A Message from the Sea
A Message from the Sea was first published as the Christmas number of All The Year Round 13 December 1860.
Contemporary records show that the number was written by a variety of authors
|Chapter I The Village||Charles Dickens|
|Chapter II The Money||Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins|
|Chapter III The Club Night||Charles Dickens|
|Charles Allston Collins|
|Henry F Chorley|
|Amelia B Edwards|
|Chapter IV The Seafaring Man||Wilkie Collins|
|Chapter V The Restitution||Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins|
I am not aware of any full e-text of the whole work. E-texts of Chapter IV and Chapter II are also available. Chapter I is available through Project Gutenburg.
This e-text is just of Chapter II. It is impossible to say which parts were written by Dickens and which by Collins.
CHAPTER V – THE RESTITUTION
Captain Jorgan, up and out betimes, had put the whole village of Lanrean under an amicable cross-examination, and was returning to the King Arthur's Arms to breakfast, none the wiser for his trouble, when he beheld the young fisherman advancing to meet him, accompanied by a stranger. A glance at this stranger assured the captain that he could be no other than the Seafaring Man; and the captain was about to hail him as a fellow-craftsman, when the two stood still and silent before the captain, and the captain stood still, silent, and wondering before them.
"Why, what's this?" cried the captain, when at last he broke the silence. "You two are alike. You two are much alike. What's this?"
Not a word was answered on the other side, until after the sea- faring brother had got hold of the captain's right hand, and the fisherman brother had got hold of the captain's left hand; and if ever the captain had had his fill of hand-shaking, from his birth to that hour, he had it then. And presently up and spoke the two brothers, one at a time, two at a time, two dozen at a time for the bewilderment into which they plunged the captain, until he gradually had Hugh Raybrock's deliverance made clear to him, and also unravelled the fact that the person referred to in the half- obliterated paper was Tregarthen himself.
"Formerly, dear Captain Jorgan," said Alfred, "of Lanrean, you recollect? Kitty and her father came to live at Steepways after Hugh shipped on his last voyage."
"Ay, ay!" cried the captain, fetching a breath. "Now you have me in tow. Then your brother here don't know his sister-in-law that is to be so much as by name?"
"Never saw her; never heard of her!"
"Ay, ay, ay!" cried the captain. "Why then we every one go back together--paper, writer, and all--and take Tregarthen into the secret we kept from him?"
"Surely," said Alfred, "we can't help it now. We must go through with our duty."
"Not a doubt," returned the captain. "Give me an arm apiece, and let us set this ship-shape."
So walking up and down in the shrill wind on the wild moor, while the neglected breakfast cooled within, the captain and the brothers settled their course of action.
It was that they should all proceed by the quickest means they could secure to Barnstaple, and there look over the father's books and papers in the lawyer's keeping; as Hugh had proposed to himself to do if ever he reached home. That, enlightened or unenlightened, they should then return to Steepways and go straight to Mr. Tregarthen, and tell him all they knew, and see what came of it, and act accordingly. Lastly, that when they got there they should enter the village with all precautions against Hugh's being recognised by any chance; and that to the captain should be consigned the task of preparing his wife and mother for his restoration to this life.
"For you see," quoth Captain Jorgan, touching the last head, "it requires caution any way, great joys being as dangerous as great griefs, if not more dangerous, as being more uncommon (and therefore less provided against) in this round world of ours. And besides, I should like to free my name with the ladies, and take you home again at your brightest and luckiest; so don't let's throw away a chance of success."
The captain was highly lauded by the brothers for his kind interest and foresight.
"And now stop!" said the captain, coming to a standstill, and looking from one brother to the other, with quite a new rigging of wrinkles about each eye; "you are of opinion," to the elder, "that you are ra'ather slow?"
"I assure you I am very slow," said the honest Hugh.
"Wa'al," replied the captain, "I assure you that to the best of my belief I am ra'ather smart. Now a slow man ain't good at quick business, is he?"
That was clear to both.
"You," said the captain, turning to the younger brother, "are a little in love; ain't you?"
"Not a little, Captain Jorgan."
"Much or little, you're sort preoccupied; ain't you?"
It was impossible to be denied.
"And a sort preoccupied man ain't good at quick business, is he?" said the captain.
Equally clear on all sides.
