Chapter Two: The Fairy Ship
I was introduced that evening at dinner to Mr. Harland’s physician,
and also to his private secretary. I found Dr. Brayle interesting,
in a solemn way. He was dark, slim, clean-shaven, and of middle age.
He had brown eyes and sleek black hair that he brushed carefully and
parted down the middle. His manner was quiet and self-contained,
yet I got the impression that he was fully alive to the advantages of
being the traveling medical adviser to an American millionaire.
I have not mentioned till now that Morton Harland was American.
I was always rather in the habit of forgetting the fact, for he
had long ago forsworn his nationality and naturalized himself a British
subject. But he had made his vast fortune in America, and was
still the controlling magnate of many large financial interests in the
United States. He was now much more English than American, for
he had been educated at Oxford, and as a young man had always associated
with English society and English ways. He had married an
English wife, who died when their first child, Catherine, was born,
and he was wont to set down all of Miss Catherine’s mopish languors
to a delicacy inherited from her mother, as well as to the lack of a
mother’s care in childhood.
In my opinion, Catherine was not really ailing, but it was evident
that she had been given her own way from a very early age, and had
become so accustomed to being allowed to exaggerate every little ailment
that she had made the most of an opportunity to grow up accepting
ill health as the best way of getting attention.
Dr. Brayle, I soon perceived, also made the most of her attitude. I
was covertly amused by the subtle gleam in his eyes as, during pauses
in the conversation, he glanced rapidly from father to daughter. He
seemed to me to watch them as narrowly as a cat might watch a
couple of unwary mice!
The secretary, Mr. Swinton, was a pale, precise-looking young
man with a somewhat servile demeanor, under which I could see that
he concealed an inordinately good opinion of himself. His ideas were
centered in, and bounded by, the art of stenography. I supposed that,
if all one wanted was a secretary, he was the perfect choice.
I spoke little at the table, trying to “feel” my surroundings, and
to understand where I might insert myself to be a suitable guest. All
this time I felt, rather than saw, Dr. Brayle regarding me with a kind
of perplexity. My presence there seemed to irritate him, though he
didn’t show irritation, and I was unable to perceive the cause of his
annoyance. As for Mr. Swinton, he was comfortably wrapped up
in a pachydermatous hide of self-appreciation, so that I believe he
thought nothing about me one way or the other, except as a guest of
his patron, and one to whom he was therefore bound to be civil. But
with Dr. Brayle it was otherwise. I puzzled him, and—after a brief
study of me—I became an irritant. He forced himself to converse
with me, however, and at first we interchanged the usual remarks on
the weather and on the various beauties of the coast along which we
“I see that you like fine scenery,” he said finally. “Have you tried
your hand at art?”
“No,” And I smiled. He seemed surprised, so I added, “Is imitation
important to admiration?”
“It should be,” he answered, with a little bow, “considering that so
many of the paintings men paint are of your sex.”
I made no answer. Mr. Harland looked at me with a somewhat
“You don’t believe in compliments?” he asked.
“Was it a compliment?” I asked.
Dr. Brayle’s dark brows drew together in a slight frown. With that
expression he looked rather like an Italian poisoner of old time—
the kind of man whom Caesar Borgia might have employed to give
the happy dispatch to his enemies by some sure and undiscoverable
means known only to intricate chemistry.
Presently Mr. Harland spoke again, peeling a pear slowly and delicately
with deft movements of his fruit knife that suggested flaying
alive some poor, sentient creature.
“Our little friend is of a rather strange disposition,” he observed.
“She has the indifference of an Old-world philosopher to socially
agreeable speeches. Her soul is ardent, but her mind is suspicious!
She is aware that pleasant words are often spoken to cover treacherous
intentions. If a man is as rude and blunt as myself, for example,
she prefers him to be rude and blunt rather than attempt to conceal
his roughness by an amiability which it is not his nature to feel.”
Here he looked up at me from a careful scrutiny of his nearly flayed
pear. “Isn’t that so?”
“Why, certainly,” I replied. “But is that such a ‘strange’ or original
The corners of his cynical mouth curled upward on one side.
