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THE SHADOW OF THE PAST.
One stepping back under the dark shelter of the bulwark, and
one standing out boldly in the yellow light of the moon, the
two friends turned face to face on the deck of the timber-ship,
and looked at each other in silence. The next moment Allan's
inveterate recklessness seized on the grotesque side of the
situation by main force. He seated himself astride on the
bulwark, and burst out boisterously into his loudest and
"All my fault," he said; "but there's no help for it now. Here we
are, hard and fast in a trap of our own setting; and there goes
the last of the doctor's boat! Come out of the dark, Midwinter;
I can't half see you there, and I want to know what's to be done
Midwinter neither answered nor moved. Allan left the bulwark,
and, mounting the forecastle, looked down attentively at the
waters of the Sound.
"One thing is pretty certain," he said. "With the current on that
side, and the sunken rocks on this, we can't find our way out of
the scrape by swimming, at any rate. So much for the prospect at
this end of the wreck. Let's try how things look at the other.
Rouse up, messmate!" he called out, cheerfully, as he passed
Midwinter. "Come and see what the old tub of a timber-ship has
got to show us astern." He sauntered on, with his hands in his
pockets, humming the chorus of a comic song.
His voice had produced no apparent effect on his friend; but, at
the light touch of his hand in passing, Midwinter started, and
moved out slowly from the shadow of the bulwark. "Come along!"
cried Allan, suspending his singing for a moment, and glancing
back. Still, without a word of answer, the other followed. Thrice
he stopped before he reached the stern end of the wreck: the
first time, to throw aside his hat, and push back his hair from
his forehead and temples; the second time, reeling, giddy, to
hold for a moment by a ring-bolt close at hand; the last time
(though Allan was plainly visible a few yards ahead), to look
stealthily behind him, with the furtive scrutiny of a man who
believes that other footsteps are following him in the dark.
"Not yet!" he whispered to himself, with eyes that searched the
empty air. "I shall see him astern, with his hand on the lock of
the cabin door."
The stern end of the wreck was clear of the ship-breakers'
lumber, accumulated in the other parts of the vessel. Here, the
one object that rose visible on the smooth surface of the deck
was the low wooden structure which held the cabin door and roofed
in the cabin stairs. The wheel-house had been removed, the
binnacle had been removed, but the cabin entrance, and all that
had belonged to it, had been left untouched. The scuttle was on,
and the door was closed.
On gaining the after-part of the vessel, Allan walked straight to
the stern, and looked out to sea over the taffrail. No such thing
as a boat was in view anywhere on the quiet, moon-brightened
waters. Knowing Midwinter's sight to be better than his own, he
called out, "Come up here, and see if there's a fisherman within
hail of us." Hearing no reply, he looked back. Midwinter had
followed him as far as the cabin, and had stopped there. He
called again in a louder voice, and beckoned impatiently.
Midwinter had heard the call, for he looked up, but still he
never stirred from his place. There he stood, as if he had
reached the utmost limits of the ship and could go no further.
Allan went back and joined him. It was not easy to discover what
he was looking at, for he kept his face turned away from the
moonlight; but it seemed as if his eyes were fixed, with a
strange expression of inquiry, on the cabin door. "What is there
to look at there?" Allan asked. "Let's see if it's locked." As he
took a step forward to open the door, Midwinter's hand seized him
suddenly by the coat collar and forced him back. The moment
after, the hand relaxed without losing its grasp, and trembled
violently, like the hand of a man completely unnerved.
"Am I to consider myself in custody?" asked Allan, half
astonished and half amused. "Why in the name of wonder do you
keep staring at the cabin door? Any suspicious noises below? It's
no use disturbing the rats--if that's what you mean--we haven't
got a dog with us. Men? Living men they can't be; for they would
have heard us and come on deck. Dead men? Quite impossible! No
ship's crew could be drowned in a land-locked place like this,
unless the vessel broke up under them--and here's the vessel as
steady as a church to speak for herself. Man alive, how your hand
trembles! What is there to scare you in that rotten old cabin?
What are you shaking and shivering about? Any company of the
supernatural sort on board? Mercy preserve us! (as the old women
say) do you see a ghost?"
"_I see two_!" answered the other, driven headlong into speech
and action by a maddening temptation to reveal the truth. "Two!"
he repeated, his breath bursting from him in deep, heavy gasps,
as he tried vainly to force back the horrible words. "The ghost
of a man like you, drowning in the cabin! And the ghost of a man
like me, turning the lock of the door on him!"
Once more young Armadale's hearty laughter rang out loud and long
through the stillness of the night.