"Now," said the captain, "I ain't in love myself, and I've made many a smart run across the ocean, and I should like to carry on and go ahead with this affair of yours, and make a run slick through it. Shall I try? Will you hand it over to me?"
They were both delighted to do so, and thanked him heartily.
"Good," said the captain, taking out his watch. "This is half-past eight a.m., Friday morning. I'll jot that down, and we'll compute how many hours we've been out when we run into your mother's post- office. There! The entry's made, and now we go ahead."
They went ahead so well that before the Barnstaple lawyer's office was open next morning, the captain was sitting whistling on the step of the door, waiting for the clerk to come down the street with his key and open it. But instead of the clerk there came the master, with whom the captain fraternised on the spot to an extent that utterly confounded him.
As he personally knew both Hugh and Alfred, there was no difficulty in obtaining immediate access to such of the father's papers as were in his keeping. These were chiefly old letters and cash accounts; from which the captain, with a shrewdness and despatch that left the lawyer far behind, established with perfect clearness, by noon, the following particulars:-
That one Lawrence Clissold had borrowed of the deceased, at a time when he was a thriving young tradesman in the town of Barnstaple, the sum of five hundred pounds. That he had borrowed it on the written statement that it was to be laid out in furtherance of a speculation which he expected would raise him to independence; he being, at the time of writing that letter, no more than a clerk in the house of Dringworth Brothers, America Square, London. That the money was borrowed for a stipulated period; but that, when the term was out, the aforesaid speculation failed, and Clissold was without means of repayment. That, hereupon, he had written to his creditor, in no very persuasive terms, vaguely requesting further time. That the creditor had refused this concession, declaring that he could not afford delay. That Clissold then paid the debt, accompanying the remittance of the money with an angry letter describing it as having been advanced by a relative to save him from ruin. That, in acknowlodging the receipt, Raybrock had cautioned Clissold to seek to borrow money of him no more, as he would never so risk money again.
Before the lawyer the captain said never a word in reference to these discoveries. But when the papers had been put back in their box, and he and his two companions were well out of the office, his right leg suffered for it, and he said, -
"So far this run's begun with a fair wind and a prosperous; for don't you see that all this agrees with that dutiful trust in his father maintained by the slow member of the Raybrock family?"
Whether the brothers had seen it before or no, they saw it now. Not that the captain gave them much time to contemplate the state of things at their ease, for he instantly whipped them into a chaise again, and bore them off to Steepways. Although the afternoon was but just beginning to decline when they reached it, and it was broad day-light, still they had no difficulty, by dint of muffing the returned sailor up, and ascending the village rather than descending it, in reaching Tregarthen's cottage unobserved. Kitty was not visible, and they surprised Tregarthen sitting writing in the small bay-window of his little room.
"Sir," said the captain, instantly shaking hands with him, pen and all, "I'm glad to see you, sir. How do you do, sir? I told you you'd think better of me by-and-by, and I congratulate you on going to do it."
Here the captain's eye fell on Tom Pettifer Ho, engaged in preparing some cookery at the fire.
"That critter," said the captain, smiting his leg, "is a born steward, and never ought to have been in any other way of life. Stop where you are, Tom, and make yourself useful. Now, Tregarthen, I'm going to try a chair."
Accordingly the captain drew one close to him, and went on:-
"This loving member of the Raybrock family you know, sir. This slow member of the same family you don't know, sir. Wa'al, these two are brothers,--fact! Hugh's come to life again, and here he stands. Now see here, my friend! You don't want to be told that he was cast away, but you do want to be told (for there's a purpose in it) that he was cast away with another man. That man by name was Lawrence Clissold."
At the mention of this name Tregarthen started and changed colour. "What's the matter?" said the captain.
"He was a fellow-clerk of mine thirty--five-and-thirty--years ago."
"True," said the captain, immediately catching at the clew: "Dringworth Brothers, America Square, London City."
The other started again, nodded, and said, "That was the house."
"Now," pursued the captain, "between those two men cast away there arose a mystery concerning the round sum of five hundred pound."
Again Tregarthen started, changing colour. Again the captain said, "What's the matter?"
