OUT of the deadly stupor that encased him as a leaden coffin, Burke started with a gurgling cry. He thought that somebody was driving a red-hot poker into his eyeballs. He found only that the flaming globe of the rising sun had just emerged over the lorcha's bow bulwarks and was burrowing his face with its feverish rays. He rolled clumsily down the sloping deck to a spot where a flap of dirty sail gave shade and there he lay weakly on his back, motionless.
The change gave him little comfort. His eyes throbbed hotly, his throat was as if scraped raw, and his mouth was fevered. A circle of iron seemed riveted around his head and his whole body vibrated to a mad dance of all his nerves. At last he could stand it no longer. He sat up and looked about him desperately, then crawled to the scuppers and picked up a flask lying there. He held it up against the sun. It was empty. With a curse he hurled it into diamond-dust against the bulwarks.
He sat there a moment, glassy-eyed, then rose with a trembling effort and groped aft to the cabin. He had to kick a mangy dog out of the way and to step over a squalid baby, but finally he fell on his knees in a corner and eagerly searched beneath the bamboo bench that followed the wall on three sides. He rolled a dirty bundle out of the way and pulled a demijohn toward him. He lowered the mouth tentatively till a few drops of the fiery white beno wet the palm of his hand, then, with a cry between a sob and a snarl, like that of a starving dog closing in on a bone, he raised the jug to his lips and drained the dregs in four big gulps. His trembling fingers opened and the demijohn fell to the floor with a crash.
A faint colour came to his cheeks and his body straightened. He searched his pockets with feverish fingers and drew out a soiled cigarette paper and a pinch of tobacco. He rolled a cigarette, lit it, and went out on the deck. A breath of wind, sweet with the fruity smell of crude sugar, struck him in the face, and he noticed for the first time what had been true since his awakening—that the lorcha had come to a standstill and that the white roofs of Manila were glistening before him.
The sight did not seem to quicken him into action. He strolled down the deck and sat on the bulwarks, his legs dangling above the quay. He inhaled the smoke deeply two or three times, then his back humped and his eyes narrowed like those of a purring cat.
This lethargy of bliss did not last long. Slowly something forced itself into it with the insistence of a question mark. On the quay almost beneath his feet, there were four long, black boxes, ranged symmetrically in a row, each with its long, black cover by its side. At first they said nothing to his half-stupid contemplation, but gradually they took on something mysterious and awesome. They were so regular, so oblong, so respectable; they stood so gapingly, so alertly open, that suddenly a little shudder thrilled up along his spine. Ten feet away, rigid and alert, a big Met. policeman stood, looking along the quay with patiently expectant eyes. Burke was on the point of calling out a question when his attention was drawn by another scene.
A little rosy pig trotted squealing down the deck with a fierce little boy after it. It bumped the bulwark beneath Burke, and the vibration caused him to look down. The boy had the pig by the tail. The boy was pulling one way and the pig the other; they were of equal strength, so that for a second they were fixed in a plastic group. Struggling impotently, the boy turned his big black eyes up to the man in mute appeal, and the big black eyes suddenly recalled to Burke two other such eyes in just such a little brown face, and these big black eyes became a measure of the road that Burke had travelled the last three years, a road he liked not to contemplate. So he was turning from the unpleasant scene when the boy let go the tail and fell back, rigid.
Burke looked down upon the stark little form with a frown of perplexity and distrust. He slid himself along the bulwark till a few feet away, then ran his eyes up along the mainmast.
At the peak, a yellow flag was smacking in the wind.
His eyes dropped to the boxes on the quay. They were coffins.
He understood. The cholera had crept upon the lorcha before it had left Vigan, and all the way down the coast it had been doing its dread work about him, plunged in the oblivion of his solitary orgy.
There had been seventy people on the lorcha when it had left Vigan; and there were still a half-hundred. They were huddled forward, a squalid, rancid, and coloured group, their eyes wistfully set upon a black pot vibrating upon a fire of small sticks. They were from the famine district of Vigan and had not eaten for a long time, but their attention was not solely upon the vessel holding their handful of rice. At times they threw black looks toward the quay. Fear was upon them; fear, not of the impalpable Death hovering about them, but fear of the White Man's Quarantine as represented by the big, passive policeman standing there like a menace; the White Man's Quarantine, ready to clutch them at the first sign of disease and tear them off to its den, to a fearful and ever-mysterious fate.
