Gray Eyes by
I have always counted it among the larger blessings of
Providence that a woman can bear up year after year under a
weight of dullness which would drive a man of the same mental
calibre to desperation in a month.
I had no idea what a heavy burden mine had been until one
day my brother asked me to go to sea with him on his next
voyage. He and his wife were at the farm on their wedding-tour,
and only the happiness of a bridegroom could have led him to
hold out to me this way of escape. Christian's heart when he
dropped his pack was not lighter than mine. Butter and cheese
are good things in their way—the world would miss them if
all the farmers' daughters went suddenly down to the sea in
ships—but it is possible to have too much of a good
thing, and such had been my feeling for some years.
So suddenly and completely did my threadbare endurance give
way that if Frank had revoked his words the next minute, I must
have gone away at once to some crowded place and drawn a few
deep breaths of excitement before I could have joined again the
broken ends of my patience.
No bride-elect poor in this world's goods ever went about
the preparations for her wedding with more delicious awe than I
felt in turning one old gown upside down, and another inside
out, for seafaring use. There was excitement enough in the
departure, the inevitable sea-changes, and finally the memory
of it all, to keep my mind busy for a few weeks, but when we
settled into the grooves of a tropical voyage, wafted along as
easily by the trade winds as if some gigantic hand, unseen and
steady, had us in its grasp, my life was wholly changed, and
yet it bore an odd family resemblance to the days at the farm.
It was a pleasant dullness, because, in the nature of things,
it must soon have an end.
I went on deck to look at a passing ship about as often as I
used to run to the window at the sound of carriagewheels. One
can't take a very intimate interest in whales and the other
seamonsters unless one is scientific. Time died with me a slow
but by no means a painful death. I used to fold my hands and
look at them by the hour, internally rollicking over the idea
that there was no milk to skim or dishes to wash, or any
earthly wheel in motion that required my shoulder to turn it. I
spent much time in a half-awake state in the long warm days,
out of sheer delight in wasting time after saving it all my
So it came about that I slept lightly o' nights. Every
morning the steward came into the cabin with the first dawn of
day to scour his floors before the captain should appear. He
had a habit of talking to himself over this early labor, and
one morning, more awake than usual, I found that he was
praying. "O Lord, be good to me! I wasn't to blame. I would
have helped her if I could. O Lord, be good to me!" and other
homely entreaties were repeated again and again.
He was a meek, bowed old negro, with snowy hair, and so many
wrinkles that all expression was shrunk out of his face. He was
an excellent cook, but he waited on table with a manner so
utterly despairing that it took away one's appetite to look at
For many mornings after this I listened to his prayers,
which grew more and more earnest and importunate. I could not
think he had done any harm with his own will. He must have been
more sinned against than sinning.
He brought me a shawl one cool evening as if it were my
death-warrant, and I said, in the sepulchral tone that wins
confidence, "Pedro, do you always say your prayers when you are
"Yes, miss, 'board this ship."
"What's the matter with, this ship?"
"I s'pose you don't have no faith in ghosts?"
"White folks mostly don't," said Pedro with aggravating
meekness, and turned into his pantry.
I followed him to the door, and stood in it so that he had
no escape: "What has that to do with your prayers?"
"This cabin has got a ghost in it."
I looked over my shoulder into the dusk, and shivered a
little, which was not lost on Pedro. He grew more solemn if
possible than before: "I see her 'most every morning, and if my
back is to the door, I see her all the same. She don't never
touch me, but I keep at the prayers for fear she will."
"Do you never see her except in the morning?"
"Once or twice she has just put her head out of the door of
the middle state-room when I was waitin' on table."
"In broad daylight?"
"Sartin. Them as sees ghosts sees 'em any time. Every
morning, just at peep o' day, she comes out of that door and
makes a dive for the stairs. She just gives me one look, and
holds up her hand, and I don't see no more of her till next
"How does she look?" I almost hoped he would not tell, but
"She's got hair as black as a coal, kind o' pushed back, as
if she'd been runnin' her hands through it; she has big shiny
eyes, swelled up as she'd been cryin' a great while; and she's
always got on a gray dress, silvery-like, with a tear in one
sleeve. There ain't nothin' more, only a handkerchief tied
round her wrist, as if it had been hurt."