“Pardon me, dear lady, it is strange! The normal and strictly reasonable
attitude of the human pygmy is to accept as gospel everything
it is told of a nature soothing and agreeable to itself. Man, pygmy that
he is, believes among other presumptions that he has a special place
in this universe. He is destined to be immortal, and considers that
he shares even now with God His divine Intelligence. Upset by the
merest trifle, troubled by every little setback, driven to howling by a
toothache, and generally unable to face the least adversity, he imagines
himself entitled anyway to some sort of kinship with the Divine!
What marvelous presumption! What magnificent arrogance!”
I remained silent, but I could almost hear my heart beating with
suppressed emotion. I knew Morton Harland was an atheist, so far as
atheism is possible to any creature capable of feeling at all, but I had
not expected him to state his opinions so openly, and so rudely, on
the very first evening of my stay on board his yacht. He knew I had
deep faith in God. It occurred to me that perhaps he had spoken this
way for his own amusement, and for that of the other two men present,
in the hope of moving me to an answering argument. I was startled
by his incivility, but it is not my nature to argue. I therefore did
what was incumbent upon me in such a situation: I held my peace.
Dr. Brayle watched me curiously, and poor Catherine Harland
turned her plaintive eyes upon me in alarm. She had learned to dread
her father’s fondness for religious argument. But as I did not speak,
Mr. Harland was placed in the embarrassing position of someone
propounding a theory that no one has any desire to contest. Why, I
wondered, after his gracious invitation to me in London, had he decided
now to be rude? Was it the influence of Dr. Brayle’s company?
Had he so little command of his own behavior? Had his real motive
been all along, perhaps, to treat me as a foil for his cynicism? He had
seemed to me a better person than that. Looking slightly confused
now, he went on in a lighter and more casual way—
“I had a friend once at Oxford—a good fellow, I now think. He
was a little like our friend here—full of odd fancies. I suppose it is
she who brought him to my mind this evening. And I was reflecting
on the reaction to him that many of us other students had. Forgive
me for my sharpness with you.” Here he turned to me. “This man
was one of those who believed not only in God, but in the Divine in
man. Most of us judged him peculiar. His father had lived by choice
in some desert corner of Egypt for forty years, and it was in Egypt
that this boy had been born. Of his mother he never spoke. His father
died suddenly, leaving him a large fortune under trustees till he
came of age, with instructions that he was to be taken to England
and educated at Oxford.
“When he came into possession of his money, he was to be left
free to do with it as he liked. I met him when he was almost halfway
through his University course. I was only two or three years his
senior, but he always looked much younger than I; yet he seemed
much more mature. To most us he seemed ‘uncanny’—a little like
our little friend here.” Here he indicated me by a nod of his head,
and smiled in a way that seemed intended to be kindly, though in
fact his smile only emphasized his sour nature.
“This man—I’m remembering him more clearly now—never
practiced or ‘trained’ for anything, and yet everything came to him
very easily. His faith wasn’t the churchgoing sort; there was something
unreal about it. And he would sit in silence for hours on end—an unusual
practice that made him seem even more peculiar to the rest of
us. He was good at sports, and friendly enough. But there was always
a sort of aura about him of remoteness. He was good at his studies. He
smiled readily enough. But there was always this nimbus of remoteness;
it was nothing you could put your finger on. For some reason,
many of us came to fear him. Looking back, I think it was that he
didn’t share in our pleasures—gambling, for example, and drinking.
Moreover, he paid no attention to our opinions about things. Though
I belonged to his college, and was constantly thrown into association
with him, I became infected with the general unease about him.
“One night he stopped me in the quadrangle where he had his
Here Mr. Harland broke off suddenly.
“Am I boring you?” he asked. “I really have no business inflicting
the recollections of my youth upon any of you.”
Dr. Brayle’s brown eyes showed a sort of detached interest.
