But, view the proposal as I might, I could see nothing but a mad scheme in it; and I think it must have been two o’clock in the morning before I had made up my mind, so heartily did I bother myself with considerations; and then, after reflecting that there was nothing to keep me in England, that my cousin had come to me as a brother and asked me in a sense to stand by him as a brother, that the state of his mind imposed it almost as a pious obligation upon me to be by his side in this time of extremity and bitter anguish, that the quest was practically so aimless—the excursion was almost certain to end on this side the Cape, or, to put it at the 佛山桑拿女电话qq worst, to end at Table Bay, which, after all, would prove no formidable cruise, but, on the contrary, a trip that must do me good and kill the autumn months very pleasantly—I say that, after lengthily reflecting on these and many other points and possibilities of the project, I made up my mind that I would sail with him.
Next morning I despatched my man with a note—a brief sentence: ‘I will be on board to-morrow by four,’ and received Wilfrid’s reply, written in an agitated sprawling hand: ‘God bless you! Your decision makes a double-barrelled weapon of my purpose. I have not slept a wink all night—my fifth night of sleeplessness; but I shall feel easier when the clipper keel of the “Bride” is shearing through it in hot and sure pursuit. I start in a quarter of an hour for Southampton. Laura will be overjoyed to hear that 佛山桑拿有什么服务 you are to be one of us; from the moment of my determining to follow that hell-born rascal she has been exhorting me to choose a companion—of my own sex, I mean, but it would have to be you or nix. My good angel be praised, ’tis all right now! We’ll have ’em, we’ll have ’em! Mark me! Would to heaven the pistol-ball had the power to cause in the heart of a ruffian and a seducer the intolerable mental torments he works for another ere it fulfilled its mission by killing him!’ He signed himself, ‘Yours ever affectionately.’
Wild as the tone of this note was, it was less suggestive of excitement and passion and restlessness than the writing. I locked it away, and possess it still, and no memorial that I can put my hand on has its power of lighting up the past. I never look at it without living again in the veritable atmosphere and 佛山夜生活888 colour and emotions of the long-vanished days.
Being a bachelor, my few affairs which needed attention were speedily put in order. My requirements in regard to apparel for a voyage to the Cape I exactly knew, and supplied them in three or four hours. The railroad to Southampton had been opened some months, so I should be spared a long and tiresome journey by coach. By ten o’clock that night I was ready bag and baggage—a creditable performance in a man who for some years had been used to a lounging, inactive life. I offered to take my servant, but he told me he was a bad sailor and afraid of the water, and was without curiosity to view foreign parts; so I paid and discharged him, not doubting that I should be able to manage very well without a man; and, leaving what property I could not carry with me in charge of my 佛山夜生活桑拿论坛 landlord, I next morning took my departure for Southampton.
I believe I did not in the least degree realise the nature of the queer adventure I had consented to embark on until I found myself in a wherry heading in the direction of a large schooner-yacht that lay a mile away out upon Southampton Water. She was the ‘Bride,’ the boatman told me, and the handsomest vessel of her kind that he knew.
‘A finer craft than the “Shark”?’ said I.
‘Whoy yes,’ he answered, ‘bigger by fourteen or fifteen ton, but Oi dunno about foiner. The “Shark” has the sweeter lines, Oi allow; but that there “Bride,”’ said he with a toss of his head in the direction of the yacht, sitting with his back upon her as he was, ‘has got the ocean-going qualities of a line-of-battle ship.’
‘Take a race between them,’ said I, ‘which would prove the better ship?佛山桑拿按摩888 ’
‘Whoy, in loight airs the “Shark,” Oi daresay, ’ud creep ahead. In ratching, too, in small winds she’d go to wind’ard of t’other as though she was warping that way. But in anything loike a stiff breeze yonder “Bride” ’ud forereach upon and weather the “Shark” as easy as swallowing a pint o’ yale, or my name’s Noah, which it ain’t.’
‘The “Shark” has sailed?’
‘Oy, last week.’
‘Where bound to, d’ye know?’
‘Can’t say, Oi’m sure. Oi’ve heerd she was hired by an army gent, and that, wherever his cruise may carry him to, he ain’t going to be in a hurry to finish it.’
‘Does he sail alone? Or, perhaps, he takes his wife or children with him?’
