THE GRAIN SHIP
PUBLISHED BY McCLURE'S MAGAZINE AND METROPOLITAN MAGAZINE
The contents of this volume first appeared in the following magazines:
"The Grain Ship"—Harper's Monthly. "From the Darkness and the Depths"—New Story Magazine. "Noah's Ark"—The All-Story Magazine. "The Finishing Touch"—The Popular Magazine. "The Rock"—The Sunday Magazine. "The Argonauts"—Hampton's Magazine. "The Married Man"—The Smart Set. "The Triple Alliance"—Sunday Magazine. "Shovels and Bricks"—Harper's Weekly. "Extracts from Noah's Log"—The Home Magazine.
THE GRAIN SHIP 1
FROM THE DARKNESS AND THE DEPTHS 27
NOAH'S ARK 61
THE FINISHING TOUCH 84
THE ROCK 102
THE ARGONAUTS 131
THE MARRIED MAN 151
THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE 168
SHOVELS AND BRICKS 192
EXTRACTS FROM NOAH'S LOG 232
THE GRAIN SHIP
I could not help listening to the talk at the next table, because the orchestra was quiet and the conversation unrestrained; then, too, a nautical phrasing caught my ear and aroused my attention. For I had been a lifelong student of nautical matters. A side glance showed me the speaker, a white-haired, sunburned old fellow in immaculate evening dress. With him at the table in the restaurant were other similarly clad men, evidently of good station in life, and in their answers and comments these men addressed the white-haired man as Commodore. A navy captain, I thought, promoted on retirement. His talk bore it out.
"Yes, sirree," he said, as he thumped the table mildly. "A good, tight merchant ship, with nothing wrong except what might be ascribed to neglect such as light canvas blown away and ropes cast off the pins, with no signs of fire, leak, or conflict to drive the crew out, with plenty of grub in the stores and plenty of water in the tanks. Yet, there she was, under topsails and topgallant-sails, rolling along before a Biscay sea, and deserted, except that the deck was almost covered with dead rats."
"What killed them, Commodore," asked one; "and what happened to the crew?"
"Nobody knows. It might have been a poisonous gas from the cargo, but if so it didn't affect us after we boarded her. The log-book was gone, so we got no information from that. Moreover, every boat was in its chocks or under its own davits. It was as though some mysterious power had come down from above and wiped out the crew, besides killing the rats in the hold. She was a grain ship from 'Frisco, and grain ships are full of rats.
"I was the prize-lieutenant that took her into Queenstown. She was condemned in Admiralty proceedings and, later, restored to her owners. But to this day no man has told the story of that voyage. It is thirty years and more since then, but it will remain one of the unexplained mysteries of the sea."
The party left the table a little later, and left me, an ex-sailor, in a condition of mind not due to the story I had heard from the Commodore. There was something else roused into activity—something indefinite, intangible, elusive, like the sense of recognition that comes to you when you view a new scene that you know you have never seen before. It was nothing pertaining to myself or my adventures; and I had never heard of a ship being found deserted with all boats in place. It was something I must have heard at some time and place that bore no relation to the sea and its mysteries. It tormented me; I worried myself into insomnia that night, thinking about it, but at last fell asleep, and awakened in the morning with a memory twenty-five years old.
It is a long stretch of time and space from that gilded restaurant of that night to the arid plans of Arizona, and back through the years of work and struggle and development to the condition of a sailor on shore beating his way, horseback and afoot, across the country from the Gulf to the Pacific. But in my sleep I traversed it, and, lying on my back in the morning, puffing at my first pipe, I lived again my experience with the half-witted tramp whom I had entertained in my camp and who changed his soul in my presence.
I was a line-rider for a cattle company, and as it was before the days of wire fences, my work was to ride out each day along my boundary and separate the company's cattle from those of its neighbor, a rival company. It was near the end of the day, when I was almost back to camp, that I saw him coming along the road, with the peculiar swing to his shoulders and arms that, once acquired, never leaves the deep-water sailor; so I had no hesitancy in greeting him after the manner of seamen.
"Well, mate, how are you heading?" I inquired, as I leaned over the saddle.
"Say, pardner," he said, in a soft, whining voice, "kin you tell me where a feller might git a bite to eat around here?"
"Well," I answered, "yes and no. I thought you were a sailorman." Only his seamanly roll had appealed to me. His face, though bearded, tanned, and of strong, hard lines, seemed weak and crafty. He was tall, and strongly built—the kind of man who impresses you at first sight as accustomed to sudden effort of mind and body; yet he cringed under my stare, even as I added, "Yes, I'll feed you." I had noticed a blue foul anchor tattooed on his wrist.
"Come along, old man," I said, kindly. "You're traveling for your health. I'll ask no fool questions and say nothing about you. My camp is just around that hill."
He walked beside my horse, and we soon reached the camp, a log house of one room, with an adobe fireplace and chimney, a rough table, and a couple of boxes for seats. Also, there was a plank floor, a novelty and a luxury in that country at that time. Under this floor was a family of huge rats that I had been unable to exterminate, and I had found it easier and cheaper to feed them than to have them gnawing into my stores in my absence. So they had become quite tame, and in the evenings, keeping at a safe distance, however, they would visit me. I had no fear of them, and rather enjoyed their company.
I fed and hobbled my horse, then cooked our supper, of which my guest ate voraciously. After supper I filled my pipe and offered him another, but he refused it; he did not smoke. Then I talked with him and found him weak-minded. He knew nothing of consequence, nothing of the sea or of sailors, and he had forgotten when that anchor had been tattooed on his wrist. He thought it had always been there. He was a laborer, a pick-and-shovel man, and this was the only work he aspired to. Disappointed in him, for I had yearned for a little seamanly sympathy and companionship, I finished my smoke in the fire-light and turned to get the bed ready, when one of the rats sprang from the bed, across the floor and between the tramp and the fire; then it darted to a hole in the edge of the floor and disappeared. But its coming and going wrought a curious effect upon that wayfarer. He choked, spluttered, stood up and reeled, then fell headlong to the floor.
"Hello!" I said, anxiously; "anything wrong?"
He got on his feet, looked wildly about the place, and asked, in a hoarse, broken voice that held nothing of its former plaintiveness:
"What's this? Was I picked up? What ship is this?"
"No ship at all. It's a cow camp."
"Log cabin, isn't it?"—he was staring at the walls. "I never saw one before. I must have been out of my head for a while. Picked up, of course. Was the mate picked up? He was in bad shape."
"Look here, old man," I said, gently, "are you out of your head now, or were you out of your head before?"
"I don't know. I must have been out of my head. I can't remember much after tumbling overboard, until just now. What day is this?"
"Tuesday," I answered.
"Tuesday? It was Sunday when it happened. Did you have a hand in picking me up? Who was it?"
"Not me," I said. "I found you on the road out here in a dazed state of mind, and you knew nothing whatever of ships or of sailors, though I took you for a shellback by your walk."
"That's right. You can always spot one. You're a sailor, I can see, and an American, too. But what are you doing here? This must be the coast of Portugal or Spain."
"No, this is a cow camp on the Crossbar Range in the middle of Arizona."
"Arizona? Six thousand miles from there! How long have I been out of my head?"
"Don't know. I've only known you since sundown. You've just gone through a remarkable change of front."
"What day of the month is it?"
"The third day of December."
"Hell! Six months ago. It happened in June, Of course, six months is time enough for me to get here, but why can't I remember coming? Someone must have brought me."
"Not necessarily. You were walking along, caring for yourself, but hungry. I brought you here for a feed and a night's sleep."
"That was kind of you—" He involuntarily raised his hand to his face. "I've grown a beard, I see. Let's see how I look with a beard." He stepped to a looking-glass on the wall, took one look, and sprang back.
"Why, it isn't me!" he exclaimed, looking around with dilated eyes. "It's someone else."
"Take another look," I said. He did so, moved his head to the right and left, and then turned to me.
"It must be me," he said, hoarsely, "for the image in the glass follows my movements. But I've lost my face. I'm another man. I don't know myself."
"Look at that anchor on your wrist," I suggested. He did so.
"Yes," he said, "that part of me is left. It was pricked in on my first voyage." He examined his arms and legs. "Changed," he muttered. He rubbed his knees, and passed his hands over his body.
"What year was it when, as you say, you jumped overboard?" I asked.
"This is eighteen eighty-four. Matey, you have been nine years out of your head," I said.
"Nine years? Sure? Can you prove that to me? My God, man, think of it! Nine years gone out of my life. You don't know what that means to me."
I showed him a faded and discolored newspaper.
"That paper is about six months old," I said, "but it's an eighteen eighty-four paper."
"Right," he said, sadly and somewhat wildly. "Got a pipe? I want to smoke on this, and think it out. Nine years, and six thousand miles travel! Where have I been, I wonder, and what have I done, to change the very face of me, while I lived with it? It's something like death, I take it."
I gave him a pipe and tobacco, and he smoked vigorously, trembling with excess of emotion, yet slowly pulling himself together. Finally he steadied, but he could not smoke. He put the pipe down, saying that it sickened him. I knew nothing of psychology at the time, but think now that in his second personality he had given up smoking.
I forbore questioning him, knowing that I could not help him in his problem—that he must work it out himself. He did not sleep that night, and kept me awake most of the time with his twitchings and turnings. Once he was up, examining his face in the glass by the light of a match, but in the morning, after a doze of an hour or so, I found him outside, looking at the sunrise and smoking.
"I'm getting used to my new face," he said, "and I'm getting used to smoking again. Got to. Nothing but a smoke will help a fellow at times. What business is this you're in here?"
"Cow-punching—riding out after cattle."
"Hard to learn?"
"Easy for a sailor. I'm only hanging on until pay-day, then I make for 'Frisco to ship."
"And someone will take your place, I suppose. I'll work for my grub if you'll break me in so that I can get the job. I'm through with going to sea."
"Certainly. All I need is to tell the boss. I've an extra saddle."