Burke looked at them, then pointed at the boy at his feet, but they seemed to see nothing. He sprang to the deck and he shouted. They turned their heads, scowled indifferently at the little stretched body, then their eyes returned to the black kettle quivering on the fire.
"Here, here, that won't do," cried Burke, all the maudlin softness out of his face, as he marched upon the group. "Get up, you hound!" he thundered, kicking the nearest man. "Get up, there! And you, too," he added, cuffing another. "Get up and take care of the kid!"
He laid about him furiously for a moment, then his rage oozed out of him and he stood silent and at loss. For the resistance offered him was unlike any he had ever met. The men did not budge; they took the blows like blocks of wood, remaining as they were, without a tremor, their eyes glowing sullenly at the deck between their knees; and the passiveness of that resistance was so monstrously powerful that Burke felt his throat tighten in a rageful, childish impulse to break out weeping.
On a box, a little apart from the crowd, there sat a fat, sleek, pale-yellow personage. He observed the scene through his narrow eyes with the arrogantly skeptical air of the Chino mestizo. His falsetto voice now broke the silence.
"Porque no Usted?" he said, suavely, while his eyes narrowed to a line with a gleam in it. "Why not you?"
Burke opened his mouth, left it open for a good second, then shut it again with a grinding of teeth.
"By God, I'll do it," he muttered, as he turned away.
He went to the boy, made a movement as if to pick him up, hesitated, stood irresolute for a moment, then, with a blinding flash of resolution, such as in the past had carried him off into postures of which others said resounding things and of which he himself was vaguely ashamed, he stooped quickly and whisked up the little body into his arms. He crossed the deck, and as he passed his old army blanket, lying still open on the floor, he picked it up and wrapped it about the boy; then he laid the whole burden down in a sheltered spot against the cabin. A sudden, springy alertness had seized his body, and beneath the pussy alcoholic flesh of his face had sprung tight ropy lines not yet corroded. He tore off the light camisa and pantaloons and began rubbing the stiffened limbs. He rubbed with an energy almost savage, and he felt under his fingers the stark flesh loosen and warm up and live again. The glazed eyes softened, the lids closed slowly, and they reopened with the light of life beneath them.
And then it was worse. Burke sprang to his feet. His bloated face took on the colour of his khaki jacket and beads of perspiration welled up about his lips. Then his eyebrows snapped down in one black line, and his lower jaw advanced till it almost crushed out the double chin. For the next hour he worked with concentrated rage.
A thunder of wheels over the cobbles of the quay froze him into a listening attitude. The noise stopped in a creaking of brakes, and Burke rose slowly, stretching his body to full length. He walked to the bulwarks and looked out. A big, black wagon was standing by. From it two men alighted, putting on great rubber gloves. Burke came down the gang-plank, bearing the boy in his arms. "Hurry up, he may pull through," he said. They placed the little form in the wagon and rumbled off to the heavy trot of the weary horses. The Met. carelessly took a position between Burke and the street, but this was not necessary. Burke looked down at the coffins, raised his head, took a big gulp of fresh air, and walked back up the plank.
Ten minutes later a light buggy drove up. An officer with a brass cross on the collar of his khaki jacket sprang out and walked aboard.
Burke went to his feet and his hand rose to his hat in military salute. "Good-morning, sir," he said.
The officer's eyes wandered over the boat, taking in all the details swiftly, then came back to the man standing there at attention. He looked at the bloated face, with its ruins of strength beneath; at the blood-shot eyes, with their remnant of calm, blue light; at the great, corroded body, with its something yet elastic.
"Jerry Burke!" he said.
"Glad you remember me," said the man, with a slight sarcasm in his voice.
The officer looked at him again, with a long, sweeping glance that took in the bloated face, the blood-shot eyes, the twisted mouth, the dirty, ragged collar, the greasy jacket, the trembling, clutching hands, the corkscrewed trousers, the heelless shoes—the whole abject picture of human degradation there before him.
"And that's what you have become," he said, at length.
Jerry did not answer.
"Why the devil didn't you go home with the Volunteers?" asked the officer, angrily.
Jerry's lips trembled.
"It had got too bad by that time," he answered, at length.
"You can see."
The officer paced the deck.
"Who took care of that boy?" he asked, suddenly, turning upon Jerry with a snarl.
"I did," answered the latter, surprised into acknowledgment.
The officer went back to his pacing. At the tenth turn he stopped short, pivoted on his heel, and faced Burke.
"You were a man once, weren't you?" he asked.
"I suppose so," answered Jerry, hanging his head. "At least, you ought to know," he added, a little bitterly.
