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‘I’ll make myself responsible,’ I exclaimed; ‘the trouble is to have him watched with the delicacy that 佛山桑拿上门服务电话 shall defy the detection of his most suspicious humour should he put his head out of his berth or quit it—which he is not likely to do yet. Of course an eye would have to be kept upon him from without. Name me two or three of your trustiest seamen.’

‘Why 佛山桑拿按摩论坛网 sir, there’s Cutbill, a first-class man; and there’s two others, Jonathan Furlong and William Grindling, that you may put your fullest confidence in.’

‘Then,’ said I, ‘I propose that these men should take a spell of keeping a lookout turn and turn about. The stewards would have been fit persons, but they are wanting in muscle. Let the man who keeps watch in the cabin so post himself that he may command the passage where Sir Wilfrid’s berth is. You or Crimp, according as[261] your watch comes round, will see that the fellow below, whoever he may be, keeps awake. Pray attend to 佛山桑拿红场 this, Finn. I am satisfied that it is a necessary measure.’

‘I shall have to tell old Jacob the truth, sir, and the men likewise,’ said he, ‘and also acquaint the stewards with what’s wrong, otherwise they’ll be for turning the sailor that’s sent below 佛山桑拿按摩技师网 out of the cabin.’

‘By all means,’ said I. ‘I’ll stand your lookout whilst you are making the necessary arrangements. But see that you provide your men with some ready and quite reasonable excuse for being in the cabin should Sir Wilfrid chance to come out during the night and find one of his seamen sitting at the table.’

‘Ay, ay, sir; that’s to be managed with a little thinking,’ answered Finn, and forthwith he marched towards the forecastle into the darkness there.

‘It is fortunate,’ I said to Miss Jennings, ‘that I am Wilfrid’s cousin. If I were simply a guest on board I 佛山桑拿按摩网 question if Finn would do what I want.’

We fell to pacing the deck. Even as we walked the light breeze weakened yet, till here and there you’d catch sight of the gleam of a star in some short fold of black swell running with a burnished brow. The dew 佛山桑拿一条龙服务 to the fluttering of the canvas aloft fell to the deck with the pattering sound of raindrops.

‘Oh,’ groaned I to Miss Laura, ‘for a pair of paddle-wheels!’

We stepped to the open skylight to observe if aught were stirring below, but gladly recoiled from the gush of hot air there rising with a fiery breath stale with the smell of the dinner table spite of the sweetness put into it by the flowers. Heavens, how my very heart sickened to the slopping sounds of water alongside lifting stagnantly and sulkily, melting out into black ungleaming oil! We seated ourselves under the fanning spread of mainsail, talking of Wilfrid, of his wife, of features of the voyage, until little by little I found myself slowly sliding into a sentimental mood. My companion’s sweet face, glimmering tender and placid to the starlight, came very near into 佛山南海按摩 courting me into a confession of love. The helmsman was hidden from us, we seemed to be floating alone upon the mighty shadow that stretched around. A sense of inexpressible remoteness was inspired by the trembling of the luminaries and the sharp shooting of the silver meteors as though all the life of this vast hushed universe of gloom were up there, and we had come to a pause upon the very verge of creation, with no other vitality in the misty confines save what the beating of our two hearts put into them.

On a sudden she started and said, ‘See! there is my sister.’

The figure of Lady Monson rose, pale and veiled, out of the companion hatch. She did not observe us, and approached the part of the deck where we were seated, courted haply by the deeper dye the shadow of the mainsail put into the atmosphere about it. I was struck by the majesty of her gait, by the tragic dignity of[262] her carriage as she advanced, taking the planks with a subtlety of movement that made her form look to glide wraith-like. The sweet heart at my side shrank with so clear a suggestion of alarm in her manner that I took her hand and held it. Lady Monson drew close—so close without seeing us that I believed she was walking in her sleep, but she caught sight of us then and instantly flung, with an inexpressible demeanour of temper and aversion, to the other side of the deck, which she paced, going afterwards to the rail and overhanging it, motionless as the quarter-boat that hung a little past her.

‘She frightens me!’ whispered Laura; ‘ought I to join her? Oh, cruel, cruel, that she should hate me so bitterly for her own acts!’

‘Why should you join her? She does not want you. The heat has driven her on deck, and she wishes to muse and perhaps moralise over the Colonel’s grave. Why are you afraid of her?’

