WEST WIND DRIFT
By George Barr McCutcheon
On a bright, still morning in October, the Doraine sailed from a South American port and turned her glistening nose to the northeast. All told, there were some seven hundred and fifty souls on board; and there were stores that filled her holds from end to end,—grain, foodstuffs, metals, chemicals, rubber and certain sinister things of war. Her passenger list contained the names of men who had achieved distinction in world affairs,—in finance, in business, in diplomacy, in war, besides that less subtle pursuit, adventure: men from both hemispheres, from all continents. It was a cosmopolitan company that sailed out to sea that placid day, bound for a port six thousand miles away.
Her departure, heavy-laden, from this South American port was properly recorded in the then secret annals of a great nation; the world at large, however, was none the wiser. For those were the days when sly undersea monsters of German descent were prowling about the oceans, taking toll of humanity and breeding the curse that was to abide with their progenitors forever.
Down through the estuary and into the spreading bay slid the big steamer; abreast the curving coast-line she drove her way for leagues and leagues, and then swept boldly into the vast Atlantic desert.
Four hundred years ago and more, Amerigo Vespucci had sailed this unknown southern sea in his doughty caravel; he had wallowed and rocked for months over a course that the Doraine was asked to cover in the wink of an eye by comparison. Up from the south he had come in an age when the seas he sailed were no less strange than the land he touched from time to time; the blue waste of sky and sea as boundless then as now; the west wind drift as sure and unfailing; the waves as savage or as mild; the star by which he laid his course as far away and immutable,—but he came in 1501 and his ship was alone in the trackless ocean.
The mighty Doraine was not alone; she sailed a sea whose every foot was charted, whose every depth was sounded. She sailed in an age of Titans, while the caravel was a frolicksome pygmy, dancing to the music of a thousand winds, buffeted today, becalmed tomorrow, but always a snail on the face of the waters. Four hundred years ago Vespucci and his men were lost in the wilderness of waves. Out of touch with the world were they for months,—aye, even years,—and no man knew whither they sailed nor whence they came, for those were the days when the seven seas kept their secrets better than they keep them now.
Into the path traversed by the lowly caravel steamed the towering Doraine, pointing her gleaming nose to the north and east.
She was never seen again.
Out from the lairs of the great American navy sped the swiftest hounds of the ocean. They swept the face of the waters with a thousand sleepless eyes; they called with the strange, mysterious voice that carries a thousand miles; they raked the sea as with a fine-tooth comb; they searched the coast of a continent; they penetrated its rivers, circled its islands, scanned its rocks and reefs,—and asked a single question that had but one reply from every ship that sailed the southern sea.
For months ships of all nations searched for the missing steamer. Not so much as the smallest piece of wreckage rewarded the ceaseless quest. The great vessel, with all its precious cargo, had slipped into its niche among the profoundest mysteries of the sea. Came the day, therefore, when the Secretary of the Navy wrote down against her name the ugly sentence: "Lost with all on board."
Maritime courts issued their decrees; legatees parcelled estates, great and small; insurance companies paid in hard cash for the lives that were lost, and went blandly about their business; more than one widow reconsidered her thoughts of self-denial; and ships again sailed the course of Amerigo Vespucci without a thought of the Doraine.
For months the newspapers in many lands speculated on the fate of the missing liner. That a great ship could disappear from the face of the waters in these supreme days of navigation without leaving so much as a trace behind was inconceivable. At first there were tales of the dastardly U-boats; then came the sinister reports of treachery on board resulting in the ship being taken over by German plotters, with the prediction that she would emerge from oblivion as a well-armed "raider" cruising in the North Atlantic; then the generally accepted theory that she had been swiftly, suddenly rent asunder by a mighty explosion in her hold. All opinions, all theories, all conjectures, however, revolved about a single fear;—that she was the victim of a German plot. But in the course of events there came a day when the German Navy, ever boastful of its ignoble deeds, issued the positive and no doubt sincere declaration that it had no record of the sinking of the Doraine. The fate of the ship was as much of a mystery to the German admiralty as it was to the rest of the puzzled world.
And so it was that the Doraine, laden with nearly a thousand souls, sailed out into the broad Atlantic and was never heard from again.
The Captain of the liner was an old man. He had sailed the seas for two-score years, at least half of them as master. At the outbreak of the Great War he was given command of the Doraine, relieving a younger man for more drastic duty in the North Sea. He was an Englishman, and his name, Weatherby Trigger, may be quite readily located on the list of retired naval officers in the British Admiralty offices if one cares to go to the trouble to look it up.
After two years the Doraine, with certain other vessels involved in a well-known and somewhat thoroughly debated transaction, became to all intents and purposes the property of the United States of America; she flew the American flag, carried an American guncrew and American papers, and, with some difficulty, an English master. The Captain was making his last voyage as master of the ship. An American captain was to succeed him as soon as the Doraine reached its destination in the United States. Captain Trigger, a little past seventy, had sailed for nearly two years under the American flag at a time when all Englishmen were looking askance at it and wondering if it was ever to take its proper place among the righteous banners of the world. It had taken its place among them, and the "old man" was happy.
His crew of one hundred and fifty was what might be aptly described as international. The few Englishmen he had on board were noticeably unfit for active duty in the war zone. There was a small contingent of Americans, a great many Portuguese, some Spaniards, Norwegians, and a more or less polyglot remainder without national classification.
His First Officer was a Scotch-American, the Second an Irish-American, the Chief Engineer a plain unhyphenated American from Baltimore, Maryland. The purser, Mr. Codge, was still an Englishman, although he had lived in the United States since he was two years old,—a matter of forty-seven years and three months, if we are to believe Mr. Codge, who seemed rather proud of the fact that his father had neglected to forswear allegiance to Queen Victoria, leaving it to his son to follow his example in the case of King Edward the Seventh and of King George the Fifth.
There were eighty-one first-cabin passengers, one hundred and nineteen in the second cabin,—for the two had not been consolidated on the Doraine as was the case with the harried trans-Atlantic liners,—and approximately three hundred and fifty in the steerage. The first and second cabin lists represented many races, South Americans predominating.
The great republics in the lower half of the hemisphere were cut off almost entirely from the Old World so far as general travel was concerned. The people of Argentine, Brazil and Chili turned their eyes from the east and looked to the north, where lay the hitherto ignored and sometime hated continent whose middle usurped the word American. A sea voyage in these parlous days meant but one thing to the people of South America: a visit to an unsentimental land whose traditions, if any were cherished at all, went back no farther than yesterday and were to be succeeded by fresh ones tomorrow. At least, such was the belief of the Latin who still dozed superciliously in the glory of his long-dead ancestors. Not having Paris, or London, or Madrid, or Rome as the Mecca of his dreams, his pilgrimage now carried him to the infidel realities of the North,—to Washington, New York, New Orleans, Newport and Atlantic City! He had the money for travel, so why stay at home? He had the money to waste, so why not dissipate? He had the thirst for sin, so why famish?
There were lovely women on board, and children with and without the golden spoon; there were men whose names were known on both sides of the Atlantic and whose reputations for integrity, sagacity, intellect, and,—it must be confessed,—corruptness, (with the author's apology for the inclusion); doughty but dogmatic university men who had penetrated the wildernesses as naturalists, entomologists, mineralogists, archaeologists, explorers; sportsmen who had forsaken the lion, rhinoceros, hartebeest and elephant of Africa for the jaguar, cougar, armadillo and anteater of South America; soldiers of fortune whose gods had lured them into the comparative safety of South American revolutions; miners, stock buyers and raisers, profiteersmen, diplomats, priests, preachers, gamblers, smugglers and thieves; others who had gone out for the Allies to buy horses, beeves, grain, metal, chemicals, manganese and men; financiers, merchants, lawyers, writers, musicians, doctors, dentists, architects; gentiles and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, skeptics and infidels,—in short, good men, bad men, beggar men, thieves.
The world will readily recall such names and personalities as these: Abel T. Landover, the great New York banker; Peter Snipe, the novelist; Solomon Nicklestick, the junior member in the firm of Winkelwein & Nicklestick, importers of hides, etc., Ninth Avenue, New York; Moses Block, importer of rubber; James January Jones, of San Francisco, promoter and financier; Randolph Fitts, of Boston, the well-known architect; Percy Knapendyke, the celebrated naturalist; Michael O'Malley Malone, of the law firm of Eads, Blixton, Solomon, Carlson, Vecchiavalli, Revitsky, Perkins & Malone, New York; William Spinney, of the Chicago Police force, (and his prisoner, "Soapy" Shay, diamond thief); Denby Flattner, the taxidermist; Morris Shine, the motion picture magnate; Madame Careni-Amori, soprano from the Royal Opera, Rome; Signer Joseppi, the new tenor, described as the logical successor to the great Caruso; Madame Obosky and three lesser figures in the Russian Ballet, who were coming to the United States to head a long-heralded tour, "by special arrangement with the Czar"; Buck Chizler, the famous jockey,—and so on.
These were the names most conspicuously displayed by the newspapers during the anxious, watchful days and weeks that succeeded the sailing of the Doraine from the port in the Tropic of Capricorn.
Dozens of cities in the United States were represented by one or more persons on board the Doraine, travellers of both sexes who, being denied the privilege of a customary dash to Europe for the annual holiday, resolved not to be deprived of their right to wander, nor the right to return when they felt inclined. Whilom, defiant rovers in search of change, they scoffed at conditions and went their way regardless of the peril that stalked the seas. In the main they were money-spending, time-dragging charges against the resources of a harassed, bewildered government, claiming protection in return for arrogance.