As Tregarthen only answered, "Please to go on," the captain recounted, very tersely and plainly, the nature of Clissold's wanderings on the barren island, as he had condensed them in his mind from the seafaring man. Tregarthen became greatly agitated during this recital, and at length exclaimed, -
"Clissold was the man who ruined me! I have suspected it for many a long year, and now I know it."
"And how," said the captain, drawing his chair still closer to Tregarthen, and clapping his hand upon his shoulder,--"how may you know it?"
"When we were fellow-clerks," replied Tregarthen, "in that London house, it was one of my duties to enter daily in a certain book an account of the sums received that day by the firm, and afterward paid into the bankers'. One memorable day,--a Wednesday, the black day of my life,--among the sums I so entered was one of five hundred pounds."
"I begin to make it out," said the captain. "Yes?"
"It was one of Clissold's duties to copy from this entry a memorandum of the sums which the clerk employed to go to the bankers' paid in there. It was my duty to hand the money to Clissold; it was Clissold's to hand it to the clerk, with that memorandum of his writing. On that Wednesday I entered a sum of five hundred pounds received. I handed that sum, as I handed the other sums in the day's entry, to Clissold. I was absolutely certain of it at the time; I have been absolutely certain of it ever since. A sum of five hundred pounds was afterward found by the house to have been that day wanting from the bag, from Clissold's memorandum, and from the entries in my book. Clissold, being questioned, stood upon his perfect clearness in the matter, and emphatically declared that he asked no better than to be tested by 'Tregarthen's book.' My book was examined, and the entry of five hundred pounds was not there."
"How not there," said the captain, "when you made it yourself?"
"I was then questioned. Had I made the entry? Certainly I had. The house produced my book, and it was not there. I could not deny my book; I could not deny my writing. I knew there must be forgery by some one; but the writing was wonderfully like mine, and I could impeach no one if the house could not. I was required to pay the money back. I did so; and I left the house, almost broken-hearted, rather than remain there,--even if I could have done so,--with a dark shadow of suspicion always on me. I returned to my native place, Lanrean, and remained there, clerk to a mine, until I was appointed to my little post here."
"I well remember," said the captain, "that I told you that if you had no experience of ill judgments on deceiving appearances, you were a lucky man. You went hurt at that, and I see why. I'm sorry."
"Thus it is," said Tregarthen. "Of my own innocence I have of course been sure; it has been at once my comfort and my trial. Of Clissold I have always had suspicions almost amounting to certainty; but they have never been confirmed until now. For my daughter's sake and for my own I have carried this subject in my own heart, as the only secret of my life, and have long believed that it would die with me."
"Wa'al, my good sir," said the captain cordially, "the present question is, and will be long, I hope, concerning living, and not dying. Now, here are our two honest friends, the loving Raybrock and the slow. Here they stand, agreed on one point, on which I'd back 'em round the world, and right across it from north to south, and then again from east to west, and through it, from your deepest Cornish mine to China. It is, that they will never use this same so-often-mentioned sum of money, and that restitution of it must be made to you. These two, the loving member and the slow, for the sake of the right and of their father's memory, will have it ready for you to-morrow. Take it, and ease their minds and mine, and end a most unfortunate transaction."
Tregarthen took the captain by the hand, and gave his hand to each of the young men, but positively and finally answered No. He said, they trusted to his word, and he was glad of it, and at rest in his mind; but there was no proof, and the money must remain as it was. All were very earnest over this; and earnestness in men, when they are right and true, is so impressive, that Mr. Pettifer deserted his cookery and looked on quite moved.
"And so," said the captain, "so we come--as that lawyer-crittur over yonder where we were this morning might--to mere proof; do we? We must have it; must we? How? From this Clissold's wanderings, and from what you say, it ain't hard to make out that there was a neat forgery of your writing committed by the too smart rowdy that was grease and ashes when I made his acquaintance, and a substitution of a forged leaf in your book for a real and torn leaf torn out. Now was that real and true leaf then and there destroyed? No,--for says he, in his drunken way, he slipped it into a crack in his own desk, because you came into the office before there was time to burn it, and could never get back to it arterwards. Wait a bit. Where is that desk now? Do you consider it likely to be in America Square, London City?"
Tregarthen shook his head.
"The house has not, for years, transacted business in that place. I have heard of it, and read of it, as removed, enlarged, every way altered. Things alter so fast in these times."
