THE BOY WITH THE U. S. LIFE-SAVERS
BOOKS BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER
U. S. Service Series
Illustrations from Photographs taken for U. S. Government. Large 12mo. Cloth. Price $1.50 each.
THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FORESTERS THE BOY WITH THE U. S. CENSUS THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FISHERIES THE BOY WITH THE U. S. INDIANS THE BOY WITH THE U. S. EXPLORERS
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON
U. S. SERVICE SERIES.
THE BOY WITH THE U. S. LIFE-SAVERS
BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER
With Forty-eight Illustrations, nearly all from Photographs Loaned by Bureaus of the U. S. Government
BOSTON LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
Published, August, 1915
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
All rights reserved
THE BOY WITH THE U. S. LIFE-SAVERS
Norwood Press BERWICK & SMITH CO. NORWOOD, MASS. U. S. A.
Upon the hungry rock-bound shores of Maine, and over the treacherous quicksands of Cape Hatteras, the billows of the Atlantic roll; the tropical storms of the Gulf of Mexico whip a high surf over the coral reefs of Florida; upon the Pacific coast, six thousand miles of sea fling all their fury on the land; yet no one fears. Serene in the knowledge that the United States Coast Guard and the Lighthouse Bureau never sleep, vessels from every corner of the world converge to the great seaports of America.
The towers that stand sentinel all day, or flame their unceasing vigilance all night, hold out their message of welcome or of warning to every ship that nears the coast, and not a point of danger is unprotected. Should an unreckoned-with disaster cast a vessel on the breakers, there is not a mile of beach that the Coast Guard does not watch.
Far in the northern Bering Sea, a Coast Guard cutter blazes the hidden trail through Polar ice for the oncoming fleet of whalers, and carries American justice to where, as yet, no court has been; out in the mid-Atlantic, when the Greenland icebergs follow their silent path of ghostly menace, a Coast Guard cutter watches and warns the great ocean liners of their peril; and when, in spite of all that skill and watchfulness can do, the sea claims its toll of wreck, it is the Coast Guard cutter that is first upon the scene of rescue. To show the stern work done by the U. S. Coast Guard, to depict the indomitable men who overcome dangers greater than are known to any others who traffic on the sea, to point to the manly boyhood of America this arm of our country's national defense, whose history is one long record of splendid heroism, is the aim and purpose of
A RESCUE BY MOONLIGHT 1
THE LIGHTS THAT NEVER SLEEP 28
HEROES OF THE UNDERGROUND 61
SNATCHED FROM A FROZEN DEATH 96
SAVED BY THE BREECHES-BUOY 120
A BLAZON OF FLAME AT SEA 156
REINDEER TO THE RESCUE 187
THE BELCHING DEATH OF A VOLCANO 222
DEFYING THE TEMPEST'S VIOLENCE 246
ADRIFT ON A DERELICT 274
THE WRECKERS OF THE SPANISH MAIN 294
THE GRAVEYARD OF THE DEEP 322
FACING PAGE The Gleam That Brings Hope Frontispiece
The Light That Never Sleeps 10
The Lonely Watcher of the Coast 20
Where Patrols Meet. The Half-way Point 20
Breaking a Death-Clutch from Behind 32
Breaking a Death-Clutch from the Front 32
The "Eddystone" of America 42
Lighthouse Tender Approaching Buoy 54
Refilling Pintsch Gas Buoy 54
Sliding Down to Work 64
The Defier of the Pacific 76
A Beacon Masked in Ice 86
Wrecked! And the Ice Between! 100
Laying the Lyle Gun 110
Firing the Shot and Line 110
Gold Life-Saving Medal 118
Life-boat Capsize-Drill 138
Rushing the Apparatus-Cart 146
Breeches-Buoy Drill. Firing 158
Breeches-Buoy Drill. Rescuing Survivor 158
The Lightship That Went Ashore 168
Guarding the Graveyard of the Deep 168
Coast Guard Cutter, Miami, on July Fourth 194
The Bear in the Ice Pack 202
The Bear Breaking Free from the Ice 202
Reindeer Messengers of Rescue 210
Reindeer That Saved Three Hundred Lives 210
Signals That Guard Our Coast 224
Going to Pieces Fast 234
"We Saved 'Em All" 234
Native Refugees from Katmai Eruption 244
"The Iron Rim Rolling Savagely" 256
"The Boat Went into Matchwood" 266
Man's Waterspout. A Derelict's End 280
Preparing to Blow Up a Derelict 280
The Greatest Menace of the Seas 290
Burned to the Water's Edge 290
Foam—The Derelict's Only Tombstone 300
Mining a Lurking Peril 300
Stranded! After Storm Has Ceased and Tide Has Ebbed 310
The Signal of Distress That Was Never Seen 320
Iceberg with Miami in the Background 330
The Ghostly Ally of Disaster 330
A Rescue on the Diamond Shoals 340
THE BOY WITH THE U. S. LIFE-SAVERS
A RESCUE BY MOONLIGHT
The cry rang out despairingly over the almost-deserted beach at Golden Gate Park.
Jumping up so suddenly that the checker-board went in one direction, the table in another, while the checkers rolled to every corner of the little volunteer life-saving station house, Eric Swift made a leap for the door. Quick as he was to reach the boat, he was none too soon, for the coxswain and two other men were tumbling over the gunwale at the same time.
Before the echoes of the cry had ceased, the boat was through the surf and was heading out to sea like an arrow shot from a Sioux war-bow.
Although this was the second summer that Eric had been with the Volunteers, it had never chanced to him before to be called out on a rescue at night. The sensation was eerie in the extreme. The night was still, with a tang of approaching autumn in the air to set the nerves a-tingle. Straight in the golden path of moonlight the boat sped. The snap that comes from exerting every muscle to the full quickened the boy's eagerness and the tense excitement made everything seem unreal.
The coxswain, with an intuition which was his peculiar gift, steered an undeviating course. Some of the life-savers used to joke with him and declare that he could smell a drowning man a mile away, for his instinct was almost always right.
For once, Eric thought, the coxswain must have been at fault, for nothing was visible, when, after a burst of speed which seemed to last minutes—though in reality it was but seconds—the coxswain held up his hand. The men stopped rowing.
The boy had slipped off his shoes while still at his oar, working off first one shoe and then the other with his foot. It was so late in the evening that not a single man in the crew was in the regulation bathing-suit, all were more or less dressed. Eric's chum, a chap nicknamed the "Eel" because of his curious way of swimming, with one motion slipped off all his clothing and passed from his thwart to the bow of the boat.
A ripple showed on the surface of the water. Eric could not have told it from the roughness of a breaking wave, but before ever the outlines of a rising head were seen, the Eel sprang into the sea. Two of those long, sinuous strokes of his brought him almost within reach of the drowning man. Blindly the half-strangled sufferer threw up his arms, the action sending him under water again, a gurgled "Help!" being heard by those in the boat as he went down.
The Eel dived.
Eric, who had followed his chum headforemost into the water hardly half a second later, swam around waiting for the other to come up. In three quarters of a minute the Eel rose to the surface with his living burden. Suddenly, with a twist, almost entirely unconscious, the drowning man grappled his rescuer. Eric knew that his chum was an adept at all the various ways of "breaking away" from these grips, a necessary part of the training of every life-saver, but he swam close up in case he might be able to help.
"Got him all right?" he asked.
"He's got me!" grunted the Eel, disgustedly.
"P'raps I'd better give you a hand to break," suggested the boy, reaching over with the intention of helping his friend, for the struggling swimmer had secured a tight grip around the Eel's neck. The life-saver, however, covering the nose and mouth of the half-drowned man with one hand, pulled him close with the other and punched him vigorously in the wind with his knee.
"Now he'll be good," said the Eel, grinning as well as he could with a mouth full of water. He spat out the brine, shook the water out of his eyes, and putting his hands on either side of the drowning man's head, started for the shore. Using a powerful "scissors" stroke, the Eel made quick time, though he seemed to be taking it in leisurely fashion. Eric, although a good swimmer, had all he could do to keep up.
"How do you think he is?" the lad asked.
"Oh, he'll come around all right," the Eel replied, "I don't believe he's swallowed such an awful lot of water. I guess he's been able to swim a bit."
The rescued man was a good weight and not fat, so that he floated deep. The sea was choppy, too, with a nasty little surf on the beach. But the Eel brought the sufferer in with the utmost ease.
As soon as they reached shore, Eric grabbed the drowning man's feet while the Eel took him by the shoulders and lifted him on a stretcher which two other members of the Volunteer Corps had brought. As soon as the rescued man was placed on this, the bearers started at a quick pace for the life-saving station, and artificial respiration was begun.
In spite of the fact that the boy had seen dozens of half-drowned persons brought back to consciousness, the process never lost to him its half-terrible fascination. He always felt the lurking danger and he had been well-trained never to forget how much hung in the balance. Always it was a human life, flickering like a candle-flame in a gusty wind. Always the outcome was unknown.
Once Eric had worked for a solid hour over a man who had been brought in from the beach before he had been rewarded by any sign of life. The U. S. Volunteer Corps had drilled into him very thoroughly the knowledge that tireless patience and grim persistence will almost work miracles. Accordingly, when it came his turn, he joined readily in the work of restoration. The swim had tired him a little, and he was glad to quit when another member of the station took his place over the half-drowned man's body.
"Why do we use the Schaefer method, Doctor?" Eric asked.
"It's the best system for our work," was the reply, "because it can be done by one person. Quite often, a fellow may make a rescue and bring some one to shore, so that he will have to work alone. You're not going to be right at a station always."
"That's true," the boy said meditatively.
"Watch, now," continued the doctor, pointing to the life-saver, who was at work and who was kneeling astride the prone figure of the unconscious man. "You see Johnson's hands are pressing right between the short ribs, aren't they?"
"Yes, that's the base of the lungs, isn't it?" Eric queried.
"It is," the doctor answered. "Now when a man brings down the weight of the upper part of his body on his hands—the way Johnson is doing there—it means that about one hundred pounds of pressure is applied to those lungs, doesn't it?"
"Sure; fifty pounds on each lung," agreed the boy.
