[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
IT was midday, then, on the tropic seas, and the horizon was closing in with clouds as of blood and vapours of stifling heat. A steamship was rolling in a heavy swell, under winds that were as hot as gusts from an open furnace.. -Under its decks a man lay in an atmosphere of fever and the sickening odour of bandages and stale air. Above the throb of the engines and the rattle of the rudder chain he heard a step going by his open door, and he called in a feeble voice that was cheerful and almost merry, but yet the voice of a home-sick boy-" How Many days from home, engineer?"
Not more than twenty now."
"Put on steam, mate; put it on. Wish I could be skipping below and stoking up for you like mad."
As the ship rolled,. the green reflection of the water and the red light of the sky shot alternately through the port-hole and lit up the berth like firelight flashing in a dead house.
" Ask the boys if they'll carry me on deck, sir-just for a breath of fresh air."
The sailors came and carried him. "You can do anything for a chap hke that."
The big sun was straight overhead,. weighing down on their shoulders, and there was no shelter anywhere, for the shadows were under foot.
" Slip out the sails, lads, and let's by along. Wish I could tumble up the rigging myself and look out from the yards same as a gull, but I'm only an ould parrot chained down to my stick."
They left him, and he gazed out on the circle of water and the vapour shaking over it like a veil. The palpitating air was making The circle smaller every minute, but the world seemed cruelly large for all that. He was looking beyond the visible things; he was listening deeper than the wash of the waves : be was dreaming, dreaming, Apparitions were floating in the heat-clouds over bim. Home 1 Lts voices whispered at his ear, its face peered into his eyes. .But the hot winds camé up and danced round him; the air, the sea, thesky, the whole world, the. utter, universe seemed afire ;' his eyes rolled upwards to his brew; he almost choked and fainted.
Carry him below, poor fellow ! He's got a good heart' to think he'll ever see home again. He'll never see it."
Half-way down the companion-ladder he opened his eyes with a look of despair. Would God let him die after all?
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
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