Engineer by Lloyd Osbourne
Frank Rignold had never been the favoured suitor, not at least so
far as anything definite was concerned; but he had always been
welcome at the little house on Commonwealth Street, and amongst the
neighbours his name and that of Florence Fenacre were coupled as a
matter of course and every old lady within a radius of three miles
regarded the match as good as settled. It was not Frank's fault that
it was not, for he was deeply in love with the widow's daughter and
looked forward to such an end to their acquaintance as the very
dearest thing fate could give him. But in these affairs it is
necessary to carry the lady with you—and the lady, though she had
never said "no," had not yet been prevailed upon to say "yes." In fact
she preferred to leave the matter as it was, and boldly forestalling a
set proposal, had managed to convey to Frank Rignold that it was her
wish he should not make one.
"Let us be good friends," she would say, "and as for anything
else, Frank, there's plenty of time to consider that by and by. Isn't
it enough already that we like each other?"
Frank did not think it was enough, but he was not without
intuition and willing to accept the little offered him and be
grateful—rather than risk all, and almost certainly lose all, by too
exigent a suit. For Florence Fenacre was the acknowledged beauty of
the town, with a dozen eligible men at her feet, and was more courted
and sought after than any girl in the place. The place, to give it its
name, was Bridgeport, one of those dead- alive little ports on the
Atlantic seaboard, with a dozen factories and some decaying wharves
and that tranquil air of having had a past.
The widow and her pretty daughter lived in a low-roofed, red-brick
house that faced the street and sheltered a long deep shady garden in
the rear. Land and house had been bought with whale oil. Their little
income, derived from the rent of three barren and stony farms and
amounting to not more than sixty dollars a month, represented a
capitalisation of whale oil. Even the old grey church whither they
went twice of a Sunday, was whale oil too, and had been built in
bygone days by the sturdy captains who now lay all around it under
slabs of stone. There amongst them was Florence's father and her
grandfather and her great-grandfather, together with the Macys and the
Coffins and the Cabotts with whom they had sailed and quarrelled and
loved and intermarried in the years now gone. The wide world had not
been too wide for them to sail it round and reap the harvests of
far-off seas; but in death they lay side by side, their voyages done,
their bones mingling in the New England earth.
Frank Rignold too was a son of Bridgeport, and the sea which ran
in that blood for generations bade him in manhood to rise and follow
it. He had gone into the engine-room, and at thirty was the chief
engineer of a cargo boat running to South American ports. He was a
fine-looking man with earnest grey eyes; a reader, a student, an
observer; self-taught in Spanish, Latin, and French; a grave, quiet
gentlemanly man, whose rare smile seemed to light his whole face, and
who in his voyages South had caught something of Spanish grace and
courtliness. He returned as regularly to Bridgeport as his ship did to
New York; and when he stepped off the train his eager steps took him
first to the Fenacres' house, his hands never empty of some little
present for his sweetheart.
On the occasion of our story his step was more buoyant than ever
and his heart beat high with hope, for she had cried the last time he
went away, and though no word of love had yet been spoken between
them, he was conscious of her increasing inclination for him and her
increasing dependence. Having already won so much it seemed as though
his passionate devotion could not fail to turn the scale and bring her
to that admission he felt it was on her lips to make. So he strode
through the narrow streets, telling himself a fairy story of how it
all might be, with a little house of their own and she waiting for him
on the wharf when his ship made fast; a story that never grew stale in
the repetition, but which, please God, would come true in the end,
with Florence his wife, and all his doubtings and heart-aches over.
Florence opened the door for him herself and gave a little cry of
surprise and welcome as they shook hands, for in all their
acquaintance there had never been a kiss between them. It was all he
could do not to catch her in his arms, for as she smiled up at him, so
radiant and beautiful and happy, it seemed as if it were his right and
that he had been a fool to have ever questioned her love for him. He
followed her into the sitting-room, laughing like a child with
pleasure and thrilled through and through with the sound of her voice
and the touch of her hand and the vague, subtle perfume of her whole
being. His laughter died away, however, as he saw what the room
contained. Over the chairs, over the sofa, over the table, in the
stacked and open pasteboard boxes on the floor, were dresses and
evening gowns outspread with the profusion of a splendid shop, and
even to his unpractised eyes, costly and magnificent beyond anything
he had ever seen before. Florence swept an opera cloak from a chair
and made him sit down, watching him the while with a charming gaiety
and excitement. At such a moment it seemed to him positively
"Florence," he said, almost with a gasp, "does this mean that you
are going to be—" He stopped short. He could not say that word.
"I'm never going to marry anybody," she returned.
"But—" he began again.
"Then you haven't heard!" she cried, clasping her hands. "Oh,
Frank, you haven't heard!"
"I have only just got back," he said.
"I've been left heaps of money," she exclaimed, "from my uncle,
you know, the one that treated father so badly and tricked him out of
the old manor farm. I hardly knew he existed till he died. And it's
not only a lot, Frank, but it's millions!"
He repeated the word with a kind of groan.
"They are probating the will for six," she went on, not noticing
his agitation, "but I'm sure the lawyers are making it as low as they
can for the taxes. And it's the most splendid kind of property—rows
of houses in the heart of New York and big Broadway shops and
skyscrapers! Frank, do you realise I own two office buildings twenty
Frank tried to congratulate her on her wonderful good fortune, but
it was like a voice from the grave and he could not affect to be glad
at the death-knell of all his hopes.
"That lets me out," he said.
"My poor Frank, you never were in," she said, regarding him with
great kindness and compassion. "I know you are disappointed, but you
are too much a man to be unjust to me."
"Oh, I haven't the right to say a word!" he exclaimed quickly. "On
your side it was friends and nothing more. I always understood that,
He was shocked at her almost imperceptible sigh of relief.
"Of course, this changes everything," she said.
"Yet it would have come if it hadn't been for this," he said. "You
were getting to like me better and better. You cried when I last went
away. Yes, it would have come, Florence," he repeated, looking at her
"I suppose it would, Frank," she said.
"Oh, Florence!" he exclaimed, and could not go on lest his voice
should betray him.
"And we should have lived in a poky little house," she said, "and
you would have been to sea three-quarters of the time, leaving me to
eat my heart out as mother did for father—and it would have been a
horrible, dreadful, irrevocable mistake."
"I didn't have to go to sea," he said, snatching at this crumb of
hope. "There are other jobs than ships. Why, only last trip I was
offered a refrigerating plant in Chicago!"
He did not tell her it bore a salary of four hundred dollars a
month and that he had meant to lay it at her feet that morning. In
the light of her millions that sum, so considerable an hour before,
had suddenly shrunk to nothing. How puny and pitiful it seemed in the
contrast. He had a sense that everything had shrunk to nothing—his
life, his hopes, his future.
"I know you think I am cruel," she said, in the same calm,
considerate tone she had used throughout. "But I never gave you any
encouragement, Frank—not in the way you wanted or expected. You were
the only person I knew who was the least bit cultivated and nice and
travelled and out of the commonplace. I can't tell you how much you
brightened my life here, or how glad I was when you came or how sorry
I was when you went away—but it wasn't love, Frank—not the love you
wished for or the love I feel I have the power to give."
"Why did you let me go on then?" he broke out, "I getting deeper
and deeper into it and you knowing all the time it never could come
to anything? Just because no words were said, did that make you blind?
If you were such a friend of mine as you said you were, wouldn't it
have been kinder to have shown me the door and tell me straight out it
was hopeless and impossible? Oh, Florence, you took my love when you
wanted it, like a person getting warm at a fire, and now when you
don't need it any longer you tell me quite unconcernedly that it is
all over between us!"
"It would sound so heartless to tell you the real truth, Frank,"
"Oh, let me hear it!" he said. "I'm desperate enough for anything
—even for that, I suppose."
