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My Danish Sweetheart: A Novel. Volume 3 of 3, Page 3

William Clark Russell



  It was about half-past nine when this gale took us, but such was theforce and weight of it, so flattening and shearing was its scythe-likehorizontal sweep, that no sea worth speaking of had risen till teno'clock, and then, indeed, it was beginning to run high. All this whilethere had been no sound of human voices, but at this hour a command wasdelivered above our heads, and going on to the quarter-deck, I dimlydiscerned the figures of men hauling upon the forebraces; but theypulled dumbly; no song broke from them; they were silent as though interror. A little later on I knew by the motions of the barque that shehad been brought to the wind and lay hove-to.

  That few vessels would better know how to plunge and roll than this old_Light of the World_ I might have guessed from her behaviour in quietweather, when there was nothing but a slight swell to lift her. But Inever could have conjectured how truly prodigious was her skill in theart of tumbling. She soared and sank as an empty cask might. She tookevery hollow with a shock that threatened to rend her bones intofragments, as though she had been hurled through the air from a mightyheight; and when she swung up an acclivity, the sensation was that ofbeing violently lifted, as by a balloon or by the grip of an eagle.Groans and cries rose from her interior as though she had a thousandmiserable, perishing slaves--men, women, and children--locked up in herhold.

  'This,' said I to Helga, 'is worse than the _Anine_.'

  'Yet it was blowing harder on that Saturday night than it is now,' sheanswered, watching the mad oscillations of the cabin lamp with sereneeyes and a mouth steadfast in expression. 'I have a greater dread ofCaptain Bunting's smile,' she continued, 'than of any hurricane that canblow across the ocean.' She looked at the clock. 'He is certain toarrive shortly. He is sure to find some excuse to torture me with hispoliteness. He will tease me to exchange my cabin. I think I will go tobed, Hugh.'

  There was little temptation to remain up. I put my hand under her arm tosteady the pair of us, and we passed on to the quarter-deck, where Ifound the hatch that led to our sleeping quarters shut. We lifted it,and looked into a blackness profounder than that of a coal-mine. On thisI roared for Punmeamootty. I shouted four or five times at the top of mylungs, and then some voice bawled from over the rail of the deck above,'What's wrong down there?' Who it was I could not tell; it wasimpossible to distinguish voices amid the hellish clamour of the windroaring in the rigging with the sound of a tempest-swept forest. I tookno notice, and bawled again for Punmeamootty, and, after a little, thepoor coloured wretch came out of the darkness into the sheen of thecabin-light that feebly touched the quarter-deck, crawling on his handsand knees. He was soaked through, and when he stood up could scarcelykeep his feet. Indeed, forward, the seas were sweeping the decks insheets, and each time the vessel lifted her bows the water came roaringin a fury of foam to the cuddy front.

  We were forced to put the hatch on again to keep the sea out of the shiptill Punmeamootty came staggering out of the cuddy with a lantern. Helgathen dropped below with amazing dexterity, and I handed the light downto her, requesting that she would hang it up and leave it burning, as Iwas in no mood to 'turn in' just then, wishing to see more of theweather before resting, and to smoke a pipe. I put the hatch on andre-entered the cuddy, followed by Punmeamootty.

  'You seem half drowned!' said I.

  'A sea knock me down, sah. Is dere danger, sah?'

  'I hope not,' I answered. 'Do you feel equal to picking up that mess?'and I pointed to the broken china and bit of beef, and so on.

  He turned a terrified eye upon them, staggering and swaying wildly, andthen, as though he had not heard my question, he exclaimed, 'We all saydis storm come tro' Capt'n being wicked man! Tankee de Lor'! we hab noeat pork! Tankee de Lor'! we hab no eat pork!'

