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A Story Of The Sea
by [?]

Again he came, but he was all alone. Long and lonely he paced the dreary beach beneath a wintry sky, until the cold mists seemed changed to mellow light, the stormy sky to one of summer, gemmed by myriad stars and queened by harvest moon; the cool wind sweeping o’er the barren waste to music and the merry laughter of men and maids; and she was by his side, her love-lit eyes making the blood dance through every vein. He put forth his hand to her, but the sky changed from gold to lead, the driftweed blew about his feet, the cold mist settled down upon him and crept with icy fingers into his heart, and he cursed the lying vision, the shrieking wind, the cold mist and the leaden sky; cursed the day that he first saw her, and said to the waves that tumbled at his feet: “I must be mad. The curse of my race hath fallen upon me; else why do I see that which is not, hear voices that are far away? Why do I cherish the image of a fickle woman, who, swept along by a gust of passion or sickly sentiment, thought for a day she loved me, but did not, nor ever loved aught in life but her own selfish self?”

And he called her name to the wind and waves but coupled with it a curse, deep and bitter, as those that burst in sulphur-breath from the parched lips of the damned; and a voice came back from out the gloom that seemed to mock him. Furious as a demon disturbed at some hellish rite, he turned and shrieked to the mocking voice and bade it come to him that he might wreak upon its owner such vengeance as would appall the world.

The far lights shone like pale ghosts of lights through the driving mist, and in them loomed two weird forms that seemed an hundred cubits high. Furious he rushed upon and smote them down upon the wet sand and trampled them, and strove with feet and hands to kill; but they cried out for mercy on their lives,–that they were honest fishermen who, hearing a cry but faintly above the roaring waves, had answered it, thinking some boatman might have met mishap and called for aid. The flood of anger spent in blows, he helped them up, wiped the blood and sand from their bronzed faces, gave them his scant purse, and bidding them drink a bumper that hell-fiends might drag him from the world before the morn sent them on their way.

The gray dawn found him sleeping with his face upon the wet sand, once trodden by the feet that now trampled on his heart. Then I sent waves, cool and sweet, to kiss his cheek, and he awoke, and waking, said:

“Kisses for me? They are cold, great Mother Ocean; but not so cold as love burned out, leaving but the bitter ashes of contemptuous pity. I dreamed that I was afloat upon thy bosom with her I did so dearly love, and thou wast bearing us beneath a sunset sky to a fair island, fringed with palms and musical with songs of birds and rippling springs, where we two should live forever; that as we floated thus Love’s goddess descended from a golden cloud and opening the white bosom of my bride, yet not my bride, took thence her heart and pressed from it a black drop that fell upon the molten sea, and taking form became a hideous monster that cried, ‘My name is Selfishness,’ and vanished in the wave. Then breathing upon the cold heart ethereal flame that made it throb like a hero’s pulse when trumpets are blown for war, she replaced it, healed the snowy globe with a touch, and, smiling upon me, was caught into the golden cloud that seemed framed of music and the perfume of a thousand flowers. A round arm stole about my neck and we floated heart to heart on to the haven that was to be our Heaven.