> "A wet sheet and a flowing sea, > A wind that follows fast > And fills the white and rustling sail, > And bends the gallant mast!
> And bends the gallant mast, my boys, > While, like the eagle free, > Away the good ship flies, and leaves > Old England on the lee."
> —ALLAN CUNNINGHAM.
Mary had not understood that Charley was not coming with her. In fact, she ha_ot thought about it, till she perceived his absence, as they pushed off fro_he landing-place, and remembered that she had never thanked him for all hi_ind interest in her behalf; and now his absence made her feel mos_onely—even his, the little mushroom friend of an hour's growth.
The boat threaded her way through the maze of larger vessels which surrounde_he shore, bumping against one, kept off by the oars from going right agains_nother, overshadowed by a third, until at length they were fairly out on th_road river, away from either shore; the sights and sounds of land being hear_n the distance.
And then came a sort of pause.
Both wind and tide were against the two men, and labour as they would the_ade but little way. Once Mary in her impatience had risen up to obtain _etter view of the progress they had made; but the men had roughly told her t_it down immediately, and she had dropped on her seat like a chidden child, although the impatience was still at her heart.
But now she grew sure they were turning off from the straight course whic_hey had hitherto kept on the Cheshire side of the river, whither they ha_one to avoid the force of the current, and after a short time she could no_elp naming her conviction, as a kind of nightmare dread and belief came ove_er, that everything animate and inanimate was in league against her one sol_im and object of overtaking Will.
They answered gruffly. They saw a boatman whom they knew, and were desirous o_btaining his services as a steersman, so that both might row with greate_ffect. They knew what they were about. So she sat silent with clenched hand_hile the parley went on, the explanation was given, the favour asked an_ranted. But she was sickening all the time with nervous fear.
They had been rowing a long, long time—half a day it seemed, at least—ye_iverpool appeared still close at hand, and Mary began almost to wonder tha_he men were not as much disheartened as she was, when the wind, which ha_een hitherto against them, dropped, and thin clouds began to gather over th_ky, shutting out the sun, and casting a chilly gloom over everything.
There was not a breath of air, and yet it was colder than when the sof_iolence of the westerly wind had been felt.
The men renewed their efforts. The boat gave a bound forwards at every pull o_he oars. The water was glassy and motionless, reflecting tint by tint of th_ndian-ink sky above. Mary shivered, and her heart sank within her. Still, no_hey evidently were making progress. Then the steersman pointed to a ripplin_ine on the river only a little way off, and the men disturbed Mary, who wa_atching the ships that lay in what appeared to her the open sea, to get a_heir sails.
She gave a little start, and rose. Her patience, her grief, and perhaps he_ilence, had begun to win upon the men.
"Yon second to the norrard is the John Cropper. Wind's right now, and sail_ill soon carry us alongside of her."
He had forgotten (or perhaps he did not like to remind Mary) that the sam_ind which now bore their little craft along with easy, rapid motion, woul_lso be favourable to the John Cropper.
But as they looked with straining eyes, as if to measure the decreasin_istance that separated them from her, they saw her sails unfurled and flap i_he breeze, till, catching the right point, they bellied forth into whit_oundness, and the ship began to plunge and heave, as if she were a livin_reature, impatient to be off.
"They're heaving anchor!" said one of the boatmen to the other, as the fain_usical cry of the sailors came floating over the waters that still separate_hem.
Full of the spirit of the chase, though as yet ignorant of Mary's motives, th_en sprung to hoist another sail. It was fully as much as the boat could bear, in the keen, gusty east wind which was now blowing, and she bent, an_aboured, and ploughed, and creaked upbraidingly as if tasked beyond he_trength; but she sped along with a gallant swiftness.
They drew nearer, and they heard the distant "ahoy" more clearly.
It ceased. The anchor was up, and the ship was away.
Mary stood up, steadying herself by the mast, and stretched out her arms, imploring the flying vessel to stay its course, by that mute action, while th_ears streamed down her cheeks. The men caught up their oars and hoisted the_n the air, and shouted to arrest attention.
They were seen by the men aboard the larger craft; but they were too busy wit_ll the confusion prevalent in an outward-bound vessel to pay much attention.
There were coils of ropes and seamen's chests to be stumbled over at ever_urn; there were animals, not properly secured, roaming bewildered about th_eck, adding their pitiful lowings and bleatings to the aggregate of noises.
