Over The Hills, and Far Away: A Story of New Zealand
Chapter III. Pages from Lucy's Diary
Chapter III. Pages from Lucy's Diary.
In the afteroon Louis came on deck. He was pale and misanthropic. He said that life at present was a burden to him, and that the times were out of joint. He really was a trifle cross; but, under the circumstances, I quite forgave him.
July 30th, Saturday.—A thick, gloomy day. Wind against us, and we were beating about all day off the Isle of Weight. Doctor Dacre and myself still the only survivors of the first-cabin passengers. His face looked much brighter than yesterday, in spite of the weather; and he was kind enough to take me under his especial charge all day, wrapping me up page 26 in rugs and waterproofs from the wet mist, and carrying my easy chair about to one sheltered part of the deck after another as the vessel altered her course. He did not talk much, nor did I; but, somehow, I did not feel lonely with that rough-coated, broad-shouldered figure keeping guard over me at a little distance; and, upon the whole, the day passed pleasantly, though Louis was still invisible.
July 31st, Sunday.—The captain read the Morning Prayers of the English Church in the saloon; and most of the passengers, including Louis, came to life again.
August 1st, Monday.—To-day the pilot left us, and we had our last sight of the English coast. Devonshire faded away in the gloamin', and on Tuesday morning we saw only a sapphire sea on all sides.
I have been looking back over the pages of my diary, and I find that I have written a good deal in it about Doctor Dacre. I scarcely know what is the reason of this, except that he and I have been, from page 27 the force of circumstances, which neither of us could prevent, much in the other's society during the past week. And then, too, there is certainly something about him which I like. I should say he is a man who would gain a great influence over the people he saw much of. But he is very peculiar with it all—very odd, indeed, at times. If it would not sound too romantic and sentimental for anything but a young lady's diary, I should venture to suggest that he might have a story connected with his life. I must put down something which happened, trifling though it is, to show what gave rise to this theory in my mind.
This evening, Tuesday, August 2nd, most of the passengers were on deck about tea-time. It was a lovely evening, and a light wind, quite in our favour, was wafting us along swiftly and gently.
I was playing backgammon with Mr. Meredith, who is certainly the handsomest man on board the “Flora.” Doctor Dacre was leaning over the bulwarks near us; he was lounging with that perfect grace with which some men can manage to do page 28 nothing—languor of the most fascinating kind, because it is only strength dormant.
Doctor Grey, the ship's doctor, one of the shortest and fattest of men, had been going his rounds among the invalids in the second cabin. He now came up the stairs from the single women's department, and, making his way up the deck to the other doctor, leant over the bulwarks by his side, and began to talk to him.
“One of the women down there is very ill,” I heard Doctor Grey say. “She's worse than any of them. And she seems a superior sort of person too. I don't think I ever saw any one handsomer, in her way.”
Mr. Meredith was throwing doubles with truly remarkable luck, and I was struggling against adverse circumstances, with no hope of winning. Perhaps, having resigned myself to losing the game, I was attending more to what was being said near me than I otherwise should have been.
Doctor Dacre had turned round, so that I could see his face.page 29
“Has she got any friends on board?” he asked, with not much interest in his tone.
“No. She is going out alone—to her brother, I think she told me. She is very much above the women around her, really.”
“Ah? Is she young—this princess in disguise?”
“About eight and twenty I should say.”
“Quite old enough to take care of herself. Handsome, you said?”
“Very. Black hair and great grey eyes. But she's ill, you know.”
“Ah, yes! So you said.” There was certainly more alacrity now in Doctor Dacre's manner.
“What is her name?” he asked.
“She is a widow, then?”
Doctor Grey shrugged his shoulders.
“That's as may be,” he said. “I don't inquire into the family history of all my patients.”
There was a few moments' silence. I made my last throw and gave up the game. Mr. Meredith immediately challenged me to play again, page 30 and commenced to put the board in order for another.
Doctor Grey was speaking again. “She has given me her watch, and begged me to ask the captain to take charge of it for her. They often do that, you know, if they don't think their fellow-passengers are to be trusted. Here's the watch. She had a chain and a bunch of charms too, but those she would not part with.”
Doctor Dacre took the watch in his hand. It was a pretty little hunting-watch. One side was plain; the other had the letter “L” upon it in dark-blue enamel.
Turning it over on his palm, the doctor's countenance fell. There came over it the same expression which it had assumed when he looked at the Sussex cliffs, but intensified and mixed with—what? Was it terror?
Then suddenly—for what reason I cannot tell—he looked full at me. This time there was another meaning in his eyes, but I could not read it. I had no clue to the mystery.page 31
He handed back the watch, and his hand did not tremble. I noticed that.
“A pretty little trinket,” he said. “I don't wonder she was afraid to lose it. It's nearly teatime, and I think I shall go below.”