"I knew it would end the way you wanted it, Frank," she said. "You
were getting to mean more and more to me. I did not love you exactly
and I did not worry a particle when you were away, but I sort of
acquiesced in what seemed to be the inevitable. I know I am horribly
to blame, but I took it for granted we'd drift on and on—and this
time, if you had asked me, I had made up my mind to say 'yes.'"
She said this last word in almost a whisper, frightened at the
sight of Frank's pale face. She ran over to him, and throwing her
arms around his neck kissed him again and again.
"We'll always be friends, Frank," she said. "Always, always!"
He made no movement to return her caresses. Her kisses humiliated
him to the quick. He pushed her away from him, and when he spoke it
was with dignity and gentleness.
"I was wrong to reproach you," he said. "I can appreciate what a
difference all this money makes to you. It has lifted you into
another world—a world where I cannot hope to follow you, but I can
be man enough to say that I understand—that I acquiesce— without
"I never liked you so well as I do now, Frank," she said.
"We will say nothing more about it," he said. "I couldn't blame
you because you don't love me, could I? I ought rather instead to
thank you—thank you for so much you have given me these two years
past, your friendship, your intimacy, your trust. That it all came to
nothing was neither your fault nor mine. It was your uncle's for dying
and leaving you sky-scrapers!"
They both laughed at this, and Frank, now apparently quite himself
again, brought forth his presents: a large box of candy, a
beautifully bound little volume of Pierre Loti, and a lace collar he
had picked up at Buenos Ayres. This last seemed a trifling piece of
finery in the midst of all those dresses, though he had paid sixteen
dollars for it and had counted it cheap at the price. Florence
received it with exaggerated gratitude, genuine enough in one way, for
she was touched; but, in spite of herself, her altered fortunes and
the memory of those great New York shops, where she had ordered right
and left, made the bit of lace seem common and scarce worth
possessing. Even as she thanked him she was mentally presenting it to
one of the poor Miss Browns who sang in the church choir.
They spent an hour in talking together, eluding on either side any
further reference to the subject most in their thoughts and finding
safety in books and the little gossip of the place and the news of the
day. It might have been an ordinary call, though Frank, as a special
favour, was allowed to smoke a cigar, and there was a strained look in
Florence's face that gave the lie to her previous professions of
indifference. She knew she was violating her own heart, but her
character was already corrupting under the breath of wealth, and her
head was turned with dreams of social conquests and of a great and
splendid match in the roseate future. She kept telling herself how
lucky it was that the money had not come too late, and wondering at
the same time whether she would ever again meet a man who had such a
compelling charm for her as Frank Rignold, and whose mellow voice
could move her to the depths. At last, after a decent interval, Frank
said he would have to leave, and she accompanied him to the door,
where he begged her to remember him to her mother and added something
congratulatory about the great good fortune that had befallen her.
"And now good-bye," he said.
"But you will come back, Frank?" she exclaimed anxiously.
"Oh, no!" he said. "I couldn't, Florence, I couldn't."
"I cannot let you go like this," she protested. "Really I can't,
Frank. I won't!"
"I don't see very well how you can help it," he said.
"Surely my wish has still some weight with you," she said.
"Florence," he returned, holding her hand very tight, "you must
not think it pique on my part or anything so petty and unworthy; but
I'd rather stop right here than endure the pain of seeing you get more
and more indifferent to me. It is bound to come, of course, and it
would be less cruel this way than the other."
"You never can have loved me!" she exclaimed. "Didn't I say I
wanted to be friends? Didn't I kiss you?"
"Yes," he said slowly, "as you might a child, to comfort him for a
broken toy. Florence," he went on, "I have wanted you for the last
two years and now I have lost you. I must face up to that. I must
meet it with what fortitude I can. But I cannot bear to feel that
every time I come you will like me less; that others will crowd me
out and take my place; that the gulf will widen and widen until at
last it is impassable. I am going while you still love me a little
and will miss me. Good-bye!"
She leaned her head on his shoulder and sobbed. She had but to say
one word to keep him, and yet she would not say it. Her heart seemed
broken in her breast, and yet she let him go, sustained in her resolve
by the thought of her great fortune and of the wonderful days to come.
"Good-bye," she said, and stood looking after him as he walked
"Oh, that money, I hate it!" she exclaimed to herself as she went
in. "I wish he had never left it to me. I didn't want it or expect it
or anything, and I should have been happy, oh, so happy!" Then, with a
pang, she recalled the refrigerating plant, and the life so quiet and
poor and simple and sweet that she and Frank would have led had not
her millions come between them.
It was inspiriting to repeat those two words to herself. It
strengthened her resolve and made her feel how wise she had been to
break with Frank. Perhaps, after all, it were better for him not to
come back. He was right about the gulf between them, and even since
his departure it was widening appreciably.
Then she realised what all rich people realise sooner or later.
"I don't own all that money," she said to herself. "IT OWNS ME!"
And with that she went indoors and cried part of the forenoon and
spent the rest of it in trying on her new clothes.
Wealth, if it did not bring happiness, at least brought some
It was fully a year before Frank saw her again; a long year to
him, soberly passed in his shipboard duties, with recurring weeks
ashore at New York and Buenos Ayres. He had grown more reserved and
silent than before; fonder of his books; keener in his taste for
abstract science. He avoided his old friends and made no new ones. The
world seemed to be passing him while he stood still. He wondered how
others could laugh when his own heart was so heavy, and he preferred
to go his own way, solitary and unnoticed, taking an increasing
pleasure in his isolation. He continued to write to Bridgeport, for
there were a few old friends whom he could not disregard altogether,
though he made his letters as infrequent as he could and as short. In
return he was kept informed of Florence's movements; of the sensation
she made everywhere; of the great people who had taken her under their
wing; of her rumoured engagements; of her triumphs in Paris and
London; of her yachts and horses and splendour and beauty. His
correspondents showed an artless pride in the recital. It was becoming
their only claim to consideration that they knew Florence Fenacre. Her
dazzling life reflected a sort of glory upon themselves, and their
letters ran endlessly on the same theme. It was all a modern fairy
tale, and they fairly bubbled with satisfaction to think that they
knew the fairy princess!
Frank read it all with exasperation. It tormented him to even hear
her name; to be reminded of her in any way; to realise that she was
as much alive as he himself, and not the phantom he would have
preferred to keep her in his memory. Yet he was inconsistent enough
to rage when a letter came that brought no news of her. He would tear
it into pieces and throw it out of his cabin window. The fools, why
couldn't they tell him what he wanted to know! He would carry his
ill-humour into the engine-room and revenge himself on fate and the
loss of the woman he loved by a harsh criticism of his subordinates. A
defective pump or a troublesome valve would set his temper flaming;
and then, overcome at his own injustice, he would go to the other
extreme; and, roundly blaming himself, would slap some sullen
artificer on the back and tell him that it was all a joke. His men,
amongst themselves, called him a wild cracked devil, and it was the
tattle of the ship that he drank hard in secret. They knew something
was wrong with him, and fastened on the likeliest cause. Others said
out boldly that the chief engineer was going crazy.
One morning as they were running up the Sound, homeward-bound,
they passed a large steam yacht at anchor. Frank happened to be on
deck at the time, and he joined with the rest in the little chorus of
admiration that went up at the sight of her.
"That's the Minnehaha," said the second mate. "She belongs to the
beautiful heiress, Miss Fenacre!"
"Ready for a Mediterranean cruise," said the purser, who had been
reading one of the newspapers the pilot had brought aboard.
Frank heard these two remarks in silence. The sun, to him, seemed
to stop shining. The morning that had been so bright and pleasant all
at once overcame him with disgust. The might-have-been took him by the
throat. He descended into the engine-room to hide his dejected face in
the heated oily atmosphere below; and seating himself on a tool-chest
he watched, with hardly seeing eyes, the ponderous movement of his
It was the anodyne for his troubles, to feel the vibration of the
engines and hear the rumble and hiss of the jacketed cylinders. It
always comforted him; he found companionship in the mighty thing he
controlled; he looked at the trembling needle in the gauge, and
instinctively noted the pressure as he thought of the trim smart
vessel at anchor and of his dear one on the eve of parting. He
wondered whether they would ever pass again, he and she, in all the
years to come.