Far to the south, off the Falkland Islands, at the bottom of the sea, lay the battered hulls of what ware supposed to be the last of the German fighting-ships in South Atlantic waters. Report had it, however, that several well-armed cruisers had either escaped the hurricane of shells from the British warships, or had been detached from the squadron before the encounter took place. In any event, no vessel left a South American port without maintaining a sharp lookout for prowling survivors of the vanquished fleet, and no passenger went aboard who did not experience the thrill of a hazardous undertaking. The ever-present and ever-ready individual with official information from sources that could not be questioned, travelled with remarkable regularity on each and every craft that ventured out upon the Hun-infested waters. In the smoke-room the invariable word went round that raiders were sinking everything in sight. Every ship that sailed had on board at least one individual who claimed to have been chased on a former voyage by a blockade-breaker,—(according to the most reliable reports, the Germans were slipping warships through the vaunted British net with the most astounding ease and frequency,)—and there was no one with the hardihood or desire to question his veracity; indeed, it was something of a joy to believe him, for was he not a living and potential document to prove that the merchant marine could outwit, outrace and outshoot the German pirates?
The Doraine was barely twenty-four hours out from port and ploughing along steadily through a choppy sea when Mr. Mott, the First Officer, reported to Captain Trigger that a stowaway had been found on board.
"German?" inquired Captain Trigger tersely.
"No, sir. At least, he doesn't look it and, what's more, he doesn't act it. Claims to be American born and bred."
"That's what a great many Germans are claiming these days, Mr. Mott. We can't take any chances, you know. Where was he found?"
Mr. Mott cleared his throat. "Ahem! He wasn't what you might call found, sir. As a matter of fact, he applied in person to the Chief Engineer about half an hour ago and asked for a job. He said he was perfectly willing to work out his passage home. Mr. Gray had him conducted to me, sir,—rather sharply guarded, of course,—and he—"
"Fetch him here at once, Mr. Mott," commanded Captain Trigger. "I'll hear what he has to say first hand."
"Very well, sir." Mr. Mott started away, hesitated, rubbed his chin dubiously, and then came back. "He's having a bit of breakfast, sir, and has asked for the loan of Mr. Codge's razors—"
"What?" roared the captain.
"I informed him he would have to appear before you at once, sir, and he said he was quite willing to do so, but would it be possible for him to tidy up a bit beforehand. I am obliged to confess, sir, that I have never encountered a more interesting stowaway in all my career, which leads me to confess still further that I gave orders to feed him,—he hasn't had a mouthful to eat since we left port, owing to the fact, he says, that his luggage shifted the first day out and try as he would he couldn't locate it without a match, or something to that effect,—he rather stumped me, sir, with the graceful way he lies,—and then Mr. Codge agreed to let him take one of his razors, and when I left him below, sir, it seemed quite certain that Mr. Gray was on the point of lending him a shirt and a change of underwear. I—"
"Good God, sir!" gasped Captain Trigger, with something more than emotion in his voice. "What is this you are telling me?"
"He seems a most likeable chap," explained Mr. Mott lamely. "Quite a courteous fellow, too, sir. I forgot to mention that he sent his compliments to you and asks for an interview at your earliest conven—"
"Asked for an interview? Drag him here at once—by the heels, if necessary. Tell him I shan't keep him waiting an instant," said the captain ironically.
Mr. Mott still hesitated. "In the event, sir, that he is in the midst of shaving—"
"I don't care a hang what he's in the midst of," exclaimed Captain Trigger. "Even in the midst of changing shirts. Present my compliments to him, Mr. Mott, and say that he needn't dress up on my account. I am an old-fashioned sailor-man. It is nothing new to me to see men who haven't shaved in a fortnight, and others who never change shirts."
"Very well, sir," said Mr. Mott, and departed.
Presently he reappeared with the stowaway in charge.
Captain Trigger beheld a well set-up young man of medium height, with freshly shaven chin and jaws, carefully brushed hair, spotless white shirt and collar, and,—revealed in a quick glance,—recently scrubbed hands. His brown Norfolk jacket was open, and he carried a brand new, though somewhat shapeless pan-ama hat in his hand. Evidently he had ceased fanning himself with it at the moment of entering the captain's presence. The keen, good-looking face was warm and moist as the result of a most violent soaping. He wore corduroy riding-breeches, cavalry boots that betrayed their age in spite of a late polishing at the hands of an energetic and carefully directed bootblack, and a broad leather belt from which only half an eye was required to see that a holster had been detached with a becoming regard for neatness. His hair was thick and sun-bleached; his eyes, dark and unafraid, met the stern gaze of the captain with directness and respect; his lips and chin were firm in repose, but they might easily be the opposite if relaxed; his skin was so tanned and wind-bitten that the whites of his eyes were startlingly defined and vivid. He was not a tall man,—indeed, one would have been justified in suspecting him of being taller than he really was because of the more or less deceiving erectness with which he carried himself. As a matter of fact, he was not more than five feet ten or ten and a half.
Captain Trigger eyed him narrowly for a moment.
"What is your name?"
"A. A. Percival, sir."
"Your full name, young man. No initials."
The stowaway seemed to add an inch to his height before replying.
"Algernon Adonis Percival, sir," he said, a very clear note of defiance in his voice.
The Captain looked at the First Officer, and the First Officer, after a brief stare at the speaker, looked at the Captain.
"It's his right name, you can bet, sir," said Mr. Mott, with conviction. "Nobody would voluntarily give himself a name like that."
"You never can tell about these Americans, Mr. Mott," said the Captain warily. "They've got what they call a keen sense of humour, you know."
Mr. Percival smiled. His teeth were very white and even.
"I am a first and only child," he explained. "That ought to account for it, sir," he went on, a trifle defensively.
Captain Trigger did not smile. Mr. Mott, however, looked distinctly sympathetic.
"You say you are an American,—a citizen of the United States?" demanded the former.
"Yes, sir. My home is in Baltimore."
"Baltimore?" repeated Mr. Mott quickly. "That's where Mr. Gray hails from, sir," he added, as a sort of apology to the Captain for the exclamation.
The Captain's gaze settled on the stowaway's spotless white shirt and collar. Then he nodded his head slowly.
"Mr. Gray is the Chief Engineer," he explained, with mock courtesy.
"Yes, sir,—I know," responded Percival. "He comes of one of the oldest and most highly connected families in Baltimore. He informs me that his father—"
"Never mind!" snapped the Captain. "We need not discuss Mr. Gray's antecedents. How old are you?"
"Thirty last Friday, sir."
"And now, what the devil do you mean by sneaking aboard this ship and hiding yourself in the—by the way, Mr. Mott, where was he hiding?"
Mr. Mott: "It doesn't seem to be quite clear as yet, sir."
Captain Trigger: "What's that?"
Mr. Mott: "I say, it isn't quite clear. We have only his word for it. You see, he wasn't discovered until he accosted Mr. Shannon on the bridge and asked—"
Captain Trigger: "On the bridge, Mr. Mott?"
Mr. Mott: "That is to say, sir, Mr. Shannon was on the bridge and he was below on the promenade deck. He asked Mr. Shannon if he was the Captain of the boat."
Captain Trigger: "He did, eh? Well?"
Mr. Mott: "He was informed that you were at breakfast, sir,—no one suspecting him of being a stowaway, of course,—and then, it appears, he started out to look for you. That's how he fell in with the Chief Engineer. Mr. Gray informs me that he applied for work, admitting that he was aboard without leave, or passage, or funds, or anything else, it would seem. But, as for where he lay in hiding, there hasn't been anything definite arrived at as yet, sir. He seems to have been hiding in a rather wide-spread sort of way."
Mr. Percival, amiably: "Permit me to explain, Captain Trigger. You see, I have been obliged to change staterooms three times. Naturally, that might be expected to create some little confusion in my mind. I began in the second cabin. Much to my surprise and chagrin I found, too late, that the stateroom I had chosen,—at random, I may say,—was merely in the state of being prepared for a lady and gentleman who had asked to be transferred from a less desirable one. I had some difficulty in getting out of it without attracting attention. I don't know what I should have done if the steward hadn't informed them that he could not move their steamer-trunk until morning. There wouldn't have been room for both of us under the berth, sir. If the gentleman had been alone I shouldn't have minded in the least remaining, under his berth, but he—"
Captain Trigger: "How did you happen to get into that room, young man? The doors are never unlocked when the rooms are unoccupied."
Mr. Percival: "You are mistaken, sir. I found at least three stateroom doors unlocked that night, and my search was by no means extensive."
Captain Trigger: "This is most extraordinary, Mr. Mott,—if true."
Mr. Mott: "It shall be looked into, sir."
Captain Trigger: "Go on, young man."
Mr. Percival: "I tried another room in the second cabin, but had to abandon it also. It had no regular occupant,—it was Number 221 remember,—but along about midnight two men opened the door with a key and came in. They were stewards. I gathered that they were getting the room ready for someone else, so when they departed,—very quietly, sir,—I sneaked out and decided to try for accommodations in the first cabin. I—"
Mr. Mott: "Did you say stewards?"
Mr. Percival: "That's what I took them to be."
Captain Trigger: "You are either lying, young man, or plumb crazy."
