The Lighted Match (Chapter 16)

 
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Chapter 16 : Page 1 of 9

More suggestive of a stowaway than a millionaire, thought Blanco the
following afternoon, when he had come over the side of the Isis and
sought out the owner of the yacht. Benton had turned hermit and
withdrawn to the most isolated space the vessel provided. It was really
not a deck at all--only a space between engine-room grating and
tarpaulined lifeboats on what was properly the cabin roof. Here, removed
from the burnished and ship-shape perfection of the yacht's appointment,
he lay carelessly shaven and more carelessly dressed.

The lazily undulating Mediterranean stretched unbroken save for the
yacht's stack, funnels and stanchions, in a sight-wide radius of blue.
Overhead the sky was serene. Here and there, in fitful humors, the sea
flowed in rifts of a different hue.

The sun was mellow and the breeze which purred softly in the cables
overhead came with the caressing breath that blows off the orange groves
of Southern Spain. Ahead lay all the invitation of the south of France;
of the Riviera's white cities and vivid countryside; of Monte Carlo's
casinos and Italy's villas. Beyond further horizons, waited the charm of
Greece, but the man lay on an old army blanket, clad in bagging flannels
and a blue army shirt open at the throat. His arms were crossed above
his eyes, and he was motionless, except that the fingers which gripped
his elbows sometimes clenched themselves and the bare throat above the
open collar occasionally worked spasmodically.

Blanco had come quietly, and his canvas shoes had made no sound. For a
time he did not announce himself. He was not sure that Benton was awake,
so he dropped noiselessly to the deck and sat with his hands clasped
about his knees, his eyes moodily measuring the rise and fall of the
glaringly white stanchions above and below the sky-line. At frequent
intervals they swept back to the other man, who still lay motionless. It
was late afternoon and the smoke-stack shadows pointed off in attenuated
lines to the bow while the sky, off behind the wake, brightened into the
colors of sunset. Finally Benton rose. The unexpected sight of Blanco
brought a start and an immediate masking of his face, but in the first
momentary glimpse the Andalusian caught a haggard distress which
frightened him.

 
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