“Pray go on!” he urged. “It sounds like a chapter from some medieval
“I don’t believe in fiction,” said Mr. Harland, grimly. “Facts are
quite enough, without embroidery. This fellow was a fact, a healthy,
energetic, living fact. Anyway, as I was saying, he stopped me in the
quadrangle, and laid his hand on my shoulder. I shrank from his
touch, feeling a restless desire to get away from him. ‘What’s the
matter with you, Harland?’ he asked, in a grave voice peculiarly his
own, ‘You seem afraid of me. Why so? I’ve done you no harm—nor
have I ever wished you any.’ I shuffled my feet on the stone pavement,
not knowing what to say. Then I stammered out the foolish
excuses young men make when they find themselves in an awkward
corner. He listened to my stammering remarks about ‘the other fellows’
with attentive patience, then took his hand from my shoulder
with a quick, decisive movement. ‘Look here, Harland,’ he said, ‘you
are blindly accepting all the conventions and traditions that encrust
our poor old Alma Mater. They stick out all over you like burrs. Remember,
they’ll cling to you! I’m sad to see you choose this way. I’m
starting at the other end—where education ends and life begins!’
“I suppose I stared at him, for he went on: ‘I mean true Life,
which goes forward. Not the dead life found in universities, where
stale crumbs are picked over that have fallen for centuries! That banquet
has been finished, and history has passed on. There!’ he finished,
‘I won’t detain you! We shall not meet often—but please don’t forget
what I said.’
“‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ I blurted out angrily.
‘What of the other fellows? They think you’re queer!’ He smiled.
‘Bless them all!’ he said. ‘They’re in the same boat with you! They
think me queer because they are queer. That is to say, they are out of
line with themselves.’
“I was irritated by his indifference, and asked him what he meant
by ‘out of line.’
“‘Suppose you see a garden beautifully and harmoniously planned,’
he answered, still smiling, ‘and some clumsy fellow comes along and
puts a pigsty in the middle of it. Wouldn’t you call that out of line?
Wouldn’t it be, to say the least, unsuitable?’
“‘Oh!’ I said, hotly, ‘so you consider me and my friends pigsties
in your landscape?’ He made a half apologetic gesture and answered.
‘Something of the sort, dear boy! But don’t worry! The pigsty is always
a popular building in the world you will live in!’ With that he
bade me good night and left me fuming.
“Yes, I was angry, for I thought myself and my associates the very
cream of Oxford. But it was he who took all the highest honors that
year. And then, when he graduated, he utterly vanished, so to speak.
I have never seen or heard of him again.”
Mr. Harland’s face assumed a smug expression. “I suppose his
studies led him nowhere. He must be elderly now. He may be lame,
blind, lunatic, or—more probably still—dead. I don’t even know why I
thought of him just now, except that his views on life were so much like
those of our little friend”—again he indicated me with a nod. “He never
cared for agreeable speeches, always rather mistrusted social conventions,
and—queerest of all!—he believed in a Higher Life after Death.”
“Or a Lower,” I put in, quietly.
“Ah yes! There must be a Down grade, of course, if there is an Up.
But as I accept neither, the point is irrelevant.”
I looked at him. I suppose my looks expressed wonder or pity, or
both, for he averted his glance from mine.
“You are something of a Theosophist, I believe?” Dr. Brayle said,
lifting his eyes from scrutiny of the tablecloth and fixing them on me.
“Not at all.” I answered. “I am not an ‘ist’ of any kind. I believe
in being true to what I have actually experienced.”
“Yet those who practice science also are ‘ists,’” Mr. Swinton
pointed out primly.
I smiled. “In their ‘ism,’” I said, “they often become as dogmatic
as any priest. Science, like everything else, has its borderland,” I said,
“from which the brain can easily slip off into chaos. The most approved
scientific professors are liable thus to end their speculations.
They forget that in order to understand the Infinite they must first
be sure of the Infinite in themselves.”
“You speak like an oracle, my dear!” said Mr. Harland. “But despite
your sage utterances, man remains as finite as ever.”
“If he chooses to be finite in his thinking, he certainly will remain
so,” I replied.
Mr. Harland seemed desirous of continuing the argument, but I
determined to say no more, and began to speak of our cruise. The
topic he had raised was too sacred for me to encourage its light discussion
by persons whose mental attitude was antipathetic to it.
After dinner, Miss Catherine claimed that she was suffering from
neuralgia. Gathering up her shawls and wraps, she asked me to excuse
her for going to bed early. I bade her good night, and, also leaving my
host and the two other men to their smoke, I went up on deck.