"Turning the lock of the door, is he?" said Allan, as soon as his
merriment left him breath enough to speak. "That's a devilish
unhandsome action, Master Midwinter, on the part of your ghost.
The least I can do, after that, is to let mine out of the cabin,
and give him the run of the ship."
With no more than a momentary exertion of his superior strength,
he freed himself easily from Midwinter's hold. "Below there!" he
called out, gayly, as he laid his strong hand on the crazy lock,
and tore open the cabin door. "Ghost of Allan Armadale, come on
deck!" In his terrible ignorance of the truth, he put his head
into the doorway and looked down, laughing, at the place where
his murdered father had died. "Pah!" he exclaimed, stepping back
suddenly, with a shudder of disgust. "The air is foul already;
and the cabin is full of water."
It was true. The sunken rocks on which the vessel lay wrecked had
burst their way through her lower timbers astern, and the water
had welled up through the rifted wood. Here, where the deed had
been done, the fatal parallel between past and present was
complete. What the cabin had been in the time of the fathers,
that the cabin was now in the time of the sons.
Allan pushed the door to again with his foot, a little surprised
at the sudden silence which appeared to have fallen on his friend
from the moment when he had laid his hand on the cabin lock. When
he turned to look, the reason of the silence was instantly
revealed. Midwinter had dropped on the deck. He lay senseless
before the cabin door; his face turned up, white and still, to
the moonlight, like the face of a dead man.
In a moment Allan was at his side. He looked uselessly round the
lonely limits of the wreck, as he lifted Midwinter's head on his
knee, for a chance of help, where all chance was ruthlessly cut
off. "What am I to do?" he said to himself, in the first impulse
of alarm. "Not a drop of water near, but the foul water in the
cabin." A sudden recollection crossed his memory, the florid
color rushed back over his face, and he drew from his pocket a
wicker-covered flask. "God bless the doctor for giving me this
before we sailed!" he broke out, fervently, as he poured down
Midwinter's throat some drops of the raw whisky which the flask
contained. The stimulant acted instantly on the sensitive system
of the swooning man. He sighed faintly, and slowly opened his
eyes. "Have I been dreaming?" he asked, looking up vacantly in
Allan's face. His eyes wandered higher, and encountered the
dismantled masts of the wreck rising weird and black against the
night sky. He shuddered at the sight of them, and hid his face on
Allan's knee. "No dream!" he murmured to himself, mournfully. "Oh
me, no dream!"
"You have been overtired all day," said Allan, "and this infernal
adventure of ours has upset you. Take some more whisky, it's sure
to do you good. Can you sit by yourself, if I put you against the
"Why by myself? Why do you leave me?" asked Midwinter.
Allan pointed to the mizzen shrouds of the wreck, which were
still left standing. "You are not well enough to rough it here
till the workmen come off in the morning," he said. "We must find
our way on shore at once, if we can. I am going up to get a good
view all round, and see if there's a house within hail of us."
Even in the moment that passed while those few words were spoken,
Midwinter's eyes wandered back distrustfully to the fatal cabin
door. "Don't go near it!" he whispered. "Don't try to open it,
for God's sake!"
"No, no," returned Allan, humoring him. "When I come down from
the rigging, I'll come back here." He said the words a little
constrainedly, noticing, for the first time while he now spoke,
an underlying distress in Midwinter's face, which grieved and
perplexed him. "You're not angry with me?" he said, in his
simple, sweet-tempered way. "All this is my fault, I know; and I
was a brute and a fool to laugh at you, when I ought to have seen
you were ill. I am so sorry, Midwinter. Don't be angry with me!"
Midwinter slowly raised his head. His eyes rested with a mournful
interest, long and tender, on Allan's anxious face.
"Angry?" he repeated, in his lowest, gentlest tones. "Angry with
_ you_?--Oh, my poor boy, were you to blame for being kind to me
when I was ill in the old west-country inn? And was I to blame
for feeling your kindness thankfully? Was it our fault that we
never doubted each other, and never knew that we were traveling
together blindfold on the way that was to lead us here? The cruel
time is coming, Allan, when we shall rue the day we ever met.
Shake hands, brother, on the edge of the precipice--shake hands
while we are brothers still!"
Allan turned away quickly, convinced that his mind had not yet
recovered the shock of the fainting fit. "Don't forget the
whisky!" he said, cheerfully, as he sprang into the rigging, and
mounted to the mizzen-top.
