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´╗┐Title: Culm Rock - The Story of a Year: What it Brought and What it Taught
Author: Gaylord, Glance
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Culm Rock - The Story of a Year: What it Brought and What it Taught" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                        CULM ROCK,

                   The Story of a Year:

           WHAT IT BROUGHT AND WHAT IT TAUGHT.

                            BY
                      GLANCE GAYLORD.



                          BOSTON:


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by
                        HENRY HOYT,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

                     INNES AND NILES,
                Stereotypers and Printers,
                    37 Cornhill, Boston.



                        CONTENTS.

              Chapter                   Page

    I.--The Old Stone House               5

   II.--Letters                          21

  III.--On the "White Gull"              37

   IV.--Disappointments                  53

    V.--The First Evening                71

   VI.--Culm Sights                      89

  VII.--How the Month was spent         107

 VIII.--Noll's Decision                 124

   IX.--Dirk's Trouble                  142

    X.--In the Sea                      159

   XI.--Dirk's Treasure                 177

  XII.--Firelight Talk                  195

 XIII.--The Winter's Waning             219

  XIV.--Ned Thorn                       236

   XV.--Plans                           254

  XVI.--The Work Begun                  272

 XVII.--The Work Progressing            288

XVIII.--The Work Finished               304

  XIX.--A Happy Walk                    320

   XX.--New Thoughts and New Plans      336

  XXI.--In Peril of the Sea             353

 XXII.--Weary Watching                  367

XXIII.--Waiting                         384

 XXIV.--Days of Calm                    400

  XXV.--Out of the Sea                  416

[Transcriber's Note: In this e-text, italics have been denoted by
enclosing the affected text in underscores]



CULM ROCK.



CHAPTER I.

THE OLD STONE HOUSE.


  Culm Rock was a wild place. You might search the coast for miles and
not find another bit of nature so bare and rent and ragged as this. So
fiercely had the storms driven over it, so wildly had the wind and
waves beat, that the few cedars which once flourished as its only bit
of greenness were long ago dead, and now held up only bleached and
ragged hands. Jutting out into the sea, the surf rolled and thundered
along its jagged shore of rock and sand, and was never silent. It
would have been an island but for the narrow strips of sand, heaped
high and ridgelike, which bound it to the main land; and this slender
bridge, it often seemed, would be torn away by the ravenous sea which
gnawed and engulfed great tracts at once, and yet heaped it higher and
broader in the next storm. Beyond, on the firm and unyielding land,
the pine woods stood up, vast, dim, and silent, stretching away into
the interior. So, with the great dark barrier of forest behind and the
waste of shining sea in front, Culm Rock seemed shut out from all the
rest of the world. True, sails flitted along the horizon, and the
smoke of foreign-bound steamers trailed against the sky, giving token
of the great world's life and stir; and there were Skipper Ben and the
"White Gull" who touched at the little wharf at Culm every week; but
for these, the people--for there were people who dwelt here--might
have lived in another sphere for aught they knew or were conscious of
what was transpiring in the wonderful land which lay beyond the
stretch of sea, and between which and themselves the "White Gull" was
the only means of communication.

  Do you wonder that people could spend their lives here, die, and never
have seen the world without? There were only a dozen houses,--poor,
racked, weather-beaten things, nestled on a bit of sand on a far
corner of Culm,--inhabited by fishermen and their families. They were
rough, hardy folk, but ignorant, and with only ambition enough to get
their living out of the great sea, and a poor and scanty enough living
at that. Skipper Ben brought them molasses and calicoes down in the
"White Gull," and took their fish in exchange; and if he told them a
bit of news from the great city and the greater world, it was all very
well. If he failed to do this, it was all very well too.

  Back of the fisher huts, the rocks rose high and dark, and quite hid
the pine woods and the isthmus of yellow sand, and everything that
could make Culm at all cheery or pleasant. This eminence was Wind
Cliff, and served as a landmark for all the sailors whose path lay
along the coast. Around this the gulls were alway flitting and
screaming, and their nests were everywhere in the crevices of the
rocks. Bald and gray it rose, scarred and rent with storms and age,
and so steep as to be almost inaccessible. It fronted the north-west,
and from its sharp tip the rock sloped south to the sea, and held in
one of its great hollows down by the shore a house--such a house as
you would not have looked for at Culm--with walls of stone and tall,
ancient chimneys and deep-set windows, like eyes looking forever at
the sea.

  It was so dark and weather-beaten that at first sight you might almost
fancy it to be but some quaint, odd shape which the rocks had taken,
by dint of the stress of winds and waves beating upon them for long
ages. But a house it was, and made by human hands, and human beings
dwelt in it. At night the red light from its windows streamed out upon
the water, and in many a dark and tempestuous watch had Skipper Ben
guided the "White Gull" into port through the friendly gleaming of
this beacon. For a long period of years the old house had stood empty
and tenantless, the windows and doors broken and gone, the wind
sweeping through and the rain beating in, and everything but the stout
walls and chimneys a ruin. The superstitious fishermen would not
inhabit it, and told tales of smugglers and pirates who made it their
haunt, with other fanciful stories which always seem to linger about
the sea, and in which there was not the faintest shadow of truth.
Desolate and neglected, it stood there year after year, till, one day,
Skipper Ben brought down carpenters and masons on the "White Gull,"
and straightway they went at work upon the old house. Doors went up,
windows went in, a piazza pushed itself out towards the sea-front,
and there was great bustle and activity about it for weeks. Then the
laborers went away, and when the skipper came again, he brought,
instead of groceries and store-cloth, a great quantity of furniture,
the like of which the poor people at Culm Rock had never seen, and
with the furniture came the master of the new house--a sorrowful,
bowed man--and his housekeeper, a thin, wrinkled negro woman.

  Then the smoke curled out of the great stone chimneys once more, the
light streamed from the windows at night, and the fishermen and
sailors rejoiced that at last the old house had found a tenant and no
longer yawned bare and empty. The "White Gull" came more than once
with a cargo for the master of the stone house, who, the skipper told
the Culm folk, "was a mighty rich man, but the down-heartedest chap
he'd ever cast eyes on. Why, man, he just sot lookin' over the rail
the best part o' the way down, with his eyes in the water, and said no
more nor a stone. What ye think? Now lookee here, men, let me give ye
a bit o' advice. Don't ye go to pesterin' him with yer talk and yer
questions; fur he's diff'rent make 'an I be, an' 'twon't do. Let him
alone, an' keep yer own side o' the Rock."

  The skipper's word was looked upon with respect by all the fish-folk,
and they heeded his advice. So, in consequence, the owner of the stone
mansion was undisturbed, and lived in the greatest seclusion. He never
came within the limits of the little village, and whenever he was
seen, it was only as pacing slowly along the shore. He passed the
fishermen as they were hanging up their seines in the sun without
heeding them, or acknowledging their respectful bows. The old black
housekeeper came down to the village sometimes after fish or gulls'
eggs, but went her way without satisfying the eager questions with
which the women plied her. So one year passed away, then a second, and
the master of the stone house was still as much a mystery to the poor
fishers as ever. He rarely walked upon the sand, gave them not a look
if ever they chanced to meet, and living, apparently, for no one but
himself, took not the slightest interest in their welfare, cared
naught for wreck or disaster on the shore, and seemed always stern and
sorrowful.

  No company ever came down on the "White Gull" to visit this strange
and silent man, and he had no friends, apparently. Skipper Ben
brought stores for him occasionally, and sometimes a letter; but this
last event was a rare one, and the man seemed to have little more
communication with the great world out of which he had come than did
the humble Culm fishermen. With winds and storms, the third year
rolled around, and the master of the old house was still as much of a
recluse as ever; but the Culm people had ceased to regard him with any
interest, and the man led a most solitary life, hardly seeing a human
being, other than his housekeeper, from month to month. Do you wonder
what could make him so stern and sad? Here is his story:--

  One sweet and golden summer day, a man stood by the bedside of his
wife,--he, crushed and heart-broken; she, faint and dying, but calm
and loving and comforting. She held his hand, and whispered brokenly
such words as she could only hope to comfort him with; and the last
faint whisper which trembled on her lips was, "Oh, Richard, don't
fail--don't fail to--to find Him and cling to Him, and come--come
up--too." And with that she was dead. And the man left the bedside,
and went out into the summer fields, where the birds were flitting and
the bees droning and the wide earth seemed brimming with life and joy,
and prayed that he might die too, since she was gone. But the birds
sang on as joyously as ever, and the sun shone no less brightly
because of the sorrow in the earth, and after his first tears were
shed, his heart began to grow hard and bitter, and he put away the
dying whisper, and went back to the dear dead face, cold and stern.
His friends came to console him, but he would not listen, and after it
was all over, and the gentle face hidden forever under the brown
earth, he began to think of fleeing to some spot where he might find
rest and quietness, and hide himself from all thoughts of the dear one
who had left him, smothering his sorrow, and living as if she had not
been. "I have been robbed," he said, bitterly; "all my happiness has
been stolen from me. I can't seek Him; I will not. Oh, if there is a
kind and merciful God, why has he stricken me? why has he taken all
the joy out of my life? why has he left me without a comforter in the
world?" So, without seeking for a Comforter, without striving to "find
Him," as the dear voice had whispered, he turned away and strove to
crush out the love and the tender memories which haunted his heart,
and most of all that dying whisper which said, "Don't fail--don't fail
to find _Him_."

  Grown suddenly stern and morose, Richard Trafford looked about him for
a refuge where he might flee from all society, and most of all from
the spot where _her_ presence seemed yet to linger. He discovered wild
and solitary Culm Rock, and purchased the old stone house. Here, he
thought, with the everlasting sound of the sea in his ears, with all
the wildness and barrenness about him, and apart from the rest of
mankind, he would bury himself, and forget all the bright and happy
days which had passed. He left his friends without giving them any
clew to his whereabouts, and with faithful old Hagar, who persisted in
following him, took up his abode by the sea. But do you think his
sorrow lessened? Do you think he found peace and happiness again? He
carried his hard and bitter heart with him, and there was no happiness
to be found by the sea. One year after another rolled away until the
three were gone, and still he was wandering along his own thorny path,
bowed with his sorrow, sighing and lamenting for the bright form which
had left him, and still deaf to its whisper, "Find _Him_, and come up
too." He walked on the sands, lonely and desolate; he paced about the
great rooms of the stone house, oppressed and heavy-hearted; he shut
himself up in his library and pored over books in vain. His sorrow
clung to him, followed him everywhere; his heart was stubborn and
bitter and rebellious. Perhaps he despaired of ever losing the
burden, for one day he brought out a portrait, wrapped and swathed
with great care, and, tearing all the veilings off, gazed once more on
the sainted face which he had not looked upon for three long and heavy
years. He did not hide it again, but hung it upon his library wall,
where the tender face and calm and loving eyes looked down and almost
melted him to tears.

  He wondered how he could have kept it veiled and hidden so long. He
wondered if those three years had not been spent in vain, unless it
were to learn that he could not crush out his sweet memories if he
tried.

  He sank down into his chair as he thought of this, and going back over
the three past dreary years, remembered what a weary blank they were,
thought, with a heavy sigh, what a shipwreck his life had been, and
how he was now floating about without rudder or compass or anchor,
merely a drifting wreck. And as he sits there in the sunshine which
streams through the wide, high old window, we will see him for the
first time.



CHAPTER II.

LETTERS.


  Richard Trafford was a man of forty; but his hair was tinged with
gray, and grief and wretchedness had worn heavy lines in his face. As
he sat in the library this September afternoon, looking up at the
portrait on the wall, he seemed almost an old man. The room was wide
and high, with tall oaken bookcases at either end. Two great windows,
before one of which he sat, looked out upon the sea and the white line
of foam curling upon the sand. The waves were but mere ripples this
calm afternoon, but from the shore there came up a ceaseless, steady
murmur that made itself heard in the quiet of the room; and by and by
Trafford's eyes turned from the calm face above him and looked out
seaward. White and shining lay the vast expanse, with here and there
the faint film of a sail upon the horizon. Nothing to be seen but
water and the great dome of sky and the little spit of yellow sand
where the tide was murmuring. How many sunny afternoons he had thus
looked out upon the sea, vast and gleaming! How many lonely afternoons
and long, weary nights he had listened to the slow chanting of the
tide, watched it creep up the sand with its puffs of thick foam,
watched it as it slowly receded and left its burden of weed and shell
behind! Flowing and ebbing forever, alway at its work, in and out, in
and out, through storm and shine, through night and day, it seemed to
mock his own idle, useless life, and reproach him with its never
silent voice. Of what use, he wondered as he sat there, was such a
life as his? To-morrow the tide would be at its work again, the ships
go on, the sun shine warm and bright over all,--and he? For him
to-morrow would be but the repetition of to-day; the same dragging
hours, the same apathetic poring over books, the same half-hours at
the organ with the music-books, playing sad melodies which accorded
well with his own sombre feelings. He looked up at the portrait and
sighed; remembered the dear one's dying words, and thought, "I might
have found Him once; but it's too late now. All that passed away a
long time ago, and now,--it's only to plod on and on, year in and year
out, till the end." And what then?

  There came a soft rap at the door.

  "Come in, Hagar," said he, heavily, without taking his eyes off the
sea; and then the door was pushed open, and a head, surmounted by a
great yellow turban, looked in.

  "Somethin' fur you, Mas'r Dick," said the owner of the turban, without
coming in, however.

  "What is it?" said Trafford, abstractedly.

  The door opened wider, and the old housekeeper entered. She was bent
and thin, with great wrinkles in her forehead and face, and wherever a
tuft of wool peeped out from under the fanciful headgear, it showed
quite gray; but her step was quick and firm as she went across the
floor to the figure by the great window.

  "A letter, Mas'r Dick," said she, standing by Trafford's chair; "dat
yer old skipper brought it. Said he brung it straight from de city."

  "Ben Tate?" asked the master.

  Hagar nodded assent. "Said ye was to hev it dis yer afternoon, sure,"
said she; "'twa'n't no letter to be lyin' 'round in dem Culm huts, so
he cum up here wid it hisself. Be it frum Hastings, Mas'r Dick?"

  Hagar had lived in the Trafford family from childhood, and Richard had
grown up to manhood under her eyes, had married, and she went to live
with the young people. She had seen the wife fade and die, and the
husband grow stern and gloomy, and out of solicitude and affection had
clung faithfully to him through all fortunes. It would seem, to hear
her talk, that she never had quite realized that Richard Trafford, the
man of forty, was any other than "Mas'r Dick," the boy whose smartness
at school, and whose popularity among his companions, had always been
her boast and pride. Gray and worn he was getting, gloomy, sad, even
harsh at times to her, yet he was only "Mas'r Dick," and her own
little boy, for whom she must watch and care to the best of her
ability. Now, as she queried where the letter might be from, she
dropped down in a chair a little way from him, and waited till he
should see fit to answer her question; for could there be a paradise
on earth, it would have been represented to Hagar by Hastings,--that
great city where their old home had been, where her own childhood had
been spent, and where all the friends of her kin and color dwelt. It
was a hard matter to tear herself away from them all and follow
Richard Trafford to dreary Culm Rock; but, with some tears and
sighing, she had said to her people, "Yer don't know nuffin about it.
Ye habn't got any 'Mas'r Dick;' so how ken ye? 'Tain't in dis yer old
heart to let de chile go off sufferin' all by hisself, now! Bress de
Lord, I'll stick to de poor boy, an' keep him frum jes' worryin' his
life out." So here she was in her old age, away from all her people,
yet happy because it was to serve "Mas'r Dick."

  Trafford took up the letter,--a large, thick one, bearing the marks
of the skipper's great fingers on its envelope, and smelling of fish,
as if it had performed its journey in company with herring and
cod,--and said, "Yes, Hagar; it's from Hastings, of course."

  The old housekeeper lingered, looked at the master in hopes that he
would bid her stay, and then, as he tore open the letter with a moody
face, went slowly out, closing the door softly behind her.

  The handwriting was unfamiliar, and Trafford wondered where it came
from, feeling vexed that it should have arrived at that moment; and so
began to read an emphatically business letter:--


                       "HASTINGS, Sept. 7th.

"_To Mr. Richard Trafford, of Culm Rock_:

  "SIR,--I am sorry to be under the painful necessity of informing you
of your brother's death. The Rev. Oliver Trafford died the 15th of
March last, leaving me as the executor of his estate. He was anxious
to see you till the very last; but as we had no clew to your
whereabouts, and only discovered your place of residence by accident a
short time ago, that pleasure was denied him. He left one child--a boy
of fourteen, or thereabouts--for whose welfare he was much distressed.
He often expressed it as his desire that, should you ever make your
appearance, this boy might be received by you as your own, and,
indeed, left written statements to that effect. There is, also, among
his private papers, a sealed letter for you, which, I doubt not,
contains some such request. The boy, I am happy to say, is not likely
to prove a burden or trouble to you, being obedient and all that
could be desired. He is smart and sprightly, and quite a favorite in
the circle in which his father moved, and from my own acquaintance
with him (very intimate during the past six months) can assure you
that he will prove anything but a poor acquisition.

  "As to the estate, I am sorry to say that Mr. Trafford left but little
of value,--enough, perhaps, to educate the boy; but, as I hear you are
a gentleman of fortune, this, I presume, is a matter of very little
moment. I shall be happy to show you your brother's accounts at any
time, and to have the honor of answering any inquiries which you may
be disposed to make. I enclose a note from your nephew. Awaiting your
decision in the matter, I am, sir, your most obedient servant,

                                        "Thomas Gray.
"Room 8, at No. 67 Court St."


  With a gloomy face, Trafford laid down the lawyer's letter, and took
up his nephew's. He did not remember ever having seen the boy. He was,
most likely, a crazy, boisterous lad, that would be forever in
mischief, and bring the house about their heads. As for having him at
Culm Rock, it was too preposterous a thought to be entertained for a
moment. He had decided at once how Mr. Gray's letter should be
answered, and felt too indifferent to care about reading his nephew's.
What did these things matter to him? Yet, after a time, he thought
better of it, and took up the note again, saying to himself, "I'll
read it, if only because it's poor Noll's boy;" and opening the
missive, found therein the following frank boy's letter:--


                                     "HASTINGS, Sept. 7th.

  "DEAR UNCLE RICHARD,--I don't know what to say to you--it all seems so
strange and awkward. Mr. Gray said I was to write, however, and send
the note with his; so I am trying. It is such a long time since I saw
you that I've forgotten your face, and I think you must have forgotten
that there was such a person as myself in the world. Papa died almost
six months ago, and he said all the time, at the last, 'Go for Uncle
Richard!' but I didn't know where you were, and Mr. Gray could not
find out till a short time ago; so papa died without seeing you. I
don't know what he wanted to say, but he told me that I was to live
with you and be your boy; and Mr. Gray says the papers say the same
thing." Here the writer had evidently faltered, and been at a loss
how to proceed further with intelligence which it, apparently, was
very irksome for him to disclose; but he continued with, "There are
only you and me left, and I am sure I would like very much to be your
boy and live with you, as papa said; but--but I don't know--I
mean--Well, I can't say it, Uncle Richard, but I mean that I wish I
might know what you thought about it first. I wouldn't like to come,
you know, unless you liked,--unless you were _glad_ to have me. Mr.
Gray has all papa's business to settle, and I suspect he wants to get
me settled, too, somewhere, pretty quick; and so, if you please, I
hope you won't mind whatever he may say about me, and only do just as
you like about giving him permission to send me. I can find a home
somewhere, if you would rather.

  "My name is Oliver,--Noll, everybody calls me; I'm almost fifteen, and
have always been at school in Hastings, and papa used to give me
lessons beside. Is there a school at Culm Rock? I do wish you could
have seen papa, dear Uncle Richard, he longed so for you when he died;
but there is a letter for you among his papers, which will be sent to
Culm Rock, if I do not come to bring it. Mr. Gray will tell you all
about me, I suppose, and the affairs besides; so I will stop.

                                             "Your nephew,

                                             "NOLL TRAFFORD.


  "--And don't mind what Mr. Gray says, please, and only do as you like."


  Richard Trafford finished this letter with something like a grim smile
on his lips.

  "The boy has got the true Trafford spirit," he said to himself, "and
some of Brother Noll's gentleness, I fancy. Ah, Noll was always a
happier man than I!"

  He read the boy's letter again, wondering what made it seem so bright
and pleasant, and feeling vexed with himself for doing it. Why should
he care for this boy or this boy's letter? Had he not fled to Culm
Rock to escape all knowledge of what was transpiring in the world
without,--to forget friends and kin, if that was possible? He looked
up and met the sweet, grave eyes of his wife looking down into his,
and read something there which made his eyes fill and his lip quiver.

  "Ah," he sighed, "why did I not try to follow after?" And with this
thought in his heart, he rose and stood by the window, looking down at
the crawling tide. His thoughts came back to the boy, presently, and
with another grim smile upon his face, he remembered what a dull and
dreary place Culm Rock would be for a lad of fourteen. He would soon
tire of it, and be glad enough to go back to Hastings, he fancied. If
he was a wild boy, he should go back on the return of the "White
Gull;" if he could be tolerated, he might stay till he tired of it. It
was poor Brother Noll's boy, after all, he thought, and he could not
make his heart quite hard enough to refuse him a home. So, when
Skipper Ben returned to Hastings with his next cargo of fish, he
carried a letter hidden away under his pea-jacket, and this was what
it contained:--

                        "CULM ROCK, Sept. 12th.

"_To Noll Trafford_:

  "Come; you are welcome.

"UNCLE RICHARD."



CHAPTER III.

ON THE "WHITE GULL."


  The breeze was crisp and fresh that morning, and the skipper anxious
to set sail. Everything was in readiness on board the "White Gull,"
but still its master did not give the word to cast off, and stumped up
and down the deck, muttering and grumbling to his mate.

  "Allus jes' so!" he said, wrathfully; "these town folks never up to
time. Think on't, Jack, that 'ere lawyer, Gray, promised to get the
youngster here a good half-hour afore sunrise! Here it's sun-up
already, and this breeze won't last forever, nuther."

  "Why don't ye go 'long 'thout him?" queried Jack Snape from his seat
on a bucket.

  "Would, ef 'twa'n't fur that pesky lawyer!" growled the skipper; "an'
'tain't every day ye can get a passenger fur the Rock, nuther. Mought
as well take what passage-money he can, a fellow mought, Jack."

  The mate of the "White Gull" began to whistle, and fumbling in his
pea-jacket brought out a pipe and tobacco, with which he proceeded to
console himself. Skipper Ben took a few more impatient turns up and
down the deck, and sat down at last in grim despair, while the wind
came in strong, steady puffs, and the craft rocked and swayed gently
on the swell of the tide. The city behind them was hardly awake yet.
Its roofs and steeples loomed through a veil of haze or smoke which
hovered over and clung about the towers, and only a faint murmur told
of the stir and bustle which were presently to reign. On the wharves a
few early drays were rumbling down after their loads of merchandise,
and one or two vessels had left their moorings, and, taking advantage
of the favorable breeze, were standing out to sea, which fact did not
at all add to Skipper Ben's good-nature.

  "Here they come," drawled the mate, putting up his pipe; and then a
carriage came rattling down the wharf, stopping in front of the "White
Gull."

  "Come at last, hev ye?" shouted the skipper, gruffly. "Call this a
half-hour afore sunrise, squire?"

  "Well," said the lawyer, looking at his watch, "I thought we were
prodigiously early. Driver, put these trunks aboard in a hurry, since
the skipper is waiting; and--Noll, are you ready?"

  The skipper left his craft and came to bear a hand with the trunks,
looking askance, meanwhile, at the boy who had got out of the carriage
and stood on the wharf's edge, surveying the "Gull."

  "Hope you'll have a good run, skipper," said the lawyer, as the
baggage went over into a cavernous aperture in the deck; "fine breeze,
I should say. Have a good care of this passenger of yours, man."

  "Ay, squire, we'll manage. Can't stop fur words from ye this morning;
should ha' been a long piece down the coast afore this time o' day.
Bear a hand there, Jack!"

  "Good-by, Noll," said the lawyer; "keep up a stout heart, my boy, and
don't forget your city friends. You'll have a fine run down to Culm,
and you must send me a line back by the skipper. Good-by!" and Mr.
Gray got into his carriage and rolled back toward the city.

  Noll Trafford stood leaning against a great post and looking after the
lawyer's carriage with a slight choking in his throat, till the
skipper's gruff "Get aboard here, lad!" warned him that the "Gull" was
about to cast off. Slowly the wharf glided away, and the little
coasting vessel stood out into the channel. The city spread itself out
behind them, a long maze of brick and slate, with spires and domes
showing dimly through the blue haze which wrapped them about. On the
far, watery horizon lay a belt of vapory clouds which presently began
to rend and tear and float off in ragged masses, and then a great red
sun gleamed through and made a golden roadway across the sea, and
transformed the misty fleeces of vapor to wonderful hangings of
amethyst, streaked with great threads of scarlet.

  "Jes' sunrise!" muttered the skipper; "make the best o' this 'ere
breeze, eh, Jack?"

  "Ay," drawled the mate, "we'll catch it afore long, skipper."

  The city's old cold front suddenly gleamed out in vivid gold, the
spires grew rosy in the first rays of sunlight, and, all its dimness
and dulness gone, Hastings lay gleaming and glowing in the fair
morning light like some vision of fairyland.

  Noll Trafford, sitting on a great bale of merchandise near the stern
of the "Gull," gazed at the city, slowly sinking and fading in the
sea, with a feeling somewhat akin to homesickness. It had never looked
so bright to him before as at this moment of his departure from it,
and he was leaving behind a great many friends--all his school
acquaintances, all the scenes and haunts that were dear to him--to
go--where? He hardly knew, himself, but his bright fancy had pictured
Culm as some pleasant little sea town, where there would, perhaps, be
a great beach to ramble upon and hunt for minerals and shells, and
where he would soon make plenty of new acquaintances. And Uncle
Richard he had pictured to himself as a gentle, kind man,--grave,
perhaps, but who would love him and try to fill the place of his own
dead father. So, with these bright visions filling his mind, it was
little wonder that he turned from the stern, after Hastings had faded
into the merest blue dot on the horizon-line, and looked forward to
the time when the journey's end should be reached, with happy
anticipations. Before them lay the vast and boundless sea, with no
trace of shore or island save a low blue belt in the south, like a
cloud, and the "Gull" began to pitch and toss somewhat with the great
ocean-swell. Skipper Ben, having got well in the way of the breeze
which was carrying his vessel steadily before it, began to regain his
good-humor. Sitting on the top of a cask, he puffed away at his pipe
and soliloquized to himself about his passenger, who sat regarding
Jack Snape's movements at the helm with much interest. The skipper
had three or four boys at home,--great sturdy, brown-faced,
stout-armed fellows,--between whom and this fair-faced, curly-headed
boy there was little resemblance, he felt. "Town breedin', town
breedin'," muttered he; "it's curi's what it'll make of a lad. This
chap'll grow up with his head full o' le'rnin' into a lawyer or parson
or somethin' like, and my lads'll be skippers like their dad, with no
le'rnin' to speak on. I'll warrant this lad could get off more
book-stuff in five minutes 'an mine ever heerd on." His eyes followed
the boy as he went out to stand by Jack's elbow and ply this
slow-witted gentleman with quick, eager questions. He was slender and
rather tall for one of his age, but lithe and agile, as the skipper
noted. "One o' mine could jes' trip him with a turn o' his hand,"
thought he; yet he regarded the lad with a mixture of kindness and
respect, after all. There were other things in the world beside bone
and muscle, he remembered, and when the boy came slowly along the
deck, after a fruitless attempt to coax the mate into conversation, he
put out one of his big red hands and stopped him. Noll looked up,
inquiringly.

  "Goin' down to Culm for a bit o' vacation?--to git scarce o' the
books, eh?" queried the skipper.

  "Vacation? Oh, no," said the boy, quickly; "I'm going there to
live,--to have a home."

  The master of the "Gull" came near dropping his pipe with amazement.
"_You_ live at Culm!" said he, incredulous; "what ye goin' to live
in?"

  It was Noll's turn to look amazed. He suddenly faced the skipper,
saying, very earnestly, "What kind of a place is Culm Rock, anyhow?
Isn't it a town?"

  A broad grin stretched across the old sailor's face, then he laughed
aloud. "Did ye hear that, Jack?" he cried; "here's a lad what's goin'
to Culm to live, an' he wants to know ef it's a town!"

  "'Twon't take him long to find out arter he gets there," drawled Mr.
Snape.

  Noll turned away and walked to the stern, thinking the skipper was a
very uncivil fellow to laugh at his ignorance, and sat down again on
the bale, secretly ill at ease on account of these sailors' words.
What kind of a place could Culm Rock be?

  All around the boundless waste of waves flashed and glittered under
the sun, and the "Gull" sailed steadily on her course with not a
fleck of land in sight,--nothing around but the vast blue of the
sea,--above, only the great azure arch of sky. It was a new and
strange sight to Noll Trafford. He lay on his back on the bale, and
looked up into the wonderful depths of the blue dome, where no clouds
sailed, and speculated about his destination. Somehow, the bright
vision of a pleasant sea town with a shining beach of sand and pebbles
had faded, and in its stead there was doubt and perplexity. Was it
only a rock, as the name suggested, and no town? However, Uncle
Richard was there, and that was one comfort; and perhaps the skipper
was only joking, after all. He wished, though, that he might know what
to expect; he wondered why he had not thought to ask Mr. Gray before
starting. He lay a long time listening to the rush of water about the
vessel, a strange and unusual sound to his ears. By and by a brawny
hand touched his shoulder, and a gruff voice said,--

  "Lookee here, lad!" Noll turned about and saw the skipper. "'Twa'n't
manners in me to laugh at ye, I 'low," said he, good-humoredly; "but
'twas droll, ennyhow. Hain't ye never been to Culm afore?"

  "Never," said Noll.

  "An' ye don't know nuthin' what it's like?"

  "No; how should I?" said his passenger; "I didn't know there was such
a place in the world a month ago."

  The skipper looked incredulous once more. "An' now ye goin' there to
live!" he exclaimed; "why, there ben't but one house there fit fur
such as you, an' 'tain't there ye're bound, not by a long shot!"

  "But _one_ house! Whose is it?" cried Noll, eagerly.

  "Why, it be one Trafford's, one o' the strangest--" A sudden
expression in the boy's face checked the words on the skipper's
tongue, and the truth began to dawn upon his slow brain. "Great
fishes!" cried he, falling back a step or two, "ye ben't goin'
_there_?"

  "Yes," said Noll, as quietly as he could. "Why not?"

  The skipper gave him a long, steady survey, and then stumped away
across the deck without another word, leaned over the rail, and began
to whistle. Noll looked after him, half determined to follow and
demand what he meant, yet half dreading to learn that all his visions
were a great way from the truth. Perhaps it would be better to wait,
he thought; night would bring the journey to an end, and then he
should know all. So he did not follow the skipper, but kept his seat,
while a great many shadowy forebodings crept into his heart, and he
began to look back over the trackless waste which they had come, and
wish, almost, that he was back in dear old Hastings--in the old home
where papa and he had spent so many happy hours--and that Culm Rock
was a myth. The sun rose royally up to noon, and odors of dinner began
to ascend from the hatchway. Noll had a dinner of his own somewhere in
a basket, which he brought forth and ate on the bale which served him
for a seat, enjoying the novelty in spite of the anxious speculations
concerning his new home in which he could not help indulging.

  After dinner the skipper was in better humor than ever, and took his
turn at the helm. Noll, wandering about the deck, stopped to watch
him, whereupon the master of the "Gull" good-naturedly answered all
his questions, and even allowed him to take the tiller a few minutes,
laughing the while at his white hands that could hardly grasp it.

  "Wish ye could see my lads' hands!" he said; "could take both 'o'
yourn in one uv 'em, an' not know they was holding anything. But
you'll have browner paws afore ye leave Culm!"

  "Of course!" said Noll, "for I'm going to get Uncle Richard to teach
me to row,--I can swim now,--and I'm going to be around the shore half
the time."

  "Likely enough, likely enough!" said the skipper, meditatively; and
when Noll had passed on, he muttered, "It's a pesky shame fur the lad
to be sent off and cooped up on the Rock! Don't know what he's comin'
to, nuther. I'll be blamed ef I ain't sorry for the boy!"



CHAPTER IV.

DISAPPOINTMENTS.


  It was late afternoon when land loomed up blue on the horizon. Mr.
Snape had taken the tiller, and Noll stood leaning over the rail by
him, eager and watchful for the first look at Culm. "Mought as well
wait a bit," Jack Snape had drawled out; "we sha'n't get there fur a
long while yet, lad."

  But the boy chose to keep his place, and kept his eyes unweariedly on
the distant point for which the "Gull" was making. Yet it was but
tiresome watching, after all, and the brisk breeze seemed to have
failed them somewhat, for the vessel's speed had sensibly diminished.

  "He'll be glad 'nough to look t'other way arter he gits there,"
muttered Skipper Ben, between the whiffs at his pipe; "my lads 'ud
think they's killed for sartin to be shut up there a week." He got up
at last, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and disappeared down the
hatchway, returning presently with a spy-glass, which he carried to
his passenger with, "Lookee here, boy, take this an' make out what ye
ken. 'Tain't much ye'll see yet, but mebby ye'll get a look arter a
time." He sat down again, looking at the boy's face from time to time,
and wondering if this sending him to Culm Rock was not some of that
Lawyer Gray's work. The skipper had not a very high opinion of
lawyers.

  Slowly, slowly the blue point began to take shape, and Noll's glass
brought it to his eyes all too faithfully. The skipper saw the eager
look and the warm color which had been on his face fade slowly out as
the "Gull" drew nearer and nearer the journey's end, and the
warm-hearted sailor waxed indignant. "Mought ha' told him what ter
expect, anyhow!" he muttered, shaking a great bale with his brawny
hands as if it had been Lawyer Gray's shoulders.

