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Finn made no answer, but pulled his cap off to scratch his head, with his lips muttering unconsciously to himself to the energy of his secret thoughts, and his long face, which his mouth seemed to sit exactly in the middle of, working in every muscle with protest.

The distant

vessel was showing in the glass as high as the curve of her fore-course, with now and again a dim sort of refractive glimmer of wet black hull rising off a head of sea into an airy, pale length of light that hung in a low gleam betwixt the junction of sea and sky. The sun was westering though still high, but his orb was rayless, and the body of him looked no more than an oozing of shapeless yellow flame into the odd sky that seemed a misty blue in places, though where it appeared so you would notice a faint outline of cloud; and as he waned, his reflection in the wind-wrinkled heave of the long head-swell, seemed as if each broad soft brow was alive with runnings of flaming oil.

There was to be no more argument about good and bad families. Wilfrid now could think of nothing but the approaching vessel, and the child-like

qualities which went to the creation of his baffling, unfixable nature showed in an eager impatience, in which you seemed to witness as much of boyish desire for something fresh and new to happen as of anything else. For my part, I detest arguments. They force you to give reasons and to enter upon definitions. I fancied, however, I was beginning to detect Miss Laura’s little weakness. There was a feminine hankering in her after ancient blood, sounding titles, high and mighty things. As I glanced at her sweet face I felt in the humour to lecture her. What but this weakness had led to her sister’s undoing? Wilfrid was a worthy, honest, good-hearted, generous-souled creature, spite of his being a bit mad: but I could not imagine he was a man to fall in love with; and in this queer chase we had entered upon there was justification

enough of that notion. His wife had married him, I suppose, for position, which she had allowed the first good-looking rogue she met to persuade her was as worthless as dust and ashes unless a human heart beat inside it. And the scoundrel was right, though he deserved the halter for his practical illustration of his meaning. I met Miss Jennings’ eye and she smiled. She called softly to me:


‘You are puzzling over the difference between a good and an old family!’

‘I wish my countenance were less ingenuous,’ said I.

‘Hadn’t you better run up some signal,’ exclaimed Wilfrid, turning upon Finn, ‘to make yonder craft know that we want her to stop?’

‘Lay aft here a couple of hands,’ shouted Finn in a sulky note.

Two seamen instantly came along. The flag-locker was dragged from its cleats or chocks under the small, milk-white grating abaft the wheel; Finn, with a square, carrot-coloured thumb ploughed into the book of directions; then, after a little, a string of butterfly bunting soared gracefully to the topmost head, where the flags were to be best seen, a long pennant topping the gay colours like a tongue of flame against the rusty yellow of the atmosphere; the dip of the yacht to the swell became a holiday curtsey, and you thought of her as putting on a simper like some pretty country wench newly pranked out by her sweetheart with a knot of ribbons.

‘Aft and haul up the main-tack; round in on the weather fore braces and lay the topsail to the mast; down hellum! so—leave her at that!’ and the ‘Bride,’ with the wide ocean heave lifting to the bow, came to a stand, her way arrested, the wind combing her fore and aft canvas like the countless invisible fingers of giant spirits, and a dull plash and sulky wash of water alongside, and a frequent sharp clatter of wheel chains to the jar of the churning rudder. There was the true spirit of the deep in this picture then, for the seamen had dropped the various jobs they were upon, and stood awaiting orders about the decks, every man’s shadow swaying upon the salt sparkling of the spotless planks, and all eyes directed at the approaching craft that had now risen to her wash streak and was coming along in a slow stately roll with her canvas yearning from flying jib to fore royal, every cloth yellow as satin, and flashes of light like the explosion of ordnance breaking in soft sulphur-coloured flames from her wet side as she lifted it sunwards from the pale blue brine that melted yeastily from her metalled forefoot into two salival lines, which united abaft and went astern in a wake that looked as if she were towing some half mile length of amber-tinctured satin. Yet there was no beauty in her as in us; it was the sweetness and grace of airy distance working in her and the mild and misty gushing of the afternoon radiance, and the wild enfolding arms of the horizon sweeping as it were the very soul of the mighty ocean loneliness into her solitary shape and into her bland and starlike canvas, until you found her veritably spiritualised out of her commonplace meaning into a mere fairy fancy, some toy-like imagination of the deep; but she hardened rapidly into the familiar prosaics of timber, sailcloth and tackling, as she came floating down upon us, sinking to her narrow white band, then poised till a broad width of her green sheathing was exposed, with a figure in a tall chimney-pot hat standing on the rail holding on by a backstay.