It was past two, the moon was waning, and the darkness that comes
before dawn was beginning to gather round the wreck. Behind
Allan, as he now stood looking out from the elevation of the
mizzen-top, spread the broad and lonely sea. Before him were the
low, black, lurking rocks, and the broken waters of the channel,
pouring white and angry into the vast calm of the westward ocean
beyond. On the right hand, heaved back grandly from the
water-side, were the rocks and precipices, with their little
table-lands of grass between; the sloping downs, and
upward-rolling heath solitudes of the Isle of Man. On the left
hand rose the craggy sides of the Islet of the Calf, here rent
wildly into deep black chasms, there lying low under long
sweeping acclivities of grass and heath. No sound rose, no light
was visible, on either shore. The black lines of the topmost
masts of the wreck looked shadowy and faint in the darkening
mystery of the sky; the land breeze had dropped; the small
shoreward waves fell noiseless: far or near, no sound was audible
but the cheerless bubbling of the broken water ahead, pouring
through the awful hush of silence in which earth and ocean waited
for the coming day.
Even Allan's careless nature felt the solemn influence of the
time. The sound of his own voice startled him when he looked down
and hailed his friend on deck
"I think I see one house," he said. "Here-away, on the mainland
to the right." He looked again, to make sure, at a dim little
patch of white, with faint white lines behind it, nestling low
in a grassy hollow, on the main island. "It looks like a stone
house and inclosure," he resumed. "I'll hail it, on the chance."
He passed his arm round a rope to steady himself, made a
speaking-trumpet of his hands, and suddenly dropped them again
without uttering a sound. "It's so awfully quiet," he whispered
to himself. "I'm half afraid to call out." He looked down again
on deck. "I shan't startle you, Midwinter, shall I?" he said,
with an uneasy laugh. He looked once more at the faint white
object, in the grassy hollow. "It won't do to have come up here
for nothing," he thought, and made a speaking-trumpet of his
hands again. This time he gave the hail with the whole power of
his lungs. "On shore there!" he shouted, turning his face to the
main island. "Ahoy-hoy-hoy!"
The last echoes of his voice died away and were lost. No sound
answered him but the cheerless bubbling of the broken water
He looked down again at his friend, and saw the dark figure of
Midwinter rise erect, and pace the deck backward and forward,
never disappearing out of sight of the cabin when it retired
toward the bows of the wreck, and never passing beyond the cabin
when it returned toward the stern. "He is impatient to get away,"
thought Allan; "I'll try again." He hailed the land once more,
and, taught by previous experience, pitched his voice in its
This time another sound than the sound of the bubbling water
answered him. The lowing of frightened cattle rose from the
building in the grassy hollow, and traveled far and drearily
through the stillness of the morning air. Allan waited and
listened. If the building was a farmhouse the disturbance among
the beasts would rouse the men. If it was only a cattle-stable,
nothing more would happen. The lowing of the frightened brutes
rose and fell drearily, the minutes passed, and nothing happened.
"Once more!" said Allan, looking down at the restless figure
pacing beneath him. For the third time he hailed the land. For
the third time he waited and listened.
In a pause of silence among the cattle, he heard behind him,
on the opposite shore of the channel, faint and far among the
solitudes of the Islet of the Calf, a sharp, sudden sound, like
the distant clash of a heavy door-bolt drawn back. Turning at
once in the new direction, he strained his eyes to look for a
house. The last faint rays of the waning moonlight trembled here
and there on the higher rocks, and on the steeper pinnacles of
ground, but great strips of darkness lay dense and black over
all the land between; and in that darkness the house, if house
there were, was lost to view.
"I have roused somebody at last," Allan called out,
encouragingly, to Midwinter, still walking to and fro on the
deck, strangely indifferent to all that was passing above and
beyond him. "Look out for the answering, hail!" And with his face
set toward the islet, Allan shouted for help.
The shout was not answered, but mimicked with a shrill, shrieking
derision, with wilder and wilder cries, rising out of the deep
distant darkness, and mingling horribly the expression of a human
voice with the sound of a brute's. A sudden suspicion crossed
Allan's mind, which made his head swim and turned his hand cold
as it held the rigging. In breathless silence he looked toward
the quarter from which the first mimicry of his cry for help had
come. After a moment's pause the shrieks were renewed, and the
sound of them came nearer. Suddenly a figure, which seemed the
figure of a man, leaped up black on a pinnacle of rock, and
capered and shrieked in the waning gleam of the moonlight. The
screams of a terrified woman mingled with the cries of the
capering creature on the rock. A red spark flashed out in the
darkness from a light kindled in an invisible window. The hoarse
shouting of a man's voice in anger was heard through the noise.
