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So curiously was I affected by this first glimpse of Captain West that I was aware of expecting to fall from his lips I knew not what words of untold beneficence and wisdom.  Yet he uttered most commonplace regrets at the delay in a voice provocative of fresh surprise to me.  It was low and gentle, almost too low, yet clear as a bell and touched with a faint reminiscent twang of old New England.

“And this is the young woman who is guilty of the delay,” he concluded my introduction to his daughter.  “Margaret, this is Mr. Pathurst.”

Her gloved hand promptly emerged from the fox-skins to meet mine, and I found myself looking into a pair of gray eyes bent steadily and gravely upon me.  It was discomfiting, that cool, penetrating, searching gaze.  It was not that it was challenging, but that it was so insolently business-like.  It was much in the very way one would look at a new coachman he was about to engage.  I did not know then that she was to go on the voyage, and that her curiosity about the man who was to be a fellow-passenger for half a year was therefore only natural.  Immediately she realized what she was doing, and her lips and eyes smiled as she spoke.

As we moved on to enter the tug’s cabin I heard Possum’s shivering whimper rising to a screech, and went forward to tell Wada to take the creature in out of the cold.  I found him hovering about my luggage, wedging my dressing-case securely upright by means of my little automatic rifle.  I was startled by the mountain of luggage around which mine was no more than a fringe.  Ship’s stores, was my first thought, until I noted the number of trunks, boxes, suit-cases, and parcels and bundles of all sorts.  The initials on what looked suspiciously like a woman’s hat trunk caught my eye—“M.W.”  Yet Captain West’s first name was Nathaniel.  On closer investigation I did find several “N.W’s.” but everywhere I could see “M.W’s.”  Then I remembered that he had called her Margaret.

I was too angry to return to the cabin, and paced up and down the cold deck biting my lips with vexation.  I had so expressly stipulated with the agents that no captain’s wife was to come along.  The last thing under the sun I desired in the pet quarters of a ship was a woman.  But I had never thought about a captain’s daughter.  For two cents I was ready to throw the voyage over and return on the tug to Baltimore .

By the time the wind caused by our speed had chilled me bitterly, I noticed Miss West coming along the narrow deck, and could not avoid being struck by the spring and vitality of her walk.  Her face, despite its firm moulding, had a suggestion of fragility that was belied by the robustness of her body.  At least, one would argue that her body must be robust from her fashion of movement of it, though little could one divine the lines of it under the shapelessness of the furs.

I turned away on my heel and fell moodily to contemplating the mountain of luggage.  A huge packing-case attracted my attention, and I was staring at it when she spoke at my shoulder.

“That’s what really caused the delay,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked incuriously.

“Why, the Elsinore’s piano, all renovated.  When I made up my mind to come, I telegraphed Mr. Pike—he’s the mate, you know.  He did his best.  It was the fault of the piano house.  And while we waited to-day I gave them a piece of my mind they’ll not forget in a hurry.”

She laughed at the recollection, and commenced to peep and peer into the luggage as if in search of some particular piece.  Having satisfied herself, she was starting back, when she paused and said:

“Won’t you come into the cabin where it’s warm?  We won’t be there for half an hour.”

“When did you decide to make this voyage?” I demanded abruptly.

So quick was the look she gave me that I knew she had in that moment caught all my disgruntlement and disgust.

“Two days ago,” she answered.  “Why?”

Her readiness for give and take took me aback, and before I could speak she went on:

“Now you’re not to be at all silly about my coming, Mr. Pathurst.  I probably know more about long-voyaging than you do, and we’re all going to be comfortable and happy.  You can’t bother me, and I promise you I won’t bother you.  I’ve sailed with passengers before, and I’ve learned to put up with more than they ever proved they were able to put up with.  So there.  Let us start right, and it won’t be any trouble to keep on going right.  I know what is the matter with you.  You think you’ll be called upon to entertain me.  Please know that I do not need entertainment.  I never saw the longest voyage that was too long, and I always arrive at the end with too many things not done for the passage ever to have been tedious, and . . . I don’t play Chopsticks .”

CHAPTER II

The Elsinore , fresh-loaded with coal, lay very deep in the water when we came alongside.  I knew too little about ships to be capable of admiring her lines, and, besides, I was in no mood for admiration.  I was still debating with myself whether or not to chuck the whole thing and return on the tug.  From all of which it must not be taken that I am a vacillating type of man.  On the contrary.

The trouble was that at no time, from the first thought of it, had I been keen for the voyage.  Practically the reason I was taking it was because there was nothing else I was keen on.  For some time now life had lost its savour.  I was not jaded, nor was I exactly bored.  But the zest had gone out of things.  I had lost taste for my fellow-men and all their foolish, little, serious endeavours.  For a far longer period I had been dissatisfied with women.  I had endured them, but I had been too analytic of the faults of their primitiveness, of their almost ferocious devotion to the destiny of sex, to be enchanted with them.  And I had come to be oppressed by what seemed to me the futility of art—a pompous legerdemain, a consummate charlatanry that deceived not only its devotees but its practitioners.

In short, I was embarking on the Elsinore because it was easier to than not; yet everything else was as equally and perilously easy.  That was the curse of the condition into which I had fallen.  That was why, as I stepped upon the deck of the Elsinore , I was half of a mind to tell them to keep my luggage where it was and bid Captain West and his daughter good-day.

I almost think what decided me was the welcoming, hospitable smile Miss West gave me as she started directly across the deck for the cabin, and the knowledge that it must be quite warm in the cabin.

Mr. Pike, the mate, I had already met, when I visited the ship in Erie Basin .  He smiled a stiff, crack-faced smile that I knew must be painful, but did not offer to shake hands, turning immediately to call orders to half-a- dozen frozen-looking youths and aged men who shambled up from somewhere in the waist of the ship.  Mr. Pike had been drinking.  That was patent.  His face was puffed and discoloured, and his large gray eyes were bitter and bloodshot.

I lingered, with a sinking heart watching my belongings come aboard and chiding my weakness of will which prevented me from uttering the few words that would put a stop to it.  As for the half-dozen men who were now carrying the luggage aft into the cabin, they were unlike any concept I had ever entertained of sailors.  Certainly, on the liners, I had observed nothing that resembled them.

One, a most vivid-faced youth of eighteen, smiled at me from a pair of remarkable Italian eyes.  But he was a dwarf.  So short was he that he was all sea-boots and sou’wester.  And yet he was not entirely Italian.  So certain was I that I asked the mate, who answered morosely:

“Him?  Shorty?  He’s a dago half-breed.  The other half’s Jap or Malay.”

One old man, who I learned was a bosun, was so decrepit that I thought he had been recently injured.  His face was stolid and ox-like, and as he shuffled and dragged his brogans over the deck he paused every several steps to place both hands on his abdomen and execute a queer, pressing, lifting movement.  Months were to pass, in which I saw him do this thousands of times, ere I learned that there was nothing the matter with him and that his action was purely a habit.  His face reminded me of the Man with the Hoe, save that it was unthinkably and abysmally stupider.  And his name, as I was to learn, of all names was Sundry Buyers.  And he was bosun of the fine American sailing-ship Elsinore —rated one of the finest sailing-ships afloat!

Of this group of aged men and boys that moved the luggage along I saw only one, called Henry, a youth of sixteen, who approximated in the slightest what I had conceived all sailors to be like.  He had come off a training ship, the mate told me, and this was his first voyage to sea.  His face was keen-cut, alert, as were his bodily movements, and he wore sailor-appearing clothes with sailor-seeming grace.  In fact, as I was to learn, he was to

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