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|The Night-Born||Jack London|
Under The Deck Awnings
|Page 4 of 5||
"This was the boy. And it was he who gave the alarm in the midst of the sport. The boys made a dash of it for the gangway platform, swimming the fastest strokes they knew, pellmell, floundering and splashing, fright in their faces, clambering out with jumps and surges, any way to get out, lending one another a hand to safety, till all were strung along the gangway and peering down into the water.
"'What is the matter?' asked Miss Caruthers.
"'A shark, I fancy,' Captain Bentley answered. 'Lucky little beggars that he didn't get one of them.'
"'Are they afraid of sharks?' she asked.
"'Aren't you?' he asked back.
She shuddered, looked overside at the water, and made a moue.
"'Not for the world would I venture where a shark might be,' she said, and shuddered again. 'They are horrible! Horrible!'
"The boys came up on the promenade deck, clustering close to the rail and worshiping Miss Caruthers who had flung them such a wealth of backsheesh. The performance being over, Captain Bentley motioned to them to clear out. But she stopped him.
"'One moment, please, Captain. I have always understood that the natives are not afraid of sharks.'
"She beckoned the boy of the swan dive nearer to her, and signed to him to dive over again. He shook his head, and along with all his crew behind him laughed as if it were a good joke.
"'Shark,' he volunteered, pointing to the water.
"'No,' she said. 'There is no shark.'
"But he nodded his head positively, and the boys behind him nodded with equal positiveness.
"'No, no, no,' she cried. And then to us, 'Who'll lend me a half-crown and a sovereign!'
"Immediately the half dozen of us were presenting her with crowns and sovereigns, and she accepted the two coins from young Ardmore.
"She held up the half-crown for the boys to see. But there was no eager rush to the rail preparatory to leaping. They stood there grinning sheepishly. She offered the coin to each one individually, and each, as his turn came, rubbed his foot against his calf, shook his head, and grinned. Then she tossed the half-crown overboard. With wistful, regretful faces they watched its silver flight through the air, but not one moved to follow it.
"'Don't do it with the sovereign,' Dennitson said to her in a low voice.
"She took no notice, but held up the gold coin before the eyes of the boy of the swan dive.
"'Don't,' said Captain Bentley. 'I wouldn't throw a sick cat overside with a shark around.'
"But she laughed, bent on her purpose, and continued to dazzle the boy.
"'Don't tempt him,' Dennitson urged. 'It is a fortune to him, and he might go over after it.'
"'Wouldn't YOU?' she flared at him. 'If I threw it?'
This last more softly.
Dennitson shook his head.
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