THE BEACH OF DREAMS
BY H. DE VERE STACPOOLE AUTHOR OF "THE MAN WHO LOST HIMSELF," "THE GHOST GIRL," "THE GOLD TRAIL," "THE BLUE LAGOON," ETC.
THE NATIONAL BOOK CO. PUBLISHERS 28 WEST 44TH ST., NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1919 BY STREET & SMITH COPYRIGHT, 1919 BY JOHN LANE COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
I. THE ALBATROSS 9 II. NORTH-WEST 14 III. THE GASTON DE PARIS 22 IV. DISASTER 41 V. VOICES IN THE NIGHT 48 VI. DAWN 53 VII. THE COAST 66
VIII. THE AWAKENING 73 IX. THE WOOLEY 80 X. THE CROSS 94 XI. THE CACHE 103 XII. THE QUARREL 117 XIII. WHERE IS BOMPARD? 124 XIV. THE DEATH TRAPS 132 XV. THE STROKE 143 XVI. ALONE 146 XVII. FRIENDS IN DESOLATION 153
XVIII. GOD MADE FRIENDSHIP 159 XIX. THE BIRDS 167 XX. VAE VICTIS 171
XXI. TIME PASSES 181 XXII. A NEWCOMER 185 XXIII. RAFT 194 XXIV. A DREAM 203 XXV. STORIES ON THE BEACH 211 XXVI. THE GREAT WIND 225
XXVII. THE CORRIDOR 233 XXVIII. NIGHT 248 XXIX. THE SUMMIT 253 XXX. THE BAY 259 XXXI. THE SHIP 264 XXXII. THE OPIUM SMOKERS 272 XXXIII. MAINSAIL HAUL 277 XXXIV. THE CARCASSONNE 281
XXXV. MARSEILLES 289 XXXVI. THE LEPER 301 XXXVII. A NEW HOME 313
THE BEACH OF DREAMS
The fo'c'sle, lit by a teapot lamp, shewed the port watch in their bunks, snoring, all but Harbutt and Raft seated on a chest, Harbutt patching a pair of trousers, Raft smoking.
Raft was a big red-headed man with eyes that seemed always roving over great distances as though in search of something. He was thirty-two years of age and he had used the sea since twelve—twenty years. His past was a long succession of fo'c'sles, bar-rooms, blazing suns, storms and sea happenings so run together that all sequence was lost. Beyond them lay a dismal blotch, his childhood. He had entered the world and literally and figuratively had been laid at the door of a workhouse; of his childhood he remembered little, of his parentage he knew nothing. In drink he was quiet, but most dangerous under certain provocations.
It was as though deep in his being lay a blazing hatred born of injustice through ages and only coming to light when upborne by balloon-juice. On these occasions a saloon bar with its glitter and phantom show of mirth and prosperity sometimes called on him to dispense and destroy it, the passion to fight the crowd seized him, a passion that has its origin, perhaps, in sources other than alcohol.
He was talking now to Harbutt, scarcely lowering his voice on account of the fellows in the bunks. Snoring and drugged with ozone a kick would only have made them curse and turn on the other side, and as he talked his voice made part of that procession of noises inseparable from the fo'c'sle of a ship under sail against a head sea. He had been holding forth on the food and general conditions of this ship compared with the food and conditions of his last, when Harbutt cut in.
"There's not a pin to choose between owners, and ships is owners as far as a sailorman's concerned.—Blast them."
"I was in a hooker once," said Raft, "and the Old Man came across a lot of cheap sugar, served it out to save the m'lasses. It was lead, most of it, and the chaps that swallowed it their teeth came out."
"What happened to them then?"
"They croaked. I joined at Bombay, after the business, or I'd have croaked too."
"What ship was that?" asked Harbutt.
"I've forgot her name, it was a good bit back—but it's the truth."
"Of course it's the truth," replied the other, "who's doubtin' you, any dog's trick played on a sailorman's the truth, you can lay to that. I've had four years of sea and I oughta know."
"What's this you were?" asked Raft.
"Oh, I was a lot o' things," replied Harbutt. "Wished I'd never left them to join this b—y business, but it's the same ashore, owners all the time stuffin' themselves and gettin' rich, workers starvin'."
Raft belonged to the old time labour world dating from Pelagon, he grumbled, but had no grudge against owners in general, it was only in drink that Pelagon rose in him. Harbutt was an atom of the new voice that is heard everywhere now, even in fo'c'sles. He had failed in everything on land and a'board ship he was a slacker. You cannot be a voice and an A.B. at the same time.
"What was your last job ashore?" went on Raft with the persistence of a child, always wanting to know.
"Cleanin' out pig sties," said Harbutt viciously. "Drove to it. I tell you when a chap's down he's down, the chaps that has money tramples on the chaps that hasn't. I've been through it and I know. It's the rich man does it."
"Well," said Raft, "I don't even remember seeing one."
"Haven't you ever been in no cities?"
"I've been in cities right enough, but most by the water-side."
"Well, you've seen chaps in plug hats and chaps drivin' in carriages, that's the sort that keeps us down, that's the sort we've got to make an end of."
Raft did not quite see. He had a respect for Harbutt mixed with a contempt for him as a sailor. Harbutt knew a lot—but he could not see how the chaps in plug hats kept other people down; the few he had seen had always seemed to him away and beyond his world, soft folk, and always busy about their own affairs—and how were they to be made an end of?
"Do you mean killing them?" he asked.
"Oh, there's other ways than killin'," replied Harbutt. "It's not them, it's their money does the trick."
He finished his patch and turned in. Raft finished his pipe and turned in also and the fo'c'sle was given over to the noises of the sea and the straining timbers of the ship.
Now that the figures of the two sailors had vanished its personality took fuller life, grim, dark, close, like the interior of a grimy hand clutching the lives of all those sleepers. The beams shewed like the curved fingers, and the heel of the bowsprit like the point of the in-turned thumb, a faint soul-killing rock of kerosene filled it, intensifying, after the fashion of ambergris, all the other perfumes, without losing in power. Bilge, tobacco and humanity, you cannot know what these things are till they are married with the reek of kerosene, with the grunts and snores of weary men, with lamplight dimmed with smoke haze; with the heave and fall of the sea; the groaning of timbers and the boom of the waves. This is the fo'c'sle whose great, great, great grandmother was the lower deck of the trireme where slaves chained to benches laboured till they died, just as they labour to-day.
The Albatross, bound from Cape Town to Melbourne, had been blown out of her course and south of the Crozet Islands; she was now steering north-west, making towards Kerguelen, across an ice-blue sea, vast, like a country of broken crystal strewn with snow. The sky, against which the top-gallant stay-sails shewed gull-white in the sun, had the cold blue of the sea and was hung round at the horizon by clouds like the white clouds that hang round the Pacific Trades.
Raft was at the wheel and Captain Pound the master was pacing the deck with Mason the first officer, up and down, pausing now and then for a glance away to windward, now with an eye aloft at the steadfast canvas, talking all the time of subjects half a world away.
It was a sociable ship as far as the afterguard was concerned. Pound being a rough and capable man of the old school with no false dignity and an open manner of speech. He had been talking of his little house at Twickenham, of Mrs. Pound and the children, of servants and neighbours that were unsociable and now he was talking of dreams. He had been dreaming the night before of Pembroke docks, the port he had started from as a boy. Pembroke docks was a bad dream for Pound, and he said so. It always heralded some disaster when it appeared before him in dreamland.
"I've always dreamt before that I was starting from there," said he, "but last night I was getting the old Albatross in, and the tow rope went, and the tug knocked herself to bits, and then the old hooker swung round and there was Mrs. P. on the quayside in her night attire shouting to me to put the helm down—under hare sticks in the docks, mind you!"
"Dreams are crazy things," said Mason. "I don't believe there's anything in them."
"Well, maybe not," said Pound. He glanced at the binnacle card and then went below.
Nothing is more impressive to the unaccustomed mind than the spars and canvas of a ship under full sail seen from the deck, nothing more suggestive of power and the daring of man than the sight of those leviathan spars and vast sail spaces rising dizzily from main and foresail in pyramids to where the truck works like a pencil point writing on the sky. Nothing more arresting than the power of the steersman. A turn of the wheel in the hands of Raft would set all that canvas shuddering or thundering, spilling the wind as the water is spilled from a reservoir, a moment's indecision or slackness might lose the ship a mile on her course. But Raft steered as he breathed, automatically, almost unconsciously, almost without effort. He, who ashore was hopelessly adrift and without guidance, at the helm was all wisdom, direction and intuition.
The wake of the Albatross lay as if drawn with a ruler.
His trick was nearly up, and when he was relieved he went forward; pausing at the fo'c'sle head to light a pipe he fell in talk with some of the hands, leaning with his back against the bulwarks and blown upon by the spill of the wind from the head sails.
An old shell-back by name of Ponting was holding the floor.
"We're comin' up to Kerguelen," he was saying. "Should think I did know it. Put in there in a sealer out of New Bedford in '82. I wasn't more'n a boy then. The Yanks used to use that place a lot in those days. The blackest blastedest hole I ever struck. Christmas Island was where we lay mostly, for two months, the chaps huntin' the wal'uses and killin' more than they could carry. The blastedest hole I ever struck."
"I was there in a Dane once," began another of the crew. "It was time of year the sea cows was matin' and you could hear the roarin' of them ten mile off."