  He bared his gleaming teeth, as though in the anguish of cold, and shookhis small clenched fist at the skylight. I sat down and lighted a pipe,and, having been somewhat chilled by waiting out in the wet of thequarter-deck for Punmeamootty to bring the lantern, I slided and clawedmy way round to Captain Bunting's locker for a bottle of rum that laywithin. As I did this, the companion door opened, and down came theskipper. The wind and the wet had twisted his whiskers into lines likelengths of rope. I could have burst into a laugh at the sight of hissingular face, framed in the streaming thatch and flannel ear-protectorsof his sou'-wester. The water poured from his oilskins as he came to astand at the end of the table, grabbing it, and looking about him.

  'What's all that?' cried he, pointing with a fat forefinger to the messon deck.

  This was addressed to Punmeamootty, but I answered, flinging thesurliest note I could manage into my voice, which I had to raise into ashout, 'An accident. This is a beast of a ship, sir! No barge could makeworse weather of a breeze of wind.'

  I let fall the lid of the locker, and sat upon it, poising the bottleof rum, and blowing a great cloud with my pipe.

  'Where is Miss Nielsen?' he exclaimed.

  'Gone to bed,' I answered. 'Punmeamootty, reach me a glass out of thatrack.'

  The man, in taking the tumbler, reeled to a violent heel of the deck,and let it fall.

  'D--n it!' roared the Captain, 'you clumsy son of a bitch! What moredamage is to be done?' His sudden passion made his fixed smileextraordinarily grotesque. 'Get a basket and pick up that stuff, andbear a hand!' he thundered. 'Has Miss Helga a light?'

  'Yes,' I answered. 'I have seen to that.'

  'But she may fall--she may let the lantern drop!'

  'She is a better sailor than you,' I called out; 'she knows how to keepher feet. Punmeamootty! a tumbler, if you please, before you beginpicking up that stuff.'

  'I must see that Miss Nielsen's lantern is safe,' said the Captain; andhe was coming forward as though to pass through the cuddy door. I sprangto my feet and confronted him on widely stretched legs.

  'No man,' said I, 'enters Miss Nielsen's sleeping quarters while she andI remain in this ship.'

  He stared at me, with twenty emotions working in his face. Hiscountenance then changed. I perceived him glance at the bottle of rumthat I held by the neck, and that I was just in the temper to let himhave fair between his eyes had he attempted to shove past me. I believehe thought I had been drinking.

  'I can assure you,' he exclaimed, with a violent reaching out of hismind, so to speak, in the direction of his regular and familiarblandness, 'that Miss Nielsen's privacy is as sacred to me as to you.Will you go below and see that her light is all right? It is a matterthat as much concerns your safety as ours.'

  Without answering him, I opened the locker, replaced the bottle, andcontinuing to puff out great clouds of smoke through the excitementunder which I laboured--for I had been prepared for a hand-to-handstruggle with him, and my heart beat fast to the resolution of mytemper--I quitted the cuddy, with a loud call to Punmeamootty to followme and replace the hatch.

  Whether the coloured steward put the hatch on, whether, indeed, hefollowed me as I bade him, I cannot tell. I found the lantern burningbravely and swinging fiercely under the beam, and extinguished it, andlay down completely clothed, with the exception of my boots, shrewdlyguessing there would be little sleep for me that night.

  That it blew at any time as hard as it had when we were aboard the_Anine_, I cannot say; enough that the dreadful maddened motions of theold vessel made a truly hideous gale of wind of the weather. Again andagain she would tumble off the head of a sea and fall headlong into theyawn of water at the base, heeling over as she fell, till you would havebelieved the line of her masts parallel with the horizon, and strikeherself such a mighty blow when she got to the bottom, that youlistened, with a thumping heart, for a crackling and a rending noise oftimbers to tell you that she was going to pieces like a child's house ofcards. It was impossible to sleep; twice I was flung from my bunk, andcame very near to breaking a limb. I called to Helga, and found herawake. I asked her how she did; but, silver-clear and keen as her voicewas, I could not catch her answer.

