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Title: Bahama Bill - Mate of the Wrecking Sloop Sea-Horse
Author: Hains, T. Jenkins (Thornton Jenkins)
Language: English
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BAHAMA BILL



Works of

T. JENKINS HAINS


[Illustration]

  The Windjammers              $1.50
  The Black Barque              1.50
  The Voyage of the Arrow       1.50
  Bahama Bill                   1.50

[Illustration]


  L.C. PAGE & COMPANY
  New England Building
  BOSTON      MASS.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: "_The giant black stood gazing out to sea"_

  (_See page 17_)]



  BAHAMA BILL

  Mate of the Wrecking Sloop
  _Sea-Horse_


  By
  T. Jenkins Hains

  Author of "The Black Barque," "The Voyage
  of the Arrow," "The Windjammers," etc.


  _With a frontispiece in colour by_
  H.R. Reuterdahl

  [Illustration]


  _Boston_: L.C. PAGE &
  COMPANY        _Mdccccviii_



  _Copyright, 1908_
  BY L.C. PAGE & COMPANY
  (INCORPORATED)

  _All rights reserved_


  First Impression, January, 1908


  _COLONIAL PRESS_
  _Electrotyped and Printed by C.H. Simonds & Co.
  Boston, U.S. A._



CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE
  I.    BENEATH THE "BULLDOG'S" BILGE                 1

  II.   THE WRECKER'S REWARD                         18

  III.  THE MATE OF THE "SEA-HORSE"                  35

  IV.   BARNEGAT MACREARY                            50

  V.    AT THE END OF THE REEF                       68

  VI.   THE SANCTIFIED MAN                           88

  VII.  WHEN THE LIGHT FAILED AT CARYSFORT          116

  VIII. THE TRIMMING OF MR. DUNN                    129

  IX.   THE SURVIVOR                                176

  X.    ON THE GREAT BAHAMA BANK                    196

  XI.   THE ICONOCLAST                              232

  XII.  JOURNEGAN'S GRAFT                           266

  XIII. SHANGHAING THE TONG                         296

  XIV.  THE EDGE OF THE RONCADOR                    323

  XV.   THE WRECKER                                 338

  XVI.  THE BARRATORS                               350



BAHAMA BILL



I

Beneath the "Bulldog's" Bilge


The brig lay in four fathoms of water on the edge of the Great Bahama
Bank. She had been a solid little vessel, built for the fruit trade,
and she was about two hundred tons register. Her master had tried to
sight the "Isaacs," but owing to the darkness and the drift of the
Gulf Stream, he had miscalculated his distance in trying for the New
Providence channel. A "nigger-head," a sharp, projecting point of
coral, had poked a hole about four feet in diameter through her bottom,
and she had gone down before they could run her into the shoal water on
the bank.

Down to the graveyard of good ships, Key West, the message was hurried,
and the wreckers of Florida Reef heard the news. A heavily built sloop
of thirty tons, manned by ten Spongers and Conchs, started up the
Florida channel and arrived upon the scene two days later.

The _Bulldog_ had settled evenly upon her keel, but as she was sharp,
she had listed until her masts were leaning well to starboard, dipping
her yardarms deep in the clear water. She was submerged as far up as
her topsail yards.

The captain of the wrecker was a Conch. His mate was a giant negro of
the Keys; young, powerful, and the best diver on the Florida Reef.
His chest measured forty-eight inches in circumference over his
lean pectoral muscles, and he often bent iron bars of one-half inch
to show the set of his vise-like grip. He was almost black, with a
sinister-looking leer upon his broad face, his eyes red and watery like
most of the divers of the Bank. He could remain under four fathoms for
at least three and a half minutes, and work with amazing force, and
continue this terrific strain for six hours on a stretch, with but
five minutes between dives. Half fish or alligator, and half human,
he looked as he lounged naked in the hot sunshine upon the sloop's
forecastle, his skin hard and callous as leather from long exposure to
a tropic sun and salt water. He was ready for the work ahead, for it
had been rumoured that the _Bulldog_ had not less than fifty thousand
dollars in silver aboard her. She was known to have been chartered by
agents of the Venezuelan revolutionists, and to have arms and money
aboard in abundance for their relief.

The day was well advanced when the spars of the brig showed above the
sea. The sky was cloudless, and the little air there was stirring
scarcely rippled the ocean; the swell rolling with that long,
undulating sweep and peculiar slowness which characterizes calm weather
in the Gulf Stream.

Far away the "Isaacs" showed above the horizon, and just the slightest
glint of white told of the nearest cay miles away on the Great Bank.
To the westward it was a trifle more than sixty miles to Florida
Cape across the channel, with the deep ocean current sweeping to the
northward between. The steady set of the Stream brought the wreckers
rapidly nearer the brig in spite of the calm, and they let go their
first anchor about fifty fathoms due south, and veered the cable to let
the sloop drift slowly down upon the wreck. Then, lowering all canvas,
they got out their kedges and moored the sloop just over the port rail
of the _Bulldog_ which could be distinctly seen about ten feet below
the surface of the sea.

Three of the crew, all experienced divers, made ready while the mate
went slowly to the rail and gazed fixedly down into the clear water.
In calm weather the bottom on the Bank can be seen distinctly in
five fathoms, and often at much greater depth. The weather was ideal
now, and no one thought it necessary to use the "water-glass," the
glass-bottomed bucket into which the diver usually sticks his head and
gazes into the depths before making his plunge.

"I reckon ye might as well make a try," said the captain, coming to
the mate's side. "Start here an' let the drift o' the current take ye
th' whole length." And as he spoke he hove a life-line overboard for
the men to grasp should the stream carry them too far. Coming to the
surface they would be tired and not want to swim back. A man stood by
to haul in and save the diver the exertion.

The mate raised his eyes. He looked over the smooth sea and tilted his
nose into the air, sniffing the gentle breeze.

"It might be a wery good day, Cap, but I sho' smells shurk. I ain't
much perticular about this smooth weather. It nearly always brings 'em
along 'bout dis time o' year. De season am mighty nigh done on de Bank.
Yo' knows dey is mighty peart when dey gits plentiful."

"Are you feared?" asked the captain, looking at him scornfully.

"Well, I smell him plain, an' dat's a fact," said the mate, "but here
goes."

The giant mate fell slowly outboard, then putting his hands before him
he dropped straight down into the sea with hardly a splash. The captain
bent over the rail and watched him as he swam quickly down, his great
black form looking not unlike a turtle as it struck out vigorously with
both hands and feet. Down, down it went until the shimmering light
made it distorted and monstrous as the distance increased. Then it
disappeared under the bend of the _Bulldog's_ bilge.

A second diver came to the side and looked out over the smooth swell.

There was nothing in sight as far as the eye could reach save the glint
of white on the distant cay to the eastward. The Gulf Stream was
undisturbed by even a ripple.

In a couple of minutes a loud snort astern told of the mate's
reappearance. He seized the life-line and was quickly hauled alongside.
He climbed leisurely to the deck.

All hands were now assembled and waited for his report.

"Tight as a drum. There ain't no way o' gettin' into her there," said
the mate after two or three long breaths.

"Well, will you try the hatchway, then?" asked the captain.

"I ain't perticular about workin' down hatchways," said the giant, with
a scowl.

"Nor me either," said the man who had come to make the second trip.
"They said the stuff was aft under the cabin deck," said a tall man
with aquiline features, known as Sam.

"Dynamite," whispered another, "what's the difference?"

"Plenty, if the underwriters come along and find her blown up. She
ain't ours yet," said the captain sourly.

"An' who's to tell?" asked the mate with a fierce menace. "Who'll know
what knocked a hole in her? They'll nebber float her. Bust her, says I."

The captain looked about him. There was nothing in sight, save the
distant cay, ten miles or more to the eastward, which might harbour an
inquisitive person. And then the light-keeper himself was a wrecker.
He thought a moment while the mate stood looking at him, and then went
slowly down into the cabin and brought up a box of cartridges. Sam
immediately brought out some exploders and several fathoms of fuse.

In a moment a large package was wrapped up and lashed with spun-yarn.
It contained five half-pound cartridges and an exploder, with a fathom
of fuse. A piece of iron was made fast to the whole to keep it upon the
bottom, and then the mate called for a match. The fuse would burn for
at least two minutes under water before the exploder was reached, and
give time for the diver to get clear.

The captain scratched a light upon his trousers and held it to the
fuse. A spluttering fizzing followed. Then over the side went the mate
with the charge in his hand, and the men on the deck could see him
swimming furiously down through the clear depths, the dynamite held
before him and a thin spurt of bubbles trailing out from the end of the
burning fuse.

He had little enough time to spare after he disappeared under the curve
of the bilge. Coming to the surface he was quickly dragged aboard by
the life-line, and then all hands waited a moment, which seemed an
hour, for the shock.

A dull crash below followed by a peculiar ringing sound told of the
discharge. The water lifted a moment over the spot some twenty feet
astern, and then a storm of foam and bubbles surged to the surface.
The captain gazed apprehensively around the horizon again, and then
smiled.

"I reckon that busted her," he said.

Over the side plunged the mate, followed by two more men, and as they
went a great, dark shadow rose slowly to the surface in the disturbed
water. It was the body of a giant shark.

The captain stood looking at it for a moment.

"The harpoon, quick," he yelled.

A man sprang for the iron, but the monster rolled slowly over upon his
belly, and opened his jaws with spasmodic jerks. A great hole was torn
in his side, and his dorsal fin was missing. He gave a few quick slaps
with his tail, and then sank slowly down before the harpoon could be
thrown.

"He's as dead as salt-fish," said a sailor, "clean busted wide open."

"He's a tiger," said the captain, "an' they never hunt alone. I c'ud
see his stripes."

A diver called from the end of the life-line and was hauled up. One
after another they came up, the mate last.

"What was the thing yo' dropped overboard?" he asked with a grin. "I
seen him sinking an' thought he ware alive."

"It was a tiger," said the captain solemnly, looking askance at the big
man.

"That settles it fer me," said one diver, "they always go in pairs."

"Me, too," went the chorus from the rest.

The mate said nothing. He had seen something below that made his eyes
flash in spite of their salty rheum. The dynamite had done its work
well, and with more daring than the others he had penetrated the hull
far enough to catch a glimpse of the treasure. The explosion had
scattered bright silver coins about the entrance of the hole, and he
had seen what they had missed in the roiled water.

Here was a sore problem for the captain. He had the first chance at the
wreck without observers, and here the carcass of a huge tiger-shark had
upset everything. Within a few hours, the spars of other wreckers might
show above the horizon, and then farewell to treasure-hunting. He could
expect nothing but salvage at the most. If the owners decided to raise
her he could do nothing more than sell his claim upon her, and probably
lose most of that, for he was a poor man and dreaded the Admiralty
courts. It would be much better if he could get what money there was
in her, finding it in an abandoned hull. Having the whole of it in his
possession was much better than trying to get back from the owners his
share under the salvage law. Any delay for shark-hunting meant a heavy
loss. He looked askance at the big mate, but said nothing, knowing full
well that it lay with that black giant whether he would take the risk
of going below again or not.

"I knew I smelt him plain enough," said the giant, sniffing the air
again, "dem big shurks is mighty rank."

The shark which had met with the dynamite explosion was one of a pair
of the great "carcharodon" variety. They had come in on the edge of the
Bank at the beginning of the warm season, and one of them had slipped
up along the bottom to the wreck not a minute after the mate had placed
the charge. The package had attracted his attention, and it was while
nosing it the charge had exploded, tearing him almost to pieces. His
mate was but fifty fathoms away, and came slowly up to examine the
place where the crash occurred.

The female was about twenty feet in length. She was lean and muscular
from long cruising at sea, and her hide was as hard as the toughest
leather. Vertical stripes upon her sides, black upon the dark gray of
her body, gave her the name of "tiger." Her jaws were a good eighteen
inches across, and her six rows of triangular teeth formed the most
perfect cutting machine for anything made of flesh. The long tapering
tail and huge fins told of enormous power, and her heavy frontal
development proclaimed her of that somewhat rare species of pelagic
monster which is very different in disposition to the thousands of
sharks that infest all tropical seas.

She came upon the body of her mate as he sank slowly down, shattered
and torn from the explosion. He lay motionless upon the clean coral
bottom, and as she nosed him she came to the grisly wounds and knew he
was dead. The feeling that the floating object above was responsible
for his end took possession of her instinctively. He, her mate, had
travelled with her for months and over thousands of miles of ocean.
There was an attachment similar to that in evidence among the higher
animals, and sullen fury at her loss grew against the thing above. It
was like the implacable hatred of the cobra snake for the slayer of his
mate, the snake who will follow the slayer's trail for miles to wreak
vengeance. And as the monster's fury was growing, the black diver was
preparing to make a plunge for the money within the brig's bilge.

"Gimme a line," said the black man. "If dere is another feller like de
one we busted down dere, yo' kin pull me back ef he don't git a good
hold o' my laig. De water is mighty roiled yit, en I'd like to see a
bit o' the bottom. 'Pears to me I seen something movin' astern dere."

The captain passed a line, and he fastened it around his waist. The
rest of the crew stood looking on. Then taking a bag rolled tight in
one hand to open below and fill with the silver, he gazed anxiously
around the surrounding sea again.

"Here goes," said the big mate, "but I reckon it's de debble himself
dat's waitin' fer me, I feels it sho'."

He went down with a straight plunge without any splash, and they
watched him until he disappeared under the bends.

The mate had his eyes in use as he swam swiftly towards the hole made
by the explosion. He watched the shadows upon the coral bottom in the
dim light that penetrated the depths. The huge shadow of the brig cast
a gloom over the white rock, and at the depth of her keel objects were
hard to distinguish, except out beyond where the sunshine filtered
down. He knew the location of the hole, and headed straight for it
until the black and ragged mouth of the opening showed before him. He
had just reached for it when a form shut off the light behind him. At
the same instant the dread of something horrible flashed through his
brain. He turned instantly to see the giant mouth of a monstrous shark
close aboard, the teeth showing white against the dark edge of the
throat cavity.

There was but a moment to spare. He must get away in the fraction of a
second, and his quick mind, used to emergencies, seized upon the only
way possible.

The line about his waist was still slack, and he dove headlong into the
black mouth of the hole in the brig's bilge. The opening was just large
enough to let him through, the splintered edges raking his back sorely
as he entered. Then he turned quickly, hoping to see the monster sweep
past.

The outline of the hole showed dimly, a ragged green spot set in inky
blackness. He was ready to make a dash outboard, and swam to hold
himself close to it, for the tendency was to rise into the black depths
of the submerged hull. Inside was total darkness, and the unknown,
submerged passages to some possible open hatchway beneath his own
vessel's bottom were not to be thought of for safety. He could hold his
breath but for a very short time longer, and he was more than twenty
feet below the surface of the ocean. Even as he swam his foot struck
something solid above him. He watched the hole and had just about
decided that the monster had passed when the hole disappeared from view.

He knew he had not moved, for he could feel the stillness of the water
about him. With a growing feeling of horror he groped for the opening.

In the total darkness he thought he was losing the instinct of
direction. The danger of his position was so deadly that, in spite of
his iron nerves, a panic was taking possession of him. To be lost in
the hold of a sunken wreck appalled him for an instant. He must act
quickly and accurately if he would live. The precious moments were
passing, and his heart already was sending the blood with ringing
throbs through his head. He made a reach ahead, and as he did so the
greenish light of the hole in the bilge came again before him. He
struck out for it powerfully. Then it failed again, but as it did so
he made out the form that was closing it. The great head of the shark
was thrust into the opening, withdrawn again as though to try to get a
better position to force its way in, and then came total blackness.

The mate was failing fast. He had been under water more than two
minutes. He saw that it was certain death to force the entrance.
Outside waited the monster who would cut him to pieces before he could
reach the surface and help from his vessel. It was a horrible end.
The thought of a mangled form being devoured into the bowels of such
a creature decided him. Any death but that. He hesitated no longer,
but with maddening haste he swam upward into the blackness, groping,
struggling through doors and passages, wildly, aimlessly trying for a
blind chance that he might at last come through the hatchway into the
sea above.

