Should have kept short, restrained, and out of haunt
This mad young man...
His very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure.

Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.

It is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion.

Queen.... Whereon do you look?

Hamlet. On him, on him! look you, how pale he glares.
... It is not madness
That I have uttered: bring me to the test.—Hamlet

THE question which suggested itself to Daireen as to the possibility of seeing Standish aboard the steamer, was not the only one that occupied her thoughts. How had he come aboard, and why had he come aboard, were further questions whose solution puzzled her. She recollected how he had told her on that last day she had seen him, while they walked in the garden after leaving The Macnamara in that side room with the excellent specimen of ancient furniture ranged with glass vessels, that he was heartily tired of living among the ruins of the castle, and that he had made up his mind to go out into the world of work. She had then begged of him to take no action of so much importance until her father should have returned to give him the advice he needed; and in that brief postscript which she had added to the farewell letter given into the care of the bard O'Brian, she had expressed her regret that this counsel of hers had been rendered impracticable. Was it possible, however, that Standish placed so much confidence in the likelihood of valuable advice being given to him by her father that he had resolved to go out to the Cape and speak with him on the subject face to face, she thought; but it struck her that there would be something like an inconsistency in the young man's travelling six thousand miles to take an opinion as to the propriety of his leaving his home.

What was she to do? She felt that she must see Standish and have from his own lips an explanation of how he had come aboard the ship; but in that, sentence he had spoken to her he had entreated of her to keep silence, so that she dared not seek for him under the guidance of Mrs. Crawford or any of her friends aboard the vessel. It would be necessary for her to find him alone, and she knew that this would be a difficult thing to do, situated as she was. But let the worst come, she reflected that it could only result in the true position of Standish being-known. This was really all that the girl believed could possibly be the result if a secret interview between herself and a sailor aboard the steamer should be discovered; and, thinking of the worst consequences so lightly, made her all the more anxious to hasten on such an interview if she could contrive it.

She seated herself upon her little sofa and tried to think by what means she could meet with Standish, and yet fulfil his entreaty for secrecy. Her imagination, so far as inventing plans was concerned, did not seem to be inexhaustible. After half an hour's pondering over the matter, no more subtle device was suggested to her than going on deck and walking alone towards the fore-part of the ship between the deck-house and the bulwarks, where it might possibly chance that Standish would be found. This was her plan, and she did not presume to think to herself that its intricacy was the chief element of its possible success. Had she been aware of the fact that Standish was at that instant standing in the shadow of that deck-house looking anxiously astern in the hope of catching a glimpse of her—had she known that since the steamer had left the English port he had every evening stood with the same object in the same place, she would have been more hopeful of her simple plan succeeding.

At any rate she stole out of her cabin and went up the companion and out upon the deck, with all the caution that a novice in the art of dissembling could bring to her aid.

The night was full of softness—softness of gray reflected light from the waters that were rippling along before the vessel—softness of air that seemed saturated with the balm of odorous trees growing upon the slopes of those Fortunate Islands. The deck was deserted by passengers; only Major Crawford, the doctor, and the special correspondent were sitting in a group in their cane chairs, smoking their cheroots and discussing some action of a certain colonel that had not yet been fully explained, though it had taken place fifteen years previously. The group could not see her, she knew; but even if they had espied her and demanded an explanation, she felt that she had progressed sufficiently far in the crooked ways of deception to be able to lull their suspicions by her answers. She could tell them that she had a headache, or put them off with some equally artful excuse.

She walked gently along until she was at the rear of the deck-house where the stock of the mainmast was standing with all its gear. She looked down the dark tunnel passage between the side of the house and the bulwarks, but she felt her courage fail her: she dared do all that might become a woman, but the gloom of that covered place, and the consciousness that beyond it lay the mysterious fore-cabin space, caused her to pause. What was she to do?

Suddenly there came the sound of a low voice at her ear.

“Daireen, Daireen, why did you come here?” She started and looked around trembling, for it was the voice of Standish, though she could not see the form of the speaker. It was some moments before she found that he was under the broad rail leading to the ship's bridge.

“Then it is you, Standish, indeed?” she said. “How on earth did you come aboard?—Why have you come?—Are you really a sailor?—Where is your father?—Does he know?—Why don't you shake hands with me, Standish?”

These few questions she put to him in a breath, looking between the steps of the rail.

“Daireen, hush, for Heaven's sake!” he said anxiously. “You don't know what you are doing in coming to speak with me here—I am only a sailor, and if you were seen near me it would be terrible. Do go back to your cabin and leave me to my wretchedness.”

