The majority of the passengers aboard the steam yacht Bluebottle said that it was anybody’s game. In the smoking-room—when neither Somers nor Norgate was present of course—the betting varied daily according to the events of the day. At first the odds were slightly in favour of Teddy Somers—yes, she undoubtedly gave signs of enjoying the companionship of Mr Somers. She had been seen by trustworthy witnesses standing behind him while he sketched with a rapid pencil the group of Portuguese boatmen surrounding the solitary Scotchman, who had got the better of them all in a bargain, within the first hour of the arrival of the yacht in Funchal Bay. Afterwards she had been noticed carefully gumming the drawing upon a cardboard mount. Would a girl take all that trouble about a man unless she had a sincere regard for him? was the question which a sapient one put to a section of his fellow passengers, accompanying an offer of three to one on Somers.

But after a pause, which somehow seemed to suggest an aggregation of thought—the pauses of a conscientious smoker are frequently fraught with suggestions—a youth who had been accused of writing poetry, but whose excellent cigars did much to allay that suspicion, remarked—“What you say about the drawing suggests that the girl takes an interest in him, and that would be fatal to her falling in love with him.” There was another long pause, during which the smokers looked at one another, carefully refraining from glancing at the speaker, until the man who had offered the odds said—

“Do you mean to tell us that a girl’s being interested in a chap isn’t the first step to her falling in love with him?”

“I have no hesitation in saying so much—I could say a good deal more on the same subject,” replied the propounder of the theory.

Then it was that a number of the men glanced quickly toward him,—there was something of an appeal for mercy in the glance of most of them: it seemed as if they were not particularly anxious to hear a good deal more on the same subject.

It is scarcely necessary to say, however, that the circumstance of their not wanting to hear a good deal more did not prevent the poet (alleged) from telling them a good deal more. It took him twenty-five minutes to formulate his theory, which was to the effect that it is impossible—impossible was the word he employed: there is no spirit of compromise on the part of a theorist, especially when he is young, and more especially when he has been suspected of writing poetry—impossible for a woman to love a man who has at first merely interested her.

“Love is a passion, whereas interest is—well, interest is merely interest,” said he, with that air of finality which a youthful theorist assumes when he is particularly absurd—and knows it. “Yes, when a woman hates a man thoroughly, and for the best of reasons,—though for that matter she may hate him thoroughly without having any reason for it,—she is nearer to loving him thoroughly than she is to loving a man who merely interests her, however deep may be the interest which he arouses.”

“I’ll give three to one in sovereigns on Somers,” said the man who had originally offered the same odds. He was clearly not amenable to the dictates of reason, the theorist said: he certainly was not amenable to the dictates of a theory, which, however, is not exactly the same thing.

“It’s anybody’s game, just now,” remarked another of the sapient ones.

“Anybody’s except the man’s in whom she has become interested,” said the theorist.

“My dear young man,” said the professional cynic—he had scarcely recovered from a severe attack of mal de mer—“My dear young man, you’re not a very much greater ass than most boys of your age; but you will really not strike people as being much below the average if you only refrain from formulating any theory respecting any woman. The only thing that it is safe to say about a woman—any woman—every woman—is that no human being knows what she will do next.”

“Yes, but we were not talking about what a woman will do next, but what she will do first,” said the poet, who was not easily crushed. “Now I say that she——”

“Oh, do dry up!” shouted a smoking man in a corner, who had just rung for a whisky-and-soda. “I’ve heard more nonsense within the past half-hour than I ever heard during an entire year of my life. There is no sense in arguing, but there is some sense in betting. If you believe in your theory, back it with a sovereign to show that you’re in earnest.”

But the young man’s theory did not run into coin; though in other directions three to one on Teddy Somers was officially reported as offered and taken.

Two days afterwards the layer of the odds tried to hedge. The fact was that the girl had shown such a marked inclination for the society of Jack Norgate in preference to that of Teddy Somers, it seemed as if the former would, to make use of an apt phrase, romp in. But before the steam yacht Bluebottle had crossed the equator the odds were even, as a passenger named Molloy—he was reputed to be of Irish descent—remarked.