The thought of the yacht haunted him all that day. He took a
sudden revulsion against the grinding routine of his own life. It
came over him like a new discovery, that he was tired of South
America, tired of his ship, tired of everything. He contrasted his
own voyages in and out, from the same place to the same place, up and
down, up and down, as regular as the swing of a pendulum with that gay
wanderer of the raking masts who was free to roam the world. It came
over him with an insistence that he, too, would like to roam the
world, and see strange places and old marble palaces with steps
descending into the blue sea water, and islands with precipices and
beaches and palm trees.
Almost awed at his own presumption he sat down and wrote to Miss
It was a short note, formally addressed, begging her for a
position in the engine-room staff. He knew, he said, that the quota
was probably made up, and that he could not hope for an important
place. But if she would take him as a first-class artificer he would
be more than grateful, and ventured on the little pleasantry that even
if he had to be squeezed in as a supernumerary he was confident he
could save her his pay and keep a good many times over.
He got an answer a couple of days later, addressed from a
fashionable New York hotel and granting him an interview. She called
him "dear Frank," and signed herself "ever yours," and said that of
course she would give him anything he wanted, only that she would
prefer to talk it over first.
He put on his best clothes and went to see her, being shown into a
large suite on the second floor, where he had to wait an hour in a
lofty anteroom with no other company but a statue of Pocahontas. He
was oppressed by the gorgeousness of the surroundings—by the frowning
pictures, the gilt furniture, the onyx-topped tables, the vases, the
mirrors, the ornate clocks. He was in a fever of expectation, and
could not fight down his growing timidity. He had not seen Florence
for a year, and his heart would have been as much in his mouth had the
meeting been set in the old brick house at Bridgeport. At least he
said so to himself, not caring to confess that he was daunted by the
magnificence of the apartment.
At length the door opened and she came in. She stood for a moment
with her hand on the knob and looked at him; then she came over to
him with a little rush and took his outstretched hand. He had
forgotten how beautiful she was, or probably he had never really
known, as he had never beheld her before in one of those wonderful
French creations that cost each one a fortune. He stumbled over his
words of greeting, and his hand trembled as he held hers.
"Oh, Frank," she said, noticing his agitation. "Are you still
silly enough to care?"
"I am afraid I do, Florence," he said, blushing like a boy at her
unexpected question. "What's the good of asking me that?"
"You are looking handsome, Frank," she ran on. "I am proud of you.
You have the nicest hair of any man I know!"
"I daren't say how stunning you look, Florence," he returned.
"Frank," she said, slowly, fixing her lustrous eyes on his face,
"you usen't to be so grave. ... I don't think you have smiled much
lately ... you are changed."
He bore her scrutiny with silence.
"Poor boy!" she exclaimed, impulsively taking his hand. "I'm the
most heartless creature in the whole world. Do you know, Frank,
though I look so nice and girlish, I am really a brute; and when I
die I am sure to go to hell."
"I hope not," he said, smiling.
"Oh, but I know!" she cried. "All I ever do is to make people
"Perhaps it's the people's fault, for—for loving you, Florence,"
"It's awfully exciting to see you again," she went on. "You came
within an ace of being my husband. I might have belonged to you and
counted your washing. It's queer, isn't it? Thrilling!"
"Why do you bring all that up, Florence?" he said. "It's done.
It's over. I—I would rather not speak of it."
"But it was such an awfully near thing, Frank," she persisted. "I
had made up my mind to take you, you know. I had even looked over my
poor little clothes and had drawn a hundred dollars out of the savings
"You don't take much account of a hundred dollars now," he
returned, trying to smile.
"I know you don't want to talk about it," she said, "but I do. I
love to play with emotions. I suppose it's a habit, like any other,"
she continued, "and it grows on one like opium or morphine. That's why
I'll go to hell, Frank. It wasn't that way at all when you used to
know me. I think I must have been nice then, and really worth loving!"
"Oh, yes!" he returned miserably. "Oh, yes!"
"I have a whole series of the most complicated emotions about
you," she said, "only a lot of them are unexploded, like fire
crackers before they are touched off. If I lost all my money I'd be
in a panic till you came and took me; but as long as I have it I don't
think of you more than once a week. Yet, do you know, Frank, if you
got a sweetheart, I believe I'd scratch her eyes out. It's rather fine
of me to tell you all that," she went on, with a smile, "for I'm
giving you the key of the combination, and you might take advantage of
"Florence," he said, "I thought at first you were just laughing at
me, but I see that you are right. You are heartless. You oughtn't to
talk like that."
She looked a shade put out.
"Well, Frank, it's the truth, anyway," she said, "and in the old
days we were always such sticklers for the truth—for sincerity, you
"I have no business to correct you," he said humbly. "I resigned
all my pretensions that morning in the old house."
"Well, so long as you love me still!" she exclaimed, with a little
mocking laugh. "That's the great thing, isn't it? I mean for me, of
course. I am greedy for love. It makes me feel so safe and comfortable
to think there are whole rows of men that love me. When you have a
great fortune you begin to appreciate the things that money cannot
"Oh, your money!" he said. That word in her mouth always stung
"Well, you ought to hate my money," she remarked cheerfully. "It
queered you, didn't it? And then all rich people are detestable,
anyway—selfish to the core, and horrid. Do you know that sometimes
when I have flirted awfully with a man at a dinner or somewhere, and
the next day he telephones—and the telephone is in the next
room—I've just said: 'Oh, bother! tell him I'm out,' rather than take
the trouble to get up from my chair. And a nice man, too!"
"I thought I might be treated the same way," he said.
"Then you thought wrong, Frank," she returned, with a sudden
change from her tone of flippancy and lightness. "I haven't sunk
quite as low as that, you know. I meant other people—I didn't mean
you, Frank, dear."
This was said with such a little ring of kindness that Frank was
"Then the old days still count for something?" he said.
"Oh, yes!" she said.
"But not enough to hurt?" he ventured.
"Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't," she returned. "It
depends on how good a time I'm having. But I hate to think I'm weak
and selfish and vain, and that the only person I really care for is
myself. I value my self-esteem, and it often gets an awful jar.
Sometimes I feel like a girl that has run away from home— diamonds
and dyed hair, you know—and then wakes up at night and cries to think
of what a price she has paid for all her fine things!" Florence waved
her hand towards the alabaster statue of Pocahontas, with a little
ripple of self-disdain. She was in a strange humour, and beneath the
surface of her apparent gaiety there ran an undercurrent of bitterness
and contempt for herself. Her eyes were unusually brilliant, and her
cheeks were pink enough to have been rouged. The sight of her old
lover had stirred many memories in her bosom.
"And what about my job, Florence?" he said, changing the
conversation. "I've caught the yachting idea, too. Can it be
"Oh, I want to talk to you about that," she said.
"Well, go on," he said, as she hesitated.
"I am so afraid of hurting your feelings, Frank," she said with a
"My feelings are probably tougher than you think," he returned.
"You will think so badly of me," she said. "You will be
"It sounds as though you wanted to engage me for your butler," he
said. Then, as she still withheld the words on her lips, he went on:
"Don't be uneasy about saying it, Florence. If it's impossible—why,
that's the end of it, of course, and no harm done."
"I want you to come," she said simply.
"Then, what's the trouble?" he demanded, getting more and more
mystified. "I don't mind being an artificer the least bit. I like to
work with my hands. I'm a good mechanic, and I like it."
"I want you for my chief engineer," she said.
This was news, indeed. Frank's face betrayed his keen pleasure. He
had never soared to the heights of asking or expecting THAT.
"I had to dismiss the last one," she went on. "That's the reason
why I'm still here, and not two days out, as I had expected. He
locked himself in his cabin and shot at people through the door, and
told awful lies to the newspapers."