"Well, do you want to be a man again?"
Jerry was looking at the deck. He raised his eyes slowly till they plunged into the surgeon's.
"Can you do it?" he asked, steadily. "I can't!"
The officer's manner softened.
"Well, here's the matter. I'm short of Health men. I need somebody on this derelict. You are the man; you're in quarantine, anyway.
Jerry waited for more.
"This afternoon the lorcha will be towed behind the breakwater. She'll be in strict quarantine. You'll be in charge. I'll give you disinfectants and medicines. You'll keep the boat clean, and you'll attend the sick. Whenever somebody tumbles over, run up the yellow flag and we'll come after him as soon as we can. Every morning I'll come around and see how you are getting along."
"How long will it last?" asked Jerry.
"Don't know. Till they're all gone, perhaps. There must be five days' quarantine after each case. If they die close together, it will be short. If they go five days apart, it may last six months. Six months to make a man of you, Jerry; will you do it?"
"It will be hell," said Jerry, with a tense smile.
"It will be hell," acquiesced the surgeon. "You must work, Jerry."
"I'll do it," said Jerry.
That afternoon the lorcha was towed behind the breakwater, and at sunset a woman who was lighting the fire for the evening meal whirled on her heels and slapped the deck with the whole length of her body. Jerry ran up the yellow flag, but the night had dropped like a thunderbolt, and it was not seen from shore; so he cared for her till morning. She was old and knotted and decrepit; her teeth were gone, and she was loathesomely unclean, but he worked over her with rigid patience, not ceasing for a moment, for the Demon was already clutching at him. At dawn a boat pulled up and the woman was lowered into it, still alive.
Then the sun rose, blinding hot, and Jerry paced the deck furiously. The groups of sleepers on deck were disentangling beneath the stinging announcement of the new day, and they scattered in awe before the strange Americano, tugging among them with great steps that were almost leaps. At last a little steamer appeared at the mouth of the river; it slid along on the other side of the breakwater, turned at the end, and chugged alongside the lorcha. It was the doctor's launch.
Burke stepped to the bulwarks and looked down at the boat wallowing in the cross-seas. Huntington was standing on the rail, his right hand against the side of the lorcha, his body giving easily to every shock; and Burke gazed hungry-eyed at his cool, alert demeanour.
"Well, how goes it?" asked the surgeon.
"One case," said Burke, calmly.
"That means five days more. What is it?"
"A woman; she's at the hospital now," he answered, in the same rigid, subdued tone.
"And you?" asked the surgeon.
"For God's sake," cried Burke, his voice breaking into frenzy, "give me something to do, something to do!"
"All right, old man," answered Huntington, showing no surprise. "Throw us a rope."
Burke threw a rope. A case was tied to it and hauled on deck.
"Chlorodyne," announced the surgeon.
The rope was thrown back. A demijohn was hauled up, then another, and another.
"Carbolic," shouted Huntington. "Disinfect the boat."
"All right; good-by," said Burke.
The doctor waved his hand, and the launch churned away.
The day was heavy with heat. The wind had died, the sea was glazed, and the tin roofs of Manila glistened white. A torpor fell from the brazen heavens, and all day Burke struggled beneath it in a frenzy of toil. When he had cleaned the boat thoroughly, he arranged the little cabin into a hospital. Almost immediately it had its occupant. A boy was down. Jerry laid him on his cot, pried his teeth open with his knife, and poured some chlorodyne between them; then walked to the mainmast, and soon to the watchers on shore the leprous banner rose against the gory hues of the setting sun. The boat came and took the child away.
When the launch came, in the morning, Burke was standing at the head of the ladder. All the traces of a fearful night were in his face, and yet Huntington's scrutiny found something satisfactory in the man. The old khaki suit had been washed, and hung, still damp, upon his frame.
More medicines and disinfectants, a supply of food and distilled water, several objects, very vulgar and very grim, were passed up, and then the doctor asked:
"Anything you need, old man?"
Burke shook his head in indecisive negative.
"I have you on the pay-roll," added the officer, casually; "assistant inspector; three-and-a-half a day."
Burke dropped his eyes to the deck. Then he blurted out:
"Yes, two khakis."
"All right," said Huntington, rapidly measuring with his eye the frame before him. "Anything else?"
Again an embarrassed silence, then another burst:
"I'll send the things this afternoon," said Huntington, gladder than his voice implied.
