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Armadale

"Wait?" repeated Allan, in the blankest astonishment at his friend's excessive
caution. "What on earth does he mean? I'll be hanged if I wait. Where one of us
goes, the other goes too!"
He hitched the loose end of the rope round the forward thwart of the boat, and,
swinging himself up the ladder, stood the next moment on the deck. "Anything
very dreadful on board?" he inquired sarcastically, as he and his friend met.
Midwinter smiled. "Nothing whatever," he replied. "But I couldn't be sure that we
were to have the whole ship to ourselves till I got over the bulwark and looked
about me."
Allan took a turn on the deck, and surveyed the wreck critically from stem to
stern.
"Not much of a vessel," he said; "the Frenchmen generally build better ships than
this."
Midwinter crossed the deck, and eyed Allan in a momentary silence.
"Frenchmen?" he repeated, after an interval. "Is this vessel French?"
"Yes."
"How do you know?"
"The men I have got at work on the yacht told me. They know all about her."
Midwinter came a little nearer. His swarthy face began to look, to Allan's eyes,
unaccountably pale in the moonlight.
"Did they mention what trade she was engaged in?"
"Yes; the timber trade."
As Allan gave that answer, Midwinter's lean brown hand clutched him fast by the
shoulder, and Midwinter's teeth chattered in his head like the teeth of a man struck
by a sudden chill.
"Did they tell you her name?" he asked, in a voice that dropped suddenly to a
whisper.
"They did, I think. But it has slipped my memory.--Gently, old fellow; these long
claws of yours are rather tight on my shoulder."
"Was the name--?" He stopped, removed his hand, and dashed away the great
drops that were gathering on his forehead. "Was the name La Grace de Dieu?"
"How the deuce did you come to know it? That's the name, sure enough. La Grace
de Dieu."
At one bound, Midwinter leaped on the bulwark of the wreck.
"The boat!" he cried, with a scream of horror that rang far and wide through the
stillness of the night, and brought Allan instantly to his side.
The lower end of the carelessly hitched rope was loose on the water, and ahead, in
the track of the moonlight, a small black object was floating out of view. The boat
was adrift.
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