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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/122

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

The captain broke in: "Señor!"

The old man, perhaps rather deaf as well as very thoughtful, went on: "Too few stars, and too much wind. The breeze continually changes its direction and blows inshore; thence it rises perpendicularly. This results from the land being warmer than the water. Its atmosphere is lighter. The cold, dense wind of the sea rushes in to replace it. From this cause, in the upper regions the wind blows towards the land from every quarter. It would be advisable to make long tacks between the real and apparent parallel. When the latitude by observation differs from the latitude by dead reckoning, by not more than three minutes in thirty miles or by four minutes in sixty miles, you are in the true course."

The captain bowed, but the old man saw him not. The latter, who wore what resembled an Oxford or Göttingen university gown, did not relax his haughty and rigid attitude. He observed the waters as a critic of waves and of men. He studied the billows, but almost as if he was about to demand his turn to speak amidst their turmoil, and teach them something. There was in him both pedagogue and soothsayer. He seemed an oracle of the deep. He continued his soliloquy, which was perhaps intended to be heard:—

"We might try, if we had a wheel instead of a helm. With a speed of twelve miles an hour, a force of twenty pounds exerted on the wheel produces three hundred thousand pounds' effect on the course. And more, too; for in some cases, with a double block and runner, they can get two more revolutions."

The captain bowed a second time, and said, "Señor!"

The old man's eye rested on him; he had turned his head without moving his body. "Call me Doctor."

"Master Doctor, I am the captain."