  The "Gull" stood in toward shore. First, the pine woods, vast and
sombre, showed themselves; then, a little way on, Culm Rock came
slowly into view, bald, ragged, and desolate. Noll's face was very
grave, but he kept his place and said nothing. Slowly the curve of
the shore unfolded itself, a long line of yellow sand, length after
length of scarred and jagged rock. The sound of the surf came faintly
out, sounding over the ripple of water about the "Gull's" prow. Not a
sign of life, as yet, had showed itself. The vessel kept steadily on
till, at last, the whole great breadth of the Rock lay before them,
rising huge and massive out of the sea, and, in a sheltered hollow on
the shore, a great stone house stood up, gray and weather-beaten as
the cliffs about it.

  "Is that the house?" Noll asked, turning to the skipper, and laying
down his glass.

  The old sailor nodded assent, thinking to himself that he had never
seen it look darker and gloomier, and wondering what the boy thought.

  "Aren't you going to stop?" Noll asked, as the "Gull" kept on, and the
stone house dropped astern.

  "Goin' round to the landin'," explained Mr. Snape; "'tain't good
moorin's till ye git half a mile fu'ther round. Ye'll git ashore
pretty quick."

  Under the cool and heavy shadow of the Rock they crept, coming out of
it at last into the full glory of the sun's setting. All the west was
aflame, and the sea glowed and sparkled like molten gold. Even the
wretched little Culm fish-huts looked almost fair and comely in this
flood of light.

  Noll Trafford scanned the little wharf, where a motley collection of
men were gathered, with a quick-beating heart. Which of them could be
Uncle Richard? Would he give him a kind welcome? The boy's spirits
began to rise somewhat under the influence of the broad, cheerful glow
of sunshine and the speedy prospect of meeting this uncle who was to
be as a father to him. The remembrance of the gray old house under the
shadow of the rocks around the curve of the shore still lay somewhat
heavily on his heart; but if Uncle Richard were only glad to see him,
all that would not matter, he thought. He stood by the prow as the
"Gull" moved slowly up to the wharf, eagerly scanning every face that
was watching the craft's motions. A sudden pang of disappointment
chilled him from head to foot, for among that idle, shiftless-looking
group, there was not one whom he could possibly mistake for his uncle.
They were all fishermen, dull-faced, dirty, and out at their elbows.
Some frowsy, ill-clad women had come out of their houses, and, with
children clinging to their skirts, looked on with idle curiosity.

  So this was Culm Rock! Noll's bright fancies had all fled, and his
heart was suddenly very heavy. He looked back across the sea toward
Hastings, longingly, and thus verified the skipper's prediction. If
Uncle Richard had only been there to greet him, he thought, chokingly,
it would not have mattered so much, but now, it was all forlorn and
dreary enough.

  "'Tain't much uv a town arter all; is it?" drawled Mr. Snape, with a
broad grin on his thick features.

  "Shut up, Jack!" growled the skipper. "Can't ye see the lad's got all
he ken weather?" Then he turned to Noll, proffering his rough
sympathy. "Sorry fur ye!" he said. "Culm ain't the place for the like
o' you, an' what ye cum here fur, I can't see. But keep a stout heart,
lad, an' rough it out best way ye can; ain't no other way now."

  "I'm going to," said Noll, with an effort; "I won't mind after a
little, I guess. Good-by, skipper;" and he stepped out on to the
little wharf among the fish-folk, who made way, regarding him
curiously.

  "Keep 'long up the shore," called the master of the "Gull" after him,
"and you'll cum to the house afore long. I'll send yer trunks up by
some o' these 'ere good-fur-nothin' Culm folks. Good-by, lad!"

  The skipper watched the boyish figure walking away up the sands, and
remarked to his mate, "Ef I knew that was some o' Gray's work, I'd
jes' like the fun o' bringin' the ole chap down here on the 'Gull,'
an' lettin' him loose to browse on the rocks,--jes' to see how _he'd_
like it!"

  Noll walked briskly, trying to keep up good heart by whistling and
humming snatches of tunes, looking back over his shoulder at the
wonderful gleaming of the west, and the queer picture which the
fish-huts and the group of idlers made, with the "Gull" lying by the
little wharf, her cloud of canvas yet unfurled and its shadow gleaming
white as ivory in the depth of water on which she floated. At his feet
the tide was murmuring. How far and vast stretched the sea! What a
minute atom of earth was Culm Rock, compared with the boundless waste
of waves which compassed it about! Bending over all, the evening sky
lay cool and serene, flushed, where it met the water, with lovely
stains of color. Noll was but dimly conscious of these things as he
hurried on, because his heart was filled with conjectures about the
stone house and the friend he was to find there. The disappointment of
not finding his uncle awaiting him with a warm greeting still lay
heavily on his heart; and as he passed the curve of the shore, and the
stone house came in sight, his quick pace slackened, and he walked but
slowly.

  There was no one visible on the piazza. All the doors and windows were
closed, though the evening was warm and mild.

  The boy wondered if his uncle was absent. Perhaps, he thought, with a
little thrill of pleasure, that, after all, was the reason why Uncle
Richard had failed to meet him.

  A thin blue film of smoke crept up from one of the tall chimneys,
telling him that some one was within the gloomy old structure, which,
it seemed to him, looked much more like a grim fortress than a
_peaceful_ dwelling. Not a blade of grass or anything green flourished
about it; all was rock and sand and stranded kelp.

  His heart beat fast as he went up the piazza-steps, and noted how his
footsteps echoed in the silence. He rapped on the great oaken
front-door. No one answered the summons. He rapped again, wondering if
Uncle Richard was really gone, and his heart began to grow heavy
again, as it had done upon his first disappointment at the wharf. The
lonely voice of the sea stole up to his ears, and he turned about to
look. Twilight was fast settling down upon it, and already the far
horizon was hidden; but along the shore the waves shone and gleamed
whitely. Noll's first pang of genuine homesickness came upon him here.
It seemed as if he had not a friend this side of the wide, dark sea.

  This second summons met with no better success than the first. Noll
turned away, went back down the steps, and there stopped to look about
him. He discovered some straggling footprints in the sand leading
around the corner of the house, and these he followed for lack of a
better guide. They led him to a long, low projection from the main
body of the house, a kitchen it appeared to be, and here he found a
wide-open door, from whence came the strains of a hymn half chanted,
half sung. Noll rapped. The singing ceased. A slow step came across
the kitchen floor, and a voice said, "Bress us! who's dis?"

  Noll looked up at the wrinkled black face framed by a great yellow
turban, and said,--

  "I'm Noll Trafford. Didn't--didn't Uncle Richard expect me?"

  Old Hagar threw up both hands crying, shrilly, "Bress de Lord! is dis
Noll Trafford's boy?" and then stared blankly at him.

  "Yes, if you mean Uncle Richard's brother," said Noll, still very
sad-hearted; "and wasn't he looking for me at all?"

  "Bress ye, honey!" said Hagar, recovering her senses, "he didn't say
one single word to me 'bout ye! Dun forgot it, I 'spose. But don't ye
stan' on dem yer steps another minnit; come right in, honey. I'll see
Mas'r Dick dis instant."

  Noll followed her into the little kitchen, where on the hearth a fire
was crackling and flashing its red flicker over the walls. He sat down
on a rough wooden bench by the door, wondering if his uncle could
really have forgotten that he was coming, and feeling not all
light-hearted, while Hagar clattered away to "see Mas'r Dick." She
came back pretty quick, saying,--

  "You's to go right in to de lib'ry, chile, right in jes' as soon as I
git dis yer candle lit;" and getting down on her knees she puffed away
at the coals and burned splinters till she succeeded in coaxing her
tallow candle to burn. She got up, came back to where Noll was
sitting, and holding the light close to his face, looked down at him
long and steadily.

  "Bress de Lord!" she said, stroking his curly hair, "you's de bery
picter ob yer father. 'Pears like 'twas him I see'd dis minnit 'fore
me! Did ye drop down frum de sky, or what, chile?"

  "I came down on the 'White Gull,'" Noll answered.

  "Well, now!" said Hagar; "an' why didn't yer father come too?"

  "Papa? Oh, why--papa is dead," said Noll, with a little quiver in his
voice which he could not possibly prevent, he was so lonely and
homesick.

  Old Hagar gave a shrill wail and set her candle down.

  "Now don't tell me dat!" she cried. "Mas'r Oliver dead? Well, well,
honey, we dunno nuffin on dis yer Rock? De whole ob creation might cum
to an' end, an' we nebber hear on't. An' you's all alone now, chile?"

  "Yes," said Noll, feeling at that moment as if there wore never truer
words spoken.

  "An' you's come down to lib wid yer Uncle Dick?"

  "Yes."

  "Well, bress de Lord fur dat!" said Hagar, joyfully; "couldn't a
better ting happened to dat yer man, nohow. Jes' what he wants,--a boy
like yerself, wid yer own father's face. An' did Mas'r Dick know ye's
comin'?"

  "Yes, he knew," said Noll; "he--he told me I'd be welcome. Do you
think I am?"

  "Why, yes, honey! What made ye ask dat? Yer Uncle Dick is a strange
man, an' ye mustn't mind if he don't say much to ye, an'--but come
right in de libr'y, chile, fur he's waitin' fur ye. Come right along;
I's lit de lamp in dar;" and taking up her candle, she led the way.

  "Don't yer mind dis ole hall," said Hagar, by way of apology as they
entered a long, bare, chilly corridor; "nobody comes here but me, an'
I don't mind. It's only my road frum de libr'y to de kitchen. _He_
nebber comes out here."

  From this hall they passed into the dining-room, where stood a
supper-table very plainly spread.

  "Mas'r Dick didn't eat nuffin to-night," said Hagar, glancing around
as she clattered on. At one end of the dining-room they came to a door
which the old housekeeper softly opened.

  "Go right in, honey," she said to Noll, in a whisper; "he's dar," and
then turned away.

  Richard Trafford sat by one of the great bookcases, reading. The
lamplight fell full upon his worn and sorrowful face. He did not hear
the door open, did not hear Noll's light step, and was first conscious
of the boy's presence when two arms were suddenly clasped about his
neck, and a voice, trembling with a mixture of joy and sadness, cried,
"Oh, Uncle Richard!"



CHAPTER V.

THE FIRST EVENING.


  Richard Trafford, a little startled, unclasped the boy's hands without
a word, and held him off by one arm. Full in the light he held him,
gazing in his face long and keenly. Then he said, "So this is Noll!"

  Oh, how coldly the words fell upon the boy's heart! How the stern
voice and the keen gray eyes chilled him! Not a word of welcome,
after all,--only those four chilling words. The boy's disappointment
was so great, his heart so lonely and homesick, that he stood with
downcast eyes, before his uncle, to hide the tears that glittered in
them, and could not answer a word. Trafford released his nephew's arm
with a sigh. The boy was the very counterpart of his father, of
Brother Noll, he thought,--the same fair, high forehead and curling
locks, the same deep blue eyes, the same eager, impetuous manner. This
resemblance touched him somewhat; he noted, also, that the boy's lips
quivered a little, and so said, in a kindlier tone,--

  "You're very welcome to Culm, Noll. Are you tired with the journey?"

  "No--yes--some, I mean," stammered poor Noll, winking hard to keep
the tears back.

  "And you'd like some supper, I dare say," continued his uncle.

  "Yes, by and by," the nephew managed to answer.

  A silence fell upon them here,--long and deep,--in which the eternal
murmur of the sea stole in. Trafford's eyes did not move from the
boy's face; and at last he said, taking his hand,--

  "You're wonderfully like your father, Noll,--in more ways than one, I
hope. Can a lad like you ever be contented in this old house?"

  "I--I hope so, Uncle Richard," Noll replied, mocking these words,
however, by a very despairing tone.

  Trafford smiled grimly. "He's weary of it already," he thought; "and
who can wonder? Noll and I couldn't have endured it at his age, I
suppose." Then he added aloud, "If you tire of it, Noll, you shall
have liberty to return to Hastings whenever you choose. You're not to
stay against your will, remember. You may find it lonely and dull,
perhaps; if so, I leave you to go or stay, as you choose."

  The tone in which this was spoken was so sad that Noll ventured to
look up into his uncle's face. The gray eyes had lost their stern
light, and looked very sorrowful.

  "I--I will never want to go back, Uncle Richard, if you would like me
to stay," he said, quickly.

  "Ah, you don't know what you say, Noll," Trafford answered, stroking
the boy's hair; "it's a lonely place. For a boy it is horrible. Even
I sometimes find it but a weary resting-place. Ah! wait and see, wait
and see. I've little hope you'll stay longer than a month."

  At this Noll's heart gave a leap of joy. "Do you really _hope_ I'll
stay, Uncle Richard?" he cried.

  Trafford looked at the boy's eager, searching face for a second, then
answered, "Yes, if you can be contented." This was hardly such an
answer as Noll craved, yet it made his heart lighter. Perhaps it was
only Uncle Richard's way, he thought, which made it seem as though he
was not welcome. The old black housekeeper, he remembered, had warned
him not to mind it. With this thought, his heart grew somewhat more
cheerful, and he began to take a brighter view of things. He noted the
tall cases of books and the open organ, and unconsciously these
evidences of taste and refinement made the thought of dwelling in the
stone house more acceptable. If Uncle Richard would only care for him,
he thought, all the rest would not matter.

  Trafford let go his hand, saying, "Go and get your supper, Noll; Hagar
will show you. Then, if you like, you can come back."

  The boy took two or three steps toward obeying, then, as if
remembering some duty unperformed, turned and came back.

  "I had forgotten the letter,--papa's letter,--Uncle Richard," he said,
drawing the missive from his pocket. "Would you like it now?"

  Trafford extended his hand without a word. Noll placed the precious
letter therein, and walked away, looking back at the door to see that
his uncle had broken the seal. Not till the boy's footsteps had died
away did the uncle look upon the hurriedly-traced lines which the note
contained. The letters were feebly made, hinting of the weakness of
the hand which traced them. This was what he found:--


  "MY DEAR DICK,--I write this to you from my dying-bed, not knowing
that it will ever reach you, or that you are even upon the face of the
earth. If ever you _do_ return,--if ever you receive this, be kind to
my poor Noll for my sake. Make him your own,--he'll love you,--and
make him such a man, before God, as you know I would have him.

  "If he has disappeared, look him up, search for him, and cherish the
boy as my precious legacy. And, dear Dick, look well to yourself. A
man needs much when he lies where I am lying. We ought to have been
more to each other these past years, not living with a great gulf, as
it were, atween us. This and the thought of my boy is all that weighs
upon me now.

  "And, dear Dick, till we meet again, farewell, farewell. O. TRAFFORD."

  A sudden mist came across the reader's eyes, a sudden throb to his
heart. Brother Noll! the blithe, warm-hearted, once precious brother!
he who had astonished all his friends by studying for a minister, and
who, with all the fervor of youth, had devoted every talent and energy
to the sacred cause. How he had loved him once! How proud and happy
he had been at his success! And here were words, his last thoughts on
earth, breathed from the very depths of his heart, and thrilling with
love for himself and this boy. They stirred the man's heart as it had
not been stirred before since that dreary afternoon when all the joy
and sunshine fled out of his heart and left it so cold and bitter. He
had not realized before that Brother Noll had really ended his
pilgrimage, and passed out of the earth, which, to himself, was such a
weary abiding-place. Now, with the last whispers of that dear heart
before him, the whole bitter sense of his loss came upon him, and he
covered his face, sighing heavily. Back came the remembrance of the
long and happy days of boyhood, with visions of the shining meadows
where they strayed together; with visions of careless, joyful hours,
when they sailed and fished and hunted the woods for purple grapes and
glossy nuts; with visions of those calmer days when they grew up to
manhood together,--Noll always bright and brave and loving, and a
check upon his own wilder spirits. Now he was gone; and all the years
to come could never again bring joy so deep and love so everlasting.
Yet, true and dear to the last, he had breathed his life out in one
sweet message to himself, confiding his love and this boy to him as a
precious legacy. Trafford almost groaned when he thought of his loss.
Oh, what a cruel thing was Death! A fierce, pitiless robber, seeking
for the loveliest and brightest, it had lain in wait, all his life
long, despoiling him of whatever he set his heart upon, he thought,
and leaving him wrecked and desolate. He had thought that no death or
sorrow could ever move him again; yet here was his heart aching as
wretchedly as ever. Was there no place in the wide, wide earth where
such wretchedness could not pursue? He had hoped to find it in this
wild and barren Rock; yet here sorrow had crept in, bitter and
poignant as in the busy city.

  Trafford rose from his chair, put away the message from out of his
sight, and sat down at his organ to still the pain in his heart with
the charm of its music.

  Noll had had his supper, and was sitting, sad and solitary, by Hagar's
fire in the kitchen. He would wait a little, he thought, before going
back to the library, that Uncle Richard might have time to read his
letter. He wondered what its contents could be, and wished and hoped
that papa had written some message there for himself. Would Uncle
Richard tell him if there were? he wondered. Then his thoughts went
back over the sea to Hastings, and there came up such pictures of the
dear old home there, and the faces of his school friends flocked
before him so vividly,--Ned Thorn's in particular,--that he could look
about him only through tears that he strove in vain to banish.

  Hagar had gone out with the candle, so the kitchen was quite dusk,
save where the fire flared scarlet light on the wall and ceiling.
Suddenly, in this silence, there stole in a heavy throbbing, like the
beating of a great, muffled heart, and with a slow and solemn
movement, rolled and swept in long chains of sound through the house,
till, at last, a clear, sweet, flutelike warble broke in and ran up
and down, seeming to wind in and out with the heavy undertone. Hagar
came in just then with her flaming candle, and began to rattle about
among her pots and kettles.

  "What is that?" Noll asked, quickly, as the strains kept stealing in
above the clatter which the old negress made. It had startled him at
first, coming so suddenly, and corresponding so well with the gloom
and mystery which seemed to fill the house.

  "Bress ye, honey!" said the black old figure, stooping over the
cooking utensils on the stone hearth, "don't ye know? Dat's Mas'r Dick
at his organ. He sits dar mos' times at ebenin', an' 'pears like I ken
jes' tell his feelin's by de music he makes. Sometimes I ken hear it
jes' as sad as nuffin ye ken think ob, an' sometimes it's singin' as
ef 'twas 'live and 'joicin.' It dun make ye homesick?" queried Hagar,
dropping her dishcloth and looking up into the boy's face.

  "No," Noll answered, with a sigh, "'tisn't the music. It will all be
gone in the morning, I guess," and tried to look his cheeriest.

  "You's tired out, chile," said Hagar, with ready sympathy; "better go
to bed. I's been makin' ye one in de room jes' side o' Mas'r Dick's.
Bes' room in de whole house!"

  The music had ceased, and Noll left his seat and went groping his way
along the dark, echoing hall, through the dimly-lighted dining-room to
the library-door. Entering, he found his uncle still seated before the
organ, but with his head bent forward upon the music-rack, and
apparently lost in deep thought, for he did not look up till Noll
stood beside him. Trafford made a faint attempt to smile, and asked,--

  "Could Hagar find you anything fit to eat? We can't live here as at
Hastings. The sea brings us our food."

  Noll said something about not being hungry, and presently Trafford
asked, with the stem and gloomy look upon his face,--

  "Did you know that Brother Noll, your father, did a very unwise thing
when he put you into my hands?"

  Noll started at the strangeness of the question, and the bright color
came into his face.

  "Do you mean that papa did wrong?" he asked, quickly.

  "Yes, so far as your good is concerned. I can be no companion for you.
You would have got more good anywhere else than here."

  "Don't say that, Uncle Richard!" Noll pleaded.

  "Why not?" Trafford queried, not unkindly; "it is the truth."

  "Papa said that you--you--" There was such a choking in Noll's throat
that he could get no further, and stopped, looking very much
distressed. Trafford took the boy's hand in his own.

  "My boy," he said, huskily, calling him by that title for the first
time, "I'm but a poor wreck at best. I can teach you no good, and God
knows I wouldn't be the means of putting a shadow of evil in your
heart. Your father says, 'Make him such a man, before God, as you know
I would have him.' He asked too much, Noll. Why, boy, I can't rule
myself." Noll said not a word. Uncle Richard was getting to be more of
a mystery to him than Culm Rock had been. "And," continued Trafford,
"we will leave the matter thus: you shall be at liberty, after the
first month, to go or stay, as you like. If you go, it shall be to
stay away forever; if you stay, it shall be at your own risk. Do you
understand?"

  "Yes, Uncle Richard."

  Trafford saw the boy's lips quiver again, and turned quickly away; the
face was so much like his dead brother's. Noll came to him pretty
soon, said "Good-night," and went away. Hagar guided the boy up to his
room, bidding him good-night with many assurances that "'tw'u'd be
pleasanter to-morrow, 'nough sight!" and left him to himself. The
stars shone brightly over the sea. Noll could not read his Bible
verses that night, for the familiar, precious gift of mamma was
locked in the trunk away round the shore at Culm; but he prayed with
all the stronger longing for the Saviour's pity and help; and then
from his bed by one of the great windows, lay listening to the moaning
of the tide below, which seemed the saddest, lonesomest sound he had
ever heard. And his heart ached too.



CHAPTER VI.

CULM SIGHTS.


  When Noll awoke the next morning, the sun was shining brightly in. It
was not until after some long minutes of yawning and rubbing his eyes,
that he comprehended where he was; then, with some chills of
disappointment, he remembered, and bounded up to look out the window.
The sea lay rippling, cool and fresh below. Here and there faint
trails of mist floated and hovered over the waves, but the breeze was
fast tearing and blowing them away. With a feeling of delight, he saw
on the far horizon-line the white film of shadowy sails. It showed
that there was life and stir somewhere, he thought, and it was
pleasant to think of them as bound for far-off Hastings. Then he
remembered Skipper Ben and the "White Gull," and wondered when he
would return; and then Mr. Gray's note had not been written, he
recollected.

  "Well," thought Noll, "I'll find time for it to-day, I guess. I wonder
if my trunks will come this morning? and--When am I to begin my
studies, and who am I to recite to?" This last thought had not entered
his head before. There was evidently not a school of any kind upon
Culm Rock, and of course Uncle Richard was the only person capable of
teaching him anything. "I wonder if he will offer to teach me?" Noll
thought in perplexity, "or shall I have to ask him? I can't do that!
he's so cold and stern; and besides, I don't believe he would like the
trouble. I wonder if I am to grow up like those dull Culm people?" He
dressed himself, thinking busily enough of a dozen troublesome matters
which had already sprung up to puzzle him, and with these in his head,
went down-stairs. He found the dining-room at last, after getting into
three or four empty, unoccupied rooms, and there found Hagar putting
the last dishes upon the breakfast-table.

  "You's lookin' brighter, honey," said she, gleefully. "Didn't dis yer
ole woman tell ye so? Ki! I knowed how 'tw'u'd be las' night."

  "It _does_ seem pleasanter," Noll admitted; "and where's Uncle
Richard?"

  "Mas'r Dick? He's in de libr'y; goin' to call him dis minnit.
Breakfas' dun waitin' for ye both, honey; an', bress de Lord! how much
ye looks like yer father dis mornin'!" and Hagar caressed the boy's
hair with her skinny old hands, muttering, as she gazed affectionately
in his face, "You's de bery picter ob him,--de bery picter!"

  So Richard Trafford thought as he answered the old housekeeper's call
and entered the dining-room where his nephew was waiting with a cheery
"Good-morning, Uncle Richard." The boy's sunshiny face, somehow, made
the great room brighter, Trafford thought, and Hagar bustled about and
poured the coffee with a lighter heart than she had had since leaving
her people at Hastings.

[Illustration: "Good morning, Uncle Richard," Page 92.]

  "Jes' what's been lackin' de whole time!" she thought to herself;
"Mas'r Dick wants somethin' he ken love and talk to. 'Pears like
dar'll be a change in dis yer ole house afore long, de Lord willin'."
It was such a long time since the old negress had seen a young face,
or heard the pleasant accents of a young voice, that she made various
pretexts for lingering in the room while the two sat at the table, and
though it was for the most part a silent meal, yet it was a wonderful
pleasure to see Noll eat, Hagar thought. And when the two had left the
table and gone to the library, she soliloquized, "Nebber thought I'd
see a day like dis yer, agen! Wonder what Mas'r Dick t'inks o' de boy?
Bress de chile! if mas'r don't take to him, 'pears like he'll nebber
take to nuffin. Be like habbin' poor Mas'r Noll's face afore him de
whole time, an' ef he ken stan' _dat_, athought lubbin' him, I's
'feard he's dun got colder'n a stone, de whole ob him. You jes' wait
an' see, Hagar!"

  Noll followed his uncle from the breakfast-table into the library,
hoping that he would at once say something about his books or studies,
or at least hint what plans he had made concerning himself. It would
be a great deal pleasanter, Noll thought, to have Uncle Richard
dispose of him, even in a stern, cold way, than to do nothing at all
with him and remain indifferent as to whether he studied or grew up in
ignorance.

  But Trafford had relapsed into one of his gloomy, absent moods, and
took up a book as soon as he reached the library, without a look or
word for Noll. The boy stood by one of the great windows and looked
out on the sea, striving to drown his disappointment by thinking of
other matters. When he had tired of this, and found that
disappointment was long-lived, and would not be drowned, he loitered
by the bookcases, reading the titles, now and then peering into a
volume and looking over its top at his uncle, and thinking him a very
cold or else a very forgetful man. When he had made the tour of the
room several times, and was about to go out in despair, Trafford
looked up.

  "Noll, did you wish to speak to me?" he asked, abruptly.

  The question came upon Noll unawares.

  "Yes, if--if you were not too--too busy," he stammered. "I thought--I
hoped you would say something about my books--my studies, I mean,
Uncle Richard."

  "What about them?"

  "Why, whether I were to study with you, or by myself, or how; and
whether I am to begin now, or wait a while," said Noll, wishing that
his uncle would look less keenly at him.

  Trafford leaned his head upon his hand and reflected a little. At last
he said,--

  "You will wait, Noll, till your month is up. There would be no use in
beginning studies which, perchance, may end in so short a time. If, at
the end of four weeks, you conclude to stay, then we will talk about
study. Till then, you will wait."

  Noll's blue eyes said, as plainly as eyes could, "Don't mention that
month again, Uncle Richard!" but his tongue was silent, and he
acquiesced in this decision by a nod of his head.

  "You can fill up the time," continued his uncle, "as you like. You had
best make yourself acquainted with the Rock before you decide to stay
here. You will hardly explore it all in one day, I think;" and with
this Trafford turned again to his book.

  Noll found his hat and went out, determined to keep a brave heart if
Uncle Richard _was_ cold and gloomy. If there was no other way, he
would _make_ him love him, he thought, though how that was to be done
he had, as yet, but a very slight idea. He went through the
dining-room, and from thence found his way to the broad front piazza
which faced the sea, and where, the previous evening, he had stood so
lonely and homesick. Everything looked much cheerier to him now, and
he ran down the sand, in front of the house, to the water's edge,
resolved to see the bright side of everything which pertained to gray,
barren Culm. There were stranded shells and bright-hued weeds on the
wet, glittering sand, which made Noll's eyes sparkle with delight.

  "Wouldn't Ned's eyes open to see these!" he thought, "and wouldn't the
dear old fellow like some for his museum! I'll gather a whole box full
and send them up by the skipper some day."

  Thinking of the skipper made Noll remember his trunks, and he wondered
if the "White Gull" had continued her voyage farther down the shore.

  "There's a whole month to explore and pick up shells in," he said to
himself, "and I'll take this forenoon to go around to the landing and
see the skipper, if he's there."

  With this thought, he started off, hoping to find the "Gull" still
lying off the little wharf. The skipper seemed almost like an old
friend, already; and, however rough he might be, he came from
Hastings, and this fact alone made the boy long for a sight of his
face. So he hastened along the sand, toward Culm, with an eye and ear
for everything which he passed. Great boulders, all green and fringed
with sea-weed, were strewn everywhere,--in the yellow sand of the
beach, in the line of the tide and waves which whitened themselves to
foam, and murmured hoarsely against them. In some places the great
mass of the rock came down so near the water's edge that only a
slender path of pebbles was left between it and the waves. In high
tide, Noll thought, this narrow way must be quite covered, and he
wondered why the sea did not carry it quite away. But in other places
the beach was broad and smooth, quite wide enough for many horsemen to
ride abreast. This morning the sea was peaceful and calm. Neither did
it look so vast and illimitable as on the previous night. The tide was
going out, stranding great quantities of glittering weeds and all
sorts of curious objects, the sight of which made Noll's heart glad;
but, without stopping to examine or preserve them, he hastened on,
hoping to soon catch sight of the "Gull." But in this he was
disappointed. No sooner had he passed the curve of the shore than he
saw that the skipper and his craft were gone. There were his trunks to
see to, however; so he kept on, though at a slower pace, wondering if
those dull-looking fishermen could tell him when the "Gull" would
return.

  Not half so fair or comely did the dozen houses look as in the gold of
sunset. Such racked, weather-beaten dwellings Noll had never seen
before. It was a mystery how they could ever stand in a high gale. Not
a solitary vestige of anything green was there to enliven the
barrenness. Long lines of seine were stretched upon stakes, and
dangled from the sides of boulders upon the shore. In the sand some
dirty-faced children were playing, who got up and ran away at his
approach. A little farther on he came upon two fishermen dividing a
basket of fish. They looked up, stared, and nodded respectfully.

  "When did the skipper go?" Noll asked, pausing.

  "Ben, ye mean?" asked one of the men, suspending his labor to take a
more leisurely survey of the questioner.

  "Yes, Ben Tate," said Noll.

  "Afore sunrise," said the other. "Did ye want the skipper, lad?"

  "No, not particularly. When is he going to stop here again?"

  "Ben? Why, he comes Mondays and Thursdays, he does," said the
fisherman; "ye'll find him here day after to-morrow, lad,--early, too,
mos' like."

  "Can you tell me where he left my trunks?" queried Noll.

  At this question, the men looked perplexed. "Do ye mean boxes like?"
they asked, after a time.

  Noll was astonished at this lack of knowledge, but managed to explain
to the two what he meant.

  "Ye'd best go up to Dirk Sharp's," said one; "the skipper leaves much
with Dirk, he does, an' ye'll be like to find 'em there."

  "Back o' the wharf, lad,--back o' the wharf Dirk lives," the other
called to Noll, as he walked away.

  Dirk Sharp's house was rather smarter than the others,--at least, it
was in better repair; but the look which Noll caught of its interior,
as he stood rapping by the open door, sufficed to destroy any
anticipations of industry or thriftiness which he might have formed
from the dwelling's exterior. Dirk was a great broad-shouldered,
slouching fellow, with a general air of shiftlessness about him. At
Noll's summons, he came lounging out of an inner room, and, catching
sight of the boy, said,--

  "Lookin' for yer trunks, lad? The skipper said ye was to hev 'em las'
night, shore; but ye see," pulling up his sleeve, "as how I got a cut
what's hindered," displaying a long, bloody wound upon his arm. "Ye
sh'u'd ha' had 'em, lad, but for that, as the skipper said. But ef ye
ken wait till the men get back from their seinin'--Ho! there be Bob
an' Darby now," he exclaimed, as he spied the two whom Noll had just
passed.

  "Ahoy there, lads! here be a job fur ye!" he cried to the fishermen.

  The two left their work and came up to Dirk.

  "Here be two trunks to go 'roun' to the stone house fur this lad,"
said he. "Ef ye'll shoulder 'em roun' the shore, yer welcome to what
the skipper left fur't. What ye say, lads?"

  "We'll do't fur ye, Dirk, seein' yer cut," said the one who was called
Darby. "Where be the boxes, man?"

  Dirk led them into the inner room, from whence they presently
emerged, each with a trunk on his shoulder, and, bending with their
burdens, started up the shore.

  Noll followed slowly after, wondering why they did not use their boat,
instead of enduring such back-breaking toil. It struck him that he had
never seen such dull, apathetic faces as these Culm people had. Such
utter shiftlessness as everything about the cluster of tumble-downs
betokened he had never imagined. Perhaps all this dreariness and
desolation made itself more keenly felt because the boy was just from
the city, which teemed with life and bustle and energy. In its poorest
quarter he had never seen such a lack of tidiness as the interior of
Dirk Sharp's house presented. He followed the slowly-plodding
trunk-bearers up the yellow sand, wondering if there was such another
wretched, desolate, and forlorn place as Culm Rock in the whole wide
earth.



CHAPTER VII.

HOW THE MONTH WAS SPENT.


  They were a long time in getting to the stone house. Before they
passed the curve of the shore, the sun was well up in the sky and beat
down with fervid rays upon the sweating, toiling fishermen. Noll
rejoiced when the trunks were safely landed in his room at the top of
the stairs, and the men had taken their departure, each with a piece
of silver in addition to the skipper's fee. It seemed to him that
there was no bright side to the life over in those wretched Culm huts.
If there was, he could not see it. It puzzled and perplexed him to
imagine how human beings could live in such ignorance and apathy of
all that was transpiring about them; and the sights which he had seen
in the miserable, tumbledown village left a very disagreeable feeling
in his heart. Somehow, his hitherto blithe spirits were dampened by
this morning's walk, and he thought the great bare Rock would be a
great deal more endurable if the fish-huts and their inmates were only
off it. True, it would be much lonelier, but that was far more
endurable than the sight of such shiftlessness and ignorance. He
wondered if Uncle Richard ever went among them, and whether he really
knew what a degraded people they had got to be. If he did know, Noll
thought, it was very strange that he did not try to lift them up,
teach them something, or, at least, have a school opened for the
children. Papa, he thought, would have done something for them long
ago. There would have been a little schoolhouse and a teacher. A new
wharf, he was sure, would have taken the place of the rickety old
thing; and by degrees the women would have learned thrift and
neatness, and the men energy and industry. To be sure, it seemed a
great deal to do for such dull, apathetic people, who seemed not to
have a particle of energy and ambition about them; but papa, he
thought, could have done it, and _would_ have done it, had he lived
here as long as Uncle Richard. He remembered a little sea-town, where
they had lived before dwelling in Hastings, how wretched and dirty and
ignorant the fishermen were, and what a great change for the better
came over the place through his father's efforts.

  But now papa was gone, and Uncle Richard? The man was so much of a
mystery to Noll, as yet, that he did not know whether there were any
hopes of his setting himself to the task of lifting the Culm people
out of their slough of wretchedness; but he hoped that his uncle would
see and realize what needed to be done before another year had worn
away. And if he did not? Why, then they would have to go on in their
old way, he thought. He wished that he might do something toward the
work; but, then, how could he? He had no money, and no means of
getting any, and he was not fifteen.