He had cast off the line to his waist as soon as it came taut, and
instantly it flashed upon him that he had severed the last link between
himself and his men. On and on he struggled, the bright flashes of
light which now began to appear before his eyes, caused by the strain
and pressure, made him fight wildly forward, thinking that they came
from the light outside. He knew he was lost. The picture flitted before
him of the men hauling in the line. Then the silence of the deck in the
sunshine and the looks of his shipmates, the case of "lost man." He
had seen it before when he was upon the deck, and now it was his turn
below. A bulkhead brought him to a sudden stop. He reached upward and
found the solid deck. It was no use. He gave one last gigantic stroke
forward along the obstruction and started to draw in his breath, which
meant the end. Then his head suddenly came out of the water into air,
and his pulses leaped again into action.

The pressure was not relieved upon his lungs, and it was some moments
before he recovered. Then his great strength came back to him and he
began to grope about in the blackness until his feet came in contact
with a step. He felt along this and found that it was evidently a
companionway leading to the deck above. He put forth his hands into
the space overhead and found a solid roof but a foot or less above the
surface of the water he was in. Then it dawned upon him that he was
beneath the coamings of the hatchway, and the air was that which had
been caught under the top as the brig had settled. She had only been
sunk about fifty-five hours, and the air had not found its way through
the tight cover overhead. It was compressed by the pressure of the
water above it. It was only about twelve feet to the surface from where
he now rested, and if he could get free he might yet get away safely.
The shark was probably below under the bilge, trying to get in the hole
and would not notice him if he came up through the hatchway. He could
make a dash for the surface, and call for a line before the monster
could locate him. The air within the small space was already getting
used up while he waited to recover. There were not more than half a
dozen cubic feet of it altogether, and he must work quickly if he would
be free.

He now groped for the fastenings of the hatchway, hoping to seize
them and force the slide back. The covering was of peculiar pattern,
high-domed above the coamings, and it was for this reason that the air
had failed to find its way through the front of the opening. He felt
for the lock and finally found that the hasp was on the outside. He was
locked below.

He had been away from the sloop for more than five minutes now, and
the men aboard had hauled in the line. It came fast enough, and some
leaned over the rail watching until the end came into view. Then they
knew, or fancied they knew, the story.

"Gone, by God," came the exclamation from the captain--"he was
right--they always travel in couples--" Then he stood there with the
rest, all gazing steadfastly down into the clear water of the Gulf
Stream that now went past crystal-like and undisturbed. The dim forms
of the coral showed below, but nothing like the shape of either man
or shark was visible. The disturbed water from the blast had all gone
to the northward with the current, and they wondered. If there were a
monster lurking in the depths, he must be well under the brig's bilge
in the deep shadow. The line told the story the eye failed to reach. It
was not new, the story of a lost diver on the Bahama Bank.

They hung over the side and spoke seldom: when they did, it was in a
low tone. There was nothing to do, for no one had the hardihood to
make the plunge to find out what had happened. They must wait for the
wrecking crew. Diving was not to be thought of again for hours.

Meanwhile the mate was below in the dome of the hatchway.

Finding that the slide was fastened on the outside, he put forth all
his giant strength to force it. Planting his feet upon the after end,
he managed to keep his mouth out of the water and get a grip upon the
hatch-carline. Then he strained away to burst the lock.

In the little bubble of compressed air the exertion caused him to pant
for breath. He must hurry. The wood creaked dully. A jet of water
spurted in his face. The slide was giving way, letting in the ocean
from the outside, and in another moment the remaining space of air
would be gone. With one tremendous shove he tore the carline loose.
Then he clutched frantically at the splintering wood, and as the water
closed over him he wrenched the slide loose and drove himself blindly
through the opening. The next instant he shot upward, and in a moment
he saw the light above. He came to the surface under the sloop's port
quarter, bursting into the sunshine with a loud splash.

The captain heard the noise and hurried over to look. The mate's black
head was just a fathom below him, and he quickly dropped him a line.
Then willing hands reached over and he was dragged on deck. He had been
below nearly a quarter of an hour.

Staggering like a drunken man the great mate lounged forward, his
bloodshot eyes distended, and his breath coming in loud rasping gasps,
a little thin trickle of blood running from his nose and mingling with
the salt water pouring down his face. Men seized him and tried to hold
him up, but he plunged headlong upon the deck and lay still.

It was nearly half an hour later before he opened his eyes and looked
about him. All hands were around him, some rubbing his huge limbs and
others standing looking on, waiting to do what the captain might
direct. Then he came slowly to and rose unsteadily to his feet. There
was a feeling of relief and the men talked. The captain asked questions
and plied his mate with whiskey.

The giant black stood gazing out to sea, trying to realize what had
happened, and while he looked he saw a thin trail of smoke rising upon
the southern horizon. He pointed to it without saying anything, and all
hands saw it and stopped in their work to stare.

"It's the wreckin' tug from Key West," said the captain. "No more
divin' to-day. Jest our bloomin' luck. Nothin' to hinder us from doin'
a bit o' bizness. No danged shurks nor nothin' to stop a man, an' here
we lose our chance."

"I reckon it's all right, cap'n," said the big mate, speaking for the
first time. "I done quit divin' fer this season, ennyways. 'N' when I
says I smells shurk, I means _shurk_. 'N' the fust man what begs me toe
go under ag'in when I says that, I gwine toe break his haid."



II

The Wrecker's Reward


"Ef I wassent er lady, I'd knock yo' blamed haid off, yo' black
rascal!" cried Julia. The big mate smiled at her softly, and made
another pass to seize her; but she struggled free, for he would not
hold her fast enough. "Don't yo' come 'round heah no mo'; I don't want
no dealin's wif no sailor man."

"What' the good o' gettin' mad over a little squeeze, Sugar-plum?"
grinned the black giant. "I ain't done yo' no harm--an' wouldn't fo'
nothing Jule. Yo' knows I ain't got no gal but yo'self."

"Youse a rascal, dat yo' is, 'n' ef I wassent a lady, I'd knock yo'
cocoanut off'n yo' ugly haid!" said the indignant Julia, whose dignity
had been ruffled by the sailor's amorous but powerful wooing. "I knows
yo', comin' around dis house an' tryin' to fool a pore gal like me."

"No, Jule, I means everythin' I says, an' a lot mo' besides. I wants
yo' to marry me, sho' 'nuff," said the big sailor earnestly.

Julia rapidly was soothing herself. There was something so strong and
pleading in the man's voice that she almost forgot the liberties he had
taken, and looked at him keenly. "Aw, gwine away, yo' black man; whar
yo' got money to marry a gal like me?" She was now smiling at him; but
edging away into the doorway of the little cabin which stood by the
coral roadway in Key West. She really did not dislike the sailor; for
Bahama Bill had a reputation for being a good money-getter and a most
excellent spender. As mate of the wrecking sloop _Sea-Horse_, he often
came in with a few English pounds sterling, or a pocketful of good
American dollars, earned in his business along the Great Bahama Bank.
Three days, however, always was the limit of his prosperity.

Now he had been ashore for a week, and consequently was the possessor
of nothing more than a clasp-knife, a dirty pair of trousers and
jumper, and an old clay pipe. Shoes he had left at some friend's house
for a trivial debt for a handful of cigars, and head-gear he did not
need. He was more or less contented, and was entirely willing to enter
into the married state, feeling with the utmost confidence that money
was a plentiful article and easy for a man of parts to procure. His
wild excesses seemed vain in the sober light of the tropic sunshine,
and it manifestly was the time for him to settle down to a state of
quiet bliss with Julia.

"I kin get plenty o' money, Jule," said he softly.

"When yo' shows me, den yo' cain talk wif me, an' not befo'," said
Julia. "I ain't doin' no washin' 'n' ironin' for no one. I'se near
eighteen now, an' I ain't married no one yet."

"But, Jule, I kin get money easy enough. Come here now an' let me tell
yo' how I kin."

"No, sah, no monkeyin'," said Julia, edging farther into the
doorway. "Yo' get de money fust, 'n'--'n'--den--well, yo'
knows--'bout--'bout--dat."

Then she softly but firmly shut the door. He caught a glimpse of her
through the kitchen window, and she smiled and waved her hand so that
he almost was tempted to force an entrance; but he remembered that
the Cuban who owned the house would likely hear him and perhaps fill
him with bird-shot. He gave one longing look, and strode toward the
harbour. The wrecking sloop was to sail that day, sponging to the
northward along the Keys.

The first few days were hard on him. He was solemn and lonesome in
spite of himself, and his quiet behaviour was noticed by his shipmates.
They made the remarks usual among rough men of the forecastle, but Bill
took no notice.

"Here's a chance for a feller to make good," cried a Conch to a stout
German sailor called Heldron: "Reward fer old man Sanches' boy who run
off to sea in one o' them fruit-ships," and he read from an old paper
as he lay in his bunk during the watch below.

"I know dot poy: he pad poy; but him fader big sight worse," said the
German. "He make de worst seegar in Key West."

"Well, if I was a mate o' a ship I might make good on that, hey?" said
Sam.

"Blamed sight easier'n spongin', to catch a little boy," said another;
"but I hear the old man is going to the eastward--heard of something
down Fortune Island way."

And the conversation turned to business, while the mate smoked on in
silence. That night they were speeding across the Florida Channel in
spite of the threatening weather and heavy sea. By morning they were
many miles off shore, and gradually had been forced to slow down.
The wind, while now slacking up and becoming heavy with moisture and
warmth, had been strong enough during the night to make the _Sea-Horse_
shorten down to keep from forcing too heavily into the high, rolling
sea.

It was dirty weather in the Gulf Stream. The flying scud streamed
away to the northwest in little whirling bits of vapour. They tore
along with the speed of an express train in a direction which seemed
at a sharp angle to the heavy, steel-blue bank which swept in a
mighty and majestic semicircle across the southern sky. High overhead
the sky had a distant appearance, something peculiar and weird, for
the storm-centre was advancing northward and gathering all straying
moisture in its grasp. It made dark streaks in the heavens at a
distance above the sea, and rays of the morning sun shone upon them
with a brassy glare, as though the whole universe was incased in a
colossal dome which darkened near the horizon. It seemed to absorb
the failing light less and less as the line of vision rose toward the
zenith.

With a line of reef-points tied in from the second hoop on the
mainsail to the cringle on the leach, which raised only a couple of
fathoms in the air, the _Sea-Horse_ lay upon the starboard tack. A bit
of staysail forward hauled to the mast held her steady as she breasted
the sea, staggering to leeward with the heave that, increasing, told of
a mighty power behind it. The combing crests rolled white with a dull,
rattling snore, and the beautiful blue colour of the warm stream was
paling into a dark lead.

The sloop would throw her forefoot high in the air as the rolling
crests would strike and sweep from under the now almost logy hulk. The
brown of the copper-painted under-body showed in strong contrast to
the dirty white above. Then she would drop with a sidewise, twisting
motion, a little bow-foremost into the trough, and back her snub nose
away from the onrushing hill before it, which sometimes would burst and
smother her out of sight to the mast in a storm of flying water. Then
she would drop again, sidewise and forward down the incline, the rush
of foam on the decks sweeping through the side ports in the bulwarks,
spurting and pouring over everything, and finally overboard, until the
action was repeated.

Two men in their yellow oilskins were upon the quarter-deck; one lying
prone abaft the rise of the cabin, gazed sullenly at the menacing sky.
The other sat and held on the wheel, which was fast in a becket, with
relieving tackles on the gear heaving it hard down, and he tried to
get puffs of smoke from a pipe. The wind was getting too strong for
smoking, and he went into the companionway and called the mate to
relieve him. Bahama Bill came up, and the Captain went below.

The big mate sat there watching the weather, and his face bore a
good-humoured expression. The conditions suited his frame of mind. Away
from the temptations of the beach, he was a different man from the
fracas-loving ruffian when full of cheap grog. Captain Bull Sanders
turned in for a short rest, knowing that the vessel was in good hands.

Below in the bunks of the cuddy five men lay in all possible positions
to keep from being flung out. One read, or tried to read, the paper
which told of the running away to sea of the rich cigar-maker's son
and of the reward offered for his safe delivery into the bosom of his
family. Others lay and talked. Another slept, grasping even in his
slumbers at the bunk-boards, and mechanically bracing his knee to
hold himself during the wild plunges. The creaking and racking of the
straining sloop blended with the droning roar overhead, punctuated
now and then by a smashing crash as a sea would fall on deck; but the
resting men paid little attention to either the noise or motion, until
the Captain had finished his pipe.

He suddenly threw down the magazine he had been trying to read for some
minutes, and glanced at the barometer on the bulkhead. "Goin' down all
the time. I reckon we'll catch it," he said.

"Hurricane season began nigh a month ago," said a man significantly.

"It don't got here alretty yet, maybe," said Heldron.

"Must be," said a Swede.

There was a general movement. All hands reached for oilskins and
without further orders followed the Captain on deck.

"How's the wind now, Bill?" bawled the Captain.

"Been easterly; but goin' toe th' s'uthard fast," said the mate. "Looks
a bit dirty."

"Whew! Beginning to blow a bit, hey?" said the Captain, as a fierce
squall struck them and roared past, sending a blinding cloud of spray
and drift over them. The droning cry of the wind in the rigging
increased, and the straining cloth stretched until the blast passing
over it made a dull, booming, rushing sound of such volume that
conversation was deadened in the noise.

It now was blowing with force. The sea was white under the steel-blue
bank, which had risen until a twilight darkness was upon the ocean. The
sky above was turning a dull gray, and the scud was darker against it,
whirling along in torn masses before the squalls, which were becoming
more frequent and violent. The wind was shifting southerly, and the
shifts in the squalls told plainly of the danger of the approaching
spot of low pressure, about which the squalls drew in with the spiral
movement common to tropical hurricanes.

Bull Sanders looked anxiously at the lubber's mark. The sea was getting
worse, and the sudden hot blasts of wind were more vicious. He was too
old a sailor to be caught with loose gear. Everything already had been
done to snug the sloop down; but there was a limit to the strength of
spars and lines. The mainsail might hold; but some of those hurricane
squalls would blow away anything made of canvas, and he decided to take
no chances. He got out his sea-anchor, or drag, and let it go from
the weather quarter, passing the line forward with difficulty to the
windlass. Then, just after a squall, all hands handed in the bit of
canvas, rolled it up, and made it fast. The _Sea-Horse_ now was going
astern fast, pulling the drag with her which kept her head to the sea.
Nothing more could be done for the time, and Sanders crouched in the
wake of the cabin, watching ahead for the shift which would come.

"What's that?" he bawled into the mate's ear, and pointed to the
eastward.

Just as the sloop rose upon a high crest, a dark speck showed for a
moment on the eastern horizon. It was not far away; for it was too
thick to see any great distance.

"Steamer," bawled the mate, "hove-to and going to the north'ard like
blazes!"

"We're right in th' stream--if the wind holds southeast, he'll be all
right."

"But it won't. It's shifting--be southwest in an hour--he'll be close
to the bank."

"Gun Key?"

"We ain't more'n twenty miles to the south'ard o' Gun Key--'bout
sou'west-b'-south."

The squalls became fiercer and more frequent. They were like blasts
from an explosion, the wind roaring past with incredible power. Between
them it was blowing at the rate of sixty miles an hour; but when they
struck it was nearly double that velocity. The wrecking sloop sagged
away to leeward, and the dangerous sea swept upon her during those
rushes in a way that shook every bolt and fastening in the frame.
She was beginning to make water a little, and the bursting sea which
struck now and again sought out every crack and seam in the companion
doors and hatchway. The men on deck were submerged repeatedly. For
an hour and more they watched her making bad weather of it, and then
came a darker colour in the gray above. There was a sudden squall of
tremendous power. The vessel was hove almost on her beam ends as it
took her forward of the beam, and she swung up to the drag barely in
time to take the sea bow on. The lubber's mark swung slowly from left
to right until it reached southwest.

"It's goin' fast," bawled the mate to Sanders alongside him.

"See that feller now?" asked the Captain.

The mate pointed to the eastward.

The dark smudge of the steamer's hull showed through the flying drift.
While they looked a flash of white told of a heavy sea boarding her.
She disappeared in the foam.

"Must have trouble with her engines," said Sanders. "She's goin' to
lor'ard as fast as we be."