We were anchored off Mull, and against a starlit sky of exceptional
clearness the dark mountains of Morven were outlined with a softness
as of black velvet. The yacht rested on perfectly calm waters, shining
like polished steel. The warm stillness of the summer night was soothing
and restful. Our captain and one or two of the sailors were about
on duty, and I sat in the stern of the vessel, looking up into the glorious
heavens. The tapering bowsprit of the Diana pointed upward as if
wishing to draw my attention toward the web of stars above.
Soon, oblivious to my material surroundings, I lost myself in
imaginary flight among those glittering specks—the suns, perhaps,
of unknown worlds. And I thought, How could my companions
on this ephemeral cruise overlook the evidence all around them of a
governing Intelligence, in a universe so beautiful and so carefully ordered?
How could they be so destitute of faith in God? They seemed
to have less perception of divinity than the humblest plant that forces
its way instinctively up to the light. I marveled at this thought for
a moment, then decided it was no use pursuing a line of thought that
could change nothing.
Then I found myself wondering about the story Mr. Harland
had told us about his friend at Oxford. I tried to picture the man’s
face and figure. After a time, it seemed to me that I almost saw him.
Indeed, I could have sworn that a man’s shadowy form stood immediately
in front of me, bending upon me a searching glance from eyes
that were strangely familiar. Startled at this wraith of my own fancy, I
half rose from my chair—then sank back again with a silent chuckle
at the too-vivid power of my imagination.
A figure did certainly present itself, but one of sufficient bulk to
convince me that it was no imagination. It was the captain of the
Diana, a cheery-looking person of thoroughly nautical type, who,
approaching me, lifted his cap and said:
“That’s a wonderfully fine yacht that has just dropped anchor behind
us. She’s illuminated, too. Have you seen her?”
“No,” I answered, and turned in the direction he indicated. An
involuntary exclamation escaped me. There, about half a mile to our
rear, floated a schooner of exquisite proportions and fairy-like grace,
outlined from stem to stern by a delicate display of electric light as
though decorated for some great festival. It made quite a shining
spectacle in the deepening darkness of night. We could see active figures
at work on deck—the sails were dropped and quickly furled—
but the quivering radiance remained running up every tapering mast
and spar, so that the whole vessel seemed drawn on the dusky air
with pencil points of fire.
I stood up, gazing at the wonderful sight in silent amazement and
admiration, the captain beside me. It was he who spoke first.
“I can’t make her out,” he said in perplexity. “We never heard a
sound except just when she dropped anchor, and that was almost
noiseless. How she came round the point yonder so suddenly is a
mystery! I was keeping a sharp lookout, too.”
“Surely she’s very large for a sailing vessel?” I queried.
“The largest I’ve ever seen,” he replied. “But how did she sail?
That’s what I want to know!”
He looked so puzzled that I laughed.
“Well, I suppose in the usual way,” I said. “With sails.”
“Ay, that’s all very well!” He glanced at me with a look of compassion
for someone who knew nothing about seafaring. “Sails, however,
must have wind, and there hasn’t been a capful of it all day.
Yet she came in with crowded canvas as if there had been a regular
sou’wester, and found her anchorage as easy as you please. All in a
minute, too. If there was a wind it wasn’t a wind belonging to this
world! Wouldn’t Mr. Harland perhaps like to see her?”
I took the hint and ran down into the saloon, which by this time
had become filled with the stifling odors of smoke and whisky. Mr.
Harland was there, drinking and talking somewhat excitedly with
Dr. Brayle about the nonexistence of God, while his secretary listened
and looked on. I explained why I had ventured to interrupt
their conversation, and they accompanied me up on deck.
The strange yacht looked more bewilderingly brilliant than ever,
the heavens having clouded over somewhat, and as we all, the captain
included, leaned over our own deck rail and gazed at her shining
outlines, we heard the sound of delicious music and song floating
across the quiet sea.
“Some millionaire’s toy,” said Mr. Harland. “She’s superbly built.
Sailing ships are always more elegant than steam, though not half so
useful. I expect she’ll lie becalmed here for a day or two.”
“It’s a wonder she’s got round here at all,” said the captain. “There
wasn’t any wind to bring her here.”
Mr. Harland looked amused. “There must have been some wind,
Derrick,” he said with a laugh. “It just wasn’t boisterous enough for
a hardy salt like you to feel it.”
“There wasn’t a breath,” declared Derrick firmly. “Not enough to
blow a baby’s curl.”