“I shall not go back,” she said resolutely. “I am your friend, Standish, and why should I not speak to you for an hour if I wish? You are not the quartermaster at the wheel. What a start you gave me this morning! Why did you not tell me you were coming in this steamer?”

“I did not leave Suangorm until the next morning after I heard you had gone,” he answered in a whisper. “I should have died—I should indeed, Daireen, if I had remained at home while you were gone away without any one to take care of you.”

“Oh, Standish, Standish, what will your father say?—What will he think?”

“I don't care,” said Standish. “I told him on that day when we returned from Suanmara that I would go away. I was a fool that I did not make up my mind long ago. It was, indeed, only when you left that I carried out my resolution. I learned what ship you were going in; I had as much money as brought me to England—I had heard of people working their passage abroad; so I found out the captain of the steamer, and telling him all about myself that I could—not of course breathing your name, Daireen—I begged him to allow me to work my way as a sailor, and he agreed to give me the passage. He wanted me to become a waiter in the cabin, but I couldn't do that; I didn't mind facing all the hardships that might come, so long as I was near you—and—able to get your father's advice. Now do go back, Daireen.”

“No one will see us,” said the girl, after a pause, in which she reflected on the story he had told her. “But all is so strange, Standish,” she continued—“all is so unlike anything I ever imagined possible. Oh, Standish, it is too dreadful to think of your being a sailor—just a sailor—aboard the ship.”

“There's nothing so very bad in it,” he replied. “I can work, thank God; and I mean to work. The thought of being near you—that is, near the time when I can get the advice I want from your father—makes all my labour seem light.”

“But if I ask the captain, he will, I am sure, let you become a passenger,” said the girl suddenly. “Do let me ask him, Standish. It is so—so hard for you to have to work as a sailor.”

“It is no harder than I expected it would be,” he said; “I am not afraid to work hard: and I feel that I am doing something—I feel it. I should be more wretched in the cabin. Now do not think of speaking to me for the rest of the voyage, Daireen; only, do not forget that you have a friend aboard the ship—a friend who will be willing to die for you.”

His voice was very tremulous, and she could see his tearful eyes glistening in the gray light as he put out one of his hands to her. She put her own hand into it and felt his strong earnest grasp as he whispered, “God bless you, Daireen! God bless you!”

“Make it six bells, quartermaster,” came the voice of the officer on watch from the bridge. In fear and trembling Daireen waited until the man came aft and gave the six strokes upon the ship's bell that hung quite near where she was standing—Standish thinking it prudent to remain close in the shade of the rail. The quartermaster saw her, but did not, of course, conceive it to be within the range of his duties to give any thought to the circumstance of a passenger being on deck at that hour. When the girl turned round after the bell had been struck, she found that Standish had disappeared. All she could do was to hasten back to her cabin with as much caution as it was possible for her to preserve, for she could still hear the hoarse tones of the major's voice coming from the centre of the group far astern, who were regaled with a very pointed chronicle of a certain station in the empire of Hindustan.

Daireen reached her cabin and sat once more upon her sofa, breathing a sigh of relief, for she had never in her life had such a call upon her courage as this to which she had just responded.

Her face was flushed and hot, and her hands were trembling, so she threw open the pane of the cabin port-hole and let the soft breeze enter. It moved about her hair as she stood there, and she seemed to feel the fingers of a dear friend caressing her forehead. Then she sat down once more and thought over all that had happened since the morning when she had gone on deck to see that gray cloud-land brighten into the lovely green slope of Madeira.

She thought of all that Standish had told her about himself, and she felt her heart overflowing, as were her eyes, with sympathy for him who had cast aside his old life and was endeavouring to enter upon the new.

As she sat there in her dreaming mood all the days of the past came back to her, with a clearness she had never before known. All the pleasant hours returned to her with even a more intense happiness than she had felt at first. For out of the distance of these Fortunate Islands the ghosts of the blessed departed hours came and moved before her, looking into her face with their own sweet pale faces; thus she passed from a waking dream into a dream of sleep as she lay upon her sofa, and the ghost shapes continued to float before her. The fatigue of the day, the darkness of the cabin, and the monotonous washing of the ripples against the side of the ship, had brought on her sleep before she had got into her berth.

With a sudden start she awoke and sprang to her feet in instantaneous consciousness, for the monotony of the washing waves was broken by a sound that was strange and startling to her ears—the sound of something hard tapping at irregular intervals upon the side of the ship just at her ear.

She ran over to the cabin port and looked out fearfully—looked out and gave a cry of terror, for beneath her—out from those gray waters there glanced up to her in speechless agony the white face of a man; she saw it but for a moment, then it seemed to be swept away from her and swallowed up in the darkness of the deep waters.

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