I know you well by reputation." Perhaps, under the circumstances of the moment, this was scarce a welcome speech. At least, Nares received it with a grunt. "Well, captain," Jim continued, "you know about the size of the business? You're to take the Norah Creina to Midway Island, break up a wreck, call at Honolulu, and back to this port? I suppose that's understood?"
From a little behind, with his Sunday hat tilted forward over his brow, and a cigar glowing between his lips, Captain Nares acknowledged our previous acquaintance with a succinct nod. Behind him again, in the top of the stairway, a knot of sailors, the new crew of the Norah Creina, stood polishing the wall with back and elbow. These I left without to their reflections.
And the bass-toned Fowler echoed, "Damned if I understand his game." Thus we were left once more alone upon the Norah Creina; and the news of the night, and the lamentations of Pinkerton, and the thought of my own harsh decision, returned and besieged me in the dark. According to all the rubbish I had read, I should have been sustained by the warm consciousness of virtue.
Our outward track in the Norah Creina lay well to the northward; and perhaps it is but the impression of a few pet days which I have unconsciously spread longer, or perhaps the feeling grew upon me later, in the run to Honolulu. One thing I am sure: it was before I had ever seen an island worthy of the name that I must date my loyalty to the South Seas.
Half an hour later, the whaleboat was lying astern of the Norah Creina; and Nares and I sought our bunks, silent and half-bewildered by our late discoveries.
With toil and labour I have reached a very fair height of refinement. I won't be pulled down again. 'Yes, you will, papa. We'll have bread and cheese for lunch this very day. And you shall wear your slippers in the drawing-room every evening you'll stay quietly at home; and oh, papa, don't you think I could ride Nora Creina.
A thin cloud overspread the area of the reef and the adjacent sea the dust, as I could not but fancy, of earlier explosions. Towards her, the taut Norah Creina, vulture-wise, wriggled to windward: come from so far to pick her bones.
Half an hour later the whaleboat was lying astern of the Norah Creina; and Nares and I sought our bunks, silent and half-bewildered by our late discoveries.
I lost no time in answering the billet, electing for the earliest occasion; and at the appointed hour a somewhat blackguard-looking boat's crew from the Norah Creina conveyed me under the guns of the Tempest.
The Flying Scud would have seemed small enough beside the wharves of San Francisco, but she was some thrice the size of the Norah Creina, which had been so long our continent; and as we craned up at her wall-sides, she impressed us with a mountain magnitude.