So I tutored him in the tricks of cow-punching, and found him an apt pupil. But he was heavy and depressed, seeming to be burdened with some terrible experience, or memory, that he was trying to shake off. It was not until the evening before my departure, when I had secured him the job and we sat smoking before the mesquite-root fire, that he took me into his confidence. The friendly rat had again appeared, and he sprang up, backed away, and sat down again, trembling violently.
"It was that rat that brought you to yourself that evening," I ventured. "Rats must have had something to do with your past life."
"Right, they did," he answered, puffing fiercely. "I didn't know you had rats here, though."
"A whole herd of them under the floor. But they're harmless. I found them good company."
"I found them bad company. I was shipmates with thousands of rats on that last passage. Want the yarn? It'll raise your hair."
I was willing, and he reeled it off. His strong self-control never left him from the beginning to the end, though the effect upon me was not only to raise my hair, but at times to stop the beating of my heart. I left him next morning, and have never seen or heard of him since; but there is strong reason to believe that he never went to sea again, or told that yarn in shipping circles. And it is because I have not seen that old Commodore since the evening in the restaurant, and because I cannot recall the name of the ship, or secure full data of marine happenings of the year 1875, that I am giving that story to the world in this form, hoping it will reach the right quarters and explain to those interested the mystery of the grain ship, found in good shape, but abandoned by all but the dead rats.
* * * * *
"I shipped in her at 'Frisco," began Draper. "She was a big, skysail-yarder loading grain at Oakland, and as the skipper had offered me second mate's berth, I went over and sized her up. She seemed all right, as far as man may judge of a ship in port—nearly new, and well found in gear and canvas, which the riggers had rove off and bent. Her cargo of grain was nearly in, and there would be nothing much to do in the way of hard work. Still, I couldn't make up my mind. Something seemed to prevent me liking the prospect, so I went on up to Oakland to visit some friends, and on the way back, long after dark, stopped again at the dock for another look at her. And this time I saw what was needed to ease my mind and decide me. You know as well as I do that rats quit a ship bound for the bottom, and their judgment is always right, though no one knows why. And I reasoned that if rats swarm into an outbound ship she would have a safe passage. Well, that's what they were doing. Wharf rats, a foot long—hundreds of them—going up the mooring-chains, the cable to the dock, the lines, the fenders, and the gangway, some over the rail, others in through the mooring-chocks. The watchman was quiet, perhaps asleep; so, perhaps, every rat that went aboard got into the hold. I signed on next morning.
"Nothing occurred aboard that ship except the usual trouble of breaking in a new crew, until we'd got down to about forty south, when the skipper brought up a rat-trap with a big, healthy rat in it. He was a mild-mannered little man, and a rat and dog fight marked the limits of his sporting nature. That was what he was after. He had a little black-and-tan terrier, about the size of the rat, and there was a lively time around the deck for a while, until the rat got away. He put up a stiff fight with the dog, but finally saw his chance, and slipped into the forward companion of the cabin; then, I suppose, he found the hole he'd come up. But the dog had nipped him once, it seemed, for the rat left a tiny trail of blood after him. As for the dog, he nearly had a fit in his anger and disappointment, and when the skipper picked him up he nipped him, too. It was only a little wound on the skipper's thumb, but the dog's teeth were sharp, and the blood had come. The skipper gave him a licking, and the work went on.
"The dog was a spirited little fellow, and used to sit on the skipper's shoulder when we were going about, or wearing ship, or handling canvas, and he would bark and yelp and swear at us, bossing each job as though he knew all about it. It kept the men good-humored, and we all liked the little beast. But from the time of the licking he moped, and finally grew sick, slinking around the deck in a dispirited fashion, refusing any attention, and unwilling to remain a minute in one place. We felt rather sore at the skipper, who seemed ashamed now and anxious to make friends with the dog, for the little bite in his thumb had healed up. This went on for a few days, and then we woke up to what really ailed that dog. He was racing around decks one morning with his tongue hanging out, froth dropping from his mouth, and agonized yelps and whines coming from him.
"'My God!' cried the skipper, 'Now I know. He was bitten in 'Frisco. He is mad, and he has bitten me. Keep away from him everybody. Don't let him get near you.'
"I'll always count that in the skipper's favor. Bitten and doomed himself, he thought of others.
"We dodged the little brute until he had dropped in sheer exhaustion and gone into a spasm. Then we picked him up with a couple of shovels and threw him overboard. But this didn't end it, for the skipper was bitten. He studied up some books on medicine he had below, but found no comfort. I heard him tell the mate that there was nothing in the medicine chest to meet such an emergency.
"'In fact,' he said, mournfully, 'even on shore, with the best of medical skill, there is no hope for a man bitten by a mad dog. The period of incubation is from ten days to a year. I will navigate the ship until I lose my head, Mr. Barnes; then, for fear of harm to yourselves, you must shoot me dead. I am doomed, anyway.'
"We tried to reassure him, but his mind was made up and nothing would change it. Whether or not he had hydrophobia we could not tell at the time, but we knew that strong and intense thinking about it would bring on symptoms. In the light of after happenings, however, there was no doubt of it. He got sick after we'd rounded the Horn, fidgety, nervous, and excitable, and, like the dog, he couldn't stay long in one place; but he wouldn't admit that the disease had developed in him until the little scar on his thumb grew inflamed and painful and he experienced difficulty in drinking. Then he gave up, but he certainly showed courage and character.
"'I am against suicide on principle,' he said to Mr. Barnes and me, 'so I must not kill myself. But I am not against killing a wild beast that menaces the lives of human beings. I am to be such a wild beast. Kill me in time before I injure you.'
"But we didn't. We had the same compunctions about killing a sick man that he had about suicide. We strapped him down when he got violent, and after three days of frightful physical and mental agony he died. We buried him with the usual ceremonies, and Mr. Barnes took command.
"He and I had a consultation. We were well up toward the river Plate, and he was for putting into Montevideo and cabling the owners for orders. As he was a competent navigator I advised keeping on; and in this, perhaps, is where I earned my punishment. He took my advice, and we had reached up into the doldrums on the line, when a man turned out at eight bells of the middle watch—midnight, you know—and swore that a big rat had bitten him as he lay asleep. We laughed at him, even though he showed four bloody little holes in his wrist. But, three weeks later, that man was raving around the deck, going into periodic convulsions, frothing at the mouth, and showing every symptom that had preceded the death of the skipper. He died in the same horrible agony, and we realized that not only the skipper, but the rat bitten by the dog had been inoculated with the virus, and that the rat could inoculate other rats. We buried the man, and from that time on slept in our boots, with mittens on, and our heads covered, even in the hot weather of the tropics. It was no use. Mad rats appeared on deck, frenzied with pain, frothing at the mouth, fearless of all living things, a few at first and after dark, then in larger numbers night and day. We killed them as we could, but they increased. They filled the cabin and forecastles, and we found them in coils of rope up aloft in the tops, the crosstrees, and the doublings of the masts. They climbed everywhere, up or down, on a sail or its leach, a single rope or a backstay. The mate and myself, with the steward, could shut the doors of our rooms and keep them out until they chose to gnaw through, but the poor devils forward had no such refuge. Their forecastles and the galley and carpenter shop were wide open. Man after man was nipped, awake or asleep, on deck or below, or up aloft in the dark, when, reaching for another hold on a shroud or a backstay, he would touch something soft and furry, and feel the teeth and hear the squeak that spelled death for him.
"In two weeks from the death of the first sailor, seven others were sick; and all went through the symptoms—restlessness, talkativeness, and the tendency to belittle the case and to deny their danger. But the real symptom, which they had to accept themselves, was their inability to drink water. It was frightful to see the poor wretches, staggering around with eyes wide open and the terrible fear of death in them, going to the barrel for a drink, only to tumble back in convulsions at the sight of the water. We strapped them down as they needed it, and they died, one by one; for there was no helping them.
"We had started with a crew of twenty, a carpenter, sailmaker, steward, and cook, besides the mate and myself. Eight were gone now, and from the exhaustion of the remainder, due to extra work and loss of sleep, it became difficult to work ship. Men aloft moved slowly, fearing at any moment the sting of small, sharp teeth. Skysails, royals, and staysails blew away before men could get up to furl them. Gear that had parted was left unrove; for a panic-stricken crew cannot be bullied or coerced. Any of them would take a knock-down from the mate or myself rather than go aloft at night.
"We got clear of the doldrums in time, and by then six more of the crew, including the cook, had been bitten, and things looked bad. I now strongly advised the mate to put in to St.-Louis or some other port on the African coast, land the crew, and wait until the last rat had been bitten by his fellow and died; but he would not have it. To land the men, he said, meant to lose them, and to wait until another crew was sent by the owners. This would be loss of time, money, and prospects. I could only give way, even though the last item pertained solely to him. I was not a navigator, and did not hope for promotion to a command.
"So we held on, dodging the crazed men when the disease had reached their brains, knocking them down and binding them when necessary, and watching them die in their tracks like so many mad dogs. And all this time the number of rats that sought the deck for light and air was increasing. We carried belaying pins in our boots now, ready to swipe a rat that got too close; but as for killing them all this way, it was beyond any chance. There were too many, and they ran too fast. Before the six men had died, others had been bitten, and one had felt the teeth of a maddened shipmate. So the terrible game continued; we had only seven men before the mast now, and the carpenter and sailmaker had to drop their work and stand watch, while the steward quit being a steward to cook for those that were left.
"The man at the wheel had heard me arguing with the mate about making port, and, counting upon my sympathy, had prevailed upon the others forward to insist upon it. Well, you know the feeling of an officer up against mutiny. No matter what the provocation, he must put the mutiny down; so, when the men came aft, they found me with the mate, and dead against them. We called their bluff, drove them forward at the muzzles of our guns, and promised them relief from all work except handling sail if they would take the ship to Queenstown. They agreed, because they could not do anything else, and the mutiny was over. But my conscience bothered me later on; for if I had joined them, some lives might have been saved. Even though the mate was a big, courageous Irish-American half again as heavy as myself, he could not have held out against me with the crew at my back. But, you see, it would have been mutiny, and mutiny spells with a big M to a man that knows the law.