It is likely that towards the small hours of the morning I now and againsnatched a few minutes of sleep. From one of these brief spells ofslumber I was aroused by the blow of a sea that thrilled like anelectric shock through every plank and fastening of the vessel, and tomy great joy I observed, as I thought, the faint gray of dawn colouringthe dim and weeping glass of the scuttle. I immediately pulled on myboots and made for the hatch, but the cover was on and the darkness wasas deep as ever it had been at midnight. I considered for a minute how Ishould make myself heard, and groping my way back to my berth, I took aloose plank, or bunk-board as it is called, from out of thesea-bedstead, and with it succeeded in raising such a thunder in thehollow cover that in a few minutes it was lifted. The homely, flat,ruddy-cheeked face of Jacob, his head clothed in a somewhat tatteredyellow sou'-wester, which he had probably borrowed from one of hiscoloured mates forward, looked down upon me through the glimmeringsquare of the aperture.

  'Why, blowed, Mr. Tregarthen,' cried he, 'if Oi didn't think the barquewas ashore! But ye'd have had to hammer much louder and much longerbefore escaping from that rat-trap, if it hadn't been for mea-sheltering of moyself under this 'ere break.'

  It was a wild scene indeed to arrive on deck and suddenly view. Furiousas was the behaviour of the barque, I could have got no notion of theweight of the surge from her capers. A huge swelling, livid, frothingsurface--every billow looking to rear to the height of the maintop,where it was shattered and blown into a snowstorm--a heaven of whirlingsoot: this, in brief, was the picture. The vessel, however, wasundamaged aloft. She was lying hove-to under a band of close-reefedtopsail, which glanced like a sheet of foam against the stooping dismaldusk of the sky. None of the dark-skinned crew were visible. Jacobroared in my ear that they had been half wild with fear during thenight.

  'There's some sort of superstition a-working in them,' he shouted;'they've been a-praying and a-praying horrible, arter their fashion.Lucky for the ship that she was snugged afore the storm busted. Thempoor covies ain't agoing to save their lives when the call comes forthem to live or perish.'

  'Who has the watch?' said I.

  'The mate,' he answered.

  I looked at my watch, and was astonished to find that it was aftereight. I had believed the hour to be daybreak, but, indeed, it wassurprising that any light at all should have had power to sift throughthat storm-laden sky. Helga at this moment showed in the hatch. I tookher hand. She looked pale, but her mouth was firm as she swept theboiling, swollen scene with her gaze, holding the deck with feet thatseemed to float above the planks.

  'What a night it has been!' she cried. 'This is a bad ship for badweather. Hour after hour I have been thinking that she was going topieces!'

  I told Jacob to replace the hatch-cover, and the girl and I entered thecuddy, as it was impossible to converse in the open; while, spite of theparallel on which we reeled, the weight of the wind carried an edge asof a Channel January blast in it. In the comparative shelter of theinterior we were able to talk, and I told her how I had behaved to theCaptain on the previous night.

  'Nothing that we can do,' said she, 'can signify while this weatherlasts!'

  'No, indeed!' I exclaimed. 'We must now pray for the ship to live. Ourleaving her is made a twopenny consideration of by this gale.'

  She rose to look at the tell-tale compass, and returned to my side witha look of concern and a sad shake of the head.

  'This must end our dream of Santa Cruz,' said she.

  'It was an idle dream at the best,' I answered.

  'Unless it should result in disabling the barque!' she continued. Sheadded, with a little passion, as she looked through the cuddy window onto the quarter-deck: 'I wish all three masts would go overboard!'

  'Leaving the hull sound,' said I.

  'Yes, yes, leaving the hull sound. I would be content to roll about inthis hateful vessel for a whole fortnight, if I could be sure of beingtaken off at the end. Anything, _anything_ to terminate this cruel, thisridiculous captivity!'

