The Hand of Ethelberta HTML version

33. The English Channel – Normandy
On Monday morning the little steamer Speedwell made her
appearance round the promontory by Knollsea Bay, to take
in passengers for the transit to Cherbourg. Breezes the
freshest that could blow without verging on keenness flew
over the quivering deeps and shallows; and the sunbeams
pierced every detail of barrow, path and rabbit-run upon the
lofty convexity of down and waste which shut in Knollsea
from the world to the west.
They left the pier at eight o'clock, taking at first a short
easterly course to avoid a sinister ledge of limestones jutting
from the water like crocodile's teeth, which first obtained
notoriety in English history through being the spot whereon a
formidable Danish fleet went to pieces a thousand years
ago. At the moment that the Speedwell turned to enter upon
the direct course, a schooner-yacht, whose sheets gleamed
like bridal satin, loosed from a remoter part of the bay;
continuing to bear off, she cut across the steamer's wake,
and took a course almost due southerly, which was precisely
that of the Speedwell. The wind was very favourable for the
yacht, blowing a few points from north in a steady pressure
on her quarter, and, having been built with every modern
appliance that shipwrights could offer, the schooner found no
difficulty in getting abreast, and even ahead, of the steamer,
as soon as she had escaped the shelter of the hills.
The more or less parallel courses of the vessels continued
for some time without causing any remark among the people
on board the Speedwell. At length one noticed the fact, and
another; and then it became the general topic of
conversation in the group upon the bridge, where Ethelberta,
her hair getting frizzed and her cheeks carnationed by the
wind, sat upon a camp-stool looking towards the prow.