"You can see how that forces out nearly every bit of air in the lungs. Then, as soon as he leans backwards again, and takes off the pressure, the air rushes in to fill the lungs. That makes artificial breathing, doesn't it?"
"That's the whole secret of restoration; that, and keeping everlastingly at it."
"But if the Schaefer method is the best way," protested Eric, "I don't see why everybody doesn't use it."
"Well, the Life-Saving end of the Coast Guard doesn't!"
"I don't say the Schaefer is the only good method," answered the doctor; "nothing of the kind. It's the one that suits us best." He stepped over to the prostrate man, never relaxing his vigilant watch for the first sign of life. Then, returning to Eric, he continued, "The Coast Guard uses the Sylvester method, doesn't it?"
"One of the forms of it, Father told me," the boy answered. "He showed me how. It's quite different from what we do here."
"How did he show you?" asked the doctor interestedly; "there are so many different ways."
"Father told me to stand or kneel at the head of the chap who had been rescued, then, grabbing hold of the arms above the elbows, to draw them up over the head, keep them there a couple of seconds, then force them down and press them against the sides of the chest. I suppose the principle is about the same."
"Exactly the same," the doctor said, "but of course every one has his preference. I like the Schaefer method best, myself, because in it the tongue hangs out and the water runs from the mouth naturally, while in the Sylvester method, the tongue has to be tied."
"But which is the better?" persisted Eric.
"There really doesn't seem to be much difference in the result," was the reply, "it's the man behind the gun, not the system. The Coast Guard so far holds the record for the most wonderful cases of recovery and theirs is the older method. The important thing is to know exactly what you're doing, and to do it with everlasting perseverance. Never give up! I've seen some wonderful examples of fellows just snatched back to life long after we thought they had gone. There was one, I remember—"
"Doctor!" called Johnson, "I think he's coming to!"
The rescued man gave a gasp and his eyelids fluttered. The doctor was beside him in an instant, but instead of seeming satisfied by his examination he shook his head doubtfully as he rose from the side of his patient.
"Going all right?" queried Eric.
"No," was the answer, "he's not. I think he's got smokers' heart. You'd better watch him a bit closely, boys! One can't ever tell in these cases."
"You mean he's not out of the woods yet, Doctor?" the lad asked.
"Not by a long shot," was the reply. "You can't play any monkey-shines with the heart. Judging by the shape that fellow's heart is in, I should be inclined to say he's been smoking for nearly ten years, smoking pretty heavily, too. And he can't be a day over twenty-three!"
"Do you suppose that had anything to do with his drowning?"
"Of course it had," the doctor answered. "Swimming is a real athletic exercise and you've got to keep in shape to swim well. What's more, you've got to have a decent heart to start with. But if a youngster piles into cigarettes, it's a safe bet that he's going to cripple himself for athletics in manhood."
"But you smoke, Doctor!"
"Sure I do," the other rejoined. "And I swim, pretty nearly as well as any of you young fellows. But I didn't start any cigarette business when I was a kid, the way lots of boys do now. It wasn't until I was in college that I smoked my first pipe."
"Then you think it's all right for a chap to smoke after he's grown up?"
"I wouldn't go as far as to say that," the doctor said, "but there's no doubt that the cases which have turned out worst are those in which the habit began early. Nature's a wise old scout, Eric, and you're apt to find that a man who's likely to be hurt by smoking won't develop a craving for it unless he started too young, or unless he forced himself to excess."
The boy wanted to question the doctor further, for he was thoroughly interested in finding out that smoking prevents an athletic manhood, when the speaker was interrupted by a cry from the half-conscious man.
"Jake!" he called.
The doctor was beside him in a second.
"What is it, son?" he said, bending his head down so that his grizzled mustache almost brushed the man's face.
"Jake! Where's Jake?"
A sudden silence swept over the station. Only the Eel moved. With that queer sliding step of his that was almost noiseless, he went to the door of the little house that faced the sea.
"Jake!" again the cry came. "Where's Jake?"
The man was relapsing into unconsciousness when the doctor quickly took a powerful restorative from his medicine-bag, which lay beside the cot, and held it to the man's nose. The fumes roused him.
"Where did you leave him?" queried the doctor.
"I—I couldn't get him," gasped the rescued man, breathing heavily.
There was a general rustle and every man half-turned to the door. In the silence a man's boot, being kicked off, clattered noisily on the floor.
"How do you mean you couldn't get him?" the doctor persisted. "Was he swimming with you?"
"He went down—sudden—" came the answer, weakly, "and when I tried ... to help ... he pulled at my legs."
The words were hardly out of his lips before the station-house was empty save for the doctor and the rescued swimmer. As the door slid back behind them, Eric heard the man cry in a quavering voice,
"I've drowned him! I've drowned him! I had to kick him free to save myself!"
Outside, not a word was said. The men knew their work and their places. The coxswains were ready and the three white boats were sliding down the beach, the big boat down the runway, as the men heard that cry again,
"I've drowned him! I've drowned him. I had to kick him free to save myself!"
The words rang hauntingly in Eric's ears as his boat hit the first incoming billow. The former rescue in the moonlight had held a quick thrill, but it had been nothing like this tense eager race in the darkness. Nearly a quarter of an hour had passed in the station-house before the rescued man had recovered consciousness and the rescue had taken at least five minutes. Almost twenty-five minutes had elapsed, then, since the first cry of help had been heard.
The boats leapt forward like swift dogs released from leash. The oars were made to resist extreme strain, but they bent under the terrific strokes of the life-savers. Over six thousand miles of sea the Pacific rolled in with slow surges, and out in the darkness, somewhere, was a drowning man, probably beyond help, but with just the faintest shred of possibility for life if he could be found immediately.
With that uncanny intuition which made him so marvelous in the work, the coxswain of Eric's boat steered a course fifty feet away from that of the larger boat.
Not a word was spoken until, above the swish of the water and the rattle of the rowlocks, the Eel said quietly,
"We picked him up a little to wind'ard of here!" Three men, among them Eric, slipped into the water. Almost at the same moment, five or six men plunged in from the other boats. The lieutenant stopped Eric's chum.
"You'd better stay aboard, Eel," he said; "you've already had quite a swim."
The Eel shrugged his shoulders disapprovingly, but, after all, orders were orders, and the captain of the Golden Gate station was a disciplinarian to his finger-tips.
In the broken gleams of the moonlight flickering on the tumbled water, the forms of the dozen members of the corps could be seen. Ever and again one would disappear from sight for a deep dive to try to find the body.
This was a part of the work in which Eric was particularly good. He had a strong leg-stroke and was compactly built, although large-boned for his age. Tired though he was from swimming ashore with the Eel on the first rescue, he went down as often as any of his comrades. Looking back at the boat, he saw the Eel wave his hand in a direction a little south of where he had dived before.
Following out the suggestion, Eric took a long breath and went down. It was a deep dive, and he thought he saw a gleam of white below him. The boy tried to swim down a foot or two farther, but his breath failed him, and he shot up, gasping, to the surface. Not wanting to give a false alarm, yet knowing well that every second counted, the boy merely stayed long enough to get his breath, then, putting every ounce of power he possessed into a supreme effort, he went down again. This time he got a foot nearer, but not near enough to be quite sure. Again he darted up to the surface.
"Here, fellows!" he shouted.
The boat shot up beside him.
"Found him, Eric?"
"I think so, sir," the boy answered, "but he was too far down for me."
The Eel had stripped. He stood up and looked pleadingly at the lieutenant.
"Sure you're not tired?"
The Eel smiled.
"Overboard with you, then!"
Dozens of times though Eric had seen the Eel dive, and often as he had tried to imitate him, the boy never ceased to envy his comrade his extraordinary power of going into the water without the slightest splash. Powerful dive though it was, scarcely a drop of water seemed to be displaced as the Eel went down.
During the few seconds that passed while these sentences were being interchanged, three or four others of the life-savers had rallied to Eric's call and were headed for the boat. One man, especially, a big, burly fellow who looked as though he would be too heavy to swim, but who possessed an astounding amount of endurance and who could hold his breath longer than any one else in the station, followed the Eel to the bottom. Eric was game, and although he was beginning to feel thoroughly done up, he joined the quest in the depths of the sea.
Moonlight gives no reflections beneath the water, and the sea was dark. The Eel was already out of sight below him, but as the boy made his way down, the powerful figure of the heavy swimmer came past him like a shadow.
A few seconds later, the Eel shot up by him, bringing an unconscious man in his grasp. The other swimmer followed. By the time Eric reached the boat he was exhausted and had to be helped in. The rescued man had been lifted into the large boat, and before the boy was even aboard, the other craft was half-way to the shore, racing like mad. The other boats followed.
As soon as the surf-boat touched the beach, the big man jumped out, two other members of the corps threw the unconscious figure across his shoulders for the "fireman's carry," and while the keel of the boat was still grinding on the beach, the rescued man was well on the way toward the house.
The doctor was waiting. The victim of the drowning accident, apparently dead, was put into hot blankets. His arms and legs were stiff. The lips were quite blue and the whole of the face discolored. At the sight of him, and the little slimy ooze from his lips, the doctor looked grave. The big life-saver who had carried the sufferer in was already at work in an attempt at resuscitation.
A moment or two later, the first man who had been rescued and who was feeling a little stronger, turned over on the stretcher. He saw the swollen and discolored face of his friend and sent up a piercing cry,
Then, after a pause and a silence broken only by the rhythmic beat of the regular motions of the process of causing artificial respiration, came the cry again,
"I've drowned him! I've drowned him! I had to kick him free to save myself!"
Although the house was kept empty save for the four men, the doctor beckoned to one of the officers standing outside—so that there should be as much air as possible in the station—to come in and try to quiet the frenzied man.
"Bromides, Doctor?" queried the lieutenant, who had come in.
"Yes. Give him just one of the triple. No, that won't hurt him," he continued in answer to a look; "it's excessive stimulation that a man with smokers' heart can't stand."
The life-saver gave the required dose and succeeded in soothing the poor fellow, who was still terribly weak. The men sat on the steps outside, talking in low tones. Every one of them was keenly conscious of the strain. For twenty minutes there was no sound from within the station except the hard breathing of the man who was putting in all his strength to give the recumbent figure the motions of respiration.
"Ryan!" the doctor called suddenly.