It was a pleasant company that had left Gravesend on September 10th, for the six months’ cruise to cheat the winter (see advertisements) in the steam yacht Bluebottle, 3500 tons, Captain Grosvenor, R.N.R., in command. The passengers numbered sixty, and included singularly few disagreeable persons, in spite of the fact that the voyage was one that only people with money and leisure could afford. The vessel was well found, and her commander and officers were the pick of the Company’s fleet, and possessed innumerable resources in the way of deck games. The report found ready credence in the service that Captain Grosvenor had gained his position through being the originator of deck-golf. However this may be, he certainly recognised in the amplest way the responsibilities of the position of trust which he occupied, and he never allowed any duty to interfere with his daily exposition of the splendid possibilities of deck-golf. He had started a golf tournament before the yacht had left the Channel, and he hove to for three days in the Bay of Biscay, when the heavy sea that was running threatened to interfere with the playing off of the tie between Colonel Mydleton and Sir Edwin Everard.

The cruise promised to be all that the advertisements had predicted it would be. But before Madeira was reached comments were made upon the extraordinary scarcity of young girls among the passengers. Among a certain section of the passengers the comments on this point had a highly congratulatory tone, but among another section the matter was touched upon with a considerable amount of grumbling. Old voyagers, who were accompanied by vigilant wives (their own), foresaw a tranquil voyage, undisturbed by those complications which their experience told them invariably arise when attractive young women are to be found in graceful attitudes on deck chairs. On the other hand, however, there were several men aboard who had just sufficient experience of going down to the sea in steam yachts to cause them to look askance, during their first day aboard, over the deck chairs, which were occupied mainly by fathers and matrons. Yes, there was, undoubtedly, a scarcity of girls.

The fact is that such a pleasure cruise as that which had been mapped out for the Bluebottle differs essentially from the ordinary Indian or Australian voyage. On the two last-named, girls are to be found by the score going out or returning. It is not a matter of pleasure with them—though most of them contrive to get a good deal of pleasure out of it—but a matter of necessity. The majority of people who set out on a cruise in a steam yacht do so only because time hangs heavy on their hands, and they do not take their daughters with them, for the simple reason that their daughters decline to expatriate themselves for six or eight months at the most critical period of their lives.

Only six young women were among the passengers, of the Bluebottle; of these only three were quite good-looking, and of these three the only really beautiful one was Viola Compton. It did not take the experienced voyagers long to perceive that Miss Compton would have an extremely good time aboard the yacht. With all their experience they knew no better than to suppose that a girl is having a good time when she has half a dozen men at her feet, and a reserve force of twenty others ready to prostrate themselves before her at a moment’s notice—when she is sneered at by her less pretty sisters, who tell one another that she gives herself insufferable airs—when she is frowned at by the wives of uncertain husbands, who call her (among themselves) a forward minx, and when she cannot snub the most odious of the men who disarrange her cushions for her, and prevent her from reading her novels by insisting on chatting to her on all the inanities which a long voyage fosters in men who on shore are alluded to as “genial.” If to be in such a position is to be having a good time, Viola had certainly the best time on record even before the yacht had crossed the Line. She had about a score of men around her who never allowed her to have a moment to herself; she was bored by Colonel Mydleton’s story of Lord Roberts’ mistakes when in India, the crowning one being—according to Colonel Mydleton—the march to Kandahar, which he assured her was one of the greatest fiascos of the century; she was rendered uncomfortable for a whole afternoon of exquisite sunshine by the proximity of the poet, who insisted on repeating to her a volume of lyrics that only awaited a publisher; she was awakened from a delightful doze after tiffin by the commonplace jests of the young man who fondly believed himself to be a humourist; she was sneered at by the other girls and frowned upon by the matrons, and she was made the subject of bets in the smoking-room,—in short, she was having, most people agreed, an uncommonly good time aboard.

The captain knew better, however: he had kept his eyes open during a lifetime of voyages on passenger steamers, and he could see a good deal with his eyes without the aid of a binocular telescope.

