Amazement was clearly the first emotion of the young seaman. He read and re-read; struck his brow with his hand; gazed about him at the land and at the water; re-perused the note; examined the superscription, which was simply to ‘Capt. Ludlow, of Her Majesty’s ship Coquette:’ smiled; muttered between his teeth; seemed vexed, and yet delighted; read the note again, word by word, and finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of a man who had found reason for both regret and satisfaction in its contents.
“—What, has this thing appeared again, to-night?”
“The face of man is the log-book of his thoughts, and Captain Ludlow’s seems agreeable,” observed a voice, that came from one, who was not far from the commander of the Coquette, while the latter was still enacting the pantomime described in the close of the preceding chapter.
“Who speaks of thoughts and log-books or who dares to pry into my movements?” demanded the young sailor, fiercely.
“One who has trifled with the first and scribbled in the last too often, not to know how to meet a squall, whether it be seen in the clouds or only on the face of man. As for looking into your movements, Captain Ludlow, I have watched too many big ships in my time, to turn aside at each light cruiser that happens to cross my course. I hope, Sir, you have an answer; every hail has its right to a civil reply.”
Ludlow could scarce believe his senses, when, on turning to face the intruder, he saw himself confronted by the audacious eye and calm mien of the mariner who had, once before that morning, braved his resentment. Curbing his indignation, however, the young man endeavored to emulate the coolness which, notwithstanding his inferior condition, imparted to the air of the other something that was imposing, if it were not absolutely authoritative. Perhaps the singularity of the adventure aided in effecting an object, that was a little difficult of attainment in one accustomed to receive so much habitual deference from most of those who made the sea their home. Swallowing his resentment, the young commander answered—
“He that knows how to face his enemies with spirit, may be accounted sufficiently bold; but he who braves the anger of his friends, is fool-hardy.”
“And he who does neither, is wiser than both,” rejoined the reckless hero of the sash. “Captain Ludlow, we meet on equal terms, at present, and the parley may be managed with some freedom.”
“Equality is a word that ill applies to men of stations so different.”