A strapping young fellow jumped up like a shot and darted into the station to take the place of the exhausted worker. Wiping his forehead and breathing hard, the latter came out to his companions.
"Do you think there's any change, Jim?" one of them asked.
"Not so far as I can see," the other answered, shaking his head.
"How long do you suppose he was under?" queried another.
Close comparison of watches gave the actual time as between nineteen and twenty-one minutes.
"Has any one ever been saved who has been under water as long as that?" asked Eric.
"Eighteen minutes is the longest I've ever seen," answered Johnson, the veteran of the corps, "but, of course, there's the Mooney case."
The boy listened a moment, but no sound came from the station. It was less nerve-racking to talk than to listen, so he went on,
"What was the Mooney case?"
"That was a Coast Guard job, in the days when the United States Life-Saving Service was a separate bureau. It was quite a queer case in a good many ways."
"How long was Mooney under water? Half an hour, wasn't it?" questioned another of the men.
"Thirty-one minutes, according to general reports," Johnson replied, "but to make sure that they weren't stretching it, the official report made it 'twenty minutes or over.' One of my pals worked on the man."
"How was it?" queried Eric. "In a storm?"
"Beautiful sunny Fourth of July," was the reply. "And, what's more, it was in shallow water, near shore, and the man could swim!"
"But how in the world—"
"That's exactly what I'm telling," Johnson continued, resenting the interruption. "It was during a boat race on Point Judith Pond in Rhode Island. My pal, who was a surfman, had been assigned to duty there. Naturally, he was watching the races. On the other side of the pond a small flat-bottomed skiff, carrying one sail, capsized. There were three men in her. Streeter, that's the fellow I know, saw the boat capsize, but he knew that the water was shallow and noted that it was near shore. Just the same, he kept an eye on the boat. As soon as he saw two men clinging to the sides of the skiff, he started for the scene of the accident. He was about a third of a mile away.
"What had happened was this. When the boat capsized, the swinging boom struck Mooney on the head, making him unconscious. He was swept under the sail and pinned down by it. The other two men, neither of whom could swim, managed to scramble on to the capsized skiff. They saw no sign of Mooney, and knowing that he was a swimmer, thought he had struck out for the shore. It wasn't until several minutes later that it occurred to one of them that their comrade might be pinned under the sail.
"With a good deal of personal risk, for his hold was insecure and he couldn't swim, this chap managed to get hold of the canvas and somehow—he said he didn't know how, himself—succeeded in getting Mooney out from under the sail. He gripped Mooney's collar, but could not lift his head above water. All that he could do was barely to hold on."
"Showed a good deal of grit to do even that, it seems to me," said one of the life-savers. "It's an awful feeling to be nearly drowned."
"It did show grit," agreed Johnson. "If it had been a drowning woman with long hair, she could have been held up all right; but a grip on the collar, when the head is hanging forward, means a dead lift out of water. I don't wonder that the young fellow wasn't able to do it.
"When my pal reached there, he got Mooney aboard, the other two clambered in and they started for the shore. Mooney was as purple as a grape and his arms were so stiff that two men, one on each side, could barely move them. Nearly a quart of water was got out of him, and they had an awful job prying open his jaws.
"They worked over him for an hour and twenty minutes before there was the slightest sign of life. Not until twenty-five minutes more did the heart begin, and Mooney did not regain consciousness until nine hours later. As his watch had stopped at 4:20 P.M. and it was 4:53 when Streeter got ashore, that man's heart had stopped, his breathing had stopped and he had been practically dead for more than two hours."
"Just goes to show," said one of the others, "that it isn't merely swallowing water that drowns a fellow."
"It isn't swallowing water at all, as I understand," rejoined another member of the group. "Drowning's a kind of poisoning of the blood because the lungs can't get oxygen. It's just like choking to death or being hanged."
There was a call from within.
The life-saver who had just been speaking, got up quickly and went in to relieve Ryan.
"Any luck?" Johnson asked, as the latter came out.
The Irishman shook his head.
"There's nothin' yet, but he moight come round anny minute," was his reply, with the invincible optimism of his race.
Eric had been thinking of Murchison's description of drowning.
"Why did they roll half-drowned people on a barrel in the old times?" he asked.
"Sure, they were ijits," Ryan answered cheerfully.
"But what was the idea? To get the water out?"
"Just that. They used to think the lungs were a tank."
"Murchison was saying that people drowned because they couldn't get oxygen. Isn't there oxygen in water?"
"Av coorse there is," the Irishman replied. "But ye've got to have the gills of a fish to use it. Annyhow, a man's got warm blood an' a fish has cold. It takes a lot of oxygen to get a man's blood warm. An' if he doesn't get it, he dies.
"Ye see, Eric," he continued, "that's why ye've got to go on workin' over a drowned man. Ye can't tell how badly he's poisoned. An' it's honest I am in tellin' ye that I think we've got a chance in there."
"I do that," was the cheery answer. "There's no tellin'."
Again came that cry from the station, a cry whose very repetition made it all the more nerve-racking,
"I've drowned him! I've drowned him! I had to kick him free to save myself!"
Eric shivered. There was something gruesome in the monotony of the same words over and over again. The noises on the beach died down. Several of the men, who did not live at the station-house, went to their cottages. The boy gave a jump when he heard a step behind him and saw the old doctor standing there.
The night was very still. Nothing could be heard but the roar of the surf on the beach. Eric, who was imaginative, thought that the surf seemed to be triumphing in having snatched another life. Feeling sure that the doctor would understand him, the boy turned and said,
"Doctor, shall we be able to beat out the sea?"
The Highland imagination of the doctor instantly caught the lad's meaning.
"You've heard it, too!" he said. "Many and many's the time I've thought the sea was skreeling in triumph when a drowned man was brought ashore. But I've snatched a many back."
"Will you—" began the boy.
"Doctor!" came a cry from within.
"Well?" he answered eagerly, stepping to the door.
"I thought I caught a breath!"
The doctor's keen eyes glinted as he knelt beside the prostrate figure.
Nine, ten, eleven times the weight of the life-saver was brought forward and released. At the twelfth, there was a slight respiration.
"Did you see, Doctor?" he cried, pausing in his work.
"What the mischief are you stopping for?" was the doctor's impatient answer. Then he added, "You're doing splendidly, Murchison; just keep it up!"
Five more minutes passed without a single sign. Both men had begun to feel that possibly they had been mistaken, when there was a definite flutter of an eyelid. The surfman would have given a triumphant shout but for the doctor's rebuke a moment or two before.
Quietly the old Scotchman began to promote circulation by rubbing the legs upward, so as to drive the venous blood to the heart and thus try to start its action. Almost ten minutes elapsed before the doctor's patience was rewarded with the faint throb of a heart-beat, then another. It was soft and irregular at first, but gradually the blood began to move through the arteries and in a few minutes a pulse could be felt. The lips lost a little of their blue color and breathing began.
"He's got a grand heart!" said the old doctor, ten minutes later, as the pulse-beats began to come with regularity. "I hardly believed that we could bring him round. It's a good thing it was this chap and not the other. We could never have saved yon man if he had been half as long submerged."
"You really think that we shall save him?" queried Eric, more to hear the doctor's assurance than because of any doubt of the result.
"We have saved him," was the reply. "In a day or two he'll be as well as he ever was. And, to my thinking, he'll be wiser than he was before, for he'll never do such a silly thing as to go out for a swim at night-time after dinner with—well, after a heavy dinner."
"Seems too bad that we can't tell his friend," the boy suggested. "It's just awful to hear him accusing himself all through the night."
"If he's asleep," the doctor answered, "that's better for him than anything else. Oh, I don't know," he continued, "he seems to be stirring. Do you want to tell him?"
Eric flashed a grateful glance at the doctor.
"If I might?"
"Mr. Willett," said the boy, coming close to the stretcher. "Mr. Willett!"
"Well?" said the rescued man, waking out of a remorse-haunted dream.
"Jake has been saved. He's all right."
In spite of his exhaustion and his sudden awakening from sleep, the first man who had been rescued sat up on the stretcher and craned his head forward to see his friend. In spite of the sufferer's bruised and swollen appearance, it was evident to the most inexperienced eye that life was not extinct. The convalescent looked at the doctor and tried to find words, but something in his throat choked him.
He reached out and grasped the boy's hand, holding it tightly. Then, looking around the station, he said softly,
"A man's world is a good world to live in!"
THE LIGHTS THAT NEVER SLEEP
It was a happy awakening in the life-saving station the next morning, for both the rescued men were well on the road to recovery. Eric had intended to be the first to tell Willett the entire story, but the events of the night had been a heavy strain on him and he had slept late. Indeed, he did not waken until the gang of boys came round for their morning drill. Drill was scheduled at nine o'clock, but it was seldom that there failed to be at least half a dozen urchins around the station by eight, or even earlier.
"What's all this drill the kids are talking about?" Willett asked Eric, as the boy came back from breakfast. "To hear the way they go on, you'd think it was the only important thing that had been scheduled since the world began!"
"That's the Commodore's doing," replied Eric, with a laugh. "He's got us all going that way. You know Hailer is one of those chaps who believes so much in what he's doing that everybody else has to believe in it, too."
"But I thought Hailer was commodore in New York, not out here in 'Frisco."
"So he is," agreed the boy. "But a mere trifle like a few thousand miles doesn't seem to weaken his influence much. Of course the biggest part of his time is given to superintending the New York end, but the work's spreading in every direction and all our reports go to headquarters. After all, organization does make a heap of difference, don't you think? How about it? Are you fit enough to come and see the youngsters at their work?"
"I'm a bit wobbly," the rescued man answered. "I suppose I ought to expect that. But I feel all right. I can get as far as that bench, anyway, and I'd like to see the drill. You teach them all to swim?"
"We try to teach everybody we can get hold of," replied Eric. "Hailer has an idea that every man, woman, and child in the United States ought to be able to swim, even when asleep. I've heard him say that it was as much a part of our job to prevent accidents as to do the best we can after accidents have happened. I think he's about right. Everybody ought to swim, just the same way as they know how to walk. Then we wouldn't have to fetch out of the water a lot of people who are already half-drowned."