  Noll put away, or tried to do so, all thoughts of the Culm people and
their life, and went to writing the note which Skipper Ben was to
carry to Mr. Gray on his return to Hastings. When it was finished, he
unlocked his trunk, took a look at the thumbed, worn little Bible
which had been mamma's; at the familiar covers of his school-books,
which brought up a hundred visions of pleasant, happy hours in the
great, buzzing schoolroom,--wondered if he should ever know such
joyful moments again,--it seemed quite an impossibility, now,--and
took up, one by one, the keepsakes and knick-knacks which his boy
friends had given him on his departure. There was the new ball which
Sam Scott had given him,--how Sam _did_ love ball-playing!--and which
was now not of the least possible use to him. There was a great bundle
of fish-hooks which Archie Phillips had bestowed upon him, more in fun
than in earnest, but which Noll had treasured because Archie was his
seat-mate. Then there were all sorts of relics and mementos, such as
boys set their hearts upon,--bits of carved wood, favorite drawing
pencils, a purple amethyst, which Johnny Moore, whose father had been
in India, had given him, and, best of all, there was Ned Thorn's dear,
merry face beaming upon him from out the little ebony frame in which
Ned's own hands had placed it the night before his departure.

  Looking at this face, and gazing upon these mementos of his friends,
did not serve to make Noll at all more contented with Culm Rock and
the prospect before him, and, being presently made aware of this by
the heaviness which began to settle upon his heart, he closed the
trunks in great haste, and ran off.

  The day passed quickly enough, even for Noll, and was only the first
of many happy ones spent by the shore and on the rocks. The boy had a
taste for treasuring curiosities, and in the wonderful wealth of weed
and shell which the sea was continually throwing upon the sand, his
love of collecting and preserving was gratified. Every return of the
tide was a great sweeping in of the wonders and beauties of the sea to
add to his stores. There was always something new and strange to
excite his delight and admiration. Then, too, there were long hours
spent in climbing the rocks, till all its cliffs and hollows began to
grow familiar to the boy. He climbed to Wind Cliff, and from its top
looked down on the Culm houses on the sand, and into the gulls' nests
far below in the crevices of the rock, and enjoyed their wild wheeling
and screaming about him as he stood there. From this high look-out he
often stood looking upon such sunsets as he had never seen before.
High up toward the zenith the sun shot its great banners of flame as
it dipped in the sea, and made the vast expanse glow and glitter. In
the east the sails flitted along the purple line of the horizon, and
down in the dusk shadow of the Rock he could see the grim stone house
and the blue thread of smoke from Hagar's kitchen chimney. Sometimes
he made use of Archie Phillips' gift, and caught fish off the rocks,
much to the advantage of the old housekeeper's dinner-table.

  One week after another passed, and still there seemed plenty of
variety and amusement for every day. In one of his rambles, Noll came
upon a little cluster of graves, with the rudest of monuments to mark
them,--most of them were rough head-boards in which the sleeper's name
was cut or scratched,--and this sight of such poor, uncared-for
resting-places in the sand made him sad and thoughtful for more than
one day. What if he were to die and be buried there, too? he surmised.
The thought chilled him. True, he knew that heaven beyond was just as
bright and fair for all that the graves were so forlorn and dreary;
but the thought of lying far from all his friends, on bare and lonely
Culm Rock, oppressed him till new sights and adventures had somewhat
effaced the remembrance of the sight from his mind. Nearly one day was
spent in the pine woods, whose fragrance and sombre light, and the
deep hush reigning within, both awed and delighted him. Then there
were days of storm and mist which could only be spent in his chamber
or in the library.

  Uncle Richard was generally as silent and stern as ever, and sometimes
chilled the boy's heart with his coldness, and sometimes touched it by
his prolonged and heavy sadness. Noll found more ways than one to make
his affection known, and even when his uncle was stern almost to
harshness, found some excuse for his unkindness in his warm heart,
thinking that all would come right at last, and Uncle Richard lose his
coldness and be as kind and regardful as he could wish. Only once did
he lose his temper and rebel, and for this Noll repented heartily as
soon as it was done. He went into the library one afternoon and asked
permission to go around to Culm and climb up to the gulls' nests on
Wind Cliff. He had explored every nook of the Rock, and this was a
pleasure which he had reserved till the last, and, though not quite
confident of being successful in an attempt to scale the precipitous
cliff, yet he was eager and anxious enough to make the trial. Trafford
was in one of his gloomiest moods, and replied, sternly,--

  "You would like to break your neck, I suppose, sir, and give me the
pleasure of seeing you brought home bruised and bleeding! No, you
shall not go near Wind Cliff!"

  The angry color came into Noll's face in an instant. "I believe it
_would_ be a pleasure for you to see me brought home with a broken
neck!" he cried, impetuously; "and oh, I wish I were back in Hastings,
where somebody cared for me!" And with this Noll hurried out of the
library, slamming the door behind him.

  Trafford heard these words with astonishment; then, as his nephew's
footsteps died away along the hall, he covered his face and sighed
heavily.

  "Ah," he thought, "I did it for his good; yet--the boy distrusts me.
He can't know what I would be to him if I could; how can he? He thinks
me cold and unloving, and--well, he has reason to."

  Hardly had ten minutes elapsed before the door swung softly open, and
Noll re-entered. Trafford did not look up, did not hear him, in fact,
and presently was startled by a voice saying, brokenly,--

  "Uncle Richard!"

  Then he looked up. Noll stood before him with downcast eyes and a
trembling lip.

  "Well?" said Trafford, speaking neither with coldness nor yet with
kindness.

  "I--I--I didn't mean what I said a few minutes ago, Uncle Richard,"
said Noll, chokingly; "there was not a word of truth in it, and I
oughtn't to have said such a thing."

  A deep silence followed, broken at last by another "Well?" from
Trafford's lips.

  "Will you forgive me, Uncle Richard? I was angry then, and I _don't_
wish I was back at Hastings," said Noll, grieved, and fearful lest he
had only put a wider gulf between himself and his uncle.

  Trafford was silent so long that the boy ventured to raise his eyes.
To his surprise and astonishment, his uncle was regarding him with
eyes that were neither cold nor stern, but almost tender and yearning.

  "Oh! do you forgive me?" Noll cried, taking hope.

  Trafford laid his hand on his nephew's fair, curly hair, stroking it
gently as he had once before done on the boy's arrival.

  "You need not ask that, Noll," he said. "Go where you will,--I can
trust you."

  "But I'll not go to Wind Cliff?" said Noll, "and I wish--you don't
know how much, Uncle Richard!--that I could take back those words."

  "There is no need," said his uncle. "Go where you will."

  Noll took his departure, more confident than ever that under Uncle
Richard's coldness and seeming indifference there lurked love and
regard for himself, and, true to his word, gave up all idea of
ascending the cliff.

  As for Trafford, though outwardly stern and cold as ever, his heart
went out to the boy more yearningly after that. The month was drawing
near its close, and in spite of himself, he could not regard the
approaching day on which Noll's decision was to be made without some
forebodings. Yet, lest the boy should be influenced by perceiving that
his uncle wished his presence, Trafford was gloomier and more
forbidding than ever, those last days. The boy should be perfectly
free to make his choice, he thought; he would use no influence to
change or bias his decision in any manner.

  "Everything I have set my heart upon has been snatched away by death,"
he said to himself; "Noll shall stay only because it is his choice.
Never will I, by look or voice, influence him to share my life and
loneliness. If he stays, and I love him as my own, just so surely will
death snatch him away."

  But that the boy was a great comfort and delight to him he could not
but confess to himself. He was surprised to find how, in those few
short weeks, his cheery presence had won upon his heart. He watched
him from the window as he walked on the sand below, searching for sea
treasures, and could not endure the thought of having the boyish
figure gone forever out of his sight. Neither could he think of the
loneliness and silence which would settle down upon the old house
when the gladsome voice and quick footsteps were gone, without a sigh.
Now it was a great pleasure to go out to the tea-table at evening and
find Noll, fresh and ruddy from his ramble on the shore and rocks,
awaiting him one side the table with his grave and yet merry face. How
would it be when he was gone? It were a great deal better, Trafford
thought, that the boy had never come to brighten the old house with
sunshine for a brief space, if now he went and left it darker and
gloomier than before. And would he go? He should be left to choose for
himself, the uncle thought, though the decision proved an unfavorable
one.



CHAPTER VIII.

NOLL'S DECISION.


  Noll stayed. The day on which the decision was to be made he came into
the library, where Trafford sat, saying, gravely, "Uncle Richard,
to-day I was to choose, you know; and I would rather stay at Culm Rock
and be your boy than to go back. May I?"

  "May you?" exclaimed Trafford, on the impulse of the moment, while
even his heavy heart was glad. "How can you ask that? Oh, Noll! do
you know what you are doing?"

  "To be sure, Uncle Richard! I'm going to stay with you," replied Noll,
without any shadow of regret in his eyes.

  "Ah, boy, I fear you will rue it," said his uncle, shaking his head
mournfully; "remember, whatever befalls, that I did not bid you
stay,--it was at your own risk."

  "Why, what do you mean?" Noll asked, with a puzzled face,--"what is to
befall me, Uncle Richard?"

  "I know not,--I know not," Trafford answered; "there may be nothing to
harm you; yet death ever snatches all that is dear to me, and I
tremble for you, my boy."

  Noll looked grave and puzzled still. "I don't understand, Uncle
Richard," he said.

  "No; how can you?" his uncle said, after a pause. "To _you_, death is
only God's hand; to me, it--oh, Noll, I cannot tell you what it is! I
don't wish to shock you, boy, but I'm a long way from where your
father was when he penned me that calm note,--lying in the very arms
of death at the moment." Noll was silent. "Yes," continued Trafford,
"for me there is no brightness beyond the depths of the grave. All is
dark,--dark! and so many of my friends have vanished in it,--so many
have been lost to me there! Ah, my hope was all wrecked long ago!"

  Noll looked up quickly, with, "Papa lost to you, to me, Uncle Richard?
Oh, that is not true at all! Papa _lost_ to us?"

  "Not to you, not to you, Noll, thank God!" Trafford replied; "but to
me,--yes! His faith he left to you,--I can see, I feel it; but I have
none."

  Noll looked up to the sad-eyed, gloomy man, and fathomed the mystery
of his sorrow at once. Who would not be forever sad with nothing
beyond the grave but blank and darkness in which loved hearts were
alway vanishing?

  "Oh, Uncle Richard," said he, "I'm sorry for you!"

  "I don't deserve it," Trafford said, with unusual tenderness. "How can
you love such a man as myself? Oh, my boy, I've been harsh with you,
and cold and stern; go where you'll find some one that can care for
you better than I!"

  But Noll's face suddenly grew bright. "I wouldn't do that," he said,
earnestly,--"never, Uncle Richard! Papa said I was to live with you
and love you, and I _will_, unless you wish me to go. And if you do
not, don't tell me to leave you again!"

  "I will not, Noll," Trafford said.

  So it was all settled, at last, and Noll's heart--in spite of Uncle
Richard's gloominess--was light and glad. He would stay and see if the
man's sorrow and wretchedness could not be driven away, he thought;
perhaps--who could tell?--he would lose his sternness, and become kind
and regardful, and follow in the path which papa had trod. It all
seemed very doubtful now, it was true, but such a thing _might_ be,
after a time.

  "Yes," said Noll, as he thought of these things, "I would much rather
stay with you, Uncle Richard--always. And now shall we talk about
studies?"

  "True, we were to consider that matter," said his uncle; "yet I had
little hope that you would stay, then. What do you study, Noll?"

  "At Hastings I had arithmetic and geography and Latin. Then with papa
I studied history, and a little--a very little, Uncle Richard--in
mineralogy,--he liked that so, you know."

  "And what do you propose to do here?" asked his uncle.

  "I would like to do just the same," said Noll, "and keep up with my
class, perhaps."

  "He has still some thoughts of returning?" Trafford wondered; then
said aloud, "Well, it shall be as you like. And when will you
commence?"

  "At once, if you please, Uncle Richard. I've had such a long vacation
that it will seem good to get back to books once more; they're all
waiting for me up-stairs. Shall I get them?"

  Noll bounded away as his uncle nodded assent, and went up-stairs with
a merry whistle. Trafford listened to the quick footsteps and the
light-hearted music, and really rejoiced that they were not to flee
and leave the old house desolate. It would be a brighter dwelling than
it had been till--till death came, he thought. And if he could not
teach the boy as Brother Noll had desired him to do, yet he would see
that in the matter of books and study he had every advantage. So, when
the boy came down with his arms full of books, he set himself to his
task with an earnestness that pleased Noll wonderfully.

  "Uncle Richard means that I shall progress," he thought; "and oh, I
_do_ hope I can keep up with Ned and the rest!"

  Trafford found his nephew an apt scholar. He had expected that,
however, for the boy came of a book-loving race. Very likely, had the
pupil proved but a dull one, he would sometimes have wearied of his
task of hearing the recitations every day; but as it was, he found a
positive pleasure in his capacity as Noll's instructor, and generally
a relief from his gloominess.

  Noll's study-hours were at his own discretion; the recitations came in
the afternoon, and after four the boy had the remainder of the day to
spend as he liked. Sometimes the shore claimed him, sometimes the
rocks. Then there were excursions, in company with old Hagar, to the
solitude of the pines, after cones and dry, resinous branches for the
kitchen fire, which never seemed to burn well unless the old
housekeeper had an abundance of this kindling material.

  "Nuffin like dem yer pine cones fur winter mornin's," Hagar always
said; and many were the visits which she and "Mas'r Noll" paid to the
woods, returning with laden baskets.

  Somehow, after a time, the boy found more delight in these simple
pleasures than at first. Once, with all his friends about him, he
would have found no entertainment in a journey into the forest after
cones,--there were other delights in abundance, then; but now, forced
to get all his enjoyment out of the simplest, humblest events, this
work of gathering winter fuel grew to be a positive pleasure, after
the recitations were over, and the short October days drawing to a
close. Then, too, the winter stores were being brought down from
Hastings on the "Gull," and Skipper Ben and his crew came often to the
stone house, to break the monotony of days in some little manner.

  "Yer 'live an' hearty yet, lad!" was his greeting as he came around in
the "Gull's" boat with a variety of provisions for winter use, one
cloudy afternoon. "Well, I mus' say I didn't think to find ye so?
Lonesome any? Goin' to let me carry ye back to Hastings afore the
'Gull' stops runnin'?"

  "No," said Noll, bravely, "I'm going to stay, skipper."

  "Ye'll find the weather a tough un, bime-by," drawled Mr. Snape, as he
rolled a flour-barrel up the sand.

  "Yes," said the skipper, "winters are mos'ly hard uns down here. An'
what ye goin' to do when the 'Gull' stops cruisin' fur the season, an'
ye can't get a word frum the city?"

  This was a contingency for which Noll had made no calculation. Not
hear a word from Hastings for a whole long winter?

  "Well," he said at last, "that isn't pleasant to think of, but I'll
manage somehow, skipper. And you must bring me a great packet of
letters to last till the 'Gull' commences her trips again."

  "Ay, lad," said the skipper, his eyes twinkling. "What be these?"
drawing a parcel from under his pea-jacket.

  Noll's eager "Letters! and for me?" tickled the old sailor
wonderfully.

  "Yes, these be letters," he said, chuckling; "Jack, here, talks o'
runnin' a smack down this winter purpose to bring yer mail!"

  "'Tw'u'd take something bigger'n a smack," observed Mr. Snape, looking
askance to see how Noll grasped the precious parcel.

  "All yer frien's said as how I was to bring ye back on the 'Gull,'"
called the skipper after him, as Noll went running across the sand
toward the house.

  "Oh, how I wish--No! I can't go, skipper; it's no use talking," Noll
answered back as he gained the piazza, and there sat down to open his
precious missives.

  Five or six of his boy friends had agreed to surprise him each with a
letter, and here they were, together with a kind note from Mr. Gray.
What a comfort and pleasure they were! It was almost like seeing the
writers' faces and talking with them, Noll thought.

  Trafford came out upon the piazza while he sat there absorbed in their
contents, and as he walked along toward the skipper, who stood waiting
at the bottom of the steps, noted the boy's eager, delighted face, and
wondered why the lad did not return to his friends, where, it was
quite evident, he was much desired and longed for. Why did he stay on
this dreary Rock? What was there here to make the place endurable for
a boy of his age and tastes? He could not see.

  Those were the last letters which Noll received. The "Gull" made one
or two trips after that, but the first of November brought keen,
sleety weather, and Skipper Ben came no more; so that for the long
months ahead Culm Rock was to be shut out from the world entirely. The
thought of being isolated from all assistance, in case of illness or
trouble, oppressed Noll somewhat till he had accustomed himself to the
thought, and then a vague dread of loneliness and homesickness in the
dragging days of winter haunted him for a time. But getting bravely
over these, and interested in his studies, he began to find that the
November days were not so intolerable, after all.

  Uncle Richard had surprised him one day by bringing in a
writing-table, from one of the unoccupied rooms, and placing it
opposite his own chair by one of the tall windows. "For your books,
Noll," he had said; and from thenceforth the boy's well-worn school
volumes had a place there, and study in the cold chamber was exchanged
for the comfortable warmth of the library. It was not an unpleasant
schoolroom, by any means, though the high, old window framed nothing
but a great stretch of sea and sky,--both, this chilly month of
November, often gray and misty.

  Instead of the roar and din of the city which sounded about the
dearly-remembered room at Hastings, there was the hoarse murmur of the
tide on its rocks and pebbles, the wild whirling of the wind and its
screaming around the corners and over the chimney,--not cheery sounds,
any of them; yet, in the still afternoons, and the cozy quietness of
long evenings when the lamp shed its mild light over the room, and the
fire on the hearth shone redly, there was such calm and peace for
books and study as Noll found both pleasant and profitable.

  In these days, you may be sure, the boy's thoughts were often across
the vast gray sea in front of his window, even when he was bending
over his problems or translations; not that he regretted his decision
to share Uncle Richard's life with him, nor that he had any thoughts
of fleeing away, but those flitting sails on the far horizon were
messengers which alway bore on their white wings thoughts of hope and
love and patience to those over the sea.

  It was not the natural sphere of a boy,--this monotonous, unvarying
round of days, with no companions of his age or tastes; and, as week
after week passed, and Noll was still blithe and apparently contented,
Trafford wondered and conjectured, and could not surmise a reason for
it; though, had he observed closely, it would not have been a great
mystery. For Noll there was the unfailing comfort of the little Bible
which lay beside the huge old bed up-stairs, and which gave the double
comfort of its own blessedness and the remembrance of its preciousness
to her who turned its pages to the last; and there were ever the
pitying ears of Jesus ready to hear the story of discouragement and
loneliness, when the burden of slow, weary days seemed _too_ heavy to
bear.

  Into Trafford's life had come more brightness and content than he had
known since that dark day when his wife left him and vanished in the
darkness which, to his eyes, filled and hovered over the grave. It did
not, as yet, seem like a real and lasting joy; he trembled lest some
day it should prove but a dream, a vision, and so vanish. He often
laid aside his book and looked up, half expecting to find the room as
silent and lonely as when, of old, he was the only inhabitant of the
great library; but there, at the opposite window, sat the pleasant
figure of the boy, busy with his books, and as real and tangible as
heart could wish. It was a perpetual delight, though he hid all
knowledge of it from Noll, to feel that the boy was present, to see
him curled up in a great chair by the fire, watching the flames or the
depths of rosy coal, of a twilight, and to feel that he was _his_,--a
precious gift to love and cherish. So the man's heart began to go out
toward the boy,--tremblingly, warningly at first, then, as he found
him true and worthy, with all its might and all the fervor of which it
was capable.



CHAPTER IX.

DIRK'S TROUBLE.


  Noll closed his books one afternoon after recitations, saying, "I'll
put on my overcoat, Uncle Richard, and take a run up the shore,--just
for exercise. The waves are monstrous, and how they thunder! I haven't
seen them so large since I came to Culm."

  "Look out for the tide," continued his uncle; "keep away from that
narrow strip of sand up the shore, for the waves will cover it in an
hour."

  Noll promised to be cautious, and ran off after cap and overcoat.
Hagar met him as he came down from his room all muffled for the walk,
and exclaimed,--

  "Bress ye, honey! where ye bound fur now? Dis yer is a drefful bad
time on de shore! I's 'feard to hev ye roun' dar!" looking at him
anxiously.

  Noll laughed merrily. "Do you think I'm too small to take care of
myself, Hagar?" he asked; "I'm only going for a walk, and to see the
waves. I'll be back for supper with Uncle Richard."

  The sky was wild and gray with clouds. A keen, chilly wind swept
fiercely over the rocks and along the shore, and the dark,
foam-fringed waves rode grandly in upon the beach with a thunderous
shock as they flew into spray. Some of the spray mist wet Noll's face,
even as he stood upon the piazza steps. But, warmly clad, and loving
the sight of the wild tumult, he started with a light heart for his
walk up the shore. As far as he could see, the sea was dark and
gloomy, with long curves of foam whitening its surface and gleaming on
the crests of its racing waves. At his feet, on the sand, lay great
tangles of kelp and flecks of yeasty froth. The air was keen, and
frosty enough to film the still pools in the hollows with brittle ice,
and where the spray fell upon the rocks, it congealed and cased the
old boulders with glittering mail. Not a sail was there in sight, and
Noll thought the sea had never looked so vast and lonely as now. Along
the horizon the clouds were white-edged, and seemed to open and lead
away into illimitable distances of vapor. He stopped under the shelter
of a rock to look behind him, over the path which he had trodden. The
stone house looked dark and forbidding, like everything else under
this wild gray sky; but Noll had long ago ceased to consider it as
resembling a prison. It was home, now, and so took a fairer, brighter
shape in his eyes. Beyond, the pines stood up against the sky, full of
sombreness and inky shadow.

  "How cold and desolate everything is!" thought Noll; "but it's not
half so gloomy as it seems, after all. I wish, though, that Ned--dear
fellow!--was here, just to make it lively once in a while." He walked
on, listening to the heavy thunder of waves, and looking upon the
troubled waste of sea, till he came to the curve of the shore. Here
lay the narrow path of pebbles against which his uncle had warned him.
But there seemed no immediate danger, for the path looked as wide as
ever, and as there was yet an hour before the tide would be in, Noll
hurried across, the salt spray flying wildly about him.

  "I'll go on a little further," he thought, "and I shall get home long
enough before tea-time, then."

  Having gone a little way, however, he chanced to remember that he had
not been at Culm village for a month, at least, and longed to take a
run down to the little cluster of houses.

  "How the waves will dash in there!" he thought; "and I wonder how
those huts stand such a tempest as this? I've a good mind to go,
anyhow,--it's such a good chance to see the place in a gale." He
wavered and walked hesitatingly about in the sand for a few minutes,
and at last decided to go. He ran and walked by turns, the wind
blowing his curly locks in his eyes and taking his breath almost away
with its fierce gusts; yet he kept on. It seemed as if the waves
jarred and thundered heavier on this Culm side than on his own quarter
of the Rock; at any rate, the wind was more powerful, and blew the
spray upon him in showers.

  "I'll get drenched, if the wind keeps on like this!" he thought; "if I
weren't so near, I'd turn back; but the houses are in sight, already,
and I've got to get acquainted with salt water. I'll keep on!"

  When he drew near the little settlement, he was tired enough with
running and battling the wind, and was content to take a slower pace.
Never had the fishermen's huts looked so forlorn and miserable as now.
Noll half expected to see them come tumbling and rolling along the
sand in every gust of wind which struck them; yet, with some
mysterious attraction to their sandy foundations, they held their own,
though some of them creaked and groaned with the strain which was
brought to bear upon their timbers.

  The boy kept on toward the little wharf, over which the waves rolled
and tumbled furiously, without meeting a soul. The water dashed so
high and wildly up the sand that he was obliged to keep well up beside
the houses to escape a drenching. He thought he had never looked upon
so grand a sight as the sea presented here,--all its vast waste
lashed into great waves that came roaring in like white-maned monsters
to dash themselves upon the laud.

  Standing here, close by Dirk Sharp's door, Noll suddenly fancied he
heard a faint wail within. He was not at all sure, the sea thundered
so, and the wind screamed so shrilly about the miserable dwelling; but
presently, in a slight lull of the tempest, he heard the wail--if wail
it was--again. It sounded like the voice of a child,--a child
suffering illness or pain.

  "I wonder if Dirk has any little ones?" thought Noll; "and what can he
do with them, if they are ill?"

  Mentally hoping that his ears had deceived him, and that no one on the
desolate Rock stood in need of aid which they could not have, he was
about to turn away and retrace his steps homeward, as the sky seemed
to shut down grayer and darker than before, and nightfall was
approaching. But at that instant the door of the dwelling opened, and
out came Dirk, beating his breast and crying aloud, whether with pain
or grief Noll was too surprised to notice at first.

  The man failed to see the lad standing close by his door-step till he
had taken several strides up and down the sand, where the wind blew
the spray full upon him,--walking there hatless and coatless. When he
did perceive him, he stopped short, exclaiming, almost fiercely,--

  "What _ye_ here fur, lad?--what ye here fur? The Lord knows it's no
place fur the sort ye b'long to!"

  "I was looking at the sea," said Noll; "and--and--what's the matter,
Dirk?"

  "Nothin' that'll do ye any good ter know!" cried Dirk, roughly,
beginning to pace up and down the sand again. "Ye can't know nothin'
o' trouble, lad! How ken ye?"

  Noll hardly knew what answer to make to this vehement question, and
finally made none at all, but asked,--

  "Are any of your family ill, Dirk?"

  "Ill? Sick, ye mean? O Lord! yes, yes,--and dyin'!"

  Noll started. Some one ill and dying on this dreary, wretched Rock!
and no doctor to give aid. He did not know how far he might dare to
interrogate Dirk in his present half-frenzied condition, but ventured,
after a minute or two of silence, to ask,--

  "Is it one of the children?"

  "Yes, my little gal!" said Dirk, groaning,--"my little gal it is, an'
nothin' to keep her frum it. O Lord! seems as ef I sh'u'd go mad!" and
he threw up his hands to the lowering sky in despair, and faced about
to the sea, letting the cold drops drive into his face.

  Noll was fain to comfort him, but was at a loss how to offer
consolation to such anguish as Dirk's.

  "Isn't there some one on the Rock that can help, that knows something
about medicine?" he asked, eagerly.

  "No, no, lad!" Dirk cried, "there ain't a soul this side o' the sea
ken help my little gal! Ye don' know nothin' o' trouble, lad! Ye don'
know what 'tis ter feel that yer chile's dyin' fur want o' somethin'
to save it! O Lord! seems as ef I c'u'd swim through this sea to
Hastings fur my little gal!"

  He rushed down to the boiling surf, and Noll half expected to see him
throw himself into the sea; but he came back, drenched with a great
wave, with despair and agony upon his face.

  "Here, lad," he exclaimed, "come in,--come in an' see what trouble is!
Ye don' know. How ken ye?"

  Noll followed, and Dirk pushed open the door of his dwelling. The air
which met the boy as he entered the small, low room was so close and
foul that he almost staggered back. The floor was bare, and through a
crack under the door the keen wind swept in across it, flaring the
fire on the stone hearth and puffing ashes and smoke about. A fishy
odor was upon everything. Household utensils were scattered about in
front of the hearth, occupying a quarter of the room, and what few
chairs and other articles of wooden furniture there were, were fairly
black with dirt and smoke. Noll had never before entered a dwelling so
filthy, wretched, and miserable as this.

  "Here, lad," said Dirk, brokenly,--"here--be--the--little gal," and
pointed to one corner, where, watched over by a thin, slovenly woman,
the child lay on its little bed.

  The mother did not take her eyes off the girl, and Noll went forward,
with much inward repugnance, to look upon Dirk's treasure. The child's
cheeks were flushed a bright red, and it lay with drowsy, heavy-lidded
eyes, uttering, at intervals, a low wail.

  Noll shivered, and involuntarily thought of those dreary, desolate
graves which he stumbled upon in one of his rambles. Could nothing be
done? Must the child die for lack of a little medicine? He looked
through the little dirt-crusted window upon the tossing sea, and saw
what a hopeless barrier it interposed between them and aid. He thought
of Uncle Richard, and knew that it was useless to expect aid from that
direction; and then he thought of _Hagar_! She was a good nurse, he
remembered, and knew--or claimed to know--a vast deal about medicine.
Perhaps she could help this child! he thought, with a glad heart, and
if she could! His heart suddenly sank, for he remembered that the old
housekeeper could not make a journey through the storm and tempest,
even had she the necessary skill.

  "But," he thought to himself, "I can tell her about the child,--it's
got a fever,--and she can send medicines; and to-morrow, if it's
pleasant, she can come herself!" and thinking thus, Noll turned to
Dirk, with--

  "I can get you some medicines, I think, from our old housekeeper. May
I? Shall I try?"

  The fisherman was silent with surprise. He would probably have sooner
expected aid from across the raging sea than from this lad.

  Noll read an answer in his eyes, and hastened to the door, and bounded
away without waiting for any more words or explanations.

  How fast it had grown dark while he was in Dirk's hut! The horizon was
quite hidden, so was all the wide waste a half-mile from shore; but
with the coming of night the sea had lost none of its thunder, nor
the wind aught of its fierceness. Noll ran till he was out of breath.
Then he walked, thinking that the homeward path was wonderfully long.
Then he ran again, feeling almost as if the child's life depended upon
his exertions, and seeming to hear its wail above all the din of wind
and waves.

  Suddenly he plashed to his ankles, and this brought his headlong race
to an abrupt termination. What could it mean? Then he remembered, with
a sudden chill, what, in his eagerness and anxiety, he had entirely
forgotten,--the tide was coming in, and was already over the path
which Uncle Richard warned him against.

  He looked back. The beach over which he had come glimmered faintly in
the dusk, with its long line of breakers gleaming far up and down.
Back there in the darkness, he thought, Dirk's child was dying for
want of medicine. Oh! what to do? He looked down at the foam creeping
about his ankles, and said to himself,--

  "Pshaw! it's only over shoe, now, and my feet are wet already. I'll
dash through; 'twon't take but three minutes, and I _can't_ wait!"

  He sprang on, thinking to clear the short strip, which the tide had
covered, with a few bounds. A wave, high and broad, which had been
gathering power and volume in all its long, onward course, came
sweeping thunderingly in and engulfed him.



CHAPTER X.

IN THE SEA.


  Noll's presence of mind enabled him to clutch the jagged sides of the
rock desperately, so that in the wave's return he was not drawn with
it into the sea depths. Stunned, strangled, half blinded, and impelled
by a sudden horror of death in the cold, treacherous sea, he took two
or three forward steps, fell, then rose and strove to struggle on.
But a little hollow in the path let him down into the flood to his
waist. The spray flew into his eyes and mouth, and breathless and
bewildered he fell again, this time to disappear under the
foam-flecked water. He struggled up to air and life at last, with many
gasps for breath, and once more clutched at the rocks behind him. It
all seemed like the terror of a dream, not real and threatening. Was
he to be drowned? Some sudden thought of the pleasantness of life, of
dear friends across this same cruel, ravenous sea, of Uncle Richard
and his warning, came to him here. To be drowned in this dark, chill,
raging flood? Oh! no, no! Then he saw, out in the gloom and mistiness,
the white gleaming of a wave-crest, rising and sinking, but sweeping
steadily toward him, and knew that it would dash upon his narrow
foothold. Could he survive another?

  Then from Noll's lips came a shrill cry, which rose above the thunder
and battering of the sea; and, whether from terror or whether from the
fact that the dear name was so warm and vivid in his heart at that
moment, the cry was not "Help!" but, "Papa, papa!"

  The cry was answered!--at least, Noll fancied it was, and clung to the
jagged edges of rock with a new love of life in his heart, and, with
his eyes on the approaching wave, which began to loom up dark and
vast, cried out again with all his might.

  Out of the darkness which hovered over his submerged path beyond, a
figure came struggling,--battling the water and making desperate
efforts to run,--crying,--

  "Noll, Noll! where are you?"

  "Here,--Uncle Richard,--quick!" answered the boy, clinging desperately
to his only refuge,--the slippery, icy rocks.

  The wave came thunderingly in, burst, and hid uncle and nephew from
each other. Trafford uttered a groan of despair, and stood, for an
instant, like one palsied. Back swept the flood, leaving the sand bare
for a minute, and with a shout, the master of the stone house rushed
forward, seized the figure which had fallen there, and sprang away
toward the sand and safety. He gained it, and tremblingly laid his
burden down. Had he only saved a body from which the life had flown?

  "Oh, Noll!" he cried, brokenly,--"Noll, Noll!"

  Only the sea and the wailing of the wind answered him. Hurriedly
gathering the boy in his arms, he started for the house, running and
stumbling through the sand and over the rocks, fearful lest he should
reach its warmth and shelter too late. But before he had gained half
the distance between him and the redly-gleaming window, where he knew
Hagar was sitting before her fire, Noll stirred in his arms. Trafford
stopped, fearing that his excited imagination had deceived him.

  "Noll," he cried, "speak to me,--speak!"

  "Yes--only--I'm--I'm so cold," chattered Noll, faintly; "and--Uncle
Richard--you--you've saved me!"

  Trafford could not speak, so great was the load which had suddenly
lifted from his heart. He started on with his burden, though Noll
protested against being carried, and at every step rejoiced within
himself. What cared he for the thunder of the sea, the wind's
screaming, and the terror of death which they boded? _His_ treasure
was safe, safe!--torn from the very yawning mouth of the deep, and
what were wreck and disaster of others to him? He came to the little
kitchen, presently, the light from its one window toward the shore
beaming cheerily upon him, and threw open the door and entered so
suddenly that Hagar screamed out with affright.

  "De good Lord help us now!" she cried at the sight of the master and
his burden. "What's happened, Mas'r Dick?"

  Noll answered, assuringly, "Nothing very serious, Hagar. I've been
in--the sea. Oh, Uncle Richard! how did you find me?"

  Trafford set his burden down upon the three-legged stool which Hagar
had just vacated, saying,--

  "I was looking for you, Noll, and heard your cry. O Heaven! what if I
had failed to hear it!"

