In less than an hour I had the maintopmast on deck and was constructing the shears. Lashing the two topmasts together, and making allowance for their unequal length, at the point of intersection I attached the double block of the main throat- halyards. This, with the single block and the throat-halyards themselves, gave me a hoisting tackle. To prevent the butts of the masts from slipping on the deck, I nailed down thick cleats. Everything in readiness, I made a line fast to the apex of the shears and carried it directly to the windlass. I was growing to have faith in that windlass, for it gave me power beyond all expectation. As usual, Maud held the turn while I heaved. The shears rose in the air.

Then I discovered I had forgotten guy-ropes. This necessitated my climbing the shears, which I did twice, before I finished guying it fore and aft and to either side. Twilight had set in by the time this was accomplished. Wolf Larsen, who had sat about and listened all afternoon and never opened his mouth, had taken himself off to the galley and started his supper. I felt quite stiff across the small of the back, so much so that I straightened up with an effort and with pain. I looked proudly at my work. It was beginning to show. I was wild with desire, like a child with a new toy, to hoist something with my shears.

“I wish it weren’t so late,” I said. “I’d like to see how it works.”

“Don’t be a glutton, Humphrey,” Maud chided me. “Remember, to- morrow is coming, and you’re so tired now that you can hardly stand.”

“And you?” I said, with sudden solicitude. “You must be very tired. You have worked hard and nobly. I am proud of you, Maud.”

“Not half so proud as I am of you, nor with half the reason,” she answered, looking me straight in the eyes for a moment with an expression in her own and a dancing, tremulous light which I had not seen before and which gave me a pang of quick delight, I know not why, for I did not understand it. Then she dropped her eyes, to lift them again, laughing.

“If our friends could see us now,” she said. “Look at us. Have you ever paused for a moment to consider our appearance?”

“Yes, I have considered yours, frequently,” I answered, puzzling over what I had seen in her eyes and puzzled by her sudden change of subject.

“Mercy!” she cried. “And what do I look like, pray?”

“A scarecrow, I’m afraid,” I replied. “Just glance at your draggled skirts, for instance. Look at those three- cornered tears. And such a waist! It would not require a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that you have been cooking over a camp-fire, to say nothing of trying out seal-blubber. And to cap it all, that cap! And all that is the woman who wrote ’A Kiss Endured.’”

She made me an elaborate and stately courtesy, and said, “As for you, sir - ”

And yet, through the five minutes of banter which followed, there was a serious something underneath the fun which I could not but relate to the strange and fleeting expression I had caught in her eyes. What was it? Could it be that our eyes were speaking beyond the will of our speech? My eyes had spoken, I knew, until I had found the culprits out and silenced them. This had occurred several times. But had she seen the clamour in them and understood? And had her eyes so spoken to me? What else could that expression have meant - that dancing, tremulous light, and a something more which words could not describe. And yet it could not be. It was impossible. Besides, I was not skilled in the speech of eyes. I was only Humphrey Van Weyden, a bookish fellow who loved. And to love, and to wait and win love, that surely was glorious enough for me. And thus I thought, even as we chaffed each other’s appearance, until we arrived ashore and there were other things to think about.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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