"Dane," said Ponting, "what made you ship a'board a Dane—I've heard tell of Danes. Knew a chap signed on in one of them Leith boots out of Copenhagen runnin' north, one of them old North Sea cattle trucks turned into a passenger tramp, passengers and ponies with a hundred ton of hay stowed forward and the passengers lyin' on their backs on it smokin' their pipes, and the bridge crawled over with passengers, girls and children, and the chap at the wheel havin' to push 'em out of the way, kept hittin' reefs all the run from Leith to God knows where, and the Old Man playin' the fiddle most of the time."
"That chap said the Danes was a d——d lot too sociable for him."
Raft listened without entirely comprehending. He had always been a fore-mast hand. He knew practically nothing of steam and he would just as soon have fancied himself a railway porter as a hand on a passenger ship. He was one of the old school of merchant seamen and the idea of a cargo of girls and children and general passengers, not to speak of ponies, was beyond him.
The girls he had mostly known were of the wharf-side. He finished his pipe and went down below—and turned in.
He was rousted out by the voice of the Bo'sw'n calling for all hands on deck and slipping into his oilskins he came up, receiving a smack of sea in his face as he emerged from the fo'c'sle hatch. The wind had shifted and a black squall coming up from astern had hit the ship. More was coming and through the sheeting rain and spindrift the voice of the Bo'sw'n was roaring to let go the fore top-gallant halyards.
Next moment Raft was in the rigging followed by others. The sail had to be stowed. The wind tried to tear him loose and the sheeting rain to drown him, but he went on clinging to the top-gallant mast-stays and looking down he could see the faces of the others following him, faces sheeted over with rain and working blindly upwards.
Ponting was the man immediately below him, and taking breath for a moment and against the wind, Ponting was now yelling out that they had their work cut out for them.
The top-gallant sail had taken charge of itself, and Raft and Ponting as they lay out on the yard seemed battling with a thing alive, intelligent, and desperately wicked.
The sail snored and trembled and sang, standing out in great hoods and folds, hard as steel; now it would yield, owing to a slackening of the wind, and then, like a brute that had only been waiting to take them by surprise, it would burst out again, releasing itself, whilst the yard buckled and sprang, almost casting them from it.
Then began a battle fought without a sound or cry except the bubbling and snoring of the great sail struggling for its wicked liberty, it shrank and they flung themselves on it, it bellied and flung them back, clinging to the lift they saved themselves, attacking it again with the dumb fury of dogs or wolves on a fighting prey. Twenty times it tried to destroy them and twenty times they all but had it under.
The fight died out of the monster for a moment and Raft had nearly an armful of it in when it stiffened, fighting free of him, owing to Ponting and the other fellow not having made good. They clung for a moment without moving, resting, and Raft glancing down saw far away below the narrow deck driving wedge-like through the foam-capped seas.
Then the struggle began again. The sail, like its would-be captors, seemed also to have taken breath, it held firm, relaxed, banged out again in thunder, developed new hoods and folds as a struggling monster might develop new heads and kinks, and then, all of a sudden when it seemed that no effort was of avail the end came.
The wind paused for a moment, as if gathering up all its strength against the dogged persistency which is man, and in that moment the three on the yard had the sail under their chests beating and crushing the life out of it. Then the gaskets were passed round it and they clung for a moment to rest and breathe.
It was nothing, or they thought nothing of it, this battle for life with a monster, just the stowing of a top-gallant sail in dirty weather, and most likely when they got down the Bo'sw'n would call them farmers for being such a time over it. Meanwhile they clung idly for a moment, partly to rest and partly to look at something worth seeing.
The squall was blowing out, there was nothing behind it and away on the port quarter the almost setting sun had broken through the smother and was lighting the sea.
There, set in a thousand square acres of snowcapped tourmaline, white as a gull and beautiful as grace itself, was running a vessel under bear poles. The two yellow funnels, the cut of the hull, told Ponting what she was. He had seen her twice before and no sailor who had once set eyes on her could forget her.
"See that blighter," he yelled across to Raft. "Know her?"
"Should think I did, she's the Gaston de Paree—a yacht—seen her in T'lon."
Then they came down, crawling like weary men, and on deck no one abused them for their slackness or the time they'd been over their job. The Albatross was running easy and the Bo'sw'n with others was taken up with a momentary curiosity over the great white yacht.
No one knew her but Ponting, who had for several years acted as deck hand on some of the Mediterranean boats.
"I know her," said he ranging up beside the others. "She's the Gaston de Paree, a yot—seen her in T'lon harbour and seen her again at Suez, she's a thousand tonner, y'can't mistake them funnels nor the width of them, she's a twenty knotter and the chap that owns her is a king or somethin'; last time I saw her she was off to the China seas, they say she's all cluttered up with dredges and dipsy gear, and she mostly spends her time takin' soundin's and scrabblin' up shell fish and such—that's his way of amusin' himself."
"Then he must be crazy," said the Bo'sw'n, "but b'God he's got a beauty under him—what's he doin' down here away?"
"Ax me another," said Ponting. Raft stood with the others, watching the Gaston de Paris from whose funnels now the smoke was coming festooned on the wind, then he went below to shed his oilskins and smoke.
She had ceased to interest him.
THE GASTON DE PARIS
Old Ponting was right in all his particulars, except one. The owner of the Gaston de Paris was not a king, only a prince.
Prince Selm, a gentleman like his Highness of Monaco with a passion for the deep sea and its exploration. The Holy Roman Empire had given his great grandfather the title of prince, and estates in Thuringia gave him money enough to do what he pleased, an unfortunate marriage gave him a distaste for High Civilization, and his scientific bent and passion for the sea—inherited with a strain of old Norse blood—did the rest.
He had chosen well. Cards, women and wine, pleasure and the glittering things of life, all these betray one, but the sea, though she may kill, never leaves a man broken, never destroys his soul.
But Eugene Henry William of Selm for all this sea passion might have remained a landsman, for the simple reason that he was one of those thorough souls for whom Life and an Object are synonymous terms. In other words he would never have made a yachtsman, a creature shifting from Keil to Cowes and Cowes to Naples according to season, a cup gatherer and club-house haunter.
But Exploration gave him the incentive and the Musee Oceanographique of Monaco his inspiration, limitless wealth supplied the means.
The Gaston de Paris built by Viguard of Toulon was an ocean going steam yacht of twelve hundred and fifty tons with engines by Conturier of Nantes and everything of the latest from Conturier's twin-action centrifugal bilge pumps to the last thing in sea valves. She was reckoned by those who knew her the finest sea-going yacht in the world and she was certainly the chef-d'oeuvre of Lafiette, Viguard's chief designer. Lafiette was more than a designer, he was a creator, the sea was in his blood giving him that touch of genius or madness, that something eccentric which made him at times cast rules and formulae aside.
The decks of the Gaston de Paris ran flush, with little encumbrance save a deck-house forward given over to electrical and deep sea instruments.
Forward of the engine room and right to the bulkheads of the fo'c'sle ran a lower deck reached by a hatch aft of the instrument room. Here were stowed the dredges and buoys and all the gear belonging to them, trawl nets and deep sea traps, cable and spare rope and sounding-wire, harpoons and grancs and a hundred odds and ends, all in order and spick and span as the gear of a warship.
Aft of the engine-room the yacht was a little palace. Prince Selm would labour like any of his crew over a net coming in or in an emergency, but he ate off silver and slept between sheets of exceedingly fine linen. Though a sailor, almost one might say a fisherman, he was always Monsieur le Prince and though his hobby lay in the depths of the sea his intellect did not lie there too. Politics, Literature and Art travelled with him as mind companions, whilst in the flesh he often managed to bring off with him on his "outlandish expeditions" more or less pleasant people from the great world where Civilisation sits in cities, feeding Art and Philosophy, Science and Literature with the hearts and souls of men.
The main saloon of the Gaston de Paris fought in all its details against the idea of shipboard life, the gilt and scrolls of the yacht decorator, the mirrors, and all the rest of his abominations were not to be found here, panels by Chardin painted for Madame de Pompadour occupied the walls, the main lamp, a flying dragon by Benvenuto Cellini, clutching in its claws a globe of fire, had, for satellites, four torch bearers of bronze by Claus, a library, writing and smoking room, combined, opened from the main saloon, and there was a boudoir decorated in purple and pearl with flower pictures by Lactropius unfaded despite their date of 1685.
Nothing could be stranger to the mind than the contrast between the fo'c'sle of the Albatross and the after cabins of the Gaston, nothing, except, maybe, the contrast between a garret in Montmartre or Stepney and a drawing-room in the Avenue du Trocadero or Mayfair.
Dinner was served on board the Gaston de Paris at seven, and to-night the Prince and his four guests, seated beneath the flying dragon of Cellini and enjoying their soup, held converse together light-heartedly and with a spirit that had been somewhat lacking of late. Every sea voyage has its periods of depression due to monotony; they had not sighted a ship for over ten days, and this evening the glimpse of the Albatross revealed through the break in the weather had in some curious way shattered the sense of isolation and broken the monotony. The four guests of the Prince were: Madame la Comtesse de Warens, an old lady with a passion for travel, a free thinker, whose mother was a friend of Voltaire in her youth and whose father had been a member of the Jacobin club; she was eighty-four years of age, declared herself indestructible by time, and her one last ambition to be a burial at sea. She was also a Socialistic-Anarchist, possessed an income of some forty thousand pounds a year derived from speculations of her late husband conducted during the war with Germany in 1870, yet was never known to give a sou to charity; her hands were all but the hands of a skeleton and covered with jewels, she smoked cigarettes incessantly. She was one of those old women whose energy seems to increase with age, tireless as a gnat she was always the last in bed and the first on deck, though lying in her bunk half the night reading French novels of which she had a trunkful and smoking her eternal cigarettes.