“Then how did she get here?” asked Dr. Brayle.
Captain Derrick’s lifted eyebrows expressed his inability to solve
the enigma. “I said just now if there was a wind, it wasn’t a wind belonging
to this world.”
Mr. Harland turned upon him quickly. “Well, there are no winds
belonging to other worlds that will ever disturb our atmosphere,” he
said crisply. “Come, come, Derrick, you don’t think that yacht is a
ghost, do you?—a sort of Flying Dutchman?”
Captain Derrick smiled broadly. “No, sir, I don’t! There’s flesh
and blood aboard anyway. I’ve seen the men hauling down canvas,
so I know that. But the way she sailed in bothers me.”
“Doesn’t all that electric light seem rather ostentatious?” asked
Dr. Brayle. “I imagine the owner wants to advertise his riches.”
“That doesn’t follow,” said Mr. Harland a little sharply. “I grant
you we live in an advertising age, but I don’t imagine the owner of
that yacht is a new Pill, or a Plaster, or a Special Tea. He may want
to amuse himself. It may be the birthday of his wife, or one of his
children. There may be any one of several reasons for lighting up his
vessel, and he may think no more of advertising than you or I.”
“That’s true,” assented Dr. Brayle with a quick concession to his
patron’s humor. “But people nowadays do so many queer things for
mere notoriety’s sake that one can hardly avoid suspecting them.
Some will even kill themselves in order to be talked about.”
“Fortunately, they don’t hear what is said about them for having
done so,” returned Mr. Harland, “or they might change their minds
and remain alive. It is hardly worthwhile to hang yourself to be called
While this talk went on, I remained silent, watching the illuminated
schooner with absorbed fascination. Suddenly, as I was still gazing
at her, every spark with which she was bejeweled went out, and only
the ordinary lamps common to the watches of the night on board a
vessel at anchorage burned dimly here and there like red, winking eyes.
For the rest, she was barely visible save an indistinct black outline. The
swiftness with which her brilliancy had been eclipsed startled us all,
and drew an exclamation of surprise from Captain Derrick.
“What pantomimists call a ‘quick change’!” observed Mr. Harland
with a laugh. “The show is over for the night. Let us turn in.
Tomorrow morning we’ll try to make acquaintance with the owner,
and find out for Captain Derrick’s comfort how she manages to sail
We bade each other good night then, and descended to our several
When I found myself alone in my luxurious suite, the first thing
I did was open one of the portholes and listen to the music floating
from the mysterious yacht. It was a music full of haunting sweetness
and rhythmic melody, and I was not sure whether it came from
stringed instruments or from singing voices. By climbing up on the
sofa in my sitting room I could look out through the porthole on
the near sea rippling close by, and bringing with every ripple, as I
fancied, a new cadence, a sweet and more tender snatch of tune. A
subtle scent was on the salt air, as of roses mingling with the freshness
of the scarcely moving waters. The scent came, I thought, from
the beautiful blossoms which so lavishly adorned my rooms. From
my point of observation I could not see the yacht, but I could hear
the music, and that was enough for my delight.
Leaving the porthole open, I lay down on the sofa just beneath
it, and settled myself to listen. A soft breath from the sea now blew
on my cheeks, and with every whiff the delicate vibrations of harmony
rose and fell—as if the sounds were being played or sung for
me alone. In a restful languor I drowsed with my eyes open, losing
myself in a cloud of happy dreams and fancies that came to me unbidden.
Finally the music died softly away, like a retreating wave,
then ceased altogether. I waited a few minutes—listening breathlessly
lest it begin again and I lose some note of it. Then, hearing
no more, I softly closed the porthole and drew the curtain. I did
this with an odd reluctance, feeling somehow that I had shut out a
friend. It was nearly midnight. I had intended writing to Francesca,
but I was now disinclined for anything but rest. The music which
had so entranced me still throbbed in my ears, making my heart sing
A warm sense of peace and comfort came over me when at last I
lay down in my luxurious bed and slipped off into the land of sleep.
Ah, what a wonderland! Often and often, as I’ve made my entrance
there, I have found in its enchanted precincts a million halls of asyet-
unvisited marvels. Among those halls I now found myself again
under a dome of the purest crystal. There, as I listened, Someone
Invisible spoke to me of Love.