"You do that in great shape, too," said Willett gratefully, "I can testify to that! I was a goner last night, sure, if you fellows hadn't been there. And the way you brought Jake around—I wouldn't have thought it possible."
"We were mighty lucky," agreed the boy.
"You were!" exclaimed Willett. "I think we're the lucky ones."
"I suppose you are," said Eric. "But, after all, if both your chum and you had been A No. 1 swimmers, just see how easy it would have been! You could have got ashore in a few minutes. That's what we want to do with the kids. We want to teach them to swim so that if they tumble off a dock with their duds on they can strike out for shore like so many frogs. We manage to break in nearly every youngster who comes down to this beach. Most of them want to get the hang of it, anyway, and when there's a bunch of youngsters to start with, it's a cinch to get the rest to join in."
"But still I don't see how you can teach them on land," Willett objected.
"You're supposed to swim with your legs as well as your hands, aren't you?"
"Of course. It's the legs that you really do the swimming with."
"That's what I thought. But how can you kick out with both legs when you're standing on them?"
"Oh, that's what's troubling you," said Eric laughing. "But there's nothing difficult in that. The idea in the leg motions of swimming is to bring the legs to the body, isn't it?"
"That's what I always thought."
"It doesn't make any difference if you bring the body to the legs, does it?"
"I—suppose not," the other said, dubiously.
"Of course it doesn't. That's just the idea. You watch the kids going through the drill and you'll get on to it. Why, I can put a bunch wise to swimming, though they're a thousand miles away from any water deep enough to drown in."
Eric had hardly got outside the station when the boys flocked to him in a body. He answered their fusillade of greetings with equal heartiness and then called them to attention.
"Get to business, now!" he called, and the group lined up in fours, each boy about six feet from his neighbor. "Ready!" he called. "One! Hands together, palms to each other. Swing 'em around a little behind the level of the shoulders turning 'em palm outward as you go. This way!" He showed the motion. "At the word 'Two'—bring the hands in to the breast. At 'Three' put the hands forward. All together, now: One! Two! Three!"
The boys followed the motions, some doing it well, but others looking very clumsy and awkward. A dozen times or more the boys went through the drill until a certain amount of regularity began to appear.
"Leg motions next," Eric called briskly. "At the word 'One!' bring the body down to the heels in a sitting position. At the word 'Two' straighten up and jump with both legs wide apart. At the word 'Three,' jump and bring the legs close together. That's the one that shoots you ahead."
This was repeated a dozen or more times and then Eric started the youngsters doing both the arm and leg motions together. It was really hard work, but when he let the urchins go at the end of about half an hour, some of them could do it like clockwork.
Courtesy of U.S. Volunteer Life-Saving Corps.]
"How much real swimming do you suppose the kids learn from that stuff?" Willett asked.
"About one-third of them can swim right away," Eric answered. "It's mostly in getting used to it. After all, if a kid gets hold of the right stroke and practises enough so that he can do it automatically, he can't do anything else but that when he gets into the water. The more scared he is, the surer he is to do the thing he's got used to doing. What sends people down in the water, is that they've got a wrong idea. They wave their arms about, and as soon as your arms are out of the water, it just alters the balance enough to put your mouth under."
"Seems to me I might learn something from that myself—" Willett was beginning, when a long-continued whistle blast sounded from the station. Eric was off like a shot. Quick as he was, however, he was only just in time to scramble into the first boat.
"What is it?" the boy asked.
"Motor-boat on fire," answered the coxswain, "an explosion, most likely. I guess the boat's done for, but the Eel saw the trouble the minute it happened, so we oughtn't to have any trouble picking the people up. He said there were girls, though, and probably they can't swim."
As the life-saving boat cut through the water, it passed three or four swimmers who had started out from the beach on seeing the accident. There was a great deal of excitement on shore, as, being a fine Sunday morning, the beach was crowded.
"We'll be with you in a minute," shouted one of the intending rescuers as the boat swept by.
As usual, the Eel was the first man overboard, and his queer snake-like stroke showed to full effect. There had been five people in the boat, three men and two girls, one of them just a child. One of the men and one of the women couldn't swim a stroke. The woman had already given up and the Eel took care of her. Another of the life-savers tackled the struggling man.
It was evident that there was no need for more help there, so Eric swam to where the little girl was striking out bravely for the shore.
"Can I give you a hand?" he asked.
The child, though swimming pluckily, evidently was hampered by being fully dressed.
"Can't swim a bit with my boots on," she gurgled. The boy smiled with genuine appreciation of her grit.
"You're the real thing," he said. "But it is hard swimming with boots on. Suppose you let me take you to shore. It's just as easy!"
He swam in front of the child.
"Put your hands on my shoulders," he said, "and keep your feet well up. Are you all right now?"
"Quite all right," she answered, dashing the water out of her eyes.
"I see they've put the fire out," said Eric, swimming quietly and easily, for the girl's touch was like a feather on his shoulder. "I don't believe the boat's much hurt."
"I'd be awfully glad if it wasn't," she answered, "because Jack just borrowed it for the day and I'm sure he's feeling terribly. We were just going to buy one this week."
"Perhaps this will scare him off."
In spite of her fatigue and fright the girl laughed brightly as Eric's feet touched bottom and he stood up.
"It might him, but it won't me," she said, with a joyous disregard of grammar. "And Jack's buying the boat mainly for me. I really can swim quite well, but I suppose the explosion scared me. I don't believe I'd have been frightened a bit if I had jumped in of my own accord. But it was all so sudden!"
"Well," said Eric, "it's a good thing for you it didn't happen a long way from shore. And I'm glad I was able to help a bit, too, because this is my last day on duty and having helped you is about the best way of celebrating it that could have happened."
"Your last day?" she said, with a note of regret in her voice. "You're going away?"
"Yes," Eric replied, as they came to the water's edge and the crowd began to congregate to meet them, "I'm just getting ready to join the Coast Guard!"
"Great!" she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling, as she shook back her wet hair. "But how can I thank you?"
"You have thanked me," the boy answered, as he took her to the beach where the lifeboat had landed and where her friends were anxiously awaiting her, "you've given me a chance to quit in a sort of 'blaze of glory.' Don't you think that's something?"
"But won't you tell me who you are?" she pleaded.
"United States Volunteer Life-Saving Corps," he answered with a smile, as he turned to go back to the station, "that's where the credit ought to go."
"So this is your last day, Eric," said the Eel, an hour or so later, as the boy stood on the platform of the life-saving station, looking regretfully at the strip of beach.
"Yes, Eel," Eric rejoined thoughtfully. "I hate to leave here, too."
"I always hate to go, of course," his chum agreed, "but then it's different with me. This is my vacation. When I quit here, it means that I've got to get back to work. You're only going back to school."
"Not my fault," was the half-rueful answer; "I'd a heap sooner be going into the Coast Guard right away. But I'm not ready yet."
"You will be, next year," said his friend, sympathetically.
"I know. But next year's a long way off and I wanted to stay here until I was sure of my appointment. If Father were only going to stay another year on the coast, I could finish my work here and then get ready for the exams in June."
"Is he leaving?"
"Of course. Don't you remember I told you before!"
"Yes, so you did. I'd forgotten."
"We're hiking off at the end of this month. Father's been put in charge of one of the districts on the Great Lakes."
"But I thought he was inspector here?"
"He's been acting-inspector for quite a while. But that was a temporary appointment, while the inspector was ill."
"And you're going home a couple of weeks ahead to help pack, eh?"
"Ye-es," Eric answered, "of course that's a part of it. But I'm going now because I want to see Uncle Eli before I go East. He's on Tillamook Rock, you know."
"I knew he used to be," the Eel said, "but I thought when he made that big real estate haul, he quit."
"He tried to," the boy agreed, "but he found he couldn't. Uncle Eli's an old-timer, Eel. I used to be jealous of the Tillamook Light. He's just as fond of it as he is of me, more, I think. I can quite see how he would feel that way. It's always been just like his child. He was there when the light was born."
"You mean its designing?"
"I mean its being born," Eric insisted. "Nearly all my people have been in the Lighthouse Service, you know. They all have that way of thinking of the lights as if they were real folks. It's something like a captain's idea about his ship. She's always alive. And lights are just as responsive. Some way, I've a bit of that same feeling myself."
"Yes," the Eel said thoughtfully, "I can see that, in a way. They do seem a bit human, don't they? And it must be deadly lonely for the keepers, out of reach of everybody, with nothing to do."
"What?" shouted Eric, so loudly that the Eel jumped. "With nothing to do?"
"Except just attend to the light," his chum said apologetically. "What else is there?"
"I suppose you think they just light the lantern when they have a mind to and then snore all night long?"
"N-no, of course they can't," the Eel replied, humbly, "I hadn't thought of that. I suppose they have to keep watch."
"You bet they do," Eric said emphatically, "and a mighty close watch at that. And when it comes to discipline—the Lighthouse Service has every civilian organization in America beaten to a frazzle."
"I didn't know it was so strict."
"Strict! Carelessness means dishonorable dismissal, right off the bat! Not that there's ever much chance of such a thing ever being needed. The Commissioner has built up such a sense of pride in the service that a chap would do anything rather than neglect his duty. I'll tell you a story of a woman light-keeper, a woman, mind you, Eel, that'll show you. You know Angel Island?"
"Right here in San Francisco Bay?"
"That's the one. You know that there's a light and a fog signal there?"
"I hadn't ever thought of it," the other replied. "Yes, I guess there is."
"There's a new fog-horn on that point now, Eel, but when I was quite a small shaver, in 1906, the fog signal was a bell, rung with a clapper. In July of that year the clapper broke and couldn't be used. A heavy fog came down and blanketed the island so that you couldn't see anything a foot away. That woman light-keeper stood there with a watch in one hand and a nail-hammer in the other and struck that bell once every twenty seconds for twenty hours and thirty-five minutes until the fog lifted. She didn't stop for meals or sleep. Two days later, the bell not having yet been fixed, another fog came down at night and she did the same thing the whole night long. That's what I call being on the job!"
"Yes," the Eel agreed with admiration, "you can't beat that, anywhere."
