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"Dead, sir!" exclaimed Finn. “A noble-looking gentleman, too. A pity, a pity! How gents of this kind stand upon their honour! yet they're the people to break
“Call Cutbill," said I, “and let the body be taken below."
I rose from my knees and walked aft to Wilfrid, who remained standing at the chalked line, his arm that grasped the pistol hanging by his side. There was a kind of lifting look in his face, that with his swelled nostrils and large protruding eyes and a curve of the upper lip, that was made a sarcastic sneer of by the peculiar projection of the under one, indicated a mood of scornful triumph, of exultation subdued by contempt.
"You have killed your man, Wilfrid," said I.
“I have shot him through the heart," said he, talking like one newly aroused from his slumber and still in
proc. ess of collecting his mind.
"Most probably. You hit him in some vital part, any. way. He dropped dead.”
"He made sure of killing me; I saw it in his cold, deliberate way of covering me." He laughed harshly and mirthlessly. "He'll trouble no other man's peace. I've merely liberated the spirit of a devil that is now winging its way on black, bat-like wings back to that hell it came from. There will be disappointment amongst the fiends. That fellow there,” nodding at the body over which Cutbill and Finn were bending, "was good at least for another twenty years of scoundrelism. What are they going to do with him?"
“Carry him below.” "Finn!” he called.
"Sir!" answered the skipper, looking up from the body, whose arms he grasped.
"Hide it in some forward cabin, and if stone-dead, as Mr. Monson declares, get it stitched up. I'll tell you when to bury him."
“Ay, ay, sir,” answered Finn promptly, but looking shocked nevertheless.
My cousin handed me his pistol. As he did so his manner changed; a broken-hearted look-—I do not know how else to describe the expression-entered his face. He drew a long, deep breath, like to the sigh of a sufferer from some exquisite throe, and said in a low voice, “His death does not return to me what he has taken
With him go my honour, my peace of mind, the love that was my wife's—all gone—all gone!" he muttered. "My God!” he almost shrieked, "how blank has the world become, now that he lies there."
"Be advised by me, Wilfrid," said I; "withdraw to your cabin and rest. This has been a terrible morning -enough to last out a lifetime has been crowded into it. You met him bravely, fairly, honourably. He has paid the penalty of his infamy, and though Heaven knows I would have gone to any lengths to avert this meeting, yet, since it has happened, I thank God your life is preserved and that you have come out of it unharmed.”
His eyes moistened and he took my hand; but just then Cutbill and Finn came staggering towards the companion hatch, bearing the body between them, on which he walked hastily to the rail and stood peering over into the water, supporting his temples in his hands.
Jacob Crimp had resumed his hold of the wheel. I went up to him. “I'll keep the helm steady,” said I, "whilst you wipe out those chalk marks on the deck. Meanwhile pick up that pistol yonder and bring me the case off the skylight."
Whilst he did this we were hailed from the barque. She lay close to us, with her sailors in a crowd about the fore-rigging, where they had been standing attentive spectators of the duel. “Beg pardon !" bawled Captain Crimp, erect on the rail and steadying himself by a backstay, “but I should be glad to know if the gent's coming aboard?"
I shouted back, "No. You need not wait for him."
The man tossed his arm with a gesture very significant of a growling "Well, well !” and then with a flourish of his hat he cried, “A lucky run home to 'ee, gentlemen all I” dismounted, and fell to singing out orders. His wild-looking crew ran about, the maintopsail-yard slowly swung round, and presently the deeply-laden, malodorous craft, rolling clumsily upon a swell to whose light summer heavings our yacht was curtseying with fairy grace, was heading round to her course, blurring the water at her bows to the blowing of the mild breeze that had scarcely power enough to lift her foresail.
Finn and Cutbill arrived on deck, and Wilfrid on seeing them went below.
"Better turn the hands up, I suppose, now, sir ?" said Finn to me.
“There'll be nothen more, your honour, that'll be onfit for them to see."
“By all means, Captain Finn; and then get the boat hoisted and a course shaped for home, for our quest is over, and we have made southing enough, Heaven knows."
Cutbill went forward. There is a magic in the mere sound of homeward bound that would put a jocund nimbleness into the proportions of a marine Falstaff. Cutbill tried to walk and look as though he were sensible that death lay under his feet and that the shadow of a dreadful event hung dark upon the yacht, but scarce was he abreast of the galley when his spirits proved too much for him, and he measured the rest of the deck in several gleesome, floundering jumps, pounding the scuttle with a capstan bar that he snatched up, and roaring out, "All hands trim sail for home !" The men came tumbling up as though the yacht's forecastle were vomiting sailors, and in a breath the lustrous decks of the Bride were full of life, colour, and movement.
A man came to the wheel. I lingered a minute or two to exchange a few words with Finn.
"You are sure the Colonel is dead?” “Ay, sir; he'll be no deader a thousand years hence.”
"A bloody morning's work, Finn. I feel heart-sick, as though I had shared in the assassination of a man. But since it was bound to end in one or the other's death, 'tis best as it is. Have you any particulars of the foundering of the Shark?”
"The yarn her people—I mean the surwivors aboard the barque-spun our men whilst they lay alongside was that they met with a gale of wind, that, after blowing with hurricane fury for two days and two nights, ended in dismasting 'em. The fall of the mainmast ripped the plank out of the deck as clean as though shipwrights had been at work there. Then the pounding of the wreckage alongside started a butt, and she took in water faster than they could pump
There were boats enough for all hands and to spare, and they had just time to get away when the Shark foundered. 'Twas blowing hard then, and a high sea running, and before it came on dark the boats had lost sight of one another. The Colonel and her ladyship were together, along with five sailors, one of whom fell overboard on the second day and was drowned. They were three days and four nights washing about afore the 'Liza Robbins fell in with them. That's all I got to hear, sir; but I suppose it's the true yarn right enough.”
"I dare say they encountered much such weather as we met with," said I! the same straight-lined storm thundering up from the south, for all one knows. Well, now, Finn, drive us home as fast as ever you can. Bowl her along—we've all had enough of it. In what berth have you placed the body?”
"In the one that was occupied by his honour's walet, sir." I gave
him a nod, and, with the pistol-case under my arm, descended the steps and went to my cabin.