"You think so," returned the captain, with compassion; "but you should come over and see me afore you talk about that. Wa'al, now. This desk, this paper,--this paper, this desk," said the captain, ruminating and walking about, and looking, in his uneasy abstraction, into Mr. Pettifer's hat on a table, among other things. "This desk, this paper,--this paper, this desk," the captain continued, musing and roaming about the room, "I'd give--"
However, he gave nothing, but took up his steward's hat instead, and stood looking into it, as if he had just come into church. After that he roamed again, and again said, "This desk, belonging to this house of Dringworth Brothers, America Square, London City--"
Mr. Pettifer, still strangely moved, and now more moved than before, cut the captain off as he backed across the room, and bespake him thus:-
"Captain Jorgan, I have been wishful to engage your attention, but I couldn't do it. I am unwilling to interrupt Captain Jorgan, but I must do it. I knew something about that house."
The captain stood stock-still and looked at him,--with his (Mr. Pettifer's) hat under his arm.
"You're aware," pursued his steward, "that I was once in the broking business, Captain Jorgan?"
"I was aware," said the captain, "that you had failed in that calling, and in half the businesses going, Tom."
"Not quite so, Captain Jorgan; but I failed in the broking business. I was partners with my brother, sir. There was a sale of old office furniture at Dringworth Brothers' when the house was moved from America Square, and me and my brother made what we call in the trade a Deal there, sir. And I'll make bold to say, sir, that the only thing I ever had from my brother, or from any relation,--for my relations have mostly taken property from me instead of giving me any,--was an old desk we bought at that same sale, with a crack in it. My brother wouldn't have given me even that, when we broke partnership, if it had been worth anything."
"Where is that desk now?" said the captain.
"Well, Captain Jorgan," replied the steward, "I couldn't say for certain where it is now; but when I saw it last,--which was last time we were outward bound,--it was at a very nice lady's at Wapping, along with a little chest of mine which was detained for a small matter of a bill owing."
The captain, instead of paying that rapt attention to his steward which was rendered by the other three persons present, went to Church again, in respect of the steward's hat. And a most especially agitated and memorable face the captain produced from it, after a short pause.
"Now, Tom," said the captain, "I spoke to you, when we first came here, respecting your constitutional weakness on the subject of sunstroke."
"You did, sir."
"Will my slow friend," said the captain, "lend me his arm, or I shall sink right back'ards into this blessed steward's cookery? Now, Tom," pursued the captain, when the required assistance was given, "on your oath as a steward, didn't you take that desk to pieces to make a better one of it, and put it together fresh,--or something of the kind?"
"On my oath I did, sir," replied the steward.
"And by the blessing of Heaven, my friends, one and all," cried the captain, radiant with joy,--"of the Heaven that put it into this Tom Pettifer's head to take so much care of his head against the bright sun,--he lined his hat with the original leaf in Tregarthen's writing,--and here it is!"
With that the captain, to the utter destruction of Mr. Pettifer's favourite hat, produced the book-leaf, very much worn, but still legible, and gave both his legs such tremendous slaps that they were heard far off in the bay, and never accounted for.
"A quarter past five p.m.," said the captain, pulling out his watch, "and that's thirty-three hours and a quarter in all, and a pritty run!"
How they were all overpowered with delight and triumph; how the money was restored, then and there, to Tregarthen; how Tregarthen, then and there, gave it all to his daughter; how the captain undertook to go to Dringworth Brothers and re-establish the reputation of their forgotten old clerk; how Kitty came in, and was nearly torn to pieces, and the marriage was reappointed, needs not to be told. Nor how she and the young fisherman went home to the post-office to prepare the way for the captain's coming, by declaring him to be the mightiest of men, who had made all their fortunes,--and then dutifully withdrew together, in order that he might have the domestic coast entirely to himself. How he availed himself of it is all that remains to tell.
Deeply delighted with his trust, and putting his heart into it, he raised the latch of the post-office parlour where Mrs. Raybrock and the young widow sat, and said, -
"May I come in?"
"Sure you may, Captain Jorgan!" replied the old lady. "And good reason you have to be free of the house, though you have not been too well used in it by some who ought to have known better. I ask your pardon."
"No you don't, ma'am," said the captain, "for I won't let you. Wa'al, to be sure!"
