from Erskine Childers’s THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS
That was a curious evening. Dusk soon fell, and the devil made a determined effort to unman me; first, with the scrambled tea which was the tardy substitute for an orderly lunch, then with the new and nauseous duty of filling the side-lights, which meant squatting in the fo'c'sle to inhale paraffin and dabble in lamp-black; lastly, with an all-round attack on my nerves as the night fell on our frail little vessel, pitching on her precarious way through driving mist. In a sense I think I went through the same sort of mental crisis as when I sat upon my portmanteau at Flensburg. The main issue was not seriously in question, for I had signed on in the Dulcibella for good or ill; but in doing so I had outrun myself, and still wanted an outlook, a mood suited to the enterprise, proof against petty discouragements. Not for the first time a sense of the ludicrous came to my assistance, as I saw myself fretting in London under my burden of self-imposed woes, nicely weighing that insidious invitation, and stepping finally into the snare with the dignity due to my importance; kidnapped as neatly as ever a peaceful clerk was kidnapped by a lawless press-gang, and, in the end, finding as the arch-conspirator a guileless and warm-hearted friend, who called me clever, lodged me in a cell, and blandly invited me to talk German to the purpose, as he was aiming at a little secret service on the high seas. Close in the train of Humour came Romance, veiling her face, but I knew it was the rustle of her robes that I heard in the foam beneath me; I knew that it was she who handed me the cup of sparkling wine and bade me drink and be merry. Strange to me though it was, I knew the taste when it touched my lips. It was not that bastard concoction I had tasted in the pseudo-Bohemias of Soho; it was not the showy but insipid beverage I should have drunk my fill of at Morven Lodge; it was the purest of her pure vintages, instilling the ancient inspiration which, under many guises, quickens thousands of better brains than mine, but whose essence is always the same; the gay pursuit of a perilous quest. Then and there I tried to clinch the matter and keep that mood. In the main I think I succeeded, though I had many lapses.
For the present my veins tingled with the draught. The wind humming into the mainsail, the ghostly wave-crests riding up out of the void, whispered a low thrilling chorus in praise of adventure. Potent indeed must the spell have been, for, in reality, that first night sail teemed with terrors for me. It is true that it began well, for the haze dispersed, as Davies had prophesied, and Bulk Point Lighthouse guided us safely to the mouth of Kiel Fiord. It was during this stage that, crouching together aft, our pipe-bowls glowing sympathetically, we returned to the problem before us; for we had shot out on our quest with volcanic precipitation, leaving much to be discussed.