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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/116

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CHAPTER III.


TROUBLED MEN ON THE TROUBLED SEA.


TWO men on board the craft were absorbed in thought,—the old man, and the captain of the hooker, who must not be mistaken for the chief of the band. The captain was occupied by the sea; the old man by the sky. The former did not lift his eyes from the waters; the latter kept close watch of the firmament. The captain's anxiety was the state of the sea; the old man seemed to distrust the heavens. He scanned the stars through every break in the clouds.

It was the hour when day still lingers, but when a few stars begin to pierce the twilight. The horizon was singular, the mist upon it varied. A haze predominated on land, clouds at sea. The captain, noting the rising billows, had everything made taught before he got outside Portland Bay. He would not delay so doing until he should pass the headland. He examined the rigging closely, and satisfied himself that the lower shrouds were well set up, and that they supported firmly the futtock-shrouds,—precautions of a man who means to carry a press of sail at all hazards. The hooker was not trimmed, being two foot by the head; this was her weak point. The captain passed every minute from the binnacle to the standard compass, taking the bearings of objects on shore. The "Matutina" had at first a wind which was not unfavourable, though she could not lie within five points of her course. The captain took the