What is the matter?

Norman Lock

From Norman Lock’s story “The Captain is Sleeping” (NER 26.4):

 The engineers have not been seen for days. I stand outside the engine room, their freshly laundered sheets folded in my arms, and listen to them weep. I wonder at their anguish, at its depths, and shudder at the sound they make on the other side of the iron door.

“What is the matter?” I say through the door. I dare not shout. If I raise my voice so as to be heard, I am sure I will faint. My nerves have been tightly strung, like piano wire, ever since the ship began to act queerly. “What is the matter, men?” I try again, my lips close to the door, whispering into my cupped hands, having made of them a megaphone.

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