"If it's anything about my qualifications," he said, thinking he
had found the reason of her backwardness, "I don't fancy I'll have
any trouble to satisfy you. I don't want to toot my own horn,
Florence, but really, you know, I am rated a first-class man. I'll
prove that by my certificates and all that, or give me two weeks'
trial, and see for yourself."
"Oh, it isn't that," she said.
"Then, what is it?" he broke out. "Only the other day they offered
me a Western Ocean liner, and, if you like, I'll send you the letter.
If I am good enough for a big passenger ship, I guess I can run the
Minnehaha to please you!"
"Frank," she returned, "it is not a question of your competency at
all. You know very well I'd trust my life to you, blindfold. It's
—it's the social side, the old affair between us, the first names
and all that kind of thing."
"Oh, I see!" he said blankly.
"As an officer on my ship," she said, "you could easily put
yourself and me in a difficult position. In a way, we'll really be
further apart than if you were in South America and I in Monte Carlo,
for, though we'd always be good friends, and all that, the formalities
would have to be observed. Now, I have offended you?" she added,
putting out her hand appealingly.
"I think you might have known me better, Florence," he returned.
"I am not offended—what right have I to be offended—only a little
hurt, perhaps, to think that you could doubt me for a single moment in
such a matter. I understand very well, and appreciate the need for it.
Did you expect me to call you Florence on the quarterdeck of your own
vessel, and presume on our old friendship to embarrass you and set
people talking? Good Heavens, what do you take me for?"
"Don't be angry with me, Frank," she pleaded. "It had to be said,
you know. I wanted you so much to come; I wanted to share my
beautiful vessel with you; and yet I dreaded any kind of a false
"I shall treat you precisely as I would any owner of any ship I
sailed on," he said. "That is, with respect and always preserving my
distance. I will never address you first except to say good- morning
and good-evening, and will show no concern if you do not speak to me
for days on end."
"Oh, Frank, you are an angel!" she cried.
"No," he returned, "only—as far as I can—a gentleman, Miss
"We needn't begin now, Frank," she exclaimed, almost with
"Am I in your service?" he asked.
"From to-day," she answered, "and I will give you a note to
"Then you will be Miss Fenacre to me from now on," he said.
"You must say good-bye to Florence first," she said, smiling. "You
may kiss my hand," she said, as she gave it to him. "You used to do
it so gallantly in the old days—such a Spaniard that you are,
Frank—and I liked it so much!"
He did so, and for the first time in his life with a kind of
"I hope we are not both of us making a terrible mistake,
Florence," he said.
"Oh, I couldn't want a better chief!" she said, "and, as for you,
it's the wisest thing you ever did. It's me, after all, who is making
the sacrifice, for, in a month or two, all the gilt will wear off, and
you will see me as I really am. You will find it very disillusioning
to go to sea with your divinity," she added. "You will discover she is
a very flesh-and-blood affair, after all, Frank, and not worth the tip
of your little finger."
"I had a good many opportunities of judging before," he replied,
"and the more I knew her the more I loved her."
"Well, I am changed now," she said. "I suppose all the bad has
come to the surface since—like the slag when they melt iron and skim
it off with dippers—only with me there's nobody to dip. If I
am astounded at the difference, what do you suppose you'll be?"
"There never could be any difference to me," he said.
"That's the only kind of love worth talking about," she said,
going to the window and looking out.
For a while neither of them spoke. Frank rose and stood with his
hat in his hand, waiting to take his departure. Florence turned, and
going to an escritoire sat down and wrote a few lines on a card.
"Present this to Captain Landry," she said, "and, now, my dear
chief engineer, I will give you your conge."
He thanked her, and put the card carefully in his pocketbook.
"What a farce it all is, Frank!" she broke out. "There's something
wrong in a system that gives a girl millions of dollars to do just as
she likes with. I don't care what they say to the contrary; I believe
women were meant to belong to men, to live in semi-slavery and do what
they are told, to bring up children and travel with the pots and pans,
and find their only reward in pleasing their husbands."
"I wouldn't care to pass an opinion," said Frank. "Some of them
are happy that way, no doubt."
"What does anybody want except to be happy?" she continued, in the
same strain of resentment. "Isn't that what all are trying for as
hard as they can? I'd like to go out in the street and stop people as
they came along and ask them, the one after the other: 'Would you tell
me if you are happy?' And the one that said 'yes' I'd give a hundred
"As like as not it would be some shabby fellow with no overcoat,"
"Now you can go away!" she exclaimed suddenly. "I don't know
what's the matter with me, Frank. I think I'm going to cry! Go, go!"
she cried imperiously, as he still stood there.
Frank bowed and obeyed, and his last glimpse, as he closed the
door, was of her at the window, looking down disconsolately into the
Spring was well begun when the Minnehaha sailed for Europe to take
her place in the mimic fleets that were already assembling. As like
seeks like, so the long, swift white steamer headed like a bird for
her faraway companions, and arrived amongst them with colours flying,
and her guns roaring out salutes. By herself she was greedy for every
pound of steam and raced her engines as though speed were a matter of
life and death; but, once in company, she was content to lag with the
slowest, and suit her own pace to the stately progress of the
schooners and cutters that moved by the wind alone. She found friends
amongst all nations, and, in that cosmopolitan society of ships,
dipped her flag to those of England, France, Holland, Belgium, and
It was a wonderful life of freedom and gaiety. A great yacht
carries her own letter of introduction, and is accorded everywhere
the courtesies of a man-of-war, to whom, in a sense, she is a sister.
Official visits are paid and returned; naval punctilio reigns;
invitations are lavished from every side. There is, besides, a
freemasonry amongst those splendid wanderers of the sea, a
transcendent Bohemianism, that puts them nearly all upon a common
footing. A holiday spirit is in the air, and kings and princes who at
home are hidden within walls of triple brass, here unbend like
children out of school, and make friends and gossip about their
neighbours and show off their engine-rooms and their ice plant and
some new idea in patent boat davits after the manner of very ordinary
mortals. Not of course that kings and princes predominate, but the
same spirit prevailed with those who on shore held their heads very
high and practised a jealous exclusiveness. Amongst them all Florence
Fenacre was a favourite of favourites. Young, beautiful, and the
mistress of a noble fortune, there was everything to cast a glamour
about this charming American who had come out of the unknown to take
all hearts by storm.
Her haziness about distinctions of rank filled these Europeans
with an amused amazement. There was to them something quite royal in
her naivety and lack of awe; in her high spirit, her vivacity, and her
absolute disregard of those who failed to please her. She convulsed
one personage by describing another as "that tiresome old man who's
really too disreputable to have tagging around me any longer"; and had
a quarrel and a making up with a reigning duke about a lighter of coal
that their respective crews had come to blows over. Everybody adored
her, and she seldom put to sea without a love-sick yacht in her wake.
Of course, here as elsewhere, every phase of human character was
displayed, and most conspicuous of all amongst the evil was the
determination of many to win Florence's millions for themselves. Amid
that noble concourse of vessels, every one of which stood for a
princely income, there were adventurers as needy and as hungry as any
sharper in the streets of New York. There is an aristocratic poverty,
none the less real because three noughts must be added to all the
figures, that first surprised and then disgusted the pretty American.
Her first awakening to the fact was when, as a special favour, she
sold her best steam launch to a French marquise at the price it had
cost her. Though that lady was very profuse with little pink notes and
could purr over Florence by the hour, her signature on a cheque was
never forthcoming, and our heroine had a fit of fury to think of
having been so deceived.
"It was a downright confidence trick," she burst out to the comte
de Souvary, firing up afresh with the memory of her wrongs. "I loved
my launch. It was a beauty. It never went dotty at the time you needed
it most and it was a vertical inverted triple-expansion direct-acting
propeller!' (Florence could always rattle off technical details and
showed her Americanism in her catalogue-like fluency in this respect.)
