Chapter 27

Day broke, grey and chill. The boat was close-hauled on a fresh breeze and the compass indicated that we were just making the course which would bring us to Japan. Though stoutly mittened, my fingers were cold, and they pained from the grip on the steering- oar. My feet were stinging from the bite of the frost, and I hoped fervently that the sun would shine.

Before me, in the bottom of the boat, lay Maud. She, at least, was warm, for under her and over her were thick blankets. The top one I had drawn over her face to shelter it from the night, so I could see nothing but the vague shape of her, and her light-brown hair, escaped from the covering and jewelled with moisture from the air.

Long I looked at her, dwelling upon that one visible bit of her as only a man would who deemed it the most precious thing in the world. So insistent was my gaze that at last she stirred under the blankets, the top fold was thrown back and she smiled out on me, her eyes yet heavy with sleep.

“Good-morning, Mr. Van Weyden,” she said. “Have you sighted land yet?”

“No,” I answered, “but we are approaching it at a rate of six miles an hour.”

She made a moue of disappointment.

“But that is equivalent to one hundred and forty-four miles in twenty-four hours,” I added reassuringly.

Her face brightened. “And how far have we to go?”

“Siberia lies off there,” I said, pointing to the west. “But to the south-west, some six hundred miles, is Japan. If this wind should hold, we’ll make it in five days.”

“And if it storms? The boat could not live?”

She had a way of looking one in the eyes and demanding the truth, and thus she looked at me as she asked the question.

“It would have to storm very hard,” I temporized.

“And if it storms very hard?”

I nodded my head. “But we may be picked up any moment by a sealing-schooner. They are plentifully distributed over this part of the ocean.”

“Why, you are chilled through!” she cried. “Look! You are shivering. Don’t deny it; you are. And here I have been lying warm as toast.”

“I don’t see that it would help matters if you, too, sat up and were chilled,” I laughed.

“It will, though, when I learn to steer, which I certainly shall.”

She sat up and began making her simple toilet. She shook down her hair, and it fell about her in a brown cloud, hiding her face and shoulders. Dear, damp brown hair! I wanted to kiss it, to ripple it through my fingers, to bury my face in it. I gazed entranced, till the boat ran into the wind and the flapping sail warned me I was not attending to my duties. Idealist and romanticist that I was and always had been in spite of my analytical nature, yet I had failed till now in grasping much of the physical characteristics of love. The love of man and woman, I had always held, was a sublimated something related to spirit, a spiritual bond that linked and drew their souls together. The bonds of the flesh had little part in my cosmos of love. But I was learning the sweet lesson for myself that the soul transmuted itself, expressed itself, through the flesh; that the sight and sense and touch of the loved one’s hair was as much breath and voice and essence of the spirit as the light that shone from the eyes and the thoughts that fell from

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