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in the weariness of this mystery, the passage seemed to drag a little. And it was obvious enough that Carlos was unwilling or unable to tell anything about what preoccupied him.
I had noticed an intimacy spring up between the ship's second mate and Tomas, who was, it seemed to me, forever engaged in long confabulations in the man's cabin, and, as much to make talk as for any other reason, I asked Carlos if he had noticed his dependent's familiarity. It was noticeable because Castro held aloof from every other soul on board. Carlos answered me with one of his nervous and angry smiles.
“Ah, Juan mine, do not ask too many questions! I wish you could come with me all the way, but I cannot tell you all I know. I do not even myself know all. It seems that the man is going to leave the ship in Jamaica, and has letters for that Señor Ramon, the merchant, even as I have. Vaya; more I cannot tell you."
This struck me as curious, and a little of the whole mystery seemed from that time to attach to the second mate, who before had been no more to me than a long, sallow Nova Scotian, with a disagreeable intonation and rather offensive manners. I began to watch him, desultorily, and was rather startled by something more than a suspicion that he himself was watching me. On one occasion in particular I seemed to observe this. The second mate was lankily stalking the deck, his hands in his pockets. As he paused in his walk to spit into the sea beside me, Carlos said:
“And you, my Juan, what will you do in this Jamaica?'
The sense that we were approaching land was already all over the ship. The second mate leered at me enigmatically, and moved slowly away. I said that I was going to the Horton Estates, Rooksby's, to learn planting under a Mr. Macdonald, the agent. Carlos shrugged his shoulders. I suppose I had spoken with some animation.
“Ah,” he said, with his air of great wisdom and varied experience, of disillusionment, " it will be much the same as it has been at your home-after the first days. Hard work and a great sameness.' He began to cough violently.
I said bitterly enough, “Yes. It will be always the same with me. I shall never see life. You've seen all that there is to see, so
I suppose you do not mind settling down with an old uncle in a palace."
He answered suddenly, with a certain darkness of manner, “That is as God wills. Who knows? Perhaps life, even in my uncle's palace, will not be so safe.”
The second mate was bearing down on us again.
I said jocularly, “Why, when I get very tired of life at Horton Pen, I shall come to see you
uncle's town.” Carlos had another of his fits of coughing.
After all, we are kinsmen. I dare say you would give me a bed," I went on.
The second mate was quite close to us then.
Carlos looked at me with an expression of affection that a little shamed my lightness of tone:
“I love you much more than a kinsman, Juan,” he said. “I wish you could come with me. I try to arrange it. Later, perhaps, I may be dead. I am
ill.” He was undoubtedly ill. Campaigning in Spain, exposure in England in a rainy time, and then the ducking when we came on board, had done him no good. He looked moodily at the
"I wish you could come. I will try
The mate had paused, and was listening quite unaffectedly, behind Carlos' back.
A moment after Carlos half turned and regarded him with a haughty stare.
He whistled and walked away.
Carlos muttered something that I did not catch about “spies of that pestilent Irishman.” Then:
“I will not selfishly take you into any more dangers,” he said. But life on a sugar plantation is not fit for you."
I felt glad and flattered that a personage so romantic should deem me a fit companion for himself. He went forward as if with some purpose.
Some days afterwards the second mate sent for me to his cabin. He had been on the sick list, and he was lying in his bunk, stripped to the waist, one arm and one leg touching the floor. He raised himself slowly when I came in, and spat. He had in a pronounced
degree the Nova Scotian peculiarities and accent, and after he had shaved, his face shone like polished leather.
“Hallo!” he said. “See heeyur, young Kemp, does your neck just itch to be stretched ?"
I looked at him with mouth and eyes agape.
He spat again, and waved a claw towards the forward bulkhead.
“They'll do it for yeh,” he said. “You're such a green goose, it makes me sick a bit. You hevn't reckoned out the chances, not quite. It's a kind of dead reckoning yeh hevn't had call to make. Eh?”
What do you mean?” I asked, bewildered. He looked at me, grinning, half naked, with amused contempt, for quite a long time, and at last offered sardonically to open my eyes for me.
I said nothing.
“Do you know what will happen to you,” he asked, ef yeh don't get quit of that Carlos of yours?"
I was surprised into muttering that I didn't know.
By that time I was too amazed to get angry. I simply suspected the Blue Nose of being drunk. But he glared at me so soberly that next moment I felt frightened.
“Hanged by the neck,” he repeated; and then added, “Young fellow, you scoot. Take a fool's advice, and scoot. That Castro is a blame fool, anyhow. Yeh want men for that job. Men, I tell you.” He slapped his bony breast.
I had no idea that he could look so ferocious. His eyes fascinated me, and he opened his cavernous mouth as if to swallow me. His lantern jaws snapped without a sound. He seemed to change his mind.
“I am done with yeh,” he said, with a sort of sinister restraint. He rose to his feet, and, turning his back to me, began to shave, squinting into a broken looking-glass.
I had not the slightest inkling of his meaning. I only knew that going out of his berth was like escaping from the dark lair of a beast into a sunlit world. There is no denying that his words, and still more his manner, had awakened in me a sense of insecurity
that had no precise object, for it was manifestly absurd and impossible to suspect my friend Carlos. Moreover, hanging was a danger so recondite, and an eventuality so extravagant, as to make the whole thing ridiculous. And yet I remembered how unhappy I felt, how inexplicably unhappy. Presently the reason was made clear. I was homesick. I gave no further thought to the second mate. I looked at the harbor we were entering, and thought of the home I had left so eagerly. After all, I was no more than a boy, and even younger in mind than in body.
Queer-looking boats crawled between the shores like tiny water beetles. One headed out towards us, then another. I did not want them to reach us. It was as if I did not wish my solitude to be disturbed, and I was not pleased with the idea of going ashore, A great ship, floating high on the water, black, and girt with the two broad yellow streaks of her double tier of guns, glided out slowly from beyond a cluster of shipping in the bay. She passed without a hail, going out under her topsails with a flag at the fore. Her lofty spars overtopped our masts immensely, and I saw the men in her rigging looking down on our decks. The only sounds that came out of her were the piping of boatswains' calls and the tramping of feet. Imagining her to be going home, I felt a great desire to be on board. Ultimately, as it turned out, I went home in that very ship, but then it was too late. I was another man by that time, with much queer knowledge and other desires. Whilst I was looking and longing I heard Carlos' voice behind me asking one of our sailors what ship it was.
"Don't you know a flagship when you see it?" a voice grumbled surlily. "Admiral Rowley's," it continued. Then it rumbled out some remarks about “pirates, vermin, coast of Cuba."
Carlos came to the side, and looked after the man-of-war in the distance.
“ You could help us," I heard him mutter.