Temple, with averted face, asked me whether I meant to return to Riversley that day. I assured him I would, on my honour, if possible; and of course he also would have to return there. ’Why, you’ve an appointment with Janet Ilchester,’ said I, ’and we may find a pug; we’ll buy the hunting-knife and the skates. And she shall know you saved an old woman’s life.’
‘No, don’t talk about that,’ Temple entreated me, biting his lip. ’Richie, we’re going fast through the water. It reminds me of breakfast. I should guess the hour to be nine A.M.’
My watch was unable to assist us; the hands pointed to half-past four, and were fixed. We ran up on deck. Looking over the stern of the vessel, across a line of rippling eddying red gold, we saw the sun low upon cushions of beautiful cloud; no trace of fog anywhere; blue sky overhead, and a mild breeze blowing.
‘Sunrise,’ I said.
Temple answered, ‘Yes,’ most uncertainly.
We looked round. A steam-tug was towing our ship out toward banks of red-reflecting cloud, and a smell of sea air.
‘Why, that’s the East there!’ cried Temple. We faced about to the sun, and behold, he was actually sinking!
‘Nonsense!’ we exclaimed in a breath. From seaward to this stupefying sunset we stood staring. The river stretched to broad lengths; gulls were on the grey water, knots of seaweed, and the sea-foam curled in advance of us.
‘By jingo!’ Temple spoke out, musing, ’here’s a whole day struck out of our existence.’
‘It can’t be!’ said I, for that any sensible being could be tricked of a piece of his life in that manner I thought a preposterous notion.
But the sight of a lessening windmill in the West, shadows eastward, the wide water, and the air now full salt, convinced me we two had slept through an entire day, and were passing rapidly out of hail of our native land.
‘We must get these fellows to put us on shore at once,’ said Temple: ’we won’t stop to eat. There’s a town; a boat will row us there in half-an-hour. Then we can wash, too. I’ve got an idea nothing’s clean here. And confound these fellows for not having the civility to tell us they were going to start!’
We were rather angry, a little amused, not in the least alarmed at our position. A sailor, to whom we applied for an introduction to the captain, said he was busy. Another gave us a similar reply, with a monstrous grimace which was beyond our comprehension. The sailor Joe was nowhere to be seen. None of the sailors appeared willing to listen to us, though they stopped as they were running by to lend half an ear to what we had to say. Some particular movement was going on in the ship. Temple was the first to observe that the steamtug was casting us loose, and cried he, ’She’ll take us on board and back to London Bridge. Let’s hail her.’ He sang out, ’ Whoop! ahoy!’ I meanwhile had caught sight of Joe.