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In a moment the children were scattered all over the ship, smelling here, meowing, sniffing there, like cats in a new home. Mr. and Mrs. Thornton stood by the main companion-way, a little disconsolate at their children’s happy preoccupation, a little regretting the lack of proper emotional scene.

“I think they will be happy here, Frederic,” said Mrs. Thornton. “I wish we could have afforded to send them by the steam-boat: but children find amusement even in discomfort.”

Mr. Thornton grunted.

“I wish schools had never been invented!” he suddenly burst out: “they wouldn’t then be so indispensable!”

There was a short pause for the logic of this to cross the footlights: then he went on:

“I know what will happen; they’ll come away… mugs ! Just ordinary little mugs, like any one else’s brats! I’m dashed if I don’t think a hundred hurricanes would be better than that.”

Mrs. Thornton shuddered: but she continued bravely:

“You know, I think they were getting almost too devoted to us? We have been such an unrivaled center of their lives and thoughts. It doesn’t do for minds developing to be completely dependent on one person.”

Captain Marpole’s grizzled head emerged from the scuttle. A sea-dog: clear blue eyes of a translucent trustworthiness: a merry, wrinkled, morocco-colored face: a rumbling voice.

“He’s too good to be true,” whispered Mrs. Thornton.

“Not at all! It’s a sophism to imagine people don’t conform to type!” barked Mr. Thornton. He felt at sixes and sevens.

Captain Marpole certainly looked the ideal Children’s Captain. He would, Mrs. Thornton decided, be careful without being fussy — for she was all in favor of courageous gymnastics, though glad she would not have to witness them herself. Captain Marpole cast his eyes benignantly over the swarming imps.

“They’ll worship him,” she whispered to her husband. (She meant, of course, that he would worship them.) It was an important point, this, of the captain: important as the personality of a headmaster.

“So that’s the nursery, eh?” said the captain, crushing Mrs. Thornton’s hand. She strove to answer, but found her throat undoubtedly paralyzed. Even Mr. Thornton’s ready tongue was at a loss. He looked hard at the captain, jerked his thumb towards the children, wrestled in his mind with an elaborate speech, and finally enunciated in a small, unlikely voice:

“Smack ’em.”

Then the captain had to go about his duties: and for an hour the father and mother sat disconsolately on the main hatch, quite deserted. Even when all was ready for departure it was impossible to muster the flock for a collective good-bye.

Already the tug was fulminating in its gorge: and ashore they must go. Emily and John had been captured, and stood talking uneasily to their parents, as if to strangers, using only a quarter of their minds. With a rope to be climbed dangling before his very nose, John simply did not know how this delay was to be supported, and lapsed into complete silence.

“Time to go ashore, Ma’am,” said the captain: “we must be off now.”

Very formally the two generations kissed each other, and said farewell. Indeed the elders were already at the gangway before the meaning of it all dawned in Emily’s head. She rushed after her mother, gripped her ample flesh in two strong fists, and sobbed and wept, “Come too, Mother, oh, do come too!”

Honestly, it had only occurred to her that very moment that this was a parting .

“But think what an adventure it will be,” said Mrs. Thornton bravely: “much more than if I came too! — You’ll have to look after the Liddlies just as if you were a real grown-up!”

“But I don’t want any more adventures!” sobbed Emily:

“I’ve got an Earthquake !”

Passions were running far too high for any one to be aware how the final separation took place. The next thing Mrs. Thornton could remember was how tired her arm had been, after waving and waving at that dwindling speck which bore away on the land breeze, hung a while stationary in the intervening calm, then won the Trade and climbed up into the blue.

Meanwhile, at the rail stood Margaret Fernandez, who, with her little brother Harry, was going to England by the same boat. No one had come to see them off: and the brown nurse who was accompanying them had gone below the moment she came on board, so as to be ill as quickly as possible. How handsome Mr. Bas-Thornton had looked, with his English distinction! Yet every one knew he had no money. Her set white face was turned towards the land, her chin quivering at intervals. Slowly the harbor disappeared: the disordered profligacy of the turbulent, intricate mass of hills sunk lower in the sky. The occasional white houses, and white puffs of steam and smoke from the sugar-mills, vanished. At last the land, all palely shimmering like the bloom on grapes, settled down into the mirror of emerald and blue.

She wondered whether the Thornton children would prove companionable, or a nuisance. They were all younger than she was: which was a pity.


On the journey back to Ferndale both father and mother were silent, actuated by that tug of jealousy against sympathy which a strong common emotion begets in familiar rather than passionate companions. They were above the ordinary sentimentalities of grassbereavement (above choking over small shoes found in cupboards): but not above a rather strong dose of the natural instincts of parenthood, Frederic no less than his wife.

But when they were nearly home, Mrs. Thornton began to chuckle to herself.

“Funny little thing, Emily! Did you notice almost the last thing she said? She said ‘I’ve got an earthquake.’

She must have got it mixed up in her silly old head with earache.”

There was a long pause: and then she remarked again:

“John is so much the most sensitive: he was absolutely too full to speak.”


When they got home it was many days before they could bring themselves openly to mention the children. When some reference had to be made, they spoke round them, in an uncomfortable way, as if they had died.

But after a few weeks they had a most welcome surprise. The Clorinda was calling at the Caymans, and taking the Leeward Passage: and while riding off the Grand Cayman Emily and John wrote letters, and a vessel bound for Kingston had taken charge of them and eventually they reached Ferndale. It had not even occurred to either parent that this would be possible. This was Emily’s:

MY DEAR PARENTS, — This ship is full of Turtles. We stopped here and they came out in boats. There is turtles in the saloon under the tables for you to put your feet on, and turtles in the passages and on the deck, and everywhere you go. The captain says we mustn’t fall overboard now because his boats are full of turtles too, with water. The sailors bring the others on deck every day to have a wash and when you stand them up they look just as if they had pinafores on. They make such a funny sighing and groaning in the night, at first I thought it was everybody being ill, but you get used to it, it is just like people being ill. — Your loving daughter,


And John’s:

MY DEAREST PARENTS, — The captain’s son Henry is a wonderful chap, he goes up the rigging with his hands alone, he is ever so strong. He can turn round under a bellying pin without touching the deck, I can’t but I hang from the ratlines by my heels which the sailors say is very brave, but they don’t like Emily doing it, funny. I hope you are both in excellent health, one of the sailors has a monkey but its tail is Sore. — Your affectionate Son,