  "I should have been swept away," said Noll.

  Here Hagar recovered her wits sufficiently to give a little howl of
lamentation.

  "Out ob de sea! out ob de sea!" she cried; "de Lord be t'anked fur it!
Dat yer sea am a drefful t'ing, honey,--allers swallerin', swallerin',
an' nebber ken get 'nough fur itself, nohow. Hagar's seen it; she
knows what dat yer sea is, an' t'ank de Lord, he's let ye come out of
it alive. Mas'r Dick, why don't ye t'ank Him fur savin' ob yer boy fur
ye?"

  "Hush!" said Trafford, his face growing gloomy; "find Noll some dry
clothes, Hagar. Quick, woman!"

  "Yes, in a minnit, Mas'r Dick; quick's I ken git dis yer ole candle
lit. But ef ye don't t'ank de Lord now, ye'll have to come to it 'fore
long, Mas'r Dick; Hagar tells ye so! dat yer time'll come! it'll
come!"

  "Hush!" said Trafford, harshly, "and do as I bade you."

  Hagar went out, sighing, "Dat time'll come, dat time'll come, bress de
Lord!"

  Noll looked up from his seat by the fire, where he sat dripping and
shivering, and said,--

  "But aren't you glad I'm safe, Uncle Richard?--aren't you thankful?"

  Trafford answered this question with a look which made his nephew
exclaim,--

  "I know you are, Uncle Richard! Then why--why--aren't you thankful to
God?"

  "Don't, don't, Noll!" said his uncle. "Strip off those wet garments
and make haste to get warm again. Culm Rock is no place for one to be
sick in. Hurry, boy?"

  Instead of hurrying, however, Noll suddenly grew very grave and
exclaimed,--

  "Oh, I've forgotten something, Uncle Richard! That tide drove it all
out of my head. What can I do? Dirk Sharp's little girl is
sick--dying, and I was to bring her some medicine, if Hagar had any!"

  "What is Dirk or his to you?" exclaimed Trafford. "Was that what kept
you so late? Is that how you came to be caught by the tide?"

  "Yes," said Noll, "I--"

  His uncle interrupted him with a stern, "Noll, you reckless lad! What
are those Culm people to us,--to me? You put your life in peril--oh,
I tremble to think _what_ peril!--for Dirk's miserable child? What
were you thinking of? Have you no regard for your life,--for my
happiness?"

  "Why," said Noll, quickly, "Dirk loves his child as well as you love
me, and I thought perhaps Hagar's medicines could help it, and I
didn't know there was any peril till I got into it; and oh, Uncle
Richard, what will they do now that I can't come back?"

  "I don't know," said Trafford, gloomily; "they are accustomed to such
things, I suppose. Shall I have to command you to take off those wet
clothes?"

  Noll began to remove his ice-cold garments, but presently said,--

  "Is there,--do you think there'll be any hope of my going back
to-night, Uncle Richard? The child is dreadful sick, you know."

  "Going back!--to-night! Are you crazy, Noll?" Trafford cried. "No, you
will not put foot outside the door this night!"

  "But, Un--"

  "Hush! not another word," said his uncle, sternly. "If you have no
regard for your life, I must have for you. Hagar is waiting at the
door with your dry clothes. Are you ready for them?"

  Noll answered "Yes," his heart suddenly filled with a dreary
recollection of the sight which he had seen in Dirk's miserable abode.
It seemed to him as if he could hear the sick child's wail above the
war of the storm. Dirk, he thought, would watch and wait for his
return, peering through the dirty little window into the gathering
gloom and darkness, and, finding that he did not come, would settle
back into despair again.

  Noll put on the dry garments with a heavy heart. He was sure he felt
strong enough to return to Culm, and although the sea barred the beach
path, yet, with a lantern, he could find a way over the rocks, he
thought. But Uncle Richard had utterly refused; so there was no hope,
and the child must suffer on, and Dirk watch in vain.

  "Oh," thought Noll, "why wasn't I more careful? Why _didn't_ I think
of the tide? Then nothing would have happened, and I could have gone
back!"

  Hagar came in, saying, "Ye'll hab yer supper here, in de kitchen,
Mas'r Noll, 'cause it's warmer fur ye dan in de dinin'-room. Ye won't
mind Hagar's ole kitchen jes' fur once, honey?"

  "No," said Noll, sadly, "I won't mind at all, Hagar, and I'm not
hungry--much."

  Trafford went out to change his own wet clothing. The old housekeeper
bustled between her cupboards and a little round table which she had
drawn before the fire, casting wistful looks at Noll as he sat gravely
gazing in the coals.

  "Bress de Lord! bress de Lord fur savin' ye!" she ejaculated,
fervently, as she bent down over her tea-pot which was spouting
odorous jets of steam from its place on the hearth; "'pears like dar
wouldn't be nuffin left in dis ole house ef de sea had swallered ye,
Mas'r Noll. Don't _ye_ t'ank de Lord?" she asked, peering up into the
boy's sober face.

  "Yes; I'm glad to live, and I thank God for saving me; but oh, Hagar,"
said Noll, almost with tears in his eyes, "there's somebody on this
Rock to-night that's as sad as you or Uncle Richard would have been
if the tide had swept me away!"

  "Now!" said Hagar; "an' who is dem yer?"

  "Dirk Sharp's little girl is sick with a fever, and I think she's
going to die,--though of course I can't tell,--and they haven't a drop
of medicine. Just think, Hagar,--dying, and nothing to save!"

  Hagar thought, and sighed heavily over her tea-pot. "Don' know what's
goin' to 'come o' them yer Culm folks!" she said.

  "And," continued Noll, "I promised to bring Dirk some medicine,--I was
going to get it of you; but I got into that fearful tide and was half
drowned, and now--oh, what can I do?"

  "Bress ye, honey, ye didn't 'spect to go back in de dark to Culm?"
cried Hagar.

  "I would--if Uncle Richard hadn't forbidden," said Noll; "do you think
you have any medicines that can help the child, Hagar?"

  "Don' know," shaking her turbaned head. "Ef 'twas rheumatiz, or ef
'twas a cut, or ef 'twas one o' dem yer colds, Hagar'd 'spect to know;
but can't tell nuffin 'bout fevers, nohow. 'Tw'u'd be jes' as de
Lord's willin'!"

  "Will you go, or send something in the morning?" queried Noll.

  "Ef it's pleasant, honey, Hagar'll go wid ye. Yer supper's waiting fur
ye!"

  Noll sighed, and did not stir. The misery which he had seen in Dirk's
wretched hut haunted him.

  Hagar poured out the boy's cup of tea, waited a little space, then
returned it to its steaming pot again.

  "Come, yer supper's cold 'nough, now, honey," said she, coming up to
Noll's seat. "What ye waitin' fur? Oh, chile, ye grows more'n' more
like yer poor father. T'inkin' ob de mis'ry ober dar; ain't ye?"

  "_Such_ misery, too!" said Noll.

  "Well, dar's mis'ry eberywhere!" said Hagar; "can't go nowhere but
what ye'll find it. Yer Uncle Dick has had mis'ry 'nough in his day,
but 'tain't done him no good 'tall. Jes' froze his heart up harder'n a
stone."

  "It isn't all stone," said Noll.

  "Don' ye t'ink so? Well, 'pears like ye's sent here by de Lord, jes'
to break dat heart ob his all to pieces!" said Hagar, earnestly.

  "Sent here to break Uncle Richard's heart?" laughed Noll. "Well, I
wonder if he thinks I came here for that purpose?"

  "Don' know," said the old housekeeper, with a shake of her head; "but
dat's what I t'ink de Lord sent ye here fur. Dat heart ob his is all
frizzed up. 'Spects 'twon't be so allus, chile,--de Lord helpin'."

  Noll ate his supper, bade Hagar good-night, admonishing her to "be sure
and have the medicines ready the first thing!" and groped his way to
the library, where his uncle was sitting at his organ.

  Trafford stopped playing the instant the door opened, and as Noll drew
near, put his arm about him, saying,--

  "My boy!--_mine!_--doubly my own since I snatched you from death! Oh,
Noll! if I had lost you!"

  The boy sighed. "Dirk has got to lose _his_ child," he said, "and oh,
Uncle Richard, I should be a great deal happier if I might only try to
save it!"



CHAPTER XI.

DIRK'S TREASURE.


  At the first gray glimmer of the wintry dawn, Noll was awake. He felt
stiff and lame after his adventure of the previous evening, and not at
all inclined to stir. But a sudden recollection of Dirk and his child,
and the aid which he had promised them, came to him almost as soon as
he was conscious of the day's dawning, and he got up and limped to
the window to see whether there was any prospect of Hagar's journey to
Culm being realized. The sky was as gray and sombre as yesterday's had
been. All the sea was in a great turmoil, and rolled in a flood of
foam upon the shore as far as he could see. Not a sail in sight upon
the lonely waste, not a sign of human life anywhere. Now and then a
snow-flake fluttered down; and the wind screamed shrilly about the
house-corners, and wailed hoarsely in the casements.

  "Hagar can't go to-day," thought Noll, with a sinking heart; "and, oh!
what _can_ be done?"

  He trembled for fear Uncle Richard would forbid him to go to Culm
again. He felt as if he could never bear to meet Dirk's eyes after
promising him aid and failing to bring it; and, with this thought
oppressing him, and the lonely cry of the sea filling his ears, he
dressed himself, and went down to the library with a downcast heart.
His uncle sat by a window, looking, with a sad and gloomy face, upon
the sea; and, as his nephew entered, acknowledged his "Good-morning,
Uncle Richard," with only a cold nod. But Noll, resolved to have the
matter settled at once, came up to his chair, saying,--

  "I've got a great favor to ask of you, Uncle Richard. May I go around
to Culm after breakfast?"

  Trafford's face grew gloomier than before.

  "For what?" he asked.

  "To carry something for Dirk's child," Noll answered, meeting his
uncle's stern eyes with his own pleading blue ones.

  "Pshaw!" exclaimed Trafford, impatiently, "what are these miserable
fish-folks to you? I don't want you to care for them!"

  "But, Uncle Richard--"

  "Well?"

  "Dirk's child is sick,--dying, I'm afraid!"

  "So are hundreds in this world. There's misery everywhere."

  "Perhaps I might aid this misery, Uncle Richard, if you'll let me try.
Will you?"

  "You will have more than your hands full if you are going to look
after these Culm people," said Trafford, coldly; "you had better not
begin."

  Noll's face grew graver and graver, and he made no reply to his
uncle's last remark.

  "Well," said Trafford, after a long silence, "do you wish anything
more, Noll?"

  The boy turned away, as if hurt by his uncle's coldness, and walked
quickly to the library door. There he wavered--stopped--then turned
about, and came back.

  "Uncle Richard," said he, tremulously, "papa said I was to do all the
good I could in the world, and never pass by any trouble that I might
help, and--and I think he would tell me to go to Dirk's, if he were
here."

  Trafford turned about with an impatient word upon his lips, but it was
not spoken. It seemed to him as if his dead brother stood before
him,--as he had known him when they were boys together,--and that
those words were meant for a reproach. He put out his hand and touched
Noll's shoulder, as if to make sure that it was really his nephew and
no vision.

  "Ah!" said he, with a sigh, "your father looks out at me from your
eyes, Noll. Turn them away from me. Go to Culm, if you like,--you
have my permission."

  "Breakfas's waitin' fur ye!" said Hagar, at the door.

  "But, Uncle Richard," said Noll, in some perplexity, "I don't like to
go and have you all the time wishing me at home."

  "I cannot help that," said Trafford, as he rose to answer Hagar's
call. "I have given you permission,--go."

  The breakfast was a silent one. After it was over, and the door had
closed upon the grim master of the house as he went back to his books,
Hagar said,--

  "Don't ye let nuffin make ye downhearted, honey! De Lord'll help ye,
ef yer Uncle Dick won't. 'Tain't de might nor de money dat'll do
eberyting, chile. All 'pends on whether de Lord's on yer
side. Jes' come in my ole kitchen and see what I's put up fur ye to
carry to dem yer mis'able folks."

[Illustration: "Dis yer is brof." Page 183.]

  Noll got his overcoat and cap, and followed the old housekeeper into
her cozy and comfortable dominion.

"Look at dis yer," said Hagar, taking a basket off the table;
"jes' as chock full as nuffin ye ken think ob. Dis yer is
brof,--chicken-brof,--an' dat yer bundle is crackers. Dis bottle's de
med'cine, an' de chile is to hab a teaspoonful ebery half an hour. Ef
I could be there, de chile should hab a sweat, sure; but dis
med'cine'll hev to answer! Dis yer is a teaspoon an' a teacup, 'cause
ye won't find nuffin fit fur to drink nuffin out ob. Hagar knows how
dem yer Culm folks lib! Now, ken ye 'member all dat, honey?"

  "Yes," said Noll, "and I thank you a hundred times, Hagar. I'd better
start at once, without waiting another minute."

  The old housekeeper followed him to the door, cautioning, "Keep 'way
from dat yer sea, chile! Don't yer git into dat yer drefful tide,
honey! an' de Lord bress ye an' bring ye safe back!"

  The wind was keen and bitter, and the sea thundered as mightily as on
the previous evening. Noll hurried along over the great patches of icy
sea-weed and frozen pools of water in the rocks and hollows, and
thought, now that he was making such haste, that the way had never
seemed quite so long before. He paused for a moment to look upon the
scene of last night's peril, and remember, with a shudder, how the
waves battered, and how they pierced and numbed him with their cold.
Then he ran along the hard, sandy beach as fast as the wind and his
burden would let him. The Culm huts came in sight at last, cheerless
and desolate, and with no sign of life or occupancy about them, save
the faint smoke which the wind whirled down from the chimneys.

  Noll began to regard Dirk's habitation with anxious eyes long before
he drew near. He half expected to see the fisherman's tall figure
pacing up and down the sand, beating his breast and groaning with
despair, perhaps; but instead, the sands were deserted. Noll came
opposite the miserable dwelling, and paused a few seconds before
rapping, waiting to hear the sick child's low wail. He heard only a
confused, unintelligible murmur of voices.

  A woman answered his summons,--not the child's mother, but a neighbor,
evidently,--and stood staring blankly at him.

  "Can I see Dirk,--Dirk Sharp?" Noll asked.

  At the sound of the boy's voice, the fisherman himself came to the
door. His face was haggard, and looked wan and worn, for all the
bronze of wind and weather that was upon it.

  "Lord bless ye, lad!" he cried to Noll, "but ye be too late."

  "Too late?"

  "Yes," brokenly, "my little gal died las' night."

  Noll was silent with surprise. He was too late,--too late.

  "Oh, Dirk," he said, as soon as he could speak, "I would have come
back last night, but I got into the sea, and--and it was impossible.
So I brought what I could this morning."

  Dirk looked at the lad and his basket, and choked. At last he said,
gratefully, "It be good in ye to care for the like o' us, lad. We be
poor folks fur ye to look at, the Lord knows! What did ye bring fur my
little gal?"

  Noll lifted the cover of his basket, and Dirk peered in, exclaiming,
"My little gal never seed the like o' them, lad! She wur a tender
thing, my little gal wur, and mabby ef she'd had a bit o' somethin'
better'n the salt fish--Well, she be beyond meat and drink now," he
said, choking again.

  Noll knew not whether to turn back, or to stay. Dirk, however,
presently said, "Come, lad, step in an' see my little gal. She wur as
white an' sof'-cheeked as yerself. O Lord! I might ha' knowed she'd
never come up stout an' growin' like the rest," he groaned as he
turned back to lead the way for Noll.

  In the room where the little one had lain sat three or four old
fish-wives,--wrinkled, weather-beaten old faces they had,--who were
nodding and whispering over their pipes in a solemn kind of way,
occasionally addressing a word to the mother, who sat enveloped in the
smoke which poured into the room from the ill-constructed fireplace.
They regarded Noll with many curious glances as he passed through
after Dirk to the apartment where the child was laid, and one old
creature followed after them, apparently to ascertain the boy's
errand.

  It was a bare room where Dirk's treasure was sleeping,--not a thing in
it save the two wooden stools and rough board which upheld their still
little burden. Pure and white the child lay,--a fair, delicate flower
when compared with the dinginess and squalor of everything about it;
and something of this contrast seemed to glimmer upon Dirk's rough
perceptions, for he said to Noll,--

  "Ye wouldn't think she could be mine, lad! Ye don't wonder the little
gal couldn't come up like the rest o' the young uns?"

  "It wur a fair gal, Lord knows," said the old fish-wife who had
followed them in; "it warn't black and freckly, never. Sich kinds
don't love this salt water, Dirk Sharp,--ye couldn't ha' raised her,
man!"

  "Oh, my little gal!" murmured Dirk, smoothing a fleck of golden hair
with his great brawny hand.

  "Ye be fair an' white," said the old fish-wife, touching Noll's cheek
with her skinny finger, "an' what be ye here on the Rock fur?"

  "Sh!--ye let the lad alone, mother," said Dirk; "he be come here to
bring my little gal somethin', an' she be beyond eatin' an' drinkin'.
He be a good lad to do it!"

  Noll looked upon the little sleeper's face, and then at the wretched
surroundings, and was glad for the child's sake that sleep and peace
had come at last. Yet his heart was heavy as he looked upon his basket
and its now useless contents, and he thought, "Oh, if I had only been
more careful last night!--perhaps--perhaps Hagar's medicines could
have helped it." He turned to Dirk, saying, quietly,--

  "I must go now. I'm--I'm _so_ sorry I was too late!"

  The fisherman followed Noll out on to the sand, and, as the boy was
about to turn away homeward, took both his hands in one of his own
great brown ones, saying,--

  "Ye be kinder to me 'an I ken tell ye, lad. I thought yer kind had no
heart fur us folk. Bless ye, lad, bless ye!"

  Noll's homeward walk seemed somewhat brighter to him, even though he
left the child dead behind him. Dirk's gratitude, a small matter
though it may have been, gave him a thrill of pleasure. It was
pleasant to think that he had one friend among the fish-folk, rough
and ignorant though they were. He remembered how, in the little
sea-town in which his father had once dwelt, the fishermen came at
last to love and respect the kind minister who worked so patiently to
raise them out of their slough of ignorance and degradation, and that
whenever his father walked among them, they flocked about him to
listen to his words and counsel, and watch for his look or smile of
approval.

  "And," thought Noll, "if Uncle Richard would only do as papa did, what
a happy man he would be, and what good he could do for Culm!" But that
time--if ever it came--was yet a long, long way off, he thought, and
so the people must live on their old, dreary, wretched life till some
one taught them better.

  The boy walked soberly home, with a great many serious, earnest
thoughts in his heart. Somehow, this morning's sight had made another
impression upon his mind beside that of sadness and disappointment. He
felt and saw that there was a great work to do. Who was to do it?

  Hagar met him at the door, rejoicing that he had returned in safety,
but, stopping only to tell her that the child was dead, Noll went on
to the library. It was the boy's intention to open his heart to his
uncle, and tell him of all the want and wretchedness there was at
Culm, while the impression was so deep and vivid in his mind; but
Trafford sat at the organ and took no notice of his nephew's presence,
and, after a long lingering, Noll gave up the attempt for that day, at
least.

  It was late in the afternoon when he went out for his accustomed walk.
Partly by accident, partly by design, he came to the little place of
graves in the frozen sand, and there found the funeral party from the
fish-huts just gathering about the shallow resting-place which had
been scooped for Dirk's treasure. The huddling crowd of poorly-clad
men and women respectfully made way for him, and Dirk looked
unutterable thanks for what he considered a great honor. Without a
prayer, without a word of consolation, the little one was lowered
into the earth amid the wailing of the women, and the shrill and
lonely screaming of the fierce and bitter wind.

  Noll had never seen anything so unutterably dreary, and when all was
over, and the mourners had disappeared over the other side of the
Rock, he went home, thinking more deeply than ever of the work to be
done, and wondering who was to do it.



CHAPTER XII.

FIRELIGHT TALK.


  The warmth and quietness of the library made such a bright and
pleasant contrast to the dreary scene in the Culm burying-ground that
Noll gave a great sigh of pleasure and relief as he entered the room
and found it light and cheerful with the blaze of a brisk fire on the
hearth. He sat down in one of the big arm-chairs which stood either
side of the fireplace, and held his numbed hands in the warmth, and
looked about him, thinking that the old stone house was a palace in
comparison with the other Culm habitations. Uncle Richard sat in his
usual seat by the window, with his face toward the darkening sea, and,
with the dismal scene which he had just witnessed fresh in his mind,
Noll felt a tenderer yearning toward the stern man,--feeling, somehow,
as if they could not be too near and dear to each other on this lonely
Rock, where, just now, it seemed as if there was little else than
wretchedness. Perhaps it was this feeling which led the boy to leave
his seat and stand by his uncle's chair, and, with one hand on the
grim man's shoulder, to say, "Dirk's child is dead, Uncle Richard, and
they've just buried it. Oh! what a lonely place to be buried in! I
would rather lie in the sea, it seems to me."

  Trafford turned suddenly about at these words, exclaiming, "Hush,
hush! don't talk about death, boy! What have you been up to that
dreary little heap of graves for?"

  "Partly to please Dirk,--partly because I wished, Uncle Richard. It's
a dismal place! I'm glad enough to get back."

  "We shall both sleep there soon enough," said Trafford, who seemed to
be in one of his gloomiest moods. "Why go there till we go for the
last time?"

  Noll's arm went about his uncle's neck. "Don't say such things!" he
said. "Perhaps we'll not live here always, Uncle Richard; and, if we
do have to be buried up there in the sand, heaven is just as near,
after all."

  Trafford looked at the boy's face, ruddy and glowing from the long
walk in the wind, and sighed,--

  "Yes, for you, Noll. But for me,--no, no!"

  "Why, Uncle Richard?"

  "Because--it is all dark,--dark! I have nothing, see nothing to hope
for beyond."

  "Why won't you try to hope?" said Noll, softly.

  "Hush! it's no use. Your Aunt Marguerite bade me follow after her long
ago. I did not try. Your father said almost the same, Noll. Yet here I
am,--I have not tried, I see no light, there is no hope for me."

  The crackle of the fire and the hoarse voice of the sea had the
silence all to themselves for a long time. At last Noll said,--

  "When papa died, he did not fear at all, Uncle Richard. He said it was
only the end of his journey, and that I was to follow on in the same
way till I got to him at last. And papa said the truth, Uncle
Richard."

  "Yes! he never said aught else, Noll,--never!"

  "And," continued the boy, his face growing grave, "papa said I was
never to forget God, and never to forget to help any of his creatures
if they were in trouble, and, oh! Uncle Richard, I hope I never
shall!"

  "Ah!" said Trafford, thoughtfully, "your father ever had others'
welfare at heart. I remember, when we were lads, how, one day, in
coming from the woods with nuts and grapes, we passed a poor creature
by the roadside, who seemed fainting with fatigue or hunger. We both
laughed at the queer figure at first, and passed by merrily, and went
on our way; but Noll's face grew graver and graver, I remember, and by
and by he would turn about, in spite of me, and go all the long way
back to empty his pockets of their pennies and bits of silver into the
wanderer's lap. Yes, he had a heart for every unfortunate, and it was
not closed against them as he grew older."

  Again the room was silent, while the fire flickered and painted
flame-shadows on the wall, and lit up the dusky corners with its red
glow. Noll sat on the arm of his uncle's chair, and watched the
quivering shapes, and, in fancy, went back over the sea to Hastings.
It was something such a night as this, he remembered, that papa had
bidden him farewell,--lying so calm and patient in the great south
chamber, where people were stepping softly about, and speaking in
whispers and sighs. And papa's dear arms had been around him till the
last, Noll thought, with his eyes brimming, and seeming yet to feel
their gentle pressure; and, as long as it could whisper, the dear
voice had breathed love and solemn counsel and fervent prayer into his
ears. Back to the boy came the vivid recollection of all the hushed
voice had said,--all the injunctions, the earnest entreaties to follow
in the path which led only heavenward, and his heart was so full that
he longed to cry out, "Papa, papa! If I might only see your face in
this dreary place!"

  Trafford presently said, speaking his thoughts aloud, "It was an evil
day that separated us. God only knows what I might have been, had I
always lived in the sunshine of his pure, warm heart. Why are you so
silent, Noll?"

  The boy could not trust himself to speak, and Trafford suddenly saw
that there were tears shining in his eyes. Noll felt his uncle's hand
laid upon his head, and the stern voice said, with all the tenderness
of which it was capable,--

  "It's a hard life for you, Noll. I can see,--I know it."

  "No, no!" said the boy, quickly, "it's not that, Uncle Richard! I was
only thinking of--of papa,--that was all."

  "What about him?" queried Trafford; "I never knew that you mourned
before."

  "Why," said Noll, chokingly, "papa told me so much,--so much that he
wished me to do and be,--and it all came to me just then, as if he
were saying it over again."

  "What did he wish you to do and be?" Trafford quietly asked.

  "He said that--that I should find Christ's work to do wherever I might
be, and that I must do his work and follow him wherever I should go;
and--and I'm a long way from that, Uncle Richard; though," Noll added,
turning his face away from the shining firelight, "I do try to do it,
and not forget him nor his work."

  Again Trafford's hand was laid upon the boy's head, this time to
stroke his curly locks away from his eyes, where the wind had blown
them.

  "Did he tell you aught of me?" he asked, presently.

  "No,--only that if you ever found me, or I you, that I was to be your
boy. Papa said you would care for me."

  "He believed in me still! He trusted me!" said Trafford. "Alas! he
knew not what a father I should make his child."

  Noll slipped off the chair arm, saying, "Don't say that again, Uncle
Richard. Papa trusted you,--so do I. And, if you please, will you go
out to supper? Hagar called a long time ago. Come, Uncle Richard,
don't look so gloomy! Papa smiled even when--when he was saying
good-by to me."

  The instant these words escaped Noll's lips he half regretted them. He
had never before allowed his uncle to know that he thought him sad and
gloomy, and he was not quite sure that the careless word would strike
agreeably upon his ears. But Trafford only said,--

  "Yes, Noll, I know. We will go out to supper," and rose from the chair
and followed after his nephew.

  The boy did his best to make the meal a cheery one, thinking to
himself that this, as much as anything, was a part of the work which
papa wished him to do; and, observing his efforts, Trafford endeavored
to keep pace with his nephew's cheerful talk. Noll did not go back to
the library after tea was over, but followed Hagar out to her kitchen
as she went thither with her tray of dishes, and sat down in the cozy
corner by the fireplace. Somehow, the boy thought, the old
housekeeper's humble kitchen seemed to gather more brightness and
cheerfulness into its rough and smoke-tarnished precincts than the
great library, with all its comforts and elegancies, ever held. The
reason for this he did not seek; he only knew that it was so, and
liked the wooden seat in the chimney-corner accordingly. Hagar came
out with her last tray-load from the dining-room, and set it down upon
the table with,--

  "Bress ye, honey, Hagar's glad 'nough to see ye sittin' dar. 'Pears
like I never heard de sea shoutin' like it is dis yer ebenin'. Seems
as ef all de folks dat de cruel ole monster hab swallered wur jes'
openin' the'r moufs and cryin' 'loud! Hagar t'anks de Lord dat yer
ain't in de bottom ob it, honey."

  The old housekeeper took two or three side glances at the boy's sober
face as she poured the hot water over her dishes, and said at last,
"Now don' ye s'pose Hagar knows what ye're t'inkin' ob so hard, chile?
Ki! she c'u'd tell ye quicker'n nuffin. You's t'inkin' ob dem mis'able
Culm folks, you is."

  "You are partly right," said Noll. "It seems to me as if I couldn't
think of anything else. I try to sometimes, but the sight of their
wretched ways keeps coming to me, and it's no use to try and put it
away. Oh, dear, I wish something could be done for them!"

  "Dat's yer bressed father all ober!" said Hagar. "'Spects ef he was
'live an' livin' on dis yer wild'ness, we'd see somethin' did fur 'em.
But Mas'r Dick--well, his heart is all frizzed up, jes' as I telled ye
afore. But de Lord'll open it sometime, honey,--Hagar's got faith
'nough to b'lieve dat!"

  "Oh! I hope so," said Noll; "but what are the people going to do till
then?"

  "Can't tell ye nuffin 'bout dat," said Hagar, making a vigorous
clatter among her dishes; "'spects the day's comin', tho', when de
Lord gets ready fur't. 'Tain't till _he_ says, honey."

  Noll gravely replenished the fire from the great basket of cones and
chips which stood on the hearth, and stood listening, for a little
time, to their brisk snap and crackle, then turned to Hagar, saying,--

  "Do you think I could do anything for them, Hagar? I've been thinking
this long time about it, and there's no one to ask but you, for I
can't quite get courage enough to say anything to Uncle Richard about
it,--he would be angry, I'm afraid. Do you think I could do anything,
Hagar?"

  The old housekeeper let go her dishcloth, and turned about to look at
Noll, as he stood before the fire. Her eyes surveyed the lad from head
to foot,--as if it was the first time she had seen him,--and after a
few minutes of silence she slowly said, "What put dat in yer head,
chile?"

  "I don't know; it's been there this great while. It was the misery
over there, I suppose," said Noll.

  "Well, well," said she, turning back to her dishes, "Hagar's
'stonished, she is! Does I 'spect ye ken do anything fur dem yer?
Bress de Lord! He'll help ye, honey!--he'll help ye! An' ef it wa'n't
de Lord dat put it in yer head--Well, chile," Hagar added, "de Lord's
eberywhere, an' 'pears to me like as ef it was his doin'. What ye
t'ink, honey?"

  Noll was looking in the rosy bed of coals, and for a few minutes made
no reply; then he said, in answer to Hagar's question,--

  "I'd like to think that, Hagar. I'd like to have all my thoughts and
plans come from him, and I'd like to do the Lord's work; for that's
what I promised,--that's what I am trying to do."

  Hagar wiped a pile of plates, and laying down her towel, said,
reverently,--

  "Promise, chile? Did ye promise de Lord, or who?"

  After she had asked this question, she looked furtively over her
shoulder at Noll, as if fearing she had asked about something which
she had no right to know.

  But Noll, with hands clasped over knee, was looking straight into the
firelight, and did not appear offended; and pretty soon he said,
slowly and softly, Hagar stopping her clatter to listen,--

  "Before mamma died--Did you know mamma, Hagar?"

  "Not muchly, chile," said Hagar; "yer Uncle Dick's wife was my lady."

  "Well, before mamma died," continued Noll, "we used to take long walks
upon the shore by the town. A great shining shore it was, I remember,
and yellow like gold sometimes when the sun shone upon it."

  "Like de shore ob de new Jerusalem," interposed Hagar, gazing
abstractedly in her dish-pan.

  "And there were great cedars and pines drooping down from the rocks,"
continued Noll, "and here mamma and I used to walk up and down when
papa was busy in his study; and almost always he used to come out to
walk a little with us before we were through. And one day we waited a
long time for him to come out, and at last sat down on a rock, for
mamma was not well then, and could not walk long without a rest; and
as she looked across the smooth water, she said, 'And the building of
the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto
clear glass.' Though I was a good deal smaller than I am now, I knew
what she meant, and of what she was thinking, for mamma used to talk
about leaving me then; and I laid my head in her lap and cried a
little, and said,--

  "'Oh, don't talk of that, mamma, for what am I going to do?'"

  Noll choked a little here at the remembrance, and Hagar drew a long
breath.

  "Then," continued Noll, with a quivering voice, "she bent her face
over me and the tears in her eyes ran over on to my cheeks, and she
said,--

  "'Oh, my little Noll, if mamma could feel sure that you were ready to
come after her into that city, she would never cry or mourn again!'

  "It seemed as if my heart would break to see her cry and to know that
I was _not_ ready, and that I could not stop her tears. I wanted to
scream and groan, my heart swelled so."

  "Ob course ye did," said Hagar, with ready sympathy.

  Noll was silent for a long minute. Somehow, the talk with Uncle
Richard in the library had brought back the remembrance of all these
past events so brightly and vividly that it was like living them over
again. But he had not yet got to the "promise," and Hagar was waiting
patiently. So he continued, with a slight effort, saying,--

  "Mamma dried her tears very suddenly, for papa came in sight just
then, and I suppose she feared he would be worried or anxious about
her, and though she said nothing more to me about the city to which
she was going, I couldn't forget her tears, nor that she was sorrowful
and unhappy on my account. It made me miserable. I didn't want to walk
with her the next day, for fear I should see her tears again; and I
knew I could not bear _that_. So when it came time to go, I hid away,
and she went alone."

  "Poor honey!" said Hagar, reflectively.

  "But that only made it all worse. I knew that I was all wrong, and
that I ought to try and find Jesus, through whom, mamma said, she
could only enter into the city. But it seemed as if he had hidden away
from me; and the way was all dark and I was afraid and wretched and
miserable."

  "Oh, chile," said Hagar, "de bressed Lord was waitin' an' ready to
take ye up in his arms de berry minnit ye frowed yerself on his
mercy!"

  "Yes," said Noll, "but I was not ready. I held back, and was wicked
and wretched; but it couldn't last alway, and one night when I had
said my prayer and been tucked in bed by mamma's poor weak, patient
hands, I could delay no longer, and throwing my arms about her neck
when she bent down to kiss me, I cried and sobbed, and begged her to
help me find Jesus, who reigned over the city, and mamma cried
too,--tears of joy they were, she said,--and told me that I had not to
seek for him as for a great stranger, but that he stood ready to enter
in and dwell in my heart the moment I yielded it up to him."

  "Dat was de bressed troof!" said Hagar, with shining eyes; "an' what
did ye do den, honey?"

  "Mamma called papa to come, and he prayed that Jesus would forgive me
and make my heart his own, and help me to always walk in the path that
ends at last at the gate of his city. And," Noll added, turning partly
about to Hagar, "I did give up, and--and I think he forgave me. The
dreary load went off my heart, and I promised Jesus then to never
forget him nor his work. When mamma did at last go to the city, I
promised her the same; when papa went, I promised him too. That is my
promise," said Noll, a little tremulously. "Do you think I can forget
it, Hagar? Do you think I can help wanting to do what is his work?"

  Hagar wiped her eyes. "'Spects dere's no need ob answerin' dat
question," said she, quietly; "when de Lord's wid ye, dar ain't nobody
gwine to 'vent yer workin' good, nohow."