"Before we reached the Bay of Biscay every man forward, including the carpenter, sailmaker, and steward, had been bitten, either by a mad rat or a mad shipmate, and was more or less along on the way to convulsions and death. The decks, rails, and rigging, the tops, crosstrees, and yards, swarmed with rats darting along aimlessly biting each other, and going on, frothing at their little mouths, and squeaking in pain. By this time all thought of handling the ship was gone from us. The mate and I took turns at steering, and keeping our eyes open for a sail. But a curious thing about that passage is that from the time we dropped the Farallones, off 'Frisco, we did not speak a single craft in all that long four months of sailing. Once in a while a steamer's smoke would show up on the horizon, and again a speck that might be a sail would heave in sight for an hour or so; but nothing came near us.
"The mate and I began to quarrel. We had heeled ourselves with pistols against a possible assault of some frenzied sailor, but there was strong chance that we might use these playthings on each other. I upbraided the mate for not putting in to St.-Louis, and he got back at me for advising him against putting in to Montevideo. It was not an even argument, for the first sailor had not been bitten at the time I advised him. But it resulted in bad feeling between us. We kept our tempers, however, and kept the maddened men away from us until they died, one by one; then, with the wheel in beckets, and the ship steering herself before the wind, we hove the bodies overboard. There was no funeral service now; we had become savages.
"'Well,' said the mate, as the last body floated astern, 'that's done. Take your wheel. I'm going to sleep.'
"'Look out,' I said, grimly, 'that it's not your last.'
"'What do you mean?' he asked, eying me in an ugly way. 'Do you strike sleeping men?'
"'No; but rats bite sleeping men,' I answered. 'And understand, Mr. Barnes, I'd rather you'd live than die, so that I may live myself. With both alive and one awake a passing ship could be seen and signaled. With one dead and the other asleep, a ship might pass by. I shall keep a lookout.'
"'Oh, that's all, is it? Well, if that's all, keep your lookout.' His ugly disposition still held him. He went down, and I steered, keeping a sharp lookout around; for I knew that up in the bay there were sure chances of something coming along. But nothing appeared, and before an hour had passed, Mr. Barnes was up, sucking his wrist, and looking wildly at me.
"'My God, Draper,' he said, 'I've got it! I killed the rat, but he's killed me.'
"'Well, Mr. Barnes,' I said, as he strode up to me, 'I'm sorry for you; but what do you want?—what I would want in your place?—a bullet through the head?'
"'No, no.' He sucked madly at his wrist, where showed the four little red spots.
"'Well, I'll tell you, Barnes. You've shown antagonism to me, and you're likely to carry it into your delirium when it comes. I'll not shoot you until you menace me; then, unless I am too far gone myself, I'll shoot you dead, not only in self-defense, but as an act of mercy.'
"'And you?' he rejoined. 'You—you—you are to live and get command of the ship?'
"'No,' I answered, hotly. 'I can't get command. I'm not certificated. I want my life, that's all.'
"He left me without another word, and stamped forward. Rats ran up his clothing, reaching for his throat, but he brushed them off and went on, around the forward house, and then aft to me.
"'Draper,' he said, in a choked voice, 'I've got to die. I know it. I know it as none of the men knew it. And it means more to me.'
"'No, it doesn't. Life was as sweet to them as to you or the skipper.'
"'But I've a Master's license. All I wanted was my chance, and I thought my chance had come. Draper, if I'd taken this ship into port I'd have been a hero and obtained my command.'
"'So, that's your cheap way of looking at it, is it?' I answered, as I hove on the wheel and kicked rats from underfoot. 'A hero by the toll of twenty-four deaths. Down off the river Plate I didn't realize the horror of all this. Off St.-Louis I did, and advised you. You withstood, to be a hero. Well, I'm sorry for you, that's all.'
"A big rat jumped from the wheel-box at this moment, climbed my clothing, and had reached my chest before I knocked it off with my fist.
"'You see, Barnes, the rat does not know, and I did not kill it. But you do know, and I shall hasten your death with a bullet if you approach me. It will not be murder, nor manslaughter. It will be an act of mercy; but I cannot do it now. See how I feel?'
"'Oh, God!' he shrieked, running away from me. He reached the break of the poop, then turned and came back.
"'Got your gun on you, Draper? Kill me now; kill me, and have it over with. I'm down and done for. There's nothing more for me.'
"I refused; and yet I know that with regard to that man's mental agony for the next few days, culminating in the first physical symptoms of unrest, fever, and thirst, I should have obeyed his request. He was doomed, and knew it. And he was a madman from mental causes before the physical had produced effects, even though the disease ran its course quickly in him. On the third day he was raving of a black-eyed woman who kept a candy store in Boston, and who had promised to marry him when he obtained command.
"I got out a bottle of bromide from the medicine chest and induced Barnes to take a good dose of it. He drank about half a teacup of it, and in an hour was asleep. Then, clad in boots and mittens, with a sailor's clothes-bag over my head, I went aloft and lashed myself in the mizzentopmast crosstrees, where I obtained about six hours' sleep, which I needed badly. Barnes was worse when I came down; three more rats had bitten him, he declared, and he begged me to shoot him. It never occurred to him to do the job himself, and I couldn't suggest it to him.
"'Well, Draper,' he said at last, 'I'm going, and I know it. Now, if you escape, sometime you'll be in Boston. Will you take the street-car out the Boston Road, and at Number 24 Middlesex Place drop in and say a few words to that woman? Call her Kate, and say we were shipmates, and I told you to. Tell her about this, and that I thought of her, and didn't want to die because of her. Tell her, will you, Draper?'
"'Barnes, I promise,' I said. 'I will hunt up or write to that woman if I get ashore. I'll tell her all about it. Now, go and lie down.'
"But he couldn't lie down; and when the time came that I had to sleep in the crosstrees again, I found, on waking, that Barnes had followed me, and in some way had got my gun out of my pocket. I knew he had it by the insane way he laughed as I came down from my perch. I hunted through the cabin for pistols or rifles, but he had been ahead of me; and as I came up and he stood near the wheel—the wheel, like everything else, was neglected now—there was a crazy look in his eyes that meant bad luck for me.
"'Going to kill me, weren't you?' he chuckled. 'Well, you won't. Nor will you get that woman out the Boston Road. I'm dead on to you, you dog. And you'll get no credit for the advice you gave—that I put down in the log. Not much you won't.'
"He darted into the cabin and returned with the ship's log, which he had charge of, and the official log of the skipper. I do not know what was entered in them, but he tossed them overboard.
"'There goes your record of efficiency,' he said.
"He came toward me on the run, his eyes blazing, but I did not budge. He made no gun-play, but put up his fists, and I met him; I was used to this form of fighting. However, I went down before his plunges and punches, and realized that I was up against a bigger, heavier, stronger man than myself, and could not hope to win. I'm no small boy, as you see, but Barnes was a giant, and a skilled fighter.
"I got away from him and kept away. I wanted to hoist an ensign, union down, but the lunatic prevented me; his intelligence had left him. He watched me as a cat watches a mouse, or I might have brought a handspike down on his head and ended his troubles and some of my own. And it would have been no foul play to have done so; but I could not. He followed me everywhere, ready to pounce upon me at the first move I made.
"I spent that night walking away from him as he nosed me around the deck, and brushing off the crazy rats that climbed my legs. I did not dare make for the rigging, for without my bag I would have been worse off than on deck, and at such a move he would have jumped on me. But in the morning he had his first convulsion, and it left him a wreck. While he lay gasping and choking on the deck, with equally afflicted rats crawling over him and nipping where they felt flesh, I managed to get a bite from the steward's storeroom, and it roused me up and strengthened me. I came out, resolved to bind him down, but I was too late. He was on his feet, the paroxysm gone, crazy as ever, and, though weak, still able to master me.
"The ship was rolling heavily in the trough of a Biscay sea, which, no matter how the wind, is a violent, troublesome heave of cross-forces. The upper canvas was carried away, or hanging in the buntlines. Some of the braces were adrift and the yards swinging. We had the courses clewed up when the men were alive, and the lower yards were fairly square; so the ship, with the aid of the head-sails, kept the canvas full, and she sailed along, manned by a crew of rabid rats, a crazy first mate, and a half-crazy second mate. I knew I was half-crazy, for I had a fixed, insistent thought that would not go—that of a little school-ma'am who had whipped me in childhood. I deserved the whipping, but—Lord, how I hated her now!
"I feared the mate. He was again nosing me around the deck, glaring murder at me and talking to himself. I feared him more than I feared the rats, for I could brush them off. I could not get out of his sight; but I did venture on grabbing a circular life-buoy from the quarter-rail as I passed it, and slipping it over my head, and he did not seem to notice the maneuver. I was resolved, as a last resort, to jump into the sea with this scant protection against death by drowning, hunger, or thirst, rather than risk another assault by this lunatic or a bite from a rat. These were numbered now by the thousands. The deck was black with them in places, and here and there a rope was as big around as a stove-pipe.
"All was quiet this last day aboard. The mate busied himself in following me around, talking to the rats and to himself, even as they bit him, and I busied myself in quietly keeping out of his way and brushing off rats that climbed my legs. I was dead tired, being on my feet so long, and in sheer desperation and love of life I hoped for another convulsion that would give me relief from the strain. But before it came to him I was out of his way, and, I strongly suspect, he was out of the way of the convulsion.