"Is she handsome?"
"Mebbe white folks'd think so."
"Why does she show herself to you and no one else, do you
"Didn't I tell you the reason before?"
"Of course you didn't."
"Well, you see, she looked just so the last time I seen her
alive. I must go and put in the biscuit now, miss."
I submitted, knowing that white folks may be hurried, but
black ones never; and I could not but admire the natural talent
which Pedro shared with the authors of continued stories, of
always dropping the thread at the most thrilling moment.
"Who was she?" said I, lying in wait for him on his
"She was cap'n's wife, miss—a young woman, and the
cap'n was old, with a blazing kind of temper. He was dreffle
sweet on her for about a month, and mebbe she was happy, mebbe
she wa'n't: how should I know about white folks' feelin's? All
of a suddent he said she was sick and couldn't go out of the
middle state-room. The old man took in plenty of stuff to eat,
but he never let me go near her. We was on just such a v'y'ge
as this, only hotter. The cap'n would come out of that room
lookin' black as thunder, and everybody scudded out of his
sight when he put his head out of the gangway.
"He was always bad enough, but he got wuss and wuss, and
nothin' couldn't please him. Sometimes I'd hear the poor thing
a-moaning to herself like a baby that's beat out with loud
cryin' and hain't got no noise left. She was always cryin' in
them days. Once the supercargo (he was a cool hand, any way)
give me a bit of paper very private to give to her, and I
slipped it under the door, but the old man had nailed somethin'
down inside, an' he found it afore she did. Then there was a
regular knockdown fight, and the supercargo was put in irons.
The old man was in the middle room a long time that day,
talkin' in a hissin' kind of a way, and the missus got a blow.
Just after that a sort of a white squall struck the ship, and
the old man give just the wrong orders. You see, he was clean
out of his head. He got so worked up at last that he fell down
in a fit, and they bundled him into his state-room and left
him, 'cause nobody cared whether he was dead or alive. The mate
took the irons off the supercargo first thing, and broke open
the middle room. The supercargo went in there and stayed a long
time, whispering to the missus, and she cried more'n ever, only
it sounded different.
"Toward night the old man come to, and begun to ask
questions—as ugly as ever, only as weak as a baby. 'Bout
midnight I was comin' out of his room, and I seen the missus in
a gray dress, with her eyes shinin' like coals of fire, dive
out of her room and up the stairs, and nobody never seen her
afterward. The next morning the supercargo was gone too, and I
think they just drownded themselves, 'cause they couldn't bear
to live any more without each other. Mebbe the mate knew
somethin' about it, but he never let on, and I dunno no more
about it; only the old man had another fit when he heard it,
and died without no mourners."
"It might be she was saved, after all," I said, with true
"Then why should I see her ghost, if she ain't
"Did you never find anything in the state-room that would
"Well, I did find some bits of paper, but I couldn't read
"Oh, what did you do with them?" I insisted, quivering with
"You won't tell the cap'n?"
"You'll give 'em back to me?"
"Yes, yes—of course."
"Here they be," he said, opening his shirt, and showing a
little bag hung round his neck like an amulet. He took out a
little wad of brown paper, and gave it jealously into my
"I will give it back to you to-night," I said with the
solemnity of an oath, and carried it to my room.
It proved to be a short and fragmentary account of the
sufferings which the "missus" had endured in the middle room,
written in pencil on coarse wrapping-paper, and bearing marks
of trembling hands and frequent tears. I thought I might copy
the papers without breaking faith with Pedro. The outside paper
bore these words:
"Whoever finds this is besought for pity's sake, by its most
unhappy writer, to send it as soon as possible to Mrs. Jane
Atwood of Davidsville, Connecticut, United States of
Then followed a letter to her mother:
DEAREST MOTHER: If I never see your blessed face again, I
know you will not believe me guilty of what my husband accuses
me of. I married Captain Eliot for your sake, believing, since
Herbert had proved faithless, that no comfort was left to me
except in pleasing others. I meant to be a good wife to Captain
Eliot, and I believe I should have kept my vow all my days if
the most unfortunate thing had not wakened his jealousy. Since
then he has been almost or quite crazed.