"And I miss it and I want it back, and the horrid old woman never
means to pay me a penny!"
"Oh, my child!" said the count, "she never pays anybody ze penny.
She is a stone from which one looks in vain for blood. Your launch
is—what do you call it in ze Far Vest—a goner!"
"But she's descended from Charlemagne," cried Florence. "She has
the entree to all the courts. She ought to be exposed for stealing my
"What does anybody do when he is robbed?" said the count
philosophically. He could afford to be philosophical: it wasn't HIS
vertical inverted triple-expansion direct-acting propeller. "Smile and
be more careful ze next time," he went on. "The marquise's reputation
is international for what is charitably called her eccentricity."
"In America they put people in jail for that kind of
eccentricity!" exclaimed Florence.
"Oh, the best way in Europe is money-with-order," said the count,
"what I remember once a friend seeing in that great country of which
you are ze ornament—in God we trust: all others cash!"
"Well, it's a shame," said Florence, "and if I ever get the chance
of a dark night I'll ram her with the Minnehaha!"
Florence's mother, a dear little old lady who did tatting and read
the Christian Herald, was always the particular target of the
fortune-hunters who pursued her daughter. It seemed such a brilliant
idea to capture the mother first as the preparatory step of getting
into the good graces of the heiress; and the old lady, who was one of
the most guileless of her sex, never failed to fall into the trap and
take the attentions all in earnest. Comte de Souvary used to say that
if you wished to find the wickedest men in Europe you had only to cast
your eyes in the direction of Florence's mother; and she would be
trotted off to church and driven in automobiles and lunched in casinos
by the most notorious and unprincipled scapegraces of the Old World.
Florence, who, like all heiresses, had developed a positive
instinct for the men who meant her mischief, was always delighted at
the repeated captures of the old lady; and it was an endless
entertainment to her when her mother was induced to champion the
cause of some aristocratic ne'er-do-well.
"But, Mamma," she would say, "I hate to call your friends names,
but really he's a perfect scamp, and underneath all his fine manners
he is no better than a wolf ravening for rich young lambs!"
"Oh, Florence, how can you be so uncharitable!" her mother would
retort. "If you could only hear the way he speaks of his mother and
his ruined life, and how he is trying to be a better man for your
"Always the same old story," said Florence. "It's wonderful the
good I do just sailing around and radiating moral influence. The
count says I ought to get a medal from the government with my profile
on one side and a composite picture of my admirers on the other! And
if I do, Mamsey, I'll give it to you to keep!"
Frank Rignold was sometimes tempted to curse the day that had ever
brought him aboard the Minnehaha. To be a silent spectator of
gaieties and festivities he could not share; to be condemned to stand
aloof while he saw the woman he loved petted and sought after by men
of exalted position—what could be imagined more detestable to a lover
without hope, without the shadow of a claim, with nothing to look
forward to except the inevitable day when a luckier fellow would carry
her off before his eyes. He moped in secret and often spent hours
locked in his cabin, sitting with his face in his hands, a prey to the
bitterest melancholy and dejection. In public, however, he always bore
himself unflinchingly, and was too proud a man and too innately a
gentleman to allow his face to be read even by her. It was incumbent
on him, so long as he drew her pay and wore her uniform, to act in all
respects the part he was cast to play; and no one could have guessed,
except perhaps the girl herself, that he had any other thought save to
do his duty cheerfully and well.
Captain Landry sat in the saloon at the bottom of the table,
Florence herself taking the head; but the other officers of the ship
had a cosey messroom of their own, presided over by Frank Rignold as
the officer second in rank on board. Thus whole days might pass with
no further exchange between himself and Florence than the customary
good-morning when they happened to meet on deck. Except on the
business of the ship it was tacitly understood that no officer should
speak to her without being first addressed. The discipline of a
man-of-war prevailed; everything went forward with stereotyped
precision and formality; the officers were supposed to comport
themselves with impassivity and self- effacement. Florence had no more
need of being conscious of their presence than if they had been so
Her life and theirs offered a strange contrast. She in her little
court of idlers and merry-makers; they, the grave men who were
answerable for her safety, the exponents of a rigid routine, to whom
the clang of the bells brought recurring duties and the exercise of
their professional knowledge. To her, yachting was a play: to them, a
"I often remark your chief engineer," said the comte de Souvary to
Florence. "A handsome man, with an air at once sad and noble—one of
zoze extraordinary Americans who keep for their machines the ardour we
Europeans lavish on the women we love—and whose spirits when zey die
turn without doubt into petrole or electricity."
"I have known Mr. Rignold ever since I was a child," said
Florence, pleased to hear Frank praised. "I regard him as one of my
best and dearest friends."
"The more to his credit," said the count, astonished. "Many in
such a galere would prove themselves presumptuous and troublesome."
"He is almost too much the other way," said Florence, with a sigh.
"Ah, that appeals to me!" said the count. "I should be such
anozzer in his place. Proud, silent, unobtrusive, who gives dignity
to what otherwise would be a false position."
"I came very near being his wife once," said Florence, impelled,
she hardly knew why, to make the confession.
The count was thunderstruck.
"His wife!" he exclaimed.
"Before I was rich, you know," explained Florence. "A million
years ago it seems now, when I lived in a little town and was a
"Anozzer romance of the Far Vest!" cried the count, to whom this
term embraced the entire continent from Maine to San Francisco.
Florence was curiously capricious in her treatment of Frank
Rignold. Often she would neglect him for weeks together, and then, in
a sort of revulsion, would go almost to the other extreme. Sometimes
at night, when he would be pacing the deck, she would come and take
his arm and call him Frank under her breath and ask him if he still
loved her; and in a manner half tender, half mocking, would play on
his feelings with a deliberate enjoyment of the pain she inflicted.
Her greatest power of torment was her frankness. She would talk over
her proposals; weigh one against the other; revel in her self-analysis
and solemnly ask Frank his opinion on this or that part of her
character. She talked with equal freedom of her regard for himself,
and was almost brutal in confessing how hard it was to hold herself
"I think I must be awfully wicked, Frank," she said to him once.
"I love you so dearly, and yet I wouldn't marry you for anything!"
And then she ran on as to whether she ought to take Souvary and live
in Paris or Lord Comyngs and choose London. "It's so hard to decide,"
she said, "and it's so important, because one couldn't change one's
"Not very well," said Frank.
"You mustn't grind your teeth so loud," she said. "It's
"I wish you would talk about something else or go away," he said,
goaded out of his usual politeness.
"Oh, I love my little stolen tete-a-tetes with you!" she
exclaimed. "All those other men are used up, emotionally speaking.
The count would turn a neat phrase even if he were to blow his brains
out the next minute. They think they are splendidly cool, but it only
means that they have exhausted all their powers of sensation. You are
delightfully primitive and unspoiled, and then I suppose it is natural
to like a fellow-countryman best, isn't it? Now, honest—have you
found any girls over here you like as well as me?"
"I haven't tried to find any," said Frank.
"You aren't a bit disillusioned, are you?" she said. "You simply
shut your eyes and go it blind. A woman likes that in a man. It's
what love ought to be. It's silly of me to throw it away."
"Perhaps it is, Florence," he said. "Who knows but what some day
you may regret it?"
"I often think of that," she returned. "I am afraid all the good
part of me loves you, and all the bad loves the counts and dukes and
earls, you know. And the good is almost drowned in all the rest, like
vegetables in vegetable soup."
She excelled in giving such little dampers to sentiment, and
laughed heartily at Frank's discomfiture.
"You can be awfully cruel," he said. "I wonder you can be so
beautiful when you can think such things and say them. You treat
hearts like toys and laugh when you break them."
"Well, there's one thing, Frank," she said seriously. "I have
never pretended to you or tried to appear better than I am; and you
are the only man I can say that to and not lie!"