Beside her sat her niece, Cleo de Bromsart, English on the mother's side and educated in England, a girl of twenty, unmarried, dark-haired, fragile and beautiful as a dream. She was one of the old nobility, without dilution, yet strangely enough with money, for the Bromsarts, without marrying into trade, had adapted themselves to the new times so cleverly that Eugene de Bromsart the last of his race had retired from life leaving his only daughter and the last of her race wealthy, even by the standard of wealth set in Paris. She was a sportswoman and, despite her lack of frailty, had led an outdoor life and possessed a nerve of steel.
Madame de Warens had brought the girl up after she left school, had laboured over her and found her labour in vain. Cleo had no leanings towards the People and the opinions of her aunt seemed to her a sort of disreputable madness bred on hypocrisy. Cleo looked on the lower classes just as she looked on animals, beings with rights of their own but belonging to an entirely different order of creation, and one thing certainly could be said for her—she was honest in her outlook on life.
Beside her sat Doctor Epinard, the ship's doctor, a serious young man who spoke little, and the fifth at table was Lagross, the sea painter, who had come for the sake of his health and to absorb the colours of the ocean. The vision of the Albatross with towering canvas breasting the blue-green seas in an atmosphere of sunset and storm was with him still as he sat listening to the chatter of the others and occasionally joining in. He intended to paint that picture.
It had come to him as a surprise. They had been playing cards when a quarter-master called them on deck saying that the weather had moderated and that there was a ship in sight, and there, away across the tumbling seas, the Albatross had struck his vision, remote, storm surrounded, and sunlit, almost a vision of the past in these days of mechanism.
"Now tell me, Prince," Madame de Warens was saying, "how long do you propose staying at this Kerguelen Land of yours?"
"Not more than a week," replied the Prince. "I want to take some soundings off the Smoky Islands and I shall put in for a day on the mainland where you can go ashore if you like, but I shan't stay here long. It is like putting one's head into a wolf's mouth."
"How is that?"
"Weather. You saw that sudden squall we passed through this evening, or rather you heard it, no doubt, well that's the sort of thing Kerguelen brews."
"Suppose," said the astute old lady, "it brewed one of those things, only much worse, and we were blown ashore?"
"Our engines can fight anything."
"Are there any natives in this place?"
"Only penguins and rabbits."
"Tell me," said Lagross, "that three-master we saw just now, would she be making for Kerguelen?"
"Oh, no, she must be out of her course and beating up north. She's not a whaler, and ships like that would keep north of the Crozets. Probably she was driven down by that big storm we had a week ago. We wouldn't be where we are only that I took those soundings south of Marion Island."
"And, after Kerguelen, what land shall we see next?" asked the old lady.
"New Amsterdam, madame," replied the Prince, "and after that the Sunda Islands and beautiful Java with its sun and palm trees."
Mademoiselle de Bromsart shivered slightly. She had been silent up to this, and she spoke now with eyes fixed far away as if viewing the picture of Java with its palms and sapphire skies.
"Could we not go there now?" asked she.
"In what way?" asked the Prince.
"Turn the ship round and leave this place behind," she replied.
"I don't know," said she, "perhaps it is what you say about Kerguelen, or perhaps it was the sight of that big ship all alone out there, but I feel—" she stopped short.
"That ship frightened me."
"Frightened you," cried Madame de Warens, "why, Cleo, what is the matter with you to-night? You who are never frightened. I'm not easily frightened, but I admit I almost said my prayers in that storm, and you, you were doing embroidery."
"Oh, I am not frightened of storms or things in the ordinary way," said the girl half laughing. "Physical things have no power over me, an ugly face can frighten me more than the threat of a blow. It is a question of psychology. That ship produced on my mind a feeling as though I had seen desolation itself, and something worse."
"Something worse!" cried Madame de Warens, "what can be worse than desolation?"
"I don't know," said Cleo, "It also made me feel that I wanted to be far away from it and from here. Then, Monsieur le Prince, with his story of desolate Kerguelen, completed the feeling. It is strong upon me now."
"You do not wish to go to Kerguelen then?" said the Prince smiling as he helped himself to the entree that was being passed round.
"Oh, monsieur, it is not a question of my wishes at all," replied the girl.
"But, excuse me," replied the owner of the Gaston de Paris, "it is entirely a question of your wishes. We are not a cargo boat, Captain Lepine is on the bridge, he has only to go into his chart house, set his course for New Amsterdam, and a turn of the wheel will put our stern to the south." He touched an electric bell push, attached to the table, as he spoke.
"And your soundings?" asked she.
"They can wait for some other time or some other man, sea depths are pretty constant."
A quarter-master appeared at the saloon door, came forward and saluted.
"Ask Captain Lepine to come aft," said the Prince. "I wish to speak to him."
"Wait," said Mademoiselle Bromsart. Then to her host. "No. I will not have the course altered for me. I am quite clear upon that point. What I said was foolish and it would pain me more than I can tell to have it acted upon. I really mean what I say."
He looked at her for a moment and seemed to glimpse something of the iron will that lay at the heart of her beauty and fragility.
"That will do," said he to the quarter-master. "You need not give my message."
Madame de Warens laughed. "That is what it is to be young," said she, "if an old woman like me had spoken of changing our course I doubt if your quarter-master would have been called, Monsieur. But I have no fads and fancies, thank heaven, I leave all that to the young women of to-day."
"Pardon me, madame," said Doctor Epinard speaking for almost the first time, "but in impressions produced by objects upon the mind there is no room for the term fancy. I speak of course of the normal mind free of disease. Furthermore, we talk of objects as things of secondary importance and the mind as everything. Now I am firmly convinced that the mind of man, so far from being a thing apart from the objects that form its environment, is, in fact, nothing else but a mirror or focus upon which objects register their impressions and that all the thinking in the world is done not really by the mind but by the objects that form our thoughts and the reasons, utterly divorced from what we call human reason, that connect together the objects that form our environment."
"Is this a theory of your own, Epinard?" asked the Prince.
"It is, monsieur, and it may be bad or good but I adhere to it."
"You mean to say that man is composed entirely of environment, past and present?"
"Yes, monsieur, you have caught my meaning exactly. Past and present. Man is nothing more than a concretion formed from emanations of all the objects whose emanations have impinged upon living tissue since, at the beginning of the world, living tissue was formed. He is the sunset he saw a million years ago, the water he swam in when he was a fish, the knight in armour he fought with when he was an ancestor, or rather he is a concretion of the light, touch and sound vibrations from these and a million other things. I have written the matter fully out in a thesis, which I hope to publish some day."
"Well, you may put my name down for a dozen copies," said the Prince, "for certainly the theory is less mad than some of the theories I have come across explaining the origin of mind."
"But what has all that to do with the ship?" asked Madame de Warens.
"Simply, madame, that the ship which one looked at as a structure of canvas and wood, once seen by Mademoiselle de Bromsart, has become part of her mind, just as it has become part of yours and mine, a logical and definite part of our minds; now, mark me, there was also the sunset and the storm clouds, those objects also became part of the mind of Mademoiselle de Bromsart, and the reasons interlying between all these objects produced in her a definite and painful impression. They were, in fact, all thinking something which she interpreted."
"It seemed to me," said the girl, "that I saw Loneliness itself, and for the first time, and I felt just now that it was following me. It was to escape from that absurd phantom that I suggested to Monsieur le Prince that we should alter our course."
"Well," said Madame de Warens, "your will has conquered the Phantom. Let us talk of something more cheerful."
"Listen!" said Mademoiselle de Bromsart. "It seems to me that the engines are going slower."
"You have a quick ear, mademoiselle," said the Prince, "they undoubtedly are. The Captain has reduced speed. Kerguelen is before us, or rather on our starboard bow, and daybreak will, no doubt, give us a view of it. We do not want to be too close to it in the dark hours, that is why speed has been reduced."
Coffee was served at table and presently, amidst the fumes of cigarette smoke, the conversation turned to politics, the works of Anatole France, and other absorbing subjects. One might have fancied oneself in Paris but for the vibrations of the propeller, the heave of the sea, and the hundred little noises that mark the passage of a ship under way.
Later Mademoiselle de Bromsart found herself in the smoking-room alone with her host, Madame de Warens having retired to her state-room and the others gone on deck.
The girl was doing some embroidery work which she had fetched from her cabin and the Prince was glancing at the pages of the Revue des Deux Mondes. Presently he laid the book down.
"I was in earnest," said he.
"How?" she asked, glancing up from her work.
"When I proposed altering the course. Nothing would please me more than to spoil a plan of my own to please you."
"It is good of you to say that," she replied, "all the same I am glad I did not spoil your plan, not so much for your sake as my own."
"I would rather die than run away from danger."
"So you feared danger?"
"No, I did not fear it, but I felt it. I felt a premonition of danger. I did not say so at dinner. I did not want to alarm the others."
He looked at her curiously for a moment, contrasting her fragility and beauty with the something unbendable that was her spirit, her soul—call it what you will.
"Well," said he, "your slightest wish is my law. I have been going to speak to you for the last few days. I will say what I want to say now. It is only four words. Will you marry me?"
She looked up at him, meeting his eyes full and straight.
"No," said she, "it is impossible."
"I have a very great regard for you—but—"
"You do not love me?"
She said nothing, going on with her work calmly as though the conversation was about some ordinary topic.