Bahama Bill was staring astern into the gray blank where all things
seemed to melt into chaos. Suddenly he called out, and all hands swung
about and stared in the same direction.

"Gun Key light!" screamed Heldron, his eyes staring from their
salt-burned lids.

"Will we go clear?" asked Sam, his voice steady, but his intense look
telling of the tale of life or death he wanted to hear. They stared
into the drift astern, and the squalls broke over them unheeded. The
sea was quick and heavy, and to strike meant certain loss of the
vessel. There was one chance in a thousand for any one to get ashore,
should she fetch up on the coral bank. Yet there she was going to
leeward fast in spite of the drag, and the tower of Gun Key light was
rising under the lee. To the northward was the Beminis. She was getting
jammed, and the chances were growing against her as the minutes flew by.

The steamer was farther to leeward. She had sighted the edge of the
bank, and was trying to drive off into the Gulf Stream with the force
of her crippled engines. A cross-head bolt had started, and under the
terrific strain the starboard engine had broken down. She could not
keep head to the sea with the port wheel, and had placed a tarpaulin
in the mizzen-rigging to help hold; but it had forced her to leeward
also, and she now was close to the edge of the Great Bahama Bank. The
_Sea-Horse_ still had between twelve and fifteen miles between her and
the reef; but the ship had hardly ten, and was dropping back too fast
for any hope to clear unless the wind eased up suddenly.

Squall after squall followed the shift. It blew harder, if anything,
and the Captain of the steamer, seeing that he must go on the bank,
made ready to pile his ship up as high as possible in the hope of
saving some of the passengers and crew. To go upon the submerged part
of the reef meant death to all hands. He must run upon the coral above
the surf, and get as high up as he could. Then if the outer edge was
steep, he might get his bow near enough to dry land to get the people
ashore.

The crew of the _Sea-Horse_ watched him as he went slowly in. In an
hour after the westerly shift he was so close that the white coral
showed through the blinding clouds of spray thrown up by the sea on the
reef. Then, by hard work, he managed to get some head sail on the ship
and start in for Gun Key.

She ran the half-mile between her and the beach at a tremendous pace.
Lifting upon a sea, she rushed shoreward and struck, swung, lifted
again, and then was hove solidly broadside into the surf. The men on
the wrecker saw her strike. When she stopped a great burst of white
told of a smashing sea going over. The slanting spars and funnel told
how high she had hit, and the huge, bursting clouds of white water
smothering her told of the rending power that she was exposed to
in that surf. The hundred yards between the bow and the sand was a
churning, boiling stretch of whiteness.

"That's the end of her," said the mate. "Looks like we're in fer the
same thing."

In silence the rest watched the wreck. They were going in themselves;
but the fate of the ship held their attention in spite of the death
that they knew lay in the white line to leeward. It had been blowing
now for four hours with hurricane force, and as they went in within
a mile of the surf the shifting squalls swung more and more to the
westward. Then it began to ease suddenly. Between gusts there was
not more than a stiff gale. It was growing brighter, and they knew
that they had missed the storm-centre, which must have passed to the
eastward.

"Get the mainsail on her--we'll poke her to the s'uth'ard!" bawled
Sanders.

Led by the mate, the men lay forward, and working for life raised the
balance-reefed mainsail. Bahama Bill lay flat on his stomach, knife in
hand, while they cleared the forestaysail and ran it up. Then he cut
clear the drag. A wave of the hand, and Sanders filled the vessel off
on the starboard tack, and as it went the dull booming thunder of the
surf came up against the gale.

"If the wind keeps goin' we'll poke her off yet," said Sanders as the
mate came aft.

"Ay, we'll poke her out to sea; but I could swim that surf good an'
easy," said the mate quietly.

The Captain grinned, and looked at his giant form, its huge proportions
made all the larger by the loose-fitting oilskins.

"Mebbe you'll git a chance yet," he said. "If it had blown half an hour
longer, you cud ha' tried."

They worked off that afternoon, getting sail up as the wind slacked. At
night they kept the light in sight, and the next morning were standing
back for Gun Key under a single-reefed mainsail with a fine strong
northerly wind and clear sky. The steamship lay over on her side in the
surf, which broke over her in sheets of foam and spray. The sea had
gone down; but there still was enough to tear up the craft. The masts
and funnel and nearly all the superstructure had gone. Even the iron
sides were smashed, twisted and bent, the plates starting and ripping
clear of the rivets under the smashing blows of the sea. No sign of
life showed aboard; but as she was high up on the bank there was no
doubt that men could live. The _Sea-Horse_ ran close enough to give the
crew a chance to read the name _Orion_ on the stern.

"One o' them new ships," said Bill. "She was in Key West last time we
ran sponges."

They ran as close to the surf as they dared, and let go both anchors.
Paying out cable, the sloop soon came within fifty fathoms, and then
stopped; for the sea rose just under the stern, and burst a few fathoms
farther in.

"Gimme a line," said the mate.

Sam and Heldron brought forth a coil of whale line, and the black man
stripped for the plunge. He went over the side without a splash, and
they paid out fathom after fathom until his black head showed close to
the bow of the ship, which had settled inshore and lower. Then they saw
him disappear around it, and they waited. Five, ten, minutes passed,
and then a form showed upon the high stern. It was the mate, and he
waved to haul line.

Heldron went over the taut line next, followed by a Swede and Sam. Then
the line was slacked off, and the big mate, taking a new one, plunged
to leeward and made his way ashore. Half-fish, the diver went through
the surf without accident and joined the light-keeper and his assistant
on the beach, where they were waiting to do what they could to save
those on the wreck. A line they had sent in on a buoy had parted, and
the man upon it had been drowned.

The mate went back aboard, and managed to get the ten passengers
and rest of the crew ashore without accident. All had gone except
an uncouth-looking lad, the ship's galley-boy, in whom no one
took interest enough to care whether he got ashore or not. Dirty,
dishevelled and frightened beyond words, the lad crawled out of his
hiding-place and begged the big mate to take him in.

As he had been calling and looking through the ship for disabled men,
the Captain having told him his crew, the mate seized the lad without
further words and plunged over the side. The boy was the last person
unaccounted for.

"Seems to me I seen yo' befo', sonny," said the mate as he drew him
clear of the surf. "Don't yo' live in Key West?"

"Oh, yes, I know you," said the lad, grinning.

The mate held him out at arm's length. "Ain't yo' Jimmy Sanches?"

The grin died away from the lad's face. "You won't take me back, will
you, Bill?" he said.

"I reckon I'll have toe, Jimmy."

The next day the _Sea-Horse_ sailed for Key West with the first claim
for salvage, and a small boy who tried to run away at the last minute,
causing the mate a chase to the lighthouse before he recaptured him.

"You've hit it fair this trip," said Sanders. "I reckon as ye ain't
thinkin' about whackin' up on thet reward, hey Bill?"

But the mate said nothing, his rheumy eyes looking far away toward the
southern horizon, where he expected to see the spars of the shipping in
Key West rise above the sea. He was thinking, and it caused his heavy
and seamed jaws to set and line up into a deep scowl. Julia worked for
the rich Sanches, and their reception of a ragged and half-sober seaman
had not been hospitable. Yet here was his chance.

The next day the wrecking sloop rode at anchor close to the beach,
and Sanders made ready to get his load of perishable goods ashore and
notify the authorities of the disaster up the bank.

"Don't take me back!" whispered Jimmy as Bill swung him into the small
boat, and the big mate was silent as the men rowed ashore.

On the way up the street the mate walked slowly, holding the boy by the
hand.

"You know what a feller my stepfather is, Bill. Don't take me back!"
pleaded Jimmy.

A steamer was clearing at the coal dock, and the mate stopped to look
at it. Then he suddenly looked down at the boy. "Kin yo' make it,
sonny?" he asked, and he let go of the boy's hand. Like a flash the
lad ran to the string-piece, balanced a moment, and then sprang to
the rail of the ship astern without those on board noticing him. It
was gathering headway, and in a few moments was steaming out to sea,
leaving the big mate staring after her, and the few men who had cast
off her lines clearing up the rubbish in the wake of her gangway.

"I come back toe tell yo', Jule, dat I ain't in the money racket," said
Bill, half an hour later. "I ain't no perliceman--I'm a sailor."

"Whatcher mean, Bill?" asked the damsel, keeping inside the door.

"Nothin'--only if yo' is sho' nuff goin' toe marry me, gal, yo'll have
toe take yo' chances--same as me."

"Chances? Whatcher mean by chances, man?"

"What I says," said Bill, solemnly.

She saw that he was not in liquor. He sat silent and solemn for a long
time, until finally she opened the door a little wider.

"I reckon I ain't scared o' takin'--usual risks--Bill."

"I would like to borrow five dollars from ye, Bill," said Sanders when
the mate got back aboard.

The giant black scowled at him.

"Didn't ye git the money yet?"

"I ain't naterally quarrelsome," said Bill; "but if I hears any mo'
erbout dat money, dere's likely toe be some daid men 'roun'."



III

The Mate of the "Sea-Horse"


He stalked in behind the captain of the _Caliban_ to the desk in the
consul's office at Key West, where the clerk signed on the men. His
six feet three inches of solid frame almost filled the doorway as he
entered, and he scowled sourly at the group already there. His black
face was lined and wrinkled and bore traces of a debauch, but in spite
of his sinister expression his eyes told of a good-natured steadiness
of temper. The bloodshot whites and heavy lids told plainly that he
was a diver, and his peculiar accent, giant frame and general muscular
development proclaimed him a Fortune Islander, a Conch of the Great
Bahama Bank.

"Nationality?" droned the clerk, in a dull monotone, as he came forward.

"American," he answered, distinctly.

The captain looked at him.

"Where from?" droned the clerk, filling in the blank.

"Jacksonville," he answered, in a deep tone, fixing his eyes upon the
man's face.

The clerk smiled a little, but said nothing. It was not his business to
argue, and he knew the weakness of the reefer. He had signed the giant
on to more than six different vessels within the past two years and
each time he had solemnly sworn he was a native of a different country
from the last one named. He had now become a citizen of the United
States, having reserved this honor for the seventh and last time to
sign.

The age of the giant fluctuated. Once he had had an indistinct
remembrance of being about twenty-five; now he had leaped suddenly to
forty. Something had evidently made him feel aged, and the clerk was
amused, for he felt that it must indeed have been a heavy debauch to
produce such an effect.

The Islander, or rather the American now, glanced uneasily at the
ship's papers. He was signing on for a cruise in a yacht, and the
United States articles with their red spread-eagle upon their edges
attracted his attention. He could not read the announcement of the
government "whack," or ration, as prescribed by law, and he had
heretofore signed without looking. Now the papers interested him, and
he bade the clerk read them. His voice was low and gentle, but it had
nothing except command in each word, and this annoyed the clerk. He
read slowly and with bad grace, looking up now and then at the captain,
who stood waiting for his man and giving a glance which told plainly
that here was a pirate who would probably make no end of trouble
aboard his ship. But men like the Conch were extremely rare and he
would have him, so he waited impatiently while the clerk read and the
rest listened, hearing probably for the first time in their lives the
contents of a set of articles which they had always treated with the
high disdain existent in all sailors. When the clerk finished, the
giant took the pen in his fingers and scrawled "Bahama Bill" in large,
wabbly letters to his place on the list as second mate for a voyage to
some port north of New York, three months and discharge.

"S'pose you write William Haskins under that?" said the clerk, sourly.
The giant growled out something, but did as told. Then the papers were
finished.

The captain led the crew down to the vessel, the mainsail was hoisted,
and as the anchor broke clear and the head-sails were run up, the
little gun upon her quarter crashed a salute which echoed and reechoed
over the quiet harbour. Then the _Caliban_ stood out into the Gulf
Stream and was off, leaving the loafing Cubans and listless Conches
upon the docks, gazing after her over the heaving blue surface streaked
and darkened by the breath of the trade-wind.

The _Caliban_ was a well-appointed yacht, and her master was a
yacht-captain. That is, he was not a navigator, but simply a Norwegian
sailor who had had the address to impress the owner favourably, and
consequently, there being no examination for a license necessary, the
owner had placed him in command in the usual manner. The chief mate
was a square-head like the master, the owner allowing the captain the
choice of officers, retaining only the cook and steward as his own
protégés for the comfort of the cabin. Under a schooner rig, the
vessel had cruised through the West Indian waters, and had lost her
second mate and crew the day she touched at Key West, the party making
the "pier-head" jump the day after being paid off. In disgust, the
owner left her and took passage for the fashionable hotel at Miami,
leaving his captain to find a crew and follow as soon as possible.

The morning of the second day out, the yacht swung around Cape Florida,
and stood into Biscayne Bay, rounding to on the edge of the channel
near the large and fashionable hotel, and dropping her hook, the rattle
of her anchor-chain was drowned in the crash of her six-pounder. The
captain went ashore in full uniform, and the first officer turned in,
leaving the second mate in charge leaning easily upon the rail and
gazing after the vanishing form in gold braid.

The uniform of the second mate was a misfit. There were no clothes
among the slops that would fit his frame, but he gloried in a cap with
braid stuck rakishly on his head, and while his legs were incased in
white ducks rolled to the knees, his huge torso was covered by no more
than a course linen shirt. This he wore split up the back and open in
front, and he was comfortably indifferent to the excellent ventilation
it afforded.

It was early in the morning and few people were stirring near the great
hotel. The captain disappeared in the direction of the town, and while
the second mate gazed, he saw a boat pulling rapidly toward him from
the hotel dock.

Soon a man, rowed by a boy, came alongside.

"Is the owner aboard?" he asked, nervously.

"No, sah," said Bill, squinting at him.

"Who's in command?" he inquired.

"Me, sah."

"Well, don't fire that gun again. You scare all the invalids in the
hotel. We can't have our people frightened this way."

"She goes agin at eight bells," drawled Bill. "Have to raise de colours
by him. If you don't like dat little gun, jest please move yer shack."

"Don't you dare to talk to me like that! Do you know who I am?" bawled
the man, standing up.

"Naw, I don't know yer--an' de wust is, yo' clean forgot me. Now don't
yo' git too noisy, Peter Snooks, er whatever yer name is--ef yer do,
I'll set on yer. If yer don't like de noise, move yo' shack. I ain't
got no orders to pull de hook."

The man swore and threatened, but the second mate smiled
good-naturedly, until the man rowed away vowing vengeance.

"That's the dockmaster, sir," said a sailor standing near. "He'll make
a lot o' trouble--I know him."

"Fergit him," said the second mate, in a low tone, but in a manner
which closed the incident.

At eight bells the gun crashed a salute, and, either by chance or
otherwise, it pointed directly at the windows of the huge edifice
filled with the rich Northern guests. The glass fairly rattled with the
shock.

The day wore on without incident, until the captain came aboard, a bit
the worse for liquor and with the news that the owner had left for St.
Augustine, leaving orders for the yacht to follow.

It was quiet, and the schooner rode at anchor in a bay of pond-like
smoothness. The men lounged about the decks or gazed over the side at
the bottom, which could be seen through the clear water. They would
stand out at sunrise, but the captain told no one of this intention,
and those ashore expected her to be a fixture of a week or more. The
sun went down in a bank to the westward and the semi-tropical night
came dark and quiet upon the sea.

Through the deepening gloom, a shadow came stealing around the wooded
point of Cape Florida. With her mainsail well off to the gentle
southerly breeze, the wrecking-sloop _Sea-Horse_ slipped noiselessly
through the water, swinging around the channel buoy and standing like
a black phantom for the mouth of the Miami. She came without a sound,
not even a ripple gurgling from her forefoot; and not a ray of light
showed either from her rigging or from her cabin-house. At the wheel,
a figure stood silent in the night, a slight turn of the spokes now
and then being the only movement to show that the image was that of a
man steering. Strung along the deck-house and rail lay six other human
forms, but they were as quiet as though made of wood. Not even the
glow of a pipe relieved the silent gloom. The wrecker drew near the
yacht. The man at the wheel leaned slightly forward over the spokes
and peered long and searchingly at her from under the main-boom. Then
she drifted past, and as she did so eight bells struck, sounding clear
and musical from the forecastle. In the glare from her anchor-light, a
giant form showed upon the yacht's forecastle-head--the black second
mate, who was taking a look at the anchor-cable before settling himself
for a smoke. The wrecker passed and disappeared around the point, and
the second mate of the _Caliban_ stretched himself along the heel of
the bowsprit and watched the distant loom of the keys whence the low,
murmuring snore of the surf sounded. Two bells struck and aroused him
for a moment. The man on lookout asked permission to go below for a bit
of tobacco, and then after he had watched his figure vanish down the
hatchway, the mate turned toward the shore where the lights sparkled
over the bay.

