I'll Never Be Young Again

I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier Read Free Book Online

Book: I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daphne du Maurier
myself free of their clinging atmosphere at last.
    For Jake was more real to me in the few hours I had known him than the shrouded intangibility of my father, and Jake’s personality had carried me away from my dusty dreams to the reality of hardship and suffering.
    To me this was the meaning of being alive, this very sensation of the pavement beneath our feet, and the lamp shining upon a square, the smell of the warm air, the careless knowledge that it mattered little where we went, with no one to care but our two selves.
    Jake and I wandered wherever the streets should lead us, and it was good to know that there was not the necessity of talking, but a word thrown now and again, and a whistle of a song, and a glance at the sky and a smile.
    I could know his thoughts if I wanted, and it was the same for him.
    I knew then that this night was a thing which could never be forgotten, nor the hard ring of our feet as we walked, nor the scattered groups of people in the slum streets, nor the wind rising from odd corners to blow upon our hair, nor the thrill of adventure, nor the mud-tang of the river smell from the docks and the lights of ships at anchor.
    And never forgotten the sight that met our eyes before morning when we looked over a great bank of coal and black dust and saw the grey outline of a sleeping barque, her yards scarce discernible through the mist, the shrouds as shadowy as a cobweb, and the white letters on her stern: ‘ Hedwig - Oslo.’
    Jake and I stared at her without a word, and then turning smiled at one another, for the same thought belonged to us both, and we knew we were looking upon the ship that would carry us away.
    Then we lay down on a piece of sacking on the wharf, and pillowed our faces in our hands, and slept.

    A s she went down the river the ship seemed like a phantom on the surface of black water, and the lights of London burned and flared in the darkness, sending a tongue of yellow flame to the sky. These lights and the dim buildings, this sound and clamour of London belonged to the world which we were leaving, and we passed them by, careless, unheeding, our eyes turned to new vistas ahead and to new sounds. There were the lights of other ships, there was the wash from a swift tug-boat, and faintly - coming from beyond, borne on the air - the siren of a homebound cargo vessel. London was gone, and vanished soon the flat marshes of Essex, and nothing awaited us but the great turn and span of the river, and a cold fresh wind; new lights winking from a headland, a spatter of rain, and the smell of the sea.
    I leant against the bulwark of the ship and the first spray licked my face, and I felt the deck rise and fall beneath my feet as the barque met the sea. The coast of England slipped away from us, strange and unfamiliar in the grey light of morning, while ahead lay a hard unbroken line of sea, and another day and another sky.
    It came to me that this was the beginning of adventure, and the starting of a dream, and as I felt the sea on my lips and heard the voices of men around me, I knew that I was no longer a boy who yearned to break the shackles of home and be free, but I was sailing before the mast of a Norwegian barque, and I was a man with other men.
    So I should know what it would be to sail in a ship, to be weary and worn, to be hungry and happy.
    I should learn the feel of ropes, the pressure of wind in canvas, I should know sickness and torture, but beyond these things there would be a fierce wild pleasure that I could not explain, a tumult of my body and a madness of my brain, laughter, and shouting in the air.
    At first there was confusion and distress, and a lost sensation of my own helplessness, and then I conquered the misery of sickness, clinging to Jake like a weeping child, and I came out of the fo’c’sle upon the deck with my belly empty and my tongue afire, and there was the barque straining to be free as I had striven, a high sea running and a high wind blowing.

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