‘Well,’ said the waterman, pausing on his oars a minute or so with a grin, whilst his damp oyster-like eyes met in a kind of squint on my face, ‘the night afore the “Shark” sailed Oi fell 佛山桑拿论坛的qq群 in with one of her crew, a chap named Bobby Watt; and on my asking him if this here military gent was a-going to make the voyage alone he shuts one oye and says “Jim,” he says, Jim being one of my names, not Noah, “Jim,” says he, “when soldiers go to sea,” says he, “do they take pairosols with ’em? and are bonnet boxes to be found ’mongst their luggage? Tell ye what it is, Jim,” he says, “they can call yachting an innocent divarsion, but bet your life, Jim,” says he, “’taint all as moral as it looks!” by which Oi understood,’ said the waterman, falling to his oars again, ‘that the military gent hain’t sailed alone in the “Shark,” nor took his wife with him neither, if so be he’s a wedded man.’
We were now rapidly approaching the ‘Bride,’ and as there was little to be learnt from the waterman, I ceased to question him, whilst I inspected the yacht as a fabric that was to make me a home for I knew not how long. Then it was, perhaps, that the full perception of my undertaking and of my cousin’s undertaking, too, for the matter of that, broke in upon me with the picture of the fine vessel straining lightly at her cable, whilst past her ran the liquid slope into airy distance, where, in the delicate blue blending of azure radiance floating down and mingling with the dim cerulean light lifting off the face of the quiet waters, you witnessed a faint vision of dashes of pale green and gleaming foreshore, with blobs and films of land beyond, swimming, as it seemed, in the autumn haze and distorted by refraction. It was the Isle of Wight, and the shore on either hand went yawning to it till it looked a day’s sail away; and I suppose it was the sense of distance that came to me with the scene of the horizon past the yacht, touched with hues illusive enough to look remote, that rendered realisation of Wilfrid’s wild programme sharp in me as I directed a critical gaze at the beautiful fabric we were nearing.
And beautiful she was—such a gallant toy as an impassioned sweetheart would love to present to the woman he adored. In those days the memory of the superb Baltimore clippers and of the moulded perfections of the schooners which traded to the Western Islands and to the Mediterranean for the season’s fruits, was still a vital inspiration among the shipwrights and yacht-builders of the country. I had never before seen the ‘Bride,’ but I had no sooner obtained a fair view of her, first broadside on, then sternwise, as my boatman made for the starboard gangway, than I fell in love with her. She had the beam and scantling of a revenue cutter, with high bulwarks, and an elliptical stern, and a bow with the sheer of a smack, but elegant beyond expression with its dominating flair at the catheads, where it fell sharpening to a knife-like cutwater, thence rounding amidships with just enough swell of the sides to delight a sailor’s eye.
The merest landsman must instantly have recognised in her the fabric and body of a sea-going craft of the true pattern. This was delightful to observe. The voyage might prove a long one, with many passages of storm in it, and the prospect of traversing the great oceans of the world; and one would naturally want to make sure in one’s floating home of every quality of staunchness and stability. A vessel, however, of over two hundred tons burthen in those times was no mean ship. Crafts of the ‘Bride’s’ dimensions were regularly trading as cargo and passenger boats to foreign parts; so that little in my day would have been made of any number of voyages round the world in such a structure as Sir Wilfrid’s yacht. It is different now. Our ideas have enlarged with the growth of the huge mail boat, and a voyage in a yacht driven by steam and of a burthen considerably in excess of many West Indiamen, which half a century ago were regarded as fine large ships, is considered a performance remarkable enough to justify the publication of a book about it, no matter how destitute of interest and incident the trip may have proved. The fashion of the age favoured gilt, and forward and about her quarters and stern the ‘Bride’ floated upon the smooth waters all ablaze with the glory of the westering sun striking upon the embellishments of golden devices writhing to the shining form of the semi-nude beauty that, with arms clasped Madonna-wise, sought with an incomparable air of coyness to conceal the graces of her form under the powerful projecting spar of the bowsprit; whilst aft the giltwork, in scrolls, flowers, and the like, with a central wreath as a frame for the virgin-white letters of the yacht’s name, smote the satin surface under the counter with the sheen of a sunbeam. All this brightness and richness was increased by her sheathing of new copper that rose high upon the glossy bends, and sank with ruddy clearness under the water, where it flickered like a light there, preserving yet, even in its tremulous waning, something of the fair proportions of the submerged parts.