"He caught me on the forecastle deck and made for me, half mad from the disease, but wholly mad from his mental state. There was no escape except out the head-gear, and I went that way, with him after me. Out the bowsprit, on to the jib foot-ropes, and out toward the end I went, hoping to reach the martingale-stay and slip down it to the back-ropes. I did so, but he scrambled down, tumbling and clutching, and gripped me just abaft the dolphin-striker. His face was twisted in frenzy, and he growled and barked like a dog, occasionally breaking into a horrible, rat-like squeal. But he didn't bite me; he simply squeezed me in both arms, and in that effort lost his hold on the back-rope and fell, taking me with him. We struck the water together, and his grip loosened, for he was now up against something too strong for him—the sound and sight and feeling of cold water. When we came up, the cutwater was between us, and I didn't see him again, though I heard his convulsive gurgling and screaming from the other side of the ship. Then the sounds stopped, and I think he must have gone under; but I was too busy with myself to speculate much. I was trying to get a finger-nail grip on that smooth, black side slipping by me, but could not. There was nothing to get hold of, and no ropes were hanging over. Then I thought of the rudder and the iron bumpkin on it that the rudder-chains fastened to, and swam with all my strength under the quarter as it came along. But it was no good. The life-buoy hampered me in swimming, and I missed the rudder by an inch.
"The ship went on and left me alone on the sea. I remember very little of it. I think my mind must have slowly gone out of me, leaving me another person. I remember a few sensations—and it only seems like a week ago to me—one, of being alone on the surface of the sea at night, supported by the life-buoy; and then, I seemed to be back among the rats, but that was just as I wakened on your floor here. The next sensation was the sight of you, and the sound of your voice, speaking to me, and then the knowledge that I was really alive and ashore."
"And the woman out the Boston Road?" I inquired at length.
"I will write to her as I promised. But I will not go there. Boston is too close to the sea."
FROM THE DARKNESS AND THE DEPTHS
I had known him for a painter of renown—a master of his art, whose pictures, which sold for high prices, adorned museums, the parlors of the rich, and, when on exhibition, were hung low and conspicuous. Also, I knew him for an expert photographer—an "art photographer," as they say, one who dealt with this branch of industry as a fad, an amusement, and who produced pictures that in composition, lights, and shades rivaled his productions with the brush.
His cameras were the best that the market could supply, yet he was able, from his knowledge of optics and chemistry, to improve them for his own uses far beyond the ability of the makers. His studio was filled with examples of his work, and his mind was stocked with information and opinions on all subjects ranging from international policies to the servant-girl problem.
He was a man of the world, gentlemanly and successful, about sixty years old, kindly and gracious of manner, and out of this kindliness and graciousness had granted me the compliment of his friendship, and access to his studio whenever I felt like calling upon him.
Yet it never occurred to me that the wonderful and technically correct marines hanging on his walls were due to anything but the artist's conscientious study of his subject, and only his casual mispronounciation of the word "leeward," which landsmen pronounce as spelled, but which rolls off the tongue of a sailor, be he former dock rat or naval officer, as "looward," and his giving the long sounds to the vowels of the words "patent" and "tackle," that induced me to ask if he had ever been to sea.
"Why, yes," he answered. "Until I was thirty I had no higher ambition than to become a skipper of some craft; but I never achieved it. The best I did was to sign first mate for one voyage—and that one was my last. It was on that voyage that I learned something of the mysterious properties of light, and it made me a photographer, then an artist. You are wrong when you say that a searchlight cannot penetrate fog."
"But it has been tried," I remonstrated.
"With ordinary light. Yes, of course, subject to refraction, reflection, and absorption by the millions of minute globules of water it encounters."
We had been discussing the wreck of the Titanic, the most terrible marine disaster of history, the blunders of construction and management, and the later proposed improvements as to the lowering of boats and the location of ice in a fog.
Among these considerations was also the plan of carrying a powerful searchlight whose beam would illumine the path of a twenty-knot liner and render objects visible in time to avoid them. In regard to this I had contended that a searchlight could not penetrate fog, and if it could, would do as much harm as good by blinding and confusing the watch officers and lookouts on other craft.
"But what other kind of light can be used?" I asked, in answer to his mention of ordinary light.
"Invisible light," he answered. "I do not mean the Roentgen ray, nor the emanation from radium, both of which are invisible, but neither of which is light, in that neither can be reflected nor refracted. Both will penetrate many different kinds of matter, but it needs reflection or refraction to make visible an object on which it impinges. Understand?"
"Hardly," I answered dubiously. "What kind of visible light is there, if not radium or the Roentgen ray? You can photograph with either, can't you?"
"Yes, but to see what you have photographed you must develop the film. And there is no time for that aboard a fast steamer running through the ice and the fog. No, it is mere theory, but I have an idea that the ultraviolet light—the actinic rays beyond the violet end of the spectrum, you know—will penetrate fog to a great distance, and in spite of its higher refractive power, which would distort and magnify an object, it is better than nothing."
"But what makes you think that it will penetrate fog?" I queried. "And if it is invisible itself, how will it illumine an object?"
"As to your first question," he answered, with a smile, "it is well known to surgeons that ultraviolet light will penetrate the human body to the depth of an inch, while the visible rays are reflected at the surface. And it has been known to photographers for fifty years that this light—easily isolated by dispersion through prisms—will act on a sensitized plate in an utterly dark room."
"Granted," I said. "But how about the second question? How can you see by this light?"
"There you have me," he answered. "It will need a quicker development than any now known to photography—a traveling film, for instance, that will show the picture of an iceberg or a ship before it is too late to avoid it—a traveling film sensitized by a quicker acting chemical than any now used."
"Why not puzzle it out?" I asked. "It would be a wonderful invention."
"I am too old," he answered dreamily. "My life work is about done. But other and younger men will take it up. We have made great strides in optics. The moving picture is a fact. Colored photographs are possible. The ultraviolet microscope shows us objects hitherto invisible because smaller than the wave length of visible light. We shall ultimately use this light to see through opaque objects. We shall see colors never imagined by the human mind, but which have existed since the beginning of light.
"We shall see new hues in the sunset, in the rainbow, in the flowers and foliage of forest and field. We may possibly see creatures in the air above never seen before.
"We shall certainly see creatures from the depths of the sea, where visible light cannot reach—creatures whose substance is of such a nature that it will not respond to the light it has never been exposed to—a substance which is absolutely transparent because it will not absorb, and appear black; will not reflect, and show a color of some kind; and will not refract, and distort objects seen through it."
"What!" I exclaimed. "Do you think there are invisible creatures?"
He looked gravely at me for a moment, then said: "You know that there are sounds that are inaudible to the human ear because of their too rapid vibration, others that are audible to some, but not to all. There are men who cannot hear the chirp of a cricket, the tweet of a bird, or the creaking of a wagon wheel.
"You know that there are electric currents much stronger in voltage than is necessary to kill us, but of wave frequency so rapid that the human tissue will not respond, and we can receive such currents without a shock. And I know"—he spoke with vehemence—"that there are creatures in the deep sea of color invisible to the human eye, for I have not only felt such a creature, but seen its photograph taken by the ultraviolet light."
"Tell me," I asked breathlessly. "Creatures solid, but invisible?"
"Creatures solid, and invisible because absolutely transparent. It is long since I have told the yarn. People would not believe me, and it was so horrible an experience that I have tried to forget it. However, if you care for it, and are willing to lose your sleep to-night, I'll give it to you."
He reached for a pipe, filled it, and began to smoke; and as he smoked and talked, some of the glamor and polish of the successful artist and clubman left him. He was an old sailor, spinning a yarn.
"It was about thirty years ago," he began, "or, to be explicit, twenty-nine years this coming August, at the time of the great Java earthquake. You've heard of it—how it killed seventy thousand people, thirty thousand of whom were drowned by the tidal wave.
"It was a curious phenomenon; Krakatoa Island, a huge conical mountain rising from the bottom of Sunda Strait, went out of existence, while in Java a mountain chain was leveled, and up from the bowels of the earth came an iceberg—as you might call it—that floated a hundred miles on a stream of molten lava before melting.
"I was not there; I was two hundred miles to the sou'west, first mate of one of those old-fashioned, soft-pine, centerboard barkentines—three sticks the same length, you know—with the mainmast stepped on the port side of the keel to make room for the centerboard—a craft that would neither stay, nor wear, nor scud, nor heave to, like a decent vessel.
"But she had several advantages; she was new, and well painted, deck, top-sides, and bottom. Hence her light timbers and planking were not water-soaked. She was fastened with 'trunnels,' not spikes and bolts, and hemp rigged.
"Perhaps there was not a hundredweight of iron aboard of her, while her hemp rigging, though heavier than water, was lighter than wire rope, and so, when we were hit by the back wash of that tidal wave, we did not sink, even though butts were started from one end to the other of the flimsy hull, and all hatches were ripped off.
"I have called it the back wash, yet we may have had a tidal wave of our own; for, though we had no knowledge of the frightful catastrophe at Java, still there had been for days several submarine earthquakes all about us, sending fountains of water, steam bubbles, and mud from the sea bed into the air.
"As the soundings were over two thousand fathoms in that neighborhood, you can imagine the seismic forces at work beneath us. There had been no wind for days, and no sea, except the agitation caused by the upheavals. The sky was a dull mud color, and the sun looked like nothing but a dark, red ball, rising day by day in the east, to move overhead and set in the west. The air was hot, sultry, and stifling, and I had difficulty in keeping the men—a big crew—at work.
"The conditions would try anybody's temper, and I had my own troubles. There was a passenger on board, a big, fat, highly educated German—a scientist and explorer—whom we had taken aboard at some little town on the West Australian coast, and who was to leave us at Batavia, where he could catch a steamer for Germany.
"He had a whole laboratory with him, with scientific instruments that I didn't know the names of, with maps he had made, stuffed beasts and birds he had killed, and a few live ones which he kept in cages and attended to himself in the empty hold; for we were flying light, you know, without even ballast aboard, and bound to Batavia for a cargo.
"It was after a few eruptions from the bottom of the sea that he got to be a nuisance; he was keenly interested in the strange dead fish and nondescript creatures that had been thrown up. He declared them new, unknown to science, and wore out my patience with entreaties to haul them aboard for examination and classification.