‘Because I am a coward.’

Just then Finn came along. He went up to

Lady Monson and I saw his figure stagger against the starlight when he discovered his mistake. He peered about and then came over to us, breathing hard and polishing his forehead.

‘Nigh took the breath out of my body, sir,’ he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper; ‘actually thought it was your honour, so tall she be. Well, I’ve arranged everything, sir, and a lookout’ll be established soon arter the cabin light’s turned down.’

Laura suddenly rose and wished me good-night. I could see that Lady Monson’s presence rendered her too uneasy to remain on deck, so I did not press her to stay, though I remember heartily wishing that her ladyship was still on board the ‘’Liza Robbins.’ She continued to hold her stirless posture at the bulwark rail as though she were steadily thinking herself into stone. But for her contemptuous and insolent

manner of turning from us, I believe I should have found spirit enough to attempt a conversation with her. It was not until four bells that she rose suddenly from her inclined attitude as though startled by the clear echoing chimes. Past her the sky was dimly reddening to the moon whose disc still floated below the horizon, and against the delicate almost dream-like flush, I perceived her toss up her veil and press her hands to her face. She then veiled herself afresh, came to the companion and disappeared. Was it remorse working in her, or grief for her foundered colonel, or some anguish born of the thought of her child? Easier, I thought, to fathom with the sight the mysteries of the ooze of the black, vaporous-looking surface that our keel was scarce now wrinkling than to penetrate the secrets of a heart as dark as hers!

Half-an-hour later I quitted the deck, and as I passed through the cabin nodded to Cutbill, who sat awkwardly and with a highly embarrassed air with his back upon the cabin table, commanding the after cabins—a huge salt, all whisker, wrinkles, and muscle.
CHAPTER XXVII. A DEAD CALM.
I was up and about a great deal during the night. It was not only that the heat murdered sleep; there was something so ominous in the profound stillness which fell upon our little ship that the mind found itself weighed down as with a sense of misgiving, a dull incommunicable dread of approaching calamity. Of the dead calm at sea I was by no means ignorant; in African and West Indian waters I had tasted of the delights of this species of stagnation over and over again. One calm, I remember, came very close to realising Coleridge’s description, or rather the description that the poet borrowed from the narrative of old Sir Richard Hawkins preserved in the foxed and faded pages of the Rev. Samuel Purchas. The water looked to be full of wriggling fiery creatures burning in a multitude of colours till the surface of the sea resembled a vast, ghastly prism reflecting the lights of some hellish principality, deep sunk in the dark brine. But I never recollect the ocean until this night as without some faint heave or swell; yet after the weak draught of air had utterly died out, somewhere about midnight, the yacht slept upon a bosom as stirless as the surface of a summer lake. There was not the slightest movement to awaken an echo in her frame, to run a tremor through her canvas, to nudge the rudder into the dimmest clanking of its tiller chains. The effect of such a hush as this at sea is indescribable. On shore, deep in the country, far distant from all hum of life, the stillness of night is a desired and familiar condition of darkness; it soothes to rest; whatever vexes it is a violence; the sweeping of a gale through hissing and roaring trees, the thunder of wind in the chimney, the lashing of the windows with hail and rain, the red belt of lightning to whose view the bedroom glances in blood to the eye of its disturbed occupant; all this brings with it an element of fear, of something unusual, out of keeping, out of nature almost. But at sea it is the other way about. ’Tis the dead calm that is unnatural. It is as though the mighty forces of heaven and ocean had portentously sucked in their breath in anticipation of the shock of conflict, as a warrior fills his lungs to the full and then holds his wind whilst he waits the cry of charge.

I tried to sleep, but could not, and hearing one o’clock struck on the forecastle, dropped out of my bunk for ten minutes of fresh air on deck. Cutbill sat with his back against the table; the small flame of the lamp that hung without the least vibration from the cabin ceiling gleamed in the sweat-drops that coated his face as though oil had been thrown upon him. I said softly, pausing a moment to address him: ‘A wonderfully still night, Cutbill.’

[264]

‘Never remember the like of it, sir,’ he answered in a whisper that had a note of strangling in it, with his effort to subdue his natural tempestuous utterance.

‘All quiet aft?’

‘As a graveyard, sir.’

‘In case Sir Wilfrid Monson should look out and see you, what excuse for being here has Captain Finn provided you with?’