Burke went back to his work. After disinfecting his little hospital he executed, with the aid of Tionko, the Chino mestizo, whose oily good will and linguistic ability were fast becoming indispensable, a plot hatched during the sleeplessness of the night. First the men, then the women, were filed into a bath house made of sails and forced to bathe in warm, carbolised water, while their clothes boiled in cauldrons outside. By sunset the passenger list of the Bonita was clean, at least externally.
Then the usual commotion forward told Burke that his work had begun again. This time it was a child-mother, a pitiful, little black-eyed thing, with a squalling whitish baby at her breast. It was too late for the shore boat, so he cared for them. At midnight the baby died and, two hours later, the mother; they lay side by side and, of the two, it was the mother's face that looked the child's, and the baby's the withered old. At daybreak the boat took them away.
Weeks followed, filled with the same stagnancy of horror. The work had settled down to flat routine and life became a fearful monotony as day after day poured its brazen heat upon the empested boat. The only element of excitement lay in the ebb and flow of disease. On some days two or three, once even five, fell, and Burke's hospital over-filled and poured out its burden upon the deck; at other times there would be periods of three or four days without a case, and once the expiration of the mystical five days which was to free the lorcha from its imprisonment was almost reached when two men were suddenly felled as if by the same thunderbolt. Burke's worst periods were when the hospital was empty. On such days the routine of his duties took him only a little past noon, and then would come the full bitterness of the struggle. He found something to do and worked with teeth set, but his hands trembled, his nerves were tortured, and his eyes felt as if being pulled out of their sockets.
Then in the maddening monotony of this life there crept another element.
Before lying down to his snatch of horror-broken sleep, Jerry was accustomed to take a plunge over the side, although the waters of the bay were full of sharks. One night, as he was preparing to climb back upon the lorcha, he reached in vain for the rope that he had left dangling for the purpose. It had been pulled up just out of his grasp. Treading water by the black hull, Burke shouted repeatedly, but a sleep deep as the night that wrapped the vessel seemed to have its inhabitants, and his cries got no response.
"Listen," finally said Burke, talking calmly in the silence. "Listen. You know how I can swim. If that rope does not come down in ten seconds, I'll swim to the big army boat to the right there. I'll come back with fifty soldiers, and we'll hang you all to the mast. Remember, the sharks do not touch me."
As mysteriously as it had been raised, the rope dropped softly till its end touched the water. When Burke, dripping, sprang on deck, a heavy silence was upon the boat, broken only by the hoarse breathing of the sleepers, spread about in limp attitudes like the dead upon the battlefield.
A few days later, as he took up the demijohn in which he kept his drinking water, brought distilled from shore, he found the cork askew. He was always careful to shut the vessel hermetically, and a sudden suspicion made him turn the demijohn over and pour its contents out upon the deck. The water gurgled out, and when the vessel was empty Jerry found a little piece of cloth sticking to the inside of the gullet. He drew it out, and an icy shiver ran up his spine. He held in his hand a little square of red and yellow calico. The last cholera victim of the Bonita, a woman, had worn a sarong of red and yellow calico.
He threw the demijohn overboard, and when he had obtained a new one from shore he slept against it at night.
Burke began to observe his crew, and this gave him little satisfaction. Beneath the oriental passiveness, malevolence was boiling. His orders, it is true, were obeyed; but it was with heaviness of movement and dulness of eye; and in the periods of rest, sullen, squatting groups formed, that broke out in whisperings and oblique looks, to be scattered usually by the bowing, smirking, oily Chino, Tionko. And of all the ominous signs, there was none that displeased Burke more than the behaviour of the Chino—this evident eagerness to save the face of things, to glaze over the dark working beneath with a serene surface.
They were on one of these periods of immunity from disease which drew all nerves tense. Three days had passed, then four; they entered upon the fifth. Twenty-four hours more would set the Bonita free from the iron clutches of the quarantine. That day was a bad one. The solidarity in misfortune that had bound the unfortunates of the lorcha broke into a ferocious individualism. All work ceased that morning. The population of the Bonita divided into groups; these segregated more and more as the day advanced, till finally each man was squatting alone, with glaring threat in his eyeballs. God help the one who should come down; the execration of the whole boat was already focussed upon him.
At last the brazen day melted into the purple evening and night came, with a trembling crescent of moon in the sky and a horizon vibrating in sheet lightning. Burke prepared himself for what was likely to be his last night of vigil. He lit a lantern and began pacing to and fro to keep awake, usually an easy thing for him to do. Toward midnight, he stopped and leaned against the mainmast, gazing at the weird flashing of light at the horizon. Insensibly he went asleep. His head fell on his breast, his legs sagged beneath him, and he slid softly down till he sat upon the deck, his back against the mast.
