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2. II. THE MAN WHO WAS GOING NOWHERE
THE cabin in which I found myself was small and rather untidy. A youngish man with flaxen hair, a bristly straw-coloured moustache, and a dropping nether lip, was sitting and holding my wrist. For a minute we stared at each other without speaking. He had watery grey eyes, oddly void of expression. Then just overhead came a sound like an iron bedstead being knocked about, and the low angry growling of some large animal. At the same time the man spoke. He repeated his question,--"How do you feel now?"
I think I said I felt all right. I could not recollect how I had got there. He must have seen the question in my face, for my voice was inaccessible to me.
"You were picked up in a boat, starving. The name on the boat was the `Lady Vain,' and there were spots of blood on the gunwale."
At the same time my eye caught my hand, thin so that it looked like a dirty skin-purse full of loose bones, and all the business of the boat came back to me.
"Have some of this," said he, and gave me a dose of some scarlet stuff, iced.
It tasted like blood, and made me feel stronger.
"You were in luck," said he, "to get picked up by a ship with a medical man aboard." He spoke with a slobbering articulation, with the ghost of a lisp.
"What ship is this?" I said slowly, hoarse from my long silence.
"It's a little trader from Arica and Callao. I never asked where she came from in the beginning,--out of the land of born fools, I guess. I'm a passenger myself, from Arica. The silly ass who owns her,--he's captain too, named Davies,-- he's lost his certificate, or something. You know the kind of man,-- calls the thing the `Ipecacuanha,' of all silly, infernal names; though when there's much of a sea without any wind, she certainly acts according."
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