Once Aboard the Lugger Part 35

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Gain strength from strength. Set troubles against the enduring hills, misfortunes against the immense seas, perplexities against vast s.p.a.ce, torments against the stout trees. Learn to take tribute of strength from every object that is built of strength--the strength of solidity that a stout beam may give, the strength of beauty that from a picture or a statuary irradiates.

Gain strength from strength. It is a first principle of warfare to band undisciplined troops with tried regiments, to shoulder recruits with veterans. The horse-breaker will set the timid colt in harness with the steady mare. Thus is stiffening and a sense of security imparted to the weaker spirit; timidity oozes and is burned by the steady flame of courage that from the stronger emanates. In the heat of that flame latent strength warms and kindles in the weaker.

Gain strength from strength. Seek intercourse with the minds that are above you; if not to be encountered, they are to be purchased in books. Avoid communion with the small minds below you and of your level.

No man, nor book, nor thing can be touched without virtue pa.s.sing thence into you. See to it that who or what you touch gives you strength, not weakness; uplifts, not debases. The aspiring athlete does not seek to match his strength against inferiors. These give him- -easy victory. Contact with them is for him effortless; they tend to draw him to their plane. Rather, being wise, he shuns them to pit his prowess against such as can give him best, from whom he may learn, out of whom he will take virtue, by whom he will be raised to all that is best in him. Gain strength from strength. The attributes strength and weakness are as infectious as the plague. Make your bed so that you may lie with strength and catch his affection.

I do not pretend that these are thoughts which influenced the persons of my history. My unthinking George and my simple Mary would care nothing for such things. Sight of the enduring hills would evoke in my George the uttered belief that they would be an infernal sweat to climb; sound of the immense seas if in anger would move my Mary to prayer for all those in peril on the wave, if in lapping tranquillity to sentimental thoughts of her George. But they had laughter and they had love. Adversity can make little fight against those l.u.s.ty weapons.

And now we have an exquisite balcony scene and rare midnight alarms for your delectation.

CHAPTER II.

An Exquisite Balcony Scene; And Something About Sausages.

I.

On that day when George left his Mary at the little lodgings in Meath Street, Battersea, Bill Wyvern returned to Paitley Hill after absence from home for a week upon a visit.

His Margaret was his first thought upon his arrival. Letters between the pair were, by the sharpness of Mr. Marrapit's eye, compelled to be exchanged not through the post but by medium of a lovers' postal box situate in the hole of a tree in that shrubbery of Herons' Holt where they were wont by stealth to meet. Thus when Bill, upon this day of his return, scaled the tremendous wall and groped among the bushes, he saw the trysting bower innocent of his love--then searched and found a letter.

A sad little note for lover's heart. Mr. Marrapit, it said, abed of a chill, prevented Margaret meeting her Bill that afternoon. Her father must be constantly ministered; impossible to say when she would be released. She heard him calling, she must fly to him. With fondest love. No time for more.

II.

The lines chilled Bill's heart. His was a fidgety and nervous love that took fright at shadow of doubt. The week that had divided him from Margaret was the longest period they had not embraced since their discovery one of another. Was it not possible, he tortured himself, that loss of his presence had blurred his image in her heart?

Countless heroes of his own stories who thus had suffered rose to a.s.sure him that possible indeed it was. The more he brooded upon it the more probable did it become.

Bedtime found him desolated. In apprehension he paced his room. The thought of sleep with this devil of doubt to thump his pillow was impossible. Leaning from his window he gazed upon the stars and groaned; dropped eyes to the lawn, silvered in moonlight, and started beneath the p.r.i.c.k of a sudden thought. It was a night conceived for lovers' tryst. He would seek his Margaret's open window, whistle her from her bed, and bring this d.a.m.ned doubt of her to reality or knock the ghostly villain dead.

It was an inspiriting thought, and Bill started to whistle upon it until he remembered the demeanour in which he would have sent forth one of his own heroes upon such a mission. "Dark eyes gleaming strangely from a pale, set face," he would have written. Bill's eyes were of a clearest, childlike blue which interfered a little with the proper conception of the role he was to play; but blanketing his spirits in melancholy he stepped from his room and pa.s.sed down the stairs.

That favoured bull-terrier Abiram, sleeping in the hall, drummed a tattoo of welcome upon the floor.

"Chuck it," said Bill morosely.

The "faithful hound" that gives solace to the wounded heart is a pretty enough thing in stories; Abiram had had no training for the part. This dog a.s.sociated his master not with melancholy that needed caressing but with wild "rags" that gave and demanded tremendous spirits.

Intelligence, however, showed the wise creature that the tone of that command meant he was to be excluded from whatever wild rag might be now afoot. It was not to be borne. Therefore, to lull suspicion, Abiram ceased his drumming; rose when Bill had pa.s.sed; behind him crept stealthily; and upon the door being opened bounded around his master's legs and into the moonlight with a joyous yelp.

Fearful of arousing Korah and Dathan in their kennels to tremendous din if he bellowed orders, Bill hissed commands advising Abiram to return indoors under threat of awful penalties.

Abiram frisked and skipped upon the lawn like a young lamb.

Bill changed commands for missiles.

Abiram, entering into the thing with rare spirit, caught, worried, and killed each clod of earth hurled at him, then bounded expectant forward for the next sacrifice that would be thrown for his delight in this entrancing game.

"Very well," spoke Bill between his teeth. "Very well. You jolly well come, my boy. Wait till you get near enough for me to catch you, that's all."

Beneath this understanding they moved forward across the lawn and down the road; Abiram sufficiently in the rear to hara.s.s rats that might be going about their business, without himself being in the zone of his master's strength.

Heaving a sigh burthened with fond memory as he pa.s.sed the wall of Herons' Holt where it gave upon the secret meeting-place in the shrubbery, Bill skirted the grounds; for the second time in his life pa.s.sed through the gate and up the drive.

III.

Well he knew his adored's window. From the shrubbery she had pointed it him. Now with a bang of the heart he observed that the bottom sash stood open so that night breezes, mingling freely with the perfumes of her apartment, unhindered could bear in to her his tremulous love- signals.

He set a low whistle upon the air. It was not louder, he felt, than the agitated banging of his heart that succeeded it.

Again he whistled, and once again. There was a rustling from within.

"Margaret!" he softly called. "Margaret!"

She appeared. The blessed damosel leaned out. About her yearning face the long dark hair abundantly fell; her pretty bed-gown, unb.u.t.toned low, gave him glimpse of snowy bosom, beautifully rounded.

"Oh, Bill!" she cried, stretching her arms.

Then, glancing downwards at her person, she stepped back swiftly.

Reappearing, the soft round of her twin b.r.e.a.s.t.s was not to view.

She had b.u.t.toned up her night-dress.

"Oh, Bill!"

"Oh, Margaret!"

"_Wow!_" spoke Abiram in nerve-shattering welcome. "_Wow!_"

The blessed damosel fled. Bill plunged a kick. Abiram took the skirt of it; waddled away across the lawn, his waving stern expressing pleasure at having at once shown his politeness by bidding a lady good evening, and at being, like true gentleman, well able to take a hint.

Bill put upon the breeze:

"It's all right. He's gone."

No answer. Shuddering with terror lest that hideous _wow!_ had disturbed the house the blessed damosel lay trembling abed, the coverings pressed about her straining ears.

"He's gone," Bill strained again, his larynx torn with the rasp of whispers that must penetrate like shouts and yet speed soft-shod.

"He's gone!"

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 35

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 35 summary

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