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The Old Stonemason.
A SHOWERY day in early spring—
Are seated near a scaffolding
Where marble blocks are piled.
His clothes are stain'd by age and soil,
He looks as if his days of toil
Were very nearly done.
To eat his dinner he had sought
A staircase proud and vast,
And here the duteous child had brought
A worn-out workman needing aid;-
I had sought shelter from the storm,
But none could see the Shining Form
They left the pier at eight o'clock, taking at first a short easterly course to avoid a sinister ledge of limestones jutting from the water like crocodile's teeth, which first obtained notoriety in English history through being the spot whereon a formidable Danish fleet went to pieces a thousand years ago. At the moment that the Speedwell turned to enter upon the direct course, a schooner-yacht, whose sheets gleamed like bridal satin, loosed from a remoter part of the bay: continuing to bear off, she cut across the steamer's wake, and took a course almost due southerly, which was precisely that of the Speedwell. The wind was very favourable for the yacht, blowing a few points from north in a steady pressure on her quarter, and having been built with every modern appliance that shipwrights could offer, the schooner found no difficulty in getting abreast, and even ahead, of the steamer, as soon as she had escaped the shelter of the hills.
The more or less parallel courses of the vessels continued for some time without causing any remark among the people on board the Speedwell. At length one noticed the fact, and another; and then it became the general topic of conversation in the group upon the bridge, where Ethelberta, her hair getting frizzed and her cheeks carnationed by the wind, sat upon a camp-stool looking towards the prow.
"She is bound for Guernsey," said one. "In half an hour she will put about for a more westerly course, you'll see."
"She is not for Guernsey or anywhere that way," said an acquaintance, looking through his glass. "If she is out for anything more than a morning cruise, she is bound for our port. I should not wonder if she is crossing to get stocked, as most of them do, to save the duty on her provisions."
"Do you know whose yacht it is?"
"I do not."
Ethelberta looked at the light leaning figure of the pretty schooner, which seemed to skate along upon one side of her bilge and make shavings of all the sea that touched her. She at first supposed that this might be the yacht Neigh had arrived in at the end of the previous week, for she knew that he came as one of a yachting-party, and she had noticed no other boat of that sort in the bay since his arrival. But as all his party had gone ashore and not yet returned, she was surprised to see the possible vessel here. To add to her perplexity, she could not be positive, now that it came to a real nautical query, whether the craft of Neigh's friends had one mast or two, for she had caught but a fragmentary view of the top-sail over the apple-trees.
"Is that the yacht which has been lying at Knollsea for the last few days?" she inquired of the master of the Speedwell, as soon as she had an opportunity.
The master warmed beneath his copper-coloured rind. "O no, miss; that one you saw was a cutter-a smaller boat altogether," he replied. "Built on the sliding-keel principle, you understand, miss-and red below her water-line, if you noticed. This is Lord Mountclere's yachtthe Fawn. You might have seen her re'ching in round Saint Lucas' Leap this morning afore we started."
"Yes-a nobleman of this neighbourhood.
But he don't do so much at yachting as he used to in his younger days. I believe he's aboard this morning, however."
Ethelberta now became more absorbed than ever in their ocean comrade, and watched its motions continually. The schooner was considerably in advance of them by this time, and seemed to be getting by degrees out of their course. She wondered if Lord Mountclere could be really going to Cherbourg: if so, why had he said nothing about the trip to her when she spoke of her own approaching voyage thither? The yacht changed its character in her eyes; losing the indefinite interest of the unknown, it acquired the charm of a riddle on motives, of which the alternatives were, had Lord Mountclere's journey anything to do with her own, or had it not? Common probability pointed to the latter sup position; but the time of starting, the course of the yacht, and recollections of Lord Mountclere's homage, suggested the more extraordinary possibility.