Mr. Percival, with dignity: "The latter is quite possible, Captain,—but not the former. I managed quite easily to get from the second cabin to the first. You'd be surprised to know how simple it was. Running without lights as you do, sir, simplified things tremendously. I found a very sick and dejected Jewish gentleman trying to die in the least exposed corner of the promenade deck. At least, he said he didn't want to live. I offered to put him to bed and to sit up with him all night if it would make him feel a little less like passing away. He lurched at the chance. I accompanied him to his stateroom, and so got a few much-needed hours of repose, despite his groans. I also ate his breakfast for him. Skirmishing around this morning, I found there were no unoccupied rooms in the first cabin, so I decided that we were far enough from land for me to reveal myself to the officer of the day,—if that's what you call 'em on board ship,—with a very honest and laudable desire to work my passage home. I can only add, Captain, that I am ready and willing to do anything from swabbing floors on the upper deck to passing coal at the bottom of the ship."
Captain Trigger stared hard at the young man, a puzzled expression in his eyes.
"You appear to be a gentleman," he said at last. "Why are you on board this ship as a stowaway? Don't you know that I can put you in irons, confine you to the brig, and put you ashore at the first port of call?"
"Certainly, sir. That's just what I am trying to avoid. As a gentleman, I am prepared to do everything in my power to relieve you of what must seem a most painful official duty."
Mr. Mott smiled. The Captain stiffened perceptibly.
"How did you come aboard this ship?" he demanded.
"As a coal passer, sir. Day before yesterday, when you were getting in the last lot of coal. I had a single five dollar gold piece in my pocket. It did the trick. With that seemingly insignificant remnant of a comfortable little fortune, I induced one of the native coal carriers,—a Portuguese nobleman, I shall always call him,—to part with his trousers, shirt and hat. I slipped 'em on over my own clothes, stuffed my boots and socks inside my shirt, picked up his basket of coal, and walked aboard. It isn't necessary, I suppose, to state that my career as a dock-hand ceased with that solitary basket of coal, or that having once put foot aboard the Doraine, I was in a position to book myself as a passenger."
"Well, I'm damned!" said Captain Trigger. "Some one shall pay for this carelessness, Mr. Mott. I've never heard of anything so cool. What did you say your name is, young man?"
"A. A. Percival, sir."
"Ah—ahem! I see. Will it offend you, A. A., if I make so bold as to inquire why the devil you neglected to book your passage in the regular way, as any gentleman from Baltimore might have been expected to do, and where is your passport, your certificate of health, your purse and your discharge from prison?"
Mr. Percival spread out his hands in a gesture of complete surrender.
"Would you be interested in my story, Captain Trigger? It is brief, but edifying. When I arrived in town, the evening before you were to sail, I had a wallet well-filled with gold, currency, and so forth. I had travelled nearly two thousand miles,—from the foothills of the Andes, to be more definite,—and I had my papers, my cancelled contract, and a clear right-of-way, so to speak. My personal belongings were supposed to have arrived in town on the train with me. A couple of cow-hide trunks, in fact. Well, they didn't arrive. I don't know what became of them. I had no time to investigate. This was the last boat I could get for two or three weeks that would land me in the U. S. A. I put up at the Alcazar Grand for the night. It was then too late to secure passage, but I fully intended to do so the first thing in the morning. There was a concert and dance at the hotel that night, and I went in to look on for awhile. I ran across a friend, an engineer who was on the job with me up in the hills a few months ago. He is also an American, a chap from Providence, Rhode Island. Connected with the consular service now. He was with a small party of Americans,—am I boring you?"
"No, no,—get on with it," urged Captain Trigger.
"Several of them were sailing on this ship, and they were having a little farewell party. That, however, has nothing to do with the case. I left them at midnight and went up to my room. Now comes the part you will not believe. During the night,—I sleep very soundly,—some one entered my room, rifled my pockets, and got away with everything I possessed, except my clothes and the five-dollar gold piece I have carried ever since I left home,—as a lucky coin, you know. He—"
"How did he happen to overlook your lucky coin?" inquired the Captain sarcastically.
"Because it couldn't be a lucky coin if I carried it in my purse. No coin is ever lucky that gets into my purse, Captain. I always kept it tightly sewed up in the band of my trousers, safe from the influence of evil companions. I did not discover the loss until morning. It was then too late to do anything, as you were sailing at eight. My Providence friend was not available. I knew no one else. But I was determined to sail on the Doraine. That's the story, sir, in brief. I leave it to you if I wasn't justified in doing the best I could under the circumstances."
Captain Trigger was not as fierce as he looked. He could not keep the twinkle out of his eye.
"We will see about that," he managed to say with commendable gruffness. "Assuming that your story is true, why are you in such a tremendous hurry to reach the United States? Skipping out for some reason, eh?"
"Well," said the young man slowly, "you see, news is a long time getting out into the wilderness where I've been located for a couple of years. We knew, of course, that there was a war on, but we didn't know how it was progressing. Down here in this part of the world we have a war every two or three months, and we've got so used to having 'em over within a week or two that we just naturally don't pay much attention to them. We don't even care who wins. But a couple of months ago we got word up there that the United States had finally got into it with everybody under the sun, and that the Germans were bound to win if we didn't get a couple of million men across in pretty short order. I am thirty years old, Captain, strong and healthy, and I'm a good American. That's why I want to get home. I've told you the truth about being robbed. I don't mind losing the money,—only a couple of thousand pesos, you know,—but if you chuck me off at the next port of call, Captain Trigger, I'll curse you to my dying day. I'm willing to work, I'm willing to be put in irons, I'm willing to get along on bread and water, but you've just got to land me in the United States. You are an Englishman. I suppose you've got relatives over in France fighting the Germans. Maybe you've had some one killed who is dear to you."
"My youngest son was killed in Flanders," said the Captain simply.
"I am sorry, sir. Well, for every Englishman and every Frenchman who has died over there, my country ought to supply some one to take his place. I expect to be one of those men, Captain. I have no other excuse for coming aboard your ship as a stowaway."
The Captain still eyed him narrowly.
"I believe you are honest, young man. If I am deceived in you I shall never trust the eyes of another man as long as I live. Sit down, Mr. Percival. I shall put you to work, never fear, but in the meantime I am very much interested in what you were doing up in the hills. You will oblige me by going as fully as possible into all the details. I shall not pass judgment on you until I've heard all of your story."
Algernon Adonis Percival, civil and mining engineer, Cornell, had gone through certain rather harsh stages of development in the mines of Montana and later in the perilous districts of Northern Mexico. A year or two prior to the breaking out of the great World War, he was sent to South America to replace the general superintendent of a new copper-mining enterprise in a remote section of the Andes, on the Bolivian side of the mountains. Here he was in charge of the heterogeneous horde of miners, labourers, structural workers and assayists who were engaged in the development and extension of the vast concession controlled by his company.
His description of the camp or town in which this motley assemblage dwelt from one year's end to the other, far from civilization, was illuminating to the two sea-faring men. It must be confessed, however, that a sound reluctance to swallow the tale without the proverbial grain of salt caused them to watch closely for the slightest sign that might reveal to them the always-to-be expected and seldom successful duplicity so common in those harrowing days when all men were objects of suspicion. From time to time they glanced inquiringly at each other, but the stranger's story was so straightforward, so lacking in personal exploitation, so free from unnecessary detail, that they were finally convinced that he was all that he represented himself to be and that they had nothing to fear from him.
His long, hazardous journey by horse through the passes down into the forests and jungles, out upon the endless, sparsely settled pampas, and eventually into the remote village that witnessed the passing every second day of a primitive and far from dependable railway train, was presented with agreeable simplicity and conciseness. He passed briefly over what might have been expanded into grave experiences, and at last came, so to speak, to the gates of the city, unharmed, resolute and full of the fire that knows no quenching.
"By the way," observed the Captain, still wary, "has it occurred to you we may be justified in suspecting that you deserted your post up there in the hills, and that you have betrayed the confidence of your employers?" Percival had completed what he evidently believed to be a full and satisfactory account of himself.
"I was in full charge up there, Captain Trigger. My contract had but a month more to run. I appointed my own successor, and the company will not be any the worse off for the change. My letter to headquarters, announcing my decision not to renew the contract, went forward two weeks before I left the camp. I merely anticipated the actual termination of my contract by a month or so, and as I handed my resignation at once to my own newly appointed superintendent, I submit that I acted in absolute good faith. I may say that he accepted it without a word of protest, sir. As a matter of fact, I told him in advance that I wouldn't appoint him unless he agreed to accept my resignation."
The Captain smiled at this ingenuous explanation.
"I daresay I ought to put you under guard, Mr. Percival," he said. "My duty is very plain. A stowaway is a stowaway, no matter how you look at him. The regulations do not leave me any choice. Maritime justice is rarely tempered by mercy. However, under the circumstances, I am inclined to accept your word of honour that you will not violate your parole if I refrain from putting you in irons. Have I your word of honour that you will not leave this ship until I hand you over to the proper authorities in the United States?"
"You have, sir."
"You are a very head-strong, ambitious young man. You will not jump overboard and try to beat us into port under your own steam?"
"You may trust me, sir, never to give up the ship."
"And you will kill as many Germans as possible?"
"Yes, sir," said A. A. Percival submissively.
Captain Trigger arose and extended his hand.
"I've never done anything like this before in all my years as ship's master. You ought to be flogged and stowed away in the brig until you show a properly subdued spirit, young man. I suppose you've heard of the cat-o'-nine-tails?"
