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A Marriage at Sea

467 pages
Library of Alexandria
The cabin lamp burned brightly. I see the little interior now and myself standing upright under the skylight, which found me room for my stature, for I was six feet high. The night-shadow came black against the glass, and made a mirror of each pane. My heart was beating fast, and my hands trembled as I held my sweetheart's letter to the light. I had read it twenty times before—you might have known that by the creases in it and the frayed edges, as though, forsooth, it had been a love-letter fifty years old—but my nervous excitement obliged me to go through it once more for the last time, as I have said, to make sure. The handwriting was girlish—how could it be otherwise, seeing that the sweet writer was not yet eighteen? The letter consisted of four sheets, and on one of them was very cleverly drawn, in pen and ink, a tall, long, narrow, old-fashioned château, with some shrubbery in front of it, a short length of wall, then a tall hedge with an arrow pointing at it, under which was written, "HERE IS THE HOLE." Under another arrow indicating a big, square door to the right of the house, where a second short length of wall was sketched in, were written the words, "HERE IS THE DOG." Other arrows—quite a flight of them, indeed, causing the sketch to resemble a weather-chart—pointed to windows, doors, a little balcony, and so forth, and against them were written, "MAM'SELLE'S ROOM," "THE GERMAN GOVERNESS'S ROOM," "FOUR GIRLS SLEEP HERE,"—with other hints of a like kind. I carefully read the letter. Suppose the ladder which Caudel had wound around his broad breast should prove too short? No! the height from the balcony to the ground was exactly ten feet. She had measured it herself, and that there might be no error, had enclosed me the length of pack-thread with which—with a little weight at the end of it—she had plumbed the trifling distance. She hoped it would be a fine night. If there should be thunder I must not come. She would rather die than leave the house in a thunderstorm. Neither must I come if the sea was rough. She was acting very wrongly—why did she love me so?—why was I so impatient? Could I not wait until she was twenty-one? Then she would be of age and her own mistress: three years and a month or two would soon pass, and, meanwhile, our love for each other would be growing deeper and deeper—at least hers would. She could not answer for mine. She was content to have faith.