‘Well, it is about six thousand miles to the Cape, to begin with,’ said I.
‘Good God!’ he cried, startled out of all respectfulness. ‘Why, there’ll be years of sailing in that distance, sir, begging your pardon for the hexclamation my agitation caused me to make, sir.’
‘If you want to return,’ said I, feeling a sort of pity for the poor devil, for the consternation that worked in him lay very strong upon his yellow face, ‘your plan must be to obtain Sir Wilfrid’s permission to tranship yourself into the first vessel we speak that will be willing to receive you and carry you to England. It is the only remedy I can suggest.’
He bowed very meekly and with a manner of respectful gratitude; nevertheless, something in him seemed to tell me that he was not very much obliged by my suggestion, and that if he quitted Wilfrid’s service it would not be in the manner I recommended.
Nothing worth noting happened till next day. It was in the afternoon. The Scillies were astern and the broad Atlantic was now stretching fair under our bows. A strong fine wind had bowled us steadily down Channel, and the utmost had been made of it by Captain Finn, who, despite his talk 佛山桑拿天堂网 of studdingsails and stowed anchors, had sent his booms aloft ere we had brought Prawle Point abeam and the ‘Bride’ had swept along before the strong wind that would come in slaps at times with almost the spite of a bit of a hurricane in them, under a foretopmast studdingsail; whence you will gather that the yacht was prodigiously crowded; but then Finn was always under the influence of the fear of Wilfrid’s head in the companion hatch; for I learnt that several times in the night my cousin unexpectedly made his appearance on deck, and his hot incessant command to both Finn and old Jacob Crimp, according as he found one or the other in charge, was that they were to sail the yacht at all hazards short of springing her lower masts, for in the matter of spare booms and suits of canvas she could not have been more liberally equipped 佛山桑拿飞机网 had her errand signified a three years’ fighting voyage.
Well, as I have said, it was the afternoon of the third day of our leaving Southampton. The breeze had slackened much about the time that Finn stood ogling the sun through his sextant, and then it veered in a small puff and came on to blow a gentle, steady wind from south-south-east, which tautened our sheets for us and brought the square yards fore and aft. There was a long broad-browed swell from the southward that flashed under the hazy sunlight like splintered glass with the wrinkling of it, over which the yacht went rolling and bowing in a rhythm as stately and regular as the swing of a thousand-ton Indiaman, with a sulky lift of foam to her cutwater at every plunge and a yeasty seething spreading on either quarter, the recoiling wash of it from the counter 佛山夜生活luntan as snappish as surf. Suddenly from high above, cleaving the vaporous yellow of the atmosphere in a dead sort of way, came a cry from the look-out man on the topgallant yard, ‘Sail ho!’ and the sparkle of the telescope in his hands as he levelled the glittering tube at the sea, over the starboard bow, rendered the customary echo of ‘Where away?’ unnecessary.
There was nothing however to take notice of in this; the cry of ‘Sail ho!’ had been sounding pretty regularly on and off since the look-out aloft had been established, as you will suppose when you think of the crowded waters we were then navigating; though everything thus signalled so far had hove into view broad on either bow or on either beam. We were all on deck; that is to say, Miss Jennings, snug in a fur cloak,—for the shift of wind had not softened the temperature 佛山桑拿按摩 of the atmosphere,—in a chair near the skylight; Wilfrid near her, lying upon the ivory-white plank smoking a cigar, with his head supported on his elbow, and I stumping the deck close to them, with Finn abreast of the wheel to windward. We were in the midst of some commonplace chatter when that voice from aloft smote our ears, and when we saw the direction in which the fellow was holding his glass levelled we all looked that way, scarce thinking for the moment that if the stranger were heading for us she would not be in sight from the deck for a spell yet, and as long again if she were travelling our course.
Miss Jennings resumed her seat; Wilfrid stretched his length along the deck as before; and I went on pacing to and fro close beside them.
‘It will be a Monday on which we sight the “Shark,”’ said Wilfrid.
‘How do you 佛山桑拿蒲友 know?’ said I.
‘I dreamt it,’ he answered.
Miss Jennings looked at him wistfully as if she believed in dreams.
‘It was an odd vision,’ he continued, with a soft far-away expression in his eyes, very unlike the usual trouble in them. ‘I dreamt that on hearing of the—of the——’ he pushed his hair from his forehead and spoke with his hand to his brow—‘I say that I dreamt I flung myself on horseback—it was a favourite mare—Lady Henrietta, Laura’—she bowed her head—‘and gave chase. I did not know which way to go, so I let fall the reins on the animal’s neck and left the scent to the detection of her instincts. She carried me to the sea-coast, a desolate bit of a bay, I remember, with the air full of the moaning of vexed waters and a melancholy crying of wind in the crevices and chasms of the cliff, and the whole scene made gaunter than it needed to have been, as I fancied, by a skeleton that was one moment that of a big fish and the next of a man, fluctuating upon the sight like an image seen three fathoms deep floating in such glass-clear water as you get in the West Indian latitudes.’ He paused. ‘Where was I?’ he inquired, with an air of bewilderment.