There could be no doubt that Miss Compton treated both Teddy Somers and Jack Norgate with a favour which she could not see her way to extend to the other passengers. It was only natural that she should do so, the captain saw at once, though he was too experienced to say so even to his chief engineer, who was a Scotchman. Norgate and Somers were both nice chaps, and had won distinction for themselves in the world. The former was a mighty hunter, and had slain lions in the region of the Zambesi and bears in the Rockies: the latter was well known as an artist; he was something of a musician as well, and he had once had a play produced which had taken a very respectable position amongst the failures of the season. Both men were very well off,—the one could afford to be a hunter, and the other could even afford to be an artist. They were both clearly devoted to Viola; but this fact did not seem to interfere with the friendship which existed between them. Neither of the two tried to cut out the other so far as the girl was concerned. When Somers was sitting by her side, Norgate kept apart from them, and when Norgate chanced to find himself with her, his friend—although the tropical moonlight was flooding the heaven—continued his smoking on the bridge with the captain.

The captain was lost in admiration of both men; he reserved some for the girl, however: he acknowledged that she was behaving very well indeed—that is, of course, for the only really pretty girl aboard a ship. The captain was a strong believer in the advantages of a healthy competition between young women: the tyranny of the monopolist had frequently come within his range of vision. Yes, he saw that Miss Compton was behaving discreetly. She did not seek to play off one man against the other, nor did she make the attempt to play off a third man against both. For his own part, he utterly failed in his attempt to find out in what direction her affections tended. He saw that the girl liked both men, but he did not know which of them she loved—assuming that she actually did love one of them. He wondered if the girl herself knew. He was strongly inclined to believe that she did not.

But that was just where he made a mistake. She did know, and she communicated her knowledge to Teddy Somers one night when they stood together watching the marvellous phosphorescence of the South Atlantic within ten days’ sail of the Cape. A concert was going on in the great saloon, so that there was an appropriate musical background, so to speak, for their conversation. Teddy had said something to her that forced from her an involuntary cry—or was it a sigh?

Then there was a pause—with appropriate music: it came from a banjo in the saloon.

“Is that your answer?” he inquired, laying one of his hands upon hers as it lay on the brass plating of the bulwarks.

“My answer?” she said. “I’m so sorry—so very sorry, Mr Somers.”

“Sorry? Why should you be sorry?” he said softly. “I tell you that I love you with all——”

“Ah, do not say it again—for pity’s sake do not say it again,” she cried, almost piteously. “You must never speak to me of love; I have promised to love only Jack—Mr Norgate.”

“What—you have promised?—you have——”

“It only happened after tiffin to-day. I thought perhaps he might have told you—I thought perhaps you noticed that he and I—oh yes, you certainly behaved as if you took it for granted that... ah, I am so sorry that you misunderstood.... I think that I must have loved him from the first.”

There was another long pause. He looked down into the gleaming water that rushed along the side of the ship. Then she laid one of her hands on his, saying—

“Believe me, Mr Somers, I am sorry—oh, so sorry!”

He took her hand tenderly, looking into her face as he said—

“My dear child, you have no reason to be sorry: I know Jack Norgate well, and I know that a better fellow does not live: you will be happy with him, I am sure. And as for me—well, I suppose I was a bit of a fool to think that you——”

“Do not say that,” she cried. “I am not worthy of you—I am not worthy of him. Oh, who am I that I should break up such a friendship as yours and his? I begin to wish that I had never come aboard this steamer.”

“Do not flatter yourself that you have come between us, my dear,” he said, with a little laugh. “Oh no; ‘shall I, wasting with despair?’—well, I think not. Men don’t waste with despair except on the lyric stage. My dear girl, he has won you fairly, and I congratulate him; and you—yes, I congratulate you. He is a white man, as they say on the Great Pacific slope. Listen to that banjo! Confound it! I wonder shall I ever be able to listen to the banjo again.... Shall we join the revellers in the saloon?”

They went into the saloon together, and took seats on a vacant sofa. Some people eyed them suspiciously and said that Miss Compton was having an exceedingly good time aboard the yacht.

Later on, Somers congratulated his friend very sincerely, and his friend accepted his congratulations in a very tolerant spirit.

“Oh yes,” he said. “I suppose it’s what every chap must come to sooner or later. Viola is far better than I deserve—than any chap deserves.”

“It’s a very poor sort of girl that isn’t better than the best chap deserves, and although I think you are the best chap in the world, I should be sorry to think that Miss Compton has not made a wise choice. May you be happy together!”

“Thank you, old chap. I must confess to you frankly that some days ago I thought that you——”

“That I?”

“Well, that you had a certain tendresse for her yourself.”