I knew we had a supercargo of whom Captain Eliot spoke
highly. He kept his room for a month from sea-sickness, and
when he came out it was Herbert. Of course I knew him, every
line of his face had been so long written on my heart. I strove
to treat him as if I had never seen him before, but the old
familiar looks and tones were very hard to bear. If Herbert
could only have submitted patiently to our fate! But it was not
in him to be patient under anything, and one evening, when I
was sitting alone on deck, he must needs pour out his soul in
one great burst, trying to prove that he had never deserted me,
but only circumstances had been cruel. I longed to believe him,
but I could only keep repeating that it was too late.
When I went down, Captain Eliot dragged me into the middle
state-room, and gave vent to his jealous feelings. He must have
listened to all that Herbert had said. His last words were that
I should never leave that room alive. I had a wretched night,
and the first time I fell into an uneasy sleep I started
suddenly up to find my husband flashing the light of a lantern
across my eyes. "Handsome and wicked," he muttered—"they
always go together."
I begged him to listen to the story of my engagement to
Herbert, and he did listen, but it did not soften his heart. If
he ever loved me, his jealousy has swallowed it up.
I have been in this room just a week. My husband does not
starve or beat me, but his taunts and threats are fearful, and
his eyes when he looks at me grow wild, as if he had the
longing of a beast to tear me in pieces.
May 10. I placed a copy of the paper that is pinned
to this letter in a little bottle that had escaped my husband's
search, and threw it out of my window.
I am Waitstill Atwood Eliot, wife of Captain Eliot of the
ship Sapphire. I have been kept in solitary confinement and
threatened with death for four weeks, for no just cause. I
believe him to be insane, as he constantly threatens to burn or
sink the ship. I pray that this paper may be picked up by some
one who will board this ship and bring me help.
Of course it is a most forlorn hope, but it keeps me from
20. Herbert tried to communicate with me by slipping a paper
under the door, but I did not get it, and he has been put in
irons. Captain Eliot boasts of it. I wish he would bind us
together and let us drown in one another's arms, as they did in
the Huguenot persecution.
28. A little paper tied to a string hung in front of my
bull's-eye window to-day: I took it in. The first officer had
lowered it down: "Captain Eliot says you are ill, but I don't
believe it. If he tries violence, scream, and I will break open
the door. I am always on the watch. Keep your heart up."
This is a drop of comfort in my black cup, but my little
window was screwed down within an hour after I had read the
June 10. My spirit is worn out: I can endure no more.
I have begged my husband to kill me and end my misery. I don't
know why he hesitated. He means to do it some time, but perhaps
he cannot think of torture exquisite enough for his
11. My husband came in about four in the afternoon, looking
so vindictive that my heart stood still. He gradually worked
himself into a frenzy, and aimed a blow at my head: instinct,
rather than the love of life, made me parry it, and I got the
stroke on my wrist.
I screamed, and at the same moment there was a tumult on
deck, and the ship quivered as if she too had been violently
struck. Captain Eliot rushed on deck, and began to give hurried
orders. I could hear the first officer contradict them, and
then there was a heavy fall, and two or three men stumbled down
the cabin stairs, carrying some weight between them.
Later. My husband is helpless, and Herbert has been
with me, urging me passionately to trust myself to him in a
little boat at midnight. He says there are several ships in
sight, and one of them will be almost sure to pick us up. He
swears that he will leave me, and never see me again (if I say
so), so soon as he has placed me in safety, but he will save
me, by force if need be, from the brute into whose hands I fell
so innocently. If the ship does not see us, it is but dying,
Good-bye, mother! I pray that this paper will reach you
before Captain Eliot can send you his own account, but if it
does not, you will believe me innocent all the same.
This was the last, and I folded up the papers as they had
come to me. That night I read them all to Pedro.