A second black figure leaped up on the rock, struggled with the
first figure, and disappeared with it in the darkness. The cries
grew fainter and fainter, the screams of the woman were stilled,
the hoarse voice of the man was heard again for a moment, hailing
the wreck in words made unintelligible by the distance, but in
tones plainly expressive of rage and fear combined. Another
moment, and the clang of the door-bolt was heard again, the red
spark of light was quenched in darkness, and all the islet lay
quiet in the shadows once more. The lowing of the cattle on the
main-land ceased, rose again, stopped. Then, cold and cheerless
as ever, the eternal bubbling of the broken water welled up
through the great gap of silence--the one sound left, as the
mysterious stillness of the hour fell like a mantle from the
heavens, and closed over the wreck.
Allan descended from his place in the mizzen-top, and joined his
friend again on deck.
"We must wait till the ship-breakers come off to their work," he
said, meeting Midwinter halfway in the course of his restless
walk. "After what has happened, I don't mind confessing that
I've had enough of hailing the land. Only think of there being
a madman in that house ashore, and of my waking him! Horrible,
Midwinter stood still for a moment, and looked at Allan, with
the perplexed air of a man who hears circumstances familiarly
mentioned to which he is himself a total stranger. He appeared,
if such a thing had been possible, to have passed over entirely
without notice all that had just happened on the Islet of the
"Nothing is horrible _out_ of this ship," he said. "Everything
is horrible _in_ it."
Answering in those strange words, he turned away again, and went
on with his walk.
Allan picked up the flask of whisky lying on the deck near him,
and revived his spirits with a dram. "Here's one thing on board
that isn't horrible," he retorted briskly, as he screwed on the
stopper of the flask; "and here's another," he added, as he took
a cigar from his case and lit it. "Three o'clock!" he went on,
looking at his watch, and settling himself comfortably on deck
with his back against the bulwark. "Daybreak isn't far off; we
shall have the piping of the birds to cheer us up before long.
I say, Midwinter, you seem to have quite got over that unlucky
fainting fit. How you do keep walking! Come here and have a
cigar, and make yourself comfortable. What's the good of tramping
backward and forward in that restless way?"
"I am waiting," said Midwinter.
"Waiting! What for?"
"For what is to happen to you or to me--or to both of us--before
we are out of this ship."
"With submission to your superior judgment, my dear fellow, I
think quite enough has happened already. The adventure will do
very well as it stands now; more of it is more than I want." He
took another dram of whisky, and rambled on, between the puffs
of his cigar, in his usual easy way. "I've not got your fine
imagination, old boy; and I hope the next thing that happens will
be the appearance of the workmen's boat. I suspect that queer
fancy of yours has been running away with you while you were down
here all by yourself. Come, now, what were you thinking of while
I was up in the mizzen-top frightening the cows?"
Midwinter suddenly stopped. "Suppose I tell you?" he said.
"Suppose you do?"
The torturing temptation to reveal the truth, roused once already
by his companion's merciless gayety of spirit, possessed itself
of Midwinter for the second time. He leaned back in the dark
against the high side of the ship, and looked down in silence at
Allan's figure, stretched comfortably on the deck. "Rouse him,"
the fiend whispered, subtly, "from that ignorant self-possession
and that pitiless repose. Show him the place where the deed was
done; let him know it with your knowledge, and fear it with your
dread. Tell him of the letter you burned, and of the words no
fire can destroy which are living in your memory now. Let him see
your mind as it was yesterday, when it roused your sinking faith
in your own convictions, to look back on your life at sea, and to
cherish the comforting remembrance that, in all your voyages, you
had never fallen in with this ship. Let him see your mind as it
is now, when the ship has got you at the turning-point of your
new life, at the outset of your friendship with the one man of
all men whom your father warned you to avoid. Think of those
death-bed words, and whisper them in his ear, that he may think
of them, too: 'Hide yourself from him under an assumed name.
Put the mountains and the seas between you; be ungrateful, be
unforgiving; be all that is most repellent to your own gentler
nature, rather than live under the same roof and breathe the
same air with that man.'" So the tempter counseled. So, like
a noisome exhalation from the father's grave, the father's
influence rose and poisoned the mind of the son.
The sudden silence surprised Allan; he looked back drowsily over
his shoulder. "Thinking again!" he exclaimed, with a weary yawn.