  As these words left her lips, the Captain came down the companion-steps.He paused on seeing us, as though he had supposed the cuddy empty, andwas ashamed to be seen in that figure. The dried white salt lay likeflour in his eyes, his whiskers were mere rags of wet hair; a largeglobule of salt water hung at the end of his nose, like a gem worn afterthe Eastern fashion. He struggled along to where we sat, and extendedhis hand to Helga. In his most unctuous manner, that contrastedludicrously with his streaming oilskins, he expressed the hope that shehad slept well, lamented the severity of the gale, for her sake, butassured her there was no danger, that the barque was making nobleweather of it, and that he expected the wind to moderate before noon. Heheld her hand while he spoke, despite her visible efforts to withdraw itfrom his grasp. He then addressed me:

  'I have to apologize,' he exclaimed, 'for a little exhibition of temperlast night. I employed an expletive which I am happy to think has notescaped me for years. The provocation was great--the anxieties of thegale--the loss of a foretopmast-staysail--the ruined crockery on thedeck--a bottle of my valuable cordial-brandy wasted--Punmeamootty'ssomewhat insolent stupidity: the most pious mind might be reasonablyforgiven for venting itself in the language of the forecastle, under theirritation of so many trials! But I offer you my apologies, Mr.Tregarthen, and I hope, sir, that you slept well!'

  I answered him coldly and with averted eyes, being now resolved topersevere in my assumption of contemptuous dislike, which I also desiredhe should believe was animated by a determination to punish him when Igot ashore.

  He went to his cabin to refresh himself, first taking care to inform us,with a large smile, that he had spent the whole of the night on deck inlooking after the vessel, 'whose safety,' he exclaimed, with asignificant leer at Helga, 'has been rendered extraordinarily preciousto me since Monday last.'

  I now told her--for I had forgotten the incident--how our oily friendhad whipped out a small oath on the previous night.

  'So, then, he has humanized himself to you?' said she, laughing.

  'It is the only symptom of sincerity I have observed in him,' Iexclaimed.

  He reappeared presently, soaped, shining, and smiling, with driedwhiskers floating smoke-like on either hand a purple satin cravat. Butthe breakfast was to be a poor one that morning. The cook, it seems,could not keep the galley fire alight, and we had to make the best mealwe could off a tin of preserved meat and some biscuit andwine-and-water. The Captain was profusely apologetic to Helga, andunctuously ascribed the poverty of the meal to me, who, he said with anair of jocosity, was the cause of half a ham and an excellent piece ofbeef being rendered unfit for the table. I made no answer to this.Indeed, Helga and I sat like mutes at that table; but the Captain talkedabundantly, almost wholly addressing himself to the girl. In truth, itwas now easy to see that the unfortunate man was head over ears in lovewith her. His gaze was a prolonged stare of admiration, and he seemed tofind nothing in her behaviour to chill or repel him. On the contrary,the more she kept her eyes downwards bent, the colder and harder grewher face, the more taciturn she was--again and again not vouchsafingeven a monosyllabic answer to him--the more he warmed towards her, themore he encroached in his behaviour. If he had any sensibility, it wasarmour-clad by complacency. I never could have believed that vanity hadsuch power as I here found to sheath so impenetrably the humanunderstanding. 'Well,' thought I to myself, 'all this means a voyage forHelga, if not for me. Assuredly he'll not part with her this side of theCape, and the fool's hope,' I thought, as I let my eyes rest on thegrinning mask of his countenance, 'is that he will have won her longbefore he reaches the parallel of thirty-four degrees south, though hehas to make the most of every calm and of every gale of wind to achievehis end.'

  I will not attempt to follow the hours of that day. They were littlemore than a repetition of our experiences in the _Anine_. The Captaincame and went, but for the most part Helga and I remained in the cabin.The gale somewhat moderated at noon, as the skipper had predicted; butit still blew
too hard to make sail on the ship, and she lay hove-to inthe trough, sickening me to the inmost recesses of my soul with herextravagant somersaults and prodigious falls and upheavals. Somewhereabout half-past four that afternoon, on looking through thecuddy-window, I saw Jacob smoking a pipe in the shelter of theprojection of the Captain's and mate's cabins. I thought I would keephim company, and, having cut up a pipe of tobacco for myself, I quittedHelga, who showed a disposition to doze, and joined the boatman.

  The wind made a great howling aloft, and the thunderous wash of thebreaking waters against the vessel's side put a wild note of storm intothe shrieking and hissing and hooting of the rigging. But it was fairlycalm in the recess, and we conversed very easily. I asked Jacob, while Ipointed over the lee-rail at the huge, dark-green, froth-laced backs ofthe seas rushing from the ship in headlong race, what would be histhoughts of this weather if he were aboard the _Early Morn_.