"And you spoke of light-keepers being idle!" continued Eric, warming to his subject. "Keeping a lighthouse in the shape that the Commissioner insists on isn't any easy chore. I tell you, the operating room of a hospital isn't any cleaner than the inside of a lighthouse. They tell a story in the service of a hot one that was handed to a light-keeper by one of the inspectors. The keeper hadn't shaved that morning. The instant the inspector saw him, he said:
"'If the lamp doesn't look better kept than you do, you're fired!'"
"That's swift enough!" the older boy answered, with a whistle.
"Nothing saved that light-keeper but the fact that everything else about the place was in apple-pie order. I've heard Father tell how some of the inspectors go around with a white handkerchief, and if they find any dust—there's trouble for somebody!"
"Don't you think that's carrying it a bit too far?" queried his chum.
"I used to think so," Eric said, "but I don't now. I've got the idea that's behind the rule. Everybody isn't cut out to be a light-keeper. The work calls for just one thing, a tremendous conscientiousness. There's no one to keep constant tab on men in isolated stations. Men who haven't got the right point of view won't stay in the service, and those who have got it, get it developed a lot more. The way it looks to me, the Commissioner has built up an organization of men who do their work because they believe in it, and who naturally have a liking for regularity and order."
"You're sure stuck on the Lighthouse Service, Eric," said his chum with a laugh.
"Why wouldn't I be?" the lad replied. "If all my folks are in it, I've probably got some of that same sort of feeling in my blood. But I'm different, too. The same thing to do over and over again, day after day, month after month, would get my goat. I want to do something that's got more variety and more opportunity. That's why I'm going to join the Coast Guard—if I can get in."
"Well," the Eel said, sighing, "I envy you. So far as I can see, I'm like your lighthouse-keeper. I'm stuck at a desk for the rest of my life. You go ahead, Eric, and do the big stuff in rescue work, with uniform and epaulets and all the rest of it. I'll stay right on my job in the city and—on Saturdays, Sundays, and vacations—I'll do my little best in the volunteer job on this beach."
"It's bully work here, all right," agreed Eric, "and I'm only sorry I can't be in two places at once. Good luck, old man," he continued, shaking hands with his chum heartily, "I'll drop you a line written right on Tillamook Rock, and maybe it'll have the real sea flavor to it!"
Eric was quite excited in joining his father at Astoria, where they were to take the lighthouse-tender Manzanita to Tillamook Rock. During all the years his father had been connected with the light, both as light-keeper and as inspector, he had never taken his wife or son there. Of course, under no circumstances would they have been allowed to stay over night, but Eric had never even visited the rock. The boy had begged for a chance to stay over one night, just to stand one watch in the lighthouse, but—rules were rules. The utmost privilege he could get was permission to go to the lighthouse with his father, when the latter was making his final inspection before transfer to another district.
"I hear you've been distinguishing yourself, Eric," the veteran said, when the Manzanita had cast off from the wharf.
"How do you mean, Father?"
"Rescues, and that sort of thing. It made me feel quite proud of my son."
"There were a few," the lad answered, with a quick flush of pride at his father's praise, "but at that I don't think I got my full share. We had a fellow there we called the 'Eel.' Nobody else had a chance to get anything when he was around."
"Good swimmer, eh?"
"He was a wonder! Why, Father, he used to swim under water nearly all the time, just putting his nose out to breathe once in a while, and at the end of his side stroke he had a little wiggle that shot him ahead like greased lightning. Funniest stroke you ever saw!"
"Couldn't you pick it up?"
"Oh, I got the stroke all right," Eric answered confidently, "but I can't do it the way he did. And you should have seen him dive!"
"I always was glad you took kindly to that work," said the inspector thoughtfully, "because I believe it is pretty well handled, now that it's on an official basis. It certainly supplements the government's life-saving work very well. I've wondered, sometimes, whether it oughtn't to be taken hold of by the nation."
"I don't think it's necessary, Father," Eric replied. "You see, if it was a government station, the regular crew would have to be on duty all the time. There's no need for that. There aren't any accidents there, except when the beach is crowded, and that's just for Saturdays and Sundays, mainly, and a couple of months in the summer."
"That may all be true, but when an accident does occur, experts are needed in a hurry. Amateur work doesn't amount to much as a rule."
"This isn't amateur!" protested the boy. "Why, Father, do you know what a chap has to do before he can even enlist?"
"No," the other replied. "I never heard the requirements, or if I did, I've forgotten them. What are they?"
"A fellow who applies has got to show that he can swim at least a hundred yards in good style, and twenty yards of that must be in coat, trousers, and shoes. He's got to be able to dive and bring up something from the bottom, at a depth of ten feet. He's got to swim twenty yards carrying a person his own weight and show that he knows three different ways of carrying a drowning person in deep water. He's got to show that he can do at least three of the ways to 'break' death-grips made by a drowning person. And besides that, he's got to know all about first aid, especially resuscitation."
"You mean that an applicant has to pass that test before entering the volunteers at all?"
"He sure has, and he's got to show that he can do it easily, too!"
"That's good and stiff," said the old inspector. "You can do all that, Eric, eh?"
The boy smiled.
"I've got a Proficiency Medal, Father," he said, not a little proudly.
"What's that for?"
"That's the test to show you're really A 1. To get that medal you've got to swim under water for over thirty-five feet, you've got to know all the 'breaks,' and you've got to show a 'break' to be made by a third party if you're rescuing a rescuer who has got into the clutch of a drowning man in any way that he can't shake loose. Besides that, you've got to swim back-stroke sixty feet with the hands clear out of water, and sixty feet side, using one arm only. Then, just to show that it isn't exhibition stuff but the real goods in training for life-saving, you're made to swim sixty feet fully dressed and back forty feet, on the return carrying a man your own weight; dropping him, you have to start right off for another sixty feet out and forty feet back, this time carrying the man back by a different method."
"It's real swimming!" exclaimed the veteran of the sea.
"You bet," said Eric, "and I'm not nearly through. There's another sixty-foot swim, and at the end of it you've got to dive at least twelve feet and bring up from the bottom a dead weight of not less than ten pounds and swim ten feet carrying that weight. I tell you, Father, that's quite a stunt! And then, besides all the swimming stuff, you've got to show that you're Johnny-on-the-spot in throwing a life-buoy, to say nothing of a barrel of tests in first aid, and in splicing and knot-tying of nearly every sort and shape. You don't get any chance to rest, either. All that swimming business has to be done on the same day. It's a good test of endurance, all right."
"And you passed it, son?"
"I got ninety per cent.," Eric answered. "I thought I'd told you all about it. No, I guess it came off when you were on one of your trips. I don't go much on boasting, Father, but I really can swim."
"Well, my boy," the other said, "I'll take a little credit for that. Don't forget I was your first swimming teacher! But I couldn't do all those things you've been telling me about, now. I'm glad to know they've got as high a standard as that in the Volunteer Corps. I shouldn't wonder if the Coast Guard would be able to get some of its best men from the volunteer ranks. Take yourself, for example."
"It's done me a lot of good," said the boy.
"Of course it has. It would do anybody good. But I've been wanting to ask you, Eric, what effect the formation of this new Coast Guard will have on your plans?"
"It won't hurt them a bit," the boy answered. "I wrote to the Captain Commandant about it and he sent me the dandiest letter! I'll show it to you when my trunk gets home. You see, Father, when the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service joined together under the name of the Coast Guard, it was arranged that every member of both services might reenlist without examination. And my application was in last year. So that there's nothing special, I'm just going through the regular order of things. That is, if I can make the Coast Guard Academy."
"You ought to manage it, I think," said his father. "I'm really glad you have made up your mind to it, Eric," he continued; "it's a good full-size man's job. And you have quite a bit of the salt in your veins, my lad, for, after all, most of your kin are seafaring folk."
"You never had anything to do with the old Revenue Cutter Service, had you, Father?"
"I was never a member of it," the other replied, "but I've seen it at work, many times these forty years. No, I got into the Lighthouse Service when I was about your age and I've given every bit of myself to it ever since. I'm glad I did. I think the last fifty years has shown the greatest development of safety at sea since the days of the discovery of the compass."
"Yet you didn't want me to join!"
"Not now," the old inspector answered. "Conditions have changed. The Lighthouse Service of to-day is a complete and perfected organization. Every mile of United States territory is covered by a beacon light. We were pioneers."
"I see," said the boy thoughtfully.
"It's a good deal the same sort of development that's struck the cattle country," the Westerner said, meditatively. "When I was a youngster, a cattle-puncher was really the wild and woolly broncho-buster that you read about in books. In the days of the old Jones and Plummer trail, when there wasn't a foot of barbed wire west of the Mississippi, a cowboy's life was adventurous enough. A round-up gang might meet a bunch of hostile Indians 'most any time, and a man had to ride hard and shoot straight. But now the ranges are all divided up and fenced in. The range-runner has given way to the stock-raiser. It's like comparing Dan'l Boone to a commercial traveler!"
"I don't quite see how that fits the Lighthouse Service," said Eric, smiling at the Daniel Boone comparison.
"Well, it does to a certain extent. When I first went into the Service, half the coast wasn't protected at all. And even the important lights we had were weak, compared with what we have now. Why, Eric, we've got lights so powerful now that we can't even tell how strong they are!"
The boy looked up incredulously.
"It's an absolute fact," the old inspector continued. "The most powerful light we have is on Navesink Highlands, near the entrance of New York Harbor. It's reckoned at between two million and ten million candle-power. Nobody's been able to measure it. The United States Bureau of Standards was going to do it, but so far, they've left it severely alone."
"How far can that be seen, Father?"
"All depends on the height of the ship's deck from the water," was the reply. "The curvature of the earth determines that. Say, thirty miles on a vessel of moderate size. But the reflection of the Navesink Light on the sky has been seen as far away as eighty miles."
"Yes, white flashing," was the reply.
"I've noticed," the boy said thoughtfully, "that red is only used for the smaller lights. I wanted to ask you about that the other day. Now there's Point Adams Light," he continued, pointing off the starboard bow as the lighthouse-tender steamed out of the mouth of the Columbia River, "it looks just as big as this light on the other side, on Cape Disappointment, but it's a lot harder to see. When I've been headed for home, on a misty night, after a day's fishing, I've missed Point Adams when Cape Disappointment was as clear as could be."
"But you could see other lights?"
