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Трек 16_02

Early as it was, there were plenty of boats dropping down with the tide. We drew near the meeting-place.

“Is he there?” said Herbert.

“Not yet. No, wait a minute! Now I see him! Pull hard. Easy, Herbert—oars!”

We touched the stairs lightly for a single moment, and he was on board and we were off again. He was wearing a long cloak, and had a black bag with him.

“Dear boy,” he said, putting an arm on my shoulder as he took his seat. “Well done, dear boy. Thank you, thank you.”

After that he sat there and smoked, seeming as peaceful and content as if we were already out of England.

The tide ran strong and our steady stroke carried us on for mile after mile. At midday we went ashore among some slippery stones while we ate and drank what we had with us.

We pushed off again and made what way we could all through the afternoon and until night began to fall, when we looked about for anything like a house. We held on, seeing nothing, for four or five dull miles. The night was dark by this time and it was with great relief that we saw a light and a roof, and soon afterwards ran alongside a rough landing-stage that had been made of stones. I left the others in the boat, stepped ashore, and found the light to be the window of an inn. It was a dirty place, but there was a good fire in the kitchen, and food to eat, and drink to warm us. Also, there were two double-bedded rooms that we might share.

I went down to the boat again, and we all came ashore and pulled her up for the night. We had made a good meal by the kitchen fire, when the landlord came in and asked me if we had seen a four-oared galley going up with the tide. We told him that we had not.

“That’s odd,” he said. “She was hanging about here for some time, and then went up with the tide. She must have put in somewhere, or you’d have been sure to see her.”

This information worried me. A four-oared galley hanging about so as to attract notice was an ugly circumstance that I could not get out of my mind.

We arranged that Provis should share my room, and that Herbert should take the other. I lay down with most of my clothes on and slept well for a few hours. When I awoke, the wind had risen, and fearing for the safety of our boat I looked out of the window. The moon was high and by its light I saw two men down by the boat, looking into her. My first thought was to wake the others, but I remembered that they were tired, and so I just stood there and watched the men move off across the marsh. In that light, however, I soon lost them and, feeling very cold, lay down to think of the matter and fall asleep once more.

Трек 16_03

We were up early. I told the others what I had seen in the night. Neither Herbert nor Provis seemed worried by the news. It was likely, they said, that the men had no interest in us at all, and I tried to persuade myself that this was so—as, indeed, it might easily be.

We waited at the inn until midday, then pushed our boat off and rowed out into the track that we knew the steamers took.

It was half-past one before we saw a steamer’s smoke, and soon after we saw behind it the smoke of another. As they were both coming on at full speed, Provis and I took the opportunity of saying good-bye to Herbert. Neither Herbert’s eyes nor mine were quite dry, when I saw a four-oared galley shoot out from under the bank a little way in front, and row out into the same track.

The steamer was coming on fast. I called to Herbert to keep our boat before the tide so that she might see us lying by for her. Meanwhile, the galley had let us come up with her, and had fallen alongside. There were four men at the oars, a steersman, and a sixth man sitting wrapped up in a big cloak, much as Provis was, with a broad hat pulled down over his eyes. This sitter seemed to whisper some command or other to the steersman as he looked at us. Otherwise, not a word was spoken in either boat.

Herbert, who had good eyes, could make out in a few minutes which steamer was first, and gave me the word “Hamburg” in a low voice. She was nearing us very fast, and the beating of her paddles grew louder and louder. I felt as if her shadow was right upon us, when there came a shout from the galley:

“You have a returned convict there,” called the steersman. “His name is Abel Magwitch. I arrest that man, and call upon him to surrender.”

At the same moment, he ran the galley close upon us. They had pulled one sudden stroke, had got their oars in, and were holding on to our boat before we knew what they were doing.

This seemed to cause some confusion on board the steamer. I heard voices calling to us, and an order given to stop the paddles. In the same moment, I saw the steersman of the galley lay his hand on the prisoner’s shoulder, and noticed that both boats were swinging round with the force of the tide. Still in the same moment, I saw the prisoner start up, lean across to the other boat, and pull the cloak from the neck of the sitter in the galley. Still in the same moment, I saw that the face revealed was the face of the other convict of long ago. Still in the same moment, I saw that face go white with a terror that I shall never forget. Then I heard a great cry on board the steamer and a loud splash in the water, and felt the boat sink from under me.

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