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Do what you
I ain't going to get in a mess for no man. think's proper. What I ask is to be left out of the boiling.'
As he spoke I touched Miss Jennings' arm. “There they are!" I whispered.
Wilfrid saw them too in a flash. He slightly reeled, making a fierce grasp at some gear against the mainmast to steady himself. Distant as they were, one could see, nevertheless, that they were an uncommonly fine couple. A man who was apparently the mate of the barque stood near them, and, though seemingly above rather than below the average stature, he looked a very poor little fellow alongside the towering and commanding figure of the Colonel. I witnessed no gestures, no movements, nothing of any kind to denote astonishment or alarm in either of them. They stood stock still side by side, surveying us over an open rail that exposed their forms from their feet; he, so far as I could make out, attired in a dark blue cloth or serge, and a cap with a naval peak, the top protected by a white cover; she in a dress of some sort of yellow material that fitted her figure as a glove fits the hand. But more than this one's sight could not distinguish, saving that her hat, that was very wide at the brim, was apparently of straw or chip with one side curled up to a large crimson flower there.
I saw Miss Laura gazing with the fascination of a bird at some gilded and glowing and emerald-eyed serpent. Captain Crimp, looking round at his vessel just then, said, “Them's the parties.”
“Ay, there's her ladyship,” whipped out Finn, biting his lip, however, as though ashamed of the exclamation, with a dodge of his head to right and left as he levelled a look at the couple under the sharp of his hand.
"Finn," cried Wilfrid, with a face as crimson as though he had exposed it to the sun all day, and with a note in his utterance as if his teeth were setting spite of him whilst he spoke, "get a boat lowered and brought to the gangway. You, myself, Miss Jennings, and my cousin will go aboard that barque at once. Captain Crimp will attend us in his own boat." He turned swiftly upon the master of the barque, and exclaimed imperiously, with wrath surging into his words till it rendered the key of them almost shrill, "I count upon your assistance. You must order those people off Yonder lady is my wife, and the man alongside of her I must have-here!" stamping his foot and pointing vehemently to the deck, “that I may punish him. understand me?"
“Why, of course I do," answered Captain Crimp, manifestly awed by the wild look my cousin fastened upon him, by his manner, full of haughtiness and passion, and his tone of fierce command. “What I says is, do what ye like, only let me be out of the smother. My crew's troublesome enough. Don't want to get in no mess through castaway folks."
Finn was yelling orders along the deck for a boat's crew to lay aft.
On a sudden the yacht was hailed by the man whom I had noticed standing near Colonel Hope-Kennedy. “Schooner ahoy!"
Jacob Crimp went to the rail. "Hallo!” he bawled.
“Will yer tell my capt'n, please,” shouted the fellow from the barque's quarterdeck, “that the lady and gent desire him to come aboard, as they don't want nothen to do with your schooner? They prefer to keep where they are, and request that no more time be lost."
“Ha!” cried Wilfrid, looking round at me with an iron grin; then he half screamed to the men who were running aft, “Bear a hand with the boat, my lads, bear a hand with the boat! We've found what we've been hunting in yonder craft-and by God, men, we'll have that couple out of it or sink the vessel they stand on!"
Jack is almost certain to cheer to a speech of this kind; the sailors burst out in a loud hurrah as they sprang to the falls. Captain Crimp walked to his brother's side, and putting his hand to his mouth cried to the mate of his vessel, for such the fellow undoubtedly was, “Mr. Lobb."
“My compliments to the lady and gent, and we're all a-coming aboard. I don't want no trouble, tell 'em, and I don't mean to have none."
Scarce was the sense of this remark gatherable when Lady Monson walked to the companion and vanished below, leaving the Colonel standing erect as a sentry at the rail.
"She's gone to her cabin, and will lock herself in probably. What'll be to do then?" said I to Miss Laura.
She wrung her hands, but made no answer.
Meanwhile, in hot haste the sailors had cast adrift the gripes of the boat and lowered her. She was a roomy fabric, pulling six oars, and capable of comfortably stowing eighteen or twenty people.
"Mr. Crimp," said Wilfrid, “get tackles aloft ready for swaying out of the hold the eighteen-pounder that lies there. D'ye understand?"
“Aye, it shall be done,” answered Crimp, coming away from his brother, with whom he had been exchanging some muttering sentences.
"An eighteen-pounder !'" cried Captain Crimp, whipping round.
“Have everything in readiness,” cried Wilfrid, making a move towards the gangway, "to get the gun mounted, with ball and cartridge for loading. See to it now, or look to yourself, Crimp. Come l” he cried.
He seized Miss Laura by the hand; Finn and I followed, Captain Crimp rolling astern of us. We descended the side and entered the boat, and then shoved off, waiting when we were within a length or two of the yacht's side for Captain Crimp to drop into his own boat.
"Skipper,” sang out Finn to him, “hail your barque, will’ee, and tell 'em to get a ladder or steps over."
This was done; the sailors of the barque, along with the three or four yachtsmen who had been picked up out of the Shark's boat, scenting plenty of excitement in the air, tumbled about with alacrity. They saw more sport than they could have got out of an evening at a theatre, and I question if a man of them could have been got to handle a brace until this wild ocean drama had been played through. Meanwhile the Colonel stood rigid at the rail looking on.
"What is to be done, Mr. Monson," whispered Miss Laura to me, “if Henrietta has locked herself up in her cabin and refuses to come out?"
"Let us hope that her door has no lock," said I. “There are easy ways, however, of coaxing a bolt."
“Give way, lads !" cried Finn. The six blades cut the water sharp as knives, and a few strokes carried us alongside the barque. We held a grim silence, saving that as the bow oar picked up his boat-hook he expectorated violently to the evil smell that seemed to come floating off the vessel's side as she rolled towards us, driving the air our way. Evil it was, as you may suppose of a cargo of guano mixed with the rotting carcasses of sea-fowl under the blaze of the sun whose roasting eye of fire was fast crawling to its meridian. The faint breeze was dying, and the heat alongside the barque was scarce sufferable with the tingling of the luminary's light like fiery needles darting into one's eyes and skin off the smooth surface that flashed with a dazzle of new tin. The Colonel had left the rail and had seated himself upon a little skylight, his arms folded. The first to climb the side was Wilfrid; Finn and I followed, supporting Miss Laura between us; then came Captain Crimp. The vessel was an old craft, her decks somewhat grimy, with a worm-eaten look; the smell of the cargo coupled with the heat was hardly supportable; the crew, half naked, unwashed, and many of them wild with hair, stood sweltering in a cluster near the fore-hatch staring straight at us, grinning and nudging one another. But the men who had belonged to the Shark were already leaning over the side calling to our men to hook their boat more forward that they might have a yarn.
Wilfrid, who was a little in advance of us, walked steadily up to Colonel Hope-Kennedy, who rose as my cousin approached him, letting fall his arms from their folded posture.
Handsome he was not-at least to my taste—but he was what would be called a fine manexceedingly so; six feet one or more in stature, with a body and limbs perfectly proportioned to his height; small dark eyes heavily thatched, coal-black whiskers and moustache, ivory-white teeth, and an expression of intelligence in his face as his air was one of distinction. He had a very careworn look, was pale—haggard al