Suddenly he found himself sitting bolt upright, all his faculties stiffened in alarm. The turbulent fancies of his slumber had merged into something tense and sharp as reality, and his ears still rang with low moans, a scurry of feet, and a strangled cry. Now that he was fully awake, however, the night was heavy with silence, only the tide bubbling and tinkling and crooning along the flanks of the boat. He lay back a moment, but his senses had been too acutely wrung, and, picking up the lantern, he walked forward.
Everything was quiet. Indistinct forms were stretched about the deck, and the breathing of the sleepers rhythmed the silence. Near the anchor, Burke recognised Tionko. The Chino's chest was rising and falling in deep, regular movement; he moaned inarticulately as Burke bent over him with his lantern.
Burke was turning away when, in the movement, the light of the lantern fell upon the rope up which he had clambered on the night of the first mysterious attack against him. Although not used any more, it had been left hanging over the side, and now, as Burke's eyes fell upon it, in the glare of the light, it was all a-tremble and a-thrill, like a live thing. Mumbling sleepily about the strength of the tide, Burke gave it a pull. A resistance met him, as that of a line with a fish hooked at the end. Puzzled, he went over the side, holding to the bulwark and bending down as far as he could, and then, as he gave another tug, two thin arms clutching the rope, and then a livid face, bobbed up slowly into the pale moonlight.
Burke let himself down, his feet against the side, his left hand grasping the rope. He bent down, his right hand caught a handful of hair, and he drew up on it. Taking the loose end of the rope, he passed it beneath both limp arms, then, holding it between his teeth, he clambered back to the deck and pulled the whole body up. He sent the rays of his lantern into the face, and recognised it as that of a young boy of the lorcha.
He was still alive, but cholera had him. Burke understood, but it was no time for punishment. He carried the stiffened form to the hospital and for an hour fought with Death; but the shock had been too much for the disease-racked body. When there was nothing left to do, Burke turned back the blanket over the rigid face, then stood still, his eyes cast down at the deck.
"Tionko," he finally said, as if giving the answer to some problem.
He picked up an iron belaying-pin, bared his arms, and started toward the bow. As he reached the foremast, however, three shadows sprang at him from the darkness ahead. With a sidewise leap he evaded them, then waited, crouched low, with one hand upon the deck. The men scattered in a circle surrounding him, but before they could close in he sprang at one, felled him with the shock of his body, and darted behind the mast, where he stood, waiting.
There was a moment of hesitation among the bravos, and they retreated toward the bow. Burke left the mast to peer into the darkness; a knife whizzed by his head, and he sprang back to his shelter.
They came forward again, and they were four this time. Burke saw that the defensive would be useless. With one leap he was among them, whacking to right and left with his belaying-pin. A hatchet was raised above his head, but the belaying-pin cracked the wrist that held it and it clattered to the deck. A streak of fire scorched his shoulder, but the badly-aimed dagger dropped as the belaying-pin came down upon its owner's cranium.
And all this time, while he laid about him with instinctive parry and thrust, his eyes were riveted on an indistinct form in the shadow behind, a form from which came a running sound of encouragement, suggestion, command. Suddenly he sprang back, then to one side, then forward—and he had passed the four struggling men. He took two running steps forward, then his body left the deck and shot through the air. With a thud it struck the man in the shadow and crushed him down. Like a cat, Burke was on his feet again. He picked up the body by the waist, held it off at arm's length, brought it back close to him long enough to see Tionko's face in a grin of horror, then his arms distended like great springs and Tionko shot over the bulwarks.
He turned to the others, but they had slunk away in the darkness, and he knew that, the Chino gone, there was no more to fear.
He peered out into the water, and the phosphorescence showed him an indistinct form swimming slowly away. Then it turned back, splashing painfully, and a cracked falsetto voice whined in beggar-like modulations.
"Señor, for the love of Christ, let me on!"
Burke hesitated, and suddenly the thing was settled for him. From the right a phosphorescent flash cut the water in a streak. Swift and luminous as a rocket it came, straight toward the splashing form; it struck it, and then the spot burst out in a great bubble of light, in which Burke caught a flash of the Chino, his arms raised to heaven, his mouth distended in abominable fear. There was a hoarse croak, a gurgle, and then the phosphorescence sank slowly and went out in the depths below. A gentle ripple undulated over the darkened surface of the water and broke softly against the flanks of the lorcha.
