HomeCharles DickensA Message From the Sea

A Message From the Sea. Charles Dickens

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—"

"Alive?"

"Yes!"

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.

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