‘Your horse had carried you to the sea-shore,’ said Miss Laura, with her face full of credulity. I love a superstitious girl, and who is the woman that does not believe in dreams?
‘Ha!’ he cried, after a brief effort of memory; ‘yes, the mare came to a stand on the margin of the beach, and heaven knows whence the apparition rose: but there was an empty boat tossing before me, with a sort of sign-post erected in her, a pole with a black board upon it on which was written, in letters that glowed as though wrought by a brush dipped in a sunbeam, the single word Monday!’
‘Pooh!’ said I, scornfully, and fancying at the moment that something stirred in the companion-way, I moved a step or two in that direction and saw Muffin with his head a trifle above the level of the top step apparently taking the air, though no doubt he was diverting himself too, by listening to our talk. On seeing me he descended, stepping backwards with a sickly respectful smile of apology.
‘Why do you say pooh, Mr. Monson?’ asked Miss Jennings. ‘Wise people never ridicule dreams until they have been disproved.’
I admired her arch air that floated like a veil of gauze over her sympathy with Wilfrid.
‘I don’t want to believe in dreams,’ said I, ‘my own dreams are much too uncomfortable to make me desire faith in that direction.’
I glanced at Wilfrid; his eyes were staring right up at the vane at the maintopmast-head, and it was easily seen that he was no longer thinking of what we had been talking about. Miss Jennings opened the novel that lay in her lap and seemed to read; there was a store of this sort of literature in the yacht, laid in, I dare say, by Sir Wilfrid for Lady Monson, who, I don’t doubt, was a great devourer of novels; the trash in one, two, and three volumes of an age of trashy fiction, of a romantic literature of gorgeous waistcoats, nankeen breeches, and Pelham cravats. I don’t think Miss Jennings had read much of the book she held. It was called ‘The Peeress,’ and I believe it had taken her two days to arrive at the end of the first chapter. But then, who can read at sea? For my part I can never fix my attention. In a dead calm I am prone to snooze; in a brisk breeze, every sweep of surge, every
leap of frothing head, every glance of sunshine, every solemn soaring of white cloud up the slope of the liquid girdle is an irresistible appeal to me to quit my author for teachers full of hints worth remembering; and then, indeed, I yield myself to that luxury of passivity Wordsworth rhymes about—that disposition to keep quiet until I am visited with impulses—the happiest apology ever attempted by a home-keeping poet for an unwillingness to be at the trouble to seek beyond his hillside for ideas.
‘Here is a flowery fancy!’ exclaimed Miss Jennings, and she began to read. It was something—I forget what—in the primitive Bulwerian vein; plenty of capitals, I dare say, and without much sense that I could make out to linger upon the ear; but one sentence I remember: ‘He had that inexpressible air of distinction which comes as a royal gift from heaven to members of old families and only to them.’
‘Stupid ass!’ exclaimed Wilfrid, whom I had imagined to be wool-gathering.
‘But there is truth in it, though,’ said Miss Jennings.
‘What is an old family?’ I exclaimed.
‘Why a good family, surely, Mr. Monson,’ she answered.
‘No, no, Laura,’ grumbled Wilfrid. ‘I could introduce you to a longshore sailor who can’t sign his name, and whose sole theory of principle lies in successfully hoodwinking the revenue people, who will tell you that his forefathers have been boatmen and smugglers for over three hundred years, and who could feel his way back along a chain of Jims, Dicks, and Joes without a link missing, down, maybe, to a time when the progenitors of scores of our Dukes, Earls, and the rest of them were—tush! That boatman belongs to an old family.’
‘Then, pray, what is a good family?’ inquired Miss Jennings.
‘Yonder’s the sail that was sighted awhile gone, Sir Wilfrid,’ sung out Captain Finn in his leather-lunged voice.
My cousin sprang to his feet, and the three of us went to the rail to look.
CHAPTER VIII. WE SPEAK THE ‘WANDERER.’
On the lee-bow was a dash of orange light, much less like the sails of a ship than a feather of vapour bronzed by a sunset and vanishing in the tail of a cloud.
‘How does she head, Finn?’ cried Wilfrid to the skipper, who was viewing her through a long, heavy, powerful glass of his own.
‘Coming dead on end for us, sir.’
‘What’ll she be, captain?’ said I.
He eyed her a bit, and answered, ‘A square rig, sir; a bit of a barque, I dare say.’
My cousin suddenly slapped his leg—one of his favourite gestures when a fit of excitement seized him. ‘Charles,’ he bawled, ‘we’ll speak her. D’ye hear me, Finn? We’ll speak her, I say!’
‘Ay, ay, sir,’ cried the captain.
‘She may have news for us,’ Wilfrid proceeded; ‘it is about time we fell in with something that has sighted the “Shark.”’
‘A bit betimes, sir,’ said Finn, touching his cap and approaching to give me his telescope which I had extended my hand for.
‘Confound it, man!’ cried Wilfrid, in a passion, ‘everything’s always too soon with you. Suppose by this time to-morrow we should have the schooner in sight—what then, hey? What would be your arguments? That she had no business to heave in sight, yet?’