“I understand,” said Francois quickly. And going out stealthily, he closed and locked the door behind him.
INTO THE INFINITE
The midnight hour drew near, and, above deck, tranquillity reigned. It was, however, the comparative quiet that follows a storm. A threatening day had culminated in a fierce tropical downpour—a cloud-burst—when the very heavens had seemed to open. The Nevski, steaming forward at half speed, had come almost to a stop; struck by the masses of water, she had fairly staggered beneath the impact. Now she lay motionless, while every shroud and line dripped; the darkness had become inky. Only the light from cabin windows which lay on the wet deck like shafts of silver relieved that Cimmerian effect. The sea moaned from the lashing it had received—a faint undertone, however, that became suddenly drowned by loud and harsh clangor, the hammering on metal somewhere below. Possibly something had gone wrong with a hatch or iron compartment door inadvertently left open, or one of the ventilators may have got jammed and needed adjusting. The captain, as he hastened down a companionway, muttered angrily beneath his breath about water in the stoke room. The decks, in the vicinity of the cabins, seemed now deserted, when from the shadows, a figure that had merged in the general gloom, stepped out and passed swiftly through one of the trails of light. Gliding stealthily toward the stern, this person drew near the rail, and, peering cautiously over, looked down on one of the small boats swung out in readiness for the landing party at dawn.
“Mademoiselle,” he breathed low.
“Is that you, Francois?” came up softly from the boat.
He murmured something. “Is all in readiness?”
“Quite! Make haste.”
The person above, about to swing himself over the rail, paused; a cabin door, near by, had been thrown open and a stream of light shot near him. Some one came out; moreover, she—for the some one was a woman—did not close the door. The youth crouched back, trying to draw himself from sight but the woman saw him, and coming quickly forward spoke. She thought him, no doubt, one of the sailors. He did not answer, perhaps was too frightened to do so, and his silence caused her to draw nearer. More sharply she started to address him in her own native Russian but the words abruptly ceased; a sudden exclamation fell from her lips. He, as if made desperate by what the woman, now at the rail, saw or divined, seemed imbued with extraordinary strength. The success or failure of the enterprise hung on how he met this unexpected emergency. Heroic, if needs be, brutal measures were demanded. Her outcry was stifled but Sonia Turgeinov was strong and resisted like a tigress. Perhaps she thought he meant to kill her, and in an excess of fear she managed to call out once. Fortunately for the youth, the