  'Why, the lugger 'ud be doing as well as this here bucket, any way,'said he.

  'Captain Bunting,' said I, 'will think that you are not half gratefulenough for your deliverance.'

  'He is a proper gentleman!' he exclaimed. 'Abraham swears there ain'tthe likes of him afloat for politeness; but his crew ben't of Abey'smind, I'm afraid. Looks to me as if there's going to be trouble.'

  'Anything fresh happened?' I asked.

  'It's all along of this matter of sarving out pork to them chaps aswon't eat it, Mr. Tregarthen. The mate gave 'em pork again to-day. Thereain't no galley fire alight, so it's all the same to them coloured chapswhether it be pork or beef. But it's the principle of it what'sa-sticking in their gizzards. Nakier says to me, "It would be allee desame if de water boil," says he, "for it is eider pork or no meat," bywhich he sinnified that if so be as it was fine weather and the galleyfire goin', the men's dinner to-day 'ud be pork or nothen. Now, Mr.Tregarthen, Oi allow that they don't mean to keep all on enduring ofthis here treatment.'

  'What have you noticed to make you suppose this?' said I, with a glancealong the deserted decks, dark with sobbing wet, and often shroudedforwards by vast showers of flying spray.

  'Well,' he answered, 'all the darkies has been a-sitting below savingthe chap at the wheel, there being nothen for them to do on deck. I wasin the fok'sle when Nakier comes down and tells the men that it was tobe pork again. I couldn't understand him, for he spoke his own language,but guessed what was up when I heerd the hullabaloo his words raised.They all began to sing out together in a sort of screeching voice likethe row made by a crowd of women a-quarrelling and a-pulling the hairout of each other's heads up a halley. Some skipped about in their rageas though there was a fiddle going. One chap, him with a face like adecayed lemon, he outs with his knife and falls a-stabbing of theatmosphere; and Oi tell ye, Mr. Tregarthen, when I saw _that_ I justdrawed my legs up into my bunk and tried to make myself as little aspossible, with the hope of escaping his hobservation, for damme! thoughtI, if that there article's agoing to run amuck, as I've heerd tell thelikes of him is in the habit of doing, strike me dark, thinks Oi, if Iben't the fust man he'll fall foul on!'

  'What was said?' I asked.

  'Why, ask yourself the question, sir! What do monkeys say when theystart a-yelling. Who's to know _what_ they said?'

  'How do you know, then, that it was the serving out of pork again thatexcited them?' said I.

  'Whoy, that there Nakier told me so arterwards.'

  'Ha!' I exclaimed; 'and for how long did they go on shrieking, as yousay, and brandishing their knives?'

  'It was over wonderful soon,' he answered. 'Nakier looked on whilst theywas all a-shouting together, then said something, and it was likeblowing the head off a pint o' ale--nothen remained but flatness. Theyjust stood and listened whilst Nakier spouted, and ye should ha' seen'em a-nodding and a-grimacing, and brandishing their arms and slappingtheir legs; but they never said nothen; they just took and listened.Tell 'ee, Mr. Tregarthen, the suddenness of it, and the looks of 'em,was something to bring the pusperation out of the pores of a Polarbear.'

  'What does Abraham think?' said I.

  'Whoy, I dunno how it is, he don't seem to obsarve--appears to findnothen to take to heart. He's growed a bit consequential, being now whatthe skipper would call a orficer, and though he sleeps forrard hisfeelings is aft. 'Tis mere growling, he thinks, with the fellows. Butthere's more 'n that,' said he, striking a match and catching the flameof it in his clasped hand, and lighting his pipe as easily as if therewere not a breath of air stirring.

  'The lunatic of a Captain has eyes in his head,' said I, thinking aloudrather than conversing. 'If _he_ can't see the mischief his mad notionof conversion is breeding, it is not for me to point it out. In fact, Iheartily wish the Malays would seize the barque and sail her to Madeiraor the Canaries. Is it not abominable that Miss Nielsen and I should becarried away to the Cape of Good Hope against our will by thatlong-whiskered rogue?' signifying the Captain by a backward motion of myhead at the cabin.