There were carcases not cut up, looking like corpses of sheep and pigs rathe_han like mutton and pork; there were sailors running here and there an_verywhere, having had no time to fall into method, and with their mind_ivided between thoughts of the land and the people they had left, and th_resent duties on board ship; while the captain strove hard to procure som_ind of order by hasty commands given in a loud, impatient voice, to right an_eft, starboard and larboard, cabin and steerage.
As he paced the deck with a chafed step, vexed at one or two little mistake_n the part of the mate, and suffering himself from the pain of separatio_rom wife and children, but showing his suffering only by his outwar_rritation, he heard a hail from the shabby little river boat that wa_triving to overtake his winged ship. For the men fearing that, as the shi_as now fairly over the bar, they should only increase the distance betwee_hem, and being now within shouting range, had asked of Mary her mor_articular desire.
Her throat was dry, all musical sound had gone out of her voice; but in _oud, harsh whisper she told the men her errand of life and death, and the_ailed the ship.
"We're come for one William Wilson, who is wanted to prove an alibi i_iverpool Assize Courts to-morrow. James Wilson is to be tried for a murde_one on Thursday night when he was with William Wilson. Anything more, missis?" asked the boatman of Mary, in a lower voice, and taking his hand_own from his mouth.
"Say I'm Mary Barton. Oh, the ship is going on! Oh, for the love of Heaven, ask them to stop."
The boatman was angry at the little regard paid to his summons, and called ou_gain; repeating the message with the name of the young woman who sent it, an_nterlarding it with sailors' oaths.
The ship flew along—away—the boat struggled after.
They could see the captain take his speaking-trumpet. And oh! and alas! the_eard his words.
He swore a dreadful oath; he called Mary a disgraceful name! and he said h_ould not stop his ship for any one, nor could he part with a single hand, whoever swung for it.
The words came in unpitying clearness with their trumpet-sound. Mary sat dow_ooking like one who prays in the death agony. For her eyes were turned up t_hat heaven, where mercy dwelleth, while her blue lips quivered, though n_ound came. Then she bowed her head, and hid it in her hands.
"Hark! yon sailor hails us."
She looked up, and her heart stopped its beating to listen.
William Wilson stood as near the stern of the vessel as he could get; an_nable to obtain the trumpet from the angry captain, made a tube of his ow_ands.
"So help me God, Mary Barton, I'll come back in the pilot-boat time enough t_ave the life of the innocent."
"What does he say?" asked Mary wildly, as the voice died away in th_ncreasing distance, while the boatmen cheered, in their kindled sympathy wit_heir passenger.
"What does he say?" repeated she. "Tell me. I could not hear."
She had heard with her ears, but her brain refused to recognise the sense.
They repeated his speech, all three speaking at once, with many comments; while Mary looked at them and then at the vessel far away.
"I don't rightly know about it," said she sorrowfully. "What is the pilot- boat?"
They told her, and she gathered the meaning out of the sailors' slang whic_nveloped it. There was a hope still, although so slight and faint.
"How far does the pilot go with the ship?"
To different distances, they said. Some pilots would go as far as Holyhead fo_he chance of the homeward-bound vessels; others only took the ships over th_anks. Some captains were more cautious than others, and the pilots ha_ifferent ways. The wind was against the homeward-bound vessels, so perhap_he pilot aboard the John Cropper would not care to go far out.
"How soon would he come back?"
There were three boatmen, and three opinions, varying from twelve hours to tw_ays. Nay, the man who gave his vote for the longest time, on having hi_udgment disputed, grew stubborn, and doubled the time, and thought it migh_e the end of the week before the pilot-boat came home.
They began disputing and urging reasons; and Mary tried to understand them; but independently of their nautical language, a veil seemed drawn over he_ind, and she had no clear perception of anything that passed. Her very word_eemed not her own, and beyond her power of control, for she found hersel_peaking quite differently to what she meant.
One by one her hopes had fallen away, and left her desolate; and though _hance yet remained, she could no longer hope. She felt certain it, too, woul_ade and vanish. She sank into a kind of stupor. All outward object_armonised with her despair—the gloomy leaden sky—the deep dark waters below, of a still heavier shade of colour—the cold, flat yellow shore in th_istance, which no ray lightened up—the nipping, cutting wind.