"They was drownded—I knew it," said Pedro; and nothing
could remove that opinion. A ghost is more convincing than
Our voyage wore on, with one day just like another: my
brother looked at the sun every day, and put down a few
cabalistic figures on a slate, but his steady business was
reading novels to his wife and drinking weak claret and
The sea was always the same, smiling and smooth, and the
"man at the wheel" seemed to be always holding us back by main
strength from the place where we wanted to go. I had a growing
belief that we should sail for ever on this rippling mirror and
never touch the frame of it. It struck me with a sense of
intense surprise when a dark line loomed far ahead, and they
told me quietly that that line meant Bombay.
It seemed a matter of course to my brother that the desired
port should heave in sight just when he expected it, but to me
the efforts that he had made to accomplish this tremendous
result were ridiculously small.
"I have done more work in a week, and had nothing to show
for it at last," said I, "than you have seemed to do in all
"Poor sister! don't you wish you were a man?"
"Certainly, all women do who have any sense. I hold with
that ancient Father of the Church who maintained that all women
are changed into men on the judgment-day. The council said it
was heresy, but that don't alter my faith."
"I shouldn't like you half as well if you had been born a
boy," said Frank.
"But I should like myself vastly better," said I, clinging
to the last word.
Bombay is a city by itself: there is none like it on earth,
whatever there may be in the heaven above or in the waters
under it. From Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy's hospital for sick
animals to the Olympian conceit of the English residents, there
are infinite variations of people and things that I am
persuaded can be matched nowhere else. I felt myself living in
a series of pictures, a sort of supernumerary in a theatre,
where they changed the play every night.
One of the first who boarded our ship was Mr. Rayne, an old
friend of Frank's. He insisted on our going to his house for a
few days in a warm-hearted way that was irresistible.
"Are you quite sure you want me?" I said dubiously.
"Young married people make a kind of heaven for themselves, and
do not want old maids looking over the wall."
"But you must go with us," said Frank, man-like,
never seeing anything but the uppermost surface of a
"Not at all. I'm quite strong-minded enough to stay on board
ship; or, if that would not do in this heathen place, the
missionaries are always ready to entertain strangers. A week in
the missionhouse would make me for ever a shining light in the
sewing circle at home.
"A woman of so many resources would be welcome anywhere. For
my part, an old maid is a perfect Godsend. The genus is unknown
here, and the loss to society immense," said Mr. Rayne.
"But what shall I do when Mrs. Rayne and my sister-in-law
are comparing notes about the perfections of their
"Walk on the verandah with me and convert me to woman
Mr. Rayne had his barouche waiting on shore, and drove us
first to the bandstand, where, in the coolness of sunset, all
the Bombay world meet to see and to be seen. When the band
paused, people drove slowly round the circle, seeking
acquaintance. Among them one equipage was perfect—a small
basket-phaeton, and two black ponies groomed within an inch of
their lives. My eyes fell on the ponies first, but I saw them
no more when the lady who drove them turned her face toward
She wore a close-fitting black velvet habit and a little
round hat with long black feather. Her hair might have been
black velvet, too, as it fell low on her forehead, and was
fastened somehow behind in a heavy coil. Black brows and lashes
shaded clear gray eyes—the softest gray, without the
least tint of green in them—such eyes as Quaker maidens
ought to have under their gray bonnets. Little rose colored
flushes kept coming and going in her cheeks as she talked.
All at once I thought of Queen Guinevere,
As she fled fast thro' sun and shade,
With jingling bridle-reins.
"Mr. Rayne, do you see that lady in black, with the
"If I were a man, that woman would be my Fate."
"I thought women never admired each other's beauty."
"You are mistaken. Heretofore I have met beautiful women
only in poetry. Do you remember four lines about Queen
Guinevere?—no, six lines, I mean:
"She looked so lovely as she swayed
The rein with dainty finger-tips,
A man had given all other bliss,
And all his worldly worth for this,
To waste his whole heart in one kiss
Upon her perfect lips.
"I always thought them overstrained till now."