"I don't see why you should," he went on, "but look around you—how many people marry for love now-a-days—and those who do, are they any the happier? I have seen a very great deal of the world and I know for a fact that happiness in marriage has little to do with what the poets call love and everything to do with companionship. If a man and woman are good companions then they are happy together, if not they are miserable, no matter how much they may love one another at the start."
"Have you seen much of the world?" she raised her eyes again as she asked the question. "Have you seen anything really of the world? I do not mean to be rude, but this world of ours, this world of society that holds us all, is there anything real about it, since nearly everything in it is a sham? Look at the lives we lead, look at Paris and London and Berlin. Why the very language of society is framed to say things we do not mean."
"It is civilization. How else would you have it?"
"I don't know," she replied, "but I do know it is not life. It is dishonesty. You say that the only happy married people are those that are good companions, that love does not count in the long run, and you are right, perhaps, as far as what you call the World is concerned. I only repeat that the thing you call the World is not the real world, for love is real, and love is not merely a question of good companionship. It is an immortal bond between two spirits and death cannot break it."
"You speak as though you were very certain of a thing which, of all things, is most hidden from us."
"I speak by instinct."
"Well," said the Prince, "perhaps you are right. We have left behind us the simplicity of the old world, we have become artificial, our life is a sham—but what would you have and how are we to alter it? We are all like passengers in a train travelling to heaven knows where; the seats are well cushioned and the dining-car leaves nothing to be desired, but I admit the atmosphere is stuffy and the long journey has developed all sorts of unpleasant traits among the passengers—well, what would you do? We cannot get out."
"I suppose not," said she.
He rose up and stood for a moment turning over some magazines lying on the table. He had received his answer and he knew instinctively that it was useless to pursue the business further.
Then after a few more words he went on deck. The wind had fallen to a steady blow but the sky was still overcast and the atmosphere was heavy and clammy and not consistent. It was as though the low lying clouds dipped here and there to touch the sea. Every now and then the Gaston de Paris would run into a wreath of fog and pass through it into the clear darkness of the night beyond.
In the darkness aft of the bridge nothing could be seen but the pale hint of the bridge canvas and a trace of spars and funnels now wiped out with mist, now visible again against the night.
The Prince leaned on the weather rail and looked over at the tumble and sud of the water lit here and there with the gleam of a port light.
Cleo de Bromsart had fascinated him, grown upon him, compelled him in some mysterious way to ask her to marry him. He had sworn after his disastrous first experience never to marry again. He had attempted to break his oath. Was he in love with her? He could scarcely answer that question himself. But this he knew, that her refusal of him and the words she had said were filling his mind with quite new ideas.
Was she right after all in her statement that he who fancied himself a man of the world knew nothing of the world except its shams? Was she right in her statement that love was a bond between two spirits, a bond unbreakable by death? That old idea was not new to him, he had played with it as a toy of the mind constructed for the mind to play with by the poets.
The new thing was to find this idea in the mind of a young girl and to hear it expressed with such conviction.
After a while he came forward and went up the steps to the bridge. Captain Lepine was in the chart room, the first officer was on the bridge and Bouvalot, an old navy quarter-master, had the wheel.
"We have slowed down," said the Prince.
"Yes, monsieur," replied the first officer, "we are getting close to land. We ought to sight Kerguelen at dawn."
"What do you think of the weather?"
"I don't think the weather will bother us much, monsieur, that blow had nothing behind it, and were it not for these fog patches I would ask nothing better; but then it's Kerguelen—what can one expect!"
"True," said the other, "it's a vile place, by all accounts, as far as weather is concerned."
He tapped at the door of the chart room and entered.
The chart room of the Gaston de Paris was a pleasant change from the dark and damp of the bridge. A couch upholstered in red velvet ran along one side of it and on the couch with one leg up and a pipe in his mouth the captain was resting himself, a big man of the Southern French navy type, with a beard of burnt-up black that reached nearly to his eyes.
The Prince, telling him not to move, sat down and lit a cigar. Then they fell into talk.
Lepine was a sailor and nothing else. Had his character been cut out of cardboard the line of division between the sailor and the rest of the world could not have been more sharply marked. That was perhaps why the two men, though divided by a vast social gulf, were friends, almost chums.
They talked for half an hour or so on all sorts of subjects connected with the ship.
"By the way, Lepine," said the Prince suddenly, "It has been the toss up of a sou that we are not now steering a course for New Amsterdam."
"And how is that, monsieur?"
"Well, Mademoiselle de Bromsart proposed to me at dinner that we should alter our course, the idea came to her that some misfortune might happen to us off Kerguelen and, as you know, I am always anxious to please my guests—well, I called a quarter-master down. I was going to have sent for you."
"To alter our course?"
"Yes, but Mademoiselle de Bromsart altered her mind. She refused to let me send for you."
"But what gave the young lady that idea?" asked the Captain.
"That big ship we sighted before dinner."
"Yes, there was something about it she did not like."
"Monsieur, what an idea—and what was wrong with it?"
"Oh, it was just a fancy. The sea breeds fancies and superstitions, you know that, Lepine, for I believe you are superstitious yourself."
"Perhaps, monsieur; all sailors are, and I have had experiences. There are bad and good ships, just as there are bad and good men, of that I am sure. Perhaps that three-master was a bad ship." Lepine laughed as though at his own words. "All the same," he went on, "I don't like warnings, especially off Kerguelen."
They left the chart house and came out on the bridge.
The wind was still steady but the clouds had consolidated and the night was pitch black. On the bridge the Gaston de Paris seemed driving into a solid wall of ebony.
The Prince after a glance into the binnacle was preparing to go down the bridge steps when a cry from the Look-out made him wheel round. Suddenly, and as if evolved by magic from the blackness, the vague spectre of a vast ship shewed up ahead on the port bow making to cross their course. Thundering along under full canvas without lights and seemingly blind, she seemed only a pistol shot away.
Then the owner of the Gaston de Paris did what no owner ought ever to do: seeing Destruction and judging that by a bold stroke it might be out-leaped, he sprang to the engine room telegraph and flung the lever to full speed ahead.
Left alone, Mademoiselle de Bromsart finished the all but completed piece of embroidery in her lap. It did not take her five minutes. Then she held up the work and reviewed it with lips slightly pursed, then she rolled it up, rose, and went off to the state-room of Madame de Warens to bid her good-night.
Madame was sitting up in her bunk reading Maurice Barres' "Greco." The air of the place was stifling with the fume of cigarettes, and the girl nearly choked as she closed the door and stood facing the old lady in the bunk.
"Why don't you smoke, then you wouldn't mind it," cried the latter, putting her book down and taking off her glasses. "No, I won't have a port opened, d'you want me to be blown out of my bunk? Sit down."
"No, I won't stay," replied the other, "I just came to say good-night—and tell you something—He asked me to marry him."
"And what did you say?"
"I said 'No.'"
"Oh, you did?—and what's the matter with him—I mean what's the matter with you?"
"How! The best match in Europe and you say 'no' to him—a man who could marry where he pleases and whom he pleased and you say 'no.' Good-looking, without vices, richer than many a crowned head, second only to the reigning families—and you say 'no.'"
The old lady was working herself up. This admirer of Anarchasis Clootz and dilletanti of Anarchism had lately possessed one supreme desire, the desire to have for niece the Princess Selm.
"I thought you didn't believe in all that," said the girl.
"Titles, wealth and so forth."
"I believe in seeing you happy and well-placed. I was not thinking of myself—well, there, it's done. There is no use in talking any more, for I know your disposition. You are hard, mademoiselle, that is your failing—without real heart. It is the modern disease. Well, that is all I have to say. I wish you good-night."
She put on her spectacles again.
"Good-night," said the other.
She went out, closed the door, and entered her state-room.
It was the same as Madame de Warens' only larger, a place to fill the mind of the old-time seafarers with the wildest surprise, for here was everything that a mortal could demand in the way of comfort and nothing of the stuffy upholstery that the word "state-rooms" suggests to the mind of the ordinary traveller.
The crimson velvet, so dear to the heart of the ship furnisher, was supplanted by ribbed silk, Persian rugs covered the floor, the metal fittings were of bronze, and worked, where possible, into sea designs: dolphins, sea-horses, and fucus. There was a writing-table that could be closed up into the wall so cunningly that no trace was left of where it had been, a tiny library of slim volumes uniformly bound in amber leather, a miracle of binding, the work of Grossart of Tours, a map-rack containing large scale maps of the world, and a tell-tale compass shewing the course of the Gaston de Paris to whomever cared to read it. A long mirror let into the bulkhead aft increased the apparent size of the place. A bath-room and dressing-room lay forward.
Having closed the door she stood for a moment glancing at her reflection in the mirror. The picture seemed to fascinate her as though it were the reflection of some stranger. Then, turning from the mirror, she sat down for a moment on the couch by the door.
She felt disturbed. The words of Madame de Warens had angered her, producing the effect of a false accusation to which one is too proud to reply, but the momentary anger had passed, giving place to a craving for freedom and fresh air. The atmosphere of the state-room felt stifling, she would go on deck. Then she remembered that she was in a thin evening dress and that she would have to change.
The two women shared a maid, and she was in the act of stretching out her hand to the electric bell by the couch to summon the maid, when the craving to get on deck without delay became so strong that she rose, went into the dressing-room and, without assistance, changed her gown for a tweed coat and skirt and her thin evening shoes for a pair of serviceable boots. Then she slipped on her oilskin and sou'wester and coming back into the state-room caught a momentary glimpse of herself in the mirror, a strange contrast to the elegant and black-gowned figure that had glanced at its reflection only ten minutes before.