"My reading up to the age of fifteen was confined almost exclusively to the genteel histories of pirates, buccaneers and privateersmen, Captain Trigger," announced A. A. Percival, taking the master's hand in a firm grip. "I wonder if you know what a black-snake whip is, or a cattle-adder? Well, they're both painful and convincing. As director of morals in the camp I have just left behind me, it was my official duty on frequent occasions to see to it that current offenders had from fifteen to fifty applications of the black-snake in a public sort of way. The black-snake, I may explain, could be wielded by a strong but unskilled arm. It was different, however, with the cattle-adder. That had to be handled by an expert, one who could stand off twenty paces, more or less, and crack the long lash with such astonishing precision that the tip end of it barely touched the back of the culprit, the result being a nobby assortment of splotches that looked for all the world like hives after the blood got back into them again. You see, I was chief magistrate, executioner ex-officio, chief of police, jury commissioner—in fact, an all-around potentate. Sort of Pooh-bah, you know. For serious offences, such as wife beating, wife stealing, or having more than one wife at a time, we were not so lenient. The offender, on conviction, was strung up by the thumbs and used as a target by amateurs who desired to become proficient in the use of the cattle-adder. Murderers were attended to a trifle more expeditiously. They were strung up by the neck."
"Good God, man,—do you mean to say you hung men in that off-hand fashion?" cried Captain Trigger, aghast.
"Not without a fair trial, sir. No innocent man was ever hung. There was no such thing as circumstantial evidence in that camp. The guilty man was always taken red-handed. We had good laws and they were rigidly enforced. There was no other way, sir. Short, sharp and decisive. It's the best way. Men understand that sort of thing and honest men approve of the method. You see, gentlemen, we had a hard lot of characters to deal with. I wish to add, however, that before I had been up there six months we had a singularly law-abiding and self-respecting camp. Crime was not tolerated, not even by the men who had once been criminals. If two men quarrelled, they were allowed to fight it out fairly and squarely in any way they could agree upon. Knives, hatchets and all other messy weapons were barred. It was either fists, pistols or rifles at a fairly long range, and under the strictest rules. Duels were fought according to Hoyle, and were witnessed by practically every one in camp. You will perceive that Copperhead Camp was no place for a coward or a bluffer or a bully. It takes a brave man to fight a duel with a chap who may be only half as big as he is, but who can shoot like the devil. So you see, Captain Trigger, the cat-o'-nine-tails has no terror for me."
Mr. Mott regarded the young man with wide-open, somewhat incredulous eyes.
"You don't look like a fire-eating, swashbuckling party to me," he said.
"I am the most peaceable chap you've ever seen, Mr. Mott. You needn't be alarmed. I'm not going to bite a hole in the ship and scuttle her. Moreover, I am a very meek and lowly individual on board this ship. There's a lot of difference between being in supreme command with all kinds of authority to bolster you up and being a rat in a trap as I am now. Up in Copperhead Camp I was a nabob, here I'm a nobody. Up there I was the absolute boss of five or six hundred men,—I won't say I could boss the women,—and I made 'em all walk chalk without once losing step. There were murderers and crooks, blacklegs and gunmen in my genial aggregation, men whose true names we never knew, men who were wanted in every part of the civilized world. The only place on earth, I suppose, where they could feel reasonably at home was in that gosh-awful nowhere that we called Copperhead Camp. You can't handle such men with mittens. And there were good men there as well,—good, strong, righteous men. They were the leaven that made the whole thing palatable. Without them I could have had no authority. But I dare say I am boring you. The present situation is the one we're interested in, not the lordly past of your humble and, I trust, obedient servant."
His smile was most engaging, but back of it the two seamen read strength, decision, integrity. The gay, bantering, whilom attitude of this unusual young man was not assumed. It was not a pose. He was not a dare-devil, nor was he a care-free, unstable youth who had matured abruptly in the exercise of power. On the contrary, he was,—and Captain Trigger knew it,—the personification of confidence, an optimist to whom victory and defeat are equally unavoidable and therefore to be reckoned as one in the vast scheme of human endeavour; a fighter who merely rests on his arms but never lays them down; a spirit that absorbs the bitters and the sweets of life with equal relish.
Captain Trigger was not slow in making up his mind. This clean-minded, clean-bodied American with the confident though respectful smile, was a chap after his own heart.
"I hardly know what to do with you, Percival," he said, a scowl of genuine perplexity in his eyes. "You are not an ordinary transgressor. You are a gentleman. You have exercised an authority perhaps somewhat similar to my own,—possibly in some respects your position up there was even more autocratic, if I may use the term. I am not unconscious of all this, and yet I have no choice other than that designated by law. The regulations are unalterable. It is a matter of morale, pure and simple. We are compelled to treat all stowaways alike. Of course, I shall not subject you to the ordinary—shall we say methods of—"
"Pardon me, Captain," broke in the young man, his smile no longer in evidence; "I am asking no favours. I expect to be treated as an ordinary stowaway. Set me to work at anything you like and I will make as good a job of it as possible."
"I was about to suggest that you serve as a sort of assistant to Mr. Codge, the purser. I've no doubt he could find something for you to do and—"
"If that is your way of punishing me, Captain Trigger, of course there is nothing for me to do but to submit."
"Eh? I am sure you will not find Mr. Codge a hard taskmaster. He is quite a good-natured man."
"Extremely kind and considerate," hastily added Mr. Mott, reassuringly.
"But I don't want to loaf my passage home," protested Percival. "I want to be sentenced to the hardest sort of labour, if you don't mind. I don't want to owe this steamship company a penny when I step ashore. It is your duty, sir, as master of this ship, to put me on the meanest job you've got."
"My word!" exclaimed Captain Trigger.
"I'm blessed!" said Mr. Mott.
"Up where I've been running things and cock-walking like a foreman in a shirt-waist factory, I made the rules and I enforced them. I want to say to you that no favours were shown. If the Prince of Wales had drifted in there, dead broke, and asked for something to eat, he would have got it, but you bet your life he'd have had to work for it. A tramp's a tramp, no matter how much purple he's been used to, and you can say the same for a stowaway. What's the matter with me taking the place of one of those deck-hands, or whatever you call 'em, you lost last night?"
"Swabbers, maybe you call 'em. Men that mop up the decks after everybody else has turned in."
"What are you talking about?" demanded the Captain, sitting up very straight. Percival stared at him in astonishment.
"I thought you knew about it, of course. Good Lord, sir, don't you know that a couple of your men jumped overboard last night,—or early this morning, rather? Just as the ship was rounding that big headland—"
"Good God, man, are you in earnest?" cried Mr. Mott, starting toward the door.
"I certainly am. I took them for deserters, of course,—not suicides, because they didn't forget to put on life preservers before they jumped. I haven't a doubt they were picked up, so there's no use worrying. A minute or two after they went over,—from the bottom deck or whatever you call it,—I heard a motor boat popping away like a gatling-gun not far,—"
But he was alone. Captain Trigger had dashed out of the cabin in the wake of the First Officer.
Algernon Adonis Percival stared blankly at the open door.
"Good Lord, why all this excitement over a couple of bums?" he said, addressing space. "If they were working for me, I'd thank the Lord to be rid of 'em so cheaply. They—Hello!"
The Second Officer popped into the room.
"Come along with me," he snapped. "Lively, now. Just where and when did you see a couple of men go overboard? Quietly, now. We don't want to alarm the passengers."
Within five minutes after Percival's disturbing report, the officers of the Doraine, with set faces, were employed in a swift but silent investigation. Before many more minutes had passed, at least a portion of the stowaway's story had been verified. Two men were found to be missing, although, strange to say, they had not been missed up to the time that noses were counted. They were down on the ship's roster as Norwegians, New York registry, and had come down with the Doraine on her trip from the north.
Percival repeated his story, but had little to add in the way of detail. He had stolen on deck some time after midnight for a breath of air, risking detection, and from the shelter of a secluded corner well aft had heard the two men swabbing the deck below. Suddenly they ceased work, and he prepared to creep back to a place of safety, concluding that they were on their way to the upper deck.
He went to the rail to listen. The two men were almost directly below him, and he could see the upper portions of their figures as they leaned far out over the rail, apparently looking into the swirling waters below. Quite distinctly he heard one of them say, in English: "We got to do it now or never." The other mumbled something he could not distinguish. He was only mildly interested, not anticipating what was to follow. For a few seconds he heard them scrambling and puffing and then he saw them quite plainly on the rail, their figures bulky with what he identified as life buoys, a faint light from somewhere falling directly upon the grayish-white objects in which they were swathed.
One of them uttered the word "Now!" and to his amazement they shot out, as one man, into the black-ness below. There was a single splash. For a moment or two he stood spell-bound. Then he heard some one running along the deck below. Convinced that the incident had been witnessed by others, he darted into the companion-way and made his way back to the stateroom of the sick passenger. Through the lightless porthole he listened for the terrifying shout, "Man overboard!" It did not come, but his ear caught the staccato beat of a motor near by, striking up abruptly out of the swish of rushing waters. In his ignorance, he decided that it was a boat from the ship going to the rescue of the daring deserters, and calmly waited for the engines of the mighty Doraine to cease their rhythmic pulsing. He fell asleep.
When he awoke, he concluded that he had dreamed the whole thing. This conclusion was justified when he asked his wretched "bunkie" if he had observed him leaving the room during the night. The answer was a mournful negative, followed by the sufferer's more or less positive declaration that he was staring wide awake the whole damned night long.
Percival, unconvinced, boldly made his way to the lower deck and discovered that two life buoys were missing from their supports, a circumstance that put an end to the hope that he had dreamed it all. His own affairs however now loomed large, taking precedence over the plight of the men who had deliberately abandoned the ship. In any case, the ship's officers had done everything that could be done in the matter. He was genuinely astonished to learn that the act of the two men was unknown to the Captain.
