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"The lady's cabin," said Captain Crimp, pointing, "is the starn one to port, the airiest of 'em all. It was chosen because it was furdest off from this here smell," and he snuffled as he spoke.
Wilfrid, followed by Miss Laura, at once walked to the indicated cabin. I remained standing by the table with Crimp, watching my cousin. He tried the handle of the door, found the key turned or a bolt shot, shook it a little, then, after a pause, knocked lightly.
“Henrietta,” he exclaimed. “It is 1—your husband. You know my voice. I want you.'
There was no answer. He knocked again, then Miss Laura exclaimed: “Henrietta, open the door. Wilfrid is here~ I am here, I, Laura your sister. We have come to take you home to the little one that you left behind you. Oh, Henrietta, dear, for my sake—for your child's sake, for our father's sake,” her voice faltered and she broke down, sobbing piteously.
“I hope to heaven the woman has not killed herself," I exclaimed to Captain Crimp. “But it is for you to act now. Step aft with me. You don't want to keep her on board, I suppose ?"
"Not I," he answered.
"Threaten then to break open the door. If that don't avail, send at once for your carpenter, for you may then take it that her silence means that she lies dead.”
He walked aft and beat with a fist as hard as the stock of a musket, raising a small thunder. "Sorry to interfere, lady;" he exclaimed, talking at the door with his nose within an inch of it; “this here's no job for the likes of me to be messing about with." "There's folks who are awaiting for you to come out."
A dead pause.
Here he grasped the handle of the door and boisterously shook it. “And as there's no call now for you to remain, and as loitering in this here heat with the hatches flush with gewhany isn't to none of our liking, I must beg, mum,” he shouted, "that you'll slip the bolt inside and open the door."
Another dead pause. Miss Jennings looked aghast, and indeed the stillness within the cabin now caused me to forebode the worst. It was clear, however, that no fear of the sort had visited Wilfrid. He gazed at the door with a kind of terrier-like expression in his fixed eyes.
Captain Crimp once more beat heavily and again wrestled with the handle, trying the door at the same time with his shoulder. “Well, mum,” he bawled, "you will do as you like, I suppose, and so must I. I'm not partial to knocking my ship about, but by thunder! lady, if this here door ain't opened at once I'll send for the carpenter to force it.” Another pause. He added in his hoarsest voice, addressing us generally, “Do she know that the gent that's been keeping her company has gone aboard the yacht?"
“She'll know it now," I answered, "if she has ears to hear with."
I noticed Wilfrid violently start on my saying this.
“Gentlemen," said Captain Crimp, “I'll go and fetch the carpenter," and he had taken a stride when the bolt within was shot, the handle turned and the door opened.
Had we come fresh from the splendour of the morning on deck we must have had great difficulty in distinguishing objects in the gloom of the little, hot, evilsmelling interior that had been suddenly revealed to us; but the twilight of the narrow passage in which we stood had accustomed our sight to the dim atmosphere. Lady Monson stood before us in the middle of the cabin reared to her fullest stature, her hands clasped in front of her in a posture of passionate resolution. I must confess that she had the noblest figure of any woman I had ever seen, and no queen of tragedy could have surpassed the unconsciously heroic attitude of scorn, indignation, bate, unsoftened by the least air of remorse or shame, that she had assumed.
"Captain Crimp," she cried in a clear, rich, contralto voice that thrilled through and through one with what I must call the intensity of the emotions it conveyed, “how dare you threaten me with breaking open my door? I am your passenger—you will be paid for the services you have rendered. I demand your protection. Who are these people? Order them to leave your ship, sir."
She spoke with her eyes glowing and riveted upon Captain Crimp's awkward, agitated countenance, never so much as glancing at her husband, at her sister, or
"Well, mum," answered Captain Crimp, passing the back of his hand over his streaming forehead, "all that I know is this: here's a gentleman as says you're his wife; his yacht lies within heasy reach; he wants you aboard, and if so be that you are his wife, which nobody yet has denied, then you're bound to go along with him, and I may as well tell'ee that my dooty as a man lies in seeing that ye do go." And here the old chap very spunkily bestowed several emphatic nods upon her.
"Henrietta,” cried Miss Laura, "have you nothing to say to me or to Wilfrid ?"
“Go!" she shrieked, with a sharp stamp of her foot
and a wild, warding-off gesture of her arms, "what right have you to follow me? I am my own mistress. Leave
The mere sight of you will drive me as mad as he is !” pointing impetuously to Wilfrid but without looking at him.
The poor little darling shrank like a wounded bird, literally cowering behind me, dismayed and terrified, not indeed by the woman's words, but by the passion in them, the air with which she delivered them, the wrath in her face and the fire in her eyes that would have made you think they reflected a sunset. I looked at Wilfrid. Had she exhibited the least grief, the least shame, any the feeblest hint, in short, of womanly weakness, I believe he would have fallen upon his knees to her. I had observed an expression almost of adoration enter into and soften his lineaments to an aspect that I do not exaggerate in calling beautiful through the exquisite pathos of the tenderness that had informed it on her throwing open the door and revealing herself to us; but that look was gone. Her scornful reference to his madness had replaced it by an ugly shadow, a scowl of malignant temper. He stepped over the coaming of the doorway, and extended his hand as if to grasp her.
“Come!” he exclaimed, breathing dangerously fast. "I want you. This is merely wasting time. Come you must! Do you understand? Come !” he repeated, still keeping his arm outstretched.
She recoiled from him as though a cartridge had exploded at her feet and pressed her back against the side of a bunk, the edge of which she gripped with her hands. "Leave me !" she said, looking at him now.
"I hate you. You cannot control me. I abhor the very mem
of you. Madman and wretch! why have you followed me?"
Captain Crimp, who had been shuffling restlessly near me, now whipped in, hoarse, angry, and determined; "See here, mum; all this calling of names isn't going to sarve anybody's purpose. I see how the land lies now. The gentleman has a right to his own, and it's proper ye should know that 'taint my intention to keep ye. Let there be no more noise aboard this wessel, I beg; otherwise you'll be having my crew shoving down into the cabin to know what's happening. Give her your arm, sir," he cried, addressing me, "and lead her to the gangway. Your boat'll be retarned by this time."
My arm, thought I! Egad, I'd leifer snug the paw of a tigress under my elbow!
"Wilfrid," I exclaimed, "let me exhort you to go on deck and take Miss Jennings with you. I am sure Lady Monson will listen to my representations. It is due to her to remember that we are four and that she stands alone, and that the suddenness, the unexpectedness of this visit, scarcely gives her a chance fully to realise what has come about, and to form an intelligent decision."
She uttered a short hysterical laugh, without a smile, whilst her face glimmered white with rage in the gloom of the cabin. “My decision is quite intelligent enough to satisfy me," she said, in a voice so irritatingly scornful that it is out of my power to furnish the least idea of it, whilst she looked at me as though she would strike me dead with her eyes; "I mean to remain here."
“No, mum, no," growled Captain Crimp.
"You know, I presume, Lady Monson," said I, "that Colonel Hope-Kennedy has gone on board the Bride?”