  'Abraham was a-telling me about this here traverse. The skipper's goneand fallen in love with the young lady, ain't he?' said Jacob, with agrin overspreading his flat face.

  'Yes,' said I, 'and hopes by keeping her aboard to win her heart. Thedolt!'

  'Dunno about _dolt_, sir!' exclaimed Jacob. 'She's a nice-looking younggal, is Miss Nielsen, and, I allow, just the sort of wife as ashipmaster would live heasy vith.'

  'You argue as vilely as Abraham,' said I, looking at him angrily. 'Willyou pretend that this Captain is not acting outrageously in detainingthe young lady on board his ship--imprisoning her, in short--for that iswhat it comes to?'

  A little look of intelligence gave a new expression to the flat-facedfellow's smile as he respectfully surveyed me.

  'Well, sir--I don't blame you, I can't blame you,' he exclaimed. 'I'vekep' company myself. I was for five year along with as nice a gal as wasever seen in Deal, a-courting and a-courting, and always too pore to gitspliced. I know what the passion of jealousy is. She took up with acorporal of Marines, and, I tell ye, I _suffered_. It came roight, thenit went wrong again, and it ended in her marrying a measly little sliceof a chap, named Billy Tusser, who'd saved a bit out o' sprattin' andhovellin'. I _can't_ blame 'ee, sir.'

  It was not a matter to pursue with this worthy man, whose smallintelligence lay too deep to be worth boring for; so I dropped thesubject, and talked afresh of the coloured crew, and continued lingeringtill I could not have told how long our chat lasted. Though the gale wasmuch less hard than it had blown down from noon, it was still a veryviolent wind, and the sea as wild as ever it had been, with the shadowof the evening now to add a darker tinge of gloom to the whirl ofstooping, sooty heaven, under which every head of surge broke like aflash of ghastly light. The vessel was a strangely desolate picture--nota living creature to be seen forward, the decks half drowned, watersluicing white off the forecastle rim, or blowing up into the wind fromoff that raised deck in bursts of crystalline smoke, like corkscrewleapings of fine snow to the hurl of a blast roaring across a wintrymoor. The black gear curved black with wet: again and again the vesselwould pitch into the head sea till the spreading froth made by themassive plunge of her round bows rose to her forecastle rail. I had hadenough of the cold and the wet; the cheerless picture of the barque andthe ocean, too, was unspeakably depressing, and, with a glance round atthe near horizon of broken creaming waters on which nothing showed, Ibestowed a nod of farewell on Jacob, and re-entered the cuddy.

  Captain Bunting was sitting close to Helga. The light was so weak inthis interior that I had to peer a little to make sure that it was theCaptain, for the dim figure might well have been the mate's. Helga wasat the extreme end of the locker, as though she had uneasily worked herway from his side while they sat; but he had followed, and was nowclose, and her next and only step to get rid of him must be to rise. Hewas addressing her very earnestly when I entered; his whiskers floatedfrom his cheeks as he bent towards her. Though the cuddy was chargedwith the complaining sounds of the labouring fabric,
speech was veryeasy within it, nor was it necessary to raise the voice. Indeed, theinterior had the effect of a hush upon my ears, coming as I did freshfrom the shriek and thunder of the weather out on deck.

  On seeing me the Captain instantly broke off, sat up, and called out:

  'Well, and how are things looking on deck?'

  Helga rose and went to the little window against the door.

  'The weather could not be worse,' I answered, with the air and tone ofsullenness I had resolved on. 'Your ship is too old and squab for such aconflict.'

  'She is old, but she is a stout ship,' he answered. 'She will be afloatwhen scores of what you might consider beauties have vanished.'

  'I think not,' said I, looking towards Helga, and wondering what the manhad been saying to her.