A slight rippling sound attracted his attention, and he looked over
the side. It sounded like a large fish of some kind making its way
clumsily along near the surface. The black water flared in places,
and a continuous flashing of phosphorus shone along the cheek of the
bow when the tide was shoved aside. Something dark showed at a little
distance, but it passed astern and the rippling sound died away.
Haskins, who was half-fish from habit and as watchful as a shark, went
to the taffrail and leaned over. The water seemed like ink in the
gloom, but he scanned it steadily and patiently. Nothing showed upon
the dark surface, and he smoked for half an hour, until his usually
alert senses began to wander. He was getting sleepy. Then the rippling
sound began again on the offshore side. He remained quiet and listened.
This time the rippling sounded like a fish going against the current,
and the glare of the disturbed water showed now and again as the body
approached. Suddenly it seemed as if the creature passed under the
yacht's bottom. The rippling died away, and the second mate stepped to
the side to see if it would rise again. Nothing showed in the blackness
under her counter, but from down there came a peculiar scraping sound.
It continued, and he peered over to see the cause. The raking stopped
instantly. He remained quiet and it began again, a peculiar scraping as
though something were scratching against the vessel's bilge.

Suddenly a sound of heavy breathing came from the water. Haskins
started, drew himself down upon the rail and listened intently. Yes, he
recognized it now, distinctly. It was the breathing of a man.

While he lay upon the rail listening, he was thinking rapidly. There
were few men who would swim out in the bay at night, and there was none
who would swim out there without some sinister object. He thought of
the dockmaster and his talk of revenge, but he knew the dockmaster was
not a diver. There could be only one or two men on the Florida Reefs
for wrecking, and these men were among the crew of the _Sea-Horse_, the
sloop in which he had been mate for the past season. Then he remembered
a phantom-like shadow which had drifted past in the earlier hours of
the evening, and he was satisfied he knew his man. It was the captain
of the wrecking-sloop, and his object was plain to the diver. It was an
old game, a game he had indulged in many times himself in the days gone
by. He knew the long, desperate swims through the dangerous waters of
West Indian and Florida reefs; the fierce struggle alongside to hold
the body silent in a tideway while with hook and bar the wrecker worked
at the oakum in the seams just a strake or two below the water-line;
then the inrushing flood and settling ship, and daylight finding a
panic-stricken captain and mutinous and half-dead crew with swollen
arms and aching backs from a night's hopeless work at the pump-brakes.
He could picture the approaching wrecking-sloop, with her apparently
amazed crew and the vulture-like descent upon the soon-abandoned
vessel whose only damage was really the working out of several pounds
of oakum from seams which were manifestly improperly calked. Then the
investigation and salvage, for even when the marks showed plain of
either bar or hook, there was never the slightest evidence against the
wrecker.

Bahama Bill knew the game well, and he smiled a little as he listened.
Then he took off his cap with the gold braid and laid it upon the deck,
and leaned far out over the side. Suddenly, through the darkness, he
made out a face looking up at him from the water. There was nothing
said. He recognized the captain of the _Sea-Horse_, and he knew him
to be a man who seldom wasted words. There was only the long, hard
scrutiny, the study of man's mind by man; each trying to fathom the
other's thought, for the sudden resolve which always comes quickly to
men of action.

While they gazed, a sudden noise from aft attracted attention. It was
the surly mutterings of the drunken yacht-captain, who had come on
deck for a breath of air. The sight of him annoyed the second mate.
It caused a revulsion of feeling within him he could not understand.
The responsibility of his position became apparent for the first time.
Among his kind the rigid law of superiority and control had always
obtained while afloat. Ashore it was different. There restraint was
cast to the winds, and he had often been one of the wildest and most
dangerous men in the seamen's resorts between Key West and Panama.
Here the sight of the drunken captain made him quiet and thoughtful.
Whatever relations he had intended should exist between himself and
the wrecker, it was now plain to him that he was an officer holding
a responsible position. It came to him suddenly at the sight of the
incapable commander. He would maintain his dignity and responsibility.

This feeling was upon him before he was half aware of it, and he turned
again to the man overside.

"Get away quick," he said, in a low tone.

The wrecker knew his meaning, and his resolve was taken. He would
follow the game out. He had swum a full half-mile, and the stake he was
playing for was high.

"It's a half share if you keep your mouth shut," said the wrecker. "I
thought you had some sense."

"De dock-marshal tol' yo' I was heah," said Bill, "but he forgot to
tell yo' I ain't de mate o' de _Sea-Horse_. Yo' clean side-stepped dat."

"If anything happens to me, the boys know you are aboard. Your friend
the dockmaster saw to that. They burnt a nigger to the stake last
week," said the wrecker, meaningly.

"Yo' better go ashore, Cap'n. I ain't de mate o' de _Sea-Horse_." His
tone was low and measured, and it left no further room for argument.

The tipsy yacht-master had gone below again, gurgling the words of a
ribald song. He had seen nothing. The deck was deserted by all save the
second mate.

"Swim out," said Bill, decisively.

"Well, I'll rest a minute first," said the wrecker. He made his way
forward and climbed upon the bobstay, the second mate going on the
forecastle to watch him. The man on the lookout had not come from below
yet, and the wrecker noticed it. He was furious at his former mate, and
his hand felt instinctively for the knife in his belt. The Conch dared
not hurt him, for the crew of the _Sea-Horse_ would surely make him pay
the penalty if he did. A call to the men aboard would put an end to
wrecking operations, but the giant disdained any help. He would settle
the matter quietly, as was best, and the men of the wrecking-sloop
would have no real cause for revenge. The second mate had no desire to
make unnecessary trouble for himself. He would have to return some day
for the reckoning.

The legs of the wrecker shone white below his trunks, and were in sharp
contrast against the black water in which they were half submerged. The
man was thinking quickly, and waiting a few seconds before making the
desperate attack with his knife. Once rid of the mate, all would be
clear for action. Haskins knew his man and suspected something, but he
sat silent upon the knightheads and waited.

Suddenly he saw a long flaming streak in the water. The man on the
bobstay swore furiously. There was a great splash, a hoarse cry, and
the second mate was forward alone.

It was all so sudden, he had hardly time to realize its meaning. Then,
as the man who had gone below rushed up, he seized his sheathed knife
and plunged into the blackness ahead. A thrashing of the water to
starboard located the wrecker, who had been seized by a dog-shark and
was cutting and struggling wildly for liberty. His white legs, lying
motionless and half submerged, had tempted the fish to strike. In
motion and under water, the danger had been slight. Now the scavenger,
who was about five feet long, had seized hold, and with its natural
bulldog tenacity was pulling the wrecker steadily seaward in spite
of his struggles. He had used his knife freely, for the fish made
no attempt to draw him under. The small shark of the reef, for some
reason, fights upon the surface, sinking only after all resistance is
over. It was to this peculiarity that the wrecker owed his life.

The big mate, Haskins, knew what had happened. He knew also the
chances, and he drove ahead through the black water, leaving a flaming
wake behind. The man on lookout, thinking the black giant had gone mad,
dived below with the news that he had plunged overboard and committed
suicide. At first, Haskins could only make out a slight disturbance
in the water, which was rapidly moving toward the entrance. Then, as
his eyes, long used to sea-water, made out the dark lump which was his
former captain's head, he half rose from the sea and with tremendous
overhand strokes fairly lifted himself forward, his knife grasped with
point in front. In a few moments he was up with the fracas. The wrecker
saw him coming, and called out. He seized him, and then all three went
below the surface with the force of the fish's tug.

Reaching along the wrecker's leg, Haskins drove his knife with force
just behind the shark's jaw-socket. The blow abated the scavenger's
zeal, and they arose to the surface. A second lunge and the fish let
go and disappeared. Then the wrecker's body relaxed, and Haskins was
swimming upon the quiet surface of the bay, holding the sinking head
above water.

Far away, the dark outlines of Virginia Key showed, a low black lump
on the horizon. Beyond it, the dull snore of the surf came over the
water. A good hundred yards against the tide, the anchor-light of the
yacht shone. It would be almost impossible to drag the insensible man
to her, even should he dare. There was only one way out of the scrape,
and Haskins with resolute mind saw it and began the struggle at once.
He headed for the mouth of the river, where he knew the _Sea-Horse_ lay
waiting, just behind the point.

On through the blackness he swam. The first mile seemed endless, and
still the lifeless form of the wrecker dragged helplessly in his wake.
Another, and his teeth were shut like a vise and his breath was panting
loudly over the quiet water. He turned the point, and saw the loom of
the _Sea-Horse_ as she rose at anchor beyond the shadow of the trees
upon the banks.

Suddenly a man hailed in a low tone. The mate made no answer, but
headed for the bobstays and grasped them. Then he rested. Half an hour
later, the captain of the wrecker came to in his bunk and viewed his
bandaged leg. A lamp burned dimly in the cabin, and he made out the
form of the black mate lying in a bunk, snoring loudly. Several of the
crew were sitting around waiting until he could give the details of
the affair, and now they crowded forward. The plot was a failure owing
to Haskins. He told of the huge mate's interference and of the stroke
of the dog-shark. Then they burst forth with imprecations so loud
that Haskins awoke. Knives glinted in the dim light and a half-dozen
sinister faces formed a crescent above him, but he was very tired. He
gazed for nearly a minute through half-closed lids at the threatening
men. He thought he heard the captain calling weakly for the men to let
him alone. What he had done for him was not entirely lost. Then he
gave a snort of contempt and turned his back to them and slept.

Even the boldest held back. The conscious power of the man and his
disdain for them all were too much even for the most desperate. They
drew away sullenly and listened to their captain, and then as his
words, whispered low, began to have effect, they left the cuddy.
Silently they hoisted the mainsail and carefully drew in fathom after
fathom of the cable. The jib was hoisted and the _Sea-Horse_ stood out
and passed like a dark shadow from the harbour. As the sun rose and
gave colour to the sea, the deep blue of the wind-broken surface told
of the Gulf Stream. The land had disappeared astern.

In the early morning, the yacht-master put sail on the _Caliban_ and
stood out for New York. He had a full crew lacking a second mate,
and they carried the story North how they had shipped a black giant
who had gone mad during the night and plunged to his death over the
knightheads.



IV

Barnegat Macreary


"Put that fellow in the lee rigging and let him chuck the lead awhile,"
said Captain Sanders. "Sink me, but he is a queer one. Where did ye say
he hailed from?"

"Hey, Peter, where did yo' hatch?" asked the big black mate in a voice
deep and loud enough to be heard half a mile. The man he addressed was
standing near the mast explaining to the wrecking crew gathered about
him how he had once been quartermaster in a man-of-war. He looked aft
at the hail.

"I'm from the Berhammers," said he.

"Born there?" asked the captain.

"No, I live on the Great Berhammer--I'm a sailor man, sir."

"Put him in the lee rigging an' let him sound across the Bank. If he
knows half as much as he says he does, he'll see us across all right
enough. It's getting mighty shoal now. Look at that nigger head pokin'
up yander." And he pointed to a piece of coral that came within a few
feet of the surface of the clear blue water. The bottom was plainly
visible two fathoms below and the wrecking sloop, _Sea-Horse_, needed
at least one to go clear with the rise and fall of the sea.

"Git to lor'ard there, quartermaster, an' heave the lead," bawled the
mate, looking the man squarely in the eyes.

"But I shipped as a sailor----"

"Git thar quick an' sudden," roared the black giant, rising from the
cuddy hatch coaming. He had heard the loud tone of the man forward
telling his latest yarn.

A look of amazement and concern came over the face of the man from
"Berhammer," but he hesitated no longer. Seizing the lead which lay
always ready in a tub of line near the windlass, he made the lee side
and hove it far ahead.

The _Sea-Horse_ was passing over the Great Bahama Bank near its extreme
northern end, and at a part where even the mate had never been. She had
stopped off the island a few hours before to take on the stranger for
pilot and continue her way to a wreck reported on the eastern edge of
the shoal water.

"Plenty o' water here," he yelled, as the lead-line came perpendicular.

"How much?" asked Sanders.

The man hove again.

"Not much water here," he cried, as the line suddenly stopped running
out.

The mate started forward, looking over the side.

"Not much water here," called the man again.

There was a sudden jar, followed by a grinding, grating sound from
below.

"Deedn't I tole yo' so," sang the fellow in an even tone, heaving the
lead again as though nothing had happened. A sounding slap from the
big mate's hand finished proceedings in the rigging, and a volley of
oaths from Sanders, coupled with orders to get a kedge anchor out to
windward, put new life in the scene upon the sloop's deck.

Macreary, still smarting from the big black mate's blow upon his
stern-sheets, fell to with the rest, and by dint of much heaving upon a
new hawser bent to an anchor carried well to windward, the _Sea-Horse_
was finally hove off the bank. They were materially helped in this by
the gentle heave of the swell, which lifted the wrecking sloop easily
and dropped her with a crash at each sea.

When she floated there were several very discontented men aboard who
looked as though they would make it squally weather for the pilot
before they reached the wreck on the Bank.

The wreck of the _Ramidor_, a small Brazilian bark bound for Rio, lay
upon the edge of the Bahama Bank in about a fathom of water. She had
been driven there in a heavy gale from the eastward and had gone in
upon the shoal about a quarter of a mile, lying upon her bilge where
the sea in calm weather just broke clear of her, the wash of foam
striking against her high black sides and spurting skywards. In a heavy
sea, the break was far to windward of her, and in consequence she was
in no immediate danger of going to pieces with the smash. She had been
sighted by several wreckers, and the _Sea-Horse_ and _Buccaneer_ were
on their way to her, each hurrying with all speed to claim the salvage.
The _Buccaneer_ was at work on the Caicos Bank, and the _Sea-Horse_ at
Cape Florida when the news reached them. The former manned by English
negroes and navigated by a long, lean Yankee skipper, had stood to the
eastward and northward, coming in sight of the wreck about the time the
_Sea-Horse_, picking her way across the shoals, raised the slanting
topmasts of the _Ramidor_ beyond a dry coral bank which forced her to
make a long détour to the southward. She had taken on the pilot to
save time and cut across the shoal places as close as possible, and he
had run them ashore most ignominiously when within ten miles of their
destination.

Macreary finished coiling down the hawser after the kedge was hoisted
aboard, and then he joined the rest who sat upon the hatch. He was much
abashed at heart, but tried not to show it, swaggering with a careless
air among the men who glared at him.

"Blamed fine quartermaster you make," snarled one; "must have been on
one o' them ten-foot sand barges wot takes offal to sea an' dumps it. I
once knowed a fellar like you wot was quartermaster o' one."

"Capting, too, hey?" growled a Swede. "Crew were a yaller dawg?"

"Where did yo' learn pilotin'?" asked a Conch, grinning and spitting
as close to the pilot's toes as he could without hitting them.

"I'm learning it now," said Macreary, cheerfully, sitting down and
gazing over the sea to where the tiny speck of the bark's topmast
showed above the horizon. He was not going to show how absurd and
mean he felt to that crowd, so he sat and gazed apparently calm and
unruffled, without a sign of the burning shame which seemed to stifle
him.

He was now silent and thinking. There was a short cut along a narrow
and tortuous channel which would let the vessel out to sea close to the
point of the dry coral bank, or end of Cay. He thought he might know
it, although he had only been through twice before. The wreck lay only
a few miles beyond, and even now the white glint of the rival wrecker's
sails showed plainly that he would board the prize first and claim the
salvage. But the memory of the big black mate's hand was too strong
upon him, and he kept silent. The _Sea-Horse_ was working up behind the
reef and it was noticeable how smooth and sheltered the sea was in its
lee. It would make a fine harbour for a vessel caught working upon the
wreck in a heavy easterly, if she could navigate the channel. But the
master of the _Sea-Horse_ knew nothing of the channel, and he would
have sooner thrown the pilot overboard than trusted him again. He stood
out behind the Cay and made a good offing, reaching well off into the
open ocean in spite of the fact that he would have ten miles further to
go.

