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|The Captain of the Polestar||Arthur Conan Doyle|
The Captain Of The Pole-Star
|Page 7 of 16||
"No, I saw nothing."
His head sank back again upon the cushions. "No, he wouldn't without the glass," he murmured. "He couldn't. It was the glass that showed her to me, and then the eyes of love--the eyes of love.
I say, Doc, don't let the steward in! He'll think I'm mad. Just bolt the door, will you!"
I rose and did what he had commanded.
He lay quiet for a while, lost in thought apparently, and then raised himself up upon his elbow again, and asked for some more brandy.
"You don't think I am, do you, Doc?" he asked, as I was putting the bottle back into the after-locker. "Tell me now, as man to man, do you think that I am mad?"
"I think you have something on your mind," I answered, "which is exciting you and doing you a good deal of harm."
"Right there, lad!" he cried, his eyes sparkling from the effects of the brandy. "Plenty on my mind--plenty! But I can work out the latitude and the longitude, and I can handle my sextant and manage my logarithms. You couldn't prove me mad in a court of law, could you, now?" It was curious to hear the man lying back and coolly arguing out the question of his own sanity.
"Perhaps not," I said; "but still I think you would be wise to get home as soon as you can, and settle down to a quiet life for a while."
"Get home, eh?" he muttered, with a sneer upon his face. "One word for me and two for yourself, lad. Settle down with Flora--pretty little Flora. Are bad dreams signs of madness?"
"Sometimes," I answered.
"What else? What would be the first symptoms?"
"Pains in the head, noises in the ears flashes before the eyes, delusions"----
"Ah! what about them?" he interrupted. "What would you call a delusion?"
"Seeing a thing which is not there is a delusion."
"But she WAS there!" he groaned to himself. "She WAS there!" and rising, he unbolted the door and walked with slow and uncertain steps to his own cabin, where I have no doubt that he will remain until to-morrow morning. His system seems to have received a terrible shock, whatever it may have been that he imagined himself to have seen. The man becomes a greater mystery every day, though I fear that the solution which he has himself suggested is the correct one, and that his reason is affected. I do not think that a guilty conscience has anything to do with his behaviour. The idea is a popular one among the officers, and, I believe, the crew; but I have seen nothing to support it. He has not the air of a guilty man, but of one who has had terrible usage at the hands of fortune, and who should be regarded as a martyr rather than a criminal.
The wind is veering round to the south to-night. God help us if it blocks that narrow pass which is our only road to safety! Situated as we are on the edge of the main Arctic pack, or the "barrier" as it is called by the whalers, any wind from the north has the effect of shredding out the ice around us and allowing our escape, while a wind from the south blows up all the loose ice behind us and hems us in between two packs. God help us, I say again!
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|The Captain of the Polestar
Arthur Conan Doyle
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