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The After House eBook

Mary Roberts Rinehart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 141 pages of information about The After House.

Charlie Jones, bending to the right and raised to my own height by the grating on which he stood, looked over my shoulder.  Dinner was about to be served.  The women had come out.  The table-lamps threw their rosy glow over white necks and uncovered arms, and revealed, higher in the shadows, the faces of the men, smug, clean-shaven, assured, rather heavy.

I had been the guest of honor on a steam-yacht a year or two before, after a game.  There had been pink lights on the table, I remembered, and the place-cards at dinner the first night out had been caricatures of me in fighting trim.  There had been a girl, too.  For the three days of that week-end cruise I had been mad about her; before that first dinner, when I had known her two hours, I had kissed her hand and told her I loved her!

Vail and Miss Lee had left the others and come into the chart-room.  As Charlie Jones and I looked, he bent over and kissed her hand.

The sun had gone down.  My pipe was empty, and from the galley, forward, came the odor of the forecastle supper.  Charlie was coughing, a racking paroxysm that shook his wiry body.  He leaned over and caught my shoulder as I was moving away.

“New paint and new canvas don’t make a new ship,” he said, choking back the cough.  “She’s still the old Ella, the she-devil of the Turner line.  Pink lights below, and not a rat in the hold!  They left her before we sailed, boy.  Every rope was crawling with ’em.”

“The very rats
Instinctively had left it,”

I quoted.  But Charlie, clutching the wheel, was coughing again, and cursing breathlessly as he coughed.

CHAPTER IV

I RECEIVE A WARNING

The odor of formaldehyde in the forecastle having abated, permission for the crew to sleep on deck had been withdrawn.  But the weather as we turned south had grown insufferably hot.  The reek of the forecastle sickened me—­the odor of fresh paint, hardly dry, of musty clothing and sweaty bodies.

I asked Singleton, the first mate, for permission to sleep on deck, and was refused.  I went down, obediently enough, to be driven back with nausea.  And so, watching my chance, I waited until the first mate, on watch, disappeared into the forward cabin to eat the night lunch always prepared by the cook and left there.  Then, with a blanket and pillow, I crawled into the starboard lifeboat, and settled myself for the night.  The lookout saw me, but gave no sign.

It was not a bad berth.  As the ship listed, the stars seemed to sway above me, and my last recollection was of the Great Dipper, performing dignified gyrations in the sky.

I was aroused by one of the two lookouts, a young fellow named Burns.  He was standing below, rapping on the side of the boat with his knuckles.  I sat up and peered over at him, and was conscious for the first time that the weather had changed.  A fine rain was falling; my hair and shirt were wet.

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