But Macreary sat silent and watched the horizon where the black speck
rose. He was not thinking about the wreck. To him it was nothing
whether a Conch or two should make a little money from the disaster
of a sailor. His thoughts were back with the strange men he had left
upon the Cay of the Great Bahama, the little band led by the tall and
muscular Jones, leader of the Sanctified people who sought refuge from
the strife of the world upon the sun-beaten reefs of the Bahama Bank.

Jones had taught him to read. Jones had read to him from the Book of
all Books, the relic of an ancient literature, revised, rewritten and
put together in somewhat disconnected pieces, the Bible of the most
enlightened people upon the face of the world. And in it he had heard
the words of wisdom as set down by men who had gone before, men who
had lived their lives and who had learned from experience. And the
philosophy of these men he believed was true, for they had lived their
lives out and had left behind them the results of years of life. It
was not the one tale of a single man, which must necessarily be narrow
and worthless, but it was the gatherings of the teachings of many who
had been in positions to learn. Yes, what Jones had read him was the
philosophy of ages. And Jones had read to him, "Hide not thy light
under a bushel," and he had told him that it meant to use what talents
he possessed, to try to do what he thought he was able to--and not hang
back. He felt abashed and ashamed beyond expression at his failure,
for he had believed he was a fit pilot over the Bank. He founded his
belief upon the fact that he had gone fishing many times in a small
skiff in the vicinity of the island and had twice gone southward along
the edge of the Bank; he had noticed many times how the water shoaled
from the deep ocean to the white water of the coral reef. It was hard
to account for his failure, he thought, with men aboard who must have
seen the bottom as plainly as he, himself, could--and then the big
black man's mortifying stroke----

The vessels stood toward the wreck under the impetus of the easterly
breeze, the _Buccaneer_, a point free, raced up and let go her anchor
close under the bark's lee in just enough water to float. Then her
skipper putting forth in a small boat boarded the _Ramidor_ just as
the _Sea-Horse_ came through the breakers on the edge of the Bank. She
cleared the bottom by a few inches, although the wash of the sea swept
her decks and drenched the men standing by to take in the mainsail
and let go the hook. Sanders ran her well in behind the wreck and
rounded to, scraping up the sand with the keel, and anchored behind the
_Buccaneer_. It was close work and a heavy sea would drop both vessels
heavily upon the reef. They must make good use of the smooth water, and
Sanders hailed his lucky rival to get what he could.

"See ye got a wrack there," said he, calling to the long Yankee
skipper, who smiled at him from the bark's quarter-deck.

"Talk like ye never see it afore. Wonder ye didn't notice it bein' as
ye were headin' this way. Strange how these Dagoes pile up thar ships,"
answered the skipper of the _Buccaneer_.

"Don't suppose ye want to whack up, hey? An' have us turn to an' help
with the cargo?"

The long skipper squirted a stream of tobacco juice over the side in
derision.

"I reckon ye think we're out here fer our health, hey?" he roared.
"What d'ye think we're doin' around here anyways? I want to let ye know
right sudden that this wrack is mine--ye keep off. Ye know what will
happen if there's any monkey business. I won't stand any foolishness."

"'Twouldn't do fo' toe nab him, hey?" asked the black mate of the
_Sea-Horse_, turning to his captain. "We kin take him, sho', an' make a
divide with it. We got here about the same time he did."

"I'm afeard we better not," said Sanders. "Too many witnesses--they'll
swear they got here first--I've a notion to pitch that pilot overboard."

The beaten sloop lay all that day off the wreck, her crew fuming and
her captain and mate trying to devise some means to get a hold upon the
bark. At dark Sanders rowed over to the _Buccaneer_ and tried every
means from bluff to bribery to get in a claim, but the _Buccaneer's_
crew held out solidly. Finally they compromised matters by signing on
as labourers at a dollar and a half per day to help the _Buccaneer's_
crew to work the wreck. It was the best they could do for the present
and they went sullenly to work with the hope something would turn up to
favour them.

Two days passed and the bright summer weather held. The sea was smooth
as glass and the wreckers lay in safety. Far away to the northward the
glint of the dry coral bank showed at low water. Nothing else broke the
eternal blue line of the horizon.

Macreary was not turned to with the rest but kept aboard the
_Sea-Horse_ as ship-keeper. He helped cook the meals and was kept
busy with cleaning. As he was alone a good deal, he spent much time
in gazing over the sea, figuring on the channel which led five or six
miles to the northward to the deep water behind the dry bank. If they
had only let him try it, he might have worked them through in time.
It was crooked, worse than a letter S to sail through, but the bark
was worth several thousand dollars to the salvors--and he had lost. He
would have been well paid if they had made her in time.

The crew of the _Sea-Horse_ took some pains to tell the wreckers how it
was the fault of their pilot that they lost. The Conchs laughed at him
in derision whenever they boarded the sloop at meal times, and he was
so much set upon by both crews that he begged Sanders to put him aboard
the first vessel sighted. The third day two more wrecking vessels came
upon the scene, but as the bark was now pretty well stripped, the
salvors would have none of them. One of the strangers stood away, but
the other came to anchor, leaving her mainsail up ready to go at a
moment's notice.

"Hey, don't ye want a pilot?" asked the long skipper of the
_Buccaneer_, calling to the stranger. His hail was the cause of much
amusement to the two working crews. They stopped and looked over at the
little vessel, whose three men sat in a row upon her rail watching the
wreck.

"We've the best pilot on the bank," said Sanders, trying to hide his
sarcasm by a frown. "We thought maybe as ye ware goin' on ye might want
him."

"I reckon I'll take him," said one of the three. "I ain't goin' no
farther'n th' Bahama, an' ef he don't mind he can take us across the
Bank."

"Git him," said Sanders, "there he is," and he pointed to the
_Sea-Horse_ where Macreary sat fishing. Then all hands had a good laugh
and went on with their work, hiding their amusement from the strangers.
It would be a good joke. They would have the pleasure of seeing the
vessel piled up before she drew out of sight.

The three men on the new arrival were in no hurry. They fished a little
while and finally one of them rowed across the twenty fathoms of
intervening water to Macreary, who had heard the conversation and was
ready. As he dropped into the small boat he looked to the southward and
noticed a heavy bank of cloud rising. He said nothing until aboard the
sloop and then asked to look at the glass. It was falling rapidly.

"There'll be a bit o' dirty weather comin'," he said, as he came on
deck and joined the fishermen.

"Is there air harbour round erbouts?" asked Captain James, baiting his
hook. He was in no hurry to get under way.

"There's good water behind that cay up yander," said Macreary.

"How fer?"

"'Bout five mile."

"All right, we'll start just afore dark--kin make it in thirty or fo'ty
minutes with a breeze, hey?"

"I reckon," said Macreary, looking anxiously at the weather to the
southward. Then they hauled up fish for a couple of hours until the
sunshine turned a brassy colour and finally died away as the cloud bank
covered the western sky.

The men aboard the bark began to get nervous. Sanders went aboard
the _Sea-Horse_ with his mate and they hoisted the mainsail close
reefed, making ready to get to sea in case of trouble. The skipper of
the _Buccaneer_ finally knocked off also, and soon the clanking of
windlasses broke the silence of the tropical evening. They were getting
ready to get away at the first shift to the eastward, for the sea would
break heavily where they lay in a strong wind. There was much to carry
away, but they would take no chances. The most valuable part of the
wreck's belongings were already on deck waiting to be transferred to
the _Buccaneer_, and she would lie by with a man aboard the bark to
watch and take charge.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it blowed," said Captain James of the
little sloop _Seabird_. "I reckon we'll stop fishin' an' pull out afore
it's too hot. I wouldn't keer to be the man left in thet bark, hey?"

"If they abandon her, it's fair play all over agin to the first man
what gets aboard," said one of his men. "I don't believe the wessel is
badly hurt, anyways."

The heavy bank of cloud rose rapidly. A flash of lightning lit the
gloom of the evening and the edge of the pall swept past overhead. It
was travelling rapidly. To the southward the growing darkness seemed
to melt into the blackness above like a smooth black wall of mist. A
murmur of unrest came over the sea, a weird far-reaching cry vibrating
through the quiet atmosphere, rising and falling like the distant
voices of a vast host.

Sanders, who had signed on his men as helpers, could gain nothing by
staying. He had signed away his future rights, therefore he lost no
time in getting up his anchor and standing out to sea with his canvas
shortened for trouble and everything being made snug.

The _Buccaneer_ crew were struggling with as much gear as they could
carry to get it aboard their ship before the sea began to make if it
blew. All hands were overside hurrying the work, and even the two men
who were to remain aboard to take charge were helping and had left
the bark's deck when a line of white showed to the southward upon the
black sea. There was a puff of wind, cool and whirling as though it
had dropped from some great height in the realms of snow. The surface
of the heaving swell ruffled, a blinding flash of fire followed by a
crash; then a few moments of silence broken gradually by a deep-toned
roar growing louder and louder. The line of white bore down upon the
vessels, and as it came the darkness grew blacker. There was a fierce
rush of wind, and with a burst as though fired from a gun, the blast of
the squall struck the vessels and bore them prone with its sweep.

The _Buccaneer's_ mainsail tore to bits as she lay upon her beam ends,
her anchor parted, and in a moment she was going out to sea, every
man aboard of her struggling with the flying strips of canvas. The
wind had come from the southward and with just enough slant to allow
her to clear the shoal water and make the open ocean. Macreary, with
nothing to do but watch the coming squall, let go the halliards of the
_Seabird's_ sail, and her crew had managed to get a line around it
before the weight of the wind struck. The captain reached the wheel and
managed to pay her off somehow, dragging the anchor which had been hove
short as though it were a bit of iron hanging to the line. Then handing
the spokes to his pilot, he pointed to the northward, where the dry
bank of the cay had just disappeared in the storm.

"Git in--behind--harbour," he bawled, and as the words came brokenly
above the roar, Macreary knew he meant to run the crooked channel for
harbour behind the reef.

The two men hove up the anchor while the _Seabird_ tore along ten
knots with nothing save her mast to pull with the wind. Macreary swung
her first this way and then that, blindly, stupidly, and unreasoning,
but with rising hopes as the wind beat down the sea into an almost
level plain of water white as milk. He held her north by west, making
as much westing as he could, blindly hoping to make enough inside the
reef to clear the end of the bank and gain the shelter beyond. All was
blackness ahead and there was no way of telling when he reached the
dry bank; no way of telling when he should round her to and drop both
anchors with every fathom bent on to hold them, but he kept on.

"Hide not thy light under a bushel," came the words of the tall
preacher! They seemed to flit before his half-blinded vision. He who
must make a living at something would do it at what he thought he could
do best. He must surely know more about those waters than the Conchs
who lived to the southward, for he had fished upon them for two years.
His ideas about piloting were vague and absurd, but he did not know it.
It seemed to him that all he must do was to show the way the best he
could, and it was not in keeping with the teachings to hold back. It
would be more immodest to feign ignorance of the banks than to admit a
knowledge of them. He had known people who were so backward that they
always waited to be sought out by others and pressed to do things,
which by all nature they should have offered to do at once. To him
these people were truly immodest and their very quietness seemed to
savour of a tremendous egotism. They seemed so satisfied and complacent
in their knowledge, so superior that unless they were flattered by
being sought out and offered a handsome reward, they would rather carry
their wisdom to the grave than offer it. It was "hiding a light under a
bushel," in the sense the tall man of the Sanctified Band of pilgrims
taught it.

The wind drove the little vessel wildly before it. The sea began to
make astern, and as he turned his face to look backward a spurt of
spray and foam half-choked him. The roar of the gale grew louder. The
captain's voice came brokenly to him through the gloom, and he saw him
standing close to the companion hatch gazing ahead and holding on with
both hands, his face thrust forward and his sou'wester pushed back as
though to aid him to see some mark to steer by to safety.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes flew by. If they missed the shelter of the
reef and the deep water behind it, they would certainly pile up on the
shoals beyond, where the sea would fall with tremendous violence in
less than an hour. Already the lift astern was growing quicker and the
white plain of water was rolling up into a dangerous sea. He swung the
little vessel hard to port, thinking to find better water, and as he
did so she took the ground heavily, throwing her captain with force
against the coamings.

"Keep her off--breakers--windward," came the cry as from a great
distance.

He rolled the wheel up mechanically and she was tearing away again into
the darkness, going clear as though she had touched soft mud instead of
hard coral rock.

A burst of wind tore over them with a droning roar. The little vessel
lay down to the pressure. Then gathering herself upon a sea she rushed
ahead.

The blackness grew thicker. Macreary could hardly see the loom of the
mast forward. Then a flickering flare of lightning lit the storm and
right ahead showed a strip of dry yellow sand. It was a mile off yet,
but they were going fast. Macreary hove the wheel to port and kept it
there until the little ship buried her starboard deck-strake in the
foam.

"Will--make--" came the voice of the captain.

Macreary did not know whether she would or not, but he would try to,
and setting his teeth hard he gave up all thought of answer. The
minutes flew by. He knew they were going fast. They would go a mile in
five minutes even with the lessened headway of the reaching vessel. How
could he guess the time in that awful turmoil of roaring wind and sea?
He waited and waited. She must be nearly there. The strain was getting
awful. Would he go past? He must be up with the point now--but no, he
would hold her a minute longer. It must be made or lost in one throw
of that wheel, and to lose it meant death to all hands. The blackness
ahead was solid. No eye could penetrate it ten feet. Oh, for another
flash of lightning!

"Will she--" came the voice of the captain, questioning, querulous,
borne back the few intervening feet through the flying atmosphere. He
did not know and it angered him to have such a question asked.

How could he tell?

He was panting with exertion and smothered with drift and spray.
Suddenly he hove the wheel to starboard. The little vessel leaped
forward, straightened out before the gale, then rounded with her head
to the eastward. It was done anyhow. If they were clear, all right. If
they had missed, they would strike within five minutes.

"Get--anchors--all cable," came the voice of the captain.

Macreary could see nothing forward, but he knew the men were doing what
they could to obey. Minutes passed, the vessel rose and fell, but she
had not struck yet. He held the wheel, and closed his eyes. The sea
seemed smoother. Ahead it was evidently smoother still. The great lift
of the outside sea was growing less and less. Five minutes more and
the _Seabird_ was in another foam-covered plain of water which had no
rolling sea.

"Go," came a cry. It was echoed by a faint shriek somewhere. A shaking
of the vessel followed as the chain ran out. Suddenly she brought up
and swung right into the eye of the storm, the rush of wind striking
Macreary in the face and forcing his sou'wester back upon his head.
There was a quick but light rise and fall as the _Seabird_ headed the
sea, and Macreary lashed the wheel fast in the beckets.

A form brushed against him and the captain yelled in his face: "She's
holdin'--both anchors with forty fathoms--can't get loose unless it
blows the water off the earth," and then he pushed the hatch-slide and
went below.

In a few minutes all hands were in the little cabin and a light was
struck. It showed four men with streaming oilskins and soaking faces,
whose expressions still bore marks of extreme anxiety. Three of them
looked at each other and then cast glances at Macreary.

"That was a pretty good job, pilot," said Captain James. "We had a
close call there once--suppose you got mixed with the steering gear,
hey?"

Macreary said nothing. He was like a man who had suddenly awakened from
a horrible nightmare.

"Well, you won't lose nothin' by this trip," went on the captain; "them
fellows will be blown off fifty miles before morning--and there ain't a
soul aboard the bark--she's ourn, and that's a fact."



V

At the End of the Reef


The light-keeper at Fowey Rocks had been given a new assistant, and
the new man was Bahama Bill, the giant wrecker and mate of a sponging
sloop. He was a negro Conch, so-called on account of the diet upon
which many of the native Bankers were supposed to live, the Conch
proving an easy and nourishing meal for the lazy and incompetent
reefer. But the name soon applied to all alike, and the Conch, instead
of becoming a word of opprobrium, stood for all men who made the Reef
or Great Bahama Bank their home.