She was coming up the saloon companion-way when the engines, easily heard from here, suddenly began a thunderous pow-wow; the ship lurched forward, and from the blackness of the open hatch above came a voice like the sudden clamour of sea-gulls. Then she was flung backwards and stretched, half-stunned, on the mat at the companion-way foot.
For a moment she did not know in the least what had happened. She fancied she had slipped and fallen, then, as she scrambled on to her hands and knees, someone passed her, nearly treading on her, and rushed up the companion-way to the deck. It was the chief steward. Rising and holding on to the rail she followed him.
The deck was aslant, and in the windy blackness of the night nothing was to be seen for a moment; but the darkness was terrific with voices, voices from forward of the bridge and voices from alongside as though a hundred drunken sailors were yelling and blaspheming from a quay.
For the tenth of a second the idea of being alongside a quay came to her with nightmare effect, heightened by a ruffling and booming from the sky above, a rippling and flapping and thundering like the sound of vast and tangled wings.
Then a blaze of light shot out, making day.
The arc lamp of the fore-mast, always ready to be used for night work, had been run up and switched on.
To starboard and stern of the Gaston de Paris, a great ship, within pistol shot of the deck, and with her canvas spilling the wind and thrashing and thundering, was dipping her bows in the sea. Men were fighting for the boats, and the stern was so high that more than half of the rudder shewed like a great door swinging on its hinges. On the counter in pale letters the word
shewed, and to the mind of the gazer all the horror seemed focussed in that calm statement, those commonplace letters written upon destruction.
Clinging to the hatch combing she saw, now, as a person sees in a dream, sailors rushing and struggling aft along the slanting main deck. The engines had ceased working but the dynamos were running on steam from the main boilers, and through the noises that filled the night the sewing machine sound of them threshed like a pulse. What had happened, what was happening, she did not know. The great ship to port seemed sinking but the Gaston de Paris seemed safe, but for the horrible slant of the decks; she called out to the sailors, now clustered here and there by the boat davits, but her voice blew away on the wind, she saw Prince Selm, he was struggling aft along the slippery sloping deck, clutching at the bulwarks as he came, he seemed like a man engaged in some fantastic game—an unreal figure, now he was on the deck on all fours, now up again, clutching men by the shoulders, shaking them, shouting. She could hear his voice. The starboard boats were unworkable owing to the list to port. She did not know that, she only knew, and now for the first time, that the Gaston de Paris was in fearful danger. And instantly the thought came to her of the old woman below in her bunk and, on the thought, the mad instinct to rush below and save her.
Holding on to the woodwork of the hatch she was crawling towards the opening when blackness hit her like a blow between the eyes. The arc lamp had gone out, the dynamos had ceased running.
On the stroke of the darkness the Gaston de Paris heeled slightly deeper, flinging her to her knees, and as she hung, clutching the woodwork, she heard her name.
It was the Prince's voice. She answered, and at once on her answer a hand seized her cruelly as a vice. It caught her by the shoulder. She felt herself dragged along, buffeted, lifted, cast down—then nothing more.
VOICES IN THE NIGHT
The boat tackle of the Gaston de Paris was the latest patent arrangement for lowering boats in a hurry; every boat was provisioned, and the water casks left nothing to be desired, there were frequent inspections and boat drills. Yet when the Gaston de Paris foundered only three souls were saved.
The starboard boats, owing to the list, could not be lowered at all; every boat had its canvas cover on, which did not expedite matters. The patent tackle developed defects in practise, and, to crown all, the men panicked owing to the sudden darkness that fell on them like a clap on the extinction of the electric light. The port quarter-boat into which the girl had been flung had two men in her and was lowered away by Prince Selm, the doctor and the first officer; panic had herded the rest of the hands towards the pinnace and forward boats, and the pinnace, over-crowded, was stoved by the sea as soon as she was water-bourne. The other boats never left their davits, they went with the ship when the decks opened and the boilers saluted the night with a column of coloured steam and a clap of thunder that resounded for miles.
The whole tragedy from impact to explosion lasted only seven minutes.
The two men in the boat with the girl had shoved off like demons and taken to the oars as soon as the falls were released. If they had not, being so short-handed for the size of the boat, they would have been stoved; as it was they were nearly wrecked by a balk of timber from the explosion. It missed them by a short two fathoms, drenching them with spray, and then the night shut down pierced by voices, voices of men swimming and crying for help.
The rowers did not know each other. The bow oar shouted to the stern. "Is that you Larsen?"
"No, Bompard, and you?"
"La Touche—Row—God! Listen, there's a chap ahead."
The cries ahead ceased, and the boat bumped on something that duddered away under it and sank.
"He's gone, whoever he is," cried Bompard. "No use hunting for him. Listen, there's more." Voices shrill and voices bubbling came through the blackness from here and from there. The men tried to locate them and rowed now in this direction, now in that—always wrong. Once a voice sudden and shrill and close to the boat cried "A moi," and at the same instant Bompard's oar struck something, but they found nothing, the voice had ceased.
They could see, now, the waves like spectres evolving themselves from the night, a vision touching the very limit of dimness, and now as they entered a mist patch—nothing. The voices to port and starboard were ceasing, one by one—being blotted out. Then silence fell, broken only by the sound of the oars. La Touche shouted and shouted again, but there came no response. Then came Bompard's voice. "Is that hooker gone, too?"
"Curse her, yes. I was the lookout. Sailing without lights."
"This woman seems dead."
"It's the girl. I heard her squeal out as they hove her in. Let her lie. Well, this is a start."
"A black job, but we're out of it, so far."
"Ay, as far as we've got—as far as we've got. Well, there's no use rowing, there's no sea to hurt her, let her toss."
The oars came in and the fellows slithered from their seats on to the bottom boards. Ballasted so the boat rode easy. They lay like shivering dogs, grumbling and cursing and then, as they lay, the talk went on.
"Mon Dieu! What a thing—but we've grub and water all right."
"Ay, the boats are all right for that."
There was a long silence and then La Touche began in a high complaining voice:
"I was lookout, but it was not my fault, that I swear. I saw nothing till a big three-master broke out of the smother making to cross our bows, no lights shewing, snoring along asleep. Then I shouted. The bridge had seen her too and put the engines full speed ahead. They'd mistaken the distance, thought to clear her. I got aft. Hadn't reached the port alley way when the smash came. It was all the fault of those fools on the bridge."
"Who knows," came Bompard's voice. "Things happen and what is to be must be. Well, they're all gone a hundred fathoms deep and here we are drifting about with a dead woman. I'd sooner have any other cargo if I was given my choice."
"Sure she's dead?"
"Ay, she's dead sure enough by the way she's lying, not a breath in her."
Neither man suggested that she should be cast over. She ballasted the boat, and for Bompard she was something to lean against.
The French mercantile marine is divided into two great classes, the northerners and southerners. The man from the north is a Ponantaise, the man from the south a Moco.
Bompard was a Moco, La Touche a Ponantaise. They talked and talked, repeating themselves, cursing the "hooker," the Bridge and the steersman. Once La Touche, grown hysterical, seemed choking against tears.
Then after a while, conversation died out. They had nothing more to talk about. The boat rode easy. There was nothing to do, and these men blunt to life and sea-hardened so that to them all things came in the hour's work, nodded off, La Touche curled up in the bow, Bompard with his grizzled head on the breast of Mademoiselle de Bromsart.
The girl was not dead as Bompard imagined, she had been stunned and had passed from that condition into the pseudo-sleep that follows profound excitement.
She was awakened by a flick of spray on her face, a touch from the great sea that had claimed her for its own.
Lying as she was she could see nothing but the ribbed sides of the boat, the grey sky above, and a gull with domed wings and down-curved head, poised, as though suspended on the end of a string. It screamed at her, shifted its position, and then passed, as though blown away on the wind. She sat up. Bompard had drawn away from her and was lying curled up on his side. La Touche on his back, forward, shewed nothing but his knees; across the gunnel lay the sea, desolate in the dawn, turbulent, yet hard and mournful as a view of slated roofs after rain.
She had never seen the sea so close before, she had never smelt its heart and the savour of its soul; bitter, fresh, new and ever renewed by the blowing wind.
The whole tragedy of the night was alive in her mind as a picture, but it seemed the picture of what another person had seen. Her past life, her own personality, seemed vague and unconnected with her as the past life and personality of another person. This was reality. Reality new, terrific, pungent as that which the soul may experience on awakening after death.
She knew, as though the desolate sea had told her, that the great yacht was gone and everyone on board of her; yet the fact, perhaps from its very enormity, failed to realize itself fully in her mind. Then, in a flash and horribly clearly, came the picture of her immediate environment on board the Gaston de Paris, quite little things and things more important: the silver-plated taps of the bath in the bath-room, adjoining her cabin, the silk curtains of her bunk, the hundred and one trifles that made for comfort and ease. She saw the cabin servants and the face of the chief steward, a fat pale-faced man, a typical maitre d'hotel; the dinner of the night before, when the people seemed to her phantoms and the food, table equipage, knives, forks and spoons, realities.
All these things stood forth against the blankness and desolation of the sea, the sea she could touch by dipping her hand over the gunnel, the sea that had stripped her of everything but life and body, the dress and boots she wore and the yellow oilskin coat that covered her. Her hand resting on the gunnel shewed her that she still wore her rings, exquisite rings of emerald, ruby and diamonds, fresh washed with spray. They held her eyes as her mind, swaying just as the boat swayed to the swell, tried to re-construct yesterday and to feel.
Horror, pity for the fate of the others, the sense of the great disaster that had happened to the Gaston de Paris, of these only the latter possessed any vitality in her mind. The feeling of unreality destroyed her grip upon all else.