The comte de Souvary, towards whom Florence betrayed an
inclination that seemed at times to deserve a warmer word, was a
French gentleman nearing forty. He was a man of distinguished
appearance, with all the gaiety, grace, and charm that, in spite our
popular impression to the contrary, are not seldom found amongst the
nobles of his country. His undoubted wealth and position redeemed his
suit from any appearance of being inspired by a mercenary motive.
Indeed, he was accustomed himself to be pursued, and Florence and he
recognised in each other a fellowship of persecution.
"We are ze Pale Faces," he would say, "and ze ozzers zey are
Indians closing in from every corner of ze Far Vest for our scalps!"
He was, in many ways, the most accomplished man that Florence had
ever known. He was a violinist, a singer, a poet, and yet these were
but a part of his various gifts; for in everything out of doors he was
no less a master and took the first place as though by right. He was
the embodiment of everything daring and manly; it seemed natural for
him to excel; he simply did not know what fear was. He was always
ready to smile and turn a little joke, whether speeding in his
automobile at a breakneck pace or ballooning above the clouds in
search of what was to him the breath of life: "ze sensation." He could
never see a new form of "ze sensation" without running for it like a
child for a new toy. His whole attitude towards the world was that of
a furious curiosity. He could not bear to leave it, he said, until all
he had learned how all the wheels went round. He had stood on the
Matterhorn. He had driven the Sud express. He had exhausted lions and
tigers. In moods of depression he would threaten to follow Andree to
the pole and figure out his plans on the back of an envelope.
"Magnificent!" he would cry, growing instantly cheerful at the
prospect. "Think of ze sensation!"
He spoke English fluently, though shaky on the TH and the W, and
it was first hand and not mentally translated. His pronunciation of
Far West, two words that were constantly on his lips, was an endless
entertainment to Florence, and out of a sense of humour she forebore
to correct him. It was typical, indeed, of his ignorance of everything
American. Europe was at his fingers' ends; there was not a country in
it he was not familiar with; intimately familiar, knowing much of what
went on behind the scenes, and the lives and characters of the men,
and not less the women, who shaped national policies and held the
steering-wheels of state.
"Muravief would never do that," he would say. "He is
constitutionally inert, and his imagination has carried him through
too many unfought wars for him to throw down the gage now. He smokes
cigarettes and dreams of endless peace. I had many talks with him last
year and found him impatient of any subject but the redemption of the
But his mind had never crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He still
thought that the Civil War had been between North and South America.
To him the United States was a vague region peopled with miners,
pork-packers, and Indians; a jumble of factories, forests, and
red-shirted men digging for gold, all of it fantastically seen through
the medium of Buffalo Bill's show. It was a constant wonder to him
that such conditions had been able to produce a woman like Florence
"You are the flower of ze prairie," he would say, "an atavism of
type, harking back a dozen generations to aristocratic progenitors,
having nothing in common with the Pathfinder your Papa!"
"He wasn't a pathfinder," said Florence, "he was a whaler
But this to the count seemed only the more remarkable. He raised
the fabric of a fresh romance on the instant, especially (on Florence
telling him more about her forebears) when he began to mix up the
Pilgrim Fathers, the Revolutionary War, and the Alabama in one brisk
panorama of his ever dear "Far Vest"!
Florence's acquaintance with the comte de Souvary went back to
Majorca, where, in the course of one of those sudden blows, so common
on the Mediterranean, their respective yachts had fled for shelter.
His own was a large auxiliary schooner called the Paquita, a lofty,
showy vessel which he sailed himself with his usual courage and
audacity. He had the reputation of scaring his unhappy guests—when
any were bold enough to accept his invitations—to within the
proverbial inch of their lives; and they usually changed "ze
sensation" for the nearest mail-boat home. Florence and he had struck
up a warm friendship from the start, and for the whole summer their
vessels were inseparable, sailing everywhere in company and anchoring
side by side.
The count had a way of courtship peculiarly his own. He made it
apparent from the first how deeply he had been stirred by Florence's
beauty and how ready he was to offer her his hand; but as a matter of
fact he never did so in set terms, and treated her more as a comrade
than a divinity. He talked of his own devotion to her as something
detached and impersonal, willing as much as she to laugh over it and
treat it lightly. He was never jealous, never exacting, and seemed to
be as happy to share her with others as when he had her all alone in
one of their tete-a-tetes. What he coveted most of all was her
intimacy, her confidence, the frank expression of her own true self;
and in this exchange he was willing to give as much as he received and
often more. Sometimes she was piqued at his apparent indifference—at
his lack of any stronger feeling for her—seeming to detect in him
something of her own insouciance and coldness.
"You really don't care for me a bit," she said once. "I am only
another form of 'ze sensation'—like going up in a balloon or riding
on the cow-catcher."
"I keep myself well in hand," he returned. "I am not approaching
the terrible age of forty without knowing a little at least about
women and their ways."
"A little!" she exclaimed ironically. "You know enough to write a
"Zat book has taught me to go very slow," he said. "Were I in my
young manhood I'd come zoop, like that, and carry you off in ze Far
Vest style. But I can never hope to be that again with any woman; my
decreasing hair forbids, if nozing else—but my way is to make myself
indispensable—ze old dog, ze old standby, as you Americans say—the
good old harbour to which you will come at last when tired of ze
"Your humility is a new trait," said Florence.
"It's none ze less real because it is often hid," said the count.
"I watch you very closely, more closely than perhaps you even think.
You have all the heartlessness of youth and health and beauty. I would
be wrong to put my one little piece of money on the table and lose
all; and so I save and save, and play ze only game that offers me the
least chance—ze waiting game!"
"I believe that's true," said Florence.
"Were I to act ze distracted lover, you would laugh in my face,"
he went on earnestly. "Were I to propose and be refused, my pride
would not let me—my instinct as gentleman would not let me—go
trailing after you with my long face. The idyll would be over. I
"There are times when I think a heap of you," said Florence
"Oh, I know so well how it would be," he continued. "A week of
doubt—of fever; a rain of little notes; and then with your good
clear honest Far Vest sense you would say: No, mon cher, it is
"Yes, I suppose I would," said Florence.
"I would rather be your friend all my life," said the count, "than
to be merely one of the rejected. I have no ambition to place my name
on that already great list. I have never yet asked a woman to marry
me, and when I do I care not for the expectation of being refused!"
"You are like all Europeans," said Florence, "you believe in a
"My heart is not on my sleeve," he returned, "and I value it too
highly to lose it without compensation."
"It is interesting to hear all your views," said Florence. "I am
sure I appreciate the compliment highly. It's a new idea, this of the
wolf making a confidant of the lamb."
"Oh, my dear!" he broke out, "I am only a poor devil holding back
from committing a great stupidity."
"Is that how you describe marrying me?" she said lightly.
"Ze day will come," he said, disregarding her question, "I think
it will—I hope it will—when you will say to me: My dear fellow, I
am tired of all this fictitious gaiety; of all this rush and bustle
and flirtation; of this life of fever and emptiness. I long for peace
and do not know where to find it. I am like a piece of music to whom
one waits in vain for the return to the keynote. Tell me where to find
it or else I die!"
"Rather forward of me to say all that, Count," observed the girl.
"But suppose I did—what then?"
The count opened wide his arms.
"I would answer: here!" he said.
Thus the bright days passed, amid animating scenes, with memories
of sky and cloud and noble headlands and stately, beautiful ships.