"I perfectly agree with you," said Mr. Rayne: "I knew we
were congenial spirits." Then he said a word or two in a
diabolical language to his groom, who ran to the carriage which
I had been watching and repeated it to the lady: she bowed and
smiled to Mr. Rayne, and soon drew up her ponies beside us.
"My wife," said Mr. Rayne with laughter in his eyes.
Mrs. Rayne talked much like other people, and her beauty
ceased to dazzle me after a few minutes; not that it grew less
on near view, but, being a woman, I could not fall in love with
her in the nature of things.
When the music stopped we drove to Mr. Rayne's house, his
wife keeping easily beside us. When she was occupied with the
others Mr. Rayne whispered, "Her praises were so sweet in my
ears that I would not own myself Sir Lancelot at once."
"If you are Sir Lancelot," I said, "where is King
"Forty fathoms deep, I hope," said Mr. Rayne with a sudden
change in his voice and a darkening face. I had raised a ghost
for him without knowing it, and he spoke no more till we
reached the house.
It was a long, low, spreading structure with a thatched
roof, and a verandah round it. A wilderness of tropical plants
hemmed it in. But all appearance of simplicity vanished on our
entrance. In the matted hall stood a tree to receive the light
coverings we had worn; not a "hat tree," as we say at home by
poetic license, but the counterfeit presentment of a real tree,
carved in branches and delicate foliage out of black wood. The
drawing-room was eight-sided, and would have held, with some
margin, the gambrel-roofed house, chimneys and all, in which I
had spent my life. Two sides were open into other rooms, with
Corinthian pillars reaching to the roof. Carved screens a
little higher than our heads filled the space between the
pillars, and separated the drawing-room from Mrs. Rayne's
boudoir on the side and the dining-room on the other.
The furniture of these rooms was like so many verses of a
poem. Every chair and table had been designed by Mrs. Rayne,
and then realized in black wood by the patient hands of
Another side opened by three glass doors on a verandah, and
only a few rods below the house the sea dashed against a
After dinner I sat on the verandah drinking coffee and the
sea-breeze by turns. The gentlemen walked up and down smoking
the pipe of peace, while Mrs. Rayne sat within, talking with
Rhoda in the candlelight. Opposite me, as I looked in at the
open door, hung two Madonnas, the Sistine and the Virgin of the
Immaculate Conception. In front of each stood a tall
flower-stand carved to imitate the leaves and blossoms of the
calla lily. These black flowers held great bunches of the
Annunciation lily, sacred to the Virgin through all the ages.
Mrs. Rayne had taken off the close-buttoned jacket, and her
dress was now open at the throat, with some rich old lace
clinging about it and fastened with a pearl daisy.
"Have you forgiven me the minute's deception I put upon
you?" said Mr. Rayne, pausing beside me. "If I had not read
admiration in your face, I would have told you the truth at
"How could one help admiring her?"
"I don't know, I'm sure: I never could."
"She has the serenest face, like still, shaded water. I
wonder how she would look in trouble?"
"It is not becoming to her."
"Are you sure?"
"Your way of life here seems so perfect! No hurry nor
worry—nothing to make wrinkles."
"You like this smooth Indian living, then?"
"Like it! I hope you won't think me wholly given over
to love of things that perish in the using, but if I could live
this sort of life with the one I liked best, heaven would be a
"It is heaven indeed when I think of the purgatory from
which we came into it," said Mr. Rayne, throwing away his cigar
and carrying off my coffee-cup.
"Do you know anything of Mrs. Rayne's history before her
marriage?" I said to Frank as I joined him in his walk.
"Nothing to speak of—only she was a widow."
"Oh!" said I, feeling that a spot or two had suddenly
appeared on the face of the sun.
"That's nothing against her, is it?"
"No, but I have no patience with second marriages."
"Nor first ones, either," said Frank wickedly.
"But seriously, Frank—would you like to have a wife so
beautiful as Mrs. Rayne?"
"Yes, if she had Rhoda's soul inside of her," said Frank
"Because all sorts of eyes gloat on her beauty and drink it
in, and in one way appropriate it to themselves. Mr. Rayne is
as proud of the admiration given to his wife as if it were a
personal tribute to his own taste in selecting her. A beautiful
woman never really and truly belongs to her husband unless he
can keep a veil over her face, as the Turks do."
