The man was a sinister and terrible
object to look at. His eyes glared
like the eyes of a wild animal;
his head was bare; his long gray
hair was torn and tangled; his
miserable garments hung about
him in rags. He stood in the
doorway, a speechless figure
of misery and want, staring at
the well-spread table like a
Steventon spoke to him.
"Who are you?"
He answered, in a hoarse, hollow
He advanced a few steps, slowly
and painfully, as if he were
sinking under fatigue.
"Throw me some bones from the
table," he said. "Give me my
share along with the dogs."
There was madness as well as
hunger in his eyes while he spoke
those words. Steventon placed
Mrs. Crayford behind him, so
that he might be easily able
to protect her in case of need,
and beckoned to two sailors who
were passing the door of the
boat-house at the time.
"Give the man some bread and
meat," he said, "and wait near
The outcast seized on the bread
and meat with lean, long-nailed
hands that looked like claws.
After his first mouthful of the
food, he stopped, considered
vacantly with himself, and broke
the bread and meat into two portions.
One portion he put into an old
canvas wallet that hung over
his shoulder; the other he devoured
voraciously. Steventon questioned
"Where do you
"From the sea."
Steventon turned to Mrs. Crayford.
"There may be some truth in
the poor wretch's story," he
said. "I heard something of a
strange boat having been cast
on the beach thirty or forty
miles higher up the coast. When
were you wrecked, my man?"
The starving creature looked
up from his food, and made an
effort to collect his thoughts--to
exert his memory. It was not
to be done. He gave up the attempt
in despair. His language, when
he spoke, was as wild as his
"I can't tell you," he said. "I
can't get the wash of the sea
out of my ears. I can't get the
shining stars all night, and
the burning sun all day, out
of my brain. When was I wrecked?
When was I first adrift in the
boat? When did I get the tiller
in my hand and fight against
hunger and sleep? When did the
gnawi ng in my breast, and the
burning in my head, first begin?
I have lost all reckoning of
it. I can't think; I can't sleep;
I can't get the wash of the sea
out of my ears. What are you
baiting me with questions for?
Let me eat!"
Even the sailors pitied him.
The sailors asked leave of their
officer to add a little drink
to his meal.
a drop of grog with us, sir,
in a bottle. May we
give it to him?"
He took the bottle fiercely,
as he had taken the food, drank
a little, stopped, and considered
with himself again. He held up
the bottle to the light, and,
marking how much liquor it contained,
carefully drank half of it only.
This done, he put the bottle
in his wallet along with the
"Are you saving it up for another
time?" said Steventon.
"I'm saving it up," the man
answered. "Never mind what for.
That's my secret."
He looked round the boat-house
as he made that reply, and noticed
Mrs. Crayford for the first time.
"A woman among you!" he said. "Is
she English? Is she young? Let
me look closer at her."
He advanced a few steps toward
"Don't be afraid, Mrs. Crayford," said
"I am not afraid," Mrs. Crayford
replied. "He frightened me at
first--he interests me now. Let
him speak to me if he wishes
He never spoke. He stood, in
dead silence, looking long and
anxiously at the beautiful Englishwoman.
He shook his head sadly, and
drew back again with a heavy
"No!" he said to himself, "that's
not _her_ face. No! not found
Mrs. Crayford's interest was
strongly excited. She ventured
to speak to him.
"Who is it you want to find?" she
asked. "Your wife?"
He shook his head again.
What is she like?"
He answered that question in
words. His hoarse, hollow voice
softened, little by little, into
sorrowful and gentle tones.
"Young," he said; "with
a fair, sad face--with kind,
a soft, clear voice. Young and
loving and merciful. I keep her
face in my mind, though I can
keep nothing else. I must wander,
wander, wander--restless, sleepless,
homeless--till I find _her!_
Over the ice and over the snow;
tossing on the sea, tramping
over the land; awake all night,
awake all day; wander, wander,
wander, till I find _her!_"
He waved his hand with a gesture
of farewell, and turned wearily
to go out.