Burke, dizzied, walked forward. The limp, scattered sleepers were still there as before, but in one corner a man was choking in his breathing, and near the anchor another was vibrating in his sleep in one long, continuous shudder.
There came another period of suspense. One day passed, two days passed, with no cases. The third day came, and Burke's Demon was clutching him.
He had found in the hold some rude native varnish, redolent of crude alcohol, and had brought it up to polish the crude furniture of his hospital; and now he dared not come near it. The bucket stood by the hatch, and Burke was pacing to and fro along the deck like a wild beast. Each time he passed the bucket the pungent odour stung his face, filling his mind with the memory of one of his worst periods of degradation and his whole physical being with a madness to wallow back into it.
He fought hard. He knew that he must throw that bucket overboard, so he forced his thoughts upon the act.
"I'll walk twenty times the length of the deck with my mind on that," he muttered to himself.
So, concentrating his brain upon the necessary deed, he began pacing up and down. At the twentieth turn he walked toward the bucket and stopped suddenly, livid as death, his eyes fixed stupidly upon his hands.
In his right hand he held a stick, a little, pliable bamboo stick.
He tried to remember picking it up; he could not. The act had been not of the will, of the will that was fighting for mastery; it had been forced by that other Power, that Power which possessed his nerves, his bones, his flesh, the Power he was seeking to kill.
"I will begin again," he muttered.
At the tenth turn he stopped short, and a cold sweat welled up upon his body. He had another stick in his hand.
And then, slowly, haltingly, but irresistibly, he approached the bucket. With somnambulant rigidity he placed the stick in the viscous stuff and slowly rotated it once, as if tentatively; then once more, determinedly; then again, with a sort of rage. The heavy fluid followed the stick, turned on itself faster and faster. A little whirlpool formed in the center. Burke's eyes fixed themselves upon it, and silently the little whirlpool sucked down all that was strong in him.
The stick scraped along the sides of the bucket; the liquid circled swiftly. In a minute, in the depression at the center, a black spot formed. The stick turned faster. The black spot grew; finally it was a little round ball that sank to the bottom. The stick whirled around madly. The little ball enlarged. From all sides the like molecules rushed to it, rounding it out as a snowball that is rolled downhill. At last it was like a small cannon-ball. Burke bared his arms, plunged them into the bucket, drew out the black, pitchy solid and threw it overboard.
He rushed back, and his hollowed hand scooped up a few drops of the now-white liquid and slapped it to his lips. The taste drove him mad, and, dropping down on hands and knees like a dog, he put his lips to the side of the bucket and drew in long gulpfuls.
A little later the natives were all gathered at the stern, looking with wonder upon the strange actions of the Americano.
He was squatting on deck, the bucket between his knees. At close intervals he raised it to his lips and poured the awful contents down his throat. Then he hugged the bucket, sobbing softly like a child being consoled after suffering, and between his laughs and his tears he gurgled to himself an endless story, full of tearful self-compassion and sobbing, endearing terms, long and soft and meaningless as the croon of a lonely babe.
Toward night he fell into a heavy stupor and lay there on his back, his face to the moonlight, and the tears drying on his cheeks.
In the morning, when the doctor's launch churned out of the river, it had in tow the boat of the Bonita filled with the people of the lorcha. They had been caught by a patrol boat at midnight just as they were on the point of landing on the Luneta.
The launch pulled up against the lorcha, and Huntington sprang aboard. Burke rose from the deck and waited for him. He was hollow and drooping, as if the bony frame had been removed from his body, and his eyes were dead.
A look told the doctor what had happened.
"Yes," said Burke, corroborating the surgeon's unexpressed thought.
Huntington paced the deck.
"Well," he said, finally, "you did well to stand it that long. Next time it will be longer."
Burke did not answer.
"We have to begin again."
"Begin again," echoed Burke, mechanically.
"You'll do it, old man," said Huntington, confidently.
"My God, Huntington," said Burke, in a whisper; "my God, Huntington, I killed Tionko; I threw him to the sharks, and now, look at me!"
When the launch had left, Burke crouched down in a corner against the bulwarks, and there he sat the morning long, his eyes glued stupidly to the deck.
At noon he suddenly got up, walked firmly to the mainmast, and ran up the yellow flag.
When the boat came he went down the ladder and sat himself in the sternsheets. The man in charge looked at him inquiringly.
"Pull away," he said, shortly; "I've got it."