A heavy sea was running, and evidently with a strong undertow. When Manasseh returned with the hot water, Captain Vyell announced that he would bathe before taking his chocolate.
“Yo’ Hon’ah will bathe befor’ shaving?”
“You d——d fool, did you ever know me do anything before shaving?”
Manasseh chose a razor, stropped it, and worked the shaving soap into a lather.
“Beggin’ yo’ Hon’ah’s pardon,” said he, “it bein’ de Lawd’s Day, an’ these Port Nassau people dam’ ig’orant—”
“Hand me the peignoir,” commanded his master sharply.
He sat, and was shaved. Then, having sponged his chin, he ordered Manasseh to lay out his bathing-dress, retire, find a back way to the beach and, having opened all doors, attend him below. He indued himself in his bathing-dress very deliberately, standing up for a minute stark naked in the sunshine flooding through the open window—a splendid figure, foretasting battle with the surf.
Then, having drawn on his bathing-dress and thrust his feet into sand-shoes, he cast his dressing-gown again over him and went down the stairs at a run. The doors stood open, and on the beach the negro awaited him in the right attitude of “attention.” To him he tossed his wrap and shoes, and ran down to the beach as might swift-footed Achilles have run to be clasped by the Sea-Goddess his mother.
Through the shallow wavelets he ran, stepping high and delicately splashing merry drops against the morning sunlight, leaped over one or two that would have “tilled” him to the knee (to use an old boyish phrase learnt at Carwithiel where he had learnt to swim), and came to the shelf beyond which the first tall comber boomed towards him, more than head high, hissing along its ridge. There, as it overarched him, he launched his body forward and shot through the transparent green, emerging beyond the white smother with a thrill and a laugh of sheer physical delight. Thrice he repeated this,—
“Like a dive-dapper
peering through a wave,
Who, being look’d on, ducks as quickly in. . .”
passed the fourth wave, gained deep water, and thrust out to sea with a steady breast-stroke, his eyes all the while on the great embracing flood which, stretch as it might from here to Europe, for the moment he commanded.
Manasseh watched him from the beach. From the cliff above two scandalised householders calling to one another across their gardens’ boundary pointed seaward and summoned their families to the windows to note the reprobate swimmer and a Sabbath profaned.