The bulwarks were so tall that it was not until I was close aboard I could distinguish signs of life on the yacht. I then spied a head over the rail aft watching me, and on a sudden there sprang up alongside of it a white parasol edged with black, and the gleam as it looked of a fair girlish face in the pearly twilight of the white shelter. Then, as I drew close, the man’s head uprose and I distinguished the odd physiognomy of my cousin under a large straw hat. He saluted me with a gloomy gesture of the hand, with something, moreover, 佛山桑拿我爱桑拿网 in his posture to suggest that he was apprehensive of being observed by people aboard adjacent vessels, though I would not swear at this distance of time that there was anything lying nearer to us than half a mile. You would have thought some one of consequence had died on board, all was so quiet. I lifted my hat solemnly in response to Wilfrid’s melancholy flourish, as though I was visiting the craft to attend a funeral; the boat then sheered alongside, and, paying the waterman his charges, I stepped up the short ladder and jumped on deck.
CHAPTER III. LAURA JENNINGS.
Sir Wilfrid was coming to the gangway as I entered, leaving his companion, whom I at once understood to be Miss Laura Jennings, standing near the wheel. He grasped my hand, gazing at me earnestly a moment or two without speaking, and then exclaimed in a low 佛山桑拿夜生活888faltering voice, ‘You are the dearest fellow to come! you are the dearest fellow to come! Indeed it is good, true, and noble of you.’
He then turned to a man dressed in a suit of pilot-cloth, with brass buttons on his waistcoat and a round hat of old sailor fashion on his head, who stood at a respectful distance looking on, and motioned to him. He approached.
‘Charles, this is Captain Finn, the master of the yacht. My cousin, Mr. Monson.’
Finn lifted his hat with a short scrape of his right leg abaft.
‘Glad to see you aboard, sir, glad to see you aboard,’ said he, in a leather-lunged note that one felt he had difficulty in subduing. ‘A melancholy errand, Mr. Monson, sir, God deliver us! But we’re jockeying a real sweetheart, your honour, and if we ain’t soon sticking tight to Captain Fidler’s skirts I don’t think it’ll 佛山夜生活好玩的地方 be for not being able to guess his course.’
He shook his head and sighed. But there lay a jolly expression in his large protruding lobster-like eye that twinkled there like the flame of a taper—enough of it to make me suspect that his mute-like air and Ember-week tone of voice was a mere piece of sympathetic acting, and that he was a merry dog enough when Wilfrid was out of sight.
‘See Mr. Monson’s luggage aboard, captain,’ said my cousin, ‘and stowed in his cabin, and then get your anchor. There’s nothing to keep us now.’
‘Ay, ay, sir.’
‘Step this way, Charlie, that I may introduce you to my sister-in-law.’
He passed his arm through mine and we walked aft, but I noticed in him a certain manner of cowering, so to speak, as of one who fears that he is being watched and talked about—an involuntary illustration of profound sensitiveness, no doubt, for, as I have said, the yacht lay lonely, and he was hardly likely to dread the scrutiny of his own men.
The girl he introduced me to seemed about nineteen or twenty years old. Lady Monson had been described to me as tall, stately, slow in movement, and of a reposeful expression of face that would have been deemed spiritless in a person wanting the eloquence of her rich and tropic charms: so at least my club friend the young baronet had as good as told me; and it was natural perhaps that I should expect to find her sister something after her style in height and form, if not in colour.
Instead, she was a woman rather under than above the average stature, fair in a sort of golden way, by which I wish to convey a complexion of exquisite softness and purity, very faintly freckled as though a little gold-dust had been artfully shaken over it—a hue of countenance, so to speak, that blended most admirably with a great quantity of hair of a dark gold, whereof there lay upon her brow many little natural curls and short tresses which her white forehead, shining through them, refined into a kind of amber colour. Her eyes were of violet with a merry spirit in them, which defied the neutralising influence of the sorrowful expression of her mouth. By some she might have been held a thought too stout, but for my part I could
see nothing that was not perfectly graceful in the curves and lines of her figure. I will not pretend to describe how she was dressed; in mourning I thought she was at first when she stood at a distance. She was sombrely clad, to keep Wilfrid’s melancholy in countenance perhaps, and I dare say she looked the sweeter and fairer for being thus apparelled, since there is no wear fitter than dark clothes for setting off such skin and hair as hers. Indeed, her style of dress and the fashion of her coiffure were the anticipation of a taste of a much later date. In those days women brushed their hair into a plaster-like smoothness down the cheeks, then coiled it behind the ear, and stowed what remained in an ungainly lump at the back of the head, into which was stuck a big comb. The dress, again, was loose about the body, as though
the least revelation of the figure were an act of immodesty, and the sleeves were what they called gigots; all details, in short, combining to so ugly a result as to set me wondering now sometimes that love-making did not come to a dead stand. Miss Laura Jennings’s dress was cut to show her figure. The sleeves were tight, and I recollect that she wore gauntlet-shaped gloves that clothed her arm midway to the elbow.
