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sneer upon her lip paralysed in me the immediate movement of my mind to offer her my hand. She seemed to float upwards to her full height as a stage dancer of easy and exquisite skill rises to her feet from a recumbent attitude. I might well believe that many men would find her face fascinating, though it was not one that I could fall in love with. She was out and away handsomer than her picture represented her, spite of the traces which yet lingered of suffering, privation, and distress of mind, such as shipwreck and even a day's tossing about in an open boat might produce.
Not a syllable was uttered by any one of us as the flashing oars of the rowers swept us to the Bride. The sailors with instinctive good feeling stared to right and left at their dripping and sparkling blades as though absorbed by contemplation of the rise and fall of the sand-white lengths of ash. Finn at the yoke-lines sat with a countenance of wood. We buzzed foaming to the accommodation ladder. I was the first to spring out, and stood waiting to hand Lady Monson on to the steps; but without taking the least notice of me she exclaimed, addressing her sister in a low but distinctly audible voice, "Take me at once to your cabin," and so saying she stepped on to the ladder. I helped Miss Laura out of the boat, and then they both passed through the gangway and I saw no more of them. Wilfrid mounted slowly at my heels. I passed my arm through his and walked him aft. He made as if he would resist, then came passively enough, sighing deeply as though his heart had broken.
"Wilfrid,” I said gently, "a hard and bitter part of the project of your voyage is ended. You have regained your wife—your one desire is fulfilled. Why not, then, abandon the rest of your programme? Yonder barque will be kept hove-to until we hail her to say that she may proceed. Colonel Hope-Kennedy does not want to fight you. Let me go to him and arrange that he shall return to that vessel forthwith. I abhor the notion of a duel between you. Your end has been achieved bloodlessly; your baby has such a claim upon your life, that if you will but give a moment's thought to the significance of it, you would not, you dare not, turn a deaf ear to the infant's appeal. Consider again, we are without a surgeon; there is no medical help here for the sufferer, be he you or be he your enemy. This colonel, again, is without a second. Wilfrid, in the name of God, let him go! He may reach England, and will meet you ashore, if you desire it; but between then and now there will be abundance of time for you to consider whether there is any occasion for you to give the scoundrel a chance of completing the injury he has already dealt you by sending a bullet through your heart."
He listened to me with wonderful patience, his head bowed, his eyes rooted on the deck, his hands clasped in front of him. I was flattering myself that I had produced something of the impression I desired to make, when, lifting his face, he looked slowly round at me, and said quietly, almost softly, "Charles, I shall not love you less for your advice. You speak out of the fullness of
I thank you, dear cousin, for your kindness. And now do me this favour.” He pulled out his watch and let his eye rest on it for a brief pause, but I doubt if he took note of the hour. "Go to Colonel HopeKennedy and make all necessary arrangements for our meeting as soon as possible. See Captain Finn, and request him to send the sailors below when the ap
pointed time arrives. Come to my cabin and let me know the result. Colonel Hope-Kennedy shall have choice of the pistols in my case, and, seeing that he has no second any more than I have, for your office will simply consist in chalking the distance and in giving the signal, he must load for himself."
He took my hand in both of his, pressed it hard, and then, without a word, walked to the companion and disappeared. Captain Finn, who had been watching us from a distance, waiting till our conversation had ended, now walked up to me.
"Can you tell me his honour's wishes, sir?" he inquired. “I suppose now that he's fallen in with her ladyship he'll be heading home?"
"Let the yacht lie as she is for the present, Finn," said I; "no need to hoist in the boat either. She cannot hurt herself alongside in this smooth water. We may be wanting her shortly to convey Colonel Hope-Kennedy to the barque. Sir Wilfrid means to fight him, and at once. I would give half of what I am worth to avert this meeting, but my cousin is resolved, and I must stand by him."
“Sir," said Finn, "he has been cruelly used."
“When the time comes," I continued, "he wishes the men to be sent below. You will see to that."
"Oh, yes. But I don't think the helm should be desarted, sir.”
Certainly not," I exclaimed. 'Arrange it thus: Let Mr. Crimp hold the wheel. I must have help at hand, for one of the men may fall badly wounded. Therefore, stay you on deck, Captain Finn, and keep by me within easy hail. Cutbill is also a strong, serviceable fellow in such an emergency as this. Post him at the forehatch to hinder any man from popping his head up to look. I shall thus have two-you and him—to assist me."
“Right, sir," he exclaimed, touching his cap.
"Better mark off the ground, or deck rather, at once," said I; “fetch me a piece of chalk, Finn.”
He went forward, and in a few moments returned with what I required. A broad awning sheltered the whole of the quarterdeck that lay gleaming white as the flesh of the cocoa-nut in the soft, almost violet-hued shadow. There was just air enough stirring aloft to keep the lighter cloths quiet and to provide against the yacht being slued or revolved by the run of the long, delicate, tropic swell. I said to Finn, after considering a little and anxiously observing the effects of the sunshine gushing through the blue air betwixt the edge of the awning and the bulwark rail, or rising off the sea in a trembling flashing that whitened the air above it, "I don't think it will matter which side of the quarterdeck we choose. The men must toss for position. But there's a dazzle on the water off the port bow that might bother the eye that faces forward. Better mark the starboard side therefore."
He gazed thoughtfully around, and said, “The yacht's position can be altered, if you like, sir.”
I answered, “No; leave her as she is. She rolls regularly and quietly thus."
I had never before been concerned in a duel, and in the matter of the strict etiquette of this sort of encounter was entirely at a loss how to act. However, I had always understood that twelve paces were the prescribed distance, so ruling a line athwartships almost abreast of the mainmast, I made twelve steps and then scored another line crosswise, measuring the interval a second time, and finding that it was very fairly twelve of my own paces. The men had come together in a crowd forward, and were staring aft with all their might. They knew perfectly well what was going to take place, and they were not yet sensible that they were not to be admitted to the spectacle. It was to be something of a far more wildly exciting sort than catching a shark, ay, or even maybe of seeing a man hung at a ship's yardarm. It put a sort of sickness into me somehow to witness that swarm of whiskered mahogany-cheeked faces, all looking thirstily, expectation shaping every posture, with a kind of swimming of the whole body of them too in the haze of heat into which the yacht's jibboom went twisting in a manner to make the brain dizzy to watch it. One never gets to see how thoroughly animal human nature is at bottom until one has examined the expression of the countenances of a mob, big or little, assembled in expectation of witnessing human suffering.
I stepped below. Colonel Hope-Kennedy sat bareheaded at the cabin table, supporting his head on his right elbow and drumming softly with the fingers of his left hand. I approached him, and giving him a bow, which he returned with an air of great dignity-men are amazingly polite when arranging the terms of some cut-throat job—I said, "It is my painful duty, sir, to inform you that my cousin desires the meeting between you and him should take place at once.”
"Not a moment need be lost so far as I am concerned," he answered, gazing at me steadfastly with eyes that looked like porcelain with the singular glaze that seemed to have come suddenly upon them.
“My cousin requests me to state," I continued, "that you will consider him as acting without a second equally