A Man's Woman HTML version

Chapter XI.
That particular day in the last week in April was sombre and somewhat chilly, but
there was little wind. The water of the harbour lay smooth as a sheet of tightly
stretched gray silk. Overhead the sea-fog drifted gradually landward, descending,
as it drifted, till the outlines of the City grew blurred and indistinct, resolving to a
dim, vast mass, rugged with high-shouldered office buildings and bulging,
balloon-like domes, confused and mysterious under the cloak of the fog. In the
nearer foreground, along the lines of the wharves and docks, a wilderness of
masts and spars of a tone just darker than the gray of the mist stood away from
the blur of the background with the distinctness and delicacy of frost-work.
But amid all this grayness of sky and water and fog one distinguished certain
black and shifting masses. They outlined every wharf, they banked every dock,
every quay. Every small and inconsequent jetty had its fringe of black. Even the
roofs of the buildings along the water-front were crested with the same dull-
coloured mass.
It was the People, the crowd, rank upon rank, close-packed, expectant, thronging
there upon the City's edge, swelling in size with the lapse of every minute, vast,
conglomerate, restless, and throwing off into the stillness of the quiet gray air a
prolonged, indefinite murmur, a monotonous minor note.
The surface of the bay was dotted over with all manner of craft black with people.
Rowboats, perilously overcrowded, were everywhere. Ferryboats and excursion
steamers, chartered for that day, heeled over almost to the water's edge with the
unsteady weight of their passengers. Tugboats passed up and down similarly
crowded and displaying the flags of various journals and news organisations—
the News, the Press, the Times, and the Associated Press. Private yachts, trim
and very graceful and gleaming with brass and varnish, slipped by with scarcely
a ripple to mark their progress, while full in the centre of the bay, gigantic, solid,
formidable, her grim, silent guns thrusting their snouts from her turrets, a great,
white battleship rode motionless to her anchor.
An hour passed; noon came. At long intervals a faint seaward breeze
compressed the fog, and high, sad-coloured clouds and a fine and penetrating
rain came drizzling down. The crowds along the wharves grew denser and
blacker. The numbers of yachts, boats, and steamers increased; even the yards
and masts of the merchant-ships were dotted over with watchers.
Then, at length, from far up the bay there came a faint, a barely perceptible,
droning sound, the sound of distant shouting. Instantly the crowds were alert, and
a quick, surging movement rippled from end to end of the throng along the water-
front. Its subdued murmur rose in pitch upon the second. Like a flock of agitated
gulls, the boats in the harbour stirred nimbly from place to place; a belated