Many a time, home-returning at night when the black contours of the island loomed up in the distance against the pure tropic sky tremulous with myriads of unsullied stars has its tepid fragrance drifted across the water as a salutation and a greeting. It has long been a fancy of mine that the island has a distinctive odour, soft and pliant, rich and vigorous.
Weircombe Church had a small but musical chime of bells, presented to it by a former rector and the silvery sweetness of the peal just now ringing was intensified by the close proximity of the mountain stream, which, rendered somewhat turbulent by recent rains, swept along in a deep swift current, carrying the melody of the chimes along with it down to the sea and across the waves in broken pulsation, till they touched with a faint mysterious echo the masts of home-returning ships, and brought a smile to the faces of sailors on board who, recognising the sound, said "Weircombe bells, sure-ly!"
The month of August was drawing to its close when an expectant throng of people gathered about the wharf of the great military camp recently established for the home-returning American army at Montauk Point, on the extreme eastern end of Long Island.
That home-returning infant painfully disengaged himself, his slate, his books, and his small dinner-pail half filled with fruit as immature as himself, and came towards them sideways. "Yer's a dime, Johnny, to git some candy," said Seth, endeavoring to distort his passion-set face into a smile. Johnny Filgee's small, berry-stained palm promptly closed over the coin. "Now, don't lie.
And while he looked, old thoughts like home-returning birds began to hover round his soul, sweet and dear remembrances, like the sunset lighting up the windows of an empty house, began to shine on the before semi-darkened nooks and crannies of his brain.
The storm outside was growing louder and even louder, and his thoughts, despite himself, turned to the ocean- wildernesses over which Prince Humphry's home-returning vessel must be now on its way while that other solitary barque, unhelmed and unmanned, whose sail bore the name of 'Lotys' was also voyaging, but in a darker direction, down to death and oblivion, carrying with it, as he feared, all the love and heart of a King!
Thus Dulce, though not enrolled in the Red Cross service, wore a nurse's costume, and Rollo Van Kyp, who had insisted on coming down to welcome his home-returning comrades, was one of her patients. Now they were looking for Ridge, of whose illness they had not yet learned.
Nor did her conversation with her husband in the home-returning carriage tend to soften Lena's heart. Dick was in an uncomfortable and irritable state of mind which was strange and disconcerting even to himself. Instead of giving her the big hug that was his habit when they found themselves safely alone, he said sharply, "Lena, you use too much perfume about you. I wish you wouldn't."
Dusk stalked grimly down from eastern heights and blurred the water earlier than on rose-colored evenings, making the home-returning walker shiver through evergreen glooms along shore. The lights of the sleepy Old Mission had never seemed so pleasant, though the house was full of talk about that day's accident at the other side of the island.
From a window high in the central keep a red light streamed out, and when the clouds flew low, strange dilated shadows were wont to be cast upon the rolling vapour. Sometimes smoke, acrid and heavy, bellied forth, and anon wild cries of pain and agony floated down to silence the footfalls of the home-returning rustics and chill the hearts of burghers trembling in their beds.