“I! Oh, your judgment must have been warped by a lover’s jealousy. ‘The thief doth think each bush an officer’—the lover fancies that every man’s taste must be the same as his own. May you both be happy!”

It seemed that his prayer was granted so far at least as the next day was concerned, for certainly no two people could appear happier than the lovers, as they sat together under the awning, watching half a dozen of their fellow-passengers perspiring over their golf.

Mrs Compton—she was an invalid taking the cruise for her health’s sake—was compelled to remain in her berth all day, but Jack Norgate visited her with her daughter after tiffin and doubtless obtained the maternal blessing, for when he came on deck alone in the afternoon his face was beaming as Moses’ face beamed on one occasion. There was a slight tornado about dinner-time and the vessel rolled about so as to necessitate the use of the “fiddles” on the table. It continued blowing and raining until darkness set in, so that the smoking-room was crowded, and three bridge-parties assembled in the chief saloon as well as a poker-party and a chess-party. Four bells had just been made, when one of the stewards startled all the saloon by crying out of the pantries—

“Coming, sir!”

A moment afterwards he hurried into the saloon, putting on his jacket, and looked round as if waiting to receive an order. The passengers glanced at him and laughed.

“What’s the matter?” asked the doctor.

“Didn’t some one call me, sir?” the man inquired.

“Not that we heard,” replied the doctor.

“I thought I heard some one sing out, sir,” said the steward, looking round.

“It must have been some one on deck,” suggested Colonel Mydleton. “Shall I cut the cards for you, doctor?”

The steward went on deck. He was met by Mr Somers, who, in reply to the man’s inquiry, said—

“Call you? No, I didn’t call you.”

“The infant Samuel,” said one of the poker players, and the others at the table laughed.

“It’s raining cats and dogs, or whatever the equivalent to cats and dogs is in these parallels,” said Somers. “I got wet watching the Bluebottle show a clean pair of heels to a tramp. She’s in our wake just now. I think I’ll turn into my berth.”

He went to the bar and called for a brandy-and-soda, and then sang out “Good night,” as he hurried to his cabin.

The next morning Miss Compton appeared at the breakfast table, and so did Somers, but Norgate had clearly overslept himself, for he was absent. The captain inquired for him.

“He must be on deck, sir,” said one of the stewards, “for he was not in his cabin when I went with his chocolate an hour ago.”

“Oh, he’ll turn up before we have finished breakfast,” said Somers, attacking his devilled kidneys.

But his prediction was not realised. A pantry boy was sent on deck in search of Mr Norgate, but Mr Norgate was not to be found. A steward hurried to his cabin, but returned in a few minutes, saying that his bunk had not been slept in. The captain rose from the table with a well-simulated laugh. A search was organised. It failed to find him. The awful truth had to be faced: Mr Norgate was not aboard. Viola Compton was hysterical. Teddy Somers was silent; no one had ever seen him so deathly pale before.

Theories were forthcoming to account for Norgate’s suicide—people took it for granted, of course, that he had committed suicide. Only one person suggested the possibility of his having fallen overboard, and of his cry being that which the steward had heard, for a part of the pantry was open on the starboard side. But against this it was urged that Mr Somers must have been on deck at the time the steward had heard, or had fancied he heard, that cry, and Mr Somers said he had heard nothing.

For a week the gloom hung over the whole party; but by the time the Cape was reached, Miss Compton was able to appear at the table once more. She looked heartbroken; but every one said she was bearing up wonderfully. Only the poet had the bad taste to offer her his sympathy through the medium of a sonnet.

On leaving the Cape the bereaved girl seemed to find a certain plaintive consolation in the society of Mr Somers. He sat beside her in his deck chair, and they talked together about poor Jack Norgate; but after a week or two, steaming from Bombay to Ceylon, and thence through the Straits to Sydney, they began to talk about other subjects, and before long the girl began visibly to brighten. The passengers said she was a woman.

And she proved that they were right, for when one lovely night Teddy Somers suggested very delicately to her that his affection for her was the same as it had always been, there was more than a little reproach in her voice as she cried—

“Oh, stop—stop—for Heaven’s sake! My love is dead—buried with him. I cannot hear any one talk to me of love.”

He pressed her hand and left her without another word.

