The spring has come. The air
of the April night just lifts
the leaves of the sleeping flowers.
The moon is queen in the cloudless
and starless sky. The stillness
of the midnight hour is abroad,
over land and over sea.
In a villa on the westward
shore of the Isle of Wight, the
glass doors which lead from the
drawing-room to the garden are
yet open. The shaded lamp yet
burns on the table. A lady sits
by the lamp, reading. From time
to time she looks out into the
garden, and sees the white-robed
figure of a young girl pacing
slowly to and fro in the soft
brightness of the moonlight on
the lawn. Sorrow and suspense
have set their mark on the lady.
Not rivals only, but friends
who formerly admired her, agree
now that she looks worn and aged.
The more merciful judgment of
others remarks, with equal truth,
that her eyes, her hair, her
simple grace and grandeur of
movement have lost but little
of their olden charms. The truth
lies, as usual, between the two
extremes. In spite of sorrow
and suffering, Mrs. Crayford
is the beautiful Mrs. Crayford
The delicious silence of the
hour is softly disturbed by the
voice of the younger lady in
"Go to the
piano, Lucy. It is a night
for music. Play something
that is worthy of the night."
Mrs. Crayford looks round at
the clock on the mantelpiece.
"My dear Clara,
it is past twelve! Remember
what the doctor
told you. You ought to have been
in bed an hour ago."
"Half an hour,
Lucy--give me half an hour
more! Look at the
moonlight on the sea. Is it possible
to go to bed on such a night
as this? Play something, Lucy--something
spiritual and divine."
Earnestly pleading with her
friend, Clara advances toward
the window. She too has suffered
under the wasting influences
of suspense. Her face has lost
its youthful freshness; no delicate
flush of color rises on it when
she speaks. The soft gray eyes
which won Frank's heart in the
by-gone time are sadly altered
now. In repose, they have a dimmed
and wearied look. In action,
they are wild and restless, like
eyes suddenly wakened from startling
dreams. Robed in white--her soft
brown hair hanging loosely over
her shoulders--there is something
weird and ghost-like in the girl,
as she moves nearer and nearer
to the window in the full light
of the moon--pleading for music
that shall be worthy of the mystery
and the beauty of the night.
"Will you come in here if I
play to you?" Mrs. Crayford asks. "It
is a risk, my love, to be out
so long in the night air."
"No! no! I
like it. Play--while I am out
here looking at the
sea. It quiets me; it comforts
me; it does me good."
She glides back, ghost-like,
over the lawn. Mrs. Crayford
rises, and puts down the volume
that she has been reading. It
is a record of explorations in
the Arctic seas. The time has
gone by when the two lonely women
could take an interest in subjects
not connected with their own
anxieties. Now, when hope is
fast failing them--now, when
their last news of the _Wanderer_
and the _Sea-mew_ is news that
is more than two years old--they
can read of nothing, they can
think of nothing, but dangers
and discoveries, losses and rescues
in the terrible Polar seas.
Mrs. Crayford puts her book
aside, and opens
the piano--Mozart's "Air in A,
with Variations," lies open on
the instrument. One after another
she plays the lovely melodies,
so simply, so purely beautiful,
of that unpretending and unrivaled
work. At the close of the ninth
Variation (Clara's favorite),
she pauses, and turns toward
"Shall I stop there?" she
There is no answer. Has Clara
wandered away out of hearing
of the music that she loves--the
music that harmonizes so subtly
with the tender beauty of the
night? Mrs. Crayford rises and
advances to the window.
No! there is the white figure
standing alone on the slope of
the lawn--the head turned away
from the house; the face looking
out over the calm sea, whose
gently rippling waters end in
the dim line on the horizon which
is the line of the Hampshire
Mrs. Crayford advances as far
as the path before the window,
and calls to her.
Again there is no answer. The
white figure still stands immovably
in its place.
With signs of distress in her
face, but with no appearance
of alarm, Mrs. Crayford returns
to the room. Her own sad experience
tells her what has happened.