William Haskins, otherwise known as Bahama Bill, was a Fortune
Islander, and his acceptance of the keeper's position was but
temporary, taking the place of the assistant who was absent on his
quarterly leave. The head keeper, an old man, seldom left the light.

It was summer-time and the air was warm with the tropical heat of
the coast. The distance from the land kept the lighthouse cooler
than ordinary, but the hot Stream flowing past at a temperature
of eighty-three degrees gave no cooling effect. The days of the
assistant's absence dragged slowly along, the old keeper tending the
light with his usual care. Then came a season of frightful humidity and
glaring sunshine, lasting many days, the mercury standing always at
ninety-five or more.

Bahama Bill spent the warm weather loafing about the town of Miami,
and as he was in no hurry to go back to the light, he took pains to
spend what money he possessed in whatever finery he thought befitted
his magnificent personal appearance best. Standing several inches over
six feet and being enormously solid and broad in proportion, he was an
object of admiration to the many black men who loafed along the Florida
shore. With the Seminoles he had nothing whatever to do, for these
Indians showed their distaste for negroes so plainly that it was with
difficulty trouble was avoided whenever the men of the Glades came to
town to trade their deerskins for ammunition. Bahama Bill stuck to his
class until it was past the time for him to return to the light, and
then started off, rigged out clean and shipshape in a small boat.

The old keeper of the Fowey Rocks lighthouse came out upon the gallery
to take the morning air. The sun was shining and the warm wind from the
Gulf Stream blew lazily through the doorway into the lantern-room. The
blue sea sparkled in the sunshine, and the long, easy roll of the swell
told of calm weather offshore. It was a perfect day, a day of peace and
quiet, upon the end of the great Florida Reef, which stretched away
for miles to the southward. Eastward nothing rose above the blue rim
which compassed all. To the northward the low line of hummocks showed
where Virginia Key and Key Biscayne rose above the water some ten miles
distant. To the westward the little lump of Soldier Key showed where
there might be a solitary human within a dozen miles. And all about
the blue sea sparkled in the bright light, taking on the varicoloured
hues found above the coral banks. Near the lighthouse, in three feet of
water, the coral showed distinctly even from the height of the tower.
Old man Enau gazed down at it, watching the bright green tinge melt
to deeper colour until, in three fathoms, the pure limpid blue of the
great stream flowed past uncoloured and undefiled. Fish were swimming
around the iron piles of the lighthouse; great big bonito, sinuous
barracuda, and now and then a shark would drift up to the iron pillars
and bask a moment in the shade of the tall structure which rose above
the coral bank to the height of a hundred feet and more, standing like
a huge long-legged spider upon its iron feet in the shallow water.

The quiet of the morning was oppressive to the keeper. Not a sound rose
from the reef save the low roll of the sea as it broke upon the edge of
the bank, not the cry of a single sea-bird to break the great stillness
and beautiful quiet of the day. The old man had been in the light for
three years. To him the world was that eternal sea bounded by the blue
rim and spotted in one or two places by the distant Keys. Whatever he
had seen of human life he left behind him when he took the position
as keeper. He had tried to forget. And now, as the years passed, his
memories were fading. The human struggle was over. The thought of what
he had seen and done was dimmed in the glare of the tropic sunshine,
and the shadow of his past had faded to nothing.

He had a fine old face. Rugged and burned from the weather on the
reef, his features still bore traces of culture. His nose was straight
and small, and his eyes were bright and blue, the deep blue of the
surrounding sea, which had kept him apart from his fellow men so long.

He leaned out over the rail and looked down. The heat and stillness
oppressed him, and as he gazed below at the white and green formations
he seemed to see again the inside of a court-room. The quiet and heat
were there, and the stillness was strained and intense, as he waited
for the word which meant his ruin. The faces of the jury who were
trying a murder case were before him, the man on the right looking hard
at him, and the foreman bowing his head gravely in that moment of utter
silence before he spoke the words which meant his end. It had been a
peculiar case, a case of great brutality and cruelty, apparently, from
the evidence produced. He, the master of a large square-rigged ship,
had been accused of a horrible crime, and the evidence of two witnesses
was there to prove it. He remembered the man whose evidence was the
strongest against him, a sailor whom he had befriended, and he could
see the look of pious resignation upon the fellow's face. He also
remembered the furtive gleam that came now and again from the corner of
his eye as he sat near the witness-box and waited his turn to tell of
the horror.

Why was it? Was it the heat that brought back those scenes which
were fading, or was it the ominous silence of the torrid sunshine
upon the reef? The lines in the face of the old man grew rigid and
drawn, and he gazed stolidly into the blue water until the coral banks
took on new shapes. He saw a ship's deck with the long plank strakes
stretching hundreds of feet fore and aft; the low white deck-house,
with the galley smoke-pipe stretching across it and the boats upon the
strong-backs or booms atop of it; the solid coamings of the hatchways,
with the battened hatches as strong as the sides of the vessel itself;
the high topgallant-rail which shut off the view to windward, and the
rows of belaying-pins stuck beneath with the neatly coiled braces upon
them; the high head of the topgallant-forecastle and the long jibboom
pointing out over the sea; and, above all, the long, tapering spars
lifting upward into the blue above, with the white canvas bellying in
the breath of the trade-wind. It was all plain before him again. Then
it changed--the pampero off the River Plate, the great hurricane sea
which swept the ship and smashed her up, leaving her a wreck, leaking
and settling, six hundred miles from shore. The fracas was there before
him--the men struggling, trying to save her, until, tired out with
exertion and suffering, the man with the furtive eyes had refused to do
duty and managed to get the rest to back him.

Then the days following, full of desperate endeavour: the fellow who
refused duty shirking and endangering the lives of all; the measures
he took, hanging the man by the hands and flogging him until he fell
in a faint; how he staggered to his feet and looked at the master--one
long look full of a purpose implacable, unrelenting, and then the quiet
manner he had when he obeyed. He had picked the fellow up starving upon
the streets, an outcast from some country and of a social sphere above
his own, taking him aboard his ship and providing food and clothing
with a fair wage--and this had been the outcome.

They had left her in the one remaining boat two days after, crowding
the craft almost to the gunwales; but the sea was now smooth and the
wind gone, leaving a quiet strangely like that of the beautiful day
about him. The row westward over that oily, heaving ocean, day after
day, day after day!

One by one they had dropped off, overboard, to float astern, and all
the time the _rip_, _rip_, _rip_ of a triangular fin above a great
shadow below the surface.

He had done what he could, taking no more of the meagre food than the
rest. Then the last days--four of them left, the men who witnessed
against him and another, a stout fellow who had kept up better than the
rest. How he had discovered that the fellow had stolen the scant store
of food steadily and divided it with the man he had flogged. How, when
they had taken all, they had set upon him, and he had killed the stout
thief and wounded the other. There was nothing left to eat,--absolutely
nothing for five days,--and they had--ugh!--it was too horrible;
and upon the seventh day they had been picked up with the evidences
of the horror too plain for their rescuers to make a mistake in the
matter, even without the two men, who openly accused him of the whole
wrong--accused him of not only killing his men, but--ugh!

The trial had lasted a week and the evidence was most horrible. The
jury had convicted him upon that of the fellow who sat there with a
pious look and furtive glance; the other fellow had merely corroborated
his story, and, as it was two against him, his own tale was not
believed. He had received a life sentence for the crime, for he had
admitted killing the stout man who had stolen the last of the food.
He explained that it was his duty as captain to protect his life from
their combined assault. The jury had not believed him, for the man
who was against him was ready to show the falsity of his tale; he had
been sentenced for life. He had served seven years and had escaped by
cutting the bars of his cell and gaining a vessel which was wrecked on
the coast of Africa letting him get ashore unmolested. After drifting
about for a time he had come back to America and taken the position as
keeper in the tower, where his past was not open to inspection, for no
one knew him or whence he came.

The sunshine was as quiet as before, but the blue Gulf Stream showed a
darkening far away on the horizon, where a breeze ruffled the surface.
He turned and gazed over the sea toward Florida, and a tiny black speck
showed upon the waters of the reef. It looked like a small boat coming
out through the Hawk's Channel, and he looked at it steadily for a
long time, trying to see if it might be Haskins, the assistant keeper,
returning.

The sunshine was very hot on this side of the tower, and it dazzled him
for a little while as he gazed over the sparkling sea. The speck drew
nearer, and he saw that it was a boat. It came very slowly, sailing
with the light air, the bit of white canvas looking no larger than a
handkerchief in the distance. Soon the figure of a man could be seen
lying easily in the stern-sheets of the craft, and the old keeper saw
that the man's legs were bare and brown. Then the tiny shallop took
more definite form and showed to be a canoe, its occupant an Indian
from the Everglades, coming out to fish upon the reef.

Indians seldom came so far away from land, and as the craft drew nearer
and nearer Enau watched it carefully. The Seminoles were friendly.
They were an unconquered tribe of Indians who had managed to evade all
efforts made by the United States to subdue them. They had retired
into the fastnesses of the great swamps, where no white soldier could
pursue with any hope to capture, and after years of peace had come
to the coast again with the understanding that they should not be
molested. The old man had heard of them from Haskins, the assistant,
and he had once or twice seen canoes skirting the edge of the great
bay in the distance, but he had never seen an Indian close enough to
recognize him. The canoe had now come within half a mile of the tower,
and was still heading straight for it.

The breeze died away again and the sun shone straight down with an
intense heat. The tower cast no shadow either to east or west, and
the ship's clock in the kitchen struck off eight bells. Enau mopped
his streaming forehead and was about to turn into the galley to get
a drink of water. The heat made him reel with dizziness, but the man
in the boat made a movement, and he held his gaze fixed upon him.
The canoe was coming close to the tower, and it was evident that the
Indian would land there if the keeper allowed him. There was no way of
getting up to the light except by way of the long iron ladder which
reached from the gallery to the sea, a hundred feet below. It was an
easy path to dispute with any number of men, especially as they must
come through the heavy trap-door in the gallery at the top. There was
no way of getting up over the outside, unless one could climb the
long, smooth iron rods for a great distance and then reach out under
the sill to get a hand-grip upon the edge of the floor and swing out
over the gulf below. It would be a mere finger-grip at most, and a
tap upon the bare knuckles would send the fellow to his death below. A
good sailor might climb the smooth iron rods with great difficulty, but
no one could climb up a hundred feet and swing out on that finger-tip
hold with the hope of climbing to the rail above. The trap-door worked
with a five-hundred pound weight, and if any one tried to come up the
thin iron ladder the keeper could simply lower the door and the stout
three-inch planks would drop easily into place at will. Enau studied
it all out while he gazed below, and it amused him to think what a
surprised Indian it would be when he climbed up there to find the door
drop fast in his face. No; the keeper was as much his own master in
regard to human visitors as though he were a resident of some other
planet. A thousand men could not approach him if he did not wish it. He
could be all alone for an indefinite time, for he had provisions for
half a year and water enough for a lifetime.

While he gazed at the approaching boat the man in her looked up. It
was but a glance, a mere look at the head upon the rail above. Enau
gasped. That one glance upward was enough for him. The fellow was not
an Indian, after all. The sun-tanned face, burned to a dark mahogany
colour, belonged to one he had not forgotten. That glance, furtive,
half-shrinking, animal-like, without the movement of a single feature,
belonged to--yes, there was no mistake. It was Robledo, the sailor who
had witnessed against him, the survivor of the horror, the man who had
compassed his ruin.

Enau drew his breath quickly and stood up straight. The place seemed to
swing about in the sunshine, the tower to rock like a ship in a seaway.
Then he peered over again just as the craft came alongside one of the
iron pillars. He did not show his face,--just his eyes,--for fear the
fellow might recognize him and not come up the ladder. He would have
the trap-door ready for him, for it would never do to let that human
devil know he was upon the light. Yes; perhaps he would let him come
up, inside the gallery, but never go back. The sea would tell no tales.
There would be no marks of a struggle, no evidence of a fight--a quick
crack upon the head, and over the side, down a hundred feet to the
waters of the reef, where the sharks lay waiting. That would be all.
He could do it easily. But, then, the fellow might be missed, after
all. Some one might know he had gone out to the light, and then there
would be the investigation. That was what he did not want. There must
be no inquiries, no questions asked him about his past. He was an old
man now, and the memory of his terrible wrongs was fading. Let them die
out. He would let the enemy go as he came. The fellow could not know
he was in the tower, and there was no possibility of his recognizing
him, as he had not shown his whole face over the rail. Even if he had,
the hair and the beard of three years' growth would hide anything of
Captain William Jacobs that still existed in him. No; he would let no
one come up that ladder. He would live the rest of his life in peace
and quiet. He loved the bright sunshine and the beautiful sea, and he
could be satisfied where he was. His wife and daughter he had long
given up. They had bade him farewell at the end of that trial, holding
away from him, yet with tears streaming down their faces in the agony
and horror of it all. He must be alone. There must be no one to tell
him about them.

He looked down again, and saw the man below drawing on his trousers
preparatory to climbing the ladder. Enau could see into the bottom of
the boat beneath, and he noticed a harpoon used for spearing crawfish.
Would the fellow take it with him? If so, it would be well not to let
him come too near, for it could be thrown and might be dangerous. The
man gave no hail, but turned his smooth-shaved face upward and began
to mount the ladder, Enau went to the trap-door and loosed the weight
softly. It creaked upon its hinges and settled slowly down until only
a crack remained. Here he stopped it, with the bolts in readiness to
shoot if necessary. He would watch the fellow and see if he showed
signs of recognition. Ten years was a long time; the end of the Florida
Reef was many thousand miles from where he had last seen him.

The man climbed slowly up the iron ladder, stopping now and then to
look seaward. The current had swept his canoe to the northward of the
lighthouse, where it trailed at the end of a long line. There was
now nothing under him but the blue water. When he reached the first
platform he climbed on to it and rested. It was very hot, and the
climb made his mahogany-coloured face darker than before. His hair was
freshly parted, and looked as though it had been oiled or moistened.
His coat he had left in his boat below, and his shirt was open at the
neck, showing the strong, corded muscles of his throat and chest. His
hands were brown and powerful, and the keeper noticed how his fingers
closed with a light but certain grip upon the irons of the ladder.

In a moment he came on again, and when within a few feet of the door
he looked upward and hailed. At that instant the old man closed the
door and shot the bolts. He was now cut off as completely as though he
had gone to the moon. The heat and excitement made his head whirl. He
staggered away from the closed door and went back to the gallery. The
sunshine danced upon the sea and all was quiet. Then he peered over the
rail. A string of muttered curses floated up to him and a drunken voice
called him many foul names, but he only smiled and stood gazing out to
sea. He could not see the man below now, for the fellow was too high up
under the platform, and he made his way to the kitchen and from there
higher up into the lantern, where the man's voice could not be heard
distinctly.

Hours passed, and the sunshine began to slant sharply. The tower cast
a long shadow to the eastward, but the canoe was still swinging to her
painter, and the voice of the fellow below was still heard calling
forth curses upon him. The keeper was evidently not recognized, for
he heard the name "Enau" repeated over and over again, and this was
his name as light-keeper--Robert Enau, head keeper of the Fowey Rocks
lighthouse. If the fellow had recognized him he would have called him
Jacobs, and then he would have tried to kill him. It grew dark, but he
forgot to light his lantern, his whole mind taken with the one thought
of how to get rid of his visitor. If the lantern was not lighted, the
fellow might think that there was no one in the tower, after all, and
would go away. The idea flashed through his brain for an instant, and
then he centred his thoughts again on the fellow below and forgot the
darkness and quiet of the tropic night. Suddenly he thought of the
fellow's boat. If he could endanger it, the man might leave. He seized
a heavy piece of iron and dropped it at the dark shadow floating at
the end of the line. A dull crash told of the accuracy of his aim.
Then the shadow faded out, and he knew the boat had sunk. There was no
sound from the man upon the ladder below. Evidently he had gone down
to the first landing and gone to sleep or was waiting, not knowing
the damage done his craft. He could now neither go away nor come up,
and the idea worried the keeper greatly. He was very dizzy with the
heat and excitement, and his thoughts went again and again over the
scenes of that last voyage and the trial following. In the gray of
the early morning he was still sitting in the lantern, gazing out to
sea, waiting for the sun to rise and show him his enemy below. The day
dawned beautiful and clear, and the quiet heat continued. In a little
while a noise upon the ladder attracted the old man's attention. He
listened. What was the fellow saying?

