Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
HELEN'S strength was coming back to her but slowly; she complained of great lassitude and want of appetite. But, the following day having cleared up, the sun shone out with great power and brilliancy. She gladly welcomed the return of the fine weather, but Hazel shook his head; ten days' rain was not their portion--the bad weather would return, and complete the month or six weeks' winter to which Nature was entitled. The next evening the appearance of the sky confirmed his opinion. The sun set like a crimson shield; gory, and double its usual size. It entered into a thick bank of dark violet cloud that lay on the horizon, and seemed to split the vapor into rays, but of a dusky kind; immediately above this crimson the clouds were of a brilliant gold, but higher they were the color of rubies, and went gradually off to gray.
But as the orb dipped to the horizon a solid pile of unearthly clouds came up from the southeast; their bodies were singularly and unnaturally black, and mottled with copper-color, and hemmed with a fiery yellow. And these infernal clouds towered up their heads, pressing forward as if they all strove for precedency; it was like Milton's fiends attacking the sky. The rate at which they climbed was wonderful. The sun set and the moon rose full, and showed those angry masses surging upward and jostling each other as they flew.
Yet below it was dead calm.
Having admired the sublimity of the scene, and seen the full moon rise, but speedily lose her light in a brassy halo, they entered the hut, which was now the headquarters, and they supped together there.
While they were eating their little meal the tops of the trees were heard to sigh, so still was everything else. None the less did those strange clouds fly northward, eighty miles an hour. After supper, Helen sat busy over the fire, where some gum, collected by Hazel, resembling India-rubber, was boiling; she was preparing to cover a pair of poor Welch's shoes, inside and out, with a coat of this material, which Hazel believed to be water-proof. She sat in such a position that he could watch her. It was a happy evening. She seemed content. She had got over her fear of him; they were good comrades if they were nothing more. It was happiness to him to be by her side even on those terms. He thought of it all as he looked at her. How distant she had seemed once to him; what an unapproachable goddess. Yet there she was by his side in a hut he had made for her.
He could not help sipping the soft intoxicating draught her mere presence offered him. But by and by he felt his heart was dissolving within him, and he was trifling with danger. He must not look on her too long, seated by the fire like a wife. The much-enduring man rose, and turned his back upon the sight he loved so dearly. He went out at the open door intending to close it and bid her good-night. But he did not do so, just then; for his attention as an observer of nature was arrested by the unusual conduct of certain animals. Gannets and other sea-birds were running about the opposite wood and craning their necks in a strange way. He had never seen one enter that wood before.
Seals and sea-lions were surrounding the slope, and crawling about, and now and then plunging into the river, which they crossed with infinite difficulty, for it was running very high and strong. The trees also sighed louder than ever. Hazel turned back to tell Miss Rolleston something extraordinary was going on. She sat in sight from the river, and, as he came toward the hut, he saw her sitting by the fire reading.
He stopped short. Her work lay at her feet. She had taken out a letter, and she was reading it by the fire.
As she read it her face was a puzzle. But Hazel saw the act alone; and a dart of ice seemed to go through and through him.
This, then, was her true source of consolation. He thought it was so before. He had even reason to think so. But, never seeing any palpable proofs, he had almost been happy. He turned sick with jealous misery, and stood there rooted and frozen.
Then came a fierce impulse to shut the sight out that caused this pain.
He almost flung her portoullis to, and made his hands bleed. But a bleeding heart does not feel scratches.
"Good-night," said he hoarsely.
"Good-night," said she kindly.
And why should she not read his letter? She was his affianced bride, bound to him by honor as well as inclination. This was the reflection to which, after a sore battle with his loving heart, the much-enduring man had to come at last; and he had come to it, and was getting back his peace of mind, though not his late complacency, and about to seek repose in sleep, when suddenly a clap of wind came down like thunder, and thrashed the island and everything in it.
Everything animate and inanimate seemed to cry out as the blow passed.
Another soon followed, and another--intermittent gusts at present, but of such severity that not one came without making its mark.