At the same moment Crayford
opened the yard door.
"I think you had better come
to Clara," he began, and checked
himself, noticing the stranger. "Who
The shipwrecked man, hearing
another voice in the room, looked
round slowly over his shoulder.
Struck by his appearance, Crayford
advanced a little nearer to him.
Mrs. Crayford spoke to her husband
as he passed her.
"It's only a poor, mad creature,
William," she whispered--"shipwrecked
"Mad?" Crayford repeated, approaching
nearer and nearer to the man. "Am
_I_ in my right senses?" He suddenly
sprang on the outcast, and seized
him by the throat. "Richard Wardour!" he
cried, in a voice of fury. "Alive!--alive,
to answer for Frank!"
The man struggled. Crayford
"Where is Frank?" he said. "You
villain, where is Frank?"
The man resisted no longer.
He repeated vacantly,
where is Frank?"
As the name escaped his lips,
Clara appeared at the open yard
door, and hurried into the room.
"I heard Richard's name!" she
said. "I heard Frank's name!
What does it mean?"
At the sound
of her voice the outcast renewed
to free himself, with a sudden
frenzy of strength which Crayford
was not able to resist. He broke
away before the sailors could
come to their officer's assistance.
Half-way down the length of the
room he and Clara met one another
face to face. A new light sparkled
in the poor wretch's eyes; a
cry of recognition burst from
his lips. He flung one hand up
wildly in the air. "Found!" he
shouted, and rushed out to the
beach before any of the men present
could stop him.
Mrs. Crayford put her arms
round Clara and held her up.
She had not made a movement:
she had not spoken a word. The
sight of Wardour's face had petrified
The minutes passed, and there
rose a sudden burst of cheering
from the sailors on the beach,
near the spot where the fishermen's
boats were drawn up. Every man
left his work. Every man waved
his cap in the air. The passengers,
near at hand, caught the infection
of enthusiasm, and joined the
crew. A moment more, and Richard
Wardour appeared again in the
doorway, carrying a man in his
arms. He staggered, breathless
with the effort that he was making,
to the place where Clara stood,
held up in Mrs. Crayford's arms.
"Saved, Clara!" he cried. "Saved
He released the man, and placed
him in Clara's arms.
Frank! foot-sore and weary--but
living--saved; saved for _her!_
"Now, Clara!" cried Mrs. Crayford, "which
of us is right? I who believed
in the mercy of God? or you who
believed in a dream?"
She never answered; she clung
to Frank in speechless ecstasy.
She never even looked at the
man who had preserved him, in
the first absorbing joy of seeing
Frank alive. Step by step, slower
and slower, Richard Wardour drew
back, and left them by themselves.
"I may rest now," he said,
faintly. "I may sleep at last.
The task is done. The struggle
His last reserves
of strength had been given
to Frank. He stopped--he
staggered--his hands waved feebly
in search of support. But for
one faithful friend he would
have fallen. Crayford caught
him. Crayford laid his old comrade
gently on some sails strewn in
a corner, and pillowed Wardour's
weary head on his own bosom.
The tears streamed over his face. "Richard!
dear Richard!" he said. "Remember--and
Richard neither heeded nor
heard him. His dim eyes still
looked across the room at Clara
"I have made _her_ happy!" he
murmured. "I may lay down my
weary head now on the mother
earth that hushes all her children
to rest at last. Sink, heart!
sink, sink to rest! Oh, look
at them!" he said to Crayford,
with a burst of grief. "They
have forgotten _me_ already."
It was true! The interest was
all with the two lovers. Frank
was young and handsome and popular.
Officers, passengers, and sailors,
they all crowded round Frank.
They all forgot the martyred
man who had saved him--the man
who was dying in Crayford's arms.
once more to attract his attention--to
his recognition while there was
yet time. "Richard, speak to
me! Speak to your old friend!"
He look round; he vacantly
repeated Crayford's last word.