"I obliged him for a time, until the decks stank with dead fish, and the men got mutinous. Then I refused to advance the interests of science any farther, and, in spite of his excitement and pleadings, refused to litter the decks any more. But he got all he wanted of the unclassified and unknown before long.
"Tidal wave, you know, is a name we give to any big wave, and it has no necessary connection with the tides. It may be the big third wave of a series—just a little bigger than usual; it may be the ninth, tenth, and eleventh waves merged into one huge comber by uneven wind pressure; it may be the back wash from an earthquake that depresses the nearest coast, and it may be—as I think it was in our case—a wave sent out by an upheaval from the sea bed. At any rate, we got it, and we got it just after a tremendous spouting of water and mud, and a thick cloud of steam on the northern horizon.
"We saw a seeming rise to the horizon, as though caused by refraction, but which soon eliminated refraction as a cause by its becoming visible in its details—its streaks of water and mud, its irregular upper edge, the occasional combers that appeared on this edge, and the terrific speed of its approach. It was a wave, nothing else, and coming at forty knots at least.
"There was little that we could do; there was no wind, and we headed about west, showing our broadside; yet I got the men at the downhauls, clewlines, and stripping lines of the lighter kites; but before a man could leave the deck to furl, that moving mountain hit us, and buried us on our beam ends just as I had time to sing out: 'Lash yourselves, every man.'
"Then I needed to think of my own safety and passed a turn of the mizzen gaff-topsail downhaul about me, belaying to a pin as the cataclysm hit us. For the next two minutes—although it seemed an hour, I did not speak, nor breathe, nor think, unless my instinctive grip on the turns of the downhaul on the pin may have been an index of thought. I was under water; there was roaring in my ears, pain in my lungs, and terror in my heart.
"Then there came a lessening of the turmoil, a momentary quiet, and I roused up, to find the craft floating on her side, about a third out of water, but apt to turn bottom up at any moment from the weight of the water-soaked gear and canvas, which will sink, you know, when wet.
"I was hanging in my bight of rope from a belaying pin, my feet clear of the perpendicular deck, and my ears tortured by the sound of men overboard crying for help—men who had not lashed themselves. Among them I knew was the skipper, a mild-mannered little fellow, and the second mate, an incompetent tough from Portsmouth, who had caused me lots of trouble by his abuse of the men and his depending upon me to stand by him.
"Nothing could be done for them; they were adrift on the back wall of a moving mountain that towered thirty degrees above the horizon to port; and another moving mountain, as big as the first, was coming on from starboard—caused by the tumble into the sea of the uplifted water.
"Did you ever fall overboard in a full suit of clothes? If you did, you know the mighty exercise of strength required to climb out. I was a strong, healthy man at the time, but never in my life was I so tested. I finally got a grip on the belaying pin and rested; then, with an effort that caused me physical pain, I got my right foot up to the pinrail and rested again; then, perhaps more by mental strength than physical—for I loved life and wanted to live—I hooked my right foot over the rail, reached higher on the rope, rested again, and finally hove myself up to the mizzen rigging, where I sat for a few moments to get my breath, and think, and look around.
"Forward, I saw men who had lashed themselves to the starboard rail, and they were struggling, as I had struggled, to get up to the horizontal side of the vessel. They succeeded, but at the time I had no use for them. Sailors will obey orders, if they understand the orders, but this was an exigency outside the realm of mere seamanship.
"Men were drowning off to port; men, like myself, were climbing up to temporary safety afforded by the topsides of a craft on her beam ends; and aft, in the alleyway, was the German professor, unlashed, but safe and secure in his narrow confines, one leg through a cabin window, and both hands gripping the rail, while he bellowed like a bull, not for himself, however—but for his menagerie in the empty hold.
"There was small chance for the brutes—smaller than for ourselves, left on the upper rail of an over-turned craft, and still smaller than the chance of the poor devils off to port, some of whom had gripped the half-submerged top-hamper, and were calling for help.
"We could not help them; she was a Yankee craft, and there was not a life buoy or belt on board; and who, with another big wave coming, would swim down to looward with a line?
"Landsmen, especially women and boys, have often asked me why a wooden ship, filled with water, sinks, even though not weighted with cargo. Some sailors have pondered over it, too, knowing that a small boat, built of wood, and fastened with nails, will float if water-logged.
"But the answer is simple. Most big craft are built of oak or hard pine, and fastened together with iron spikes and bolts—sixty tons at least to a three-hundred-ton schooner. After a year or two this hard, heavy wood becomes water-soaked, and, with the iron bolts and spikes, is heavier than water, and will sink when the hold is flooded.
"This craft of ours was like a small boat—built of soft light wood, with trunnels instead of bolts, and no iron on board except the anchors and one capstan. As a result, though ripped, twisted, broken, and disintegrated, she still floated even on her beam ends.
"But the soaked hemp rigging and canvas might be enough to drag the craft down, and with this fear in my mind I acted quickly. Singing out to the men to hang on, I made my way aft to where we had an ax, lodged in its beckets on the after house. With this I attacked the mizzen lanyards, cutting everything clear, then climbed forward to the main.
"Hard as I worked I had barely cut the last lanyard when that second wave loomed up and crashed down on us. I just had time to slip into the bight of a rope, and save myself; but I had to give up the ax; it slipped from my hands and slid down to the port scuppers.
"That second wave, in its effect, was about the same as the first, except that it righted the craft. We were buried, choked, and half drowned; but when the wave had passed on, the main and mizzenmasts, unsupported by the rigging that I had cut away, snapped cleanly about three feet above the deck, and the broad, flat-bottomed craft straightened up, lifting the weight of the foremast and its gear, and lay on an even keel, with foresail, staysail, and jib set, the fore gaff-topsail, flying jib, and jib-topsail clewed down and the wreck of the masts bumping against the port side.
"We floated, but with the hold full of water, and four feet of it on deck amidships that surged from one rail to the other as the craft rolled, pouring over and coming back. All hatches were ripped off, and our three boats were carried away from their chocks on the house.
"Six men were clearing themselves from their lashings at the fore rigging, and three more, who had gone overboard with the first sea, and had caught the upper gear to be lifted as the craft righted, were coming down, while the professor still declaimed from the alley.
"'Hang on all,' I yelled; 'there's another sea coming.'
"It came, but passed over us without doing any more damage, and though a fourth, fifth, and sixth followed, each was of lesser force than the last, and finally it was safe to leave the rail and wade about, though we still rolled rails under in what was left of the turmoil.
"Luckily, there was no wind, though I never understood why, for earthquakes are usually accompanied by squalls. However, even with wind, our canvas would have been no use to us; for, waterlogged as we were, we couldn't have made a knot an hour, nor could we have steered, even with all sail set. All we could hope for was the appearance of some craft that would tow the ripped and shivered hull to port, or at least take us off.
"So, while I searched for the ax, and the professor searched into the depths under the main hatch for signs of his menagerie—all drowned, surely—the remnant of the crew lowered the foresail and jibs, stowing them as best they could.
"I found the ax, and found it just in time; for I was attacked by what could have been nothing but a small-sized sea serpent, that had been hove up to the surface and washed aboard us. It was only about six feet long, but it had a mouth like a bulldog, and a row of spikes along its back that could have sawed a man's leg off.
"I managed to kill it before it harmed me, and chucked it overboard against the protests of the professor, who averred that I took no interest in science.
"'No, I don't,' I said to him. 'I've other things to think of. And you, too. You'd better go below and clean up your instruments, or you'll find them ruined by salt water.'
"He looked sorrowfully and reproachfully at me, and started to wade aft; but he halted at the forward companion, and turned, for a scream of agony rang out from the forecastle deck, where the men were coming in from the jibs, and I saw one of them writhing on his back, apparently in a fit, while the others stood wonderingly around.
"The forecastle deck was just out of water, and there was no wash; but in spite of this, the wriggling, screaming man slid head-first along the break and plunged into the water on the main deck.
"I scrambled forward, still carrying the ax, and the men tumbled down into the water after the man; but we could not get near him. We could see him under water, feebly moving, but not swimming; and yet he shot this way and that faster than a man ever swam; and once, as he passed near me, I noticed a gaping wound in his neck, from which the blood was flowing in a stream—a stream like a current, which did not mix with the water and discolor it.
"Soon his movements ceased, and I waded toward him; but he shot swiftly away from me, and I did not follow, for something cold, slimy, and firm touched my hand—something in the water, but which I could not see.
"I floundered back, still holding the ax, and sang out to the men to keep away from the dead man; for he was surely dead by now. He lay close to the break of the topgallant forecastle, on the starboard side; and as the men mustered around me I gave one my ax, told the rest to secure others, and to chop away the useless wreck pounding our port side—useless because it was past all seamanship to patch up that basketlike hull, pump it out, and raise jury rigging.
"While they were doing it, I secured a long pike pole from its beckets, and, joined by the professor, cautiously approached the body prodding ahead of me.
"As I neared the dead man, the pike pole was suddenly torn from my grasp, one end sank to the deck, while the other raised above the water; then it slid upward, fell, and floated close to me. I seized it again and turned to the professor.
"'What do you make of this, Herr Smidt?' I asked. 'There is something down there that we cannot see—something that killed that man. See the blood?'
"He peered closely at the dead man, who looked curiously distorted and shrunken, four feet under water. But the blood no longer was a thin stream issuing from his neck; it was gathered into a misshapen mass about two feet away from his neck.
"'Nonsense,' he answered. 'Something alive which we cannot see is contrary to all laws of physics. Der man must have fallen und hurt himself, which accounts for der bleeding. Den he drowned in der water. Do you see?—mine Gott! What iss?'
"He suddenly went under water himself, and dropping the pike pole, I grabbed him by the collar and braced myself. Something was pulling him away from me, but I managed to get his head out, and he spluttered:
"'Help! Holdt on to me. Something haf my right foot.'