Her mind was subdued to her own condition. The hard angles of the woodwork against which she leaned and the spray upon her face, the boat and the men in it, the sharp cut wave tops—these were real, with an appalling reality.
It was as though she had never come across a real thing before, and across her mind came a vague, vague recognition of that great truth that real things bruise one, eat at one, try to make one their own, once they manage to break down the barrier of custom that separates the false from the true; that quite common things have a power greater than the power of mind, that only amidst the falsity of civilised life and the stage are the properties subordinate to the persons and emotions of the actors.
At this moment Bompard, suddenly moving in his sleep, roused himself and sat up. His rough, weather beaten face was expressionless for a moment, then his eyes fell on the girl and recognition seemed to come to him.
"Mon Dieu," cried the old fellow as if addressing some unseen person. "'Tis all true then—" Then, as though remembering something—"but how is mademoiselle alive?"
"I don't know," said the girl, unconscious as to what he was referring to. "I know you, I have seen you often on deck—who is the other man? Oh, is it possible that we are the only people left?"
Bompard, without replying, swung his head round, then he rose and came over the thwarts. He caught La Touche by the leg.
"Gaston—rouse up—the lady is alive. It's me. Bompard."
La Touche sat up, his hair towsled, his face creased, he seemed furious about something and pushing Bompard away stared round and round at sea and sky as if in search of someone.
"Bon Dieu," cried La Touche. "The cursed boat." He spat as though something bitter were in his mouth and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. He did not seem to care a button whether the lady were alive or not. He had been dreaming that he was in a tavern, just raising a glass to his mouth, and Bompard had awakened him to this.
The girl could not repeat the question to which there seemed no answer, she crawled into the stern sheets and sitting there, half bent, watched the two men. An observer perched in the sky above might have noticed the curious fact that on board the forsaken boat quarter deck and fo'c'sle still held sway, that the lady was the lady and the hands the hands, that Bompard was talking in an undertone, saying to La Touche: "Come, get alive, get alive," and that La Touche, after his first outburst, was holding himself in. They were old yachtsmen, no disaster could shake that fact.
La Touche, rising and taking his seat on a thwart and looking everywhere but in the direction of the girl, as though ashamed of something, began cutting up some tobacco in a mechanical way, whilst Bompard, on his knees, was exploring the contents of the forward locker. La Touche was a fair-haired man, younger than Bompard, a melancholy looking individual who always seemed gazing at the worst of things. He spoke now as the girl drew his attention to something far away in the east, something sketched vaguely in the sky as though a picture lay there beyond the haze.
"Ay, that's Kerguelen," said La Touche.
Bompard, on his knees, and with a maconochie tin in his left hand, raised his head and looked.
"Ay, that's Kerguelen," said Bompard.
"And look," said the girl, pointing towards Kerguelen. "Is not that the sail of a boat, away ever so far—or is it a gull? Now it's gone. Look, there it is again."
"I see nothing," said he, "gull, most like—there wouldn't be any boat from us, they're all gone, unless it was a boat from that hooker we struck."
"Boat," said La Touche with a dismal laugh. "She got no boat away, she went down by the bows with the fellows like flies on her, this is the only boat of the lot that got away."
The girl with her hand shading her eyes was still looking.
"It's gone, whatever it may have been," said she, "can we reach the land?"
"Why, yes, mademoiselle," said Bompard, "the wind is setting towards there and we have a sail, I am going to step the mast now when I've taken stock—well, we won't starve. The tube is provisioned for a full crew for a fortnight, water too, we won't starve, that's a fact. La Touche, get a move on and help me with the sail."
"I'm coming," grumbled La Touche.
It seemed to the girl that the minds and the tongues and the movements of the two men were part of some slow-acting, wooden, automatic mechanism. Whether they reached the land or not seemed a matter almost of indifference to them. Accustomed to people who talked much and had much to talk about she could not understand. All this was part of the new world in which she found herself, part of the boat itself, of the mast, now stepped against the grey sky, the waves, the gulls, and that tremendous outline of mountains now more visible to the east—Kerguelen. A world of things without thought, or all but thoughtless, things that, yet, dominated mind more profoundly than the power of mind itself.
Bompard was munching a biscuit he had taken from one of the bread bags as he worked. She noticed the bag, its texture, and the words "Traversal—Toulon" stamped on it. The maconochie tin which he had placed on a seat and a tin of beef with a Libby label held her eyes as though they were things new and extraordinary. They were. They were food. She had never seen food before, food as it really is, the barrier between life and death, food naked and stripped of all pretence.
Bompard coming aft with the sheet shipped the tiller, and, taking his seat by the girl, put the boat before the wind. La Touche, who had taken his seat on the after thwart, was engaged in opening the tin of beef. The girl scarcely noticed him. She was experiencing a new sensation, the sensation of sailing with the wind and the run of the swell. The boat, from a dead thing tossing on the waves, had suddenly become a thing alive, buoyant, eager and full of purpose, silent, too, for the slapping and buffeting of the water against the planking had ceased. Running thus with the wind and swell there was no opposition, everything was with her.
"Well, it's beef," said La Touche who had managed to open the Libby tin, "it might be worse."
He dug out a piece with his knife and presented it to the girl with a biscuit, then he helped Bompard and himself, then he scrambled forward, leaving his beef and biscuit on the thwart, and reappeared with a pannikin of water; it was handed to the lady first.
The food seemed to loose their tongues. It was as though the caste difference had been broken by the act of eating together.
"I'd never thought to set tooth in a biscuit again when that smash came last night," said Bompard addressing no one in particular.
"I wasn't thinking of biscuits," said La Touche, "I was bowled over in the alley-way. You see, I was running, so it took me harder. What set me running I don't know, my legs took care of themselves—I was just leaning like this, see, on the look out and between two blinks there was the hooker crossing our course or making that way. She'll clear us, maybe, said I to myself, then the engines went full speed and I knew we were done. Then I cleared aft, running, with no thought in my mind but to get out of the way, dark, too, but I didn't barge against nothing, till the smash came, and I went truck over keel in the alley-way."
"I was coming up the cabin stairs," said Cleo, "and something seemed to knock me down. Then when I got on deck the light was put on and I saw a great ship on the right hand side; she seemed sinking, but I read her name, she was quite close. Then the light went out and someone caught me and threw me—I don't know where, but it must have been into this boat."
"That was it," said Bompard, talking and eating at the same time, "us two was in the boat."
"I thought it was Larsen," cut in La Touche. "Larsen helped me to get the canvas off her, that was when the electric was on—what became of Larsen?"
"Lord knows," said Bompard. "I scrambled into her just as the light was shut off, then the chaps on deck chucked the lady in. Next thing we were fending her off from the ship. I was shouting to the chaps on deck to jump and we'd pick them up, we'd got the oars out then. I tell you I was fuddled up for I'd got it in my head that the hooker was to port of us though I'd seen her with my own eyes to starboard. I was thinking we'd be taken down with the suck of her and I was bent on getting ahead of her."
"I didn't hear you shouting to the fellows on deck," said La Touche, "but I heard you shouting to me to row. Then when we'd got her away a bit the Gaston blew up."
"Blew up," said the girl.
"The boilers," said Bompard, "they lifted the decks off her. She must have gone like a stone."
"So you think no one at all escaped but us?"
Neither of the men replied for a moment, then La Touche said: "There wasn't another boat could have got away."
The sun was well risen now, the clouds were high and breaking and the far away land shewed up, vast in the distance, with a white line of snow-covered peaks against the sky, desolate as when Kerguelen first sighted them.
Cleo with her eyes fixed across the leagues of tumbling tourmaline tinted sea almost forgot the others. That was the place where the wind was bearing them to, a place where there was nothing. Neither hotels nor houses nor huts, nor men nor women, a place where no landing-stage would receive them, no voice welcome them. Her throat worked for a second convulsively as she battled with the quite new things that the far off mountains were telling her.
It was now and not till now that she recognised fully what Fate had done to her. It was now and not till now that she saw Time before her as a thing from which all the known features had been deleted.
"Mademoiselle's bath is quite ready."
"Mademoiselle, the first gong has sounded."
Oh, the day—the day with its hundred phases and divisions, the breakfast hour, the luncheon hour, the hour that brought afternoon tea, the dresses that went with each phase, the emotions and interests, and changing forms of being, the day which made a person change to its light and the person of ten o'clock in the morning quite different from the person of noon—this thing which we talk of as the day appeared before her now as what it really is, life itself, as civilized men know life, a thing outside ourselves yet of ourselves and without which the circling of the sun is as the circling of a pointer on a blank dial—. This thing was gone.
La Touche had got more forward and was smoking and, though the wind was with them, a faint scent of tobacco smoke came on the spill of the wind from the sail. Bompard was chewing, spitting occasionally to starboard and wiping his mouth with the back of his bronzed tattooed hand.
The vague scent of the tobacco threaded up all sorts of things in the girl's mind: Madame de Warens, the streets of Paris, the deck of the yacht. She remembered the piece of embroidery work she had been engaged on last night, and then a scrap of conversation she had overheard between the doctor and the artist towards the end of dinner, they were talking of the passeistes and futurists, of the work of Pablo Picasso, of Sunyer, of Boccioni and Durio, arguing with extraordinary passion about the work of these people.
"There's weather or something over there," said La Touche who had slipped down and was seated on the bottom boards with his back to a thwart; he nodded his head towards Kerguelen.