"Oh, yes, there wasn't any difficulty in making the harbor, either in or out. I was just wondering whether the color of the light had anything to do with making it seem dim?"
"Of course," his father answered; "a red glass cuts off sixty per cent, of the light. You can't see the Point Adams Light for more than about eleven miles, but, in ordinarily clear weather, you can see the fixed white light of Cape Disappointment for all of twenty-two nautical miles."
"I don't quite see why," said the boy, puzzled.
"That's because you're not taking the trouble to think," was the impatient reply. "You know that light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow?"
"And red is only a small part of that, isn't it?"
"Well, don't you see? Red glass only lets the red rays through and cuts off all the rest. How could it help being a lot fainter? And, what's more, red doesn't excite the nerves of the eye as much as white does, so that if there were two lights of equal power, one red and one white, the red would be less easily seen."
"Why do the railroads use red for danger signals, then?"
"Habit, mainly. It's wrong, of course, and a good many of the railroads are changing their danger signals from red to yellow. So far as we're concerned in the Lighthouse Service, however, we're getting rid of all the fixed red lights wherever a long-range warning is needed."
"How do you distinguish the different lights, then?"
"Using flashing lights, with flashes of different duration."
"Why didn't you always do that?" asked Eric.
"Didn't know enough," was the simple reply. "It's only lately that we've found out how to work a flashing light without any loss of power. In the old days we used to depend on occulting lights, but now, flashing lights are much more powerful. You know the difference?"
"Sure! An occulting light means that some of the time the light is shut off, and at others it isn't. Wasn't it worked by a revolving shutter with wide slits in it?"
"That was the old idea. We use it still as a cheap way of changing a fixed light to one with a definite character. It works all right, only it's a waste of power to have the light darkened part of the time. Then, too, if the shutter revolves too quickly, the light is like little flashes of lightning, while, if it goes too slowly, a lookout might happen to scan that point on the horizon at the instant it was dark. In that way the value of the warning would be lessened."
"I know the flashing light is quite different, Father, but just how is it worked?" asked the boy. "It's because of some arrangement of the lens, isn't it?"
"Exactly. Light travels in straight lines in every direction. One of the problems of illumination in lighthouse work is to make all these beams come to one focus. We don't want to light the sky, nor the sea at the foot of the lighthouse. So a first-order light is built up of rows on rows of prisms so arranged that the light will be refracted from every direction to one point. An ordinary student's reading lamp, inside a big lighthouse lens, would give a light that could be seen a good many miles!"
"That is, if it were high enough up."
"Just how quickly does the earth's curve come into play, Father? I know the earth is round, of course, but, somehow, it seems so big that one never thinks of taking it into any practical account."
"It works mighty rapidly, my boy," said the old inspector. "You put a light right at sea level, on a day when there isn't a ripple on the sea, and five miles away, at sea level, you won't see a sign of it! Fifteen feet is the unit. Fifteen feet above sea level, you can see a light fifteen feet above sea level, seven miles away."
"Then why not build lighthouses like the Eiffel Tower, a thousand feet high!"
"Once in a while, Eric," his father said, rebukingly, "you talk absolutely without thinking. Didn't I just show you that the rays of a lantern had to be sent out in a single beam?"
"Yes, but what of that?"
"Can't you see that if your light is too high, the beam will have to strike the water at such an angle that its horizontal effect would be lost? That would mean that a ship could see the light seventy miles away, and lose it at fifty or forty miles from the lighthouse. No, boy, that wouldn't work. Tillamook Rock is quite high enough!"
"It does look high," agreed the boy, following his father's gaze to where, over the port bow, rose the menacing and forbidding reef on which the light stood.
"It's the meanest bit on the coast," said the inspector. "Wouldn't you say the sea was fairly smooth?"
"Like a mill-pond," declared Eric. "Why?"
"That just shows you," said his father. "You'd have to nail the water down to keep it from playing tricks around Tillamook. Look at it now!"
The lad's glance followed the pointing finger. There was hardly a ripple on the sea, but a long slow lazy swell suggested a storm afar off. Slight as the swell was, it struck Tillamook Rock with a vengeful spirit. Long white claws of foam tore vainly at the grim reef's sides and the roar of the surf filled the air.
"Mill-pond, eh?" said the inspector. "Well, I can see where I get good and wet in that same mill-pond."
He slipped on a slicker and a sou'wester.
"You'd better dig up some oilskins, Eric," he said. "Any of the men will let you have them."
The boy slipped off part of his clothes, standing up in undershirt and trousers.
"I like it better this way," he said.
The old inspector looked at his son with approval and even admiration. Considering his years, the lad was wonderfully well developed, largely as a result of swimming, and his summer with the Volunteer Corps had sunburned him as brown as a piece of weathered oak.
"I think I'd rather go in that kind of a costume myself," his father said, with a chuckle, "but I'm afraid it would hardly do for my official uniform on an inspection trip!"
As he spoke, the rattle of the boat-davits was heard.
"Come along then, lad," said the inspector. "Just a moment, though. Don't get any fool idea about showing off with any kind of a swimming performance. You just be good and thankful to be hauled up by a crane!"
The boy took another look at Tillamook Rock, frowning above the surf.
"I'm not hankering after a swim there," he said; "I don't claim to be amphibious, exactly. As you say, it's calm enough on the open water, but I don't think anything except a seal or a walrus or something of that kind could land on that rock. Not for me, thank you. I'll take the crane, and gladly."
The ropes rattled through the davit blocks, and, as the Manzanita heeled over a little, the boat took water, the blocks were unhooked, her bows given a sharp shove and she was off.
Down at water level, the slight swell seemed considerably larger. Indeed, it actually was increasing. And, as they pulled in toward the entrance of the reef, the boat met a rip in the current that seemed to try to twist the oars from the hands of the boat-pullers. But lighthouse-tender sailors are picked men, and though the little boat was thrown about like a cork, she fairly clawed her way through the rip. As they neared the entrance in the reef, the surf rushed between the rocks, throwing up spume and spray as though a storm were raging. Eric had to look back out to sea to convince himself that the ocean was still as calm as it had seemed a moment or two before. In among the crags to which the boat was driving, there was a turmoil of seething waters, which came thundering in and which shrank away with a sucking sound, as though disappointed of a long hoped-for vengeance.
"It's like a witches' pot!" shouted Eric to his father.
"This is about as calm as it ever gets," was the inspector's unmoved reply. "You ought to see Tillamook when it's rough weather! I've seen it with a real gale blowing, when it seemed impossible that the rock could stand up five minutes against the terrific battering. Yet it just stands there and defies the Pacific at its worst, as it has, I suppose, for a hundred thousand years or more, and the light shines on serenely."
With consummate steering and a finer handling of the oars than Eric had ever seen before—and he was something of an oarsman himself—the boat from the lighthouse-tender neared the Rock. It was held immediately under the crane and a rope was lowered with a loop on the end of it. The inspector swung himself into this and went shooting up in the air, like some oilskin-covered sea-gull. He took it as a matter of course, all a part of the day's work, but, just the same, it gave Eric a queer sensation. It was his turn next.
In a moment the loop was down again for him. The rest of the boat's crew were busy getting ready the mail bag, the provisions and the other supplies that they had brought with them, so the boy stepped unhesitatingly into the loop.
Swish! He was on his upward flight almost before he knew it. The back curl of a breaker, baffled in its attack on the rock, drenched him to the skin. He laughed, for this was just what he had bargained for. Beneath him, already but a small spot on the sea, was the boat he had left; above him the grim nakedness of the barren rock, and below, snarling with impotent fury, was the defeated surf.
The crane above him creaked as it swung inboard. Drenched, cold, but thoroughly happy, Eric stood on Tillamook Rock. For the moment, at least, he was one with that little band of men which is Uncle Sam's farthest outpost against the tempest-armies of the western seas.
HEROES OF THE UNDERGROUND
Knowing that his father had spent many years on Tillamook Rock, Eric was eager to see every nook and cranny of the building, and he importuned his uncle to go with him over the structure. But, although the inspector and the light-keeper were brothers, the trip was an official one, and his uncle deputed one of the assistant light-keepers to show the lad around.
Eric was not slow in making use of his time. He climbed up to the lantern and saw for himself close at hand the lens he had so often heard described, astonishing his guide with all sorts of questions. Most of these showed an extraordinary knowledge of lights and lighthouses, in which a mass of information was combined with utter ignorance of detail. This was due to the boy's long acquaintance with the Lighthouse Service through the several members of his family who had served in it.
"You know," said Eric, "I had the idea that Tillamook Rock would seem a lot higher, when one was on top of it. When you look at it from the sea, it stands up so sheer and straight that it seems almost like a mountain."
"Well, lad," the assistant-keeper answered, "it is tolerable high. It's nigh a hundred feet to the level o' the rock, an' the light's another forty. It's none too high, at that."
"Why? The sea can't hurt you much, this high up!" said Eric, leaning over the railing of the gallery around the light and looking down. "Even a twenty-foot wave's a big one, and you're six or seven times as high up as that."
"You think we're sort o' peacefully floatin' in a zone o' quiet up here? You've got to revise your notion o' the Pacific quite a much! Neptoon can put up a better article of fight right around this same spot here than anywheres else I know. Maybe you didn' hear o' the time the sea whittled off a slice o' rock weighin' a ton or so and sort o' chucked it at the light?"
"No," said Eric, "I never heard a word about it. When was it?"
"Nigh about twelve years ago," the light-keeper said reminiscently. "It was the winter I got sick, an' I've got that night stuck good an' fast in my think-bank. There was a howlin' nor'wester comin' down. She'd been blowin' plenty fresh for a couple o' weeks, but instead o' letting up, the sea kep' on gettin' more wicked. The way some o' the big ones would come dashin' in an' shinnin' up the rock as if they were a-goin' to snatch the buildin' down, was sure wearin' on the nerves. That winter, there was more'n once I thought the sea was goin' to nip off the lighthouse like a ball takin' off the last pin in a bowlin' frame."
"Dashing up against the lighthouse!" exclaimed the boy. "Aren't you putting that on a bit? Why you're over a hundred feet above sea level."