She was a slow old waggon, and one saw the reason of it as she came sliding along, rolling like an anchored galliot in a sea-way, in her bows as round as an apple and her kettle-bottom run; and Wilfrid’s impatience grew into torture to us to see almost as much as to him to feel as he’d pace the deck for a minute or two tumultuously, then fling against the rail with a wild stare at the approaching craft as if indeed he was cocksure she was full of news for him, though for my part it seemed mere trifling with the yacht’s routine to back her yard that we might ask questions at that early time of day. She steered so as to come within easy hail and then boom-ending her foretopmast studdingsail she backed her main topsail and floated the full length of her out abreast of us within pistol shot, pitching clumsily and bringing her bows out of it with the white brine frothing like lacework all about her there, her line of bulwarks dotted with heads watching us, the sounds of the creaking of her aloft very clear along with a farmyard noise of several cocks crowing one after the other lustily, and the lowing of bulls or cows.

‘Barque ahoy?’ sung out Captain Finn, funnelling his hands as a vehicle for his voice.

‘Halloa?’ cried the figure that stood upon the rail in the most cheery, laughing 佛山桑拿按摩上门 voice that can be conceived.

‘What ship is that?’

‘The “Wanderer.”’

‘Where are you from? and where are you bound to?’

‘From Valparaiso to Sunderland,’ answered the other, in a way that made one think he spoke with difficulty through suppressed mirth.

‘Will you tell us,’ bawled Finn, ‘if you’ve sighted an outward bound fore and aft schooner-yacht within the past week?’

‘Sighted a fore and aft schooner-yacht? ay, that I have, master, fine a vessel as yourn pretty nigh,’ shouted the other as though he must burst in a moment into a roar of laughter.

‘Ask him aboard! ask him aboard!’ cried Wilfrid wild with excitement, slapping his knee till it was like a discharge of pistols. ‘Beg him to do me the favour of drinking a bottle of champagne with me; ask him—ask him—but first ascertain if he has made an entry of the meeting in 佛山桑拿按摩论坛 his log-book.’

‘Ay, ay, sir. Ho the barque ahoy!’


‘Can you tell us when and whereabouts ye fell in with that there schooner?’

‘Tell ye! to be sure I can; got it in black and white, master. Ha! ha! ha!’ and here the old figure in the tall hat clapped his hand to his side and laughed outright, toppling and reeling about on the rail in such a manner that I took it for granted he was drunk and expected every moment to see him plunge overboard.

‘Ask him aboard! ask him aboard!’ shrieked Wilfrid. ‘Request him to bring his log-book with him. We will send a boat.’

Finn hailed the barque again. ‘Sir Wilfrid Monson’s compli[71]ments to you, sir, and will be pleased to see you aboard to drink a bottle of champagne with him. Will you kindly bring your log-book with you? We will send a boat.’

‘Right y’are,’ shouted the 佛山桑拿按摩qq old chap with a humorous flourish of his hand, and so speaking he sprang inboard, laughing heartily, and disappeared down his little companion hatch.

A boat was lowered with four men in charge of surly old Crimp. My cousin’s excitement was a real torment to witness. He smote his hands violently together whilst he urged the men at the top of his voice to bear a hand and be off or the barque would be swinging her topsail and sailing away from us. He twitched from head to foot as though he must fall into convulsions; he bawled to the sailors not to wait to cast anything adrift but to put their knives through it as though somebody were drowning astern and the delay of a single moment might make all the difference between life or death. ‘By heaven!’ he cried, halting in front of me and Miss Jennings with a fierceness of manner that 佛山桑拿哪里最好 was rendered almost delirious by the quality of savage exultation in it, ‘I knew it would fall out thus! They cannot escape me. Of course it is the “Shark” that that fellow has sighted.’ He broke from us and ran to the rail and overhung it, gnawing his nails whilst he watched the receding boat with his eyelids quivering and his face working like that of a man in acute pain.