She remained in her deck chair far removed from the rest of the passengers for a long time, thinking her thoughts, whatever they may have been. The moon was almost at the full, so that it was high in the sky before the quartermaster made six bells, and those of the passengers who had not already gone to their berths arose from their chairs, murmuring that they had no notion it was within an hour of midnight. A few of them, passing the solitary figure of the girl on her chair, said “Good night” to her in a cheery way, and then shook their heads suggestively together with such an exchange of sentiments as “Poor girl!—Poor girl!”

“Very sad!”

“Melancholy affair!” but it is doubtful if their hearts were so overcharged with sympathy as to interfere to any marked degree with their slumbers.

The girl remained upon the deserted deck and watched the quartermasters collecting and storing away all the passengers’ chairs which lay scattered about, just as their owners had vacated them. When they had finished their job no one of the ship’s company remained on the quarterdeck. The sound of the little swish made by a leaping flying-fish had a suggestion of something mysterious about it as it reached her ears: it seemed like the faint whisper of a secret of the sea—it seemed as if some voice outside the ship was saying “Hist!” to her, to attract her attention before making a revelation to her.

But she knew what the sound was, and she did not move from her chair.

“Alas—alas!” she murmured, “you can tell me nothing. Ah! there is nothing for me to be told. I know all that will be known until the sea gives up its dead. He loved me, and the sea snatched him from me.”

The tears with which her heart was filled began to overflow. She wept softly for a long time, and when at last she gave a sigh and wiped the mist from her eyes she found that the moon, previously so brilliant, had become dim. Its outline was blurred, so that, although the atmosphere was full of moonlight, it was impossible to say what was the centre of the illumination. It seemed to Viola as if a thin diaphanous silk curtain had fallen between the moon and the sea. Every object which an hour before had cast a black shadow athwart the deck—the spars of the mainmast, the quarterboat hanging in its davits—was clearly seen as ever, only without the strong contrasts of light and shade. The sea out to the horizon was of a luminous grey, which bore but a shadowy resemblance to the dark-blue carpet traversed by the glittering golden pathway to the moon, over which Viola had pensively gazed in the early night before Somers had come to her side.

She now stood at the bulwarks looking across that shadowy expanse, marvelling at the change which had come about within so short a space of time.

“My life—it is my life,” she sighed. “A short time ago it was made luminous by love; but now—ah! now——”

She turned away with another sigh and walked back to her deck chair. She was in the act of picking up her cushions from the seat when, glancing astern, she was amazed on becoming aware of the fact that she was not alone at that part of the ship. She saw two figures standing together on the raised poop that covered the steam-steering apparatus at the farthest curve of the stern.

She was amazed. She asked herself how it was possible that she had failed to see them when she had looked astern a few minutes before. The figures were of course shadowy in the strange mistily luminous atmosphere, but they were sufficiently conspicuous in the place where they stood to make her confident that, had they been there five minutes before, she would have seen them.

She stood there wondering, the cushion which she had picked up hanging from her hand, who the men were that had come so mysteriously before her eyes an hour after the last of the passengers had, as she thought, descended to their berths.

She could not recognise either of them. They were separated from her by half the length of the stern.

Suddenly she gave a little gasp. The cushion which she had held dropped from her hand, for one of the figures made a movement, turning his back to the low poop rail over which he had been leaning, and that moment was enough, even in the pale light, to allow of her recognising the features of Jack Norgate.

She gave a little cry of mingled wonder and joy, but before she had taken even a step toward that tableau, she had shrieked out; for in the second that separated her exclamations, the figure whom she saw in front of the one she knew had sprung upon him, causing him to overbalance himself on the low rail against which he was leaning, and to disappear over the side.

She shrieked and sprang forward; at that moment the second figure seemed to fade away and to vanish into nothingness before her eyes. She staggered diagonally across the deck astern, but before she had taken more than a dozen blind steps her foot caught in the lashing of the tarpaulin which was spread over a pile of deck chairs, and she fell forward. One of the officers on watch, who had heard her cry, swung himself down from the roof of the deckhouse and ran to her help.

“Good God! Miss Compton, what has happened anyway?” he cried.

“There—there,” she gasped, pointing to the poop. “He went over the side—a minute ago—there is still time to stop the steamer and pick him up.”

