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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/144

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CHAPTER IX.


THE CHARGE CONFIDED TO A RAGING SEA.


THE captain, at the helm, burst out laughing: "A bell, that's good! We are on the larboard tack. What does the bell prove? Why, that we have land to starboard."

The firm and measured voice of the doctor replied: "You have not land to starboard."

"But we have!" shouted the captain.

"No!"

"But that bell tolls from the land."

"That bell," said the doctor, "tolls from the sea."

A shudder passed over these daring men; the haggard faces of the two women appeared above the companion-way like two hobgoblins conjured up; the doctor took a step forward, separating his tall form from the mast. From the gloomy depths of night again resounded the dreary tolling of the bell.

The doctor resumed: "Half-way between Portland and the Channel Islands there is in the midst of the sea a buoy, placed there as a warning. The buoy is moored by chains to a rock, and floats on the top of the water. To the buoy is affixed an iron trestle, and across the trestle is hung a bell. In bad weather heavy seas toss the buoy, and the bell rings. That is the bell you hear."

The doctor, after pausing to allow an unusually violent gust of wind to subside, continued: "To hear that bell in a storm, when a nor'-wester is blowing, is to be lost.