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The Mystery

The Twelve Repeating Rifles
After my watch below the next morning I met Percy Darrow. In many ways he is, or was,
the most extraordinary of my many acquaintances. During that first half hour's chat with
him I changed my mind at least a dozen times. One moment I thought him clever, the
next an utter ass; now I found him frank, open, a good companion, eager to please,--and
then a droop of his blond eyelashes, a lazy, impertinent drawl of his voice, a hint of half-
bored condescension in his manner, convinced me that he was shy and affected. In a
breath I appraised him as intellectual, a fool, a shallow mind, a deep schemer, an idler,
and an enthusiast. One result of his spasmodic confidences was to throw a doubt upon
their accuracy. This might be what he desired; or with equal probability it might be the
chance reflection of a childish and aimless amiability.
He was tall and slender and pale, languid of movement, languid of eye, languid of
speech. His eyes drooped, half-closed beneath blond brows; a long wiry hand lazily
twisted a rather affected blond moustache, his voice drawled his speech in a manner
either insufferably condescending and impertinent, or ineffably tired,--who could tell
I found him leaning against the taffrail, his languid graceful figure supported by his
elbows, his chin propped against his hand. As I approached the binnacle, he raised his
eyes and motioned me to him. The insolence of it was so superb that for a moment I was
angry enough to ignore him. Then I reflected that I was here, not to stand on my personal
dignity, but to get information. I joined him.
"You are the mate?" he drawled.
"Since I am on the quarter-deck," I snapped back at him.
He eyed me thoughtfully, while he rolled with one hand a corn-husk Mexican cigarette.
"Do you know where you are going?" he inquired at length.
"Depends on the moral character of my future actions," I rejoined tartly.
He allowed a smile to break and fade, then lighted his cigarette.
"The first mate seems to have a remarkable command of language," said he.
I did not reply.
"Well, to tell you the truth I don't know where we are going," he continued. "Thought you
might be able to inform me. Where did this ship and its precious gang of cutthroats come
from, anyway?"
"Meaning me?"