A hurried conference of the ship's officers and the commander of the gun-crew resulted in a single but definite conclusion. The desperate, even suicidal manner in which the men left the ship signified but one thing: the absolute necessity of flight before an even more sinister peril confronted them. Not a man on board doubted for an instant that they had taken their chance in the waters as a part of a preconceived plan, and they had taken it with all the devilish hardihood of fanatics.
The presence of the motor craft, so far out from port, lurking with silent engine in the path of the steamship, could have but one significance. It represented one of the carefully thought-out details in a stupendous, far-reaching plot.
If there were signals between the motor boat and the two men aboard the steamship, they were not observed by the lookouts. In all probability no signals were given. The little craft was to be at a certain place at a certain hour,—and she was there! The men who jumped knew that she would be there. A black, tiny speck on the broad expanse of water, sheltered by a night of almost stygian darkness, she lay outside the narrow radius to which visual observation was confined, patiently waiting for the Doraine to pass a designated point. There was to be no miscalculation on the part of either the boat or the men who went over the side of the big steamship into the seething waters.
The closest inquiry among the members of the crew failed to reveal any one who had witnessed the leap of the men. Percival was positive, however, that some one ran along the lower deck, but whether toward or away from the spot where the men went over he had no means of knowing. He offered the suggestion that there were three persons actually involved, and that one of them, more than likely the victim of a coin-flipping decision, had remained on board to complete the work the trio had been chosen to perform, even though death was to be his lot.
The Second Officer had been regarding Percival with ever-growing suspicion.
"Is there anything to prove, young man, that you are not the one who stayed behind to complete the job?" he demanded at last.
"Nothing," said Percival promptly, and somewhat scathingly, "nothing at all, except the trifling fact that I am here talking it over with you gentlemen instead of attending to my business, as any honest conspirator should be doing. You may be quite sure of one thing: if there is a man on board this ship whose business it is to finish the job, he isn't idle. He's getting on with the job at this minute, gentlemen. If you'll take my advice you will institute two investigations. First, search the ship from stem to stern, from keel to bridge, for bombs or infernal machines. Second, ask your rich passengers if they have lost anything in the shape of pearls, diamonds, coin of the realm, or anything else worth jumping into the ocean for."
Captain Trigger looked at him over the top of his eye-glasses.
"You are not in Copperhead Camp at present, Mr. Percival," he said stiffly.
The young man flushed. "I beg your pardon, Captain Trigger," he said simply.
"All you have to do," said the Second Officer, fixing him with an inimical eye, "is to answer questions and not to tell us how to run this ship."
Percival did his best to hold back the retort, but, failing, released it with considerable sharpness:
"Well, if I was running this ship I'd head her for shore pretty damned quick."
The American in command of the gun-crew was the only one who smiled, and he did it openly. Captain Trigger's face darkened redly.
"Take this man in charge, Mr. Shannon. He wants work. Give it him. Under guard."
"Am I suspected, Captain Trigger, of being in league—"
"Every man, every woman on board this ship is suspected," said the Captain with decision. "Every one, sir, from myself down. The rest of us grasp that fact, even if you do not."
And so it was that while Algernon Adonis Percival, under the watchful eye of a burly seaman, fell to work scraping the scuppers on the boat deck, the stern business of searching the ship went forward with a thoroughness that left no room for doubt as to the fears and apprehensions of the men who had her in charge. Despite the fact that intensive, anxious hours of delving revealed no hidden, sinister agent of destruction, there was no relaxation on the part of the officers and crew. One by one the passengers were examined; their rooms and their luggage were systematically overhauled. No one resented these drastic operations, for by midday the whole ship's company knew what had transpired during the night. Eagerly they answered the questions, cheerfully they submitted to the examination of their effects, and then fell silent and subdued, oppressed by the suspense that hung over the ship like a cloud. Crew and passengers alike underwent the most rigid questioning, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the young and the old.
Early that morning, in fact some time prior to the time that Percival told his story, the wireless operator reported that his transmitter was out of order. While he was satisfied that the apparatus had not been tampered with, he was plainly affected by the rather grim coincidence. He was an old and trusted man in the service, competent, efficient and loyal.
His assistant, the night operator, however, had made less than half a dozen voyages on the Doraine. He was an Englishman, a cripple; twice he had been rescued after vessels on which he sailed were sent to the bottom by German submarines. His credentials were flawless. He was on duty during the night just past, and had picked up several indistinct, incomplete radio messages. There was nothing wrong with the receiving or transmitting apparatus when he went off duty at six in the morning, and as his superior came on at the same hour,—they exchanged greetings at the door of the wireless house,—it was absolutely impossible for any one to have entered the well-guarded room without attracting attention. Cruise, the chief radio-man, had his assistant routed out of bed and together they worked like beavers over the disabled mechanism.
Hour after hour, the nervous, uneasy passengers paced the decks. Few remained indoors, and few possessed the calmness to loll in deck-chairs.
Percival toiled cheerfully, but with eye and ear alert for the first inkling of definite peril. With commendable thoughtfulness, he had shed the clean white shirt and collar so generously supplied by his fellow townsman, and had donned a commodious sea-jacket.
He could not help observing the dark, suspicious glances cast upon him by the deck-walkers, nor were his ears proof against audible comments. Mothers nudged their children and said, in slightly lowered but distinctly impressive tones:
"That's the man. He's a stowaway."
"See, Wilfred,—see the man? No, no! The one with the mop, dear. Don't go near him."
"What a dreadful looking creature he is."
"The Captain captured him this morning away down in the bottom of the ship. He was stealing a ride."
"Poor fellow! He doesn't look like a bad man, does he?"
And so on and so forth, as the day went along.
Masculine strollers had very decided opinions about him. Mr. Landover, the banker, stopped to discuss the toiling menial with Mr. Nicklestick, Mr. Block and Mr. Fitts.
"He ought to be in irons," said Mr. Landover, glowering at Percival. "That's what I told the Captain a little while ago. He's a bad egg, that fellow is. I'm a pretty good judge of men, gentlemen, and I don't often make mistakes. That fellow is a fugitive from justice, if he isn't something worse. Observe the cut of his mouth—ah! see that? What did I tell you? Did you ever see a more evil grin?"
"Take it from me," said Mr. Nicklestick, "that guy knows a good deal more about what is going on aboard this ship than he lets on. He ain't as simple as he looks. I told Captain Trigger just now that he ought to give him a dose of the third degree. That's the way to get to the bottom of this business. String him up by the thumbs till he squeals. What say, Mr. Fitts?"
Mr. Fitts, the architect, was a mild man.
"He strikes me as a rather honest looking sort of chap," he said, and was promptly glared at by his companions. "Of course," he hastened to add, "I am not saying that he is all right. He may be as crooked as the deuce. I'm only saying he's got a rather pleasing sort of face."
"The most innocent, open-faced young fellow we ever had in the bank," said Mr. Landover, "turned out to be the damnedest rascal I've ever encountered."
"How did you happen to have him in the bank if you are such a good judge of men?" inquired Mr. Fitts, utterly without malice.
Mr. Landover reddened. "My dear sir, I do not come in contact with every employe of the bank. You forget that it is quite an immense institution."
"It sure is," said Mr. Nicklestick. "I'm thinking of transferring our account to your bank, Mr. Landover. We've been banking with—"
"I vas telling my vife at lunch," broke in Mr. Block, twitching his Hebraic nose emphatically,—"not that we could eat any lunch, by gracious, no!—I vas telling her I bet my boots dere ain't enough life-boats to get as much as half of us off safe in case something happens. I counted up all the life-boats I could see, and ven I estimate the number of peoples on board, w'y, by gracious, the loss of life vould be frightful, gentlemen. The only chance we would haf would be for approxi-madely fifty percent of the peoples on board to be killed outright by the explosion."
"I hear there is a detective from Chicago on board, with a prisoner," ventured Mr. Fitts. "Why doesn't the Captain ask him to have a look at this stowaway fellow?"
"What would be the good of that?" demanded Mr. Landover. "I never saw a detective in my life that knew what to do in an emergency. Soon as you get one of them where he can't telephone in to headquarters for instructions he's as helpless as a baby. Don't talk to me about detectives. Why, this fellow would simply laugh in his face."
"Just, as he is laughing in yours at this moment, Mr. Landover," pursued Mr. Fitts pleasantly.
"The damned rascal," said Mr. Landover, and stalked away.
"There goes one of the biggest figures in the United States," said Mr. Nicklestick, looking after the banker. His remark was addressed to Mr. Fitts. "I wish I had his brains."
"Dey vouldn't do you any good, Nicklestick," said Mr. Block, "unless you had his money too also."
"If I had his brains," said Mr. Nicklestick, "he wouldn't have his money, so what's the difference?"
Mr. Block looked uneasily out over the tumbling ocean, focusing his gaze on a section of the horizon that for want of something more definite than mere hope lay in a direct line with the City of New York.
"And ven you stop to think," said he wistfully, "that we are still something like six thousand miles from home,—oh, veil! Vat's the use? I bet you I never go so far avay from my business again. Vat a fool I vas to make this trip ven the whole ocean is full of submarines and German agents and plotters and—Yes, vat a fool ven I had so many high-priced men vorking for me who vas crazy to come. But my vife she vould do it. Paris and London every year it used to be, so she must haf a little holiday or she vill die, she say. Veil, here we are. And ven I think vat a long holiday it is going to be maybe,—by gracious, I could kick myself for not giving in to my brother-in-law ven he begged so hard to be allowed to make the trip because he needed the change from not being avay from the office for five years, and his vife and children too. His vife she needed a change as much as he, vat with not being able to get into any good hotels in the summer time and not being able to keep out of them in the vinter time, she vas nearly distracted. No, I vas selfish. My vife she vas selfish too,—and him her own brother. Vy shouldn't he haf a vacation vonce in awhile?"