"In 'most any big storm the surf dashes up to the top o' the rock. But on this day I'm talkin' of, there was one gee-whopper of a sea. It broke off a chunk of rock weighin' every ounce o' half a ton, the way you'd bite off a piece o' candy, an' just chucked that rock at the lantern, breakin' a pane of glass, clear at the top of the tower."
The boy whistled incredulously.
"It's a dead cold fact," the other confirmed. "If you think I'm stretchin' it a bit, you read the Annual Report an' you'll find it's so."
"What did you do?"
"We put in a new glass," said the keeper.
"During the storm?"
"We haven't got any business to worry about storms, we've only got to keep the light goin'," was the reply. "If the End o' the World was scheduled to come off in the middle of the night, you can bet it would find the Tillamook Rock Light burnin'! Storm! Takes a sight more than a sixty mile gale an' a ragin' sea to stop a Lighthouse crowd. You know that yourself, or you oughter, with your folks. No, sir! There's no storm ever invented that can crimp the Service. We had that broken glass out and a new one in place, in just exactly eighteen minutes. It was some job, too! The chaps workin' on the outside had to be lashed on to the platform."
"Why, because of the wind?"
"Just the wind. That little breeze would have picked up a two-hundred-pound man like a feather."
"Weren't you scared?"
"No," said the light-keeper, "didn't have time to think of it. Cookie was scared, all right."
"Have you a cook on the rock?" said Eric in surprise, "I thought you all took turns to cook."
"The men do, in most o' the lighthouses," was the reply, "but Tillamook's so cut off from everything that we've five men on the post. That means quite a bit o' cookin', an' so we have a chef all our own. Didn't you ever hear the story o' Cookie?"
"Never," said the boy, "go ahead!"
"Quite a while ago," the light-keeper began, "the Service hired a cook for Tillamook. He was a jim-dandy of a cook an' could get good money ashore. But he'd been crossed in love, or he'd lost his money, or something, I don't remember what, an' so he wanted to forget his sorrows in isolation."
"Sort of hermit style?" suggested Eric.
"That's it, exactly. Well, Cookie took the job, an' the tender tried to land him here. Three times the tender came out, an' each trip the sea was kickin' up didoes so that he couldn't land. He got scared right down to his toes an' they couldn't make him get into the boat. But each time he went back to town, after having renigged that way, his friends used to josh the life out of him.
"So, one day, when it was fairly calm, he said he would go. He'd been teased into it. The captain o' the tender chuckled, for he knew there was quite a sea running outside, but they started all right. Sure enough, soon as they rounded the cape, the sea was runnin' a bit. It didn't look so worse from the deck o' the tender, an' Breuger—that was the cook's name—was telling the first officer how the world was going to lose the marvelous cookin' that he alone could do.
"But, as soon as Tillamook Rock come in sight, Cookie's courage began to ooze. He talked less of his cookin' and more o' what he called 'the perils of the sea.' As soon as the tender come close to the rock, he fell silent. The boat was swung out an' Cookie was told to get in. As before, he refused.
"'That's all right,' said the skipper, who had been expectin' him to back out. 'We'll help you. It's a bit hard climbing with the rheumatism.'"
"Did he have rheumatism?" asked the boy, grinning in anticipation.
"You couldn't prove he didn't have it!" responded the light-keeper with an answering flicker of a smile. "The captain turned to a couple of sailors. 'Give him a hand,' he said, 'he needs it.'
"Two husky A.B.'s chucked Breuger into the boat, an' before Cookie realized what was happenin', the boat was in the water an' cast off from the side o' the tender. But he had some sense, after all, for he saw there was no use makin' a fuss then. It was a bad landin' that day, four or five times worse than this afternoon, an' I guess it looked dangerous enough to a landsman to be a bit scarin'. One of the men went up with him, holdin' on to him, so he wouldn't get frightened an' drop, an' in a minute or two he was swung in to the landin'-place.
"There was one of our fellows here who was as funny as a goat, an' we had an awful time to keep him from raggin' Cookie. But we knew that Breuger was goin' to fix our grub for quite a spell and keepin' him in a good humor was a wise move. Anyway, when you're goin' to live in quarters as small as a lighthouse, you can't afford to have any quarrelin'. A funny man's all right, but he needs lots of room.
"So, instead of hazin' him for showin' the white feather so often, I praised Cookie for having made so brave a landin' on such an awful day. Quick as a wink, his manner changed. He just strutted. He slapped himself on the chest an' boasted of his line of warlike ancestors—seemed to go back to somewhere about the time of Adam. It never once struck him that every one else on the rock had had to make a landin' there, too. He gave himself the airs of bein' the sole hero on Tillamook. There were days when this was a bit tryin', but we forgave him. He could cook. Shades of a sea-gull! How he could cook! We used to threaten to put an extra padlock on the lens, lest he should try to fricassee it!"
"Easy there!" protested Eric.
"Well," said the other, "you know the big Arctic gull they call the Burgomaster?"
"Yes, I've seen it in winter once or twice."
"Breuger could cook that oily bird so's it would taste like a pet squab. He used to take a pride in it, too, an' he liked best the men who ate most. Now I was real popular with Cookie. Those were the days for eats!" and the light-keeper sighed regretfully.
"How long did he stay?" queried the boy.
"That's just the point," the other answered. "He never went back."
"Not alive," responded the light-keeper. "He'd had one experience of landin' an' he'd never risk another. He stayed on Tillamook for over eighteen years, never leavin' it, even for a day. An' he died here."
"Well," the boy commented, "this is where I'm going to differ from Cookie, for there's Father coming down." He looked over the edge. "It would make a great dive," he said, "if it weren't for the surf."
"It'd be your last," was the response. "Nobody could get out alive from that poundin'. More'n one good man's been drowned there. The first man that ever tried to build a lighthouse on this rock got washed off. That was the end of him."
"Tell me about it?" pleaded the boy. "There's just time enough!"
"Ask your dad," said the other; "he's got the early history o' Tillamook by heart. Meantime, I wish you all sorts of luck, lad, an' if ever you're in a Coast Guard vessel on this coast and see Tillamook flashin', don't forget the boys that never let a light go out!"
"Father," said Eric, a little later, when they had boarded the lighthouse-tender and got into dry clothes, "tell me the story of the building of Tillamook Lighthouse. They told me, over there, that you knew all about it."
"I ought to," the inspector replied, "I helped build it. And it was a job! I suppose Tillamook would be classed among the dozen hardest lighthouse-building jobs of the world."
"What would be the others?"
"Well, in America, on the Pacific Coast there's St. George's Reef. Spectacle Reef in the Great Lakes, and Minot's Ledge off Boston, were bad. There are a lot around England and Scotland, like Eddystone, Wolf Rock, the Long Ships, and Bell Rock—that's the old 'Inchcape Rock' you read about in school—and there was a particularly bad one called Or-Mar, in the Bay of Biscay. It took the engineer one year and a week before he could make the first landing on Or-Mar."
"Over a year!"
"A year and a week," the inspector repeated. "And Tillamook wasn't much better. It was in December 1878 that we got orders for a preliminary survey of the reef for the purpose of choosing a lighthouse site. After a dozen or more attempts, the engineer returned baffled. In the following June, six months later, the rock was still unviolated. No human foot had ever trodden it.
"Then the Department began to make demands. Washington got insistent. Urgent orders were issued that the rock would have to be scaled. The engineer was instructed to make a landing. Fortunately, toward the end of the month there came a spell of calm weather."
"Like the calm to-day?"
"Just about. That's as calm as Tillamook ever gets. After several more attempts, lasting nearly a week, the boat was run close to the rocks and two sailors got ashore. A line was to be thrown to them. No sooner were they ashore than the boat backed away, to keep from being stove in. Remembering that it had been six months before the boat had a chance of getting as near the rock as it had the minute before, the two sailors became panicky at seeing the boat back away. Both being powerful swimmers, they threw themselves into the sea and the boat managed to pick them up before the surf caught them.
"This had been enough to show that landing was not impossible. With the evidence that two sailors had ventured, the engineer could not withdraw. He was a bold and daring fellow himself. Two days later, although the sea was not nearly as calm, the boat was brought up to the rock again, and at almost the same landing-place as before, he succeeded in getting ashore.
"One of the things that makes Tillamook so dangerous is that you can never tell when it is suddenly going to change from its ordinary wildness to a pitch of really savage fury. A ground swell, hardly perceptible on the surface of the sea, will kick up no end of a smother on the rock. The engineer lost no time in his survey. He had already made a study of the rock from every point of the sea around it, so that he was able to do his actual survey ashore quickly. Less than an hour was enough. By that time he had every detail needed for his report.
"But when he was ready to go, Tillamook was less ready to loose her capture. The waves were dashing over the landing place and the sky was rapidly becoming beclouded. Yet, for the engineer, there was no question of choice! To stay there meant being marooned, death from exposure and starvation. There was nothing to do but dare. The engineer, beckoning for the boat to come in as near the rock as possible, cast himself into the sea. It was touch and go, but we picked him up, although he was nearly done for when we got him. The report was duly sent into Washington and approved.
"The next thing was to arrange about the actual building. For this a man of skill and experience was needed. John W. Trewavas, a famous lighthouse expert, one of the constructors of the Wolf Rock Light off the English Coast, came to America to pit his knowledge and his strength against the Pacific Ocean. Although it was summer weather, he hung around Tillamook for a month before there was even a chance to make a landing. Then, on September 18, 1879—I was steering the boat—Mr. Trewavas thought he saw his opportunity. I took the boat right in, so that her nose almost touched the rock. He leaped ashore, and, at the same instant, with a tremendous back-water stroke, the oarsmen jumped the surf-boat back out of danger. One second's—yes, half a second's—delay, and the boat would have been in splinters.
"The slope on which Trewavas had landed was wet and covered with slippery seaweed. Experienced and cautious, he waited for a moment to make sure of his foothold, well knowing the dangers of slipping. Peril was nearer him than he knew. A roller came breaking in, sending a spurt of water right over the spot where he was standing. So precarious was his footing that he did not dare move away quickly. Trewavas had just shuffled his feet a few inches further on that slippery slope when a comber heaved its great length along the rock. Almost without a curl it struck just below the landing and a boiling torrent of spume and spray hid the daring man from sight. Just for a second, but when the wave receded, he was gone. The rock was empty."