  "But I don't know how to begin," said Noll, "even if I could do
anything. There's so much to be done, and I've nothing to do with. And
I'm afraid that Uncle Richard will forbid me to do anything about it.
He doesn't want me to go to Culm, he says, and he dislikes the Culm
people."

  Hagar did not know what consolation to offer for this unfavorable
prospect. She could not counsel the boy to disobey his uncle's
commands, neither did she accept the idea of having Noll's projects
defeated for lack of permission to carry them out.

  "Don' know, honey," said she, after a long meditation; "can't tell ye
nuffin 'bout dat, nohow. But jes' go right on wid yer plans, an' de
Lord'll find a way fur ye. He ken do it,--he ken do it, chile."

  But the question was not settled in Noll's mind. It was not a thing to
be undertaken without much deliberation, and, as yet, only the vaguest
of schemes floated through his mind. He wished to aid, he longed to be
doing something of the work that was to be done, but there did not
seem to be the smallest prospect of a commencement.

  Christmas came and went. The eve was not an unpleasant one to Noll,
though he remembered all too well what a blithe evening the last
Christmas-eve had been, and could not help thinking yearningly of the
dear friends gathered merrily together across the sea, and wonder
whether he was missed from the throng, as he sat by the fire all the
solitary evening.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE WINTER'S WANING.


  Dirk's little one was not the only fever-stricken sleeper that was
laid to rest in the dreary little burying-ground that winter. The
fever, born of want and filth and exposure, lingered among the
wretched huts, taking down the strong men and wasting the lives of the
little ones, till, after weary lingering, they flickered out. Of
course the sick ones had but the poorest of care and the rudest of
medical aid. The people were disheartened and apathetic, and seemed to
have no idea of cleansing their habitations or reforming their way of
living. Noll once ventured to hint to Dirk, with whom he was more
intimately acquainted than the others, that cleanliness and care might
do much toward ridding them of the haunting fever. The fisherman
stared blankly at this suggestion, and replied,--

  "It mought do fur the like o' ye, lad; but we be poor folks, an' I
don't think 'tw'u'd do the good ye think. The fever be come, an' it be
goin' to stay till we be all lyin' up in the sand yender."

  So the sickness lingered, meeting no resistance and no attempts to
check its progress. It smote heaviest the little ones just toddling
about, and who had not enough of strength and endurance in their
little bodies to resist the slowly-destroying fever. So Dirk's
treasure did not sleep alone in the sand, for many another father's
was there to keep it company. Oh! the weariness of the days, the slow
dragging of the weeks! When the sickness seemed to have spent itself,
and hope was beginning to flicker up, back came the destroyer and fell
upon some little one whom father and mother had fondly hoped to
save,--for these Culm people, dull and ignorant though they were, had
a strong and passionate love for their children that showed itself
most vividly in these days of death,--and then the people settled into
their old apathetic despair and found no light nor comfort for their
souls.

  Was it any wonder that--with all this misery and death about him, and
the sight of it distressing him--Noll should grow sick at heart? The
gloom of the old stone house and the desolateness of his new home,
when compared with the one which he had left, had, at first, been all
that his fresh young spirits could bear; and, having grown to like his
new abode in a measure, he found, even then, that it would not do to
remember Hastings and his friends too often; and now, in these dreary
days, the boy began to grow less cheerful and to feel an unconquerable
desire to go back to those who loved him and whose homes knew nothing
of dreariness or gloom. This longing for friends he kept bravely to
himself, because he thought it was a part of his work--the work which
it seemed to him was God's--to be as brave and cheerful as possible
before Uncle Richard, and win him out of his gloom and moroseness. So
this yearning and desire for brighter scenes and faces was kept a
secret, and Trafford suspected nothing of it. His keen eyes, however,
detected that Noll was graver and less talkative than usual, and he
began to look about for a reason. Some dim knowledge of the sickness
and death in the village had crept in to him through Noll's and
Hagar's talk, and a sudden fear chilled him lest his nephew, too, was
to be stricken down with the lingering fever. What if it should be so?
What if even now the boy was oppressed with the languor and depression
which precedes illness? With this thought torturing him, he called to
Noll one afternoon from the library window, as the boy was idly
walking up and down the frozen sand. After a few minutes of waiting,
Noll made his appearance at the library door, looking a little
surprised, perhaps, at this unusual summons. Trafford bade him come up
to his chair, and Noll obeyed.

  "Where were you all the forenoon?" questioned the uncle. "I saw you
but once after breakfast."

  Noll looked as if he had much rather refrain from answering, but said,
after a few seconds of hesitation, "Over at Culm, Uncle Richard."

  "At Culm!" exclaimed Trafford, sternly. "Isn't the fever raging
there?"

  "Yes, sir."

  "And you have been exposing yourself? Speak, Noll!"

  "Why--yes--I suppose so, Uncle Richard. I was in the room where Hark
Darby's little boy was sick."

  Trafford stamped upon the floor with impatience. "What were you there
for?" he cried.

  "To carry something that Hagar made for it to drink. There's no
doctor, you know; and they're terribly poor, Uncle Richard. Oh! if you
could only--"

  "Stop! I wish to hear naught of those fish-folks," cried Trafford.
"Oh! you careless lad, what can I do with you? Are you determined to
catch the fever? Are you bound to be always in danger?"

  "No; but it's terrible over there, and--and they're dying with the
sickness, and nothing to make them comfortable! Oh! how can I help it,
Uncle Richard?"

  Trafford looked into the lad's earnest eyes and sighed. "Would you
like to take the fever and be buried with the rest up there in the
sand?" he asked.

  Noll shivered a little, and answered, "No, I don't want to die, Uncle
Richard. But I think I ought to help them all I can, over there, for
all that. And it's such a little--such a _very_ little--that I can do!
Oh! Uncle Richard, don't you think it is terrible to see them so
wretched, and no one to help them?"

  "I don't see them!" said Trafford; "I should know nothing of it but
for you, and I don't want you to see them or know aught of the misery
or the sickness. Do you understand?"

  Noll looked at his uncle as if he failed to comprehend.

  "You don't mean that I'm not to go there any more?" he said.

  "Yes, since you are not disposed to incline to my wishes, I must
command you. You are not to go near--"

  This time it was Noll who interrupted. Before Trafford could finish
his command, the boy had taken two or three quick steps forward and
clasped his arms so quickly and convulsively about the stern man's
neck that he was startled into silence.

  "Don't, don't say that, Uncle Richard!" cried Noll; "I couldn't mind
you if you did! It wouldn't be right,--when they're all sick and
almost starving,--and I couldn't do it, and it is not as papa told me
to do! And--"

  Trafford endeavored to release Noll's hold, but the boy only clung the
tighter, exclaiming,--

  "No, no! don't say it, Uncle Richard, for I couldn't mind you! Papa
never would wish me to! And oh, why don't _you_ help those poor, dying
people? Why don't you help them, Uncle Richard? Why don't you,--why
_don't_ you?"

  Surprised at this unusual vehemence on the part of his nephew,
Trafford was silent, hardly knowing whether to be angry or
indifferent. That this matter lay very near the boy's heart, he had no
longer any doubt. What could he do with him?

  "Noll," said he after a long silence, "do you mean that you will not
obey me?"

  The boy hesitated. "In everything else, Uncle Richard," he answered,
with red cheeks and downcast eyes; "but this--but this--oh, how can
you ask me to stop? There isn't any one else to do anything, and it
helps a little, and they look for me to come every day; and if I did
not--oh, Uncle Richard, it would be too cruel! I can't do it! Do _you_
think papa would be pleased?"

  "But you are mine, now, not his," said Trafford; with something like
displeasure in his tone; "aren't you aware of it?"

  Noll said not a word, but stood with his eyes turned away from his
uncle's, and his cheeks crimsoning, while his breath came quick and
fast.

  "Will you obey me or not?" Trafford asked, sternly.

  Noll turned around and met his uncle's eye. He began to plead. His awe
of his uncle seemed to have vanished for the time, and Trafford was
astonished at the boy's earnestness and vehemence. Two or three times
he was about to put up his hand to command silence, but Noll redoubled
his pleading, and he continued to listen. All the remembrances of the
past dreary weeks--the want, the slow wasting, the flickering out of
life, the dismal laying away of the poor body in the sand--came to
Noll as vividly as the reality which he had witnessed, and made him
pray for relief with an earnestness and entreaty which ordinarily were
not his.

  "Just think, Uncle Richard," said he, in conclusion, "papa would have
gone to their aid long ago. He bade me do all the good I could, and
you won't forbid me?--oh, I know you will not!--and won't you help me
to do more,--won't you, Uncle Richard?"

  Trafford gloomily pushed his nephew away.

  "Go!" he said; "I do not care to see you any more this afternoon."

  Hardly had the boy turned away, however, before the quick thought
flashed into his mind that he had failed to ask him the question for
which he had called him. He might even now be ill, and he was sending
him away in anger!

  "Noll!" exclaimed Trafford, "come back. Are you ill, my boy?"

  "No, sir."

  "Why are you so grave and sober of late?"

  "I didn't know that I was, Uncle Richard."

  Trafford looked keenly in his nephew's face, and at last drew him
toward himself. What if the fever should get a hold of the boy? he
thought, anxiously. There was no aid, no succor!

  "Oh, Noll," he said, as tenderly as he might, "you cannot know what a
blow it would be to me to lose you. Won't you be careful for my sake?"

  "Yes, Uncle Richard; I don't think there is much danger, though. It is
only the weak, half-starved ones that are ill."

  A long silence followed. Then Noll asked, softly,--

  "Do you give me permission to help them all I can, Uncle Richard?"

  Trafford drew a great sigh, as if he felt himself to be yielding,
perhaps, the boy's very life, and answered, "Yes."

  "And you'll help me, too?" said Noll, brightly.

  "No! Isn't this enough? What more would you have?"

  "I thought that--that perhaps you would help a little, too,--you can
do so much more than I," said Noll.

  Trafford shook his head, gloomily. "No," he said; "I can give you
nothing but money. I have no heart for the work. And now I think of
it, you've had no allowance since you came here, Noll. I had not
thought of it before. Brother Noll and I always had spending-money."

  "But I've no use for it," said Noll, with a little laugh; "I couldn't
spend it if I tried, Uncle Richard!"

  "You may find a use for it when the 'Gull' begins her trips again,"
said his uncle; "at any rate, you shall have an allowance. You will
find it on your study table every Monday morning."

  Noll thanked his uncle for this kindness, but at the time, was much at
a loss what to do with his weekly allowance which every Monday morning
brought him. He found a use for it, however, as time will show.

  After this long talk, Noll felt somewhat lighter-hearted, if for no
other reason than because he had received Uncle Richard's permission
to go on with his work of aid. Spring was not far off, and with its
coming the fever would most likely flee, and then, he thought, there
would be some hope of doing something for the Culm people. And was he
not already doing something?

  To Noll, it seemed but the merest trifle; in the eyes of the poor
fish-folk, his deeds were great and wonderful. All unconsciously, the
boy was accomplishing one of the most difficult portions of the task
which he had set for himself,--the winning of those rough, untaught
hearts. Many an uncouth blessing was called down upon the lad's head
as he made his appearance day after day at the doors of the
habitations which the fever had entered. His cheery, gladsome
presence, the Culm folk thought, was like a ray of sunshine in the
gloom of their hovels. It was curious to see how those great brawny
men confided in him, and watched to see him coming down the sands of a
morning-time, with his basket of delicacies on one arm, balanced by a
basket of more substantial food on the other. Not one of the men but
what, in their hearts, loved the boy and blessed the day which brought
him to Culm Rock. And, quite before he was aware of it, Noll had
accomplished one great object, and won the love and confidence of the
fish-folk.

  The snow melted and ran into the sea, the ice in the rock hollows
trickled its life away, and warmer winds and sunnier clouds gave token
of the spring's coming; and Noll grew happier every day and looked
gleefully forward to the coming of the "Gull," and the tidings which
she would bring. Often in these days, when returning from his morning
round, it seemed to the boy as if his own father's blessing rested
upon his heart, it was so light and glad, and that God's love was all
about him and smiling over the barren Rock and the far, wide sea.



CHAPTER XIV.

NED THORN.


  It was on one of the balmiest of spring afternoons that Noll went over
to Culm to see a little child who was recovering from the fever. The
sickness, apparently, had run its course, and the people were
beginning to take heart; and the men were overhauling their nets and
making ready for their summer's work. There had been a heavy storm on
the previous evening, and Noll found quantities of brilliant
sea-weeds and curious shells and pebbles on his walk along the beach,
and lingered long to search for treasures and enjoy the bright
loveliness of the day. Culm Rock and the great sea had never looked
fairer to him than on this afternoon,--the one lying warm and silent,
its great stone ribs purpling under the sun, and the other flecked
with curling ripples of snowy foam and emerald light.

  It was late afternoon when he arrived at the Culm houses, and so long
did he linger that the sun was dipping in the waves before he was
ready to leave his little patient. He was standing in the door,
swinging his basket to and fro, and on the point of taking his
departure, when a sudden shout of voices from without turned his
attention in that direction. There, slowly riding in over the waves
all burnished and aflame with ruddy sunlight, was the "Gull"!

  For a few short seconds Noll actually stood still with pleasure and
delight, then dropping his basket, he ran off across the sand toward
the wharf, as fast as he could go. The fishermen were already
congregating there, and their wives were standing in the doors of
their dwellings to gaze upon the welcome sight.

  The vessel's white wings slowly brought her round to the little wharf,
revealing the skipper's sturdy person, and Mr. Snape's long and solemn
visage. Noll could hardly wait for the craft to touch the planks, and
Skipper Ben spied the lad before the "Gull" came up, with a dull thump
and jar, alongside.

  "Great fishes!" cried he, extending his hand to aid Noll in clambering
aboard, "if here ben't the lad, alive an' hearty! Glad ter see
ye,--glad ter see ye!" shaking the boy's hand as if he never would
have done.

  "You may believe I'm glad to see you!" said Noll; "I never was so glad
to see anything as the old 'Gull' in my life; and oh, why didn't you
come earlier, skipper?"

  Ben laughed. "I knowed ye hev a hard time on't," he said; "reckoned
ye'd be glad ter see the old skipper once more. An', lad, how goes
it?"

  Mr. Snape came up just here, drawling, "What ye think o' the winters
down 'ere, now, lad?"

  "They _are_ long," said Noll; "but I've got through one, somehow. If
it weren't for the sickness, and such a long time without letters, I
wouldn't mind. Oh! skipper, haven't you got a great packet of 'em for
me?"

  "Been sick down 'ere; hev ye?" said Ben, evading Noll's question.
"Well, that's wuss'n bein' without letters, eh, lad?"

  "But haven't you got a bundle of 'em for me?" queried Noll. "I can't
wait, skipper!"

  The skipper began to slowly shake his head. "Sorry," he said, "but I
didn't bring ye nary letter this time. Don' know but all yer frien's
hev forgot ye, fur they didn't give a single scrap o' paper to bring,
nor a message, nuther."

  Mr. Snape began to grin, seeing how Noll's face fell, and how all his
joy and eagerness had suddenly vanished, and stepping along to the
hatchway, made certain mysterious signs and beckonings to something or
some one, there. Noll, filled with disappointment, walked away to the
stern and looked down into the green depths of water rippling there,
and strove to conceal his feelings from the watchful skipper. Up from
the hatchway and along the deck came a light step,--eager,
hurrying,--and before Noll could turn around, two arms had clasped him
about and held him fast against the rail, while a voice--just as full
of laughter and merriness as a voice could be--cried,--

  "Oh, Noll, Noll Trafford! not to know me! not to _guess_ that I was
here! Why, you dear old fellow, ain't I better than letters? I've a
good mind to never let you look around to pay for not mistrusting that
I was here! Oh, Noll!"

  "Well, I be beat!" said the skipper. "I never seed a lad so
dumbfounded afore. What ye goin' to give me fur bringin' ye sech a
parcel, Master Noll?"

  But Noll had only eyes and ears for his friend.

  "Ned, Ned Thorn!" he exclaimed, looking at his friend with wide-open
eyes, as if he thought he was seeing a vision. "It is really you, only
grown a little taller!"

  "Of course it is; who else should it be?" said Ned, drawing his friend
out to one of the skipper's bales, where they could both sit down.
"You're brown as an old salt, Noll; but you haven't grown a bit! Oh,
but you may believe I'm glad to see you! I thought you'd be dying by
this time to see some one from Hastings, and when the skipper pointed
out the old stone dungeon where you live, I thought likely you were
dead already. What a horrid old fortress 'tis! and weren't you awful
homesick? and aren't you terribly moped up in such quarters? and, you
dear old Noll, how _have_ you managed to live it through, anyhow?"

  "Beats everything at questions, that lad does," observed Mr. Snape to
the skipper; "nigh about pestered me to death, comin' down. You'd
better charge double ef yer goin' to carry him home, 'cause it's two
days' work fur one man ter tend to his talk. I ben't goin' to do't fur
nothin'."

  "They ben't glad to see each other, eh, Jack?" said Ben; "wish there
was some prospect o' taking t'other home, too."

  "I sh'u'd be 'feared the 'Gull''d founder," said Mr. Snape.

  Noll, in the midst of happy talk, suddenly recollected that it was
after sundown, and that Uncle Richard and the tea-table would be
waiting.

  "Come, Ned," he said, gleefully, "I'd forgotten all about sunset and
home till this minute. It's a good long walk, and we must start."

  "I'm ready," said Ned, jumping up. "Skipper, where's my carpet-bag?
I'm going to stay, Noll, just as long as you'll keep me; and now I'm
anxious for a look inside your old dungeon and a peep at that grim
old--that's what the skipper said he was--uncle of yours. Do you think
he'll scold because I've come?"

  "Indeed not!" said Noll; "and Uncle Richard's not so very grim,
either. We'll have splendid times in the old house, and now see if you
aren't sorry when it comes time for you to leave Culm Rock."

  They clambered over the "Gull's" side on to the wharf, and passed
through in the little lane which the fishermen made for them, to the
smooth and shining sand, and so started for the stone house.

  Ned Thorn was a boy of Noll's own age, and much resembled him in
appearance, though, of the two, Ned was a trifle the taller. Indeed,
as Mr. Snape observed, leaning over the rail and smoking his pipe
while he watched the two lads walking briskly homeward,--

  "They're as like as two peas, Ben,--did ye note?--only one's more so
than t'other."

  It seemed to Noll, while on this homeward walk, that nothing was
lacking to make home pleasant, now that Ned had come. His friend's
presence did not seem a reality, as yet, and he had to listen a long
time to Ned's merry chatter before he could realize that it was
actually Ned Thorn who was walking beside him in this purple twilight,
along the shore of the glimmering, sounding sea.

  "What a queer place!" said Ned, stopping, at the curve of the shore,
to look off at the horizon, which seemed to rise higher than their
heads, and turning to look at the dark wall of rock behind them; "and
what a lonesome sound the waves make! I should have died of the blues
in three weeks. And what a miserable set those fishermen are! They all
seem to like you, though. Did you see how they made way for us, and
touched their caps, some of them? What a capital place to fish, off
those rocks! I'm glad I brought hooks and lines, and--What's that
light ahead? A lighthouse?"

  "No, only Hagar's kitchen window," said Noll; "Hagar's our black
cook, and there's only three of us in that great house, Ned!"

  "I should think you'd lose each other! Is your uncle like your father
at all?"

  "No, Uncle Richard's not much like papa," said Noll, with sudden
graveness; "but he loves me, and--and I hope you'll like him, Ned."

  They walked the rest of the way in silence till they came to the
piazza steps under the shadow of the great stone house.

  "It looks just as it did when I saw it first," said Noll,--"the sea
getting dark and shadowy and making that lonesome sound on the
pebbles, and oh, how I had to rap and search before I could find my
way in! But come on, Ned."

  Noll led his friend along the echoing hall, straight to Uncle
Richard's library, where the lamp had been lighted.

  "This is Ned Thorn, Uncle Richard," said he, as they entered, "and
he's come clear from Hastings to see me."

  "Ned is very welcome," said Trafford, who chanced to be in a cheerful
mood, "and if you boys are ready, we will go out to tea."

  Noll ran on before to Hagar's kitchen, where he burst in,
exclaiming,--

  "Another plate and teacup, Hagar! Did you know that we have actually
got company? It's Ned Thorn, a dear friend of mine, and he's from
Hastings, and going to stay--I don't know how long. Will you bring
them? Is tea all ready?"

  "Bress ye!" said Hagar, "I's 'stonished to see ye so 'cited, honey.
I'll bring de dishes in a minnit."

  The old housekeeper followed him back to the dining-room, where the
new-comer was endeavoring to interest Trafford in the account of the
day's journey, telling it in such a sprightly manner that the grim
master was betrayed into more than one smile.

  "And now, Mr. Trafford, I'm going to stay here in this dismal old
house just as long as you'll keep me," said Ned, in conclusion. "And
Noll and I are going to have tip-top good times! I don't know as
there's a thing we can have fun out of, but if there isn't, we'll
invent something. We can fish,--there's one consolation! Why, Mr.
Trafford, what does Noll do with himself, anyhow? I think he's grown
as sober as--as--I don't know what!"

  "Very likely," said Trafford, with a shadow of gloom on his face;
"this is a sober place. Noll has seen much of which you know nothing,
and it has made him graver and more thoughtful, I suppose; yet--"

  "Yet you think he's all the better for that?" said Ned, merrily.
"Well, so do I! Papa always says I'm too much of a rattle-box; but I
can't help it. I couldn't be sober, like Noll, if I should try; and
you wouldn't want me to; would you, old fellow?"

  Noll looked as if he was entirely suited, now, and secretly wondered
what Uncle Richard thought of his merry, light-hearted friend. The
days which followed were happy ones. Trafford recollected that Noll
had had a long winter of study, and granted a vacation to last during
Ned Thorn's stay; so the two boys were at liberty to fish and ramble
and explore rock and sand to their hearts' content. They gathered
basket after basket full of sea flowers and weeds of vivid dye, to be
pressed and packed for transportation to Hastings, and such quantities
of shells, with an occasional pebble of agate or carnelian, that Ned
laughingly declared,--

  "I'll have just all the baggage the 'Gull' can float under, Noll. I'll
have to charter it to convey me and mine; for the skipper won't take
me under any other condition, you may be sure."

  And these days were merry ones too. Hagar declared, "Dat yer Thorn boy
beat eberyt'ing dis ole woman eber seed. 'Peared like ther' was more'n
forty boys racin' up an' down dem yer stairs, an' laughin' at de tops
ob ther voices. Neber seed nuffn like it, nohow! But is ye sorry,
Hagar? Ye knows ye isn't! Ye likes to hear dis yer ole house waked up
an' 'pear as ef 'twas good fur somethin' 'sides holdin' mis'ry."

  Noll more than once trembled lest Uncle Richard should be displeased
at this unusual clamor and mirthfulness, and banish Ned in anger; but
day after day passed, and Trafford made no opposition to the boys'
plans or proceedings, and apparently took quite a fancy to Noll's
friend.

  "I'd just like to coax your uncle into playing a game of ball with
us," said Ned, as the two sat on the piazza one evening at twilight;
"do you suppose he would consent?"

  "Uncle Richard play ball!" exclaimed Noll, laughing at the idea. "No!
I would almost as soon expect to see this old stone house playing at
toss and catch."

  "Well, he _is_ the strangest man!" observed Ned; "but he loves
you,--I can see that, every day,---and perhaps he'll come out as
bright as a dollar, by and by. And--do you remember?--you was to tell
me about that plan to-night. Go in, Noll dear,--I'm all attention."



CHAPTER XV.

PLANS.


  Noll looked thoughtfully on the sea a few minutes before he said, "I
don't know what you'll say, Ned, the plan is so difficult; but I've
thought of it a long time,--I believe it's been in my head every day
for the last two months,--and it seems to me it is possible. Oh! if it
_were_, I'd be the happiest boy in the land!"

  "Well, now what have you got in your head, I'd like to know?" said
Ned; "tell me quickly, for I hate long speeches, you know."

  "Well, in the first place, you must know I want to help those Culm
people, somehow. That's--"

  "Yes," interrupted Ned, "they need 'helping,' I should think! They're
the laziest, miserablest set of people I ever saw. Some of 'em need
'helping' with a good, sound punching,--'twould stir 'em up a little."

  "That's the object of the plan, and the next thing is how to do it,"
continued Noll. "If papa had only lived here a little time, I know it
would have been a different place, and I want to make it what he would
have made it; but, though I can't do that, I want to do something."

  "I'll warrant you do!" said Ned, edging nearer his friend. "What do
you think Hagar has told me about your work this winter? You _are_ the
funniest fellow, and I don't see what puts such ideas in your head,
anyhow!--they never get into mine."

  "Well, I'll never get to my plan at this rate," said Noll, laughing a
bit. "I don't believe the people will ever be any cleaner or more
industrious till they have better houses to live in, and they're too
poor to buy lumber and make repairs. Now, if I could only accomplish
that, I think they'd soon have some pride in keeping their dwellings
nice and neat, and that would keep the fever away, and perhaps--I
almost _know_--they'd soon be a different people!"

  "My stars!" exclaimed Ned, "what're you thinking of? Do you really
mean that--that you're going to repair their huts for them?"

  "Yes, that is what I wish to do, and what I've been planning for,"
said Noll, peering through the dusk to see how Ned received the
project; "and do you think I'll succeed?--do you think it is
possible?"

  Ned was silent a few seconds, and the low voice of the sea rose and
murmured far up and down the beach-line and died away in a faint
whisper before he replied, "Well, I _am_ astonished! and if any one
else had proposed it, I should say they were out of their wits. Now,
what are those dirty fishermen to you, Noll?"

  "That was not the question," said Noll. "Do you think I can succeed?"

  "I don't know,--can't tell,--it's all so sudden. Where will you get
the money? and why don't your Uncle Richard do the work, instead of
you?"

  "Uncle Richard? why, he--he doesn't care for the Culm people," Noll
was obliged to confess; "but as for the money, I think I can manage
that. You see, he gives me more spending-money every week than I used
to have in a whole quarter,--I showed you all my savings the other
night, you remember,--and it has got to be quite a sum. Then I have
about as much more that Mr. Gray gave me when I came away, and with
this I'll make a commencement. The--"

  "But what will your uncle say? Does he know?" queried Ned.

  "No, he knows nothing about it. But he gave me permission, a long time
ago, to aid the Culm people, and he lets me do as I choose with my
money. So doesn't my plan seem possible?"

  "Yes, if you can tell where lumber and nails and a carpenter are to
come from," said Ned.

  "Oh! but those will have to come down from Hastings, on the 'Gull,' of
course. There's nothing here to do with," said Noll; "and I mean to
coax Ben Tate to buy the lumber and hire a carpenter for me. You see,
I've got it all planned, and if it will only work!"

  "My stars!" said Ned, "I didn't know you were such a fellow. Why, I
don't wonder these fish-folks all touch their hats to you,--they can
afford to, I think. And, Noll, won't you tell me what these people are
to you? I can't see, for the life of me! And why should you spend all
your money for them?"

  Noll hesitated, not feeling certain that Ned would understand his
reason, if he told him, and, looking up at the stars, which had come
out in great fleets over the sea, was silent. But Ned got up, came to
Noll's end of the step, and, sitting down beside him, said,--

  "Now for your reason! I'll not be put off at all. Won't you tell me?"

  "Yes, if you wish very much to know," said Noll, in a lower tone. "I
think everybody has a work to do,--a work that God gives them,--and I
think this is mine, that he has given me. And I promised always to do
his work, and I mean to do it, if I can. Besides," he added, softly
taking Ned's hand in his, "it is work that papa would do if he were
here, and I know that he, too, would be glad to have me do it.
Wouldn't you be anxious to get about it at once, and without waiting
for the Culm people to sink lower, if you thought it was your work
and waiting for your hands? Wouldn't you, Ned?"

  Noll's friend was suddenly silent. It was hardly such a reason as he
had expected to hear, and what to reply he did not know. "Noll always
was the funniest fellow ever since I knew him!" he thought to himself.

  Noll waited, and tried to look into his friend's face, and feared that
Ned did not comprehend his motives, after all. At last he said, "Don't
you understand?"

  "Oh, yes," said Ned, quickly, "but I--well--I didn't know what to say,
and, somehow, you make me ashamed. It seems too bad for you to
waste--spend, I mean--your money for those fishermen."

  "Oh, no," said Noll, "I've no need of it for myself, and if I had,
they need it more than I. And, Ned, I want to beg you to help me.
Will you?"

  "Pshaw! I'd be no help at all!" said Ned; "I'm no good at such
things."

  "But will you try?" said Noll, eagerly.

  "Yes, if you wish. But I'll be sure to bother or make a mess of
something,--see if I don't!"

  At that instant the hall door behind them opened, and Trafford stepped
out. So dark had it grown that he failed, at first, to see the two
figures on the step; but when a little stir of Ned's betrayed them, he
exclaimed, in a tone of great relief,--

  "Ah, here you are, boys! I feared that--that you were up the shore,
perhaps. Come in, come in. Why do you sit here in the darkness?"

  "So I say!" said Ned, briskly, and not regretting this interruption;
"what _are_ we sitting here in the dark for, Noll? Let's go in!"

  As they were groping along their darksome way to the library, Ned
whispered,--

  "When are you going to begin your plan, or 'put it in execution,' as
the books say?"

  "The skipper will touch here to-morrow; I'd like to see him then,"
said Noll.

  "Why not?" returned Ned. "We can get up early and run over to Culm
before breakfast, and coax Ben into doing the business for you."

  "We will!" said Noll, gladly, "and have the work begun at once; and I
knew you'd be willing to help. Oh, Ned, I wish you were to stay here
always."

  The boys did not linger long in the library after arriving there, but
went up to Noll's chamber, where his little hoard of money was
brought forth and counted. Neither of the lads knew how far it would
go toward purchasing lumber, but to them the sum in hand seemed a
large one, and they decided, after much deliberation, to place it in
Ben's hands, and trust to his judgment and discretion.

  "But how is the carpenter to be paid for his labor, if this all goes
for lumber?" queried Ned.

  "Why, my spending-money is accumulating all the time," said Noll, "and
though that won't be enough, I'll manage to get the rest, somehow.
I'll write to Mr. Gray, or do something that will bring it."

  They were both up at the first glimmer of dawn the next morning, and
on their way to Culm long before the mist had fled from off the face
of the sea. They ran, and made all possible haste, and were only just
in time after all; for Ben was about to stand out on the day's journey
as they came panting and breathless on to the little wharf.

  "What be wantin' now, lads?" he cried, gruffly; "we be in a hurry to
get off!"

  "But you must wait a few minutes," said Ned, "for we want to come
aboard, skipper. We can't run a mile for nothing, and before breakfast
too."

  "S'pose I shall hev ter!" grumbled Ben, as he gave them each a hand to
help them up.

  Noll brought forth his roll of money, and narrated his errand,
disclosing for what object the lumber was to be purchased. Ben sat
down and stared blankly at the boy, while Mr. Snape, who had drawn
near, looked utterly bewildered.

  "Let me hear ye say that agen," said Ben, when his scattered senses
began to return; "I think I did not hear ye rightly."

  Noll repeated his errand, aided by some impatient explanations which
Ned threw in for the skipper's benefit.

  "Well," said the "Gull's" master, as he concluded, "I be beat! Why,
lad, 'tw'u'd be like throwin' yer silver into the sea to spend it on
them good-fur-nothin', shif'less critters. An' what be the like o'
them to you?"

  "Why," said Ned, coming to Noll's relief, "he want's to do them good.
Can't you see through a ladder, Ben? And what we want to know is
whether you will do the business?"

  The skipper was silent for a time. What was passing in his mind, the
boys did not suspect, and they feared lest he should refuse. But
presently he got up, saying, with gruffness which was assumed to hide
a sudden tenderness in the old sailor's heart,--

  "I ken do't fur ye, lad, I s'pose!--tho' I call ye foolish all the
same. The 'Gull' be engaged fur the next run, but the next arter that
ye shall hev yer boards an' yer carpenter."

  "That will be week after next," said Ned. "Hurrah for you, Ben! And I
want to engage a passage home for next week. Come, Noll, let's go back
and let the skipper put out, if he's in such a hurry. A good voyage to
you, Ben!--and don't you forget that I'm to go next week, now!"

  "Ay, ay," said Ben, "get along with you!" and over the side went the
boys, and, after a little delay, off went the "Gull" with Noll's
precious savings on board.

  "Wait," said Noll, as they left the wharf, "there's Dirk Sharp out
there with his boat, ready to put off. Wait here, Ned, till I've
spoken with him." And Noll ran off across the sand.

  Ned sat down on the wharf and watched his friend and the fisherman.
They were sufficiently near for him to note the expressions upon their
faces, and when he saw the blank look of wonder and incredulity that
suddenly came over Dirk's coarse features, he suspected that Noll was
disclosing his project.

  "Oh, but Noll _is_ a queer fellow," he said to himself. "How can he
care for these dirty, dull-witted fellows that can't spell their own
names, when he is so smart and such a long, long way above them?"

  But Noll, he remembered, had answered this question on the previous
evening; yet Ned could hardly comprehend such motives, and so sat
puzzling his head over it till his friend came back with a pleased and
happy face, to say,--

  "I'm ready now. You should have seen Dirk when I told what was going
to be done! The great fellow almost cried before I could finish; and
he's promised to aid me in a dozen ways, at least, and promised, oh!
so much besides. And it seems as if I'll be the happiest boy in the
world when once things are under way."

  "I suppose you will be," said Ned, with something like a sigh, "and
I wish I could stay and see how the huts'll look after you've done
with them. However," he added, brightly, "I can come again
sometime,--there's one consolation."

  The fair spring days went on with the speed with which all happy days
fly by, and little by little the Culm people began to talk among
themselves of the--to them--great event which was to take place so
soon. Noll overheard one old fish-wife say, "We ben't slick 'nough for
new housen; ther'll hev to be great scrubbin' an' scourin' that day,
eh, Janet?" to her slatternly daughter-in-law; and the boy mentally
prayed that this opinion would gain ground among all the fish-folk. If
there was only some one to teach the children, and save them from the
utter ignorance which was their parents', there would be great hope
for Culm, he thought.