Midwinter stepped out from the shadow, and came nearer to Allan
than he had come yet. "Yes," he said, "thinking of the past and
"The past and the future?" repeated Allan, shifting himself
comfortably into a new position. "For my part, I'm dumb about the
past. It's a sore subject with me: the past means the loss of the
doctor's boat. Let's talk about the future. Have you been taking
a practical view? as dear old Brock calls it. Have you been
considering the next serious question that concerns us both when
we get back to the hotel--the question of breakfast?"
After an instant's hesitation, Midwinter took a step nearer. "I
have been thinking of your future and mine," he said; "I have
been thinking of the time when your way in life and my way in
life will be two ways instead of one."
"Here's the daybreak!" cried Allan. "Look up at the masts;
they're beginning to get clear again already. I beg your pardon.
What were you saying?"
Midwinter made no reply. The struggle between the hereditary
superstition that was driving him on, and the unconquerable
affection for Allan that was holding him back, suspended the
next words on his lips. He turned aside his face in speechless
suffering. "Oh, my father!" he thought, "better have killed me
on that day when I lay on your bosom, than have let me live for
"What's that about the future?" persisted Allan. "I was looking
for the daylight; I didn't hear."
Midwinter controlled himself, and answered: "You have treated me
with your usual kindness," he said, "in planning to take me with
you to Thorpe Ambrose. I think, on reflection, I had better not
intrude myself where I am not known and not expected." His voice
faltered, and he stopped again. The more he shrank from it, the
clearer the picture of the happy life that he was resigning rose
on his mind.
Allan's thoughts instantly reverted to the mystification about
the new steward which he had practiced on his friend when they
were consulting together in the cabin of the yacht. "Has he
been turning it over in his mind?" wondered Allan; "and is he
beginning at last to suspect the truth? I'll try him.--Talk as
much nonsense, my dear fellow, as you like," he rejoined, "but
don't forget that you are engaged to see me established at
Thorpe Ambrose, and to give me your opinion of the new
Midwinter suddenly stepped forward again, close to Allan.
"I am not talking about your steward or your estate," he burst
out passionately; "I am talking about myself. Do you hear?
Myself! I am not a fit companion for you. You don't know who
I am." He drew back into the shadowy shelter of the bulwark as
suddenly as he had come out from it. "O God! I can't tell him,"
he said to himself, in a whisper.
For a moment, and for a moment only, Allan was surprised. "Not
know who you are?" Even as he repeated the words, his easy
goodhumor got the upper-hand again. He took up the whisky flask,
and shook it significantly. "I say," he resumed, "how much of the
doctor's medicine did you take while I was up in the mizzen-top?"
The light tone which he persisted in adopting stung Midwinter to
the last pitch of exasperation. He came out again into the light,
and stamped his foot angrily on the deck. "Listen to me!" he
said. "You don't know half the low things I have done in my
lifetime. I have been a tradesman's drudge; I have swept out the
shop and put up the shutters; I have carried parcels through the
street, and waited for my master's money at his customers'
"I have never done anything half as useful," returned Allan,
composedly. "Dear old boy, what an industrious fellow you have
been in your time!"
"I've been a vagabond and a blackguard in my time," returned the
other, fiercely; "I've been a street tumbler, a tramp, a gypsy's
boy! I've sung for half-pence with dancing dogs on the high-road!
I've worn a foot-boy's livery, and waited at table! I've been a
common sailors' cook, and a starving fisherman's
Jack-of-all-trades! What has a gentleman in your position in
common with a man in mine? Can you take _me_ into the society at
Thorpe Ambrose? Why, my very name would be a reproach to you.
Fancy the faces of your new neighbors when their footmen announce
Ozias Midwinter and Allan Armadale in the same breath!" He burst
into a harsh laugh, and repeated the two names again, with a
scornful bitterness of emphasis which insisted pitilessly on the
marked contrast between them.
Something in the sound of his laughter jarred painfully even on
Allan's easy nature. He raised himself on the deck and spoke
seriously for the first time. "A joke's a joke, Midwinter," he
said, "as long as you don't carry it too far. I remember your
saying something of the same sort to me once before when I was
nursing you in Somersetshire. You forced me to ask you if I
deserved to be kept at arms-length by _you_ of all the people in
the world. Don't force me to say so again. Make as much fun of me
as you please, old fellow, in any other way. _That_ way hurts
Simple as the words were, and simply as they had been spoken,
they appeared to work an instant revolution in Midwinter's mind.
His impressible nature recoiled as from some sudden shock.