He turned abruptly to the sailor who lounged near the perspiring Percival.
"How far is it to land, my frient?" he inquired.
The sailor touched his cap. "Which way, sir?" he asked solemnly. "Fore or aft?"
(Percival said to himself: "By golly, I'll bet that man is an American.")
"Vat? Land,—you know vat I mean,—the end of the ocean. How far avay is it?"
The sailor calculated. "Well, the nearest land, sir, I should say, is about three hundred miles away, to port."
"How deep is it here?" asked Mr. Nicklestick, moving away from the rail suddenly.
The sailor glanced down at the water, squinted an eye, and then spoke reassuringly.
"It ain't half as deep here as it is a little furder on," he said. "It's only a shade over three miles where we are now, sir. We're comin' to the deepest part of the ocean,—ought to be there inside of a couple of hours. Here, you! On the job, on the job!"
"You ought to search that man carefully," advised Mr. Nicklestick.
"I have," growled the sailor. "He says he never uses it in that form. I guess he's tellin' the truth."
"Never uses what?"
"Oh!" said Mr. Nicklestick, and, catching a glimpse of Madame Obosky emerging upon the deck, unceremoniously deserted his companions and hurried off to join her, his speed being suddenly accelerated by the spectacle of Mr. Shine, the motion picture magnate, who approached the lady from an equidistant station and with similar haste. Mr. Block, being a trifle near-sighted and in some doubt as to the whereabouts of his wife, peered here and there intently, and then bore down upon the celebrated Russian dancer, who, it would seem, was in dire need of consolation.
Mr. Fitts followed them with a glance over his glasses and then turned to the sailor man.
"I suppose it's against orders for me to speak to this man," he said.
The architect sighed, and walked away.
The parade became more interesting as the lack of news from the investigators restored a sort of hopeful optimism to the breasts of the anxious company. Those who had maintained a stubborn air of bravado, now became almost offensively jaunty. Others, frankly terrified at the outset, sauntered timidly away from the life-boats to which they were assigned. Every one was glad that the Captain had ordered a life-boat drill on the first afternoon out, and every one was glad that he had ignored the demand of Mr. Landover that the boats be lowered the instant he discovered that his passengers were in peril. No news was good news, argued the majority, and jesting was in order.
Peter Snipe, the novelist, got out a pad of paper and began jotting down impressions. Madam Careni-Amori and Signor Joseppi exchanged the first friendly words they had spoken to each other in weeks, and in full view of an entranced audience linked arms and strode bravely to and fro, the former clasping a huge jewel case to her ample bosom, the latter chafing perceptibly under the weight of an invisible belt stuffed to its capacity with banknotes and gold. Chilean ladies and Chilean gentlemen, dazzling Brazilian ladies and pompous Brazilian gentlemen, smug Argentinians, lordly Castilians, garrulous Portuguese, lofty English gentlemen and supercilious English ladies, friendly and irrepressible Americans,—all of them swinging their sea-legs with new-found abandon—clattered solidly around the wind-swept circuit. New faces appeared in the procession, new voices were raised with energy, new figures sprang into existence with marvellous rapidity. It seemed to Percival that the population doubled and tripled and quadrupled with every throb of the powerful engines. He saw his "bunkie" of the night before,—the man who was trying so hard to die and couldn't,—he saw him plunging along with the throng, pale but valiant, ferociously glaring at every one who smoked.
A small group of American nurses, some young and pretty, others young and homely, but all of them sprightly and clear-eyed,—nine of them, in fact—tramped by in "columns of three."
Percival's guardian jerked his head in their direction after they had passed, and volunteered this bit of information:
"Hornswoggled, them girls was. Come all the way down from New York six months ago. Promised double pay and plenty of work in the American colony. Sore as crabs, all of 'em. They got double pay all right, all right, but there was some misunderstandin' as to what single pay was to be to start off with. Single pay turned out to be just whatever suited the people that employed 'em, seein's they were nearly seven thousand miles away from God and up against it, so they're beatin' it back home to volunteer for service in France. I heard one of 'em say she could save more money workin' for nothin' in France than she could earn in a year down here at double pay. What'd you say your name was, young feller?"
"I mean your last name."
"Come off! Nobody ever had a last name like that."
"You ought to hear what my first name is,—and my middle one, too. You said a little while ago you'd never seen any one of my size with bigger and harder muscles. Well, if you knew what my full name is, old man, you'd understand why I began developing them,—I've got a lot more too that you can't see,—when I first began going to school."
"What is your other names?" inquired the sailor curiously.
"Algernon Adonis," said Percival.
The sailor was silent for a moment, thinking of the proper thing to say. Then he said:
"You're dead right. It takes a heap of muscle to pertect a name like that."
Three women stopped in front of the two men. Percival kept his eyes lowered.
"Why,—why, Auntie,—I know him," fell from the lips of one of the trio. There was not only surprise in her voice but a trace of awe as well.
The swabber looked up quickly. He found himself gazing straight into the eyes of the speaker. Her lips were parted, her head was bent slightly forward, her eyes expressed utter incredulity and bewilderment. Her companion, an elderly lady, and a bespectacled young woman who carried an arm-load of steamer-rugs, stared not at him but at the girl who had delivered this startling announcement.
"I mean I,—that is, I may be mistaken," stammered the latter, suddenly averting her eyes. A wave of crimson swept over her face.
"Undoubtedly," exclaimed the elderly lady with great positiveness. Turning to inspect the object under discussion, she sustained a shock that caused her to stiffen and draw in her breath quickly.
Percival was smiling in a most friendly and encouraging manner. He went farther, and lifted his disreputable white canvas hat.
"Oh, goodness!" exclaimed the young lady in a sort of panic. "Are you—is it really you, Mr. Percival?"
Mr. Percival glanced inquiringly at his guard.
"That's his name, Miss," said that worthy. "And that's one of the three reasons why he's got them muscular arms you're lookin' at. Sorry, though, but my orders are not to allow any one to speak to him."
"Are you crazy, Ruth?" cried the older lady, aghast. "It's the stowaway every one is talking about. The one who tried to blow up the ship."
The young lady returned Percival's smile,—rather a diffident, uncertain effort, to be sure, but still a smile,—and murmured something about night before last at the Alcazar Grand.
"What are you saying, Ruth? Do you mean to say you met this man at the Alcazar Grand?"
"Yes, Aunt Julia," said the other wrinkling her pretty forehead in perplexity. "He—he danced with me."
"He—you danced with him?" gasped the horrified Aunt Julia.
"Don't you remember? Phil Morton introduced him to us. I—I can't believe my eyes."
"I can't believe mine," snapped the elder woman. "I never saw this fellow before in my life. The idea! Phil Morton having a friend like—You are mistaken. And people are staring at us."
"Just the same," said her niece, stubbornly, "I did dance with him, and, what's more, I danced more than once with him. Didn't I, Mr. Percival?"
Mr. Percival, still beaming, again looked at the sailor appealingly.
"You can tell it to me," said the latter, furtively glancing to the right and left before making the concession.
Looking straight into the sailor's eyes, Percival said:
"Yes, Miss Clinton. I had four dances with you,—and a lemon squash."
"Wait a moment, Aunt Julia," protested the young lady, holding back. "Would you mind telling me, Mr. Percival, how you happen to be here and in this plight? You didn't mention sailing on the Doraine."
Mr. Percival, to the sailor: "Neither did you, Miss Clinton. You certainly are no more surprised than I am."
"Why are you on board as a stowaway? Phil Morton told me you belong to an old Baltimore family and had all kinds of—that is, you were quite well-off."
Mr. Percival, to the sailor: "Please don't blush, Miss Clinton. I'm not the least bit sensitive. Money isn't everything. I seem to be able to get along without it. Later on, I hope to have the opportunity to explain just why—"
"That'll do," interrupted the sailor. "Here comes the Captain."
Captain Trigger hove in sight around the corner of the deck building, with Chief Engineer Gray and the Second Officer.
"I don't know what to make of you," said Miss Clinton, sorely puzzled. Her aunt was clutching her arm. "You seemed so awfully jolly the other night. And—and just look at you now."
She moved away, followed by the bespectacled young woman and the steamer-rugs, graceful despite the sudden yank with which her aunt set her in motion. Percival managed to keep an eye on her till she turned the corner. Then he sighed.
The Captain halted in front of him.
"Are you acquainted with Mrs. Spofford and her niece, Percival?" he inquired.
"Miss Clinton has done me the honour to remember meeting me night before last at the Alcazar Grand, sir. Mrs. Spofford is not so generous."
"I see," said Captain Trigger reflectively. "You will report at once to Mr. Gray. He will give you a less public job, as you call it." A twinkle came into his eyes. "He doesn't like the hat you're wearing. Nor the shirt. Nor the boots."
"Thank you, sir."
"And, by the way, Percival, as soon as you are slightly refurbished I want you to stroll through the second cabin and if possible identify the two stewards who came to No. 22. Let me see, was it during the day or at night?"
"Some time during the night, sir. Eleven or half-past, I should say."
An hour later he reported to Captain Trigger. "I have seen all of the stewards, sir, according to Mr. Codge, and I do not recognize any of them as the men who came to No. 22. I had a fairly good view of them, too, from beneath the lower berth. They spoke in a language I did not understand—"
"Do you understand German?"
"No, sir. I know it when I hear it, however. They were not speaking German. I may have been wrong, but I came to the conclusion that they were transferring some one to No. 22. They brought in two suitcases, and left them when they went out. I—"
Captain Trigger brought his clenched fist down on the table with a resounding, emphatic bang.
