Once Aboard the Lugger Part 40

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Now there succeeded a steady wash of sound--rising, falling, murmuring persistent against his senses.

He turned his back upon Sleep. She crooned; he wriggled from her.

Seductively she followed; he kicked a leg and jarred her, threw an arm and hurt her. Disgusted, she slipped from bed and left him, leaving a chilly s.p.a.ce where she had warmly lain.

Mr. Marrapit s.h.i.+vered; felt for Sleep; found her gone; with a start sat upright.

The breakwater gone, that wash of sound which had lapped around his senses rushed in upon them. Lingering traces of the touch of Sleep still offered resistance--a droning hum. The wash surged over, poured about him--_VOICES_!

Mr. Marrapit violently cleared his throat. The voices continued.

Violently again. They still continued. Tremendously a third time. They yet continued. From this he argued that they could not be very close to his door. Intently he listened, then located them--they came from the garden. He felt for the bell-push that carried to Mr. Fletcher's room; put his thumb upon it; steadily pressed.

Sleep toyed no tricks in Mr. Fletcher's bed. Like some wanton mistress discovered in the very act of betrayal, she at the first tearing clamour of the electric bell bounded from the sheets, scuttled from the room.

"Rapine!" cried Mr. Fletcher; plunged his head beneath the bedclothes and wrestled in prayer.

The strident gong faltered not nor failed. Steady and penetrating it dinned its hideous call. Mr. Fletcher waited for screams. None came.

He pushed the sheet between his chattering teeth, listened for cudgelling and heavy falls. None came. That bell had single possession of the night. The possibility that only patrolling was required of him nerved him to draw from his concealment. He lit a candle; into trousers pushed his quivering legs; upon tottering limbs pa.s.sed up the stairs to Mr. Marrapit's room.

"Judas!" Mr. Marrapit greeted him.

Mr. Fletcher sighed relief: "I thought it was rapine."

"You have betrayed your trust. You are Iscariot."

"I come when you rung."

"Silence. I have heard voices."

"G.o.d help us," Mr. Fletcher piously groaned; the candle in his shaking hand showered wax.

"Blasphemer! He will not help the craven. Gird yourself."

"I'll call Mr. George."

"Refrain. I will attend to that. Gird yourself. Take the musket from the hall. It is loaded. Patrol!"

"I don't want the musket."

"Be not overbold. Outside you may be at their mercy."

"_Outside!_"

"a.s.suredly."

"Me patrol outside!"

"That is your task. Forward!"

By now Mr. Marrapit had risen; swathed himself in a dressing-gown.

Sternly he addressed Mr. Fletcher: "As you this night quit yourself so will I consider the question of your dismissal. If blood is spilt this night it will be upon your head."

Mr. Fletcher trembled. "That's just it. It's 'ard--d.a.m.n 'ard--"

"Forward, Iscariot." Mr. Marrapit drove Judas before him; in the hall took down the gun and pressed it into the shaking hands. He drew the bolts, impelled Iscariot outward, and essayed to close the door.

Mr. Fletcher clutched the handle. Mr. Marrapit pushed; hissed through the crack: "Away! Search every nook. Penetrate each fastness. Use stealth. Track, trace, follow!"

Discarding entreaty, Mr. Fletcher put hoa.r.s.e protest through the slit of aperture that remained: "I should like to ast if I was engaged for this, Mr. Marrapit," he panted. "I'm a gardener, I am--"

"I recognise that. To your department. With your life forefend it."

Mr. Marrapit fetched the door against the lintel; in the brief moment he could hold it close slid the lock.

VIII.

No tremor of fear or of excitement ruffled this remarkable man. Calm in the breezes of life he was calm also in its tempests. This is a natural corollary. As a man faces the smaller matters of his life so he will face its crises. Each smallest act accomplished imprints its stamp upon the pliable ma.s.s we call character; our manner of handling each tiniest common-place of our routine helps mould its form; each fleeting thought helps shape the mould.

The process is involuntary and we are not aware of its working.

Character is not made by tremendous thumps, but by the constant patterings of minutest touches. The athlete does not build his strength by enormous exertions, but by consistent and gentle training.

Huge strains at spasmodic intervals, separated by periods in which he lies fallow in sloth, add nothing to his capacity for endurance; it is by the tally of each minute of his preparation that you may read how he will acquit himself against the test. Thus also with the shaping of character, and thus was Mr. Marrapit, collected in minor affairs, mighty in this crisis.

IX.

Turning from the door he marched steadily across the hall towards the stairs to arouse George.

At the lowermost step a movement on the landing above made him pause.

He was to be spared the trouble. Placing the candle upon a table he looked up. He spoke. "George!"

"Wash it?" said a voice. "Wash it?"

"Wash nothing," Mr. Marrapit commanded. "Who is this?"

The answer, starting low, ascended a shrill scale: "Wash it? Wash it?

Wash it?"

"Silence!" Mr. Marrapit answered. "Descend!"

He craned upwards. The curl-papered head of Mrs. Major poked at him over the banisters.

"Darling," breathed Mrs. Major. "Darling--_um!_"

"Mrs. Major! What is this?"

"Thash what _I_ want to know," said Mrs. Major coquettishly.

"Wash it? Wash _ish_ it?"

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 40

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 40 summary

You're reading Once Aboard the Lugger Part 40. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson already has 187 views.

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