Without a word of reply, he walked away by himself to the forward
part of the ship. He sat down on some piled planks between the
masts, and passed his hand over his head in a vacant, bewildered
way. Though his father's belief in fatality was his own belief
once more--though there was no longer the shadow of a doubt in
his mind that the woman whom Mr. Brock had met in Somersetshire,
and the woman who had tried to destroy herself in London, were
one and the same--though all the horror that mastered him when
he first read the letter from Wildbad had now mastered him again,
Allan's appeal to their past experience of each other had come
home to his heart, with a force more irresistible than the force
of his superstition itself. In the strength of that very
superstition, he now sought the pretext which might encourage him
to sacrifice every less generous feeling to the one predominant
dread of wounding the sympathies of his friend. "Why distress
him?" he whispered to himself. "We are not the end here: there
is the Woman behind us in the dark. Why resist him when the
mischief's done, and the caution comes too late? What _is_ to be
_will_ be. What have I to do with the future? and what has he?"
He went back to Allan, sat down by his side, and took his hand.
"Forgive me," he said, gently; "I have hurt you for the last
time." Before it was possible to reply, he snatched up the whisky
flask from the deck. "Come!" he exclaimed, with a sudden effort
to match his friend's cheerfulness, "you have been trying the
doctor's medicine, why shouldn't I?"
Allan was delighted. "This is something like a change for the
better," he said; "Midwinter is himself again. Hark! there are
the birds. Hail, smiling morn! smiling morn!" He sang the words
of the glee in his old, cheerful voice, and clapped Midwinter on
the shoulder in his old, hearty way. "How did you manage to clear
your head of those confounded megrims? Do you know you were quite
alarming about something happening to one or other of us before
we were out of this ship?"
"Sheer nonsense!" returned Midwinter, contemptuously. "I don't
think my head has ever been quite right since that fever; I've
got a bee in my bonnet, as they say in the North. Let's talk of
something else. About those people you have let the cottage to?
I wonder whether the agent's account of Major Milroy's family is
to be depended on? There might be another lady in the household
besides his wife and his daughter."
"Oho!" cried Allan, "_you're_ beginning to think of nymphs among
the trees, and flirtations in the fruit-garden, are you? Another
lady, eh? Suppose the major's family circle won't supply another?
We shall have to spin that half-crown again, and toss up for
which is to have the first chance with Miss Milroy."
For once Midwinter spoke as lightly and carelessly as Allan
himself. "No, no," he said, "the major's landlord has the first
claim to the notice of the major's daughter. I'll retire into the
background, and wait for the next lady who makes her appearance
at Thorpe Ambrose."
"Very good. I'll have an address to the women of Norfolk posted
in the park to that effect," said Allan. "Are you particular to
a shade about size or complexion? What's your favorite age?"
Midwinter trifled with his own superstition, as a man trifles
with the loaded gun that may kill him, or with the savage animal
that may maim him for life. He mentioned the age (as he had
reckoned it himself) of the woman in the black gown and the red
"Five-and-thirty," he said.
As the words passed his lips, his factitious spirits deserted
him. He left his seat, impenetrably deaf to all Allan's efforts
at rallying him on his extraordinary answer, and resumed his
restless pacing of the deck in dead silence. Once more the
haunting thought which had gone to and fro with him in the hour
of darkness went to and fro with him now in the hour of daylight.
Once more the conviction possessed itself of his mind that
something was to happen to Allan or to himself before they left
Minute by minute the light strengthened in the eastern sky; and
the shadowy places on the deck of the timber-ship revealed their
barren emptiness under the eye of day. As the breeze rose again,
the sea began to murmur wakefully in the morning light. Even the
cold bubbling of the broken water changed its cheerless note,
and softened on the ear as the mellowing flood of daylight poured
warm over it from the rising sun. Midwinter paused near the
forward part of the ship, and recalled his wandering attention
to the passing time. The cheering influences of the hour were
round him, look where he might. The happy morning smile of
the summer sky, so brightly merciful to the old and weary earth,
lavished its all-embracing beauty even on the wreck. The dew that
lay glittering on the inland fields lay glittering on the deck,
and the worn and rusted rigging was gemmed as brightly as the
fresh green leaves on shore. Insensibly, as he looked round,
Midwinter's thoughts reverted to the comrade who had shared with
him the adventure of the night. He returned to the after-part
of the ship, spoke to Allan as he advanced. Receiving no answer,
he approached the recumbent figure and looked closer at it. Left
to his own resources, Allan had let the fatigues of the night
take their own way with him. His head had sunk back; his hat had
fallen off; he lay stretched at full length on the deck of the
timber-ship, deeply and peacefully asleep.
