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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 235 pages of information about A Reckless Character.

XIV

I walked along with drooping head, without a thought, almost without sensation, but wholly engrossed in myself.—­A measured, dull and angry roar drew me out of my torpor.  I raised my head:  it was the sea roaring and booming fifty paces from me.  Greatly agitated by the nocturnal storm, the sea was a mass of white-caps to the very horizon, and steep crests of long breakers were rolling in regularly and breaking on the flat shore, I approached it, and walked along the very line left by the ebb and flow on the yellow, ribbed sand, strewn with fragments of trailing seawrack, bits of shells, serpent-like ribbons of eel-grass.  Sharp-winged gulls with pitiful cry, borne on the wind from the distant aerial depths, soared white as snow against the grey, cloudy sky, swooped down abruptly, and as though skipping from wave to wave, departed again and vanished like silvery flecks in the strips of swirling foam.  Some of them, I noticed, circled persistently around a large isolated boulder which rose aloft in the midst of the monotonous expanse of sandy shores.  Coarse seaweed grew in uneven tufts on one side of the rock; and at the point where its tangled stems emerged from the yellow salt-marsh, there was something black, and long, and arched, and not very large....  I began to look more intently....  Some dark object was lying there—­lying motionless beside the stone....  That object became constantly clearer and more distinct the nearer I approached....

I was only thirty paces from the rock now....  Why, that was the outline of a human body!  It was a corpse; it was a drowned man, cast up by the sea!  I went clear up to the rock.

It was the corpse of the baron, my father!  I stopped short, as though rooted to the spot.  Then only did I understand that ever since daybreak I had been guided by some unknown forces—­that I was in their power,—­and for the space of several minutes there was nothing in my soul save the ceaseless crashing of the sea, and a dumb terror in the presence of the Fate which held me in its grip....

XV

He was lying on his back, bent a little to one side, with his left arm thrown above his head ... the right was turned under his bent body.  The sticky slime had sucked in the tips of his feet, shod in tall sailor’s boots; the short blue pea-jacket, all impregnated with sea-salt, had not unbuttoned; a red scarf encircled his neck in a hard knot.  The swarthy face, turned skyward, seemed to be laughing; from beneath the upturned upper lip small close-set teeth were visible; the dim pupils of the half-closed eyes were hardly to be distinguished from the darkened whites; covered with bubbles of foam the dirt-encrusted hair spread out over the ground and laid bare the smooth forehead with the purplish line of the scar; the narrow nose rose up like a sharp, white streak between the sunken cheeks.  The storm

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