Indeed, as to clothes and comforts of all sorts, we began our homeward voyage in a greatly renovated condition, thanks to our friends. The many kindnesses of the engineer officer were only matched by his brusque annoyance if we “made a fuss about nothing,” and between these, and what the sugar-planter thought due to his relative, and what the sugar-planter’s daughter did for the sake of Dennis, the only difficulty was to get our kits stowed within reasonable seamen’s limits. The sugar-planter’s influence was of course invaluable to us in the choice of a ship, and we were very fortunate. The evening we went on board I accompanied Dennis to his cousin’s house to bid good-bye, and when we left, Miss Eileen came with us through the garden to let us out by a short cut and a wicket-gate. She looked prettier even than usual, in some sort of pale greenish-grey muslin, with knots of pink ribbon about it, and I felt very much for Dennis’s deplorable condition, and did my best in the way of friendship by going well ahead among the oleanders and evergreens, with a bundle which contained the final gifts of our friends. Indeed I waited at the wicket-gate not only till I was thoroughly tired of waiting, but till I knew we dare wait no longer, and then I went back to look for Dennis.
About twenty yards back I saw him, as I thought, mixed up in some way with an oleander-bush in pink blossom, but, coming nearer, I found that it was Eileen’s grey-green dress with the pink bows, which, like a slackened sail, was flapping against him in the evening breeze, as he knelt in front of her.
“Dennis,” said I, not too loud; not loud enough in fact, for they did not hear me; and all that Dennis said was, “Take plenty, Darlin’!”
He was kneeling up, and holding back some of the muslin and ribbons with one hand, whilst with the other he held out a forelock of his black curls, and she cut it off with the scissors out of the sailor’s housewife which she had made for him. I turned my back and called louder.
“I know, Jack. I’m coming this instant,” said Dennis.
The night was noisy with the croaking of frogs, the whirring and whizzing of insects, the cheeping of bats, and the distant cries of birds, but Dennis and Eileen were silent. Then she called out, “Good-bye, Jack, GOD bless you.”
“Good-bye, Miss Eileen, and GOD bless you,” said I, feeling nearly as miserable as if I were in love myself. And then we ran all the rest of the way to the stelling.
Alister was already on board, and the young officer was there to bid us GOD speed, and Dennis was cheerful almost to noisiness.
But when the shores of British Guiana had become a muddy-looking horizon line, I found him, with his cropped forehead pressed to the open housewife, shedding bitter tears among the new needles and buttons.
“Zur tiefen Ruh, wie er sich auch gefunden.
* * * * * *
Sein Geist ist’s, der mich ruft.”