"For God's sake let me up!"

Not he. No! Had the fellow shown him any mercy when he was at the end
of his liberty? Why should he show him any now? All he wanted was for
him to go away and let him be. He did not want to see the man. Go away!

The pitiless sunshine streamed through the iron piling and upon the
man. His boat was gone. It had sunk during the night from the weight
Enau had thrown into it, and the current had torn it loose. There was
no way for the man to get off the light without swimming. He must stay
or die. He might cling for a long time to the iron ladder and rest
upon the landing, but he could not swim ten miles in that current with
sharks abounding.

The day passed slowly, and the man upon the ladder raved and swore,
begged and cajoled, but Enau was silent and implacable. He went back
into the lantern, taking some bread with him. He was not hungry, but
the heat made his head swim, and he must eat something. The day drew to
a close and silence reigned below. The man had given up talking. Enau
lay prone upon his stomach and peeped over the edge of the platform.
He could see the man crouching upon the landing, lashed fast, to keep
from falling, by a line made of his clothes. Darkness came and the heat
abated a little, but no wind ruffled the surface of the Gulf Stream.

With a heavy bar in his hand the keeper sat and waited for any signs
of fingers showing upon the edge of the platform. He would not let
the fellow up--no, not for anything. If he died there, it was not his
fault. He did not want him to come out to the light. He would not have
him know that he, Captain Jacobs, was keeper.

The lantern remained unlighted. Now Enau was afraid to leave the
platform an instant, for fear the fellow, desperate from his position,
would climb over and kill him. He sat there during the hours of
darkness and waited.

About three in the morning Enau saw two eyes staring at him. They
were far away in the Hawk's Channel, but as the moments flew by they
drew nearer. Soon a great shadow loomed up through the night, coming
straight for the lighthouse. Then there was a sudden crash close
aboard, the rattle and banging of ship's gear, followed by hoarse cries
and curses. Enau went inside to the trap-door in the gallery, and sat
there watching the bolts until daylight.

In the early morning there was a great noise below. Men shouted and
called him by name, but he refused to answer. He peered over the edge
of the platform and he no sooner had done so than a perfect storm of
voices greeted him. Two ship's boats were tied to the piling of the
tower, and many men were crowding up the ladder. More were upon the
deck of the vessel, which had rammed her nose high and dry upon the
reef close to the light. They were coming to take possession of the
tower by force, and he saw that he must now be interviewed, perhaps
taken away bodily, for the fellow on the ladder had joined the rest,
and they were calling to him to open that door.

The day passed without a disturbance. The men of the four-masted
schooner upon the reef spent their time rigging gear to heave the
vessel off, and the man had joined them. At dark Enau, seeing that no
one was upon the ironwork, lighted the lantern and then came back to
his post at the trap-door, holding his club in readiness to prevent any
trespassing. He sat there hour after hour, but there was no sign of an
attack from below.

About midnight there was a slight noise upon the platform of the
gallery near the rail. The old man noticed it, but waited. Then some
one rapped sharply upon the door at his feet, and he stood ready for
the attack. Then all was quiet as before.

The heat was intense inside the gallery, and Enau mopped his forehead
again and again. The whole lighthouse seemed to stagger, and the room
went round and round. He was dizzy and failed to see the fingers which
grasped the edge of the outside platform, or the form that swung out
over the gulf below. A man drew himself up until his head was level
with the floor. Then he put one foot up on the landing. He could not
get back. It was a sheer hundred feet and over to the sea below, and
the water was only three or four feet deep over the coral. He must gain
the platform or go down to his death. Gradually he drew his weight upon
the landing, clutching the rail with powerful fingers. Then he quickly
stood upright and sprang over. He was in the light.

Enau saw him instantly and sprang at him. It was the same hated
face, the furtive eyes he had reason to hate with all his soul. They
clinched, and then began a struggle for life. And while they struggled
the old man's mind could no longer hold his pent-up despair. He called
out upon the scoundrel who had ruined him:

"You villain! you have pursued me for revenge--I'll give you all you
want," he cried. "I know you; don't think I'll let you go." And,
snarling like a wild beast, he strove with enormous power to crush the
other against the rail, and so over into the sea. But the younger man
was powerful. His strong fingers clutched at the old keeper's throat
and closed upon it.

"I know you--I know you--I know your look--you pious-faced scoundrel!"
gasped the old man. Then they fought on in silence. Suddenly those
below heard a heavy fall. There was a moment's pause.

The room seemed to reel about the old keeper. He struggled wildly in
that frightful grip. His breath came in bits of gasps and finally
stopped under the awful pressure of those fingers. The scenes of his
earlier life flitted through his mind. He saw the life-boat again
riding the oily sea in the South Atlantic; the starving men, their
strained faces pinched and lined, their eager eyes staring about the
eternal horizon for a sight of a sail; the last few days and the
last survivors, the man with that look he would never forget--stars
shot through his brain and fire flared before his vision. Then came
blackness--a blank.

Those below, hearing the sounds of struggle dying away, called loudly
to be let in. The man released his hold of the keeper's throat and
shot back the bolts in the trap-door, letting a crowd of seamen come
streaming into the light.

"Get some water, quick!" called Haskins, standing back and panting
after the struggle. He was nearly exhausted, but still kept his gaze
fixed upon the fallen old man.

"It's a touch of the sun," said the captain of the wrecked vessel,
bending over the old keeper. "We must get him cooled off and ice to his
head. Quick, John! jump aboard and tell the doctor to get a lump of ice
and bring it here--git!"

"It's pretty bad; I've shuah been hanging on to the irons for two days,
and you lose your ship, on account of a poor devil giving way under
that sun; but it can't be helped. No, suh, it can't be helped," said
Bahama Bill.

"If you hadn't shaved, fixed up and changed yourself so, and had come
back in your own boat, he might have recognized you in time," said the
captain; "but of course you didn't know."

"I think I done all I could sah," said Bill, thinking of his climb over
that outer rail.

"Yes, yes; I don't mean to find fault," said the captain; "but I lose
my ship by it."



VI

The Sanctified Man


When Mr. Leonard Holbrook bought the fine yawl _Dartmoor_, he did so
with the clear understanding that his wife would accompany him on a
voyage through the inland waters of the eastern coast of the States to
Florida. The vessel was something over sixty feet on the water-line and
fitted up with as much magnificence as a small craft of that size could
well be. She had many trophies in solid silver, won in many hard-fought
races, which adorned her cabin, and when Mrs. Holbrook beheld her
interior she capitulated.

Mrs. Holbrook belonged to what was termed an "exclusive set." She went
to church more than once a week, and the pastor of the million-dollar
edifice in New York had much to thank her for.

"A poor person might be pious, but--ugh," he explained with a shrug
to the sexton one evening, and he made it his duty to keep alive the
fires of reverence which had been installed at an early age within Mrs.
Holbrook's gentle breast.

It was with many misgivings that she finally became willing to trust
herself upon the _Dartmoor_, for although she had faith in abundance,
it was of the usual feminine variety which is best nurtured under
pleasantly artificial conditions. The dangers of the sea, however, were
shown to be very small indeed upon a fine craft, especially within
the confines of the sounds, and she had sailed as far down the coast
as Beaufort. Here it was decided to remain for a few days and enjoy
the rural life of the tar-heel, and while Holbrook fished and hunted
every minute of the too short days, Mrs. Holbrook passed the time
aboard in pious and profound repose. It was delightful to be able to
read the texts under the bright blue sky while sitting alone upon the
quarter-deck without being interrupted by talk of guns and fishing
lines. Then the small but cleanly kirk upon the shell-road could be
visited daily, and the good old man who attended to the religious
affairs of the fishing village was more than willing to be honoured by
so distinguished a visitor. Yachts were like manna, only they did not
drop from the sky, but were not the less appreciated for that fact.

The fourth morning the _Dartmoor_ broke out her blue pennant on the
starboard spreader, showing that Holbrook had gone away for a day's
sport. John Bunyan came down to the dock and stepped aboard. Jubiter
John he was called among the pilots of the Core Bank, for he had lived
at the inlet just above the beginning of the Florida Reef. He sidled
aft and met the quartermaster, who stopped him, but as he was known
as a good pilot and had brought the vessel in behind the "bulkhead"
safely, he was allowed certain privileges. The master came forth to
meet him.

"Mornin', Cap'n," said John, slouching up and pulling forth a rank
mullet roe from his pocket and nibbling the end.

The master acknowledged the salutation with a grunt.

"Youse don't take no passengers on a yacht, hey?" he ventured.

"No," said the skipper, decisively, with the vision of the possible
passenger before him.

"Youse ain't allowed to, hey?"

"Exactly," said the Captain.

"It's too bad!" exclaimed John.

"Yes, it is," answered the Captain, heartily, his face expressing
nothing of the sorrow he might have felt at the limitations of his
license.

There was a moment's silence during which the Captain looked aft at
the reclining form of Mrs. Holbrook. She sat reading in the shade of
the after awning with a rug over her feet to keep off the chill of the
autumn air.

"Did youse ever hear of the sanctified people?" asked Jubiter John,
presently.

The Captain had not.

"Well, they live down near the Jubiter Inlet where I used to run.
There's one o' the fellers ashore here now an' he wants to go back
home. It would be a mighty big accommodation if youse could take him
with youse--don't youse think it could be done, hey? He'd pay a little."

"How much?" asked the Captain, slightly interested.

"Well, I can't say in money, but then his services air wuth somethin'.
He's an all round able man, an' he'll say the prayers fer yer."

"I see," said the Captain, with a grunt.

"There's nothin' doin'?"

"Nix," said the Captain, shortly.

"Well, naow, that's too bad. But think it over, Cap'n, think it over."

The skipper edged to the rail and sniffed suspiciously.

"If it's just the same to you, Jubiter, I'll thank ye to get to lor'ard
with that mullet roe. Whew!" said the Captain.

Jubiter John looked pained. He put the rest of the fish roe into his
pocket and turned to go. At that instant the Captain started and looked
up the dock. A huge figure of a man hove in sight and came slowly down
the shell fill towards the yawl.

The figure was dressed in black cloth of clerical cut, the broad
shoulders squared across and the hands folded behind. The stranger's
head was not visible owing to the fact that he bowed it over until
nothing but the top of a shiny tall hat showed in front of him, and he
looked almost like a huge turtle with his head drawn inside the shell.
The black tails of his coat flapped about his legs in the sea breeze
as he strode slowly down to where the _Dartmoor_ lay.

Mrs. Holbrook noticed the man about the time the Captain started up
the gangplank to intercept him coming aboard. Visitors were not always
welcome to the skipper of the yacht, and it was his duty to see what
they wanted. The Captain had hardly started well up the narrow way,
when the stranger, who had reached the inshore end of it and was about
to proceed down its length, suddenly raised his head. The motion was
not unlike that of a turtle poking forth his nose, for it increased the
man's stature a full foot, and he stopped, looking at the Captain out
of eyes that seemed to hold both a challenge and a half-hidden fear.
His shaved chin had a stubble of black hair, but it failed to cover the
great square jaw except in spots. A line of white teeth showed between
the partly opened lips, and the Captain hesitated to take in the man's
appearance more fully before ordering him off the boat. The vessel gave
a tug at her moorings and the gangplank took a sudden slue to one side.
The next instant the Captain gave a spring for the string piece of the
wharf. He missed it by a fraction of an inch and fell heavily against
the timber and overboard, landing in the water with a rousing splash.

The accident caused a cry of alarm from Mrs. Holbrook which brought
from the depths of the cabin her son Richard. He came bounding up the
companionway as rapidly as a boy of twelve could. Jubiter John stood
spellbound, looking over the side while the boy, the cook and a sailor
rushed to the rail to lend a hand and get the skipper back aboard.

The tall stranger, however, had anticipated their arrival by a few
seconds and, jumping on deck, leaned over the side and reached a long
thin arm down to the Captain, who came spluttering to the surface.
He seized the collar of the coat as it came clear of the water and
without apparent effort raised the Captain to the deck. The motion
was one of such ease, the Captain being a short, heavy fellow, that a
close observer would have marvelled at the man's strength, but in the
excitement little notice was taken of it. The stranger had saved the
Captain from the sea, and Mrs. Holbrook, who had now advanced to the
rail, thanked him warmly for his services.

The look of challenge died away from the man's eyes and one of fear
came in place. He shuffled uneasily under the woman's gaze, but finally
controlled himself. Then without a word he lifted his face heavenward
and clasped his hands before him.

"The ways o' Providence air unbeknownst," said he, slowly, closing his
upturned eyes and standing like some huge statue carved in wood. His
voice was so soft and gentle that it brought a smile to the face of
the boy who stared at him insolently. But the rest were impressed by
the man's manner and stood silently watching him until he brought his
head back to its normal position with a jerk. Then the Captain muttered
something about inquisitive strangers and went below to change, for the
air was cool.

"I am sure I should like to repay you for your bravery, Mr.--Mr.----"
began Mrs. Holbrook, "but I hardly know how to thank you, sir."

"Mr. Jones is his name, ma'am," said Jubiter John, "an' youse kin repay
him at once."

Mr. Jones looked somewhat abashed at this, and the stranger's look of
defiance came into his eyes again.

"He's the sanctified man I ware tellin' the Cap'n of jest before he
fell overboard," went on Jubiter, "an' all he wants is a passage down
the coast a ways. The settlement is down near where I used to run."

"Ah, a clergyman,--a country clergyman, I see," said Mrs. Holbrook.

"I reckon that's about it," said Jubiter John.

"Mr. Jones," said Mrs. Holbrook, "I should be very glad, indeed, to
aid you down the coast. You know the yacht is small and you might have
to sleep in the Captain's stateroom. If you would not object to that
arrangement, you are more than welcome to the voyage."

"Ah, madam," said the tall man, solemnly, in a small voice hardly above
a whisper, "I should be glad to have the opportunities you speak of,
and if the bed be rough an' hard an' the grub poor, I know it will be
the hand o' Providence what makes it so, an' I kin stand it. The ways
o' Providence air unbeknownst."

"Very well, then, we leave to-morrow morning at daylight. My husband
will be back before sundown and you may come aboard to-night," said
Mrs. Holbrook. "Won't you come aft? I am sure the walk must have tired
you. It is a long way to the village."

The tall Mr. Jones glanced at Jubiter John and then followed the lady
to the quarter-deck, where he folded up like a huge jack-knife in a
deck chair, to listen to the somewhat vague but religious conversation
of his new patron. He sat there for a full hour, seldom even answering
questions which were put to him and not offering a single sentence
of his own volition. When he arose to go, he looked askance at Mrs.
Holbrook, then he raised his face heavenward and said, solemnly: "The
ways o' Providence air unbeknownst."

He turned in a moment and went rapidly to the rail near the dock,
leaving Mrs. Holbrook staring at him.

"Ain't he a long one, say," said young Richard, "an' them legs--Gee
whizz!"

But at that instant the tall man sprang to the wharf and hurried off,
hearing nothing, and Richard received a severe rebuke.

"My dear," said Mrs. Holbrook to her husband that evening, "I have
taken the liberty of inviting a country clergyman to accompany us down
the coast. He will be here this evening and I hope you will be civil to
him."

"Huh," said Mr. Holbrook, and went on deck to smoke his cigar.

"Is he really comin' to go with us?" asked Richard.

"Yes, my dear, of course he is," answered his mother.

"But ain't he long, say?" and he bounded up the companionway to join
his father.

Before eight bells that evening the tall Mr. Jones made his appearance
and introduced himself to the Captain. As the latter had been
instructed to entertain the new arrival to the extent of giving up his
room, he received the tall man with scant ceremony.

"What's the matter wid payin' yer passage on a steamboat?" growled the
mariner, as he jerked his belongings out of the berth.

"My friend," observed the sanctified man, "it is not my wish to cause
trouble, an' I can't help it. If your bed be hard I make no complaint;
I'll try to sleep on it. If my grub is no good, I'll try to forget it.
The way o' Providence air unbeknownst."