"Now, we have it! That Chicago detective is right, by gad!"
He turned to the small group of officers clustered behind him. Fresh alarm,—real consternation,—had leaped into the eyes of every man of them.
"Then—then, that means our search isn't over?" cried Mr. Mott, starting up.
"It does! Every inch of this ship,—every damned inch of it, from stem to stern. Overlook nothing, Mr. Mott. Don't delay a second."
Percival was alone with the agitated Captain an instant later. Trigger's eyes were rather wild and bloodshot. The younger man's face blanched. He knew now that the danger was real. He waited for the Captain to speak.
"Percival, the two men you saw in 22 were not stewards. They were the men who jumped overboard. You tell me they left two bags there when they went out of the room. Well, they were not there this morning when the regular steward went into the room. They have disappeared. But the contents of those bags are still somewhere on board this ship. And if they are not found in time, by gad, sir, we will all be in Kingdom Come before we know it."
The first explosion occurred at eleven minutes past six. The chart-house and part of the bridge were blown to pieces. Three dull, splintering crashes ensued in rapid succession, proving beyond question that the bombs were set to automatically explode at a given time. One of them wrecked the engine-room; another blew a great hole in the stern of the ship, above the water line; the third destroyed the wireless house and carried away a portion of the deck with it.
There were eight in all of these devilish machines in the heart of the Doraine. Some time prior to the first explosion, the feverish searchers had uncovered four of them, cunningly planted in the most vital parts of the ship. Two were taken from the lower hold, one at each end of the vessel, and two more were found close to the carefully protected section of the vessel in which a rather insignificant but deadly shipment of high explosives was stored.
The discovery of the four bombs and their immediate consignment to the sea saved the ship from being blown to bits. With another hour to spare, it is more than probable the remaining four would have been found, notwithstanding the amazing cleverness with which they were hidden, so thorough and so dogged was the search. Confusion, terror, stupefaction and finally panic followed the successive blasts. The decks were strewn with people prostrated by the violent upheavals, and many there were who never got up again. Stunned, dazed, bewildered, those who were able to do so scrambled to their feet only to be hurled down again and again. Shrieks, groans, prayers,—and curses,—filled the brief, ghastly silences between the muffled detonations. The great vessel surged and rolled and plunged like a tortured animal.
The splintering of wood, the rending of plates, the shattering of glass, and above all this horrid turmoil the mighty roaring and hissing of steam!... And the wild, gurgling cries of the frantic unfortunates who had leaped into the sea!
Out of the chaos with incredible swiftness came the paralysis of despair, and out of that slowly but surely groped the never-failing courage of the men who go down to the sea in ships. Hoarse commands lifted above the groans and prayers, and strong but shaken figures sprang with mechanical precision to the posts allotted them. Life-boat after life-boat went down into the sea that glistened with the slanting rays of an untroubled sun, low-lying at the end of day.
Fire broke out in several places. Down into the bowels of the ship plunged the resolute, undaunted heroes who remained behind, the chosen complement reserved for just such an emergency by the far-seeing master.
Above the hissing of steam and the first feeble cracklings of flame, rose the stentorian voice of the Captain from his post at the base of the demolished bridge.
"Fight, men! Fight! Fight! There are dying men below! Stand by! Fight for them!"
He was bloody and almost unrecognizable as he stood there clutching a stanchion for support. His legs were rigid, his body swayed, but his spirit was as staunch as the star that had guided him for fifty years through the trackless waste.
And while these doughty, desperate spirits fought the fire and smoke with every means at their command, down in the suffocating depths of the ship, braving not only the peril visible and at hand, but the prospect of annihilation in the event that a belated bomb projected its hideous force into the nest of high explosives,—while these men fought, the smiling, placid sea was alive with small white craft that bobbed in the gleaming sunlight, life-boats crowded to the gunwales with shuddering, bleak-eyed men, women and children waiting to pick up those who stayed behind, and who inevitably would be driven overboard by the resistless, conquering flames.
Cruising about at a safe distance from the menacing hull, these boats managed to rescue a few of the beings who had leaped overboard in the first mad panic of fear, but many there were who went down never to be seen again. No boat was without its wounded—and its dead; no boat was without its stricken, anxious-eyed survivors who watched and prayed for the salvation of loved ones left behind. With straining eyes they searched the surface of the sea, peered at the occupants of near and distant boats, stared at the scurrying figures on the decks of the smoking steamer, hoping,—always hoping,—and always sobbing out the endless prayer.
At last, as the sun sank below the blue-black horizon, exhausted, red-eyed, gasping men struggled up from the drenched, smothering interior of the ship, and hurled themselves, not into the sea, but prone upon the decks! They had conquered! The scattered, vagrant fires, attacked in their infancy, while still in the creeping stage, had been subdued.
Darkness fell. A chill night air stole out of the east, stealthily trailing the sun. Will-o'-the-wisp lights bespecked the sea, surrounding the black hulk that lay motionless in the center of the circle. Lanterns in a score or more of small boats bobbed fitfully in the gentle swell. Presently lights appeared on board the Doraine, one here, one there, then others in twos and threes,—some of them stationary, others moving slowly from place to place. The life-boats crept closer, still closer. Then, out from the silent hulk, came the voice of man. It was the voice of the First Officer, hoarse and unrecognizable, but sharp with authority. Other voices repeated the commands from various parts of the ship,—commands to the encircling will-o'-the-wisps.
The word came down to the scores who filled the boats that they were to lie by until sunrise, keeping in close contact with each other and at no great distance from the ship. The most thorough, careful examination of the steamer was in progress. If it was found that she was in no danger of foundering,—and the word was most reassuring,—all of them would be taken aboard in the morning. Nothing could be done at present. A few hours more would tell the tale.
And then, for the first time since the disaster, the note of the croaker was heard. Each and every boat contained at least one individual who knew exactly what ought to be done in a crisis like this.
Mr. Landover addressed the benumbed, unresisting occupants of the boat into which he had climbed with commendable reluctance as one of the last persons to leave the ship.
"Why don't they begin sending out S. O. S. calls? What's the wireless for, if not to be used at a time like this? Say, you! Yell up there to some of those damned muddled-headed idiots and tell them what to do. Tell them that I say for them to send out calls for help. What's that? What did you say?"
The steward in charge of the boat repeated his remark and Mr. Landover at once said he would report him to Captain Trigger.
"But it won't do any good," complained the banker despairingly. "Captain Trigger hasn't got the backbone of a fishworm. He'd let you tell him to go to hell and never think of jacking you up for it. No wonder we're in the fix we're in now. If he'd had the sense of a jelly-fish he'd have—Here! Sit still! You'll upset the boat, you fool! What—What are you going to do with that oar?"
"I'm going to crack you over the bean with it if you don't take back what you said about Captain Trigger," said the steward, very earnestly. "Take it back, do you hear me?"
"My God, would you murder me for a little thing like that?"
Mr. Nicklestick aroused himself from the torpor of despair.
"Take it back, Mr. Landover,—please do. If he misses you, he'll get me sure, it's so dark, and so help me God, I got nothing but the deepest respect for Captain Trigger. He's a vonderful man, steward. Don't make any mistake. You hear me say he is a vonderful man? Veil,—"
"Oh, shut up, Nicklestick," grated Landover, crouching down behind the gentleman addressed.
The steward sat down. "I'd do it in a minute if it wasn't for the women an' children in this boat."
"I intend to have every officer on that steamer arrested for criminal negligence the instant I set foot in New York," boomed the banker. "I call upon every one of you, my fellow-passengers, to testify to the utter lack of precaution taken by the men in charge of that ship. And what effort are they making to bring help to us now? By gad, if I was in command of that vessel I'd be shooting wireless calls to every—Great Scott! What's that?"
"That's a rocket, you blamed old fool!" roared the steward.
"Good God!" gasped the exasperated banker. "Are we having a celebration with fireworks?"
The dull, hapless occupants of the lifeboats watched with fascinated eyes the first of the giant rockets that whizzed and roared its way up from the deck of the ship, an endless arrow of fire piercing the night. A loud report, the scattering of a hundred stars, and then—denser blackness than before.
Morning came. Up out of the east stole a sickly grey. It turned slowly into pink, and then suddenly the sea once more was blue and smiling. In the heart of the dancing cordon lay the weirdly camouflaged Doraine, inert, sinister, as still and cold as death. No smoke issued from her stacks to cheer the wretched watchers; no foam, no spray leaped from her mighty bow. She was a great, lifeless thing. Waves lapped gently against her sides and fell away only to come back again in playful scorn for the vast object that had rent and baffled them so long. On high fluttered the Stars and Stripes, gay in the presence of death, a sprightly harbinger of hope flaunting defiance in the face of despair.
Men, stripped to the waist, grimy and shining with the sweat of hours, moving about in knots of three and four—always in knots of three or four as if afraid to disintegrate—leaned upon the rail and watched the approach of the crowded boats, looked down into pallid, anguished faces with their eager, hungry eyes, eyes that devoured the groups along the rail. Now and then a glad shout of joy went up from one of the boats, and a figure in the huddled mass was transformed into a responsive thing of life.
In each of the square, black openings in the hull of the ship stood men with ropes and ladders. The great steel doors lay flat against the sides, swung wide to admit this time a human cargo. From the interior of the vessel came the brisk, incessant clatter of hammers against wood and steel; from the decks broke the loud, commanding voices of men calling out directions; from the gliding, slapping boats went up the hearty shouts of understanding and obedience, the rattling of boat-hooks, the grinding of oars in the locks, the murmur of voices revived.