Birds were driven away like paper; the sea-lions whimpered, and crouched into corners, and huddled together, and held each other, whining.
Hazel saw but one thing; the frail edifice he had built for the creature he adored. He looked out of his boat, and fixed his horror-stricken eyes on it; he saw it waving to and fro, yet still firm. But he could not stay there. If not in danger she must be terrified. He must go and support her. He left his shelter, and ran toward her hut. With a whoop and a scream another blast tore through the wood, and caught him. He fell, dug his hands into the soil, and clutched the earth. While he was in that position, he heard a sharp crack; he looked up in dismay, and saw that one of Helen's trees had broken like a carrot, and the head was on the ground leaping about; while a succession of horrible sounds of crashing, and rending, and tearing showed the frail hut was giving way on every side; racked and riven, and torn to pieces. Hazel, though a stout man, uttered cries of terror death would never have drawn from him; and, with a desperate headlong rush, he got to the place where the bower had been; but now it was a prostrate skeleton, with the mat roof flapping like a loose sail above it, and Helen below.
As he reached the hut, the wind got hold of the last of the four shrubs that did duty for a door, and tore it from the cord that held it, and whirled it into the air; it went past Hazel's face like a bird flying.
Though staggered himself by the same blow of wind, he clutched the tree and got into the hut.
He found her directly. She was kneeling beneath the mat that a few minutes ago had been her roof. He extricated her in a moment, uttering inarticulate cries of pity and fear.
"Don't be frightened," said she. "I am not hurt."
But he felt her quiver from head to foot. He wrapped her in all her rugs, and, thinking of nothing but her safety, lifted her in his strong arms to take her to his own place, which was safe from wind at least.
But this was no light work. To go there erect was impossible.
Holding tight by the tree, he got her to the lee of the tent and waited for a lull. He went rapidly down the hill, but, ere he reached the river, a gust came careering over the sea. A sturdy young tree was near him. He placed her against it, and wound his arms round her and its trunk. The blast came. The tree bent down almost to the ground, then whirled round, recovered, shivered; but he held firmly. It passed. Again he lifted her, and bore her to the boat-house. As he went, the wind almost choked her, and her long hair lashed his face like a whip. But he got her in, and then sat panting and crouching, but safe. They were none too soon; the tempest increased in violence, and became more continuous. No clouds, but a ghastly glare all over the sky. No rebellious waves, but a sea hissing and foaming under its master's lash. The river ran roaring and foaming by, and made the boat heave even in its little creek. The wind, though it could no longer shake them, went screaming terribly close over their heads--no longer like air in motion, hut, solid and keen, it seemed the Almighty's scythe mowing down Nature; and soon it became, like turbid water, blackened with the leaves, branches and fragments of all kinds it whirled along with it. The trees fell crashing on all sides, and the remains passed over their heads into the sea.
Helen behaved admirably. Speech was impossible, but she thanked him without it--eloquently; she nestled her little hand into Hazel's, and, to Hazel, that night, with all its awful sights and sounds, was a blissful one. She had been in danger, but now was safe by his side. She had pressed his hand to thank him, and now she was cowering a little toward him in a way that claimed him as her protector. Her glorious hair blew over him and seemed to net him. And now and then, as they heard some crash nearer and more awful than another, she clutched him quickly though lightly; for, in danger, her sex love to feel a friend; it is not enough to see him near. And once, when a great dusky form of a sea-lion came crawling over the mound, and whimpering peeped into the boathouse, she even fled to his shoulder with both hands for a moment, and was there, light as a feather, till the creature had passed on. And his soul was full of peace, and a great tranquillity overcame it. He heard nothing of the wrack, knew nothing of the danger.
Oh, mighty Love! The tempest might blow, and fill the air and earth with ruin, so that it spared her. The wind was kind, and gentle the night, which brought that hair round his face, and that head so near his shoulder, and gave him the holy joy of protecting under his wing the soft creature he adored.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.