‘I fear,’ said I, in a low voice, to Miss Jennings, ‘that it would not require more than two or three incidents of this sort to utterly dement him. His resolution is strong enough. Why in the name of pity will not he secure his mind to it? It’s bound to go adrift else, I fear.’

‘But realise what he has suffered, Mr. Monson,’ she answered gently, ‘such a blow might unseat a stronger reason than his. I cannot wonder at his excitement. Look how I am 佛山桑拿黄岐 trembling!’ She lifted her little hand, which shook as though she had been seized with a chill, but there was tremor enough in her voice to indicate her agitation. ‘The mere idea that the “Shark” may be much nearer to us than we imagine—that this chase may very shortly bring her within sight of us——’ a strong shiver ran through her. ‘Do you believe it is the “Shark” that that old man saw?’

‘I shall be better able to judge when he comes aboard,’ said I. ‘See, our boat is alongside. They must fend her off handsomely, by George, if she is not to be swamped. Heavens! how that old cask wallows!’

In a few moments the little old man in the tall hat came to the gangway and looked over; there was apparently some discussion; I imagined the elderly humourist was going to funk it, for I fancied I saw him wag his head; but on a sudden, all 佛山按摩论坛 very nimbly, he dropped into the wide main chains, whence, watching his opportunity, he toppled into the boat, which immediately shoved off. Wilfrid went to the gangway to receive him. I was a little apprehensive of the effect of my cousin’s behaviour—which had some[72]thing of the contortions and motions of a galvanised body—upon the old sea-dog that was coming, and I say I rather hoped that this captain might be a bit too tipsy to prove a nice observer. I took a view of him as he sat in the stern sheets, the boat sinking and rising from peak to hollow as she burst through the water to the gilded, sparkling sweep of the admirably handled oars, and could have laughed out of mere sympathy with the broad grin that lay upon his jolly, mottled countenance. His face was as round as the full moon, and of the appearance of brawn; his nose was a little fiery pimple; small white whiskers went in a slant in the direction of his nostrils, coming to an end under either eye. His hat was too big for him, and pressed down the top of his ears into the likeness of overhanging flaps under the Quaker-like breadth of brim; his mouth was stretched in a smile all the time he was approaching the yacht, and he burst into a loud laugh as he grasped the man-ropes and bundled agilely up the side of the ‘Bride.’

‘You are very good to come on board, sir,’ cried Wilfrid, bowing with agitation, and speaking as though suffering from a swollen throat, with the hurry, anxiety, impatience, which mastered him. ‘I thank you for this visit. I see you have your log-book with you. Let me inquire your name?’

‘Puncheon, sir. Ha! ha! ha! Toby Puncheon, sir; a rascally queer name, ho! ho! And your honour’s a lord, ain’t ye? I didn’t quite catch the words. He! he! he!’ rattled out the old fellow, laughing after almost every other word, and staring at us one after another as he spoke without the least diminution of his prodigious grin.

‘No, no; not a lord,’ exclaimed Wilfrid; ‘but pray step this way, Captain Puncheon. Charles, please accompany us. Captain Finn, I shall want you below.’

He led the road to the companion, calling to the steward, whilst he was yet midway down the steps, to put champagne and glasses upon the table.

Captain Puncheon’s grin grew alarmingly wide as he surveyed the glittering cabin. ‘My eye!’ he cried, after a rumbling laugh full of astonishment, ‘them’s looking-glasses and no mistake! and pickle me blue if ever I see the likes of such lamps afore on board ship!’ growing grave an instant to utter a low whistle. ‘Why, it’s finer than a theaytre, ain’t it?’ he exclaimed, turning to me, once more grinning from ear to ear, and addressing me as if I was his mate that had come off with him. His glass was filled; he drank to us, and pulled his log-book out of the piece of newspaper in which he had brought it wrapped up.

‘Will you kindly give us,’ said Wilfrid, ‘the date on which you passed the schooner-yacht?’

‘Aye, that I will,’ cried Puncheon, turning back the pages of his log, and then pouncing upon an entry with a forefinger curled by rheumatism into the aspect of a fish-hook as though the piece of writing would run away if he did not keep it squeezed down upon[73] the page. He felt about his coat with his other hand, and then bursting into a laugh exclaimed: ‘Gents, you must read for yourselves. Blow’d if I ain’t gone and forgot my glasses.’