“Who went over the side? No one was aft but yourself,” said the officer.

“It was Jack—Mr Norgate. Oh, why will you make no effort to rescue him? I tell you that I saw him go over.”

The officer felt how she was trembling with excitement. She tried to rush across the deck, but would have fallen through sheer weakness, if the man had not supported her. He brought her to the seat at the side of the cabin dome-light.

“You are overcome, Miss Compton,” he said. “You must calm yourself while I look into this business.”

“You do not believe that I saw anything; but I tell you—oh, he will be lost while you are delaying,” she cried.

“Nothing of the sort,” he said. “But for heaven’s sake sit here. Leave the thing to me.”

He ran astern and made a pretence of peering into the distance of the ship’s seething wake. He was wondering what he should do. The poor girl was evidently the victim of a hallucination. Several weeks had passed since her lover had disappeared, and all this time her grief at his loss had been poignant. This thing that had happened was the natural result of the terrible strain upon her nerves. Of course he never thought of awaking the captain or of stopping the vessel.

While he was still peering over the taffrail, her voice sounded beside him.

“Here—it was just here,” she said.

He turned about.

“Good Lord! Miss Compton, you should not have left your seat,” he cried. “Let me help you down to the cabin.”

“Have you not seen him in the water?”

“There is no one in the water. In this light I would be able to see a man’s head a mile astern. I will put my arm under yours and help you to get below. Trust to me. We would all do whatever it was in our power for your sake. We all sympathise with you. Shall I send a quartermaster for the doctor?”

Viola had thrown herself down on the seat where he had placed her, and was sobbing with her hands before her face. The man did his best to soothe her. He made a sign to a quartermaster who had come aft to register the patent log, and told him to send the ship’s doctor aft. He had no notion of accepting the sole responsibility of soothing a young woman who was subject to disquieting hallucinations.

In a few minutes the doctor relieved him of his charge. Miss Compton had become quite tranquil. Only now and again she gazed into the steamer’s wake and pressed her hand to her side. She allowed herself to be helped below in a short time, and did not refuse the dose of bromide which the doctor thought it his duty to administer to her.

The next day the doctor and the fourth officer had a whispered conference. They agreed that it would be better to say nothing to any of the other passengers respecting Miss Compton’s hallucination.

“Poor girl—poor girl!” said the doctor. “I have been observing her for some time, and I cannot say that I was surprised at what occurred last night.. It is only remarkable that the breakdown did not happen sooner.”

“I am glad that none of the rest of the ship’s company heard her when she cried out,” said the officer. “Lord! you should have seen the look in her eyes when she stretched out her hand and insisted that she had seen the man topple over. I thought it well to do my best to humour her until I had a chance of sending for you. I felt that it was on the cards that she might throw herself over the side.”

“It was touch and go,” said the doctor. “Ah, poor girl!”

A week had passed before Viola reappeared among the passengers. Her mother explained to kind inquirers that she had remained on deck quite too late one night and had caught a chill. The doctor bore out her unimaginative explanation of the girl’s absence, and added that it was much easier than most people suspected to catch a chill south of the Line. When Viola was at last permitted to come on deck she received many tokens of the interest which her fellow-passengers had in her progress toward recovery.

It was not until the evening of her first day out of her cabin that Somers contrived to get a word or two with her alone.

He was asking after her health when she turned upon him suddenly, saying—

“Mr Somers, it was you who threw Jack overboard!”

“Good God!” he cried, starting back from her. “For heaven’s sake, Viola, do not say so monstrous a thing! What!—I—Jack———-”

“You did it,” she said firmly.

“My dear child, how on earth have you got hold of such a notion?” he asked her.

“It was revealed to me that night—the night before I broke down,” she replied. “I had been sitting alone in my deck chair, and I was at the point of going below, when there—there on the poop at the side of the wheel astern, the whole dreadful scene was revealed to me. I tell you that I saw it all—Jack and you: I was not sure at first that the second figure was you, but I know now that it was you. I saw Jack turn round and lean against the rail, and that was the moment when you sprang at him.”

The man took some steps away from her.

He took off his hat and wiped his forehead. He returned to her in a few moments, and said—

“My dear child—oh, Viola! how is it possible for you to entertain so horrible a thought? Jack Norgate—my best friend!”