This which I am writing was my impression, at the instant, of the girl with whom I was to be associated for a long while upon the ocean, and with whom I was to share in one adventure, at all events, which I do not doubt you will accept as amongst the most singular that ever befell a voyager. She curtsied with a pretty old-world grace to Wilfrid’s introduction, sending at the same time a sparkling glance full of spirited criticism through the fringe of her lids, which drooped with a demureness that was almost coquettish, I thought. Then she brightened into a frank manner, whilst she extended her hand.
‘I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Monson; glad indeed to feel sure now that you will be of our party. Sir Wilfrid has talked of you much of late. You have acted far more kindly than you can imagine in joining us.’
‘We have a fine vessel under us, at all events, Miss Jennings,’ said I, with a look at the unsheltered decks which stretched under the declining sun white as freshly-peeled almonds. ‘She seems to have been born with the right kind of soul, Wilfrid; and I think if your skipper will tell her quietly what is expected of her she will fulfil your utmost expectations.’
He forced a melancholy smile which swiftly faded, and then, with a start and a stare over the rail on either hand, he exclaimed, ‘It makes me uneasy to be on deck, d’ye know. I feel—though ’tis stupid enough—as if there were eyes yonder and yonder on the watch. This restlessness will pass when we get to sea. Let us go below, dinner will be ready by half-past five,’ pulling out his watch, ‘and it is now a little after four.’
He took his sister-in-law’s hand in a brotherly, boyish way, and the three of us descended.
The cabin was as shining and sumptuous an interior as ever I was in, or could imagine, indeed, of a yacht’s internal accommodation. Mirrors, hand-painted bulkheads, combinations of gilt and cream, thick carpets, handsome lamps, silver swinging-trays, and twenty more elegancies which I will not bore you with, made you feel, as you stood at the foot of the companion steps, as though you had entered some delicious, sparkling, fragrant little drawing-room. The bedrooms were at each extremity. The berth allotted to me was a roomy, airy apartment forward, with a stout bulkhead at the end of the short passage that effectually closed this part of the craft from whatever might be amidships and beyond. There was a stand of arms fixed here, and my thoughts instantly went to Colonel Hope-Kennedy and Lady Monson, and the crew of the ‘Shark,’ as I counted twenty fowling-pieces with long polished barrels and bright stocks, with hooks alongside from which hung a number of cutlasses and pistols of the sort you then found in the small-arms chests aboard men-of-war. The pattern of these weapons persuaded me that they had been collected in a hurry, purchased out of hand off some Southampton or Gosport dealer in such ware. They can signify but one sort of business, thought I; but, bless my heart! does he seriously entertain notions of boarding if we fall in with the craft? And do his men suspect his intentions? And has he provided for all things by shipping a fighting crew?
I peered into my berth, saw that it would make me as comfortable a sea bedroom as it was possible to desire, and returned to the cabin, where Wilfrid and Miss Jennings were sitting, he at a small table right aft, sprawling upon it with his elbow, his chin in his hand, his face gloomy with melancholy and anger, and his eyes fixed upon a porthole through which he might just get a glimpse of green shore with a tremble of water yellow under the western light steeping to it; she near him on a short sofa, with her back against the vessel’s side, toying with her hat which lay in her lap, so that I was now able to see that she was indeed a very sweet woman to the topmost curl of gold that gleamed upon her head. Indeed, you seemed to witness her charms as in a light of her own making. There was something positively phosphoric in the irradiation on her face and hair, as though in sober truth they were self-luminous. A couple of fellows were bringing my luggage down the hatch, but very quietly. I knew they were getting the anchor on deck by the dim chink chink of the windlass pawls, but I could hear no other sounds, no singing out of orders, nothing save the pulsing of the windlass barrel to indicate that we were about to start. There was an element of solemnity in this our first step, at all events, along the prodigious liquid highway we were about to enter that was not a little irksome to me. After all, it was not my wife who had run away, and whom I was starting in pursuit of, and, though I keenly sympathised with my cousin, it was impossible that I could feel or look as though I was broken down by grief.
‘We are not a numerous party,’ said I, in a hearty way, seating myself, ‘one less, indeed, than we bargained for, Wilfrid, for I am without a servant. My fellow funked the very name of salt water, and there was no time to replace him.’