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The After House

16. Jones Stumbles Over Something
I find, from my journal, that the next seven days passed without marked incident.
Several times during that period we sighted vessels, ail outward bound, and once
we were within communicating distance of a steam cargo boat on her way to
Venezuela. She lay to and sent her first mate over to see what could be done.
He was a slim little man with dark eyes and a small mustache above a cheerful
mouth. He listened in silence to my story, and shuddered when I showed him the
jolly-boat. But we were only a few days out by that time, and, after all, what could
they do? He offered to spare us a hand, if it could be arranged; but, Adams
having recovered by that time, we decided to get along as we were. A strange
sight we must have presented to the tidy little officer in his uniform and black tie:
a haggard, unshaven lot of men, none too clean, all suffering from strain and lack
of sleep, with nerves ready to snap; a white yacht, motionless, her sails drooping,
- for not a breath of air moved, - with unpolished brasses and dirty decks; in
charge of all, a tall youth, unshaven like the rest, and gaunt from sickness, who
hardly knew a nautical phrase, who shook the little officer's hand with a ferocity of
welcome that made him change color, and whose uniform consisted of a pair of
dirty khaki trousers and a khaki shirt, open at the neck; and behind us, wallowing
in the trough of the sea as the Ella lay to, the jolly-boat, so miscalled, with its
sinister cargo.
The Buenos Aires went on, leaving us a bit cheered, perhaps, but none the better
off, except that she verified our bearings. The after house had taken no notice of
the incident. None of the women had appeared, nor did they make any inquiry of
the cook when he carried down their dinner that night.. As entirely as possible,
during the week that had passed, they had kept to themselves. Turner was
better, I imagined; but, the few times when Elsa Lee appeared at the companion
for a breath of air, I was off duty and missed her. I thought it was by design, and I
was desperate for a sight of her.