"I knew you had 'views,'" said Mr. Rayne behind me, "but I
had no idea they were so heathenish. What is New England coming
to under the new rule? Are the plain women going to shut up all
the handsome ones?"
"I was only supposing a case."
"Suppositions are dangerous. You first endure, then dally
with them, and finally embrace them as established facts."
"I was only saying that if I am a man when I come into the
world next time (as the Hindoos say), I shall marry a plain
woman with a charming disposition, and so, as it were, have my
diamond all to myself by reason of its dull cover."
"Jealousy, thy name is woman!" said Mr. Rayne. "When the
Woman's Republic is set up, how I shall pity the handsome
"They will all be banished to some desert island," said
"And draw all men after them, as the 'Pied Piper of Hamelin'
did the rats," said Mr. Rayne.
"What are you talking about?" said Mrs. Rayne, joining us at
"The pity of it," said her husband, "that beauty is only
"That is deep enough," said Mrs. Rayne.
"Yes, if age and sickness and trouble did not make one shed
it so soon," said I ungratefully.
"Don't mention it," said Mrs. Rayne—"'tis bad enough
when it comes. Do you remember that Greek woman in
Lothair, whose father was so fearfully rich that she
seemed to be all crusted with precious stones?"
"To dance and sing was all she lived for, and Lothair must
needs bring in the skeleton, as you did, by reminding her of
the dolorous time when she would neither dance nor sing. You
think she is crushed, to be sure, only Disraeli's characters
never are crushed, any more than himself. 'Oh then,' she says,
'we will be part of the audience, and other people will dance
and sing for us.' So beauty is always with us, though one
person loses it."
She gave a little shrug of her shoulders, which made her
pearls and velvet shimmer in the moonlight. She looked so white
and cool and perfect, so apart from common clay, that all at
once Queen Guinevere ceased to be my type of her, and I thought
of "Lilith, first wife of Adam," as we see her in Rossetti's
Not a drop of her blood was human,
But she was made like a soft, sweet woman.
We all went to our rooms after this, and in each of ours
hung a full-length swinging mirror; I had never seen one
before, except in a picture-shop or in a hotel.
"Truly this is 'richness'!" I said, walking up and down and
sideways from one to the other.
"I had no idea you had so much vanity," said Frank, laughing
at me, as he has done ever since he was born.
"Vanity! not a spark. I am only seeing myself as others see
me, for the first time."
"I always had a glass like that in my room at home," said my
sister-in-law, with the least morsel of disdain in her
"Had you? Then you have lost a great deal by growing up to
such things. A first sensation at my age is delightful."
Next day Rhoda and I were sitting with Mrs. Rayne in her
dressing-room, with a great fan swinging overhead. We all had
books in our hands, but I found more charming reading in my
hostess, whose fascinations hourly grew upon me.
She wore a long loose wrapper, clear blue in color, with
little silver stars on it. I don't know how much of my
admiration sprang from her perfect taste in dress. Raiment has
an extraordinary effect on the whole machinery of life. Most
people think too lightly of it. Somebody says if Cleopatra's
nose had been a quarter of an inch shorter, the history of the
world would have been utterly changed; but Antony might equally
have been proof against a robe with high neck and tight
sleeves. Mrs. Rayne's face always seemed to crown her costume
like a rose out of green leaves, yet I cannot but think that if
I had seen her first in a calico gown and sitting on a
three-legged stool milking a cow, I should still have thought
her a queen among women.
While I sat like a lotos-eater, forgetful of home and
butter-making, a servant brought in a parcel and a note. Mrs.
Rayne tossed the note to me while she unfolded a roll of gray
DEAR GUINEVERE: I send with this a bit of silk that old
Fut'ali insisted on giving to me this morning. It is that
horrid gray color which we both detest. I know you will never
wear it, and you had better give it to Miss Blake to make a
toga for her first appearance in the women's Senate.
