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A Story Of The Sea
by [?]

There have been mortals, favorites of the gods, to whom it was given to understand the language of the lower animals, and such I have ever envied, for

“Beast and bird have seen and heard
That which man knoweth not.”

Never could I get beyond an imperfect knowledge of their alphabet, enabling me to spell out here and there a word of little meaning; but the great ocean’s never-ceasing speech was ever plain to me, and many a midnight hour I have paced the cool sands that girt my island home, and listened with reverential awe to the secrets it whispered to the sensuous southern breeze that kissed its bosom–strange stories of wreck and wraith, wild wars and desperate deeds, mingled with those of love and honor, shame and sacrifice, crowding upon each other like spectres in a dream.

One night when the new moon hung like a silver crescent pendent from Venus’ flaming orb, in a summer sky thick inlaid with patines of pure gold, I heard the lazy waves breaking like slumb’rous thunder upon the long, low beach, and said, “The sea is calling me!” and I went. Far out upon the long pier, where the waves could dash their spray like a shower of cool pearls in my face, I lingered long and listened to a story, sad and strange as a sweet-voiced woman telling in a foreign tongue, and punctuating with tears and sighs, a tale of true love turned awry.

Upon the beach they walked in days that seem to man long, long ago. How brief and strange the little lives of men, and so beset with customs framed to cramp the heart and curse the soul before its time! To me,–here since Time began to build that bridge of sighs and tears that link the two eternities–it seems but yesternight that, hand in hand they wandered here, so wrapt in happiness born of equal love that they heeded not my glories spread forth to tempt their praise. I curled my snowy spray about their feet; flashed back the silver beams of harvest moon in one long, shimmering sheet of mellow light; rolled waves of brilliant phosphorescence, that seemed like silver billows, diamond-studded, breaking on a beach of gold, and sang the sweetest odes of the poets of ten thousand years; but they heard nor saw aught but the beating of their hearts in holy rhythm and the love-light flaming like fires celestial in each other’s eyes.

Anon, bare-armed, bare-limbed, shamed yet happy, they sought the wave, and I cradled them on my bosom and heard them whisper of laws defied and cruel customs set at naught, and the higher law of love; but fearful she spoke and sighed, yet clung the closer to him, as though the earth and sea contained hut one perfect model of a man and that were he.

Hour by hour they hovered near me, and a thousand times she swore to him that their lives were so entwined that separation were death to her, and kissed his lips, his eyes, his hands, and wished she were his wife that they might blazon to the great round world the love they fain would hide from Heaven.

One little year went by and they came again, not walking hand in hand. He spoke to her and she answered with bitter scorn. He touched with trembling lips upon the old days when love was lord of their two lives, but she mocked at love and him and bade him leave her. Then he that was wont to rule first learned to sue, and vainly, for her heart was cold as the ashes of long-forgotten kings, cruel as wintry winds blown across icy northern seas. “It is a guilty love,” she said, and he looked at her as if doubting that he heard, then turned and went like one that dreamed; for thought of wrong to her had dwelt not with him; he had but worshiped her as devout Sabaean might the sun and host of Heaven.