"'Lend a hand here,' I yelled to the men, and a few joined me, grabbing him by his clothing. Together we pulled against the invisible force, and finally all of us went backward, professor and all, nearly to drown ourselves before regaining our feet. Then, as the agitated water smoothed, I distinctly saw the mass of red move slowly forward and disappear in the darkness under the forecastle deck.
"'You were right, mine friend,' said the professor, who, in spite of his experience, held his nerve. 'Dere is something invisible in der water—something dangerous, something which violates all laws of physics und optics. Oh, mine foot, how it hurts!'
"'Get aft,' I answered, 'and find out what ails it. And you fellows,' I added to the men, 'keep away from the forecastle deck. Whatever it is, it has gone under it.'
"Then I grabbed the pike pole again, cautiously hooked the barb into the dead man's clothing, and, assisted by the men, pulled him aft to the poop, where the professor had preceded, and was examining his ankle. There was a big, red wale around it, in the middle of which was a huge blood blister. He pricked it with his knife, then rearranged his stocking and joined us as we lifted the body.
"'Great God, sir!' exclaimed big Bill, the bosun. 'Is that Frank? I wouldn't know him.'
"Frank, the dead man, had been strong, robust, and full-blooded. But he bore no resemblance to his living self. He lay there, shrunken, shortened, and changed, a look of agony on his emaciated face, and his hands clenched—not extended like those of one drowned.
"'I thought drowned men swelled up,' ventured one of the men.
"'He was not drowned,' said Herr Smidt. 'He was sucked dry, like a lemon. Perhaps in his whole body there is not an ounce of blood, nor lymph, nor fluid of any kind.'
"I secured an iron belaying pin, tucked it inside his shirt, and we hove him overboard at once; for, in the presence of this horror, we were not in the mood for a burial service. There we were, eleven men on a water-logged hulk, adrift on a heaving, greasy sea, with a dark-red sun showing through a muddy sky above, and an invisible thing forward that might seize any of us at any moment it chose, in the water or out; for Frank had been caught and dragged down.
"Still, I ordered the men, cook, steward, and all, to remain on the poop and—the galley being forward—to expect no hot meals, as we could subsist for a time on the cold, canned food in the storeroom and lazaret.
"Because of an early friction between the men and the second mate, the mild-mannered and peace-loving skipper had forbidden the crew to wear sheath knives; but in this exigency I overruled the edict. While the professor went down into his flooded room to doctor his ankle and attend to his instruments, I raided the slop chest, and armed every man of us with a sheath knife and belt; for while we could not see the creature, we could feel it—and a knife is better than a gun in a hand-to-hand fight.
"Then we sat around, waiting, while the sky grew muddier, the sun darker, and the northern horizon lighter with a reddish glow that was better than the sun. It was the Java earthquake, but we did not know it for a long time.
"Soon the professor appeared and announced that his instruments were in good condition, and stowed high on shelves above the water.
"'I must resensitize my plates, however,' he said. 'Der salt water has spoiled them; but mine camera merely needs to dry out; und mine telescope, und mine static machine und Leyden jars—why, der water did not touch them.'
"'Well,' I answered. 'That's all right. But what good are they in the face of this emergency? Are you thinking of photographing anything now?'
"'Perhaps. I haf been thinking some.'
"'Have you thought out what that creature is—forward, there?'
"'Partly. It is some creature thrown up from der bottom of der sea, und washed on board by der wave. Light, like wave motion, ends at a certain depth, you know; und we have over twelve thousand feet beneath us. At that depth dere is absolute darkness, but we know that creatures live down dere, und fight, und eat, und die.'
"'But what of it? Why can't we see that thing?'
"'Because, in der ages that haf passed in its evolution from der original moneron, it has never been exposed to light—I mean visible light, der light that contains der seven colors of der spectrum. Hence it may not respond to der three properties of visible light—reflection, which would give it a color of some kind; absorption, which would make it appear black; or refraction, which, in der absence of der other two, would distort things seen through it. For it would be transparent, you know.'
"'But what can be done?' I asked helplessly, for I could not understand at the time what he meant.
"'Nothing, except that der next man attacked must use his knife. If he cannot see der creature, he can feel it. Und perhaps—I do not know yet—perhaps, in a way, we may see it—its photograph.'
"I looked blankly at him, thinking he might have gone crazy, but he continued.
"'You know,' he said, 'that objects too small to be seen by the microscope, because smaller than der amplitude of der shortest wave of visible light, can be seen when exposed to der ultraviolet light—der dark light beyond der spectrum? Und you know that this light is what acts der most in photography? That it exposes on a sensitized plate new stars in der heavens invisible to der eye through the strongest telescope?'
"'Don't know anything about it,' I answered. 'But if you can find a way out of this scrape we're in, go ahead.'
"'I must think,' he said dreamily. 'I haf a rock-crystal lens which is permeable to this light, und which I can place in mine camera. I must have a concave mirror, not of glass, which is opaque to this light, but of metal.'
"'What for?' I asked.
"'To throw der ultraviolet light on der beast. I can generate it with mine static machine.'
"'How will one of our lantern reflectors do? They are of polished tin, I think.'
"'Good! I can repolish one.'
"We had one deck lantern larger than usual, with a metallic reflector that concentrated the light into a beam, much as do the present day searchlights. This I procured from the lazaret, and he pronounced it available. Then he disappeared, to tinker up his apparatus.
"Night came down, and I lighted three masthead lights, to hoist at the fore to inform any passing craft that we were not under command; but, as I would not send a man forward on that job, I went myself, carefully feeling my way with the pike pole. Luckily, I escaped contact with the creature, and returned to the poop, where we had a cold supper of canned cabin stores.
"The top of the house was dry, but it was cold, especially so as we were all drenched to the skin. The steward brought up all the blankets there were in the cabin—for even a wet blanket is better than none at all—but there were not enough to go around, and one man volunteered, against my advice, to go forward and bring aft bedding from the forecastle.
"He did not come back; we heard his yell, that finished with a gurgle; but in that pitch black darkness, relieved only by the red glow from the north, not one of us dared to venture to his rescue. We knew that he would be dead, anyhow, before we could get to him; so we stood watch, sharing the blankets we had when our time came to sleep.
"It was a wretched night that we spent on the top of that after house. It began to rain before midnight, the heavy drops coming down almost in solid waves; then came wind, out of the south, cold and biting, with real waves, that rolled even over the house, forcing us to lash ourselves. The red glow to the north was hidden by the rain and spume, and, to add to our discomfort, we were showered with ashes, which, even though the surface wind was from the south, must have been brought from the north by an upper air current.
"We did not find the dead man when the faint daylight came; and so could not tell whether or not he had used his knife. His body must have washed over the rail with a sea, and we hoped the invisible killer had gone, too. But we hoped too much. With courage born of this hope a man went forward to lower the masthead lights, prodding his way with the pike pole.
"We watched him closely, the pole in one hand, his knife in the other. But he went under at the fore rigging without even a yell, and the pole went with him, while we could see, even at the distance and through the disturbed water, that his arms were close to his sides, and that he made no movement, except for the quick darting to and fro. After a few moments, however, the pike pole floated to the surface, but the man's body, drained, no doubt, of its buoyant fluids, remained on the deck.
"It was an hour later, with the pike pole for a feeler, before we dared approach the body, hook on to it, and tow it aft. It resembled that of the first victim, a skeleton clothed with skin, with the same look of horror on the face. We buried it like the other, and held to the poop, still drenched by the downpour of rain, hammered by the seas, and choked by ashes from the sky.
"As the shower of ashes increased it became dark as twilight, and though the three lights aloft burned out at about midday, I forbade a man to go forward to lower them, contenting myself with a turpentine flare lamp that I brought up from the lazaret, and filled, ready to show if the lights of a craft came in view. Before the afternoon was half gone it was dark as night, and down below, up to his waist in water, the German professor was working away.
"He came up at supper time, humming cheerfully to himself, and announced that he had replaced his camera lens with the rock crystal, that the lantern, with its reflector and a blue spark in the focus, made an admirable instrument for throwing the invisible rays on the beast, and that he was all ready, except that his plates, which he had resensitized—with some phosphorescent substance that I forget the name of, now—must have time to dry. And then, he needed some light to work by when the time came, he explained.
"'Also another victim,' I suggested bitterly; for he had not been on deck when the last two men had died.
"'I hope not,' he said. 'When we can see, it may be possible to stir him up by throwing things forward; then when he moves der water we can take shots.'
"'Better devise some means of killing him,' I answered. 'Shooting won't do, for water stops a bullet before it goes a foot into it.'
"'Der only way I can think of,' he responded, 'is for der next man—you hear me all, you men—to stick your knife at the end of the blood—where it collects in a lump. Dere is der creature's stomach, and a vital spot.'
"'Remember this, boys,' I laughed, thinking of the last poor devil, with his arms pinioned to his side. 'When you've lost enough blood to see it in a lump, stab for it.'
"But my laugh was answered by a shriek. A man lashed with a turn of rope around his waist to the stump of the mizzenmast, was writhing and heaving on his back, while he struck with his knife, apparently at his own body. With my own knife in my hand I sprang toward him, and felt for what had seized him. It was something cold, and hard, and leathery, close to his waist.
"Carefully gauging my stroke, I lunged with the knife, but I hardly think it entered the invisible fin, or tail, or paw of the monster; but it moved away from the screaming man, and the next moment I received a blow in the face that sent me aft six feet, flat on my back. Then came unconsciousness.
"When I recovered my senses the remnant of the crew were around me, but the man was gone—dragged out of the bight of the rope that had held him against the force of breaking seas, and down to the flooded main deck, to die like the others. It was too dark to see, or do anything; so, when I could speak I ordered all hands but one into the flooded cabin where, in the upper berths and on the top of the table, were a few dry spots.
"I filled and lighted a lantern, and gave it to the man on watch with instructions to hang it to the stump of the mizzen and to call his relief at the end of four hours. Then, with doors and windows closed, we went to sleep, or tried to go to sleep. I succeeded first, I think, for up to the last of consciousness I could hear the mutterings of the men; when I awakened, they were all asleep, and the cabin clock, high above the water, told me that, though it was still dark, it was six in the morning.
