withdrawn,—often to reappear, however, in the bright, calm
weather that followed, each time with less of blushing and confusion
in the beautiful face; and at length, some of us began to flatter
ourselves, with a shy glance of interest and recognition for us
in the luminous eyes.
On her strange companion, also, her presence shed a beam that lightened
the darkness of our thoughts toward him. We marked the long, dark
lashes of her eyes rising and falling, now trustingly, now fearingly,
before that inscrutable countenance, as if her spirit wavered between
a dream of terror and a contentful awaking. And many imagined that,
as those dark eyes began to turn more lovingly and more longingly
toward him, the strange brilliance of his own became imbued with
their softness, while a faint auroral tinge seemed just ready to
change his countenance from marble to flesh and blood.
Thus day after day we crept along the European coast, enjoying a
dream of romance in which we could have gone on sailing contentedly
forever, our only cause of uneasiness being that, at some of the
numerous ports we touched, the magic presence on which the spell
depended might go from us, as it came to us, without ceremony or
warning, and leave us to cross the great ocean in the world of
intolerable loneliness that would settle on the ship when she was
gone. There was something like a patriotic aspiration in our desire
to transplant this brightest of Eastern blossoms to diffuse its
supreme beauty and sweetness in the West. And though we feared for
her the stormy autumn passage of the Atlantic, a load was taken
from every spirit when we left the Pillars of Hercules behind us
and pointed our prow straight out across the cloud-bound ocean.
Just as we lost sight of land, we were attacked by a most violent
storm, that buffeted us for many a day, during which we saw nothing
of our fair passenger, and we learned that she was seriously ill.
But never had invalid such a nurse as she. No one knew if he slept
or ate, and no one was allowed to share his office, and no one
obtruded on him the sorrow or sympathy which all felt in spite
of our engrossing battle for life against the tempest. For though
there was no change in his appearance or demeanor, all were conscious
that a deep feeling stirred his heart. Even when we doubted if
all our energies could preserve the vessel from being dashed back
upon the coast we had just left, he gave us neither help nor heed,
till in the final moment when we had given up all for lost, he
seized the helm and shot us into shelter and safety behind the reef
whereon we expected to go to pieces, through a channel which, in
the calm that followed the storm, we found it difficult to retrace
to the deep water, towing the ship with boats.
Again we got well out to sea, and were becalmed. For nearly a week,
not a breeze had broken the surface of the ocean. Then another
of those enchanting scenes we had feared to behold no more was
presented to us. The beautiful invalid, assisted by her now inseparable
companion, came upon the deck to watch the sunset. From her cheek
the bloom of health was gone; but the look of wild dread with which
hitherto she had never quite ceased to regard him who supported her
was gone also, and in its place the large, dark eyes were filled
by a glance of such indescribable gratitude and trust as only her
eyes could express. He, for the first time, looked neither more
nor less than a man. Her shrinking from our presence, too, had
disappeared, and her look of recognition now was unmistakable and
cordial. She had resumed her original garb, long disused as if
to avoid remark at the ports we visited, and its glowing colors
seemed to heighten the contrast between the pallid cheek and the
long, dark lashes that drooped languidly over them, as, wearied at
length by the unusual exertion, she sank heavily on her companion,
and was rather borne than assisted back to the cabin.
During another week of breezeless autumn calm, this strange drama
was re-enacted many times before us, with each time a deepening
of the tragic shades that were gathering above it. But even after
it became evident that the sweet evening air had no balm for the
drooping girl, she loved to look out on the glories of the sunset,
as if conscious that soon she should behold them no more forever.
And when her strength no longer enabled her to walk, her nurse
carried her out like a child in his arms.
But this also ceased after a time, and the hope that our transplanted
blossom would ever flourish on a new soil had already faded from the
bosom of the most sanguine among us, when one evening the guardian
genius of the cabin beckoned to me from its portal. My entrance
seemed to arouse the fair invalid, who was reclined upon a couch.
The enchanting halo of her perfect beauty was unabated by disease;
and she was surrounded by articles so rare, so costly, and in such
profusion, as to force themselves upon my attention even in that
first glance. A faint smile, and a recognition from those now too
bright eyes, were my welcome. But they did not rest upon me long;
for, as if by some fascination, those eyes seemed always turned
toward him, or, if by chance he was beyond their reach, to the
spot where they could first behold his return.
So this nursling of a palace, evidently dying out on the wide sea,
with only rough men about her, had neither a word nor a look of
reproach for the one who had dragged her forth to so wretched a
fate. Even in her mind's wanderings, she seldom went back to former
pomps or pleasures, and her tongue preferred rather to stumble
through the rough and unfamiliar language in which of late she
had been so terribly schooled, than to speak that of her youth.
Once, when after a short absence her attendant returned to her
side, she said,—
"My heart was trying to cross the waves that were between us, and oh!
how it was tossed upon them—and it ached, and—and—"
Then, giving a sigh of relief, she sank back, closed her eyes, and
He disposed of the lamp he had just lighted, and then, with an
expression as inscrutable as ever, he stood looking down upon her.