She summons the servants and
directs them to wait in the drawing-room
until she calls to them. This
done, she returns to the garden,
and approaches the mysterious
figure on the lawn.
Dead to the
outer world, as if she lay
already in her grave--insensible
to touch, insensible to sound,
motionless as stone, cold as
stone--Clara stands on the moonlit
lawn, facing the seaward view.
Mrs. Crayford waits at her side,
patiently watching for the change
which she knows is to come. "Catalepsy," as
some call it--"hysteria," as
others say--this alone is certain,
the same interval always passes;
the same change always appears.
It comes now. Not a change
in her eyes; they still remain
wide open, fixed and glassy.
The first movement is a movement
of her hands. They rise slowly
from her side and waver in the
air like the hands of a person
groping in the dark. Another
interval, and the movement spreads
to her lips: they part and tremble.
A few minutes more, and words
begin to drop, one by one, from
those parted lips--words spoken
in a lost, vacant tone, as if
she is talking in her sleep.
Mrs. Crayford looks back at
the house. Sad experience makes
her suspicious of the servants'
curiosity. Sad experience has
long since warned her that the
servants are not to be trusted
within hearing of the wild words
which Clara speaks in the trance.
Has any one of them ventured
into the garden? No. They are
out of hearing at the window,
waiting for the signal which
tells them that their help is
Turning toward Clara once more,
Mrs. Crayford hears the vacantly
uttered words, falling faster
and faster from her lips
Frank! Don't drop behind--don't
Wardour. While you can stand,
keep with the other men, Frank!"
(The farewell warning of Crayford
in the solitudes of the Frozen
Deep, repeated by Clara in the
garden of her English home!)
A moment of silence follows;
and, in that moment, the vision
has changed. She sees him on
the iceberg now, at the mercy
of the bitterest enemy he has
on earth. She sees him drifting--over
the black water, through the
"Wake, Frank! wake and defend
yourself! Richard Wardour knows
that I love you--Richard Wardour's
vengeance will take your life!
Wake, Frank--wake! You are drifting
to your death!" A low groan of
horror bursts from her, sinister
and terrible to hear. "Drifting!
drifting!" she whispers to herself--"drifting
to his death!"
Her glassy eyes suddenly soften--then
close. A long shudder runs through
her. A faint flush shows itself
on the deadly pallor of her face,
and fades again. Her limbs fail
her. She sinks into Mrs. Crayford's
The servants, answering the
call for help, carry her into
the house. They lay her insensible
on her bed. After half an hour
or more, her eyes open again--this
time with the light of life in
them--open, and rest languidly
on the friend sitting by the
"I have had a dreadful dream," she
murmurs faintly. "Am I ill, Lucy?
I feel so weak."
Even as she says the words,
sleep, gentle, natural sleep,
takes her suddenly, as it takes
young children weary with their
play. Though it is all over now,
though no further watching is
required, Mrs. Crayford still
keeps her place by the bedside,
too anxious and too wakeful to
retire to her own room.
On other occasions,
she is accustomed to dismiss
mind the words which drop from
Clara in the trance. This time
the effort to dismiss them is
beyond her power. The words haunt
her. Vainly she recalls to memory
all that the doctors have said
to her, in speaking of Clara
in the state of trance. "What
she vaguely dreads for the lost
man whom she loves is mingled
in her mind with what she is
constantly reading, of trials,
dangers, and escapes in the Arctic
seas. The most startling things
that she may say or do are all
attributable to this cause, and
may all be explained in this
way." So the doctors have spoken;
and, thus far, Mrs. Crayford
has shared their view. It is
only to-night that the girl's
words ring in her ear, with a
strange prophetic sound in them.
It is only to-night that she
asks herself: "Is Clara present,
in the spirit, with our loved
and lost ones in the lonely North?
Can mortal vision see the dead
and living in the solitudes of
the Frozen Deep?"