"I went on deck; the lantern still burned at the stump of mizzenmast but the lookout was gone. He had not lived long enough to be relieved, as I learned by going below and finding that no one had been called.
"We were but six, now—one sailor and the bos'n, the cook and steward, the professor and myself."
The old artist paused, while he refilled and lighted his pipe. I noticed that the hand that held the match shook perceptibly, as though the memories of that awful experience had affected his nerves. I know that the recital had affected mine; for I joined him in a smoke, my hands shaking also.
"Why," I asked, after a moment of silence, "if it was a deep-sea creature, did it not die from the lesser pressure at the surface?"
"Why do not men die on the mountaintops?" he answered. "Or up in balloons? The record is seven miles high, I think; but they lived. They suffered from cold, and from lack of oxygen—that is, no matter how fast, or deeply they breathed, they could not get enough. But the lack of pressure did not trouble them; the human body can adjust itself.
"Conversely, however, an increase of pressure may be fatal. A man dragged down more than one hundred and fifty feet may be crushed; and a surface fish sent to the bottom of the sea may die from the pressure. It is simple; it is like the difference between a weight lifted from us and a weight added."
"Did this thing kill any more men?" I asked.
"All but the professor and myself, and it almost killed me. Look here."
He removed his cravat and collar, pulled down his shirt, and exposed two livid scars about an inch in diameter, and two apart.
"I lost all the blood I could spare through those two holes," he said, as he readjusted his apparel; "but I saved enough to keep me alive."
"Go on with the yarn," I asked. "I promise you I will not sleep to-night."
"Perhaps I will not sleep myself," he answered, with a mournful smile. "Some things should be forgotten, but as I have told you this much I may as well finish, and be done with it.
"It was partly due to a sailor's love for tobacco, partly to our cold, drenched condition. A sailor will starve quietly, but go crazy if deprived of his smoke. This is so well known at sea that a skipper, who will not hesitate to sail from port with rotten or insufficient food for his men, will not dare take a chance without a full supply of tobacco in the slop chest.
"But our slop chest was under water, and the tobacco utterly useless. I did not use it at the time, but I fished some out for the others. It did not do; it would not dry out to smoke, and the salt in it made it unfit to chew. But the bos'n had an upper bunk in the forward house, in which was a couple of pounds of navy plug, and he and the sailor talked this over until their craving for a smoke overcame their fear of death.
"Of course, by this time, all discipline was ended, and all my commands and entreaties went for nothing. They sharpened their knives, and, agreeing to go forward, one on the starboard rail, the other on the port, and each to come to the other's aid if called, they went up into the darkness of ashes and rain. I opened my room window, which overlooked the main deck, but could see nothing.
"Yet I could hear; I heard two screams for help, one after the other—one from the starboard side, the other from the port, and knew that they were caught. I closed the window, for nothing could be done. What manner of thing it was that could grab two men so far apart nearly at the same time was beyond all imagining.
"I talked to the steward and cook, but found small comfort. The first was a Jap, the other a Chinaman, and they were the old-fashioned kind—what they could not see with their eyes, they could not believe. Both thought that all those men who had met death had either drowned or died by falling. Neither understood—and, in fact, I did not myself—the theories of Herr Smidt. He had stopped his cheerful humming to himself now, and was very busy with his instruments.
"'This thing,' I said to him, 'must be able to see in the dark. It certainly could not have heard those two men, over the noise of the wind, sea, and rain.'
"'Why not?' he answered, as he puttered with his wires. 'Cats and owls can see in the dark, und the accepted explanation is that by their power of enlarging der pupils they admit more light to the retina. But that explanation never satisfied me. You haf noticed, haf you not, that a cat's eyes shine in der dark, but only when der cat is looking at you?—that is, when it looks elsewhere you do not see der shiny eyes.'
"'Yes,' I answered, 'I have noticed that.'
"'A cat's eyes are searchlights, but they send forth a visible light, such as is generated by fireflies, und some fish. Und dere are fish in der upper tributaries of der Amazon which haf four eyes, der two upper of which are searchlights, der two lower of which are organs of percipience or vision. But visible light is not der only light. It is possible that the creature out on deck generates the invisible light, and can see by it.'
"'But what does it all amount to?' I asked impatiently.
"'I haf told you,' he answered calmly. 'Der creature may live in an atmosphere of ultraviolet light, which I can generate mineself. When mine plates dry, und it clears off so I can see what I am doing, I may get a picture of it. When we know what it is, we may find means of killing it.'
"'God grant that you succeed,' I answered fervently. 'It has killed enough of us.'
"But, as I said, the thing killed all but the professor and myself. And it came about through the other reason I mentioned—our cold, drenched condition. If there is anything an Oriental loves above his ancestors, it is his stomach; and the cold, canned food was palling upon us all. We had a little light through the downpour of ashes and rain about mid-day, and the steward and cook began talking about hot coffee.
"We had the turpentine torch for heating water, and some coffee, high and dry on a shelf in the steward's storeroom, but not a pot, pan, or cooking utensil of any kind in the cabin. So these two poor heathen, against my expostulations—somewhat faint, I admit, for the thought of hot coffee took away some of my common sense—went out on the deck and waded forward, waist-deep in the water, muddy now, from the downfall of ashes.
"I could see them as they entered the galley to get the coffeepot, but, though I stared from my window until the blackness closed down, I did not see them come out. Nor did I hear even a squeal. The thing must have been in the galley.
"Night came on, and, with its coming, the wind and rain ceased, though there was still a slight shower of ashes. But this ended toward midnight, and I could see stars overhead and a clear horizon. Sleep, in my nervous, overwrought condition, was impossible; but the professor, after the bright idea of using the turpentine torch to dry out his plates, had gone to his fairly dry berth, after announcing his readiness to take snapshots about the deck in the morning.
"But I roused him long before morning. I roused him when I saw through my window the masthead and two side lights of a steamer approaching from the starboard, still about a mile away. I had not dared to go up and rig that lantern at the mizzen stump; but now I nerved myself to go up with the torch, the professor following with his instruments.
"'You cold-blooded crank,' I said to him, as I waved the torch. 'I admire your devotion to science, but are you waiting for that thing to get me?'
"He did not answer, but rigged his apparatus on the top of the cabin. He had a Wimshurst machine—to generate a blue spark, you know—and this he had attached to the big deck light, from which he had removed the opaque glass. Then he had his camera, with its rock-crystal lens.
"He trained both forward, and waited, while I waved the torch, standing near the stump with a turn of rope around me for safety's sake in case the thing seized me; and to this idea I added the foolish hope, aroused by the professor's theories, that the blinding light of the torch would frighten the thing away from me as it does wild animals.
"But in this last I was mistaken. No sooner was there an answering blast of a steam whistle, indicating that the steamer had seen the torch, than something cold, wet, leathery, and slimy slipped around my neck. I dropped the torch, and drew my knife, while I heard the whir of the static machine as the professor turned it.
"'Use your knife, mine friend,' he called. 'Use your knife, und reach for any blood what you see.'
"I knew better than to call for help, and I had little chance to use the knife. Still, I managed to keep my right hand, in which I held it, free, while that cold, leathery thing slipped farther around my neck and waist. I struck as I could, but could make no impression; and soon I felt another stricture around my legs, which brought me on my back.
"Still another belt encircled me, and, though I had come up warmly clad in woolen shirts and monkey jacket, I felt these garments being torn away from me. Then I was dragged forward, but the turn of rope had slipped down toward my waist, and I was merely bent double.
"And all the time that German was whirling his machine, and shouting to strike for any blood I saw. But I saw none. I felt it going, however. Two spots on my chest began to smart, then burn as though hot irons were piercing me. Frantically I struck, right and left, sometimes at the coils encircling me, again in the air. Then all became dark.
* * * * *
"I awakened in a stateroom berth, too weak to lift my hands, with the taste of brandy in my mouth and the professor standing over me with a bottle in his hand.
"'Ach, it is well,' he said. 'You will recover. You haf merely lost blood, but you did the right thing. You struck with your knife at the blood, and you killed the creature. I was right. Heart, brain, und all vital parts were in der stomach.'
"'Where are we now?' I asked, for I did not recognize the room.
"'On board der steamer. When you got on your feet und staggered aft, I knew you had killed him, and gave you my assistance. But you fainted away. Then we were taken off. Und I haf two or three beautiful negatives, which I am printing. They will be a glorious contribution to der scientific world.'
"I was glad that I was alive, yet not alive enough to ask any more questions. But next day he showed me the photographs he had printed."
"In Heaven's name, what was it?" I asked excitedly, as the old artist paused to empty and refill his pipe.
"Nothing but a giant squid, or octopus. Except that it was bigger than any ever seen before, and invisible to the eye, of course. Did you ever read Hugo's terrible story of Gilliat's fight with a squid?"
I had, and nodded.
"Hugo's imagination could not give him a creature—no matter how formidable—larger than one of four feet stretch. This one had three tentacles around me, two others gripped the port and starboard pin-rails, and three were gripping the stump of the mainmast. It had a reach of forty feet, I should think, comparing it with the beam of the craft.
"But there was one part of each picture, ill defined and missing. My knife and right hand were not shown. They were buried in a dark lump, which could be nothing but the blood from my veins. Unconscious, but still struggling, I had struck into the soft body of the monster, and struck true."
Sam Rogers told me the story that follows, as we sat in the coils of the foremain and topsail braces—easy chairs aboard ship—and, sheltered from the blast of wind and spume by the high-weather rail, killed time in the night-watch by yarn-spinning.
For neither of us had a wheel or lookout that night; and as he and I were the only Americans in the forward end of the ship, we naturally sought each other for communion and counsel—he, a tall, straight, and slim man of fifty, an ex-man-of-war's man; I, a boy, beginning the battle of life.
