A DESPERATE VOYAGE Chapter 2 - Отчаянное плавание. Глава 2
|A DESPERATE VOYAGE Chapter 2|
|Arthur Allen, barrister-at-law, was of about the same age as his friend Carew; a man possessed of private means sufficient for his needs, into whose chambers so few briefs found their way that he had for some years dispensed with the services of a clerk. But, as one would have surmised after glancing at the strong, intelligent face, he was a man by no means lacking in energy, and not of idle disposition: as a matter of fact, a scholar, and one who had taken high honours at his university, he still maintained his studious habits, and, having practically abandoned a profession that was uncongenial to him, he devoted himself to literary pursuits; and his thoughtful articles in the reviews and in the newspaper to which he was attached brought him in no insignificant addition to his income.
No mere bookworm, he had been an athlete in his youth; but now his one outdoor form of amusement was the sailing of his little yacht, on which, always acting as his own skipper, he had taken many a delightful cruise in home[Pg 13] and distant waters. He was an enthusiastic lover of the sea. This was the one taste he had in common with Carew. It was at some yacht club, of which they were both members, that they had become acquainted.
It was a lovely August evening. The windows of Allen's bachelor chambers in the Temple were open, and through them could be seen that fair oasis of London's desert of bricks and mortar, Fountain Court, with its stately buildings, ancient trees, and quiet garden with splashing fountains in its midst. Nor was the view confined; for, beyond the chapel and the green, could be perceived the broad, gleaming Thames, and the distant Surrey shore, glorified by a faint mist; a peaceful, old-world spot, with a contemplative air about it, for it is haunted by the memories of much departed greatness. Allen was reclining in a comfortable arm-chair, drawn up to the open window, in whose recesses geraniums bloomed, their vivid blossoms occasionally shaking beneath the breath of the soft south wind that had come directly from the cool river.
He smoked his pipe as he looked out upon the sweet sunset scene, his mind happily occupied in planning his coming cruise, when his meditations were interrupted by a knock at the outer door. He rose to admit his visitor, opened the door, and there stood before him[Pg 14] Henry Carew in serge suit and yachting cap, a small Gladstone bag in his hand.
"Hallo, Carew, old man! you have not been long replying to my letter. I was afraid you would have left the office before it reached you. Come in."
"Are you alone?" inquired Carew, in a low voice.
"Yes, quite alone. I am smoking a pipe of peace by myself. You have just come at the right time."
They entered the room, and then, as the light of the sunset fell upon the solicitor's face, Allen perceived its haggard expression.
"How queer you look, Carew!" he exclaimed. "Are you ill?"
"Ill—no, not at all; but worried—worried almost out of my life," replied Carew wildly, throwing himself into a chair, and putting his face between his hands.
Allen sat in a chair opposite to him, refilled and lit his pipe, and, as he smoked, gazed at his friend with feelings of perplexed compassion.
"Have a pipe, old fellow; there is nothing like a pipe for worry."
"A pipe?" cried Carew, with contemptuous bitterness. "No; but have you some brandy? Give me some brandy."
"Certainly, Carew," and the barrister produced a spirit-case, some glasses, and water.
Carew poured a quantity of spirit into a glass[Pg 15] and drank it neat. He was usually a temperate man.
"That is not the way to clear one's brain for confronting one's troubles," remarked Allen.
"No, you are right. It is foolish of me. Allen, I have come to say that I shall be very glad to accompany you on your cruise."
"I am delighted to hear that. A good blow in the North Sea will do you good, if your mind is so upset."
"Allen," said Carew, pulling himself together and speaking with more self-possession, "I wish I could speak to you of the business that is troubling me, but I am not at liberty to do so. It concerns others."
"I don't want to know anything about it, old man; but I am sure you will soon get out of your trouble, whatever it is. With an easy conscience no man is miserable for long. And now that I have secured you as a hand, I have a sufficient crew. So we will start to-morrow morning. Will you be ready by then?"
"I am ready now. You see I have brought my baggage with me."
"Then, as we have to catch an early train to-morrow, you had better sleep to-night in my chambers; I can put you up. Our destination is the Dutch coast, old man, and we should have a jolly time of it. You have not yet seen my new boat, the Petrel—a yawl of twenty-eight tons, yacht measurement; a splendid[Pg 16] sea-boat. I would go anywhere in her. She is now lying off Erith."
Carew had been listening attentively. "What crew do you carry?" he asked.
"Ah, let me tell you that you will have lots of work to do. We shall be but three all told. I have shipped one hand only—Jim, the fisherman, who was with me last year. Another friend was coming with me, but he has disappointed me."
"For how long will you be away?"
"About a fortnight. I have been a bit fagged of late, and want a holiday. I only made up my mind to take this cruise this afternoon. Not a soul but yourself knows we are going."
On hearing this a sigh of relief escaped Carew. Yes, if he were once on board the yacht all trace of him would be lost. He felt almost jubilant as he thought of it; the recent acute tension of his mind had left a sort of hysterical weakness behind, and he alternated easily between exultant hope and profoundest despair.
He reflected that if he could but contrive to reach Erith without being observed by any who knew him, he was safe, at any rate for some time. But how to do so? It was possible that even already detectives had been set to watch his movements. He must take his chance of that, use all his wits, and incur[Pg 17] no risk that could be avoided. Fearing to show himself in the streets, more especially in the Strand or Fleet Street, where so many would know him by sight at least, he suggested to Allen that they should send to a neighbouring chop-house for their dinners, and remain quietly in the chambers, instead of dining, as was their wont, at a club. The barrister agreed to this, and therefore had no opportunity that night of meeting any of his friends, and he communicated to no one his intention of sailing on the morrow. He merely left a note for his housekeeper on his table, informing her that he would be out of town for a fortnight, and that his letters were not to be forwarded.
* * * * * *
At an early hour on the following morning a cab was brought round to the door of the barrister's chambers, and the two friends drove off to Charing Cross Station, arriving there but a few minutes before their train started. The chances of anyone who knew him recognising Carew on the way were thus reduced to a minimum. At Erith Allen's man, Jim, was awaiting them with the dinghy. He was a very broad-shouldered, florid-faced man of forty, with a protuberance in one cheek indicating the presence of a quid. He looked exactly what he was—a hardy, North-Sea smackman.
Jim pulled them off to the yacht, and when the solicitor, who was thoroughly at home on a[Pg 18] boat, a keen lover of the sea, with yachting as his one innocent pleasure, stood on the white deck, and, looking around, saw how glorious was that summer's day, beheld the river sparkling in the sunshine, thronged with stately ships and picturesque barges tacking up with the flood against the soft south-west wind, a delightful sense of freedom rushed upon him.
Oh, what a thing it was to have left behind him that accursed city, with its weariness, its anxieties, the endless jangles of the law, the feverish play, the guilt, the terrible dread of detection—to have left it for ever!
"Now, Jim, off we go!" cried the skipper. The dinghy was lifted on board, the mainsail was hoisted, then the jib; the moorings were slipt, up went the foresail, and the yacht shot out into the stream; then, obedient to her rudder, bore away, and tore down the river before the freshening breeze on the top of the strong ebb tide. Needless it is to describe that pleasant summer day's sail. Allen was in the highest spirits, and for him the happy hours flew rapidly by. Even Carew, intoxicated with the pure air and sunshine, and the delightful sight of dancing waters, forgot his sin and misery, and felt almost light-hearted for the first time for months; and at last, when the yacht reached the broader water, thinking over his position, he gave a sigh of infinite relief.[Pg 19] Now, indeed, he was safe. No fugitive had ever left so little trace behind him...
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