Like two ocean sweethearts the Minnehaha and the Paquita took their
restless way together, side by side in port, inseparable at sea. At
night the one lit the other's road with a string of ruby lanterns and
kept the pair in company across the dark and silent water. Their
respective crews, not behindhand in this splendid camaraderie of
ships, fraternised in wine-shops and strolled through the crooked
foreign streets arm in arm. Breton and American, red cap and blue,
sixty of the one and eighty of the other—they were brothers all and
cemented their friendship in blood and gunpowder, in tattooed names,
flags and mottoes, after the time-honoured and artless manner of the
In the drama of life it is often the least important actors who
are happiest, and the stars themselves are not always to be the most
envied. Florence, torn between her ambition and her love, knew what it
was to toss all night on her sleepless bed and wet the pillow with her
tears. De Souvary, who found himself every day deeper in the toils of
his ravishing American, chafed and struggled with unavailing pangs;
and as for Frank Rignold, he endured long periods of black depression
as he watched from afar the steady progress of his rival's suit; and
his moody face grew moodier and exasperation rose within him to the
By September the two yachts were lying in Cowes, and already there
was some talk of winter plans and a possible voyage to India. The
count was enthusiastic about the project, as he was about anything
that could keep him and Florence together, and he had ordered a stack
of books and spent hours at a time with the mistress of the Minnehaha
reading over Indian Ocean directories and plotting imaginary courses
on the chart.
With the prospect of so extended a trip before him, Frank found
much to be done in the engine-room, for their suggested cruise would
be likely to carry them far out of the beaten track, and he had to be
prepared for all contingencies. A marine engine requires to be
perpetually tinkered, and an engineer's duty is not only to run it,
but to make good the little defects and breakdowns that are constantly
occurring. Frank was a daily visitor at the local machine-shop, and
his business engagements with Mr. Derwent, the proprietor, led
insensibly to others of the social kind.
Derwent's house was close by his works, and Frank's trips ashore
soon began to take in both. Derwent had a daughter, a black- haired,
black-eyed, pink-cheeked girl, named Cassie, one of those vigorous
young English beauties that men would call stunning and women bold.
She did not wait for any preliminaries, but straightway fell in love
with the handsome American engineer that her father brought home. She
made her regard so plain that Frank was embarrassed, and was not a bit
put off at his reluctance to play the part she assigned to him.
"That's always my luck," she remarked with disarming candour, "a
poor silly fool who always likes them that don't like me and spurns
them that do!" And then she added, with a laugh, that he ought to be
tied up, "for you are a cruel handsome man, Frank, and my heart goes
pitapat at the very sight of you!"
She called him Frank at the second visit; and at the third seated
herself on the arm of his chair and took his hand and held it.
"Can't you ever forget that girl in Yankee-land?" she said. "She
ain't here, is she, and why shouldn't you steal a little harmless
fun? There's men who'd give their little finger to win a kiss from
me—and you sit there so glum and solemn, who could have a bushel for
For all Frank's devotion to Florence he could not but be flattered
at being wooed in this headlong fashion. He was only a man after all,
and she was the prettiest girl in port. He did not resist when she
suddenly put her arms around him and pressed his head against her
bosom, calling him her boy and her darling; but remained passive in
her embrace, pleased and yet ashamed, and touched to the quick with
"You mustn't," he said, freeing himself. "Cassie, it's wrong—it's
dreadful. You mustn't think I love you, because I don't."
"Yes, but I am going to make you," she said with splendid
effrontery, looking at herself in the glass and patting her rumpled
hair. "See what you have done to me, you bad boy!"
Had she been older or more sophisticated, Frank would have been
shocked at this reversal of the sexes. But in her self-avowed and
unashamed love for him she was more like a child than a woman; and
her good-humour and laughter besides seemed somehow to belittle her
words and redeem the affair from any seriousness. Frank tried to stay
away, for his conscience pricked him and he did not care to drift into
such an unusual and ambiguous relation with Derwent's handsome
daughter. But Cassie was always on the watch for him and he could not
escape from the machine-works without falling into one of her
ambushes. She would carry him off to tea, and he never left without
finding himself pledged to return in the evening. In his loneliness,
hopelessness, and desolation he found it dangerously sweet to be thus
petted and sought after. Cassie made no demands of him and acquiesced
with apparent cheerfulness in the implication that he loved another
woman. She humbly accepted the little that was left over, and, though
she wept many hot tears in secret, outwardly at least she never
rebelled or reproached him. She knew that to do either would be to
lose him. In fact she made it very easy for him to come, and gave up
her girlish treasure of affection without any hope of reward. Frank,
by degrees, discovered a wonderful comfort in being with her. It was
balm to his wounds and bruises; and, like someone who had long been
out in the cold, he warmed himself, so to speak, before that bright
fire, and found himself growing drowsy and contented.
It must not be supposed that all this went on unremarked, or that
in the gossip of the yacht Frank and Cassie Derwent did not come in
for a considerable share of attention. It passed from the officers'
mess to the saloon, and Florence bit her lip with anger and jealousy
when the joke went round of the chief engineer's "infatuation." In
revenge she treated Frank more coldly than ever, and went out of her
way to be agreeable to de Souvary, especially when the former was at
hand and could be made a spectator of her lover-like glances and a
warmth that seemed to transcend the limits of ordinary friendship. She
made herself utterly unhappy and Frank as well. The only one of the
trio to be pleased was the count.
She made no objection when Frank asked her permission to show the
ship to Derwent and his daughter.
"You must be sure and introduce me," she said, with a sparkle of
her eyes that Frank was too unpresumptuous to understand. "They say
that she is a raving little beauty and that you are the happy man!"
Frank hurriedly disclaimed the honour.
"Oh, no!" he said. "But she is really very sweet and nice, and I
think we owe a little attention to her father."
"Oh, her FATHER!" said Florence, sarcastically emphasising the
"I hope you don't think there is anything in it," he exclaimed
very anxiously. "I suppose there has been some tittle-tattle—I can
read it in your face—but there's not a word of truth in it, not a
word, I assure you."
"I don't care the one way or other, Frank," she said. "You needn't
explain so hard. What does it matter to me, anyway?" and with that
she turned away to cordially greet the count as he came aboard.
The two women met in the saloon. Florence at once assumed the
great lady, the heiress, the condescending patrician; Cassie flushed
and trembled; and in a buzz of commonplaces the stewards served tea
while the two women covertly took each other's measure. Florence grew
ashamed of her own behavior, and, unbending a little, tried to put her
guests at ease and led Cassie on to talk. Then it came out about the
dance that Derwent and his daughter were to give the following night.
"Frank and me have been arranging the cotillon," said Cassie, and
then she turned pink to her ears at having called him by his first
name before all those people. "I mean Mr. Rignold," she added, amid
everyone's laughter and her own desperate confusion. Florence's
laughter rang out as gaily as anyone's, and apparently as
unaffectedly, and she rallied Cassie with much good humour on her
"So it's Frank already!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Miss Derwent! don't
you trust this wicked chief of mine. He is a regular heart- breaker!"
Cassie cried when Frank and she returned home and sat together on
"She's a proud, haughty minx," she burst out, "and you love her—
and as for me I might as well drown myself."
Frank attempted to comfort her.
"Oh, you needn't try to blind me," she said bitterly. "I—I
thought it was a girl in America, Frank, a girl like me—just common
and poor and perhaps not as nice as I am. And you know she wouldn't
wipe her feet on you," she went on viciously—"she so grand with her
yachts and her counts and 'Oh, I think I'll run over to Injya for the
winter, or maybe it's Cairo or the Nile,' says she! What kind of a
chance have you got there, Frank, you in your greasy over-alls and
working for her wages? Won't you break your heart just like I am
breaking mine, I that would sell the clothes off my back for you and
follow you all over the world!"
Frank protested that she was mistaken; that it wasn't Miss Fenacre
at all; that it was absurd to even think of such a thing.
"Oh, Frank, it's bad enough as it is without your lying to me,"
she said, quite unconvinced. "You've set your eyes too high, and
unhappiness is all that you'll ever get from the likes of her. You're
a fool in your way and I'm a fool in mine, and maybe when she's
married to the count and done for, you'll mind the little girl that's
waiting for you in Cowes!" She took his hand and kissed it, telling
him with a sob that she would ever remain single for his sake.
"But I don't want you to, Cassie," he said. "You're talking like a
baby. What's the good of waiting when I am never coming back?"