Around one of the highest peaks a lead-coloured cloud had wrapped itself turban-wise, and even as they looked the cloud turban increased in volume and height, mournful and monstrous as some djin-born vision of the Arabian story-tellers.
"That's snow," said Bompard, "and by the twist of it it's in a whirlwind."
"Bon Dieu, what a place," said La Touche.
"You may say that," said Bompard, "but that's nothing, it's when we come to make a landing we'll find what we are against."
"Oh, we've got so far we'll finish it," said La Touche.
Then began a dismal argument, full of words and repetitions but with few ideas, and from the trend of it the curious fact appeared that La Touche, the ship's grouser and dismal James, was taking the optimistical side, whilst Bompard, generally cheerful, was the pessimist.
La Touche's optimism was, perhaps, the outcome of fear. What they had gone through was nothing to the prospect of having to make a landing on that tremendous coast, simply because what they had gone through had come on them suddenly. This thing had to be faced in cold blood. The coward in La Touche refused to face it fully, refused to face the fact that with this swell and with all the chances of uncharted and unknown reefs and rocks the risk was appalling. He grew angry.
"Don't be a coward over it," said he. That set Bompard off, and for a moment the girl thought they would have come to blows. Then it passed and they were as friendly as before, just as though nothing had happened.
Their talk and the whole business had been conducted as though the girl were not there. In the few hours since daybreak, quarter deck and fo'c'sle had vanished. They had become welded into one community, all equal, and the lady was no longer the lady. There was no hint of disrespect, no hint of respect. They were all equal, equal sharers in the chances of the sea.
More, the sex standard seemed to have vanished with the social. Nothing remained but the human, for that is the rule with the open boat at sea.
When they lowered the sail for screening purposes, when they raised it again, it was all the same, for the human level is above all little things.
Towards noon and with the coast now closer and well-defined, La Touche sighted something ahead. It was a rock, high and pointed like a black spire protruding from the sea and standing there like an outpost of the land.
"Had we better give it a wide berth?" asked La Touche. "Maybe there's more near it."
"The sea is running smooth enough by it," said Bompard. "I don't see breakers, and we don't draw anything to speak of." He held on.
The sun was shewing through breaks in the high clouds and its light fell on the water and the rock, pied with roosting guillemots. As the boat drew near the guillemots gave tongue. The sound came against the wind fierce and complaining, antagonistic like the voice of loneliness crying out against them and telling them to be gone—be gone—be gone!
Cleo, as they passed, saw the green water sliding up and falling from the polished black rock surface. The sight seemed to bring the hostile coast leagues nearer and the bagpipe crying of the guillemots as it died away behind them seemed a barrier passed, never to be re-crossed.
And now, away at sea and leagues from the coast they were approaching, vast islands disclosed themselves suddenly through the sea haze, standing like giants waist deep in the ocean, whilst the coast itself with its cliffs and rocks of black basalt and dolerite shewed clear, extraordinarily clear, with every detail defined in the sunlight, from the rifts in the basalt to the gulls blowing about in legions and the great sea-geese hovering and fishing.
The coast was ferocious, and the whole country from the sea foam to the foothills looked tumbled and new, with the newness of infinite antiquity. The last thunders of creation seemed scarcely to have died away, the last throe scarcely to have ceased, leaving million-ton rock cast on rock and the new, shear-cut cliffs spitting back their first taste of the bitter sea.
"There is nowhere to land," said the girl. She was shuddering as a dog shudders when overstrung.
"Ay, it's a brute beast of a place," said Bompard, "well, we must nose along on the lookout. There's no coast but hasn't some landing-place where a boat can push in. Y'see it's not like a ship. A boat can go where a ship can't."
He shifted the helm a bit, keeping the coast parallel to them on the starboard side.
"Might those islands be better to go to?" asked she, "they couldn't be worse than that."
La Touche suddenly grew excited. "Bon Dieu," cried he, "what a thing to be saying! Those islands, nothing but rocks—nothing but rocks. Here there is land, at all events, good land one can put one's foot on; out there there's nothing but rocks. Rather than go out there I would swim ashore—I would—"
"Oh, close up," said Bompard, "don't talk about swimming—maybe you'll have to."
"One can always drown," said La Touche.
It was Bompard who next broke the silence.
"I've been over cliffs worse than those, for gulls eggs," said he, "take one coast with another, coasts are pretty much the same, you get bad bits and easy bits, that is all."
La Touche said nothing.
As they drew on the great islands out at sea ranged themselves more definitely and the tremendous coast to starboard shewed more clearly its deep cut canons, its sea arches and absolute desolation.
The sea had fallen, though the wind still held steady, and this surface calmness, under-run by a gentle swell, served only to emphasize the vastness of the view. The island seemed immensely remote and immense in size, the far snow-covered mountains the mountains of a land where giants had lived and from which they had departed countless ages ago.
Oyster catches passed the boat with their melancholy cry, but the fishing gannets and the swimming puffins seemed scarcely to heed the intruders. Puffins swimming a biscuit toss away as though they had never learned the fear of man.
They had drawn nearer shore so that the boom of the swell in the caves and on the rocks came to them with the crying of the shore birds; passing a headland like a vast lizard they opened a beach curved like the new moon and seven miles from horn to horn.
"There's our landing-place," cried Bompard, "big enough to pick and choose from."
"Lord!" shouted La Touche. "Look over there—moving rocks!"
He pointed half a mile away to seaward.
"Those crest rocks, they're whales," said he.
A pair of whales shewed, standing up, coupling in the chill blue grey water, a miraculous sight, as though they had entered a world where the original things of life still moved and had their being untroubled by man and untouched by Time.
Bompard shifted the helm, and the boat, heading for the shore and no longer running before the wind, moved less easily, shipping an occasional dash of spray.
The change of movement, the dash of spray, the altered course were to the girl like the turning of a corner. Running with the wind and with a parallel shore the boat was the world and the coast and island a panorama. With the twist of the helm Reality made the coast a destination. Up to this moment the uncertainty of whether they could land had held her mind, up to this moment all sorts of vague possibilities, the chance of meeting a ship, the chance of being blown out to sea, the chance of this or that had come between her and the realisation of the fact that this prison was hers.
The monstrosity of the idea stood fully revealed only now on that beach where there was nothing but sand, nothing but rocks, nothing but gulls. Close in now Bompard let go the sheet and they unstepped the mast, the boat rocking in the trough of the swell. Then they got the oars out.
As they bent to their work and over the creak of the leather in the rowlocks the rumble and fume of the seven mile beach came mixed with the yelping and mewing of the gulls. The boat made slow progress, then a few yards from the surf line it hung for a moment till the rowers suddenly gave way and moving like a relieved arrow she came on the crest of a wave, then the oars came in with a crash and the two men tumbling out dragged her nose high and dry. They helped the girl out and as they pulled the boat higher she stood, the wind flicking her oilskin coat about her and the spindrift blowing in her face.
The great beach of Kerguelen shews above tide mark long stretches where no sand is, only rock. Basalt planed and smoothed by the seas of countless ages, level as a ball-room floor and broken by rifts and pot holes, between tide marks these pot holes serve as traps for all sorts of sea creatures. Once the waves must have beaten right up to the low and broken basalt cliffs full of caves floored with sand, but volcanic action raising the beach has pushed the tide mark out leaving a shore varying in width from half a mile to a few hundred yards.
This is the breeding place of the sea elephant. Half way between the lizard point and the point further to the east a river comes down disembarging through three months; on the banks of this river is the seal nursery where in summer the young sea elephants tumble and play and take their swimming lessons, whilst the mothers lie on rocks and the fathers fish and hunt and fight in battles, the roaring of which resounds for miles. Here the penguins drill and hold councils and law courts and marry and get divorced and hold political meetings, here the rabbits play and the terns foregather, and here the winds that blow from everywhere but the east, hunt and yell and pile in winter a twenty foot sea that breaks in seven miles of thunder under seven miles of spray thick as the smoke of battle.
Duck and teal haunt the place and gulls of nearly every known kind snow it and flick it with movement. Yet above the thunder of the waves and the cries of the birds and the shouting of the winds when they blow, there hangs a silence—the silence of the remote and prehistoric. The living world of men seems cut off from here by far away doors and forever.
After supper they had explored the cave mouths in the cliff opposite to where the boat had beached. There were three caves just here. One was impracticable owing to water dripping from the roof, but the other two, floored with hard sand, were good enough for shelter. The men had stowed the provisions and themselves in the western mast giving the girl the other and the boat sail for a pillow.
It was old Bompard who thought of the latter. La Touche seemed to have no thought for any one or anything but himself. He grumbled all the time during supper, grumbled at the fact that there was no stuff to make a fire with, that they had nothing warm to drink, that some time soon their tobacco must run out. It seemed to Cleo as she lay with her head on the hard sailcloth and her body on the hard sand, covered with the oilskin coat which she had taken off to use as a blanket, that through the league long rumble of the surf she could hear him grumbling still. She did not care. Hard though the floor was she did not mind, she was chloroformed. Chloroformed by the air of Kerguelen. The air that fills the lungs with life, keeps a man going all day with an energy and buoyancy unknown elsewhere and then fells him with sleep.
She awoke when the whale birds had ceased crying, just after dawn, awoke fresh and new and full of life. She felt none of that troubled surprise which comes when the mind has to adjust itself to the new situation on awakening for the first time after a great disaster. It was as though her mind had already adjusted itself and discounted everything.
She rose up and leaving the oilskin coat and sou'wester on the floor of the cave came out on to the beach.