"Friend?" he said. "My
eyes are dim, friend--my mind
I have lost all memories but
the memory of _her_. Dead thoughts--all
dead thoughts but that one! And
yet you look at me kindly! Why
has your face gone down with
the wreck of all the rest?"
He paused; his face changed;
his thoughts drifted back from
present to past; he looked at
Crayford vacantly, lost in the
terrible remembrances that were
rising in him, as the shadows
rise with the coming night.
"Hark ye, friend," he whispered. "Never
let Frank know it. There was
a time when the fiend within
me hungered for his life. I had
my hands on the boat. I heard
the voice of the Tempter speaking
to me: Launch it, and leave him
to die! I waited with my hands
on the boat, and my eyes on the
place where he slept. 'Leave
him! leave him!' the voice whispered.
'Love him!' the lad's voice answered,
moaning and murmuring in his
sleep. 'Love him, Clara, for
helping _me!_' I heard the morning
wind come up in the silence over
the great deep. Far and near,
I heard the groaning of the floating
ice; floating, floating to the
clear water and the balmy air.
And the wicked Voice floated
away with it--away, away, away
forever! 'Love him! love him,
Clara, for helping _me!_' No
wind could float that away! 'Love
His voice sank into silence;
his head dropped on Crayford's
breast. Frank saw it. Frank struggled
up on his bleeding feet and parted
the friendly throng round him.
Frank had not forgotten the man
who had saved him.
"Let me go to him!" he cried. "I
must and will go to him! Clara,
come with me."
Clara and Steventon supported
him between them. He fell on
his knees at Wardour's s ide;
he put his hand on Wardour's
The weary eyes opened again.
The sinking voice was heard feebly
"Ah! poor Frank.
I didn't forget you, Frank,
when I came here
to beg. I remembered you lying
down outside in the shadow of
the boats. I saved you your share
of the food and drink. Too weak
to get at it now! A little rest,
Frank! I shall soon be strong
enough to carry you down to the
The end was near. They all
saw it now. The men reverently
uncovered their heads in the
presence of Death. In an agony
of despair, Frank appealed to
the friends round him.
"Get something to strengthen
him, for God's sake! Oh, men!
men! I should never have been
here but for him! He has given
all his strength to my weakness;
and now, see how strong I am,
and how weak _he_ is! Clara,
I held by his arm all over the
ice and snow. _He_ kept watch
when I was senseless in the open
boat. _His_ hand dragged me out
of the waves when we were wrecked.
Speak to him, Clara! speak to
him!" His voice failed him, and
his head dropped on Wardour's
She spoke, as well as her tears
would let her.
you forgotten me?"
He rallied at the sound of
that beloved voice. He looked
up at her as she knelt at his
"Forgotten you?" Still looking
at her, he lifted his hand with
an effort, and laid it on Frank. "Should
I have been strong enough to
save him, if I could have forgotten
you?" He waited a moment and
turned his face feebly toward
Crayford. "Stay!" he said. "Someone
was here and spoke to me." A
faint light of recognition glimmered
in his eyes. "Ah, Crayford! I
recollect now. Dear Crayford!
come nearer! My mind clears,
but my eyes grow dim. You will
remember me kindly for Frank's
sake? Poor Frank! why does he
hide his face? Is he crying?
Nearer, Clara--I want to look
my last at _you_. My sister,
Clara! Kiss me, sister, kiss
me before I die!"
She stooped and kissed his
forehead. A faint smile trembled
on his lips. It passed away;
and stillness possessed the face--the
stillness of Death.
Crayford's voice was heard
in the silence.
"The loss is ours," he said. "The
gain is his. He has won the greatest
of all conquests--the conquest
of himself. And he has died in
the moment of victory. Not one
of us here but may live to envy
_his_ glorious death."
The distant report of a gun
came from the ship in the offing,
and signaled the return to England
and to home.
End of Project Gutenberg Etext
of The Frozen Deep, by Wilkie