By this time he had taken a chair on the hearth between them.
"Never felt such an evil spirit in the whole course of my life! There! I tell you! I could a'most have cut my own connection. Like the dealer in my country, away West, who when he had let himself be outdone in a bargain, said to himself, 'Now I tell you what! I'll never speak to you again.' And he never did, but joined a settlement of oysters, and translated the multiplication table into their language,--which is a fact that can be proved. If you doubt it, mention it to any oyster you come across, and see if he'll have the face to contradict it."
He took the child from her mother's lap and set it on his knee.
"Not a bit afraid of me now, you see. Knows I am fond of small people. I have a child, and she's a girl, and I sing to her sometimes."
"What do you sing?" asked Margaret.
"Not a long song, my dear.
Silas Jorgan Played the organ.
That's about all. And sometimes I tell her stories,--stories of sailors supposed to be lost, and recovered after all hope was abandoned." Here the captain musingly went back to his song, -
Silas Jorgan Played the organ;
repeating it with his eyes on the fire, as he softly danced the child on his knee. For he felt that Margaret had stopped working.
"Yes," said the captain, still looking at the fire, "I make up stories and tell 'em to that child. Stories of shipwreck on desert islands, and long delay in getting back to civilised lauds. It is to stories the like of that, mostly, that
Silas Jorgan Plays the organ."
There was no light in the room but the light of the fire; for the shades of night were on the village, and the stars had begun to peep out of the sky one by one, as the houses of the village peeped out from among the foliage when the night departed. The captain felt that Margaret's eyes were upon him, and thought it discreetest to keep his own eyes on the fire.
"Yes; I make 'em up," said the captain. "I make up stories of brothers brought together by the good providence of GOD,--of sons brought back to mothers, husbands brought back to wives, fathers raised from the deep, for little children like herself."
Margaret's touch was on his arm, and he could not choose but look round now. Next moment her hand moved imploringly to his breast, and she was on her knees before him,--supporting the mother, who was also kneeling.
"What's the matter?" said the captain. "What's the matter?
Silas Jorgan Played the -
Their looks and tears were too much for him, and he could not finish the song, short as it was.
"Mistress Margaret, you have borne ill fortune well. Could you bear good fortune equally well, if it was to come?"
"I hope so. I thankfully and humbly and earnestly hope so!"
"Wa'al, my dear," said the captain, "p'rhaps it has come. He's-- don't be frightened--shall I say the word--"
The thanks they fervently addressed to Heaven were again too much for the captain, who openly took out his handkerchief and dried his eyes.
"He's no further off," resumed the captain, "than my country. Indeed, he's no further off than his own native country. To tell you the truth, he's no further off than Falmouth. Indeed, I doubt if he's quite so fur. Indeed, if you was sure you could bear it nicely, and I was to do no more than whistle for him--"
The captain's trust was discharged. A rush came, and they were all together again.
This was a fine opportunity for Tom Pettifer to appear with a tumbler of cold water, and he presently appeared with it, and administered it to the ladies; at the same time soothing them, and composing their dresses, exactly as if they had been passengers crossing the Channel. The extent to which the captain slapped his legs, when Mr. Pettifer acquitted himself of this act of stewardship, could have been thoroughly appreciated by no one but himself; inasmuch as he must have slapped them black and blue, and they must have smarted tremendously.
He couldn't stay for the wedding, having a few appointments to keep at the irreconcilable distance of about four thousand miles. So next morning all the village cheered him up to the level ground above, and there he shook hands with a complete Census of its population, and invited the whole, without exception, to come and stay several months with him at Salem, Mass., U.S. And there as he stood on the spot where he had seen that little golden picture of love and parting, and from which he could that morning contemplate another golden picture with a vista of golden years in it, little Kitty put her arms around his neck, and kissed him on both his bronzed cheeks, and laid her pretty face upon his storm-beaten breast, in sight of all,--ashamed to have called such a noble captain names. And there the captain waved his hat over his head three final times; and there he was last seen, going away accompanied by Tom Pettifer Ho, and carrying his hands in his pockets. And there, before that ground was softened with the fallen leaves of three more summers, a rosy little boy took his first unsteady run to a fair young mother's breast, and the name of that infant fisherman was Jorgan Raybrock.
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