Sam was an inveterate reader; and, while his diction embraced a choice stock of profanity, which he used when aroused, it also expressed itself in the choicest of English, his sentences full of commas, semicolons, and periods. He reeled off his stories as though reading from a book.
I had mentioned my boyish terror of bears, wolves, and other bugaboos of childhood, and Sam responded with his yarn. Here it is, just as he told it:
"She was a menagerie ship—Noah's Arks, as we called them. One of these craft that sail out to the Orient in ballast; and, stopping at Anjer Point for monkeys; Calcutta, Bombay, and Rangoon for elephants, tigers, lions, and cobras; Cape Town for orang-utans and African snakes, and over at Montevideo and Rio for wild hogs, pythons, boa-constrictors, porcupines, and other South American jungle denizens.
"I don't know just where this craft had been to get the assorted cargo that I saw when I shipped for the run from Rio to New York; but I found a mess of trouble in that hold that made me think a lot, and a limited skipper and mates that made me worry a lot. For they had stowed a mad elephant under the fore-hatch; and this gentleman kept all hands awake when he liked, snorting and trumpeting, with no regard for eight bells or the watch below.
"There were Hindoo keepers aboard, but these fellows are useless in cold weather; they shrivel up and move slowly, paralyzed by the cold. We got the cold up in the north latitudes, just above the trades; and it was about this time that the trouble began.
"We had the ordinary mixed crew of a Yankee ship—only, this craft was a bark; and we had the usual bull-headed and ignorant Yankee skipper and mates; men with no understanding of human or brute nature; men who would rather hit you than listen to your proposition of peace. They hit us all, and got us into a condition of mind that discounted that of the elephant under the hatch.
"Besides that elephant there were stowed in that hold cages containing wolves, hyenas, wild hogs, wild asses, monkeys, porcupines, and zebras. There were three or four cages full of poisonous snakes, one variety of which I recognized, the curse of India—the hooded cobra. Then there was a big python, picked up at Rio, and a boa-constrictor, taken aboard at one of the Pacific islands.
"There was a huge Nubian lion; a big, striped Bengal tiger; a hippopotamus, and a rhinoceros, to complete the list. I tell you, it made me creepy to go down among them, as we had to on occasions, to wash down.
"The elephant was moored to a stanchion by a short length of chain shackled around his hind leg, but it gave him a radius of action equal to his length and that of his hind leg and trunk. This precluded our using the fore-hatch to reach the hold, so we used the main-hatch; and, as there was daily use of it, this hatch was fitted with steps, and always kept open, even in bad weather.
"The immediate cause of the trouble was the carrying away of the foretop-gallant-yard, due to rotten halyards, and braces and lifts, when we were scudding before a gale off Hatteras. The yard came down on the whirl, but when it hit the deck it hit like a pile-driver—a straight, perpendicular blow—directly over the partners that held the upper end of the stanchion to which that crazy elephant was moored.
"It weakened it. We heard the big brute's protest, and then we heard the crash as he carried away the stanchion.
"Then we heard other noises as he raced aft among the cages—the mad squealing of the elephant, the growling and roaring of the lion and the tiger, the barking of the wolves and hyenas, the gruntings of the wild hogs, the heehaws of the wild asses and zebras, and the terrible, mumbling snorts of the hippopotamus and rhinoceros, as their cages were upset and destroyed.
"That mad elephant smashed them all, as we learned when the whole bunch, according to their acceptance of the situation, appeared on deck, growling or whining, looking for something to do or to kill. All hands were up, and we all took to the rigging, even the skipper and mates and the man at the wheel.
"The ship broached to, and away went the upper spars and yards. The canvas slatted and thrashed and, one by one, the sails went to ribbons and rags; but we could not help it. Down on deck were a big yellow lion and striped tiger wandering round, swishing their tails to starboard and port, looking for trouble.
"Also a python and a boa-constrictor, a half-dozen wolves from the Russian plateaus, the zebras and wild asses, the hyenas, with their ugly faces; the porcupines, and some of the small venomous snakes. We could see them as they climbed up the steps of the main-hatch.
"Even the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus came up; but, when the mad elephant tried, the steps broke under his weight, and he remained below. Still, we had a problem.
"There wasn't a gun among us, and to go down and face those beasts with handspikes was out of the question.
"I was in the mizzen crosstrees with the skipper, the second mate, the helmsman, and a couple of Sou'wegians who had been working aft. In the maintop were the first mate and three or four of the crew, and in the foretop were the rest, all bunched together and waiting for instructions.
"The skipper gave them.
"'Go down out o' that,' he yelled, 'and drive them down the hatch!'
"But not a man moved. Who would? He told me to go over and lash the wheel amidships, and I declined, as politely as I could. The wheel was spinning back and forth, the ship rolling in the trough, and the upper spars, hanging by their gear, slatting back and forth as the ship rolled.
"Down on deck were those murderous wild beasts, nosing round, and only waiting for the chance of getting together. I told this to the skipper.
"'Right,' he said. 'Perhaps they'll kill each other.'
"This seemed possible a few minutes later, when the tiger and the lion met face to face. They glared and growled and spit, just like two huge tomcats, then they sailed into each other.
"It was a lively scrap. They fenced and dodged and nipped as they could, but their motions were too swift to give either a good chance at a bite. They were in the air half the time, on their backs the other half, and it seemed an even fight until the tiger, in one of his plunges, bumped into the python, who had been squirming around the deck.
"Now, a python is not poisonous; but, nevertheless, he has a strong grip of jaw. He closed his jaws on the tiger's nose, and then began a funny sight. The big, striped brute could not shake him off; but he backed away, snarling and screaming with rage and pain, forward round the house, and aft on the other side to the space abaft the main-hatch, the snake writhing like a whip-lash, and the tiger never making an effort to use his forepaws.
"It seemed as though hereditary fear had seized him, for with a few digs and blows he could have clawed him off. This fight ended by the writhing python getting too close to the boa-constrictor, who happened to be nosing his way across the deck amidships. In the twinkling of an eye, the boa wrapped himself around the python, and the tiger got away.
"Then, while the two big snakes thrashed around the deck, Mr. Bengal slunk away like a cat scared by a dog—his tail between his legs, and the fur on his back raised up so that it looked like that of a razor-backed hog.
"He went forward of the house to think it over, and the two snakes fought it out, while the lion, thinking that he had won the fight, roared and growled his defiance to the rest.
"He was too confident; the big rhinoceros looked him in the face, and the trouble was resumed.
"Mr. Lion charged; but the rhino lowered his head, caught him between the forepaws with his horn, and sent him flying over his head, with a big gash in his body. That was enough for the lion, king of beasts though he was.
"Leaving a trail of blood, he slunk forward of the house, and there must have met his enemy, the tiger. We could not see, but we could hear, and we knew the fight between the two was resumed.
"The snakes were thrashing it out all this time, but neither seemed to get the better of it. The boa's instincts were to crush, the python's to swallow; but this swallowing pertained also to the boa, and it came about that the boa got about three inches of the python's tail into his mouth, and later the python got a grip on the boa's tail.
"They held fast and ceased their struggles, their efforts now being centered in the desire to swallow each other. This seemed a good solution of our problem, and we wished them well.
"Meanwhile, the hyenas and the Russian wolves got mixed up, and—talk about your dog fights—you never saw anything like it. Those beasts fought and snarled and wrestled round the deck in a way to make you glad you were up aloft, out of harm's way.
"It was a strange fight; both the hyenas and the wolves are cowards, each afraid of the other. And it was only when two wolves got at a hyena, or two hyenas got at a wolf that there was any real scrapping. But it came about that these two breeds destroyed each other.
"One after the other crawled away to die from loss of blood.
"The wild asses and zebras had got busy. Something about the arrangement of the zebra's stripes must have offended the artistic sensibilities of the wild asses, for pretty soon there was a lively kicking-match going on round the deck—a zebra against a donkey, kicking out, stern to stern, like prize-fighters sparring. It was funny, the way they looked round at each other while backing up to a fresh reach.
"Now, the tiger and the lion were having it out forward of the house; the wolves and the hyenas were scrapping, as they could, two against one; the python and the cobra were trying to swallow each other, and the asses and zebras were kicking the ribs out of each other. And, as if this were not enough to complete the circus, the hippo and the rhino must get together.
"Hippo made a plunging charge upon rhino and met that formidable tusk. But the hide of a hippo is something akin to armor-plate, and there was no damage, though the big brute was lifted and turned over. He came back, and in some manner got a grip on that big horn with his teeth; and from that on, their fight was simply a wrestling-match, neither able to hurt the other.
"And over their grunts and groanings, over the noise of the wolves and hyenas, the tiger and lion, and the slatting and bumping of the broken gear against the mast, and the sounds of sea and wind, rose supreme to our ears the blatant squealing and trumpeting of that mad elephant in the 'tween-decks.
"Added to this were the insane orders to us fellows of the skipper and the two mates. They demanded that we go down and quell the disturbance. Well, we did not go down. We did other things.
"It was I who suggested to the skipper the advisability of cutting away the connections that held those spars and sails aloft, so that they would drop down and free the ship of the extra top-hamper. He was badly rattled, but accepted my suggestion; so, at his orders, men went aloft on all three masts, and soon the wreck came down, the mizzen top-hamper falling overboard and the main diving down the open main-hatch. We hoped it hit the elephant.
"It was only chance, of course; but the foretop-gallantmast, with the royal yard attached, did hit the tiger a smashing blow on the head that ended his troubles. We could see him, just clear of the forward house, with the lion at his throat. There wasn't much of it. The lion bit in; then, satisfied that he had done the job, he left the dead tiger and came aft, still bleeding from the hole between the forelegs, and pounced upon rhino, who had made that hole.
"It roused the rhino. With a mighty upheaval, he shook off the hippo and charged on the lion. But this fighter had grown wary; he dodged and jumped, growling and snarling the while, but apparently in no mood to again risk the puncturing of his hide by that upright horn.