"Vomen and children first!" was the shrill, oft-repeated exhortation from one of the boats.
And up in the centre of another sprang a fine, imposing figure, from whose lips rolled these thrilling words:
"By God, they're great! They're great, after all! God bless Captain Trigger and every man-jack of them!"
"Get down!" roared his still unpacified critic, the steward. "You'll fall overboard, you dam' fool!"
The gaunt, coatless Mr. Mott commanded the port side of the vessel; Mr. Codge, the purser, the starboard. Fighting men in the breeches and leggings of the American Navy; blackened and bandaged stokers, sailors and landsmen comprised the motley company that stood ready to drag the occupants of the boats up into the dank, smoke-scented maw of the ship.
One by one, in regular, systematic order, the lifeboats came alongside. There was no confusion, no bungling. They bumped gently against the towering rows of plates, and, made fast by ropes with ample play, gave up in time their precious cargoes. No one lifted up his voice in rejoicing, for there were dead and injured back in the shadows; there were grief-stricken, anxious men and women crouching out there in the sunshine; there were limp, unconscious women and half-dead children; and over all still hung the ominous cloud of catastrophe fat with prophecies of perils yet to come.
They had gone out from a ship filled with a monstrous clangour and confusion, they were returning to a tomblike hulk, a lonely mass in which echoes would abound, a thing of sighs and silences, the corpse of a mammoth that had throbbed yesterday,—but never more.
Up in the curving triangle of the forward deck were two long, canvas-covered rows. The dead! Forty-six twisted, silent forms lying side by side, some calm in death, others charred and mutilated beyond all possibility of identification. Every man in the engine-room at the time of the explosion was now a mangled, unrecognizable thing. Engineers, electricians, stokers,—all of them wiped out in the flash of an eye,—burnt, boiled, shattered. Half a dozen women, as many children, lay with the silent men.
The injured had been placed in staterooms on the promenade deck, regardless of previous occupancy or subsequent claim. There lay the score and a half of seriously injured, and there toiled the ship's surgeon and his volunteer helpers. Sailor and merchant, worker and idler, scholar and dolt, steerage and first cabin, wealth and poverty, shared alike in the disposition of quarters and shared alike in attention. There was no discrimination. One life was as good as another to the doctor and his men, the poor man's moan as full of suffering as that of the rich man, the wail of the steerage woman as piteous as that of her sister above.
Captain Trigger was one of the injured. He swore a great deal when the doctor ordered him to bed. Ribs and a broken arm? Why the devil should he be put to bed for something a schoolboy would laugh at? Mr. Shannon and two of the younger officers were killed by the explosion that wrecked the bridge and chart house. Chief Engineer Gray died in the engine-room. Cruise was blown to pieces in the wireless house. His assistant, the cripple with the charmed life, was dead.
A few seconds before the first explosion took place he blew out his brains with a big navy revolver. The last seen of Cruise was when he appeared in the door of his station, an expression of mingled rage and alarm on his face. Pointing frantically at the figure of his assistant as it shot down the steps and across the deck, he shouted:
"Get that man! Get him! For God's sake, get him!"
It all happened in a few seconds of time. The shrill laugh of the fleeing assistant, the report of the revolver, an instant of stupefaction,—and then the dull, grinding crash.
It will never be known what Cruise had heard or seen in the last moments of his life. No one on board the Doraine, however, doubted for an instant that he had discovered, too late, the truth about his misshapen assistant. They now knew with almost absolute certainty the identity of the odd man in that devilish trio, the man whose footsteps Percival had heard, the man who stayed behind to guarantee the consummation of the hideous plot. Coward in the end, he shirked the death he was pledged to accept. He knew what was coming. Unlike his braver comrades, he took the simplest way.
The count began. Late in the afternoon it was completed. There were forty-six known dead on board the Doraine, the majority being members of the crew. Seventeen persons were missing, chiefly from the steerage. Twenty-nine seriously injured were under the doctor's care. Some of them would not recover. A hundred or more persons suffered from shock, bruises, cuts and exposure, but only a few of them required or demanded attention. In spite of their injuries, they fell to with the spirit that makes for true heroism and devoted themselves to the care of the less fortunate, or to the assistance of the sorely-tried officers and men who strove to bring order out of chaos.
Among the survivors were two American surgeons and a physician from Rio Janeiro. They, with the nurses, all of whom had been saved, immediately went to the relief of the ship's doctor, and in short order an improvised hospital was established. There was a remarkable unanimity of self-sacrifice among the passengers. High and low, they fell to in a frenzy of comradeship, and worked side by side in whatsoever capacity they were needed, whether fitted for it or not. No man, no woman, who was able to lift a helping hand, failed in this hour of need. The bereaved, as well as those who were untouched by a personal grief, gave all that was in them, tearfully, grimly, ardently.
Menial labour fell to the lot of the lordly but uncomplaining Landover, to Block and Nicklestick, Jones and Snipe, and even to the precious Signor Joseppi, who, forgetting his Caruso-like throat, toiled and sweated in the smoky saloon.
Morris Shine, the motion picture magnate, the while he laboured amidst the wreckage of the after deck, lamented not the cheerless task but the evil fate that prevented the making of the most spectacular film the world had ever known.
Madame Careni-Amori, Madame Obosky and her dancers; bejewelled Jewesses and half-clad emigrants; gentle women unused to toil and women who were born to it; the old and the young—all of them, without exception,—rose from the depths of despair and faced the rigours of the day with unflinching courage, gave out of a limitless store of tenderness all that their strength could spare.
And through a neglected, abandoned field of pearls and gold and precious stones, limped unchallenged the tireless figure of "Soapy" Shay, diamond thief, a bloody bandage about his head, an exalted light in his pain-stricken eyes. His one-time captor lay stark and cold in the gruesome line in the bow of the boat. It was "Soapy" Shay who staggered out of the rack and smoke with the burly, stricken detective in his arms, and it was "Soapy" Shay who wept when the last breath of life cased out through his tortured lips. For of all the company on board the Doraine, there was but one whom "Soapy" knew, but one who called him by name and shared tobacco with him,—and that one was William Spinney, the man who was taking him back to a place where mercy would not be shown.
After the sun had set and the decks were dark and deserted except for the men employed in the gruesome business, the dead were lowered into the sea, swathed in canvas and weighted with things that were made to kill,—shells from the gunners' hoard. Swiftly, methodically, one after the other, they slid down to the black, greedy waters, sank to the grave that is never still yet always silent, to the vast, unexplored wilderness that stretches around the world. The thin little missionary from the barren plateaus of Patagonia and the plump priest from the heart of Buenos Aires monotonously commended each and every one of them to the mercy of God!
The sun came up again in the morning over a smiling, happy sea that licked the sides of the Doraine with the tenderness of a dog.
The plight of the hapless steamer could not be disguised. Even the most ignorant passenger knew that the wrecked engines could not be repaired or compounded. They knew that the Doraine was completely paralysed. The power to move at will was for ever lost, the force that had driven her resistlessly along the chosen path was still. The powerful propellers were idle, the huge stern-post wrenched so badly that the rudder was useless. She was adrift, helplessly adrift. Of what avail the wheel and a patched-up rudder to the mass that lay inert, motionless on the smiling sea?
Every one on board realized, with sinking heart, that the Doraine was to go on drifting, drifting no man knew whither, until she crossed the path of a friendly stranger out there in the mighty waste. No cry of distress, no call for help could go crackling into the boundless reaches. That was the plight of the Doraine and her people on the mocking day that followed the disaster, and unless fate intervened that would be her plight for days without end.
Mr. Mott, temporarily in command, addressed the passengers in the main saloon, where they had congregated at his request. He did not mince matters. He stated the situation plainly. It was best that they should realize, that they should understand, that they should know the truth, in order that they might adapt themselves to the conditions he was now compelled of necessity to impose upon them. They were, so to speak, occupying a derelict. Help might come before nightfall, it might not come for days. He hoped for the best but he intended to prepare for the worst.
Without apology he laid down a rigid set of rules, and from these rules, he made it perfectly clear, there could be no deviation. The available supply of food was limited. It was his purpose to conserve it with the greatest possible care. Down in the holds, of course, was a vast store of consigned foodstuffs, but he had no authority to draw upon it and would not do so unless the ship's own stock was exhausted. Passengers and crew, therefore, would be obliged to go on short rations. "Better to eat sparingly now," he said, "than not to eat at all later on." He concluded his remarks in this fashion:
"Remember that we are all in the same boat. We don't know how long we'll be drifting like this and we don't know where we're drifting to. It's an everlastingly big ocean we're on. We ought to thank God we're not at the bottom of it now. If we're lucky we'll be picked up soon, if not,—well, it's up to us, every one of us, to make the best of it. We're alive, and that's certainly something. We'll all find it easier if we keep ourselves busy. That's why I'm asking you, one and all, to do a good day's work regularly, one way or another, from now until relief comes. We can't have any loafers or quitters on board this ship. That means everybody, rich and poor. You may think I'm putting a hardship on you, seeing as how you have paid for your passage and all that, but what I'm ordering you to do ain't a marker to what you'd be doing if you were out there in lifeboats, eight hundred miles from shore, and—well, we won't go into that. We've got to make the best of it, my friends. We're up against it good and plenty, that's the plain facts of the case. There's no use in me saying it's all going to turn out right in a day or so, because I don't know a da—- blamed thing about it. We're in God's hands. Maybe it will help to pray, but I doubt it. All I've got to say is this: go down on your knees as much as you like, but don't lick!"