  Ned Thorn went home, and this was the only sad day which Noll knew
during the two weeks' waiting. He could not bid Ned good-by and see
the dear, merry face fade away, as the "Gull" departed, without a
great choking in his throat and a heaviness of heart that made one day
a lonely, homesick one.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE WORK BEGUN.


  You may be sure that Noll did not fail to be at Culm village when the
"Gull" and its precious freight arrived. The sky had been overcast all
day and the sea somewhat rough, so that he was not certain that Ben
would set sail from Hastings. But about half-past four in the
afternoon the white wings of the skipper's craft hovered on the
horizon, and soon after began to loom into shape and proportion. Noll
first descried the welcome sight while standing on the piazza steps,
anxiously surveying the sea and sky. A strong and vigorous breeze bore
the "Gull" rapidly before it, and it was soon evident that it would
arrive at the wharf before himself, unless he started soon.
Recitations were over an hour ago, and he was now at liberty to go
where he chose, and accordingly started for Culm at once. He arrived
there some time before Ben and his craft, after all, and was forced to
sit and wait impatiently. He could see the yellow lumber long enough
before the "Gull" was in hailing distance, and knew that Ben had been
successful.

  The skipper came alongside at last, shouting at the top of his voice,
"Ahoy, there, men! Give us a hand at this 'ere lumber, an' be spry
about it, fur there's a storm brewin', an' I've got ter be twenty mile
down the coast afore it breaks!"

  The fishermen drew near at this summons, and as soon as the "Gull" was
fast, they began to unload the cargo, under the carpenter's
directions. It was carried well up the sand to preserve it from the
dash of the sea and the treachery of the tide, and Noll stood looking
on with a heart so full of joy and satisfaction that he forgot all
about the skipper till a gruff voice cried, "Why don't ye come aboard,
lad? Here be sumat fur ye that come from the city. It be a mighty
thick letter, somehow. Give us yer hand an' come up, lad!"

  Noll got aboard quickly enough after this intelligence, and took the
packet which the skipper fished out from under his pea-jacket,
saying, "I wonder if it can be from Ned?"

  "How ken I tell?" said Ben, evasively. "Best open it, lad,--best open
it."

  Noll quickly had the envelope open, and, holding the packet upside
down, there fell out upon the deck a thick little wad of bank-notes,
which the wind threatened to take off into the sea before the boy's
astonished senses returned to him. Ben prevented such a disaster,
however, by picking up the roll and placing it in Noll's hand, with,
"It's worth savin', lad, fur 'tain't every bush that grows sech
blossoms, eh?"

  "I should think not," said Noll, still full of amazement, and
hurriedly opened his letter to see where this bounty hailed from,
while Ben walked off to assist in his craft's unlading. This is what
Noll's wondering eyes found:--

                         "HASTINGS, May 20th.

"DEAR NOLL,--I can imagine just how your eyes are staring by this
time; but you needn't be alarmed, for I came by the money honestly.
This is how it was: Papa said I might have a new pony if I would save
my spending-money till I got a third of the sum which one would cost,
and so, though I didn't hint of it to you when I was down at Culm,
I've been laying up and laying up, like an old miser; and last Monday
morning I found that I had got the sum, and so papa made up the rest
to me. But when I thought of you and those miserable Culm people, and
how you were making a fool of yourself (as Ben T. said), I thought I'd
like to--to--well, let pony go, and help you a bit. So here's the
whole sum (if you get it safe), and you're just as welcome as you can
be, and don't you make any fuss about it, for it's your own, and I can
go without spending-money if you can, and am willing to too. And it's
no great denial, either, for the pony'll come sometime, I'm quite
sure. So don't you worry any more about how the carpenter is to be
paid. Good-by, dear old fellow,

                                             "NED THORN.

  "P.S.--I was just as dismal as I could be after I got home, longing to
go back to that dreary, dismal, good-for-nothing Culm Rock. The
shells, etc., got here all right. Give my respects to Uncle Richard,
and tell him I'll come down and turn his house topsy-turvy for him
again next summer, if he wants me to. Don't you forget to send a
letter back by Ben, now."

  Noll finished this characteristic letter with something very like
tears in his eyes. "The dear, generous fellow!" he thought to himself;
"how could he ever bring himself to do it? for it _is_ a denial,
because Ned is _so_ fond of a horse! And he claimed, all the time,
that he never could help at all!"

  Ben came stumping along the deck with his gruff, "Well, we hev brought
yer lumber an' yer carpenter, lad,--both on 'em the best I c'u'd find.
One's 'bout stacked up on the sand, yender, and t'other'll be waitin'
fur yer orders purty soon. He's good at his trade, John Sampson
be, an' he'll do fair an' square by ye. John ben't delicate
neither, an' won't mind the livin' he'll get 'mongst these 'ere
good-fur-nothin's,--I looked out fur that, ye see."

  "I thank you more than I can tell, Ben," said Noll, taking the
skipper's hand; "and have you taken your pay for the freight and all
the trouble?"

  "The freight be paid fur," said Ben, "an' the trouble likewise. An' ef
ye hev anythin' more fur the 'Gull' ter do, don't ye be backward, boy,
about lettin' her know't."

  The last of the lumber was now being dragged up the sand, and the
skipper hurried away, saying,--

  "Luck ter ye an' yer undertakin', lad! We be in a desput hurry to get
off, fur we'd stan' a poor chance on this shore in a storm."

  Noll wished the skipper a safe run to a better harbor, and went back
to the wharf, where the carpenter intercepted him. He was a rough,
blunt-spoken man, but was evidently "good at his trade," as Ben had
said, and did not despair of making the Culm huts decent and
habitable; and after a long talk with him, Noll started for home, as
the afternoon was fast giving way to a gray and lowery night. His
heart was full of gratitude and love to Ned, and he stopped more than
once on his homeward walk to read the letter over by the gray glimmer
of twilight. At first he was more than half resolved to return the
money, and bid his friend to buy the pony,--it seemed such a great
denial for horse-loving, mirthful Ned to make,--but as he read the
letter again and again, and pondered over its contents, he began to
think that his friend had more earnestness and love for kind-doing
than he had ever suspected.

  "I wronged the poor fellow," he thought to himself, "because he was
so merry and careless all the time. And now he's sent me this great
roll of bills to help those people whom he pretended to hate! Oh, I
wonder if it is best to keep them?"

  This question was not decided then. It took more than one day's
thought about the matter before he at last concluded to accept Ned's
bounty, and perhaps he would not have decided thus at all if he had
been quite sure that his friend would not be greatly grieved and
offended at having the money returned.

  Meanwhile, the carpenter commenced operations. Dirk's house was the
first to undergo repairs, and Noll took every opportunity to go over
to Culm to see how matters were progressing. It was a great delight to
him to watch John Sampson at his labor, and note how saw and hammer
and plane, guided by his strong and skilful hand, repaired the rents,
brought the shackling doors and windows to comfortable tightness, made
the crooked and twisted roofs to assume something like straight and
even proportions, and righted matters generally. When Dirk's
habitation was thoroughly repaired, it was the wonder and admiration
of all the Culm people.

  "It be like what it was when I was a gal, an' all the housen was new,"
said one old fish-wife, who had tottered in with the others.

  "Ay, mother," said Dirk, "an' it be time we had new habits to go with
the new housen, eh?"

  Noll had not allowed any good opportunities, wherein he might hint to
Dirk that cleanliness and industry should reign in the snug new
quarters, to pass without improving them. Dirk, out of regard and
gratitude to "the young master," as he called him, was willing to make
the attempt, and strove, in his bungling way, to impress his neighbors
with the fact that they were expected to reform their way of living.
But it was up-hill work for people who had lived all their life in
filth and wretchedness, and progressed but slowly. Many were the
hours, after the recitations were over, that Noll spent over at the
little village those warm days, planning with John Sampson about
broken doors and shattered beams, which were to be made strong and
serviceable, or, sitting on a pile of lumber, watching the carpenter
as he put in execution the plans which they had made. The children of
the village were generally playing near by, in the sand, with blocks
and chips,--growing up as unlettered and ignorant as their parents.
Some of them were great boys and girls,--almost as tall as Noll
himself,--and had never yet seen the inside of a book.

  "If Uncle Richard would only hire a teacher," thought Noll, "and have
them grow up with some knowledge in their heads, they'd never get so
low and wretched as their parents. But that never'll be, I'm afraid.
Oh! if I were only rich, how quick I'd change it all!"

  But there was no prospect of any such fortune befalling him, and he
usually turned away from the cluster of dirty, unkempt children with a
hopeless sigh. He said, one day, while sitting on a great heap of
shingles beside the carpenter,--

  "What's to become of all these children, Mr. Sampson? Will they be
left to grow up like their fathers and mothers?"

  "Well, I don't see much to hinder," said the carpenter, with a glance
at the dirty little ones who were throwing sand over their heads.
"Don't think you'll ever see many lawyers and ministers out o' the
lot."

  "If there could only be a school here," continued Noll, "what a change
it would make! But there's no teacher, no schoolroom, no nothing, and
no prospect of there ever being anything!"

  "Why don't you teach 'em yourself?" said Sampson, between the
creakings and rasping of his saw.

  Noll was silent for a few minutes before he answered, "Why, to tell
the truth, I never had thought of the thing. But how can I? I don't
have any time till after four o'clock."

  The carpenter sawed and planed, and made no reply, being entirely
indifferent to the whole matter; but his chance question had put an
idea in Noll's head which was not out of it for that afternoon, at
least. Could he teach those idle, ignorant children? he wondered.
Would they ever sit still long enough to look in a book? And where
could a room for the school be found? And where was the leisure time
to come from? Noll pondered over these questions many days, and
several times came near discarding the plan as impracticable. He knew
that he could only have the time after recitations were over for his
own, and that, at the most, would be only an hour or two,--the time
between four o'clock and the supper-hour. He was quite sure that he
was willing to give this time to the Culm children, if it would do any
good, and if a room could be found for them to assemble in. A whole
week of days went by before he mentioned this plan to any one, and
then it was only Dirk to whom he mentioned it. The rough fisherman
looked upon reading and writing as some of the wonderful and
mysterious arts to which dull and humble people like himself had no
right. He looked blank and mystified at Noll's proposition, and
expressed himself thus:--

  "I don' know, I don' know, lad,--we but poor folk anyway. But ye ken
do as ye like, an' ef ye say so, the youngsters shall take ter books
an' sech, an' ye ken hev a room where ye say, I'll say fur't. I don'
know, I don' know, lad; ye mus' do as ye think it best, anyway."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE WORK PROGRESSING.


  Studies at home progressed steadily under Uncle Richard's supervision,
meanwhile, and that grim gentleman found much more pleasure and
satisfaction in directing his nephew's tasks than he would have been
willing to acknowledge. The boy brought so much brightness and
pleasant life into the gloomy stone house that the stern master, as
week after week passed by, visibly began to lose something of his
grimness and gloominess, and to take something like a faint interest
in what was passing around him. And, after a time, he himself began to
be sensible of this gradual change which was stealing over his
thoughts and actions, and, vexed with himself, strove to check these
new emotions, and wrap himself again in the cloak of sadness and
melancholy which so long had shielded him from everything bright and
cheerful and happy. But he found it hardly an easy task. Noll was
almost always blithe and light-hearted, and Trafford found his bright
influence a hard one to struggle against. He loved the boy so well
that it was almost an impossibility to harden his heart to all his
winning ways and pleasant talk, which met him so constantly, and
these summer days, which Noll found such delight in, were days of
struggle and wavering to his uncle. He could not but acknowledge to
himself that he was interested in all the boy's plans for the
future,--all his youthful anticipations of happiness and success,--all
his present little projects for progress and self-improvement,--and
these matters, trivial though they may have been, gradually drew his
thoughts from himself and his sorrow, put them farther and farther
away into the dimness and silence of the past, and made the present a
more vivid and earnest reality. Was it any wonder that, seeing he
could not maintain his gloom and grimness in Noll's sunshine, and
finding it slipping away from him in spite of his endeavors to retain
it, he should astonish his nephew by strange fits of moroseness,
alternating with the utmost kindness and indulgence?

  The boy sometimes fancied that his uncle had grown to utterly dislike
him,--being so irritable and unjust at times; then again his heart was
light with joy and hope, for he fancied that the grim man was just on
the point of losing his great burden of gloom, and becoming hopeful
and unoppressed. But how could he be hopeful for whom there was no
hope?--who refused to trust in God's promises?--for whom the shadow of
the grave was utter darkness and horror, wherein dear faces had
vanished--forever?

  One day Noll had begged him to come out for a walk on the beach,
thinking he would lead his uncle on and on till they should come out
upon Culm village, and in this manner disclose what he had been doing
for the dwellings and their inmates.

  Trafford at first appeared inclined to consent, and followed his
nephew out as far as the piazza steps, but here he stopped, and all
Noll's entreaties could not prevail upon him to go further. He sat
down, looking dispiritedly across the tranquil sea, all warm and fair
with changing lights, and down at his feet at the bit of verdure which
Noll had caused to flourish by dint of much seed-sowing and watering,
saying, "No, I've no part in it all. I'll go no further."

  So Noll was obliged to set off for Culm alone, consoling himself with
the thought that next time, perhaps, he should be so successful as to
get Uncle Richard a little farther, and next time a little way farther
still, till, at last, they might walk together as uncle and nephew
should. Would that happy day ever come? he wondered.

  At last, after many delays and hindrances, the plan of a school was
decided upon. Noll did not begin the undertaking with much confidence
of success, or with any great hope of making the Culm children very
bright or vigorous scholars; but it would be something toward
supplying the great want, he thought, and who could tell what this
little beginning might lead to? So, about half-past four one misty,
lowery afternoon, he found himself in a little room in Dirk's
dwelling, with ten dirty-faced, frowsy-headed children huddled
together in one corner, each of them regarding him with wide-open
eyes, and apparently without the remotest idea what they were there
for. The only furniture which the "schoolroom" could boast were two
rough benches, just from John Sampson's hands, and a three-legged
stool, which Noll appropriated to himself. Of course none of the ten
had anything in the shape of books or primers, and here the boy had
reason to rejoice that all his old school-books had made the journey
with himself to Culm.

  After getting the wondering assemblage seated in proper order, Noll
began by asking, "Who wants to learn to read?"

  It seemed as if the sound of his voice had wrought a spell, for each
of the ten were as silent as so many mutes.

  "Who would like to know how to read?" Noll repeated.

  Still a long silence, most discouraging to the teacher. At last--the
sound of his voice a most welcome one to Noll--a little fellow, who
sat on the end of one of the benches, ventured to query, "What be
'read'?"

  "Well," thought the would-be teacher, "I've got to explain what 'read'
is before they'll know whether they fancy it, to be sure! I didn't
think of that."

  Among his books was a great primer, with painted letters and pictures,
and bringing this forth, he gathered the ten around him, and used all
his powers of description and story-telling to endeavor to awaken the
slumbering interest of these unpromising pupils. It was a weary hour's
work. A few of them betrayed a slight curiosity in regard to the
bright colors, which Noll endeavored to stimulate; but it soon died
out, and all looked on and listened with listless attention. They
appeared much more inclined to stand with their fingers in their
mouths, and gaze steadfastly into Noll's face, than to put eyes on the
book.

  "If I had the alphabet stamped upon my face, I believe they'd learn
it easily enough!" he thought to himself, in despair, as, on looking
up, he found the whole ten staring in his face, instead of having had
their eyes upon the primer during his long explanation. As a last
resort, he stepped out upon the sand in front of the door, and there
drew a great A.

  "Now," said he, "see which of you can make a letter like that. Take a
stick and try, every one of you. Look sharp, and make it just like the
one I've made."

  Thereupon, there was a great searching for sticks, and when all the
little ones had been supplied, there was a great scratching and
marking in the sand. To Noll's great delight, the result was two or
three tolerable A's, which were allowed to stand, and the rest were
brushed away. Then a new attempt at making the wonderful symbol
ensued, and added another to the successful list, and so the
letter-making was kept up till all the pupils had succeeded in making
a tolerably faithful representation of the letter. Noll began to take
heart. What the children cared nothing for, when seen in the book,
they were apparently delighted to draw on the sand, and soon learned
to give the proper pronunciation of the character. The night came on
apace, and Noll began to perceive that it was time for him to be on
his homeward way.

  "Remember," he said to his pupils, who were scratching A's all about
the door, "you're not to forget this while I'm gone. To-morrow
afternoon I'll come again, and then I shall want to see you make it
over, and you are to have a new letter, besides. Will you all be
here?"

  "Yes! yes!" one after another promised; and, once more bidding them
remember, Noll walked away,--the children still making the mysterious
character along the beach, and keeping it up till darkness came over
sea and land.

  "Only one letter!" Noll said to himself, as he hurried homeward. "Why,
that's not a tenth of what I meant to do this afternoon! What dull
wits they've got! and will they ever, ever learn the whole alphabet?"
The prospect did not seem very encouraging, and he was obliged to
confess himself disappointed with the result of the first day's
lesson. "However, one can't tell much by the first afternoon," he
thought. "Perhaps they'll be quicker and brighter when we're better
acquainted."

  The next afternoon he arrived at Dirk's house at the appointed time,
and found not ten, but twelve awaiting him, sticks in hand, and all
eager for the lesson to commence. Noll could not refrain from laughing
at the sight which the sand directly in front of the house presented,
covered as it was with A's of all shapes and sizes. It looked much as
if a great bird, with a peculiarly-constructed foot, had been walking
there. He did not need to be assured that his pupils had all
remembered yesterday's lesson, and proceeded at once to instruct them
in the art of making B. This the young learners of the alphabet found
to be somewhat more difficult of execution, but appeared to like it
none the less on that account, and, after its curves were mastered,
were much delighted with this acquisition to their stock of
accomplishments.

  While this second lesson was yet in progress, Dirk and one or two
other fishermen came up from their boats, and stopped to look on, with
wonder and astonishment written on their countenances.

  "I don' know," said Dirk, shaking his head as he eyed the mystic
characters traced before him; "we be all poor folk, anyhow, an' this
do beat me! Why, what be this?" he exclaimed, pointing at a letter
staring up at him from the sand at his feet.

  "That be A!" said half a dozen voices at once.

  "An' what be this?" said Hark Darby, pointing to a character by his
feet.

  "That be B!" chorused the voices again.

  The two fishermen exchanged wondering glances. "That do beat me!" said
poor Dirk, regarding the letters before him with much awe. "Ah, lad,"
turning to Noll, "my little gal w'u'd liked yer teaching, an' yer B's
an' A's, eh?" and Dirk drew his hand across his eyes.

  Noll went home much encouraged after this second alphabet lesson. Time
and patience would do something for these Culm children, after all, he
thought. And could he have the patience and skill which was necessary?
"I'll try,--I'll try hard for it!" he thought, "and pray Christ to
keep me from losing my patience and courage. It's his work, and he'll
help me to teach them, and by winter there'll be something
accomplished." And of his help he had great need, for patience and
courage were often sorely tried in the days which followed, and it was
not always his pupils' obtuseness which brought the greatest strain to
bear upon them. One old fish-wife, the oldest woman in the village,
had regarded the whole plan of teaching the children as suspicious and
ill-omened.

  "It be a bad day fur us, lads," she warned, standing on Dirk's
door-step among the fishermen, and looking frowningly upon Noll as he
instructed his pupils in the making of U. "It be no good fur yer chile
to be ther', Hark Darby, learnin' ye don' know what! Yes, lads, I say
it be an evil day, and ye'll find no good cum from it! I warn ye, I
warn ye!" shaking her skinny forefinger and solemnly nodding her head.
Noll's face flushed at these words, and he half resolved to go home,
and leave these Culm children to their parents' ignorance.

  "I warn ye! I--" The old crone was about to continue her forebodings;
but Dirk interposed with a gruff, "Hush ye, hush ye, Mother Deb! ye
be doin' the lad wrong. D'ye think he be one to teach our young uns
wrong, eh? Be it evil, think ye? W'u'd he be doin' us a bad turn who's
mendin' the housen an' makin' us comf'table? I'd like ye ter show't,
mother, ef it be!"

  "Ay," said Hark Darby, "an' ef he ken do us evil, who ha' been so good
an' kind in the sickness, we w'u'd like ye ter show't, Mother Deb!"

  The old woman said no more, but went muttering homeward, not all
convinced that Noll was not teaching the children some evil,
mysterious art.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE WORK FINISHED.


  The days went by,--busy enough for Noll with lessons and the afternoon
lesson at Culm,--and John Sampson's labors began to draw to a close.
The carpenter had worked steadily and faithfully, and the result was a
gratifying one to more than one person. True, the houses were not
models of elegance; that was not needed; and they _did_ look somewhat
patchy, with here and there a fresh new board over the old
weather-beaten gray of the dwelling, and new doors staring blank and
yellow out of the dinginess of their surroundings; but, if they were
not handsome, they were thoroughly repaired and now stood warmer and
more comfortable than any of the present generation of Culm people had
ever known them.

  If they could only have a coat of paint or whitewash to make them look
fresh and cheerful, what an improvement it would be! Noll thought. How
the sun would gleam upon them with his last ruddy rays as he sank into
the sea! How fair and pleasant they would look from the sea, when the
coast first came upon the mariner's vision! It would be one bright
spot against the black background of the Rock,--those twelve
houses,--if only they might have a coat of fresh white paint. But
after counting his stock of money, this desire was obliged to remain
ungratified; for there was the carpenter's bill, which would shortly
be due, and must be paid upon the completion of the work.

  "The houses must wait till--till another year," Noll thought, with
something like a sigh; "they can wait, after all, for the painting
isn't really necessary, though it would improve them wonderfully! And
I'm thankful enough that I can pay the carpenter. Oh, but I wonder if
Ned ever regrets his denial, and longs for the pony?"

  Letters came down from Ned Thorn with almost every trip of the "Gull,"
but not a word about the pony did they contain, nor the least sentence
which Noll could interpret to mean a sigh or regret for the pet which
he had given up. If Ned felt any regret, it was all carefully hidden
from his friend's observation, and the missives, which Noll received
through the skipper's kindness, were fairly bubbling over with the
briskness and bright spirits of Ned's light heart.

  "If they should stop coming, I don't know how I _could_ manage,"
thought Noll; "I'm afraid Culm Rock would grow dreadfully lonesome and
dreary." It was always, "And how do you get on with your plan?--and
are the houses 'most finished?" or, "Have you got those Culm savages
almost civilized, you dear old Noll?--and does Uncle Richard know
anything about it yet? Won't he stare! and what do you suppose he'll
say?" or, "Oh, now I think of it, how many scholars in Latin have you
got down there? and how do they manage with their Greek? And are you
putting on airs because you've got to be a pedagogue? And how much is
the tuition a term?--because, you see, I've some idea of going away to
boarding-school, and yours might suit me, if the charges aren't too
high." And the whole generally concluded with, "P. S.--I don't mean a
word of all that last I've written, my dear Noll, and you're not to
think so. How does the money hold out? Don't fail to let me know if
you're in a tight place, and I'll try to get a few dollars somehow.
And hurry up and answer this letter by return steamer (what should we
do if the old 'Gull' went to the bottom?), and so good-night," etc.,
etc.

  Perhaps Noll expected a great deal too much of the Culm people when he
looked to see them give up their filthy and slovenly habits at once,
after getting fairly settled again in their whole and comfortable
abodes. If he really expected to see this, he was disappointed. People
do not follow a habit for the best part of a lifetime, to give it up
suddenly and at once, even when gratitude and a sense of their
short-coming are both urging them to do so. So he was obliged to
content himself with some few faint evidences of thrift, and a desire
to do better, on the part of those whom he had befriended, and wait
patiently for the rest.

  Dirk's household improved somewhat. Dirk was the most intelligent of
the fishermen, and began to dimly perceive that it was much better and
pleasanter to live cleanly and neatly than to pattern his household
arrangements after the beasts of the field. He was, moreover, strongly
actuated to reform his way of living by his deep, strong sense of
gratitude to Noll, which led him to endeavor to accomplish whatever
the boy suggested. It gave the stalwart fisherman something like a
feeling of shame to see the lad--bright, fresh, and ruddy--enter his
dirty and smoke-begrimed hovel and hardly be able to find himself a
seat among the litter of old nets, broken chairs, household utensils,
and all conceivable kinds of rubbish which strewed the floors and
filled the corners.

  "It be a shame," Dirk said to his wife, after Noll had gone, one day,
"that the lad hev ter stan' up, an' ben't able ter find a seat, nohow.
I tell ye it be a shame, woman!"

  "Ye might mend the chairs a bit, man!" retorted Mrs. Sharp. "I'll
warrant the lad be able ter find a seat then."

  Dirk was sulky for a while after this, but saw that there could be
nothing to sit upon so long as the chairs were for the most part
legless, and at last got energy enough to mend them after a rude
fashion. Then another place was found for the old nets besides the two
corners by the fireplace, and when these had been removed, Mrs. Sharp
took her broom and--well, it was not exactly sweeping, for the woman
had not much idea of what a good housekeeper would call sweeping, but
it was a feeble attempt at cleanliness, and she really thought she had
made a great exertion, and was certainly proud of the achievement.
Dirk chanced to be at home when Noll came again, and the flash of
surprise and pleasure which swept over the boy's face as he entered
and noted the change which had taken place since his last call pleased
Dirk amazingly.

  "Here be a seat fur ye, lad," he said, not without some pride in his
tone, as he brought forward a rough three-legged block and placed it
for his visitor. A faint stir of worthy ambition having slightly
roused Dirk and his wife, they were hardly contented to allow matters
to remain as they were. Mrs. Sharp once more took her broom, and used
it with rather better effect. Dirk made an onslaught upon the rubbish
which had been collecting in their kitchen and about the doorsteps for
years, and which no one had had the energy to remove, and threw many a
basketful into the sea.

  The neighbors, meanwhile, were not entirely insensible to the fact
that Dirk's house began to present--both within and without--a much
more cleanly and respectable appearance than their own. They stopped
at the door to look in and say, "La, ye be slickin' up finely, Dirk!"
or, "Ye be gittin' fine ways, lately, man. An' what be all this fur?"

  "Why," Dirk would answer, "I be 'shamed of livin' like a beast, man.
An' the young master be wishin' us to hev cleaner housen an' slicker,
an' I be willin' to do't ef he wish, now! He be a good lad to mend our
housen so finely, and w'u'd ye think I ben't willin' to do his wish?"

  Noll was greatly encouraged at these signs of improvement, and
mentally rejoiced, hoping to see this new ambition spread till the
whole twelve houses were reclaimed from their present filth and
wretchedness.

  The carpenter's work came to an end at last,--his labor all plain and
visible to every eye in patched walls, roofs, mended doors and
windows, and the general look of repair about the whole line of what
were once but the poorest of shelters. Sampson's task had been a hard
and bothersome one,--"Couldn't ha' got another man to teched it," the
skipper said,--and Noll expected, as he walked around to Culm one
afternoon with his roll of bills to pay the carpenter, that the bill
would be a large one,--perhaps even more than Ned's generous bounty
and his own amount of spending-money, saved since the lumber was
purchased, could meet. He found Sampson packing up his tools,--he was
to leave on the "Gull" the next morning,--with the bill all ready,
added up and written out on a bit of smooth shingle. It proved to be
five dollars less than the sum which Noll held in his hand.

  "I swun!" said Sampson, roughly, as he counted over the bills which
the boy placed in his hands, "I told the skipper, comin' down, that
you was a born fool to be layin' out your money in this style. Now,
I've been thinkin' on't over all the while I've been hammerin' and
sawin', and I can't make out, to save my neck, how you're goin' to get
any return from this 'ere investment. 'Tain't payin' property, I
should judge," said the carpenter, looking up and down the beach.

  "Of course I don't expect to get any money back from it," said Noll,
laughing a little at the idea. "It was to help these fish-folk and to
try and make them more comfortable that I did it."

  Sampson put the roll of bills away in his capacious purse, remarking,
"Well, you're a queer un. I did the job right well, though, if I do
say it, and I ha'n't charged very steep for it, neither. Couldn't do
it, somehow!--went too much against the grain. And--well, can't you
shake hands over it? You're a tip-top paymaster, and if you want
anything done, I'll come and do it, if I'm in China--there! Don't you
lay out another cent on this settlement, though,--'tain't worth it."

  Noll did not promise to take this advice, and started homeward,
Sampson calling after him, "Good-by, good-by, lad! Hope you'll get
some return from this 'ere investment!"

  So the work was done, and a glad and happy letter went over the sea to
Hastings, telling Ned Thorn that the labor was accomplished, and the
houses all as whole and comfortable as when new, and that the people
were actually beginning to show a little thrift and ambition; and
saying, among other things, "I send you back five dollars that were
left,--so you can begin to save your money again for that pony. And,
oh! Ned, I don't think you can know how much good that money did!
Perhaps you never will know (it must seem to you almost like throwing
it away, because you are where you cannot see any result from it), and
I felt, at first, as if you ought not to make the denial; but,
somehow, I'm very glad, now, and I shall always feel sure that if you
_do_ make fun and pretend to laugh at a plan, you're all the time
meaning to 'give it a lift,' as you say. And, oh! Ned, I believe I'm
one of the happiest boys in the world! and I'm sure Uncle Richard has
changed a great deal since last spring, when you were here, for he's
got over being cross and gloomy, and actually asked me yesterday
where I spent so much of my time. I'm going, if I can, to persuade him
to take a walk with me, one of these afternoons, and so bring him
around to the new houses. Wouldn't you like to be here to see us then?
As for my school, it flourishes a little. There are still twelve
scholars, and all but four have got through with their sand letters,
and are at work at their 'a-b, ab,' and 'b-a, ba.' They'll get into
spelling-books, sometime. Now, I'll end this long letter with telling
you once more that you can't know how much good your money has done
and will do, and say,

                       Good-night, "NOLL TRAFFORD."


  Noll did not lose sight for a moment of his plan to persuade Uncle
Richard to take a walk with him. It filled his thoughts all the
pleasant days that followed after Mr. Sampson's departure, and several
times he hinted very broadly to his uncle that it was "a splendid
afternoon for a walk! the beach is hard as a floor, and the tide out."
But Trafford was oblivious to all hints, and at last, on one warm,
balmy, cloudless afternoon, Noll thought, "It is now, or never! I'll
ask him at once." And straightway he started for the library, where he
knew his uncle sat reading.



CHAPTER XIX.

A HAPPY WALK.


  Trafford looked up from his books as his nephew entered, and greeted
him with a smile. Noll thought this welcome portended good, and
remembered, with a grateful thrill in his heart, that Uncle Richard
had fallen into the habit of greeting him thus of late. He went up to
the reader's chair, and without waiting for his courage to cool, laid
a hand on the reader's arm, saying,--

  "Uncle Richard, I've come to ask a great favor of you. Do you think
you'll grant it? Can't you guess what it is?"

  Trafford did not reply at once, but sat looking steadfastly into his
nephew's face, his eyes wearing the dreamy, far-away look which
lingered in them much of late, and it was not until Noll had repeated
his question that he replied, musingly,--

  "I'm sure I cannot think. Perhaps you wish more pocket-money, or--"

  "Oh, no!" answered the boy, quickly, "it's nothing like that, Uncle
Richard! It's--it's--oh, it's will you take a walk?"

  Trafford's forehead began to wrinkle and slowly gather the shade of
gloom which seemed always hovering about him, even in his most
cheerful moments; but before it had time to cover the man's brow, and
before he could utter a refusal, Noll's hand was endeavoring to
smooth away the wrinkles, and he was saying,--

  "There, don't say 'No,'--don't, Uncle Richard! I won't ask you to go
again if you are not pleased with this walk, but _this_ time--just
_this_ once--do say 'Yes,' uncle! There can't be a pleasanter
afternoon in the whole year than this, and I've walked alone, always
till now. Why, Uncle Richard, you won't say 'No' _this_ time?"

  Trafford hesitated, a refusal trembling on his lips, which he did not
quite wish to utter. The boy _had_ walked alone, he remembered, and it
was a very simple request to grant; and if it was going to be such a
pleasure and gratification to Noll, why not yield, and for once put
aside his own preferences and inclinations? It is not an easy matter
for a man who has lived only for himself and his own pleasure to put
the gratification of these aside to give place to the happiness and
comfort of another; but, with an effort, Trafford put his books away,
and rose from his chair, saying,--

  "This once, Noll,--this once. One walk with me will suffice you, I
think. When shall we start?"

  "Now,--at once, Uncle Richard!" said Noll, joyfully; "it's two o'clock
already, and the tide a long, long way out. Don't let's wait a minute
longer."

  Trafford smiled a little at his nephew's eagerness, and taking his
hat, followed the boy to the piazza. It was a great change from the
half-gloom of the library, and the chilliness of the long, dark halls,
to the bright, sunny piazza, where the light fell so warm and broadly,
and from whence the blue and shining sea stretched far and wide and
vast.

  Noll felt sure that Uncle Richard must notice it and rejoice, even
though it might be secretly. From east to west there were no clouds,
and nothing to hinder the sunbeams from finding the earth and working
wondrous charms on land and rock and sea. They stood for a few minutes
there, one of them, at least, enjoying the wide view very much, then
Noll said,--

  "We'll go up the shore, if you'd as lief, Uncle Richard. It's much
pleasanter that way, I think."

  "Very well," said Trafford, with an indifference which was not
encouraging, and they passed down the steps on to the sand. It was a
silent and uncomfortable walk for the first few rods, Trafford walking
with his head bowed upon his breast and looking only at the yellow
sand upon which he trod. He seemed to have no eyes for the calm and
gentle peace which had descended upon that afternoon, robbing the sea
of its terror and making it enchanting and lovely, and weaving a
mystic charm about the bare, bald Rock basking warm and purple under
the sun. Even the waves murmured only softly and soothingly and with
drowsy echoes, as they rippled in and out among the rocks and along
the sand. Fortunately for their pleasure, Noll picked up a curious
pebble before they had gone a great way. It was not an agate, nor was
it like the rounded pebbles of porphyry which the tide washed up, and
puzzling over this, and asking Uncle Richard, at last, to explain its
nature, somehow broke the heavy silence which had been between them,
and questions and pleasant talk came naturally enough after this.