"You say that now," she exclaimed, "but my words will come back to
you in Injya when you grow tired of her ladyship's coldness and
disdain; and I'm silly enough to think you'll find them a comfort to
you out there, with nothing to do but to think and think, and be
The next day he found Cassie in a more cheerful humour and excited
about the dance. The house was all upset and she was busy with a
dozen of her girl friends in decorating the hall and drawing-room,
taking up the carpets, arranging for the supper and the cloakrooms,
and immersed generally in the thousand and one tasks that fall on a
hostess-to-be. Frank put himself at her orders and spent the better
part of the afternoon in running errands and tacking up flags and
branches; and after an hilarious tea, in the midst of all the litter
and confusion, he went back to the ship somewhat after five o'clock.
As he was pulled out in a shore boat he was surprised to pass a couple
of coal lighters coming from the Minnehaha, and to see her winches
busily hoisting in stores from a large launch alongside. He ran up the
ladder, and seeing the captain asked him what was up.
"Sailing orders, Chief," said Captain Landry, enjoying his
amazement. "We'll be off the ground in half an hour, eastward bound!"
"But I wasn't told anything," cried Frank. "I never got any orders."
"The little lady said you wasn't to be disturbed," said the
captain, "and she took it on herself to order your staff to go ahead.
I guess you'll find a pretty good head of steam already!"
Frank ran to the side and called back his boat, giving the man
five shillings to take a note at once to Cassie. He had no time for
more than a few lines, but he could not go to sea without at least one
word of farewell. They were cutting the anchor and were already under
steerage way when Cassie came off herself in a launch and passed up a
letter directed to the chief engineer. It reached him in the
engine-room, where he, not knowing that she was but a few feet
distant, was spared the sight of her pale and despairing face.
The letter itself was almost incoherent. She knew, she said, whom
she had to thank for his departure. That vixen, that hussy, that
stuck-up minx, who treated him like a dog and yet grudged him to
another, who, God help her, loved him too well for her own good— it
was her ladyship she had to thank for spoiling everything and carrying
him away. Was he not man enough to assert himself and leave a ship
where he was put upon so awful? Let him ask her mightiness in two
words, yes or no; and then when he had come down from the clouds and
had learned the truth, poor silly fool—then let him come back to his
Cassie, who loved him so dear, and who (if she did say it herself) had
a heart worth fifty of his mistress and didn't need no powder to set
off her complexion. It ended with a piteous appeal to his compassion
and besought him to write to her from the nearest port.
Frank sighed as he read it. Everything in the world seemed wrong
and at cross-purposes. Those who had one thing invariably longed for
something else, and there was no content or happiness or satisfaction
anywhere. The better off were the acquiescent, who took the good and
the bad with the same composure and found their only pleasure in their
work. Best off of all were the dead whose sufferings were over. But
after all it was sweet to be loved, even if one did not love back, and
Frank was very tender with the little letter and put it carefully in
his pocket-book. Yes, it was sweet to be loved. He said this over and
over to himself, and wondered whether Florence felt the same to him as
he did to Cassie. It seemed to explain so much. It seemed the key to
her strange regard for him. He asked himself whether it could be true
that she had wilfully ordered the ship to sea in order to prevent him
going to the dance. The thought stirred him inexpressibly. What other
explanation was there if this was not the one? And she had deserted
the count, who was away in London on a day's business; deserted the
Paquita at anchor in the roads! He was frightened at his own
exultation. Suppose he were wrong in this surmise! Suppose it were
just another of her unaccountable caprices!
They ran down Channel at full speed and at night were abreast of
the Scilly lights, driving towards the Bay of Biscay in the teeth of
an Equinoctial gale. At the behest of one girl eighty men had to
endure the discomfort of a storm at sea, and a great steel ship,
straining and quivering, was flung into the perilous night. It seemed
a misuse of power that, at a woman's whim, so many lives and so noble
and costly a fabric could be risked—and risked for nothing. From the
captain on the bridge, dripping in his oil- skins, to the coal-passers
and firemen below who fed the mighty furnaces, to the cooks in the
galley, the engineers, the electrician on duty, the lookout man in the
bow clinging to the life-line when the Minnehaha buried her nose out
of sight—all these perforce had to endure and suffer at Florence's
bidding without question or revolt.
Frank's elation passed and left him in a bitter humour towards
her. It was not right, he said to himself, not right at all. She
ought to show a little consideration for the men who had served her
so well and faithfully. Besides, it was unworthy of her to betray such
pettiness and spoil Cassie's dance. He felt for the girl's
humiliation, and, though not in love with her, he was conscious of a
sentiment that hated to see her hurt. He would not accept Florence's
invitation to dine in the saloon, sending word that he had a headache
and begged to be excused; and after dinner, when she sought him out on
deck and tried to make herself very sweet to him, he was purposely
reserved and distant, and look the first opportunity to move away. He
was angry, disheartened, and resentful, all in one.
Towards eleven o'clock at night as Frank was in the engine-room,
moodily turning over these reflections in his mind and listening to
the race of the screws as again and again they were lifted out of the
water and strained the shafts and engines to the utmost, he was
surprised to see Florence herself descending the steel ladder into
that close atmosphere of oil and steam. He ran to help her down, and
taking her arm led her to one side, where they might be out of the
way. Here, in the glare of the lanterns, he looked down into her face
and thought again how beautiful she was. Her cheek was wet with spray,
and her hair was tangled and glistening beneath her little yachting
cap. She seemed to exhale a breath of the storm above and bring down
with her something of the gale itself. She held fast to Frank as the
ship laboured and plunged, smiling as their eyes met.
"You are the last person I expected down here," said Frank.
"I was beginning to get afraid," she returned. "It's blowing
terribly, Frank—and I thought, if anything happened, I'd like to be
"Oh, we are all right!" said Frank, his professional spirit
aroused. "With twin screws, twin engines, and plenty of sea-room—
why, let it blow."
His confidence reassured her. He never appeared to her so strong,
so self-reliant and calm as at that moment of her incipient fear.
Amongst his engines Frank always wore a masterful air, for he had
that instinct for machinery peculiarly American, and was competent
almost to the point of genius.
"Besides, I wanted to ask you a question," said Florence. "I had
to ask it. I couldn't sleep without asking it, Frank."
"I would have come, if you had sent for me," he said.
"I couldn't wait for that," she returned. "I knew it might be hard
for you to leave—or impossible."
"What is it, Florence?" he asked. The name slipped out in spite of
She looked at him strangely, her lustrous eyes wide open and
bright with her unsaid thoughts.
"Are you very fond of her, Frank?" she asked.
"Her? Who?" he exclaimed. "You don't mean Cassie Derwent?"
"Yes," she said.
"Of course I'm fond of her," he said.
"More than you are of me, Frank?" she persisted.
"Oh, it isn't the same sort of thing, Florence," he said. "I never
even thought of comparing you and her together. Surely you know that?
Surely you understand that?"
"You used to—to love me once, Frank," she said, with a stifled
sob. "Has she made it any less? Has she robbed me, Frank? Have I lost
you without knowing it?"
"No," he said, "no, a thousand times, no!"
"Tell me that you love me, Frank," she burst out. "Tell me, tell
me!" Then, as he did not answer, she went on passionately: "That's
why I went to sea, Frank. I was mad with jealousy. I couldn't give
you up to her. I couldn't let her have you!"
She pressed closer against him, and tiptoeing so as to raise her
mouth to his ear, she whispered: "I always liked you better than
anybody else in the world, Frank. I love you! I love you!"
For the moment he could not realise his own good fortune. He could
do nothing but look into her eyes. It was her reproach for years
afterwards that she had to kiss him first.
"I suppose it had to come, Frank," she said. "I fought all I
could, but it didn't seem any use!"
"It was inevitable," he returned solemnly. "God made you for me,
and me for you!"
"Amen," she said, and in an ecstasy of abandonment whispered
again: "I love you, Frank. I love you!"