Armadale HTML version
as the cabin, and had stopped there. He called again in a louder voice, and
beckoned impatiently. Midwinter had heard the call, for he looked up, but still he
never stirred from his place. There he stood, as if he had reached the utmost limits
of the ship and could go no further.
Allan went back and joined him. It was not easy to discover what he was looking
at, for he kept his face turned away from the moonlight; but it seemed as if his
eyes were fixed, with a strange expression of inquiry, on the cabin door. "What is
there to look at there?" Allan asked. "Let's see if it's locked." As he took a step
forward to open the door, Midwinter's hand seized him suddenly by the coat
collar and forced him back. The moment after, the hand relaxed without losing its
grasp, and trembled violently, like the hand of a man completely unnerved.
"Am I to consider myself in custody?" asked Allan, half astonished and half
amused. "Why in the name of wonder do you keep staring at the cabin door? Any
suspicious noises below? It's no use disturbing the rats--if that's what you mean--
we haven't got a dog with us. Men? Living men they can't be; for they would have
heard us and come on deck. Dead men? Quite impossible! No ship's crew could
be drowned in a land-locked place like this, unless the vessel broke up under
them--and here's the vessel as steady as a church to speak for herself. Man alive,
how your hand trembles! What is there to scare you in that rotten old cabin? What
are you shaking and shivering about? Any company of the supernatural sort on
board? Mercy preserve us! (as the old women say) do you see a ghost?"
"I see two!" answered the other, driven headlong into speech and action by a
maddening temptation to reveal the truth. "Two!" he repeated, his breath bursting
from him in deep, heavy gasps, as he tried vainly to force back the horrible words.
"The ghost of a man like you, drowning in the cabin! And the ghost of a man like
me, turning the lock of the door on him!"
Once more young Armadale's hearty laughter rang out loud and long through the
stillness of the night.
"Turning the lock of the door, is he?" said Allan, as soon as his merriment left
him breath enough to speak. "That's a devilish unhandsome action, Master
Midwinter, on the part of your ghost. The least I can do, after that, is to let mine
out of the cabin, and give him the run of the ship."
With no more than a momentary exertion of his superior strength, he freed
himself easily from Midwinter's hold. "Below there!" he called out, gayly, as he
laid his strong hand on the crazy lock, and tore open the cabin door. "Ghost of
Allan Armadale, come on deck!" In his terrible ignorance of the truth, he put his
head into the doorway and looked down, laughing, at the place where his
murdered father had died. "Pah!" he exclaimed, stepping back suddenly, with a
shudder of disgust. "The air is foul already; and the cabin is full of water."
It was true. The sunken rocks on which the vessel lay wrecked had burst their way
through her lower timbers astern, and the water had welled up through the rifted
wood. Here, where the deed had been done, the fatal parallel between past and
present was complete. What the cabin had been in the time of the fathers, that the
cabin was now in the time of the sons.
Allan pushed the door to again with his foot, a little surprised at the sudden
silence which appeared to have fallen on his friend from the moment when he had