‘I’m supposed to be watching the bayrometer, sir. If Sir Wilfrid steps out I’m to seem to be peering hard at that there mercury, then to go on deck as if I’d got something to report.’

‘Oh, that’ll do, I dare say,’ I exclaimed. ‘He may wonder but that must not signify. Heaven grant, Cutbill, that I am unnecessarily nervous; but we’re a middling full ship; it is the right sort of night, too, to make one feel the hugeness of the ocean and the helplessness of sailors when deprived of their little machinery for fighting it; and what I say is, a misgiving under such circumstances ought to serve us as a conviction—so keep a bright look-out, Cutbill. Nothing is going to happen, I dare say; but our business is to contrive that nothing shall happen.’

The huge fellow lifted his enormous hand very respectfully to his glistening forehead, and I passed on to the deck.

The moon shone brightly and her reflection lay upon the sea like a league-long fallen column of silver, with the ocean going black as liquid pitch to the sides of the resplendent shaft. Not a wrinkle tarnished that prostrate pillar of light; not the most fairy-like undulation of water put an instant’s warping, for the space of a foot, into it. I set the mainmast head by a star and watched it, and the trembling, greenish, lovely point of radiance hung poised as steadfastly on a line with the truck as though it were some little crystal lamp fixed to an iron spike up there.

I spied Jacob Crimp near the wheel, but I had come up to breathe and not to talk. I desired to coax a sleepy humour into me and guessed that that end would be defeated by a chat with the surly little sailor, with whom I rarely exchanged a few sentences without finding myself drifting into an argument. So I lay over the rail striving to cool my hot face with the breath off the surface of the black profound that lay like a sheet of dark, ungleaming mirror beneath. On a sudden I heard a great sigh out in the gloom. It was as though some slumbering giant had fetched a long, deep, tremulous breath in a dream. I started, for it had sounded close, and I looked along the obscure deck forward as if, forsooth, there was any sailor on board whose respiration could rise to such a note as that! In a moment I spied a block of blackness slowly melting out like a dye of ink upon the indigo of the water with the faint flash of moonlight off the wet round of it. A grampus! thought I; and stared about me for others, but no more showed, and the prodigious midnight hush seemed to float down again from the stars like a sensible weight with one wide ripple from where the great[265] fish had sunk, creeping like a line of oil to the yacht’s side and melting soundlessly in her shadow.

This grave-like repose lasted the night through, and when early in the morning, awakened by the light of the newly risen sun, I mounted to the deck, I found the ocean stretched flat as the top of a table, the sky, of a dirty bluish haze, thickening down and merged into the ocean line so that you couldn’t see where the horizon was, save just under the sun where the head of the misty white sparkle in the water defined the junction. It baffled and bothered the sight to look into the distance, so vaporous and heavy it all was, with a dull blue gleam here and there upon the water striking into the faintness like a sunbeam into mist, and all close to, as it seemed, though by hard peering you might catch the glimmer of the calm past the mixture of hazy light and hues where sea and sky seemed to end.

Jacob Crimp had charge. I asked him if all had been quiet below in the cabin.

‘Ay,’ he answered, ‘I’ve heard of nothen to the contrairy. Her ledship came on deck during the middle watch and had a bit of a yarn with me.’

‘Indeed!’ said I.

‘Yes, she scared me into a reg’lar clam. I was standing at the rail thinking I see a darkness out under the moon as if a breath of wind were coming along, and a woice just behind me says, “What’s your name?” Nigh hand tarned my hair white to see her, so quiet she came and her eyes like corposants.’

‘What did she talk about?’ said I in a careless way.

‘Asked what the sailor was a-sitting in the cabin for. “To prevent murder being done,” says I. “Murder?” says she. “Yes,” says I, “and to prewent this wessel from being set on fire and blown to yellow 佛山桑拿按摩论坛0769 blazes,” says I, “for God knows,” says I, “what weight of gunpowder ain’t stowed away forrard.” “Who’s a-going to do all this?” says she; so I jist told her that Sir Wilfrid had been took worse, and that the order had come forward that the cabin was to be watched.’

‘What did she say to that?’ I exclaimed.

‘Why, walked to t’other side of the deck and sot down and remained an hour, till I reckoned that when she went below she must ha’ been pretty nigh streaming with dew.’