While this scene was being enacted, I marked through the open portal
of the cabin—in one of those strange distractions that occur
to us amidst the most intense feelings of our lives—the stars
above us growing brighter and brighter as the shades of the twilight
deepened. Suddenly turning from the couch, he also, at a stride,
stood in full view of those bright revelations of the darkness; but
his eye sought them with no such abstracted regard as mine. Fixedly
and sternly he seemed to be watching among them some portentous
index of fate. Soon a change came over his countenance, and he
resumed his place beside the scarcely breathing form. Then the
fountains of the great deep within him were broken up, and the
rushing torrent of its emotions shook his whole frame and convulsed
his features. Stooping, he kissed the insensible girl passionately,
again and again, and he would, I believe, have clasped her to his
bosom if I, fearing for her the effects of his stormy transports,
had not caught his arm. He needed no explanation of my interruption,
neither was he startled or incensed by it, and he seemed more like
one reluctantly obeying some sudden restraining impulse of his
own than yielding to that of another.
"No," he said, "I must not cut short a single flicker of that bright
spirit; the wondrously beautiful vessel that it glorifies will be
cold clay soon enough! ashes from which no future Phœnix shall
arise. O," he exclaimed, "this sacrifice is too great, too great!
and for nothing! Even had she perished on the destined altar, an
accepted sacrifice, it were too great! But I tore her from home and
friends, and life itself, for this,—for nothing! O Destiny,
thou art a subtle adversary, and infinite are thy devices for our
overthrow! But I never reckoned on such an impediment as this
Then approaching me, he laid a hand upon my shoulder, and said:
"As the representative of the young, hopeful, living world she
is about to leave, I called you here that you and she might look
your last upon each other. Go now, and though your present emotion
accords duly with the part I have assigned you, see that you do
not play false to it hereafter by letting this woful event impress
you with too deep or too lasting a sorrow."
Then to my Ideal, so strangely found and lost, I looked and murmured
an adieu, and returned among my companions, reverenced as one who
had been in a hallowed place.
It was the third evening after this, to me, memorable visit. Streaks
of sable, with golden edges, barred the face of the setting sun,
and promised to our hopes a change of weather. But this indication,
important as it was after the long calm, was evidently not that which
the whole ship's crew, officers and men, were now discussing,—as
the converged attention of the scattered groups on the closed entrance
of that silent, mysterious cabin testified.
"I know," said O'Hanlon, answering to an objection from some one
in the group where he stood, "it would be like invading a sanctuary
to intrude there; but the conviction sometimes comes over me that
we have, all hands of us, from the captain down, acted in regard
to this matter with the incapacity of men in a nightmare. Fear is
a condition under which a true man should not breathe a moment
without contest; and yet I know we have been all, more or less
consciously, under its influence since this man came on board.
Out upon us! I will, for myself at least, break through this dream
of terror at once, by a tap at yonder door."
"It's the captain's place, not ours," said Smith, "to investigate
this affair. Don't be too impulsive; you will get yourself into
"This is no matter of ordinary discipline," said the other; "the
captain has a more substantial awe of this man than you or I,—and
for more substantial reasons. He was aware of his wealth and power
when we were not. How, without his knowledge, could the treasures
worth a king's ransom, that adorn yonder coop, have been smuggled
in or arranged there? But I am resolved, right or wrong, to do
as I said."
I was questioning within myself whether to second him, when the
door toward which he was advancing slowly opened, and once more
the object of our discussion issued from it, and again in his arms
was the beautiful form to which they had proved such a fatal
resting-place. But none of the emotions of terror, trustfulness,
or affection, which had alternately thrilled it in that position,
did it now exhibit. The bright eyes were closed, the beautiful
features settled in lasting repose. The glossy hair was daintily
braided. The spotless garments were gracefully disposed. The jewels
glittered conspicuously, as if relieved from the outvying lustre of
her eyes. All, as in life, was pure and perfect; and as in life,
so in death, she was still a revelation of transcendent beauty.
A snowy winding-sheet, fringed with heavy coins, alternately of
gold and of silver, and looped with silken cords on which bunches
of the same precious metals hung as tassels, was so disposed that
he could enfold her in it without laying her from his arms.
Stepping to the side of the vessel, he stood holding her thus in
our view for a few moments; then, deftly and deliberately as usual,
he wrapped the preciously weighted linen around her, stepped easily
upon the bulwark, and with that perfect and deliberate poise so
peculiar to him, and with his burden clasped firmly to his breast,
he flung himself far clear of the ship, into the ocean, and was
seen no more.
Thus vanished like a dream the romance of my life. Indeed, but for
the lurid gleam of this strange jewel, a true type and testimony of
it, I might yet grow to persuade myself it was a dream, so wondrous
it becomes to me in memory.