  Trafford lost his gloom and reserve, and followed after his nephew,
chatting and explaining strange matters of rock and sea, and stopping
now and then to pull over great bunches of freshly-stranded kelp to
help Noll search for rare shells or bits of scarlet or purple weed
which were hidden and entangled there. How brightly shone the sun!
What peace and calm hovered over land and sea! He was just beginning
to be conscious of the joy and loveliness which the afternoon held. It
was no wonder, he thought, that Noll's blithe, unclouded heart loved
such a pleasant earth, and found delight in all the hours which
flitted by. But for himself, alas! all this brightness was clouded
over by the ever-present, ever-shadowing darkness of the future. It
might have been different if--if--But with a sigh Trafford put away
these thoughts, and followed on. They lingered around the rocks in
their path, black with fringes of dry sea-weed, and talked of gneiss
and sienite, granite and trap; they stopped at the curve in the shore,
and sat down to watch the white flitting of sails on the far
horizon-line, and somehow, the sight of them led to a long talk about
Hastings and Noll's papa, and happy memories of other days. Trafford
was in a softened mood as they rose up from their seat on a great
fragment which had fallen from the cliff above, and Noll said,--

  "Come, Uncle Richard, let's keep on toward Culm. It's _so_ pleasant,
and night is a long way off yet."

  If he had followed his own inclinations, the uncle would have turned
about and retraced his steps, but Noll had started on, and Trafford
followed, thinking, "It isn't often the boy has company in his
rambles. I can humor him for once."

  Slowly enough they approached the Culm houses, loitering along the
moist, shining sand, over which the waves had rolled and rippled but a
few hours before, and marking their devious path with straying
footprints. Noll's heart began to beat somewhat faster as they neared
the fishermen's houses, and he kept a keen watch upon his uncle's face
in order to detect the first look of surprise and astonishment that
should come across it when he perceived how the huts had been
improved. But Trafford's eyes were turned toward the sea, thoughtfully
and gravely, and they drew very near the village without the discovery
being made. They came upon Dirk, Hark Darby, and two or three other
fishermen, spreading their nets in the sun, all of whom touched their
hats and nodded respectfully to Noll, eying the uncle, meanwhile, with
curious eyes and half-averted faces. The sight of these men brought
Trafford's eyes and thoughts back to Culm and the present. He turned
to Noll, saying, with a little smile,--

  "Some of your sworn friends?"

  "Yes, they're my friends, Uncle Richard," said Noll, expecting every
moment to see Trafford raise his eyes to the houses, which they were
passing, "and they do me a great many favors too."

  "In what way?" Trafford was about to ask; but just then he looked up
and about him, and the words died on his lips. Noll paused, waiting in
suspense for what was to come next. His uncle stood still, and looked
for a full minute upon Dirk's house, then cast his eyes up and down
the line of dwellings, while a look of wonder and amazement came over
his face. He turned about, and looked at Noll, who could not, for the
life of him, keep the bright color from creeping up into his cheeks
and over his forehead, and then he looked at the houses again. A
sudden suspicion came into Trafford's mind, and turning his keen eyes
upon Noll, he exclaimed,--

  "Can you explain this?"

  The nephew hesitated, looked down in some embarrassment, then
gathering sudden courage, looked up and answered, brightly, "Yes,
Uncle Richard, I know all about it."

  It was all plain to Trafford then. For a moment his own eyes faltered
and refused to meet Noll's, and he showed some signs of emotion. But
his voice and tone were as calm as ever when he said, a few minutes
after,--

  "_You_ did this? How can I believe it? What had you to do with? And
why was I not consulted, if this was your work?"

  "Oh, Uncle Richard!" said Noll, quickly, "don't be vexed with me. You
gave me permission to help these Culm people. Don't you remember?"

  Trafford made no reply, and again looked at the line of comfortable,
well-repaired houses. There were deeper thoughts and emotions in his
heart at that moment than Noll could know or guess.

  The long silence was so uncomfortable that the boy was fain to break
it, with, "I've one more thing to show you, Uncle Richard. It's not
much,--only just a beginning,--but I'd like you to see and know about
it."

  Trafford followed, without a word, and Noll led the way to the little
schoolroom, with its two benches and three-legged stool and pile of
well-thumbed primers and spelling-books.

  "It's not much," said Noll, apologetically, "but it's a beginning, and
they all know their letters, and some can spell a little."

  Trafford evinced no surprise, much to Noll's wonder, and merely asked,
"Where do you find the time?"

  "After recitations," replied the nephew; and that was all that was
said about the matter.

  Trafford went out and sat down on the little wharf, and Noll lingered
in the doorway of his schoolroom, thinking that he had never seen
Uncle Richard act more strangely. Was he offended at what he had done
and was doing for the Culm people? he wondered. He looked out and saw
that his uncle had turned his face away, and was looking off upon the
sea with the same dreamy, thoughtful look which he had noticed in his
eyes of late. Noll would have given a great deal could he have known
his thoughts at that moment. To human eyes this grave and thoughtful
man, who sat on the wharf, was not a whit less the stern and gloomy
creature that he had been an hour before. Yet, all hidden from others'
gaze, and almost from his own consciousness, a sudden sense of regret
and of a great short-coming in himself had welled up through the crust
of his hardened heart. His heart had been deeply stirred, and now it
smote him. His thoughts took some such shape as this,--even while he
was looking with such apparent calmness upon the changing, shadowy
lights of the sea:--

  "This boy has done more in this short summer for his fellow-men and
for his God than I have done in my whole forty years of life! Oh, what
a life mine has been!--all a wreck, a failure, a miserable waste! And
he? Why, in this short summer-time, and on this barren Rock, he has
made his very life a blessing to every one upon it. I suppose those
dirty, ignorant fishermen bless the day that brought him here. And I?
O Heaven! what a failure, what a failure! I've done the world no
good,--it's no better for my having lived in it,--it would miss me no
more than one of these useless pebbles which I cast into the sea. And
this boy--_my_ boy--always at work to make others rejoice that he was
born into the world!"

  For all the calmness and repose that was on his face, he longed to cry
out. Oh! was there no deliverance? Might not these long wasted years
yet be paid for by deeds of mercy and charity? But where was there a
deliverer? and who could tell how many years of good deeds and charity
could pay for forty years of wasted ones?



CHAPTER XX.

NEW THOUGHTS AND NEW PLANS.


  Noll, sitting in the doorway, was presently aroused from a little
reverie into which he had fallen by hearing a voice call, "Noll, my
boy, come here." He obeyed the call, and started for the little wharf,
half expecting that Uncle Richard was about to reprove him for what he
had done. Trafford gazed in his nephew's face for a short space, and
then, smothering what his heart longed to cry out, and what he had
intended to say to the boy, he sighed only, "We will start homeward,
if you are ready."

  Noll was sure that his uncle had kept back something which it was in
his heart to say, and, wondering what it could be, he followed after
the tall figure along the homeward path.

  The sun was getting well down into the west. The fair clearness of the
sky was broken by a soft, mellow haze which began to steal across it,
yet the afternoon was no less beautiful, and along the horizon there
were long and lovely trails of misty color,--faint, delicate flushes
of amber and purple,--which gave an added charm to the day's
declining.

  Not a word did uncle and nephew speak till, as they rounded the curve
of the shore, and the stone house came in sight, Trafford asked,
abruptly, "Noll, where did your pocket-money go?"

  The boy explained the whole matter, with an account of Ned Thorn's
bounty and help, at the last, and then they paced along the sand in
silence, as before. Noll managed to get many looks at his uncle's
face, and seeing that it wore no stern nor forbidding aspect, ventured
to ask,--

  "Are you offended with me, or what, Uncle Richard?"

  Trafford took his nephew's hand as he replied, "Not in the least,
Noll."

  His voice was strangely kind and tender, and Noll exclaimed, looking
up joyfully and brightly, "I'm very glad, Uncle Richard! and do you
know your voice sounded like papa's just now?"

  They walked hand in hand along the shore,--Noll, at least, very
happy,--and looking afar at the sea through glad and hopeful eyes. He
mentally prayed that Uncle Richard's gloom and sternness might never
return, and that he might always be in his present softened and
subdued mood. They came to the stone house at last, and, as they
reached the steps, Noll took one long look at his uncle's face,
thinking to himself that not soon again should he see it so gentle and
tender, for the gloom of the library would soon shadow it, and make it
once more stern and forbidding. But, just as if he felt something of
this himself, Trafford lingered on the steps, as if loath to go in,
and at last sat down. Noll inwardly rejoiced, and seated himself on
the bit of green which he had caused to grow, by much watering and
nourishing, close beside the piazza. That little breadth of grass,
with its deep verdure, was a wonderfully pleasant thing for the eyes
to rest upon in this waste of rock and sand. Trafford looked down at
it and at the boy sitting there,--his curly locks blown all about his
face by the warm wind,--and thought to himself, that, wherever the lad
went, brightness and pleasantness sprang up about him, even though the
soil was naught but sand and barrenness. His heart was full of
reproachful cries. "What this boy has done,--and _I_!" was a thought
continually haunting him. And he did not try to put it away; but, as
he sat there, went back over all the months of the lad's stay,
remembering what he had done to brighten the old stone house and
himself, and contrasting all the boy's actions and motives with his
own,--sparing himself not at all in the condemnation which his own
heart was ready to pronounce. "What this boy has done,--and _I_! I?
Nothing, nothing! The earth will never miss me, for I have had no part
in its life, and have cared naught for its joys or its sorrows; and
beyond--where this boy's heaven lies--there will be no place for me,
because I have not sought it, and have cared only for my own peace. So
I have no part nor place in the world or out of it." A more vivid
sense of this truth came to Trafford here, and he sighed long and
heavily, thinking of what might have been. He saw and felt what a
great matter it was to have a heart wherein God's love dwelt so
steadfastly that eye nor ear could ever be closed against the wants of
his creatures, and the work of his that lay waiting for the doing. And
it was another matter to have a heart so cold and frozen that no
warmth of his love ever thrilled it with pity or compassion,--ever
drew it with tender, gentle guidance toward himself,--ever stirred it
with longings for his love and his blessing and upholding. It was no
wonder, he thought, that for one heart the earth was joyous and
beautiful, while for the other it was but a gloomy, unhappy waste; for
over the pure, warm heart's earth God reigned, and his sunshine
lighted it, and his flowers blossomed by the wayside, and they who
lived in the land were his own, and their needs the needs of his
children. All doing was but doing for God, while in a cold, frozen
heart his work is not remembered, and the sunshine is but gloom,
because it does not come from him, and the flowers are not his, and
the poor soul mourns and sorrows, wrapped up in its own darkness and
chilliness, and fails to find the earth bright or beautiful.

  With such thoughts as these in his heart, Trafford was silent a long
time. The sun set, and shadows began to steal over the sea, gradually
and softly wrapping its farther distances in hazy indistinctness.
Hagar's voice, from the kitchen-door, where she was calling her
chickens to their supper, floated around to his ears and awoke him
from his long and sorrowful reverie. He started up, surprised to see
how fast the light had flitted from sky and earth. Noll still sat on
the bit of grass, busy over a heap of shells and pebbles, which he had
gathered during his afternoon walk. Trafford looked at him a few
minutes in silence, and finally asked,--

  "What plans have you made for winter about your school, my boy?"

  A sudden look of surprise flitted over the boy's face ere he answered,
"I haven't made any, Uncle Richard. I can't, you see, because the days
will be so short that I'm afraid there'll not be time after my
recitations. And there's no stove nor fireplace in the room, and not
much of anything comfortable. But I'm going to try, though," he added,
hopefully.

  Trafford was silent and thoughtful for a long time. At last he said,
"What would you say if I forbade you to continue your school through
the winter?"

  "I don't think you'll say that, Uncle Richard," said Noll,--not very
confidently, however. "I should be very sorry to give it up now."

  "Even if I thought it best?"

  Noll could not deny but that he should. "They're just beginning to
learn," he said, "and it would be too bad for them to lose all they have
gained. Don't you really think so, too, Uncle Richard?"

[Illustration: Culm Rock.]

  Trafford made no reply to this question, but, when he spoke again,
said, "Not even if another teacher filled your place, Noll?"

  The boy's tongue was silent with wonder and astonishment. Then,
thinking his ears had deceived him, he said, "Why--why--what did you
say, Uncle Richard?"

  "I asked you," said Trafford, "whether you would be willing to give up
the school if another teacher took your place?"

  The warm, eager color rushed into Noll's face, and he cried, "Do you
mean that--that--a teacher might take my place, Uncle Richard? Do you
really mean it? Were you in earnest, and shall I answer?"

  "To be sure," said his uncle, gravely enough.

  "Oh, Uncle Richard!" cried Noll, "I _knew_ the time would come some
day! I knew it! I knew it! And will you hire a teacher for those Culm
children? Was that what you meant?"

  "I do not know that they need two," said Trafford.

  "Yes, I'll give up the school this minute!" said Noll, remembering
that he had not answered his uncle's question; "I'm willing to, if the
children can only have a teacher. Oh, but it seems too good to be
true! And are you really going to hire some one to take my place?"

  "I have hardly thought yet; you must not press questions upon me too
fast. I do not know my own mind."

  Hagar heard their voices, and came around the piazza corner to say,
"Tea hab been waitin' fur ye dis yer whole hour, Mas'r Dick, an'
'tain't growin' better, nohow. Will ye hab it wait any longer?"

  "No, we're coming, shortly," said Trafford, and presently they went in
to tea, for which Noll had not the least appetite, in spite of his
long walk,--it being quite driven away by the question which his uncle
had put to him,--and he spent most of the meal-time in taking keen and
watchful looks at Uncle Richard's face, to see when it began to cloud
over with gloom and grow stern and moody again. But the shadow which
he so much dreaded did not make its appearance, and from the
supper-table they went to the library, where Hagar had lit the lamp,
Noll feeling wonderfully happy and quite sure that this was the eve of
a brighter day for Uncle Richard and the Culm people.

  Contrary to his usual habit, Trafford did not take up his books on
reaching the library, but sat looking thoughtfully at Noll, and at
last, as if speaking his thoughts aloud, he said,--

  "If a new teacher comes, a new schoolroom will have to follow, as a
matter of consequence; and those two rough benches which I saw over at
Culm are hardly the best style of school furniture. And how is it
about books?"

  "There are none but primers and leaves from old spelling-books," said
Noll, sitting very still and quiet with delight at hearing Uncle
Richard ask such questions. It all seemed like a dream, and not at all
a matter of reality. What could have come across the man's feelings so
suddenly and with such effect?

  Trafford resumed his inquiries after a short silence, and little by
little drew from his nephew the whole story of the school's
commencement, and what drawbacks the lack of a good room, with seats
and desks and the necessary books, were, till he had made himself
acquainted with all the needs of the school. He talked with Noll about
the Culm people, and listened to the boy's hopeful and enthusiastic
account of their slight improvement, with something that was very like
interest. But the school seemed to interest him most. He proposed that
a teacher be sent for to take charge of the school during the winter,
and that the best room which could be found among the houses be fitted
up as a schoolroom, and as nicely and warmly as possible. The teacher
and the furniture would have to come from Hastings, and most likely a
carpenter would be needed. Noll thought of John Sampson at once.

  So the evening passed away in planning and discussion, and when Noll
went to bed, it seemed as if all the events of the afternoon and
evening were but phases of a happy dream, which morning light would
banish as unreal. His thankfulness for this token of dawn, after the
long, black, weary night of gloom through which he had struggled,
could not find words enough in which to praise God for this promise of
brighter days. He prayed that it might not be fleeting, and that
morning might not show this gleam of brightness to be only imaginary.
But the morrow came, and proved yesterday's events to be real and
true, and Uncle Richard still without his stern and gloomy face, and
ready to perfect the plans which they had discussed the previous
evening.

  One day after another passed, till Noll began to be certain that
Uncle Richard's gloom and moroseness had departed from him forever.
The boy wondered and surmised, but could not account for this sudden
disappearance of the shadow. What had wrought the change so suddenly?
Would it last alway? True, Uncle Richard was not cheerful yet, and he
seemed to be carrying some heavy grief or sorrow about with him; but
from his face the grimness and gloominess were gone, and Noll was sure
that there must be some little change in his heart, else he would not
care for the welfare of these Culm children.

  A week or two elapsed before this new plan was put in operation, or
rather before anything was done toward carrying it out. The skipper
was hardly the person to intrust with the care of finding a teacher
and looking up school-books, and for a time they were in doubt and
perplexity. Then Noll proposed--what he had long been wishing--to go
to Hastings himself, and find such a teacher as was needed, procure
the suitable books and furniture, and bring John Sampson back with
him. It would require but a week's absence, and in that time all the
business could be done, and some happy days be spent with Ned Thorn
and old friends.

  Trafford hesitated a long time. Who could tell what peril the boy
might be in while crossing the sea? How could he lose him now? And,
when once in the charmed circle of old friends and associations, would
he not dislike to return to gray and barren Culm Rock? But Noll went.



CHAPTER XXI.

IN PERIL OF THE SEA.


  The day had dawned clear and brilliant, but as the afternoon waned, a
gray curtain of ragged cloud slowly rose and hid the sun, and brought
an early nightfall. The wind was strong, and the sea--calm and silvery
but a few hours before--began to toss and thunder heavily. Hagar came
from the pine woods with a great basket of cones, just as the early
dusk began to settle over the windy sea and to wrap the forest in
heavy shadow, and as the old woman crossed the narrow bar of sand
which connected Culm Rock with the main-land, the wind swept over in
such strong gusts, and with such blinding sheets of spray, that her
safety was more than once endangered. But she reached the firm,
unyielding Rock, with no worse misfortune than a drenching befalling
her, and made her way to the warm and comfortable precincts of her
kitchen, with many ejaculations of delight and thankfulness. The first
sound which greeted her ears on entering was the long-drawn, solemn
voice of the organ.

  "Wonder what Mas'r Dick's got on his heart dis yer night?" she
muttered, bustling about to prepare supper; "'tain't sech music as dat
yer organ make lately. 'Pears like somethin' was de matter, anyhow."

  She prepared supper in the dining-room, muttering to herself about the
lonesomeness and silence of the house since "Mas'r Noll dun gone off;"
and when the solitary meal was in readiness, put her head in at the
library-door and called her master to tea. When she had got back to
her kitchen, and was standing in the open door, her grizzled head
thrust out into the gathering gloom and tempest to watch the progress
of the storm, she noticed that the music did not cease, but kept on in
its slow and solemn measure, rising and falling and stealing
plaintively in.

  "Something's de matter, sure," Hagar said, turning about and shutting
the door; "dat ain't de kind of music dat Mas'r Dick's made lately.
'Pears like he's 'stressed 'bout somethin'! But, Hagar, ye can't do
nuffin but jes' trust de Lord, nohow. Ye'd better get yer own supper,
ef yer Mas'r Dick don't tech his."

  She ate her supper and washed the dishes, and gave the little kitchen
a stroke or two with her broom, and yet the music from the library
came stealing in as sad-voiced and heavy as ever.

  "'Pears as if he'd never eat his supper," Hagar grumbled; "de chile
can't live on music, allers, nohow. Reckon he'll nebber hab much
sperits till he eats more. But jes' stop yer talkin', chile, ye can't
do nuffin' but trust de Lord."

  By and by the wandering notes ceased, and in the deep silence there
came up the hoarse and awful roar of the surf, with the wailing of the
wind over the chimney, and filled the house with their echoes. Hagar
heaped wood on the fire, drew her little low chair nearer the light
and gladsome blaze, shivering and muttering as she did so. She had a
great dread of cold and darkness, and the deep hush, broken by the
clamor of the sea, made her afraid.

  "De Lord's about," said she, drawing her old woollen shawl close
around her; "de Lord's on de sea, an' 'pears like nobody need be
feared when he holds it in his hand like as I holds dis yer silber ob
Mas'r Noll's dat he lost under de rug in de dinin'-room,"--looking
down at the shining coin which she had picked up that morning, and
wondering where the boy was at that moment. "'Pears as ef de sunshine
had been hid de whole time sence he went off to de city," she
muttered, gazing in the coals. "Wonder ef Mas'r Dick misses him?
Wonder ef dis yer ole woman won't be tickled 'nuff to see him when de
day comes? Ki! Hagar, ye knows ye will."

  The roar of the sea and the cry of the wind came in again, more
lonesome, sadder than ever. The old negress shivered, peered about her
into the dark corners of the kitchen, and crooned to herself,--a wild,
monotonous air, set to words which came to her lips for the
occasion:--

      "Oh, Hagar, don't ye know
      De Lord's on de sea?
      He rides on de waves,
      And de wind is in his hand,--
      De Lord keeps dem all!

  What ye feared of, Hagar? Kase, don't ye know de Lord's in it? 'Pears
like ye done forget dat de whole time--Now!" and she broke into her
rhymeless chant again. It was only a way she had got of setting her
thoughts to music, drawing the words out very slowly, and weaving to
and fro the while. When she had repeated her first lines, she kept on
with her thoughts, peering over her shoulder at the flickering shadows
which the fire cast on the wall behind her, shivering with awe at the
clamor without, and chanting, waveringly,--

     "Oh, Hagar, don't ye know
     De Lord's on de sea?
     De wind blows, an' de sky is dark,
     An' de sea _cries like a little chile_,
     An' de boats will be blowed away;
     But de Lord is good, an' mornin' will come,
     An', oh, Hagar, sing hallelujah!
     Fur de Lord is in it all!"

  Here she stopped her chanting, and began to sing "Hallelujah!" softly,
ceasing her swaying, to look into the coals. The fire burned down to
rosy embers, in which little blue-tongued flames darted up
fitfully,--anon lighting up the room brilliantly, then dying away and
leaving it almost in darkness,--while Hagar's crooning died away to a
whisper. A little gray light still shone in at the kitchen-window, but
it was fast flitting. The roar of the sea became thunder, the wind
grew tempestuous. By and by the rain began to fall, sounding strangely
soft and still, when compared with the din of wind and waves.

  "God bress us!" said Hagar, "dis yer is an awful night. Keep de boats
off de Rock, Lord, and pity de sailors in dis yer awful storm!"

  The old woman knew how the sea must look now,--yeasty, horrible, its
white wave-caps shining through the darkness and hurrying to topple
over and thunder against the rocks. To her, as she sat crouched before
the fire, it seemed to howl and scream and mourn hoarsely, like some
great voice rending the night with lamentation.

  "Call on de Lord, Hagar," she muttered frequently; "can't nuffin else
help ye now!"

  Sometimes she fell to chanting her thoughts,--the sound of her own
voice was pleasant to her in the loneliness,--and she piled cedar
chips on the fire to see their cheerful blaze and enjoy their brisk
crackle.

  "Might as well hab a candle," she said, after a time. "Git yer
knittin', chile, an' 'pear as ef ye didn't distrus' de Lord. What ef
de wind is blowin'? what ef de sea is a-screamin'? Don't ye know whose
wind and whose sea 'tis?" She got up to grope for a candle on the
shelf over the fireplace.

  "Hagar!" exclaimed a voice at the farther end of the kitchen,--a
voice so full of compressed fear and anxiety that the old negress
tumbled back in her chair with affright,--"Hagar! are you here?"
demanded the voice.

  "Bress ye! yes, I's here, Mas'r Dick!" she answered, catching sight of
his white face by the dining-room door. "I's here, but ye spoke so
suddent! Jes' wait, an' I'll hab a candle in a minnit."

  The candle was found, and, after a long blowing of coals and burning
of splinters, began to burn dimly. Hagar set it on the table, and
looked up at her master with a start of alarm, his face was so white
and anxious.

  "Hagar," said he, huskily, "_Noll was to start from Hastings this
morning!_"

  The old negress stood looking at him a full minute,--a fearful,
lonesome minute in which the rain beat against the panes, and the
awful voice of the sea filled the room,--then she sank down by the
fire with a low cry.

  "Lord bress us all!" she wailed, as she looked up, "fur he'll nebber
get here, Mas'r Dick!"

  Trafford looked at her silently. Oh, that awful voice without!--the
thunder, the tremble of the earth, the screaming of the wind! At
last,--

  "Is ye certain sure, Mas'r Dick? D'ye _know_ he started? Did he say?"

  "Oh, Hagar, if I did not--_not know_,--if I had any doubt that he
started, I would give all my possessions this very moment!"

  "'Tain't de money nor de lands dat'll do now!" moaned Hagar, beginning
to sway back and forth; "it's only de Lord! De Lord's on de sea
to-night, an' 'tain't fur man to say! Oh, Mas'r Dick! t'ink o' dat
bressed boy in dese waves an' dis wind!"

  "Hush!" said the master, imperatively, "I will _not_ think of it! It
can't be! Noll? Oh, Hagar, I believe I'm going mad!" He turned away
from the old negress and opened the door. The tempest swept in,
overturning the candle and flaring up the fire, and bearing the rain,
in one long gust, across the little kitchen, even into Hagar's face.

  Trafford stood there, regardless of wind and rain, looking out upon
the sea. The mighty tumult awed him and filled his heart with a sense
of man's utter weakness and helplessness. The foamy expanse gleamed
whitely through the night,--awful with the terror of death,--and its
deafening roar smote upon his ears, and in the slightest lull, the
rain-drops fell with a soft, dull patter. Noll in it all?--in this
fearful, yawning sea,--in this wild tumult of wind and rain,--in the
vast waste of waves which the thick darkness shrouded, and where death
was riding? "God help me!" he cried in sudden frenzy,--"God help me!"
He looked up at the thick, black depths of sky with a groan of agony
when he remembered his utter powerlessness. But what right had he to
look to Heaven for aid?--he who knew not God, nor sought him, nor
desired his love? The bitterness of this thought made him groan and
beat his breast. Would He--whom all his life long he had refused and
rejected--hear his cries?

  Hagar's voice came to him here through all the din and thunder,
beseeching that the door might be closed. He closed it behind him,
and stepped out into the darkness. It was already past the hour for
the "Gull" to arrive, he remembered, and then a sudden thought flashed
through his brain that beacons ought to be kindled to guide the
skipper, if he were not already beyond the need of earthly guides and
beacons. And close upon this thought came a remembrance of the Culm
fishermen,--stout, skilful sailors, all of them,--and a great hope
filled his heart that in them he might find aid in his extremity. And
without waiting for a second thought, he started through the inky
darkness and the tempest for Culm village. He ran till he was
breathless. He climbed and groped his way over and along the slippery
rocks, the awful voice of the sea filling his ears and goading him on.



CHAPTER XXII.

WEARY WATCHING.


  The evening wore on. They were all on the beach,--Trafford and the
Culm fishermen,--and now a beacon fire streamed up into the darkness,
and made the night seem even more black and intense. They had piled
their heap of driftwood somewhat in the shelter of a great rock, and
around it the men were huddled, muttering and whispering to each
other, and casting sober glances at Trafford, who stood apart from
them in the shadow. Not a word had he spoken since the fire was
kindled, but, grim and silent as a statue, had stood there, with his
eyes looking upon the gleaming sea, and the rain beating in his face.
He had worked desperately while gathering driftwood.

  "The master be crazed, like," Dirk had whispered to the men as they
came in with armfuls of fuel. "D'ye see his eyes? D'ye see the way he
be runnin' up an' down, poor man?"

  "Ay, an' his lad be where many o' your'n an' mine ha' been, eh, Dirk?"
said Hark Harby. "Mabby he ken tell what 'tis ter be losin' his own,
an' no help fur it, eh?"

  "Sh!" said Dirk; "the sea ben't able ter get sech a lad as his every
day. If he be lost, 'tis a losin' fur more'n he, yender."

  This was before the beacon was kindled. Now they huddled in a gloomy
circle about the hissing, sputtering fire, some crouching close to the
rock to save themselves from the rain, and the others drawing their
heads down into their wide-collared jackets, that bade defiance to the
wet. The wind whirled and raved, and the sea thundered on. The fire
cast a little pathway of light through the darkness, down to the sea's
edge, and they could see its waves all beaten to foam as white as
milk, flecking the sand in great patches. It was an awful waiting.

  By and by Hagar came down along the sand in a great hood-cloak that
gave her a most weird and witchlike appearance. The fishermen looked
at her with startled, suspicious eyes as the bent old figure suddenly
emerged from the darkness into the full glare of the firelight. The
old negress passed on to where Trafford was standing.

  "I's here, Mas'r Dick," she said, touching his arm, as if fain to
assure him of her presence and sympathy.

  He did not repel her, but said, with much of kindness in his tone,
"This is no place for you, Hagar."

  "De Lord's here," said Hagar, quietly, "an' I's gwine ter stay. I
isn't feared, Mas'r Dick."

  Trafford looked in her wrinkled, time-worn old face yearningly. This
black, ignorant old woman had something within her heart that gave her
a peace and serenity in this fearful hour that he envied. He felt the
truth of this as he had never felt it before. She was stayed and
upheld by some invisible hand. Somehow, in her humble life, this old
negress had found some great truth which all his own study and
research had failed to teach him. He turned about and made her a seat
of boards on an old spar which lay on the sand, under the shelter of
the rock by the fire.

  "T'ank ye, Mas'r Dick," said Hagar, tremulously, as she sat down. This
unusual kindness touched her. It was like his old-time thoughtfulness
and gentleness, when he was her own blithe, merry schoolboy, she
thought.

  The rain began to fall less heavily. Only now and then a great drop
fell with a hiss and sputter into the fire; but the wind grew fiercer
as the evening waned, and the thunder and pounding of the sea was
deafening. The spray dashed higher and higher, quite up to the backs
of the men who huddled about the fire, and its fine mist sifted even
into Hagar's face and grizzled locks.

  "'Tain't nuffin tu what dat bressed boy is suff'rin'," she sighed,
wiping the cold drops off her cheeks; "'pears as ef dis ole heart 'ud
split'n two, thinkin' ob it. O good Lord, bress de chile!--bress
him,--bress him!--dat's all Hagar ken say."

  It was a weary watching. As the war of the sea grew louder and the
wind fiercer, the Culm fishermen gathered into a yet closer group, and
looked with awed and sober faces in the fire. For all that these men
followed the sea, and it was almost a native element to them, they
seemed to have a great dread and awe of it. Trafford yet stood apart
from them with his eyes looking into the dense night, and Hagar, all
muffled in her great cloak, swayed slowly to and fro with her face
hidden. Oh, the suspense and agony of those minutes!--the weary
watching and waiting for--what?

  It came at last. In the short space of silence between the bursting of
two great waves, there rose a cry from out the great waste of darkness
beyond their little length and breadth of light. Trafford started and
sprang forward. The men around the fire were startled from their
crouching positions by this shrill, sudden shout, and looked in one
another's faces and--waited. But the cry was not repeated. Then Dirk
said,--

  "It wur the skipper, sure. O Lord, men! but I be feared the 'Gull' be
on the rocks, yender."

  The sweat stood in drops on his forehead, and he slowly clinched and
unclinched his great brawny hands. Trafford heard his words, and a
sudden faintness like death smote him. But it passed away, and in
sudden frenzy and despair he rushed up to Dirk, exclaiming,--

  "How do you know, man? How can you tell? There was only a cry!"

  Before Dirk could answer, there rose, clear and distinct, that one
solitary voice from out the darkness,--a fearful, appealing cry for
aid from some human heart out there in the awful presence of death.
And that thrilling cry was all. It never came again. Trafford beat his
breast with agony. Then he turned upon the fishermen.

  "Why do you stand here," he cried, furiously, "when they are perishing
out there? My boy is there!--my boy that's done so much for you and
yours! Will you let him drown without lifting a hand to save him?"

  "It be no use to try," said the men, pointing to the surf; "boat's ud
crack like a gull's shell out there."

  "But try,--only try!" shouted Trafford, in an agonized tone. "If money
will tempt you, you shall have all of mine! You shall have more than
ever your eyes saw before! I will make you all rich!--only try,--only
try!"

  "We'd try soon enough for the young master's sake, an' ye might keep
yer gold," said Dirk; "but it wud be no use, an' only losin' of life.
The lad be beyont our help or yer gold, either."

  "'Tain't de money nor de lands dat'll do, now," moaned Hagar; "it's
only de Lord!"

  "But think of it, you ungrateful wretches!" cried Trafford,
frantically,--"the lad has done more for you and yours than you can
ever repay! He went across the sea this time to do you good, and it's
for your sakes that he's out in the peril yonder! Will you let him
drown without even an attempt to save him? Will you?"

  Dirk shook his head. "It be no use," he said, "but we ken try. I be
not one to hev it said that I be unthankful. Here, lads, give us a
hand! Ef I'll be riskin' my life fur any one, 'tis fur the lad
yender."

  They dragged a boat down to the curling line of foam, and watching for
a favorable opportunity, launched it. Trafford sprang in with them,
and they pushed into the darkness. It seemed hardly three minutes to
those who stood around the fire, before a great wave came riding in
and threw the boat and its load upon the sand. Dirk sprang up and
seized Trafford before the returning flood had engulfed him. He
pointed to the rent ribs of the boat, saying, as he shook himself,--

  "It be as I told ye. Yer lad be beyont yer gold or yer help."

  They made no more attempts. Trafford gave up the idea of a rescue, and
paced up and down the sand in the very face of the surf that drenched
him at every tumble. Utterly helpless! The cold, cruel sea mocked his
despair and frenzy. It was great and mighty, and even now was
swallowing his treasure, he thought, which lay almost within his power
to save. So near!--and yet death between! The thought made him half
wild with despair and horror. Yet there was no help,--nowhere to turn
for aid or succor,--not the faintest hope of saving the boy's life.
The sea must swallow him.

  The fishermen looked askance at the wild, desperate figure that rushed
up and down the sand as if it sought to burst through the sea and save
its treasure, and whispered gloomily among themselves. Suddenly the
man wheeled about and came up to the fire, crying, fiercely,--

  "Hagar, you have a God! I cannot find him. Pray to him,--pray to him!
Quick, woman!--pray to him before it's too late!"