Midwinter resumed his walk; his mind lost in doubt; his own past
thoughts seeming suddenly to have grown strange to him. How
darkly his forebodings had distrusted the coming time, and how
harmlessly that time had come! The sun was mounting in the
heavens, the hour of release was drawing nearer and nearer,
and of the two Armadales imprisoned in the fatal ship, one was
sleeping away the weary time, and the other was quietly watching
the growth of the new day.
The sun climbed higher; the hour wore on. With the latent
distrust of the wreck which still clung to him, Midwinter looked
inquiringly on either shore for signs of awakening human life.
The land was still lonely. The smoke wreaths that were soon to
rise from cottage chimneys had not risen yet.
After a moment's thought he went back again to the after-part of
the vessel, to see if there might be a fisherman's boat within
hail astern of them. Absorbed for the moment by the new idea, he
passed Allan hastily, after barely noticing that he still lay
asleep. One step more would have brought him to the taffrail,
when that step was suspended by a sound behind him, a sound like
a faint groan. He turned, and looked at the sleeper on the deck.
He knelt softly, and looked closer.
"It has come!" he whispered to himself. "Not to _me_--but to
It had come, in the bright freshness of the morning; it had come,
in the mystery and terror of a Dream. The face which Midwinter
had last seen in perfect repose was now the distorted face of a
suffering man. The perspiration stood thick on Allan's forehead,
and matted his curling hair. His partially opened eyes showed
nothing but the white of the eyeball gleaming blindly. His
outstretched hands scratched and struggled on the deck. From
moment to moment he moaned and muttered helplessly; but the words
that escaped him were lost in the grinding and gnashing of his
teeth. There he lay--so near in the body to the friend who bent
over him; so far away in the spirit, that the two might have been
in different worlds--there he lay, with the morning sunshine on
his face, in the torture of his dream.
One question, and one only, rose in the mind of the man who was
looking at him. What had the fatality which had imprisoned him in
the wreck decreed that he should see?
Had the treachery of Sleep opened the gates of the grave to that
one of the two Armadales whom the other had kept in ignorance of
the truth? Was the murder of the father revealing itself to the
son--there, on the very spot where the crime had been committed
--in the vision of a dream?
With that question overshadowing all else in his mind, the son of
the homicide knelt on the deck, and looked at the son of the man
whom his father's hand had slain.
The conflict between the sleeping body and the waking mind was
strengthening every moment. The dreamer's helpless groaning for
deliverance grew louder; his hands raised themselves, and
clutched at the empty air. Struggling with the all-mastering
dread that still held him, Midwinter laid his hand gently on
Allan's forehead. Light as the touch was, there were mysterious
sympathies in the dreaming man that answered it. His groaning
ceased, and his hands dropped slowly. There was an instant of
suspense and Midwinter looked closer. His breath just fluttered
over the sleeper's face. Before the next breath had risen to his
lips, Allan suddenly sprang up on his knees--sprang up, as if the
call of a trumpet had rung on his ear, awake in an instant.
"You have been dreaming," said Midwinter, as the other looked at
him wildly, in the first bewilderment of waking.
Allan's eyes began to wander about the wreck, at first vacantly,
then with a look of angry surprise. "Are we here still?" he said,
as Midwinter helped him to his feet. "Whatever else I do on board
this infernal ship," he added, after a moment, "I won't go to
As he said those words, his friend's eyes searched his face in
silent inquiry. They took a turn together on the deck.
"Tell me your dream," said Midwinter, with a strange tone of
suspicion in his voice, and a strange appearance of abruptness in
"I can't tell it yet," returned Allan. "Wait a little till I'm my
own man again."
They took another turn on the deck. Midwinter stopped, and spoke
"Look at me for a moment, Allan," he said.
There was something of the trouble left by the dream, and
something of natural surprise at the strange request just
addressed to him, in Allan's face, as he turned it full on the
speaker; but no shadow of ill-will, no lurking lines of distrust
anywhere. Midwinter turned aside quickly, and hid, as he best
might, an irrepressible outburst of relief.
"Do I look a little upset?" asked Allan, taking his arm, and
leading him on again. "Don't make yourself nervous about me if I
do. My head feels wild and giddy, but I shall soon get over it."
For the next few minutes they walked backward and forward in
silence, the one bent on dismissing the terror of the dream from
his thoughts, the other bent on discovering what the terror of
the dream might be. Relieved of the dread that had oppressed it,
the superstitious nature of Midwinter had leaped to its next
conclusion at a bound. What if the sleeper had been visited by
another revelation than the revelation of the Past? What if the
dream had opened those unturned pages in the book of the Future
which told the story of his life to come? The bare doubt that it
might be so strengthened tenfold Midwinter's longing to penetrate
the mystery which Allan's silence still kept a secret from him.