She shivered with her depression of mind and body.
The sails were taken down, of course, on the return to Liverpool, and th_rogress they made, rowing and tacking, was very slow. The men talke_ogether, disputing about the pilots at first, and then about matters of loca_mportance, in which Mary would have taken no interest at any time, and sh_radually became drowsy; irrepressibly so, indeed, for in spite of her jerkin_fforts to keep awake, she sank away to the bottom of the boat, and there la_rouched on a rough heap of sails, rope, and tackles of various kinds.
The measured beat of the waters against the sides of the boat, and the musica_oom of the more distant waves, were more lulling than silence, and she slep_ound.
Once she opened her eyes heavily, and dimly saw the old grey, rough boatman (who had stood out the most obstinately for the full fare) covering her wit_is thick pea-jacket. He had taken it off on purpose, and was doing i_enderly in his way, but before she could rouse herself up to thank him sh_ad dropped off to sleep again.
At last, in the dusk of evening, they arrived at the landing-place from whic_hey had started some hours before. The men spoke to Mary, but though sh_echanically replied, she did not stir; so, at length, they were obliged t_hake her. She stood up, shivering and puzzled as to her whereabouts.
"Now tell me where you are bound to, missus," said the grey old man, "an_aybe I can put you in the way."
She slowly comprehended what he said, and went through the process o_ecollection; but very dimly, and with much labour. She put her hand into he_ocket and pulled out her purse, and shook its contents into the man's hand; and then began meekly to unpin her shawl, although they had turned awa_ithout asking for it.
"No! no!" said the old man, who lingered on the step before springing into th_oat, and to whom she mutely offered the shawl. "Keep it! we donnot want it.
It were only for to try you,—some folks say they've no more blunt, when al_he while they've getten a mint."
"Thank you," said she, in a dull, low tone.
"Where are you bound to? I axed that question afore," said the gruff ol_ellow.
"I don't know. I'm a stranger," replied she quietly, with a strange absence o_nxiety under the circumstances.
"But you mun find out then," said he sharply: "pier-head's no place for _oung woman to be standing on, gapeseying."
"I've a card somewhere as will tell me," she answered, and the man, partl_elieved, jumped into the boat, which was now pushing off to make way for th_rrivals from some steamer.
Mary felt in her pocket for the card, on which was written the name of th_treet where she was to have met Mr. Bridgnorth at two o'clock; where Job an_rs. Wilson were to have been, and where she was to have learnt from th_ormer the particulars of some respectable lodging. It was not to be found.
She tried to brighten her perceptions, and felt again, and took out the littl_rticles her pocket contained, her empty purse, her pocket-handkerchief, an_uch little things, but it was not there.
In fact, she had dropped it when, so eager to embark, she had pulled out he_urse to reckon up her money.
She did not know this, of course. She only knew it was gone.
It added but little to the despair that was creeping over her. But she tried _ittle more to help herself, though every minute her mind became more cloudy.
She strove to remember where Will had lodged, but she could not; name, street, everything had passed away, and it did not signify; better she were lost tha_ound.
She sat down quietly on the top step of the landing, and gazed down into th_ark, dank water below. Once or twice a spectral thought loomed among th_hadows of her brain; a wonder whether beneath that cold dismal surface ther_ould not be rest from the troubles of earth. But she could not hold an ide_efore her for two consecutive moments; and she forgot what she thought abou_efore she could act upon it.
So she continued sitting motionless, without looking up, or regarding in an_ay the insults to which she was subjected.
Through the darkening light the old boatman had watched her: interested in he_n spite of himself, and his scoldings of himself.
When the landing-place was once more comparatively clear, he made his wa_owards it, across boats, and along planks, swearing at himself while he di_o for an old fool.
He shook Mary's shoulder violently.
"D—- you, I ask you again where you're bound to? Don't sit there, stupid.
Where are going to?"
"I don't know," sighed Mary.
"Come, come; avast with that story. You said a bit ago you'd a card, which wa_o tell you where to go."
"I had, but I've lost it. Never mind."
She looked again down upon the black mirror below.
He stood by her, striving to put down his better self; but he could not. H_hook her again. She looked up, as if she had forgotten him.
"What do you want?" asked she wearily.
"Come with me and be d—d to you!" replied he, clutching her arm to pull he_p.
She arose and followed him, with the unquestioning docility of a little child.