“You hoped to marry me—he is your rival—you murdered him!”

Somers flung up his hands with an exclamation and hurried down to his cabin.

The next day he came to her after tiffin.

“I want to speak a word to you apart,” he said.

She went with him very far forward. Only a few passengers were on deck, and these were in their chairs astern.

“I want to confess to you,” he said in a low voice. “I want to confess to you that it was I who threw Jack Norgate overboard.”

She started and stared at him. She could not speak for some time. At last she was able to say in a whisper—

“You—you—murdered him?”

“I murdered him. The temptation came over me. Oh, Viola, you do not know how I loved you—how I love you! My God!—should do it again if I thought it would give me a chance of you.”

She continued staring at him, and then seated herself by his side.

“You—threw him overboard?” she whispered again.

“We were standing side by side on the poop deck far aft, watching the tramp steamer on that night; the yacht was rolling—he slipped—I gave him a push.... I have lost my soul for love of you, and you think the sacrifice worthless.”

“Oh, it is too horrible—too terrible!” she said. “For me—for me!”

He was silent. So was she. They sat together side by side for an hour. His terrible confession had dazed her. She was the first to break the silence.

“Terrible—it is terrible!” she murmured. “Who could have told me that there was any love such as this in the world?”

“It is my love for you,” he said quietly. “It is the love that dares all—all the powers of time and eternity. I tell you that I would do it again; I would kill any other man who came between us. But my crime has been purposeless; we are to part for ever at Sydney in two days.”

“Yes,” she said. “It is better that we should part.”

She gave him her hand. He held it tightly for a moment, then dropped it suddenly, and left her standing alone on the deck.

“Was there ever such love in the world?” she murmured. “But it is terrible—terrible!”

The next day she went to where he was sitting alone, far from the other passengers.

“Mr Somers,” she said, “you will not really leave the yacht at Sydney?”

“If you tell me to stay, I will stay by the ship—I will stay by you, and you shall know what love means,” he said.

“Ah,” she said, “I think I have learned that already.”

“My beloved—you tell me to stay?”

“I believe that you love me,” said she.

“My darling—my beloved! You are more to me than all the world—you are dearer to me than my hope of heaven!”

“Yes: you have shown me that you are speaking the truth. It is very terrible, but I know that it is the truth.”

“It is the truth. And I know that you love me.”

“I wonder if I ever loved any one else,” said she, after a pause—“that is, I wonder if any one else ever loved me as you have done.”

That was all that passed between them at the time; but two days later his hand was clasping hers as the steamer went past the Heads into the loveliest harbour of the world.

It was very early in the morning when he left his cabin to go on deck. The yacht was swinging at anchor. The sound of many voices came from the deck.

She was waiting to receive him at the door of his cabin. He put both his hands out to her: she did not take even one of them. She stared at him.

“I suppose you are the greatest scoundrel in the world,” she said.


“I say you are the greatest scoundrel that ever lived, for you tried to obtain my love by telling me a lie—a lie—a horrible lie. You did not murder Jack Norgate. He fell overboard by accident that night, when no one was near him, and he was picked up by the ocean tramp which you had been watching—not beside him, but on the bridge. You are a wicked man. You told me that you murdered him, but you did nothing of the sort. There he is, coming toward us. I did not tell him how false you were, and I do not intend to tell him; but I know it for myself.”

“It was you yourself who suggested the thing to me,” said he. “Did you not come to me accusing me of having murdered him? Did you not say that it had been revealed to you in a vision?”

“A vision? Oh, I was in need of a dose of bromide—that’s all,” said she.

Then Jack Norgate came up with the captain by his side. The hand that Mr Somers offered him was limp and clammy.

“Here’s another of the ghost seers,” laughed Jack. “They all look on me as a ghost aboard this craft.”

“It was a marvellous escape,” said the captain. “Luckily the tramp was a fine old slow tub, and still more luckily she had a good look-out for one hour only. Why, you couldn’t have been in the water for more than ten minutes.”

“It seemed about a week to me, old man,” said Jack. “And as for the tramp—well, we arrived at Sydney before you any way.”

The captain laughed.

“It was a providential escape,” said he.

“It was a providential escape,” said Viola, putting her arm through Jack’s and walking away with him.

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