"Couldn't you pick him up, Father?"
"We never even saw him again, in that whirlpool of currents. The undertow dragged him down immediately and he never came to the surface. The body was never found."
"Who was the next to land?" asked Eric.
"I was," his father said, "and I landed on exactly the same spot. I had taken off my boots, but even so, the seaweed was slippery and dangerous. Remembering poor Trewavas' fate, in a jiffy I was off the slope and on the level platform of the rock. They threw me a line from the boat, and I pulled ashore some tools and supplies. With a rope to help them, several of the men joined me. That was the beginning of the conquest of Tillamook."
"And did that sort of business last all through?" queried the boy.
"Pretty much. Once, when the lighthouse was about half built, the schooner on which the men lived, and which was anchored a little distance off the rock, was blown from her moorings. A revenue cutter picked her up and brought her back. I tell you the men who were still on the rock had a sure-enough scare when they saw the schooner gone. They made sure they were marooned and done for. I had a job to keep them at work.
"Then there was another time, just when we were finishing the house, a terrific storm came up and the seas washed clear over the lower part of the rock. In the middle of the night there was an awful crash. Some of the men wanted to rush out to see what it was. I had to stand by the door with a revolver and threaten to shoot the first man who left."
"If they'd gone out, it's more than likely that some of them would have been washed or blown away, and I was responsible. In the morning we found that one of the tool-houses had been blown in. I watched those men like a hen does her chickens, and we didn't have a single accident in the building of Tillamook Rock Light after the work of actual construction was begun."
"You're sorry to say good-by to the old light, Father," said the boy sympathetically.
The old inspector roused himself from a reverie into which he had fallen.
"Yes," he admitted, "I am. But what the Commissioner says, goes! Of course it's always interesting to face new problems, and I'll have a freer hand on the Lakes. It'll be easier for you to get home from the East, too, when you're at the Academy."
"That's providing I get there all right," agreed Eric. "Winning into the Coast Guard is just about the one thing I want most in the world."
"And like everything else in the world that's worth getting, you've got to work for it," his father added. "Well, here we are at the wharf again. This is probably the last time you'll smell the old Pacific, Eric, for in another week it'll be a case of 'Go East, young man, go East!'"
"I hope it isn't going to be too cold for Mother," the boy suggested.
"It'll be cold enough, don't you worry about that," the other answered, "I've heard enough about the Great Lakes. But it's a clear cold, not damp like it is out here. The cold won't hurt you, anyway. It'll give you a chance to harden up."
When, ten days later, Eric helped the family to settle in its new home in Detroit, the headquarters of the Eleventh Lighthouse District, he thought his fears of cold would be unfounded. The unusual beauty of the city of Detroit in the haze of an autumn afternoon, gave no sense of a rigorous winter. This feeling received a jolt, however, when, strolling along the river front next day, he came across two of the huge ice-breaker car ferries, awaiting their call to defy Jack Frost. He was standing watching them, and trying to picture 'the Dardanelles of America' under the grip of ice, when a boy about his own age, with one arm in a sling, slapped him on the shoulder.
"Ed!" exclaimed Eric. "Who'd have thought of seeing you here!"
"Why not, old man?" said the other laughing, "I live here."
"Do you? Bully! So do I. The folks moved here yesterday."
"Your father, too?"
"I thought he'd never leave the Coast."
"He didn't want to," said Eric, "but he was appointed inspector in charge of this district, so he had to come. But what's happened to you," the lad continued, "what have you been doing with yourself?"
"Got my arm broken in a mine rescue," the other said.
"What kind of a mine rescue? An accident?"
"But what are you doing with coal mines?"
"I'm trying to qualify as a mining expert. You're not the only one who thinks Uncle Sam's the best boss there is. I'm going into the government, too."
"You are? In the Geological Survey?"
"Bureau of Mines," the other answered. "How about you? Still thinking of the Revenue Cutter Service—no, Coast Guard it is now, isn't it?"
"Yes, Coast Guard," Eric agreed. "You bet I'm going in, if I can make it. But the exams are the stiffest things you ever saw! I'm going to cram for them this whole winter."
"Isn't that great! I'm doing special work here, too. What's your end? Mathematics and navigation, I suppose?"
"Mostly mathematics," Eric replied. "What's yours?"
"Mineralogy and chemistry," his friend replied. "I'm going to try to specialize on the prevention of accidents in mines. I've got a good reason to remember my subject." He nodded with a certain grim humor to his bandaged arm.
"How did you do it?"
"I was down with a rescue party," said the older lad, "and we got caught. That was all."
With his characteristic impetuosity, Eric took hold of his friend's unbandaged arm and led him to a seat in Owen Park, just facing Belle Isle, the most beautiful island park in the United States. With his love of lighthouses, the Light at the northeast corner seemed to Eric like an old friend.
"There," he said. "Now you're going to sit right there, Ed, and tell me all about it. I've only had two or three letters from you since you left 'Frisco, and we were in First-Year High together."
"That's so," his friend agreed. "All right, if you've got to have the yarn, here goes." He leaned back on the bench, and began his story.
"You remember that Father was interested in mines?"
"Of course," Eric answered; "he showed me that little model of a colliery he kept in his study."
"You do remember that," the other said, his eyes kindling. "I helped him make it. It was a lot of fun. Dad was a crank on conservation. He was one of the first men in America to take it up. You know it was his influence that swung Washington into line? The waste in coal really used to worry him. He was always afraid of a coal famine, and he spent a lot of time doping out ways to stop the waste in mining. He was just daffy about it, then."
"I can remember that, too," the boy said reminiscently. "He had pictures showing how quickly the coal was being used up, and how much coal every person in the United States was consuming, and all that sort of stuff. It was always mighty interesting to me. Your dad and I got along finely together."
"You did," his friend agreed. "Well, after a while, Dad decided to drop his business in 'Frisco and go mining. He'd always kept close tabs on the coal question, so that, when he got ready to start, nothing would satisfy him but small holdings in half a dozen parts of the country."
"You see, Dad wasn't trying to make a pile of money out of mining; he wanted to experiment with all sorts of coal and find some way to use it so that there wouldn't be so much waste. The locomotive, for instance, only converts about thirty per cent. of the coal into power. The other seventy per cent. goes up the smokestack. Same thing with an ocean liner."
"I know," said the boy.
"All right. So Dad bought a mine in Illinois, and one in Manitoba, and took a half-share in some Minnesota mines and another in a Michigan mine. Then he joined a company in Pennsylvania, and I don't know what all. Anyhow, he's got stuff all over the place. It was out of the question for the rest of us to be traveling from mine to mine all the time, the way Dad jumps around, and so we settled here. It's sort of central for him.
"Being mixed up in such a lot of mines, Dad had a chance to work out some of his pet schemes. He'd always been enthusiastic over the government's relations with the miners, and when it started rescue work, he was one of the first to equip a rescue car and ask some of the experts to come out and instruct his miners how to handle it. You know Dad—everything he does, every one else has got to do?"
"He always was like that," Eric agreed.
"He's that way still. So, of course, I was elected to that first-aid business right away. I had to know it all! There's nothing half-way about Dad. Caesar's Ghost! How I slaved over that stuff! Luckily for me, they sent out a cracker-jack from Washington, and it was such good sport working with him that I soon picked it up. The next move was that I should go from one to another of Dad's mines and organize the rescue work. I've been doing that for the last year."
"I should think that was bully!" exclaimed Eric. "But how do you do it?"
"It's easy enough to start." The young fellow laughed. "I'm a regular rescue 'fan' now. I usually get two or three teams together and have a match. Talk about your kids on a baseball diamond in a vacant lot! Those miners' rescue teams have the youngsters skinned a mile for excitement when there's a rival test."
"But I don't see how you could have a fire-rescue match," said Eric, puzzled, "you can't set a mine on fire just to have a drill!"
"Scarcely! At least, you can't set a whole mine on fire. Once in a while, though, you can use an old mine shaft. But we generally do it in the field. There the entries and rooms are outlined with ropes on stakes. Across the entrances of these supposed rooms crossbars are laid, just the height of a mine gallery.
"The contest is to find out how good the men are, individually, and to teach them team work. Each man has a breathing apparatus, and a safety and electric lamp, while each crew has a canary bird."
"A canary bird!"
"What kind of a machine is that?" asked Eric, thinking the other was referring to some name for a piece of rescue apparatus.
"A canary bird? It's a yellow machine with feathers, and sings," said Ed, laughing.
"You mean a real canary bird?"
"Yes, a live one."
"But what the crickets do they need a canary bird for?"
"To give them a pointer as to when the air is bad. You see, Eric, there's all sorts of different kinds of poisonous gases in coal mines. Some you can spot right off, but there's others you can't."
"I thought gas was just gas," Eric answered, "'damp,' don't they call it?"
"There's several different 'damps.' Take 'fire damp' or just plain 'gas' as the miners call it. That's really methane, marsh gas, the same stuff that makes the will-o'-the-wisp you can see dancing around over a marsh. It'll explode, all right, but there's got to be a lot of it around before much damage'll be done. 'Fire damp' is like a rattlesnake, he's a gentleman."
"How do you mean?" queried the boy.
"Well, just the same way that a rattler'll never strike before giving you warning, 'fire damp' always gives you a chance ahead of time."
"You know every miner carries a safety lamp?"
"'Fire damp' makes a sort of little cap over the flame of the lamp, like a small sugar-loaf hat. As soon as a miner sees this, he knows that there's enough 'gas' around to make it dangerous. As it's a gas that it doesn't do much harm to breathe, you see he can always make a get-away. Isn't that being a gentleman, all right?"
"Yes, I guess it is."
"Then there's 'black damp.' That's ordinary carbon dioxide, or carbonic acid gas."
"Isn't that just the stuff we breathe out?" questioned Eric.
"Exactly," his former schoolmate replied. "In an old mine, though, you've got to remember, nearly all the oxygen is absorbed by the coal. That gives a lot less chance for a leak of carbonic acid gas to mix with enough oxygen to keep the air pure. For 'black damp' though, the lamp's a good guide again. When a miner sees that his lamp is beginning to burn dim, it's a sign the air's short of oxygen."