Billeder på siden

“I do not care," she answered; "Captain Crimp, I insist upon your requesting these people to leave me."

"Come !" cried Wilfrid furiously, and he grasped her by the arm.

She released herself with a shriek and struck him hard on the face; a painful and disgusting scene was threatened; Miss Jennings was crying bitterly; I dreaded the madman in Wilfrid, and sprang between them as he grasped his wife's arm again.

“For God's sake, Wilfrid —" I began, but was silenced by her shrieks. She sent up scream after scream, wrestling with her husband, whose grip of steel I was powerless to relax, and who, with a purple face and devilish grin of insanity upon his lips, was dragging her towards the door. On a sudden she seemed to suffocate, she beat the air wildly with her arm that was free. Then clapped her hand to her heart, swayed a little, and fell to the deck. I was just in time to save her head from striking the hard plank, and there she lay in a dead faint.

"This is our chance," exclaimed Captain Crimp; "she'll go quietly now. She might have done it afore though. Let's bear a hand or she'll be reviving."

"Wilfrid, see if our boat's alongside, will you ?” I cried, anxious to get him out of the way and to correct as far as possible the unmistakable mood of madness that had come upon him with Lady Monson's insults and blow, by finding him occupation; "and send Finn to help us, and let the men stand by ready to receive the lady."

He cast a look of fury at his wife as she lay motionless on the deck, her head supported on my arm, and sped away in long strides, chattering to himself as he went.

"Is she dead!” cried Miss Jennings, in a voice of terror and her ashen face streaming.

“Bless us, no,” said I, "a downright faint, and thank goodness for it. Now, captain."

How between us we managed to carry her on deck, I'm sure I do not know. Captain Crimp had her by the feet, I by the shoulders, and Miss Laura helped to keep the apparently lifeless woman's head to its bearings. She was as limber as though struck by lightning, and the harder to carry for that reason,-a noble figure, as I have said, and deucedly heavy to boot. My part was the hardest, for I had to step backwards and mount the companion ladder, that was almost perpendicular, crabfashion. The captain and I swayed together, staggering and perspiring, bothered excessively by the ungainly rolling of the barque, both of us nearly dead with heat, and I half suffocated besides by the abominable acid stench from the hold. We were animated, however, into uncommon exertions by the desire to get her over the side before she recovered; and the fear of her awakening and resisting us and shrieking out, and the like, gave us, I reckon, for that particular job the strength of four men.

We conveyed her to the gangway, helped by Finn, who received us at the companion hatch, and with infinite pains handed her over the side, still motionless in her swoon, into the boat. A hard task it was; we durst not call out, for fear of reviving her, and the melancholy business was carried through by signs and gestures, topped off with sundry hoarse whispered orders from Finn.

I paused panting, my face burning like fire, whilst


Captain Crimp looked to be slowly dissolving, the perspiration literally streaming from his fingers' ends on to the deck as though he were a figure of snow gradually wasting

"Why couldn't she have fainted away at first ?” he muttered to “That's the worst of women. They're always so slow a-making up their minds."

Now that she was in the boat the trouble was at an end; though she recovered consciousness she could not regain the barque's deck, and there was no power in her screams to hinder the yachtsmen's oars from sweeping her to the Bride. Preserve me! What a picture it all made just then: the wild-haired, wild-eyed, semi-nude figures of the barque's crew overhanging the rail to view Lady Monson as she lay white and corpse-like in the bottom of the boat; the sober, concerned faces of our own men; Wilfrid's savage, crazy look as he waited with his

eyes fixed upon his yacht for Miss Laura to be handed down before entering the boat himself; the prostrate form of his wife with her head pillowed on Finn's jacket, her eyes half opened, disclosing the whites only, and imparting the completest imaginable aspect of death to her countenance, with its pale lips and marble brow and cheek bleached into downright ghastliness by contrast of the luxuriant black hair that had fallen in tresses from under her hat. The men who had belonged to the Shark stood in a little group near the foremast looking on, but with a commiserating respectful air. One of them stepped up to us as Miss Laura was in the act of descending the side, and addressing Finn whilst he touched his cap, exclaimed, “We should be glad, sir, if y'd take us aboard the Bride. We'll heartily tarn to with the rest; you'll find us all good men.”

“No!" roared Wilfrid, whipping round upon him, “I want no man that has had anything to do with the Shark aboard my vessel."

The fellow fell back muttering. My cousin turned to Captain Crimp.

“Sir," he cried, “I thank you for your friendly offices." He produced a pocket-book. “You have acted the part of an honest man, sir. I am obliged to you. I trust that this may satisfy all charges for the maintenance of Lady Monson on board your ship.” He handed him a Bank of England note; Crimp turned the corner down to look at the figure—I believe it was a hundred pounds —and then buried it in his breeches pocket.

"I'm mighty obliged to you, mighty obliged,” he exclaimed. “It's a deal more'n the job's worth. I'd like to see my way to wishing you happiness”—and he was proceeding, but Wilfrid stopped him by dropping over the side, calling to me to make haste.

“Captain Crimp,” I said hurriedly, "you will please keep your barque hove-to as she is now for the present. There's to be a duel; you of course know that." He nodded. “You also heard the promise made to Colonel Hope-Kennedy, that after the duel he is to be at liberty to return to your vessel.”

“Then I don't think he will, for the guy'nor means to shoot him," said Captain Crimp, “and I'll wager what's guv me that he'll do it too; and sarve 'im right. Running away with another man's wife! Ain't there enough single gals in the world to suit the likes of that there colonel ? But I'll keep hove-to as you ask.'

All this he mumbled in my ear as I put my foot over the side waiting for the wash of the swell to float the boat up before dropping. We then shoved off.

We had scarcely measured a boat's length, however, from the barque's side, when Lady Monson stirred, opened and shut her eyes, drew a long, fluttering breath, then started up, leaning on one elbow staring about her. She gazed at the men, at me, at her husband and sister, with her wits abroad, but intelligence seemed to rush into her

eyes like fire when her sight encountered the yacht. I thought to myself, what will she do now? Jump overboard ? Go into hysterics ? Swoon away again? I watched her keenly, though furtively, prepared to arrest any passionate movement in her, for there had come a wilder look in her face than ever I had seen in Wilfrid's. My cousin sat like a figure of stone, his gaze riveted to his schooner, and Miss Laura glanced at her sister wistfully, but, as one saw, on the alert to avoid meeting her gaze.

I could very well understand now that this fair, gentle, , golden-haired girl should have held her tall, dark, imperious, tragic-eyed sister in awe.

I know I felt heartily afraid of her myself as I sat pretending not to notice her, though in an askant way I was taking her in from head to foot, feeling mightily curious to see what sort of a person she was, and I was exceedingly thankful that the yacht lay within a few minutes of us. But happily there was to be no “scene." She saw how things stood, and with an air of haughty dignity rose from the bottom of the boat and seated herself in the place I vacated for her, turning her face seawards to conceal it from the men. Nobody but a woman possessed of her excellent harmonious shape could have risen unaided with the grace, I may say the majesty, of motion she exhibited from the awkward, prostrate posture in which she had lain. The bitter, sarcastic

« ForrigeFortsæt »