  'Let us hope,' he exclaimed, lifting a great pilot coat from the lockerand struggling into it, 'that the necessity for your remaining here willnot last very much longer. I should have expected handsomer treatment atyour hands, Mr. Tregarthen.'

  'I do not know what you can find to base such an expectation on,' Icried. 'Your detention of us is cruel, and, as I hope and believe,punishable. But there is no good in discussing _that_ matter with youhere and now. I have merely to beg that we may be as strangers while weare so unfortunate as to be together in the same ship.'

  He drew his sou'-wester down upon his head, surveying me meanwhile; butI witnessed no malevolence in his regard; indeed, I may say, no traceof temper. His enduring smile lay broad with such expansion, indeed, asgave an air of elation to his face.

  'No,' said he, wagging his head, while he slipped the elastic band ofhis sou'-wester behind his whisker; 'we will not live together asstrangers, as you desire. Brotherly love is still practicable, andnothing that you can say or do, my young friend, shall dissuade me fromcultivating it. That we shall be long together I do not believe,' headded, with a significance that astonished me and sent my eyes askant atHelga, whose back was still upon us. 'Meanwhile, endeavour to becontented. To have content is to have all, and to have all is to bericher than the richest.'

  He inclined his sou'-westered head in an odd benedictory, grotesque nod,or bow, and, with a half-pause in his manner as though he would callsome speech to Helga, turned on his heel and went on deck.

  'What has he been saying, Helga?'

  She looked round, and, finding the Captain gone, came to my side andlocked her fingers upon my arm. She had drawn to me with a pale face,but the blood flushed her throat and cheeks as she let fall her eyesfrom mine. I had never before thought her so sweet as she showed at thatmoment. She was without a hat, and her short fair hair glimmered on herhead in the gathering gloom of the evening with a sheen like theglancing of bright amber. My memory gave me a thought full of beauty--awild caprice of sentiment at such a time:

  'The freshness of new hay is on thy hair, And the withdrawing innocence of home Within thine eye.'

  'What has he been saying to you, Helga?'

  'That he loves me,' she answered, now fixing her artless, tender gazeupon me, though her blush lingered.

  'A fine time to tell you such a thing! Does that sort of sea-captainwait for a gale of wind to propose to a girl?' I exclaimed, with asudden irritation of jealousy tingling through me, and I looked at herclosely and suspiciously.

  'I wanted to be angry, but could not,' said she. 'I hate the man, yet Icould not be angry with him. He spoke of his daughter--he did not talkthrough his nose--he did not cant at all. Is "cant" the right word? Ifelt sorry; I had not the heart to answer him in rudeness, and to haverisen and left him whilst he was speaking would have been rudeness.'

  I made a slight effort to disengage my arm from her clasp.

  'He told me--no doubt you heard him,' said I--'he told me he believedthere would be no necessity to keep me long. He is a clever man--ashrewd man. Well, after this I shall believe in all the proverbs aboutwomen.'

  'What do you mean?' she exclaimed in a startled voice, letting fall herhands and staring at me.

  'What do _you_ mean?'

  'Why, that I am sorry for the man, and hate him.'

  'Oh! if you keep sorry long you will soon cease to hate him.'

  'No, no!' she cried with a little passion, making as if to clasp my armafresh, and then shrinking. 'I could not help his coming here andspeaking to me.'

  'That is true.'

  'Why are you angry?'

  Her gaze pleaded, her lips twitched, even as she looked at me her blueeyes filled. Her grieved, pretty face, her wistful, tender, tearfulface, must have transformed my temper into impassioned pity, intoself-reproach, into keen self-resentment, even had there been solidground for vexation. I took her hand and lifted it to my lips.

  'Forgive me; we have been much together. Our association and yourfather's dying words make me think of you as mine until--until--the longand short of it is, Helga, I am jealous!'

  An expression of delight entered and vanished from her face. She stoodthoughtfully looking down on the deck. Just then Punmeamootty entered toprepare the table for supper, and Helga again went to the cabin windowand stood looking out, lightly, with unconscious ease and grace, swayingto the stormy heave of the deck, with her hands clasped behind her in aposture of meditation.