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I.4. The Shadow Of The Past
One stepping back under the dark shelter of the bulwark, and one standing out
boldly in the yellow light of the moon, the two friends turned face to face on the
deck of the timber-ship, and looked at each other in silence. The next moment
Allan's inveterate recklessness seized on the grotesque side of the situation by
main force. He seated himself astride on the bulwark, and burst out boisterously
into his loudest and heartiest laugh.
"All my fault," he said; "but there's no help for it now. Here we are, hard and fast
in a trap of our own setting; and there goes the last of the doctor's boat! Come out
of the dark, Midwinter; I can't half see you there, and I want to know what's to be
done next."
Midwinter neither answered nor moved. Allan left the bulwark, and, mounting the
forecastle, looked down attentively at the waters of the Sound.
"One thing is pretty certain," he said. "With the current on that side, and the
sunken rocks on this, we can't find our way out of the scrape by swimming, at any
rate. So much for the prospect at this end of the wreck. Let's try how things look
at the other. Rouse up, messmate!" he called out, cheerfully, as he passed
Midwinter. "Come and see what the old tub of a timber-ship has got to show us
astern." He sauntered on, with his hands in his pockets, humming the chorus of a
comic song.
His voice had produced no apparent effect on his friend; but, at the light touch of
his hand in passing, Midwinter started, and moved out slowly from the shadow of
the bulwark. "Come along!" cried Allan, suspending his singing for a moment,
and glancing back. Still, without a word of answer, the other followed. Thrice he
stopped before he reached the stern end of the wreck: the first time, to throw aside
his hat, and push back his hair from his forehead and temples; the second time,
reeling, giddy, to hold for a moment by a ring-bolt close at hand; the last time
(though Allan was plainly visible a few yards ahead), to look stealthily behind
him, with the furtive scrutiny of a man who believes that other footsteps are
following him in the dark. "Not yet!" he whispered to himself, with eyes that
searched the empty air. "I shall see him astern, with his hand on the lock of the
cabin door."
The stern end of the wreck was clear of the ship-breakers' lumber, accumulated in
the other parts of the vessel. Here, the one object that rose visible on the smooth
surface of the deck was the low wooden structure which held the cabin door and
roofed in the cabin stairs. The wheel-house had been removed, the binnacle had
been removed, but the cabin entrance, and all that had belonged to it, had been left
untouched. The scuttle was on, and the door was closed.
On gaining the after-part of the vessel, Allan walked straight to the stern, and
looked out to sea over the taffrail. No such thing as a boat was in view anywhere
on the quiet, moon-brightened waters. Knowing Midwinter's sight to be better
than his own, he called out, "Come up here, and see if there's a fisherman within
hail of us." Hearing no reply, he looked back. Midwinter had followed him as far