"Is your head more composed?" he asked. "Can you tell me your
While he put the question, a last memorable moment in the
Adventure of the Wreck was at hand.
They had reached the stern, and were just turning again when
Midwinter spoke. As Allan opened his lips to answer, he looked
out mechanically to sea. Instead of replying, he suddenly ran to
the taffrail, and waved his hat over his head, with a shout of
Midwinter joined him, and saw a large six-oared boat pulling
straight for the channel of the Sound. A figure, which they both
thought they recognized, rose eagerly in the stern-sheets and
returned the waving of Allan's hat. The boat came nearer, the
steersman called to them cheerfully, and they recognized the
"Thank God you're both above water!" said Mr. Hawbury, as they
met him on the deck of the timber-ship. "Of all the winds of
heaven, which wind blew you here?"
He looked at Midwinter as he made the inquiry, but it was Allan
who told him the story of the night, and Allan who asked the
doctor for information in return. The one absorbing interest
in Midwinter's mind--the interest of penetrating the mystery of
the dream--kept him silent throughout. Heedless of all that was
said or done about him, he watched Allan, and followed Allan,
like a dog, until the time came for getting down into the boat.
Mr. Hawbury's professional eye rested on him curiously, noting
his varying color, and the incessant restlessness of his hands.
"I wouldn't change nervous systems with that man for the largest
fortune that could be offered me," thought the doctor as he took
the boat's tiller, and gave the oarsmen their order to push off
from the wreck.
Having reserved all explanations on his side until they were
on their way back to Port St. Mary, Mr. Hawbury next addressed
himself to the gratification of Allan's curiosity. The
circumstances which had brought him to the rescue of his two
guests of the previous evening were simple enough. The lost boat
had been met with at sea by some fishermen of Port Erin, on the
western side of the island, who at once recognized it as the
doctor's property, and at once sent a messenger to make inquiry,
at the doctor's house. The man's statement of what had happened
had naturally alarmed Mr. Hawbury for the safety of Allan and his
friend. He had immediately secured assistance, and, guided by the
boatman's advice, had made first for the most dangerous place on
the coast--the only place, in that calm weather, in which an
accident could have happened to a boat sailed by experienced
men--the channel of the Sound. After thus accounting for his
welcome appearance on the scene, the doctor hospitably insisted
that his guests of the evening should be his guests of the
morning as well. It would still be too early when they got back
for the people at the hotel to receive them, and they would find
bed and breakfast at Mr. Hawbury's house.
At the first pause in the conversation between Allan and the
doctor, Midwinter, who had neither joined in the talk nor
listened to the talk, touched his friend on the arm. "Are you
better?" he asked, in a whisper. "Shall you soon be composed
enough to tell me what I want to know?"
Allan's eyebrows contracted impatiently; the subject of the
dream, and Midwinter's obstinacy in returning to it, seemed to be
alike distasteful to him. He hardly answered with his usual good
humor. "I suppose I shall have no peace till I tell you," he
said, "so I may as well get it over at once."
"No!" returned Midwinter, with a look at the doctor and his
oarsmen. "Not where other people can hear it--not till you and I
"If you wish to see the last, gentlemen, of your quarters for the
night," interposed the doctor, "now is your time! The coast will
shut the vessel out in a minute more."
In silence on the one side and on the other, the two Armadales
looked their last at the fatal ship. Lonely and lost they had
found the wreck in the mystery of the summer night; lonely and
lost they left the wreck in the radiant beauty of the summer
An hour later the doctor had seen his guests established in their
bedrooms, and had left them to take their rest until the
breakfast hour arrived.
Almost as soon as his back was turned, the doors of both rooms
opened softly, and Allan and Midwinter met in the passage.
"Can you sleep after what has happened?" asked Allan.
Midwinter shook his head. "You were coming to my room, were you
not?" he said. "What for?"
"To ask you to keep me company. What were you coming to _my_ room
"To ask you to tell me your dream."
"Damn the dream! I want to forget all about it."
"And _I_ want to know all about it."
Both paused; both refrained instinctively from saying more. For
the first time since the beginning of their friendship they were
on the verge of a disagreement, and that on the subject of the
dream. Allan's good temper just stopped them on the brink.
"You are the most obstinate fellow alive," he said; "but if you
will know all about it, you must know all about it, I suppose.
Come into my room, and I'll tell you."
He led the way, and Midwinter followed. The door closed and shut
them in together.
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