  "Lord help ye, Mas'r Dick!" said Hagar, "I's jes' prayin' fur de dear
chile ebery minnit! Don't ye know it? But de Lord's out
thar!"--pointing with her skinny finger to the depths of darkness
which shrouded the sea, with such vehemence as to startle the
fishermen; "he's wid dat boy, and thar can't nuffin kill his soul.
It's only goin' to glory quicker'n de rest ob us. Don't ye know it,
Mas'r Dick?--can't ye feel it? What's de winds or de waves, so long as
de Lord's got ye in his arms, holdin' ye up?--as he's got dat boy ob
your'n. Oh, Mas'r Dick! jes' humble yerself 'fore de Lord, right off.
What's de use ob stribin' to fight him?--what's de use? 'Tain't no
use!--ye knows it dis minnit!--ye knows it all ober! Call on de Lord
yerself, Mas'r Dick!--call on de Lord 'fore it's too late!"

  "I cannot, I cannot!" groaned Trafford, dropping down on the sand by
his old nurse; "I don't know him, and he will not hear me. Oh, my boy,
my boy!"

  He gave up then. Hagar knew by the way he sank back upon the sand, all
the wildness and fierceness gone out of his face, and the crushed,
broken-hearted manner in which his head drooped, that he had given up
the boy. She gathered his head on her knee, as she had often done when
he was a youth, and stroked it tenderly, saying, as her tears
dropped,--

  "Poor chile, poor honey! Hagar's sorry fur ye. It's a dreadful t'ing
not ter know de Lord; ain't it, chile? Can't do nuffin widout him,
somehow. But Hagar hopes ye'll find him; she hopes ye'll find him dis
berry night. 'Pears like he ain't fur off dis awful night; an', O Lord
Jesus!"--folding her hands reverently, and looking toward the sea as
if she saw her Redeemer walking there,--"come an' bress dis poor
broken heart dat can't find ye. It's jes' waitin' fur de bressin',
an' 'pears like 'twould faint ter def ef ye didn't come. Come, Lord,
come."

  The night wore slowly on. The "Gull" began to break in pieces and
float ashore. The fishermen had enough to do to snatch the boxes and
bales which the sea hurled up. As yet, none of the "Gull's" more
precious freight of life had made its way through the sea to the
shore. Dirk was watching keenly for it. A half-dozen draggled, fearful
women had stolen down from their houses, and were standing by the
fire, whispering and talking in undertones, with many glances of pity
at the figure lying prone on the sand with its head in the old black
woman's lap.

  "Alack!" said Dirk, with a great sigh, "it wur a fine lad. I never
knowed kinder nor better. Ye ken all say that, women, an' this be the
sorriest night I ever knowed, 'cept when my little gal died. He wur
good to my little gal, the lad wur, an' he giv' me a bit o' flower to
put on the sand where she be sleepin', an' it growed an' growed an'
blossomed, an' the blossom wur like a great blue eye,--like my little
gal's eye,--an' many's the night after fishin' I've gone up ter the
buryin'-place ter look at it. An' now the lad himself be gone," said
Dirk, wiping his eyes and snuffling.

  "Ay, it be a heavy night!" moaned the women, wiping their eyes with
the corners of their aprons.

  A great heap of bales and boxes and bits of the "Gull's" timbers was
accumulating on the sand by the fire. The women sat down on them,
keeping up their low talk and whispers, and watching the two silent
figures the other side of the fire. The man moved not a muscle. The
old negress bent over him, stroking his forehead and whispering and
crooning. Only once he had said, chokingly, "My Noll!--all that was
left to me," and now lay passive and unheeding, overwhelmed and
crushed by the sense of his loss and the consciousness that the sea
had quenched the brave, bright life forever.



CHAPTER XXIII.

WAITING.


  The long, long, weary night gave way to a gray and gloomy dawn. The
tempest had not abated, and the sea thundered as furiously as ever.
The wet and shivering women had gone back to their houses and their
little ones; and as the cold, steely light of the coming day began
to whiten in the east, Hagar made her way back to her kitchen,
where she kindled a fire to warm her numb limbs. Never more, she
thought,--rocking to and fro before the pleasant blaze,--could the old
house be bright or cheerful. The sea had quenched its life and its
joy, and never again would the merry voice echo in the great rooms, or
the quick, eager steps sound along the hall and in at her
kitchen-door.

  "O good, bressed Lord!" moaned she, "bress yer poor chil'en dat's lef'
behind! 'Pears like dey was jes' ready ter fall down an' faint ter def
ef ye didn't hold 'em up. O Lord, keep Hagar up, an' 'vent her from
'strustin' ye! Bress us, Lord, fur we ain't nuffin dis yer time. Ye's
all we hab ter hold on ter."

  Meanwhile, Trafford and the fishermen lingered on the shore, waiting
for the sea to give up its dead. The east grew whiter, and light
broke dimly over the waste of waves, and faintly showed them where the
"Gull" had struck. There was not much left of the little craft,--only
a few timbers and the taper point of a mast, wedged in between some
outlying rocks, which the sea thundered over. It was a dreary
sight,--the vast, immeasurable waste lashed into foam, and dimly
discerned through the gray gleaming of the dawn, with the bit of wreck
swaying in the wares, where those lives had gone out in the awful
thunder and darkness; but Trafford gazed upon it with a calm face.
Groans and lamentation could not express the agony which rent his
heart, and he walked up and down the drenched sand with a calm, white
face that awed Dirk whenever he looked upon it.

  "It be a heavier stroke for the master an' we ken tell, lads," he
said to his comrades, as they kept keen lookout for the poor bodies
which the sea still kept.

  "Ay, there be a heart within him like the rest of us," said one of the
fishermen, looking at Trafford as he kept his watchful vigil; "an' he
be only losin' what we hev lost afore."

  "But the lad wur not like ours," said Dirk, pityingly, "an' it wur a
finer lad an' ever I see afore."

  So they talked as they watched and waited, and the light grew, and
somewhere behind the lowering banks of clouds in the east the sun had
risen, and all the land and sea lay cold and warmthless and forlorn.
Trafford relinquished not his keen search for a moment, fearful lest
the waves should cast his lost treasure at his feet and snatch it back
before he could grasp it. The dear face might be bruised and battered
by the cruel, remorseless sea, and the eyes could never beam upon him
with any light of love or recognition, he thought; yet find it and
look upon it he must, even though the sight agonized him. So he
watched and waited, with his tearless eyes roaming along the line of
foam.

  An hour fled. The sea relented, and gave up one poor form into the
fishermen's hands. Trafford walked calmly out to where the men were
bending over it with pale, awed faces, and saw that it was not Noll.
He shivered, looking at the skipper's stalwart figure, and wondered
whether, if the sailor but had the power of speech, he might not tell
him something of his boy,--whether he met death's dark face calmly and
fearlessly, and whether he sent a message to those whom he saw on the
shore and could not call to. This thought gave him fresh anguish. If
Noll had sent him a farewell,--a last message,--oh, what would he not
give to hear it? But, if that were really the case, it had died with
those to whom it was intrusted. The sea would never whisper it,--the
dead could not. He went back to his lonely pacing.

  Another long, long hour passed. The bit of wreck that was jammed
between the rocks went to pieces and came ashore. Ben's mate came with
it, but no Noll. The men began to straggle homeward, weary and worn
with the night's vigil, till only Dirk and Hark Darby were left to
keep the stricken master of the stone house company. Oh, such a weary
waiting it was!--the ceaseless pouring of the waves upon the sand
filling their ears with clamor, and the fearful tide bringing them
not the treasure which they sought. Would the sea never give it up?
Was the dear form caught and held by the entangling arms of some
purple weed in the sea depths? or was it cradled in the calm,
unruffled quiet of some crevice of the rocks?

  "Oh, cruel, cruel sea!" he cried to himself, "to rob me of my boy, and
refuse to give back the poor boon of his body."

  It never came. The morning wore on to noon, the noon to night, and
still the lonely watcher paced up and down. Toward night the tempest
abated, and the turmoil of the sea subsided somewhat. The gray clouds
broke and let through a slant mist of yellow sunshine as the sun
departed, and the storm was over. Its work was done; and as the clouds
fled in ragged squadrons, the calm, untroubled stars shone out over
the sea, and mocked, with their deep, unutterable peace, the aching,
wretched heart of him who still kept up his lonely pacing. Trafford's
eyes suddenly caught sight of their silvery glitter, and he stopped,
looking up at them, while the sudden thought flashed through his mind,
"Is my boy up there? beyond those shining worlds, in that happy heaven
which he trusted in?"

  The thought held him silent and motionless. It had not entered his
heart before. He had been searching for the lad upon this dreary,
sea-beaten shore, without a thought of anything beyond. Was he really
standing upon a heavenly shore, where no waves beat nor tempest raved,
and, perhaps, looking down upon his own lonely vigil?

  There was something in this thought which brought a great calm upon
his heart. True, the boy was no less dead nor separated from him; the
merry voice was no less hushed to him for all his life and journeying,
and the echo of his footsteps might never float down from heavenly
paths to gladden his ears; yet, though he realized this, there was a
wonderful peace and joy in thinking of the lad as happy and joyous in
a sphere where nothing would ever blight his happiness; where he had
found those who bore him a great love and had been long waiting for
his coming. Trafford sat down on the great pile of broken timbers, and
once more looked upward at the stars. Pure and unwavering their gentle
eyes looked down at him. And then peaceful as an angel's whisper, came
the remembered words of one who was an angel too: "Oh, Richard! don't
fail--don't fail to find Him and cling to Him, and come up,--come up
too."

  Why, oh, why, of all times, did this gentle breathing come to him
here? It seemed to Trafford as if his wife's lips had whispered it
close to his ear, and he bowed his head upon his breast, while his
breath came quick and fast, and bitter tears of grief stood in his
eyes. Had God taken his treasures, one after another, and placed them
in that heaven which they all looked forward to, that his own wayward,
straying heart might be drawn thither? Was this last loss meant to be
the great affliction which, through love, should turn his heart toward
God and his kingdom? He could not tell; his heart was strangely
stirred and melted within him. It seemed to him as if that angel
whisper had driven the great burden of despair and agony out of his
heart by its gentle breathing, and left it broken and sorrowful, yet
not without peace and hope. He looked up at the stars and thought of
Noll, and wept. They were not tears of agony, and he did not rave and
groan. A slow step came along the sand, turning hither and thither, as
if in quest of some one. It drew near Trafford, at last, and a
tremulous old voice said,--

  "Is dis ye, Mas'r Dick? Hagar's glad 'nough ter find ye, anyhow.
'Pears like she couldn't stay up ter de house, nohow,--'twas so
lonesome."

  "Yes, I know, Hagar," said the man, without raising his head.

  The twilight was so thick that the old negress could not see the
speaker's face, but a certain tremble and softness of his voice did
not escape her notice.

  "Have ye foun' de Lord, Mas'r Dick?" she asked, quickly.

  "I know not what I have found," Trafford answered, while his tears
fell; "but if I might find his face, and know that it smiled upon me,
I should care for little else."

  "Now praise de Lord!" said Hagar, fervently; "dat's more'n ye ever
felt afore. Thar's help fur ye, Mas'r Dick, an' 'tain't fur off!"

  "Too far for me to find it!" said Trafford; "he does not smile upon
those who have rejected him."

  "Oh, chile!" said Hagar, in a shocked tone; "don't ye know de Lord's
all mercy an' lubbin' kin'ness? Don't ye know he won't 'spise an' hate
ye jes' as ef he was like a man? Oh, honey! Hagar's feared ter hear ye
talk like dat. 'Pears as ef ye made de Lord jes' like poor, eble,
good-fur-nuffin man."

  Trafford made no reply. A sudden darkness seemed shutting down upon
him. It was as if a great golden gleam had fallen out of heaven upon
him, warming and softening his heart, and when he turned with tears
and joy to look along its pathway heavenward, it vanished and left him
groping in confusion and dismay. He got up from off his seat, saying,
mournfully,--

  "The brightness is all gone from me! I'm in doubt and fear. Oh, how
can I ever find his face?--and how can he ever smile upon me who have
rejected him?"

  Hagar sighed heavily as she said, "Ye don't 'preciate de Lord, chile.
Ye talks jes' as ef he was a man, an' could feel 'vengeful towards ye!
Don't s'pose any _man_ could forgive ye, honey, but de bressed Lord
is all lub,--Hagar knows _dat_,--an' Jesus died jes' as much fur ye as
he did fur anybody. Ye's got to look to dat bressed Lord Jesus, an' ef
ye looks hard 'nough, ye'll find him. Oh, Hagar t'anks de Lord frum de
bottom ob her heart fur yer feelin' so to-night."

  "But I have not found him! He is hidden from me!" said Trafford.

  "But ye will ef ye looks long enough!" said Hagar, cheerfully; "he'll
come out ob de darkness to ye: bimeby. Bress ye, chile, dis ole woman
was lookin' an' seekin' an' stribin' in mis'ry till she was 'bout
ready to give up in 'spair; but I foun' him at las', an' he nebber
'sook Hagar,--nebber!"

  The sea was growing calmer with every hour that passed. But it was
rough and thunderous still, and its wave-crests gleamed whitely under
the starlight. Trafford at last remembered the lateness of the hour,
and said, "Come, Hagar, this is no place for us. We will go in."

  The two slowly made their way along the shore up to the dark and
deserted stone house. Hagar smothered the sigh that rose up from her
heart as the silence and loneliness smote upon it, and led the way
around to her kitchen-door.

  "Poor chile! ye habn't had nuffin to eat dis day," said she, after
they were once within her little dominion and she had kindled the
fire; "go into de libr'y, honey, an' I'll hab ye sumfin' purty quick."

  But Trafford shook his head, saying, "Not there!--not there, yet!" and
sat down on the bench by the fire.

  Hagar moved wearily about from the cupboard to the table, saying to
herself,--

  "What ye t'inkin' ob, Hagar, to tell him dat? Dar's all poor Mas'r
Noll's books an' t'ings lyin' 'bout eberywhar, an' how ken de poor
chile stan' it? De Lord's han' is heaby upon him, an', O good Lord
Jesus, jes' come an' bress de poor chile an' sabe him!"



CHAPTER XXIV.

DAYS OF CALM.


  He found it at last,--the peace which comes after a long, weary,
despairing struggle. But it was not easily won. It seemed to Trafford
as if God had hidden himself in a thick, awful darkness, through which
not the faintest ray of light or hope could glimmer upon his heavy,
despairing heart. He sought for him as one who, feeling himself in
the grasp of Death, would seek for Life. He had long rejected him and
put him away; now, in his hour of anguish and extremity, his face and
his peace were hard to find. Never had such utter silence reigned in
the stone house since its occupancy as reigned there now. Hagar kept
mostly within her own province, and Trafford sat day after day in the
dining-room, hardly stirring from thence. He had not entered the
library since the night of the shipwreck, neither had Hagar stepped
within the room, where all Noll's books and shells and treasures
gathered from the sea lay, and where everything hinted of the sunny,
joyous life which once had made the great room cheerful. Neither
looked within, as if they dreaded to recall the dear and pleasant
vision of the curly-haired boy who had lived and studied there. These
were the days in which Trafford groped in darkness and despondency.
Hagar set the table by his side, and brought him his meals, and
carried away the untasted viands, with much sighing and regret, but,
nevertheless, with joy in her heart.

  "'Pears as ef 'twas a drefful t'ing fur de poor chile ter be suff'rin'
so," she would sigh to herself as she watched his worn and heavy face
on her passages through the room; "but Hagar's t'ankful 'nough to see
it, 'cause de poor chile'll find de Lord bimeby. Bress de Lord! Mas'r
Dick'll find him some time!"

  A long and weary week passed away. Without, the world had never been
fairer, nor the sea lovelier. No storms lashed it, and the great world
of waves glittered calm and untroubled under the sun, with no hint of
death or woe in its purple evening lights or its bright morning
gleams.

  Then, after this long seeking, a faint hope began to dawn in
Trafford's heart. He did not dare to give it heed or trust at
first,--he who had been in despair so long,--and when, at last, he
began to put forth feeble, trembling anticipations of the peace and
joy which might come when God's smile and forgiveness shone upon him,
this little ray of hope broadened and grew warmer and brighter, and he
began to look up out of his depths of anguish. It was long coming,--it
seemed at times to be utterly unattainable,--it was sometimes almost
within his heart, and then it fled from him; but at last it came, and
abode with him,--this peace which a poor, wandering soul feels after
it has found its Lord. Then he was at rest. He came out into Hagar's
kitchen one sunshiny afternoon, and, in answer to the old negress'
look of wonder and surprise at seeing him there, said, with a grave
joy thrilling his words,--

  "Hagar, I have found him; and I do not think that his peace will ever
leave me, or that my heart will ever forget him."

  Hagar got up off the bench where she was sitting, and came slowly
forward, saying, brokenly, "Bress de Lord, bress de Lord! dat's all
Hagar ken say. Oh, chile, ef ye knew how dis ole heart felt ter hear
ye say dem words! ef ye only c'u'd know! But ye nebber will till dis
ole woman gits such a tongue as de Lord'll gib her when she gets ter
heaben. Den Hagar ken tell ye!"

  She followed him to the door, and sat down there in the sunshine,
softly blessing him again and again as she watched him follow the
thread of a path which led around to the piazza. Trafford paused
here, on the smooth sand by the piazza-steps, and looked out upon the
sea. It was like a new sea, and the very earth seemed not as of old,
for now God reigned over them, and it was his sunshine which fell so
brightly and broadly everywhere, and his smile and the knowledge of
his forgiveness which filled his heart with such utter peace and
tranquillity. This great joy and calm held him quiet for a little
space, and, when he turned about, his eyes fell upon the little
breadth of grass waving there by the step. One or two gay, crimson
asters nodded in the warm wind, planted there by the same hand that
watered and cared for the bit of turf. Trafford sat down by them,
stroking the turf's green blades, and gazing at the warm-hued flowers
through tears. "Gone--gone," they seemed to whisper as they softly
rustled. Somehow these tender, soulless things brought up the boy's
memory most vividly. He remembered how Noll sat on the same bit of
turf only those two short weeks ago with the warm wind blowing his
curly locks about his eyes while he looked off upon the sea. Who
thought of danger or death then? Who thought of death lying in wait in
that calm, shadowy sea? Trafford's tears fell thick and fast upon the
green blades, thinking of the lad. Did ever the sea quench a fairer,
brighter life? he wondered,--a life fuller of rich and generous
promise? Yet, only two short weeks ago,--short, in reality, but slow
and long in passing,--the boy had sat upon this little breadth of
verdure full of life and spirits and happiness.

  "Ah!" sighed he, "I knew not a treasure I possessed till it passed
from me. Now that I have lost it, I see what a blissful life I might
have made for myself and it. God forgive me! but I was harsh and cruel
to the boy. I made his life darker and less joyous than it ought to
have been."

  He sat here for a long time, till once more his face was calm and
undisturbed. Sometime, he thought, he might meet the boy face to face,
and tell him all that his heart longed to unburden itself of. He rose
up, at last, and went slowly in, pausing at the library-door. After a
few seconds of indecision, he opened it, and went softly in. The room
was cold and chilly from its long unoccupancy; but through one of the
high windows, and along the floor, streamed a broad bar of cheerful
sunlight. It fell right across Noll's study-table and the chair which
he was wont to occupy. Trafford moved forward, sat down in the chair,
and looked about him with misty eyes. Traces of the boy's presence
everywhere! The familiar school-books, open to the last lessons which
Trafford had heard him recite; bits of paper, with sums and solutions
traced thereon; copies of the fine and feathery sea-moss, which it was
the boy's delight to gather, with odd pebbles and shells, met his gaze
on either hand. He took up a scrap of paper from among the rest, and
found something thereon which the boy had written, evidently in an
idle moment. Trafford, however, read it not without emotion. It merely
said:--

  "_Wednes., Aug. 24._--This is a long, gray, rainy day, and I have not
stirred out of the house. I am at this moment (or ought to be)
studying my Latin lesson. Uncle Richard has not spoken a word to me
since breakfast. I wish I knew what made him look so grim and sober
to-day, and I _do_ wish he would speak to me. When the fog lifted just
now, I fancied I saw a ship on the horizon, bound for Hastings, I
suppose. Oh, but I--"

  Here the slight record was broken off. Perhaps the boy had gone back
to his Latin, or perhaps the passing ship had taken his thoughts along
with it to Hastings, and thus left the half-commenced exclamation
unfinished. Trafford read and reread the little bit of paper, and
folded it carefully, and put it away with the precious letter which
the boy's father had written on his dying-bed. Then he began to
gather up Noll's books, thinking to put them out of his sight, but
stopped before he had taken the third in his hand. Why hide them? Why
shut them up in darkness, as if some evil, dreaded memory were
connected with the sight of them? Had not everything about the boy and
his life been bright and pleasant to think of? He put the books back
in their places, saying to himself, "They shall stay where they are.
Hagar shall not move them, and I will have them before my eyes alway,
just as his dear hands left them? Why should I try to hide aught that
his blessed memory lingers around?"

  So he left everything just as Noll's hands had placed them last, and
rose up from his chair, and went to his old familiar seat by the great
bookcase, where he had sat and pored over great volumes day after
day, and watched the boy at his studies. The portrait on the wall
looked down at him with its soft and tender eyes, and he thought, "Now
I may look at it without its reproaching me; for, dear heart, I have
begun to 'come up.' I have turned my eyes toward thy abode, and, God
helping me, I may some day hear thy own sweet voice. And though I may
never see the boy's face, and rejoice to look upon it as I do upon
thine, yet his pure memory lingers about everything that he loved and
touched, and his face can never be removed from my heart."

  Calm and peaceful days passed, and the third week after the shipwreck
went by, and life in the stone house began to move on as it was wont
to do. Once more the red light from the library-window streamed out
into the night, but there was no Skipper Ben and his "Gull" for it to
guide. Not a sail had been seen near the Rock, and its inhabitants had
been shut out from the rest of mankind for three long weeks. That
which at first was only an inconvenience grew to be a serious matter
at last. The Culm folk, never very provident, exhausted their supply
of flour and meal, and had only fish to eat; and fish, with a little
salt, was not an extensive nor varied bill of fare.

  In some way or another, Hagar discovered that the people had exhausted
all their stores, and through her it came to Trafford's ears.

  "Nuffin but fish ter live on, an' not de greatest plenty o' dat,"
Hagar had said, standing beside Trafford's chair in the library.

  The man started, as a sudden remembrance of forgotten duties came
into his mind. He had neglected to look after those Culm people,--he
had forgotten about Noll's school and its pupils. But it should be so
no longer, he resolved at once. That work which the boy loved and
desired to complete, he would take up and carry out. It should be a
pleasure and delight. He would gather up the broken, half-completed
plans, and make it the work of his life to perfect them as Noll would
have done. Now the inmates of the stone house were not well supplied
with provisions, as the winter stores had not been laid in. There was
no telling when another ship would touch at Culm, but, in all
probability, it would be soon. The skipper must have friends
somewhere, who would be searching for his whereabouts. Trafford
divided his supplies with the fishermen, trusting that ere long some
sail would appear, bound for the Rock, or within signalling distance
of it. He walked often by the sea, looking toward Hastings, and trying
in vain to discern some sail bound hitherward. He walked over to Culm
village, and lingered about the little room where Noll's school had
been, and resolved that the plan of a new schoolroom, with good seats,
benches, and a faithful teacher, should be carried out if ever
communication was opened between the Rock and Hastings. And if no
teacher could be got for the winter, he would teach the children
himself. He wondered whether there were any chairs or benches left
from the cargo of the "Gull," remembering that Noll was to bring
school-furniture from Hastings with him; but, though he searched long
and keenly among the timbers and refuse which the sea had thrown up,
he could not find so much as a bit of varnished wood that looked as if
it might have belonged to a desk or chair. At this he wondered, but
thought, "The poor boy was unsuccessful, or else the sea refuses to
give up aught that was his, as well as himself."

  And still he watched and waited for a sail, thinking that if none came
soon, a way must be devised for getting to Hastings.



CHAPTER XXV.

OUT OF THE SEA.


  The fourth week after the shipwreck dragged slowly away,--spent in
watching and waiting for a sail. None came. The lack of good food was
getting to be a serious matter for both Culm folk and the inmates of
the stone house. Trafford's stores were well-nigh exhausted, and the
last day of that long fourth week was spent in company with Dirk
Sharp and some of his comrades, devising plans by which they might
communicate with Hastings. The master of the stone house walked
homeward after his conference with the fishermen, and paused in the
gathering dusk on the spot where he had stood that fearful night when
the "Gull" and her crew were on the rocks in the awful roar and
thunder of the tempest. How silent and peaceful it all lay now,--the
sea purpling in its calm and shadowy depths, its waves faintly
murmuring on the pebbles, and, overhead, the arch of silvery sky
bending down to the far horizon, full of the tender lights of the
after-glow! Only one month since that fearful night, yet how far in
the dim past the event seemed! What a great darkness and despair he
had struggled through! How full and real every minute of those four
weeks had been! And, as he stood there, such strong and tender
memories of the lad he had lost came back to him that he turned away
with a throbbing heart, and walked homeward along the sand with a
bowed head, and so failed to see the white gleaming of a sail which
rose out of the sea and stood toward the Rock. The lingering daylight
touched it with a rosy flush as the rising night-breeze bore it
steadily onward; but Trafford saw it not, and went up the
piazza-steps, and into the stone house, without turning his eyes
seaward.

  He ate his scanty supper, which Hagar--poor heart!--had placed upon
the table with a wonderful display of dishes, as if to make up for the
lack of food by a board spread with cups and plates enough for a
feast, and then took his way to the silent library. He sat down at
his organ, and from its long-silent pipes drew soft and tender music
that filled the room and stole gently through the house. The tears
came into Hagar's eyes as she listened to it.

  "'Pears as ef de angels was singin'," she said, wiping her cheeks.
"Hagar wonders ef de Lord'll gib her a voice like dat when she gets
ter glory."

  It died away at last in gentle, tremulous whispers, and Trafford
walked to the window and looked out. Twilight had settled so thickly
that the sea was quite hidden, save a faint glimmer of ripples along
the sand. Deep quiet reigned over land and sea, and nowhere with such
undisputed sway as in the stone house. Trafford lit his study-lamp and
sat down, with no desire, however, to read or study. Hardly had he
seated himself, when, with startling suddenness, a shrill scream broke
upon the deep quiet. It was Hagar's voice, and the cry came from her
kitchen; and before Trafford had recovered from his surprise, there
was a little sound of commotion in her distant province,--doors were
thrown open, voices echoed, and then along the silent hall came a
sound--the rush of eager feet--that drove every trace of color from
Trafford's face, as well it might, and made his heart beat so loud and
wildly that he pressed his hands over it to stay its tumultuous
beating. He started up, gazing with wide-open eyes at the
library-door, while at every echo of those coming footsteps, he
started and trembled, and grew faint with anticipation. The door burst
open, and there stood--Noll Trafford!

[Illustration: "It's I, Uncle Richard" Page 421.]

  One moment the boy paused, perhaps frightened by the white face of the
man who sat gazing motionlessly at him, then he bounded forward,
crying, "It's I, Uncle Richard!--your own Noll!"

  Trafford's arms did not clasp the boy about; his tongue refused to
articulate; his heart could not take in this great, overwhelming joy.
But Noll's arms were about his neck, the boy's warm breath was upon
his cheek, and in his ears was the lad's whisper, "It's I,--I, Uncle
Richard! no one else!"

  Then the man began to sigh, just as if he were awakening from a long
and troubled dream, and presently he put out his hand and touched the
boy's cheeks, as if to assure himself that it was not all a vision,
and then he said, chokingly, "My boy,--_mine_! O God! I don't deserve
this."

  His arms clasped the lad in one long, fervent embrace. He bent his
head over the curly locks, and wept for joy, stroking the lad's
shoulders and pressing his hands the while, as if he were not yet sure
that the boy was a reality. He looked upon him as one from the dead.
Had the sea given him up?--had that terrible tempest spared him in its
wild fury? Why had the boy lingered so long? Where had he been
sojourning all these long weeks? But too happy in the consciousness
that it was really Noll, safe and unharmed, who was before him, to
care for aught further at present, he sat silently holding the boy's
hands, while his heart gave grateful thanks to God.

  "Poor Uncle Richard!" said the boy, at last.

  Trafford's lips moved, and with an effort he said, "No, no,--not
_poor_! I'm rich, rich!--_so_ rich! O God, help me! I can't believe my
own happiness."

  "But it's really I, Uncle Richard!" said Noll, assuringly; "you've
felt my hands, my face, my shoulders, and aren't they alive and warm?"

  "Yes, it is really you, thank God!" said Trafford, drawing a long
breath, while he gazed upon the merry face that he never more expected
to see on earth.

  "Yes, and oh, Uncle Richard, you can't know how I longed to see you,
to tell you that I was alive and safe! I knew you would worry, but I
didn't think you'd think me dead. I didn't think _that_ till we got to
Culm, and Dirk and all the rest trembled, and were actually going to
run away from me!"

  "Then you have not been harmed?" said Trafford: "but oh, my boy,
where were you on that awful night?"

  "Safe and sound, with Ned Thorn, at Hastings, Uncle Richard, and not
even dreaming of danger or shipwreck. You see, the furniture was not
ready, and I hadn't found a teacher, and so I stayed. Ned and I went
down to the wharf the night before the 'Gull' was to sail, and carried
a letter to the skipper to give to you, telling you why I couldn't
come; but poor Ben never got here alive, and the letter was lost with
him, I suppose. Oh, Uncle Richard, if I _had_ started,--if the
furniture had been ready--"

  "Thank God it was not!" interrupted Trafford, presently; "he watched
over you, he stayed your coming, and now he has brought you out of the
sea, as it were, to me. Oh, Noll!"

  The boy looked up eagerly. "Have--have you found the Lord Jesus, Uncle
Richard?" he asked.

  Trafford's hands rested tenderly on the boy's head. "Yes," he said,
with a great calm and peace in his voice, "I found him through great
sorrow and grief. I think God led me through all this suffering that
my heart might be softened and turned toward him. And now this Saviour
has brought you back to me!"

  A deep silence followed, full of unutterable joy. Trafford reverently
bent his head, his lips quivering with emotion, and with his nephew's
hands clasped in his, silently thanked God for his goodness, for this
great joy which was come into his life, for this precious lad that was
dead and now was alive again. It seemed as if God had brought him out
of the sea to him. At last Noll said, taking up his explanation where
he had left it off,--

  "After we had given the letter to the skipper, I thought no more about
it, and Ned and I were busy enough with seeing about the furniture for
a day or two, and we didn't notice the storm, or even think of the
'Gull' being in danger. And Mr. Gray helped me to find a teacher, and
we were so busy with plans that the time passed away before I knew it,
and when I came to go down on the wharf to engage a passage with Ben,
the men said the 'Gull' had never got back from her last trip, and
they were afraid it was lost. Ned didn't believe there had been a
shipwreck, neither did Mr. Gray. He said that most likely the skipper
had been kept by some business, or perhaps the 'Gull' had gone farther
down the coast than usual. Oh, Uncle Richard! we didn't think that
poor Ben was drowned, nor that you thought me wrecked with him."

  Trafford said, "Those were fearful days for me. Go on, go on, Noll."

  "We went down to the wharf every night till another week was gone, and
then, we began to be certain that Ben was either wrecked or sick, and
I began to be anxious to get some word to you. I thought that perhaps
you might be worried about me, though Mr. Gray said that if the 'Gull'
was wrecked anywhere near Culm, you could not help but know I was not
on board. We waited and waited till the three weeks were gone, and
then some of Ben's friends began to talk of going in search of him.
But it was only till last night that they were ready to go, and we
came off before daylight this morning. Oh, the time has seemed so
long, Uncle Richard! but here I am, safe and sound, once more."

  Trafford looked at his nephew as if he could yet hardly believe his
eyes.

  "And you should have seen Dirk and the rest!" continued Noll; "why, he
wouldn't speak to me at first, but was going to run away; but when he
did find that it was really I, he cried like a great child. He said
that you thought me dead,--you can't know how I felt when he said
that, Uncle Richard,--and so Ned and I didn't wait any longer, but ran
all the way here. I can think, now, why you looked so white when I
came in at the door!"

  Trafford stroked the boy's hair, saying, "I never thought to hear the
echoes of your feet again. God knows. Oh, my boy, _you_ can never
know what this night has brought to me. He who led you thither only
can. But whose name did you mention?"

  "Ned's; he came down with me, Uncle Richard, for it's vacation at
Hastings. We came up to the kitchen-door, because Hagar's light shone
so brightly, and what do you think? she threw up her hands and
screamed at the sight of me. But it didn't take long to make her
certain that I was real, and not a vision. And, oh, there's one thing
I'd forgotten! The new teacher is at Culm, waiting for Dirk to come
over with his trunks. It's one of papa's old scholars, Uncle Richard,
and his name is Henry Fields. He worked with papa in the old sea-town
where we lived, and he's come down to work here at Culm among our
fish-folk. I like him very much, and you can't help but like him,
too; and we've brought a cargo of benches and desks all ready to--"

  The library-door began to swing softly open,--not so softly, however,
but that Noll heard and stopped.

  "It's Ned," he said, looking over his shoulder. "Come in!"

  Ned came shyly around to where they were sitting, his usually merry
face sobered by something which he perceived in the faces of his
friends before him. A silence fell upon them here. Ned leaned against
his friend, looking soberly at Trafford's rapt face, and wondering
where all the man's grimness and gloominess had gone. And just then a
sudden thought came into Noll's heart, and he said, looking up
brightly,--

  "It's a year this very night since I came to you, Uncle Richard!
Don't you remember? What a long, long time!"

  Trafford said, "Yes, I remember. Through all the days since then God
has been teaching me, and he has led me on to this; and, oh! my boy,
the sea may never divide us again, for, though through its dark floods
we go down to death, beyond there is light and God and heaven!" And in
his voice there was peace unutterable.

                               *   *   *   *   *

  If this Story of a Year, and what it taught, is not already too long,
you may know that a schoolhouse was built at Culm, and that Henry
Fields proved a good and faithful teacher; that a stanch, new "White
Gull" was built, and one of Skipper Ben's sea-loving sons was its
captain; that the Culm children and their parents slowly improved in
more ways than one under the constant, unfailing care and effort of
Trafford and his nephew; that the Rock was not always Noll Trafford's
home, but exchanged for a pleasanter one in Hastings, though the old
stone house was often brightened by his presence, and never got to be
entirely gloomy and deserted again.





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Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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