The fine weather still held and the day was strong, now lighting the beach, the sea, and the distant islands through a sky of high, grey eastward drifting clouds. The boat lay where it had been pulled up, the tide now coming in and legions of birds were flitting and blowing about and stalking on the sands as far as eye could reach.
She came to the cave where the men were. Bompard and La Touche lying on their backs might have been dead but for the sound of their snoring. Bompard was lying with his wrist across his eyes, La Touche with both hands beside him, clenched. The tins of beef and the bread bags shewed vaguely in the gloom behind them.
She stood for a moment watching them and then, turning, she came down to the boat lying high and dry on the sand. She was trying to realize, that on the morning of the day before yesterday at this hour she had been lying in her bunk on board the Gaston de Paris, to realize this and also the fact that her present position seemed scarcely strange.
She ought, so she told herself, to be astonished at what had happened and to be bewailing her fate, yet, looking back now over yesterday and the day before, everything seemed part of a level and logical sequence, almost like the events of a stormy day on board ship. The tragedy of the destruction of the Gaston only partly experienced could not be fully felt.
Standing by the boat she tried to realize it and failed, tried to grasp what she knew to be the horror and pity of it, and failed. She was neither hard nor insensible, she simply could not grasp it.
And her position here with two rough men, very little food and little chance of escape, how she would have pitied herself a few days ago could she have foreseen! Yet here, with the firm sands under her feet and the wind blowing in her face, reality, instead of hurting her as it had done in the boat on awakening yesterday morning, soothed her and reassured her. Everything seemed firm again and the fear that the ugly coast had raised in her mind had vanished.
She came along the beach looking at the gulls, turned over huge star-fish and picked up kelp ribbons to examine them. Half a mile or so from the cave she was about to turn back when her eye caught a strange appearance on the sea, hundreds and hundreds of moving points drawing in to the shore, white and black points like a shoal of fish only half submerged. It was a fleet of swimming birds.
She sat down on the sand to watch as they took the shore with a rush through the foam. Then, safely beached, the fleet became an army of penguins. She had seen pictures of penguins so she knew what they were and she had read Anatole France's "Penquin Island"—these, then, were the real things and she watched them fascinated as one who sees storyland taking visible and concrete form.
The penguins formed line, broke into companies, drilled a bit and then began to move up the beach.
The figure of the girl did not seem to disturb them in the least.
One company passed to the left, one to the right, whilst that immediately fronting her halted a few feet away and saluted her, bowing like little old-fashioned men in black swallow-tail coats and immaculate shirt fronts, little old-fashioned men with sharp quizzical eyes, polished, humorous, polite and entirely friendly.
The company on the right wheeled to examine her as did the company on the left, so that she found herself almost in a hollow square. Wherever she turned there were birds bowing to her or things in the semblance of birds, absolutely fearless, so close that she could have touched them had she carried a walking-stick.
She rose up to allow them to pass and they went on like mechanical things wound up and released, forming line again and seeming to forget her.
She remembered the guillemots and their rudeness and the way they had stormed and jeered at the boat—did all that mean more than the politeness and friendliness of the penguins? If she were lying dead would not the guillemots pass her without enmity and the penguins without friendliness, as indifferent to her fate as the wave of the sea on the blowing wind?
They would—as indifferent as the great islands standing out there in the distance, mauve and slate grey against the morning. As she came back along the beach her mind was battling with a problem that had suddenly risen. She had neither brush nor comb nor glass. Her hair was beautiful and she loved it. Her face was beautiful but she did not love it, it was herself, she could not view it from an independent standpoint, but she could view her hair almost as impartially as a dress and she loved it with the strange passion that women have for things of texture.
The hair of Cleo de Bromsart had been waited upon like a divinity by many a priestess in the form of a maid. It had been dressed and shampooed and treated by artists and adepts, the hours of brushing alone if put together would have made a terrific total. The result was perfection, and even now, after all she had gone through, it shewed scarcely disarrangement, lustrous and beautiful, dressed with artful simplicity in the Greek style and outlining the perfect curves of her head.
The wind was blowing now in gusto from the sea, but she scarcely noticed it as she walked, facing the problem that shipwreck had put before her, a problem the first of a long queue ranging from soap to a change of garments.
She was fighting it and at the same time battling with the strengthening wind when suddenly something sprang on her with the yell of a tiger and flung her on the sand, pinning her there.
It was the wind. The Wooley, which is the fist of Kerguelen suddenly clenched and hitting out from the shoulder of the great islands now suddenly stormed about with foam and veiled in spray.
Half stunned, she twisted round, still lying but fronting it now with her arm protecting her face. The beach had loudened up in thunder from end to end but the yelling Wooley as it met the cliffs and howled inland almost drowned the thunder of the waves. Then it died down as suddenly as it had come, and the boom of the surf rose high, as the girl, gathering herself together, got up and struggled on.
She was no longer thinking of her hair. It was the first lesson of the school of Kerguelen. "Here you shall think of nothing but the moment, of the ground beneath your feet, of the bite you put in your mouth, of the rock that stands before you."
When she reached the cave with her petticoats thrusting about her she was met by the two men and as she came up to them La Touche was cursing the wind. The Wooley had all but blown him down too. He had got up sooner than Bompard and had received the full face of it "in the pit of the stomach." He seemed to look on it as a personal matter affecting him alone.
Even as he spoke a sudden calm fell, lasted for a moment, and was followed by a howl from inland.
At a stroke the wind had changed right round and was blowing now from the mountains. Here in the shelter of the cliffs they scarcely felt it but the shift had raised an appalling cross sea. Right away to the islands there was nothing but tumbling foam, waves standing up and fighting waves in a battle that spread for leagues.
"It's well for us we didn't fall in with this yesterday," said Bompard "a ship couldn't stand it."
"And what ship will ever poke her nose in here to take us off do you think?" asked La Touche. "This is what you get every day of the week, if all accounts are true—this, and worse. I tell you we've come to the wrong place. There's no getting over it. We've come to the wrong place."
"Well, right or wrong, here we are," said Bompard "Mon Dieu! to hear you talk you'd think we'd come here on purpose—come, get a move on and let's have some grub."
He turned into the cave and they fetched out the can of beef they had opened yesterday, some biscuits, and a water breaker, and sitting at the cave mouth they ate just as the men of the Stone Age ate, with the palms of their hands for plates and their fingers for forks. They spoke scarcely at all. The ill-humor of La Touche seemed like a contagious disease, even Bompard, the imperturbable, seemed glum.
It was the girl who broke the strain.
Suddenly she began to speak as if giving voice to carefully thought out ideas. Yet what she said was absolutely spontaneous, the result of a quick, educated mind suddenly grasping the essentials of their position, suggestion breeding suggestion.
"There's no use in grumbling," said she. "That wind knocked me down as I was coming along the beach. I didn't grumble, and there is no use in thinking. I was thinking as I walked along that I had no brush and comb to do my hair with, you two have short hair and you can't imagine what it is to a person with long hair when they find themselves without a brush and comb. I was grumbling to myself about it when the wind knocked me down. I want just to tell you what is in my mind: we will die or go mad if we do not forget everything as much as we can and not think of to-morrow or yesterday or ships coming to take us off. We have to fight all sorts of things that don't care in the least for us and we have to work. Everything here is at work in its own way. Well, we must do as everything else does or die."
"It's easy to say work," said La Touche munching a biscuit, "but what is one to work at?"
"We want food for one thing, our provisions won't last forever."
"There's rabbits enough," said Bompard. "Remember those rabbits we saw running out on the beach last evening?"
"I can snare rabbits all right," said La Touche, "but where's the wire to make snares with—see—we're caught everywhere."
"Wait," said Bompard.
He got up and went down to the boat, hunted in one of the lockers and returned with a spool of wire.
He flung it at La Touche.
"There's your wire," said he.
Cleo's eyes brightened. The spool of wire seemed to her a fruit suddenly born from her words; she had accomplished something, it was perhaps the first real accomplishment in her life.
"Where did you get it from?" asked La Touche.
"The forward locker," replied Bompard.
"Are there any other things in the locker?" asked the girl.
"Oh, Mon Dieu, yes," replied the old fellow. "There's a lot of truck, but it's no use to us."
"Let's go and see," said Cleo. She rose up and came down the beach followed by the others. The wind from the mountains died away but the sea torment remained and, though the tide was beginning to ebb, the spray of the waves almost reached the boat.
It had been listed to one side by the Wooley but was undamaged and the forward locker was still open as it had been left by the careless Bompard.
It was one of the boats used for fishing and deep sea work, hence the contents of the locker.
The steel head of a two pronged fish spear, a fisherman's knife in its sheath with belt, a paternoster, invaluable for the fathoms of fishing line attached, a small American axe with the head vaselined, a canvas housewife with sail-needles, a few darning needles and some pack thread, and a number of odds and ends including some extra heavy lead sinkers.
Bompard looked on apathetically and La Touche stood with his hands in his pockets as the girl fished the things out one by one, placing them, some on the sands and some on the thwarts of the boat.
The things seemed to have no interest for the men. Accustomed all their lives to being looked after as far as shelter and food were concerned they seemed absolutely helpless in front of new conditions. Men are like that, especially men of the people, and when you read of Crusoes and their wonderful doings on desert islands you read Romance.
The quick, trained mind of the girl seemed to see clearly where they could scarcely see at all, she had imagination and she was a woman—that is to say a being more gifted than man, with prevision in affairs purely material.
Bompard did not see any use in the axe and said so. The girl, with her hand resting on the gunnel of the boat, stood like a housekeeper trying to explain to a mere male creature the use of some household implement.