"With all my heart!" said Mrs. Rayne as I gave back the
note. "You will please us both far more than you can please
yourself by wearing the dress with a thought of us. I wonder
why Mr. Rayne calls me 'Guinevere'? But he has a new name for
me every day, because he does not like my own."
"What is it?"
"Waitstill. Did you ever hear it?"
"Never but once," I said with a sudden tightness in my
throat. I could scarcely speak my thanks for the dress.
"I should never wear it," said Mrs. Rayne: "the color is
associated with a very painful part of my life."
"Do you suppose water would spot it?" asked Rhoda, who is of
a practical turn of mind.
"Take a bit and try it."
"Water spots some grays" said Mrs. Rayne with a strange sort
of smile as Rhoda went out, "especially salt water. I spent one
night at sea in an open boat, with a gray dress clinging wet
and salt to my limbs. When I tore it off in rags I seemed to
shed all the misery I had ever known. All my life since then
has been bright as you see it now. It would be a bad omen to
put on a gray gown again."
"Then you have made a sea-voyage, Mrs. Rayne?"
"Yes, such a long voyage!—worse than the 'Ancient
Mariner's.' No words can tell how I hate the sea." She sighed
deeply, with a sudden darkening of her gray eyes till they were
almost black, and grasped one wrist hard with the other
A sudden trembling seized me. I was almost as much agitated
as Mrs. Rayne. I felt that I must clinch the matter somehow,
but I took refuge in a platitude to gain time: "There is such a
difference in ships, almost as much as in houses, and the
comfort of the voyage depends greatly on that."
"It may be so," she said wearily.
"My brother's ship is old, but it has been refitted lately
to something like comfort. It's old name was the Sapphire."
This was my shot, and it hit hard.
"The Sapphire! the Sapphire!" she whispered with dilated
eyes. "Did you ever hear—did you ever find—But what
nonsense! You must think me the absurdest of women."
The color came back to her face, and she laughed quite
"The fact is, Miss Blake, I was very ill and miserable when
I was on shipboard, and to this day any sudden reminder of it
gives me a shock.—Did water spot it?" she said to Rhoda,
who came in at this point.
I thought over all the threads of the circumstance that had
come into my hand, and like Mr. Browning's lover I found "a
thing to do."
The next morning I made an excuse to go down to the ship
with my brother, and there, by dint of pressure, I got those
stained and dingy papers into my possession again. I had only
that day before me, for we were going to a hotel the same
evening, and the Raynes were to set out next day for their
summer place among the hills, a long way back of Bombay. Our
stay had already delayed their departure.
This was my plot: Mrs. Rayne had been reading a book that I
had bought for the home-voyage, and was to finish it before
evening. I selected the duplicate of the paper which "Waitstill
Atwood Eliot" had put in a bottle and cast adrift when her case
had been desperate, and laid it in the book a page or two
beyond Mrs. Rayne's mark. It seemed impossible that she could
miss it: I watched her as a chemist watches his first
Twice she took up the book, and was interrupted before she
could open it: the third time she sat down so close to me that
the folds of her dress touched mine. One page, two pages: in
another instant she would have turned the leaf, and I held my
breath, when a servant brought in a note. Her most intimate
friend had been thrown from her carriage, and had sent for her.
It was a matter of life and death, and brooked no delay. In ten
minutes she had bidden us a cordial good-bye, and dropped out
of my life for all time.
She never finished my book, nor I hers. I had
had it in my heart, in return for her warm hospitality, to cast
a great stone out of her past life into the still waters of her
present, and her good angel had turned it aside just before it
reached her. I might have asked Mr. Rayne in so many words if
his wife's name had been Waitstill Atwood Eliot when he married
her, but that would have savored of treachery to her, and I
Often in the long calm days of the home-voyage, and oftener
still in the night-watches, I pondered in my heart the items of
Mrs. Rayne's history, and pieced them together like bits of
mosaic—the gray eyes and the gray dress, the identity of
name, the indefinite terrors of her sea-voyage, the little
touch concerning Lancelot and Guinevere, her emotion when I
mentioned the Sapphire. If circumstantial evidence can be
trusted, I feel certain that Pedro's ghost appeared to me in