The short, stout skipper stood looking at him a moment, but the
sanctified man beamed down upon him until he turned with an exclamation
of a somewhat unconventional sort and left the room. Then the tall man
closed the door.

In the early morning the _Dartmoor_ was cast loose from the dock and
her mainsail hoisted. Jubiter John stood near the wheel and piloted her
safely over the bar and out into the green waters of the Atlantic. Then
he left her and took to his dory to row back.

The air was crisp with the tingle of a nor'wester and the sun rose
with a ruddy glow. The sea was smooth under the land, but the little
lumpy clouds which were running away from the northward, told of wind
behind. Before the sun was well above the horizon, Mr. Jones appeared
on deck. He was dressed in his black trousers with suspenders tied
about his waist in place of a belt. His once white shirt was open at
the neck displaying a deep and brawny chest. Two long white feet poked
themselves from beneath his trouser legs in most unpoetical fashion,
but showed he was ready for the washing down of the vessel's decks. He
tailed on to the gaff-topsail halliards and sweated up that piece of
canvas until the block nearly parted from the masthead with the strain.
Even the Captain, who had spent the night sleeping upon the galley
floor, felt that he had, indeed, an able seaman in the sanctified man
who hurled buckets of water along the snow-white planks or hustled the
squeegee along the deck until the wood and seams fairly oozed water
like a sponge. The three foremast hands hurried along in his wake.

The _Dartmoor_ was fast making an offing. With all sail she was running
before the breeze which now began to get a heart in it, and the long
heave of the heavy sea coming around Cape Lookout told of something
behind it. There was a live kick and quick run to this swell that made
the skipper look anxiously to his lighter canvas, but it was his object
to get as far down the beach as possible while the wind lasted. A few
miserable hours of heavy weather and all might be well, but thrashing
down a nor'wester would cost him his job if he judged Mrs. Holbrook
correctly.

The motion brought young Richard on deck, where he stood looking at the
tall man in amazement.

"I thought you was a minister, say?" he ventured, as the sanctified man
came near with the squeegee, "an' ministers don't work."

"Well, some kinds do, sonny. I ain't just what you might call a priest."

"Naw, you look like you might be some good," said the boy. "But ain't
you a long one, say? When you get through I'll come forward and talk to
you. Ma won't care; she says she hates to have to sit around an' try to
talk to people she don't know nothin' about."

"Did she say that?"

"Sure, she don't know nothin' about you."

The look of fear came into the tall man's eyes and he squeegeed the
deck vigorously. Then he went slowly forward and put the tool away.

One of the sailors struck off six bells and the cook announced that
breakfast was ready for the Captain and the guest. As the saloon
was for the owner and his party, the meal was served in the galley,
the Captain and sanctified man sitting at the small table used to
manipulate the several ingredients which went to make a yacht's meal.

"Do you think we'll have good weather, Captain?" asked the tall man,
starting in at a plate of prepared oats.

"Naw," snapped the skipper, who still held vision of his night's rest
upon the galley floor.

"D'ye mind me sayin' a thank ye fer the vittles, hey?"

"Do yer prayin' to yerself," snapped the Captain.

The long man raised his eyes and muttered something in his soft voice.

"No matter if the vittles is bad--an' poor, I'm thankful. The ways o'
Providence air unbeknownst," he said as he finished.

"What's the matter with the whack?" snarled the Captain. "Ain't it
good enough fer yer? I'll lay it's a sight better'n you been used to
gettin', an' that's a fact."

"I didn't say it wasn't good," said the tall man, hastily, in a gentle
tone. "I only said I was thankful even if it wasn't any good."

"Huh," snarled the Captain, "tryin' to sneak out of it, hey?"

"A sanctified man never fights," said the big fellow in a small voice,
"for if he did I would break you up in little pieces."

"Well, a sailor fights an' don't you fergit it," snarled the Captain.
"You want to try the breakin' game a bit aboard here, you long-legged
sky-pilot. What the thunder d'ye call a sanctified man anyways, hey?"

"Don't ye know?" asked the tall man, mildly, his eyes taking again that
peculiar look of fear they often held.

"Naw," answered the skipper.

"Well, he's one what's been tried. A man that's been off the path an'
come back again. He's taken the oath to do no more harm--nothin' but
good. He's sanctified."

"No more harm! What harm hev ye done, hey?" asked the Captain, sharply.

"Well, I served my time out--all but three years," said the tall man,
fearfully.

"What?" gasped the skipper.

"I served my time out, nearly out. It was only fifteen years I got. I'm
all right and have papers to prove it. One of the men they thought I
killed got well again. The money was divided among my pals. I didn't
get a cent of it; no, not a cent. But the past is past. Let it die!"

"An' you calls yourself a sanctified man, you bloomin' convict, hey?
Steward, set these things somewhere else. I may not be particular as to
friends aboard ship, but I draw the line at eatin' with jailbirds."

"I never was in jail--only for a month. It was the penitentiary,"
corrected the tall man, his small voice almost dying away. There was
something very sad in his tone; something so touching that even the
steward hesitated at obeying the skipper's orders.

"An' to think," said the Captain, "that Jubiter John should play it so
badly on us."

He ate his meal in silence on the other side of the little room, while
the vessel plunged and ran down the slopes of following seas, creaking
and straining so that he soon left for the deck.

The sanctified man sat eating slowly, in spite of the motion and cries
from above, as the men shortened sail to ease the racing craft in the
sea. He was lost in thought. The memories of his sufferings were upon
him, and as the sad years rolled back, he seemed to stand again upon a
ship's deck giving orders to a crew who obeyed as only deep-water men
know how. His had been a long, hard road, indeed. The surly Captain was
forgotten and his insults were as though they had never been uttered.

While he sat there eating slowly and thinking over the past, he became
aware that the door leading to the main saloon was open. Through it he
caught a glimpse of shining silver as the _Dartmoor_ rolled heavily
to starboard, letting in a flood of sunlight through her side ports.
A huge urn or cup weighing many pounds, and of solid silver, was
firmly planted upon a shelf near the end of the saloon. Upon it was an
engraving of a yacht under full sail with the legend "Dartmoor" with
"1898" beneath. Evidently the trophy of that season and probably the
greatest she had ever won. It was a superb piece of ware, and the man
looked at it for a long time, while his face gradually took on a hard
expression and the strange look of defiance and challenge came again
into his eyes. He had suffered much, but there was something within him
that was stirred by the glint of that silver. Twelve long years among a
certain class of men had implanted new weaknesses and developed those
he had already possessed. He was forgetting himself under the flashing
of that reflected sunlight.

Suddenly he was aware of a small hand stealing within his own and he
turned with a cry of alarm. A look of despair came across his face and
his wide jaws set firm.

"I didn't mean to scare you," said Richard, glancing backward at the
steward who was busy with the morning meal. "You don't look like you
scare easily. I heard what old square-head said to you. Don't you mind
him. He'll eat with you--an' afterwards you can tell me what you done."

"Good God," murmured the man, and seized the boy in his arms.

"Don't hug me; I ain't no girl" cried Richard, and the tall man sat him
on his knee and smilingly patted his head.

"I reckon we'll go on deck," said the sanctified man, in a few minutes.
"They'll want some help reefin' the mainsail--pretty big sea to run her
under all lower canvas." And he took the lad's hand and went forward
through the forecastle to the scuttle and so on up to the sunlight
above.

The morning was now well advanced. Eight bells struck off, and the head
of Mr. Holbrook appeared emerging from the cabin companionway. The sea
was sparkling in the sunshine and the quick combers running before the
freshening breeze were covering the surface with patches of white.
The topsail had been taken in and all hands were lowering down the
mainsail to close reef it.

The sanctified man tailed on to the main sheet and soon had the boom
nearly amidships. Then the sail was lowered slowly, the men handing
in the canvas to ease it on the lazyjacks and toppinglift while the
_Dartmoor_ ran along under jigger and jib before a sea that was rapidly
shifting to the eastward. Mr. Holbrook came on deck and watched his
flying fabric, taking a hand and passing reef-points under the jackstay
along the boom, which were all carefully pulled out again and passed
under the foot-roping of the mainsail by the careful skipper.

Mrs. Holbrook decided that as the motion was very great she would
remain where it affected her the least. It would be time enough to go
on deck after dinner, when the beauties of an afternoon at sea might be
appreciated.

Mr. Holbrook soon went below to breakfast and took his son with him.
When they appeared again the mainsail was set close-reefed, and the
jigger rolled up, letting the yawl run easily with more head-sail. She
now rose on the following seas like a swan, and as she would reach the
crest she would rush wildly along the slanting side, her nose pointing
downward and the full weight of the gale in her canvas, until the sea
would run from under her, letting her sink slowly into the trough where
her canvas would flap in the almost calm spot between the seas. It was
a little thick to the westward, but although the land could not now be
seen there was a good stretch of water plainly visible.

The sanctified man stood near the wheel, looking occasionally into the
binnacle where the compass card swung a good three points each side of
the lubber's mark, as the vessel broached or paid off in the sea.

"D'ye ever adjust that compass?" he asked, mildly, of Mr. Holbrook.

"Ever what?" asked the owner, contemptuously.

"Do you ever see that the card swings true?" asked the sanctified man.

Mr. Holbrook looked at the tall man with undisguised pity. What
should a clerical man know about navigation, he thought. The poor
country clergyman was evidently a bit ignorant concerning compasses,
although every schoolboy knew that the magnet swung north and south.
He attempted to explain the matter in a wearied tone, but when he had
finished the tall man only smiled and his expressive eyes showed traces
of amusement. He said nothing. Finally he ventured:

"If I were you, I would let her head a little more to the eastward."

Mr. Holbrook walked away giving a little grunt of disgust as though
he had been holding intercourse with a lunatic. As he never spoke to
his Captain except to tell him where he wanted to go, he had a rather
lonely time on deck and took to playing with his son by sitting at one
end of the cabin-house and throwing a line to him at the other and
then pulling upon it.

The sea became rougher during the day, but in spite of it, dinner was
served in the saloon. Mrs. Holbrook appeared at last and bravely tried
to play the part of hostess to her guest. Holbrook had always shown an
aversion to piously inclined people, and a clergyman's presence gave
him extreme annoyance, as it prevented his picturesque flow of words.
As adjectives were a weakness of his, the conversation would have
lapsed into monosyllables, had not Mrs. Holbrook determined to do her
duty.

"I suppose," said that lady, "you have many sailor men in your
congregation, Mr. Jones."

The tall man looked at her sharply. He thought of his "congregation"
and wondered. Did the lady know what he was? He had not meant to
deceive any one. Jubiter John had simply asked for a passage for a
sanctified man and had not thought it necessary to go into the man's
history. His eyes held the strange look of alarm they had when he first
came aboard, and he answered in his thin voice.

"Yes, ma'am, there's plenty of sailors get in, though they are no
worse'n landsmen. It don't make much difference what callin' a man
takes, there's bad ones in all."

Mrs. Holbrook glanced at her husband, who smiled his approval.

"Do you know Mr. Brown, the pastor in Beaufort?" asked the lady.

"He must be a very excellent man--I never heard of him," said her
husband, with a touch of irony.

"I asked Mr. Jones," said Mrs. Holbrook, sweetly.

"No, ma'am, I never did," said the tall man, shooting his head upward
and looking at his host. "He never did time."

"Never what?" asked the lady.

A sharp kick upon the shin bone from young Richard caused the
sanctified man to raise a full foot higher in his seat.

"What's the matter?" he asked quickly.

"Aw, tumble," said the irreverent Richard.

Mrs. Holbrook looked at her son sharply.

"What did you do? Do you want to be sent from the table?" she said.

The young man dropped his gaze into his plate and looked abashed. His
father smiled. The meal proceeded in silence until they had finished,
when Mr. Holbrook led the way on deck with a handful of cigars.

"That wasn't a bad one on the country parson," ventured the yachtsman.
"You fellows so seldom joke, a man never knows just when you will break
out. Ha, ha, ha--'never did time'--Well, that wasn't half bad." And he
quite warmed to the tall man as he offered him a perfecto.

"But you see----"

"Yes, I see well enough. I don't blame you for kicking about such men.
Now _you_ can tail on to a sheet or pass a reef point like a _man_.
Will you have a good nip of grog before Mrs. Holbrook comes on deck?"

The sanctified man thought he would. They repaired to the forehatch,
where the steward passed up the spirits unseen.

The warmth of the liquor put new life in the tall man's great frame. He
had eaten very little for days and the effects of good food and strong
drink were very strengthening. The look of challenge took the place
of alarm in his large expressive eyes and his great square jaw seemed
to set firmer. Half of his cigar disappeared between his teeth, which
closed upon it with the set of a vise.

They went aft again in time to meet Mrs. Holbrook coming on deck
assisted by the Captain, who placed rugs for her in a steamer chair in
the cockpit. It was getting thicker and the wind was now well to the
eastward of north, but there was no harbour nearer than Cape Fear, and
the Captain had many reasons for not wishing to stop there. He would
run along close to the land and after passing would be in Long Bay,
where he would have a fair wind to Charleston, one hundred and fifty
miles ahead, making a run of more than two hundred miles from Beaufort.
This would get the yacht well down the coast to where they might expect
good weather.

"I think," said the tall Mr. Jones, during a break in the conversation,
"I would head the vessel offshore a couple of points. You know the
Frying Pan runs well off here. It will be breaking in three fathoms
with this breeze. The ways o' Providence air un----

"Never mind about Providence, Mr. Jones," said Holbrook, with a wave
of his hand. "The Captain will look out for the yacht. You needn't
be scared. Tell us about the sailors you get in your flock. How you
learned all about boats from them."

Mr. Jones drew himself up a good foot. His head went up in the air and
the look of defiance came into his eyes.

"The only fellows that got sent up with me were Jack Elwell and Bill
Haskins," said he.

"How do you mean sent up with you?" asked Mrs. Holbrook.

"Well, they were caught straight enough," said the tall man, sadly.

"You mean they had to be caught and sent to you for spiritual
teaching?" asked Mrs. Holbrook with a smile.

"Well, er--not exactly," said the tall man, in a voice which died away
to a whisper.

"Ha, ha, ha, a good one on you, Mr. Jones," said Holbrook.

"Well, you see," went on the tall man, slowly, "you don't seem to
understand just what I am." He looked at the Captain, who stood near at
the wheel, but whose face was like a mahogany mask.

"Why, you are a clergyman, are you not?" asked Mrs. Holbrook.

"A convict," said Mr. Jones, slowly. "I am Stormalong Journegan,
sailor, navigator, and was sent up for fifteen years. Bahama Bill an'
me got out."

There was a long silence. Holbrook rose and went to the farther side of
the yacht. Mrs. Holbrook sat a few moments and looked out to sea. Then
she motioned to the steward, who was at the companionway, to take her
wraps below, and she disappeared down the steps without a word.

Holbrook saw something forward and made his way toward the bow followed
by his son, who turned to look back at the tall man.

"Serves her bloomin' well right fer turnin' me out," growled the
Captain into the ear of the helmsman. "Next time she'll be a bit more
careful about takin' passengers."

Mr. Jones, or Journegan, sat looking out over the sea. The veil of
mist that hung over the land held many images for him. He saw how it
was aboard. His year of reformation had taught him many things, and
the lesson he was learning was not entirely new. He gazed sadly at
Holbrook. He had felt drawn toward the man, but after all, in spite of
his assumed contempt for holy men, he was more of a hypocrite than the
veriest village parson he had ever met.

He arose slowly, unkinking his long frame like the opening of a
jack-knife. Then he tossed his cigar over the side and went to his
room. He was an outcast aboard that yacht and he knew it. The privacy
of his room was much better than the inhospitality of the deck.

All the long afternoon he sat there thinking. He was not a strong man
save for his great muscular frame. He had fallen before and he was now
trying to do what he could to atone for it. The thought of the silver
in the after-cabin came to him and his vacillating spirit could not
quite get the glistening vision out of his brain, for after all, these
people were his enemies. They could never be anything else as long as
human vanity and conceit endured. Even the miserable little prig of an
owner who ridiculed clergymen need not be spared. It might do his small
soul good to have to part with some of his treasures. He pondered,
while the light failed and the look of challenge came into his eyes.
He had a powerful frame and had nothing to fear. And all the time the
_Dartmoor_ ran to leeward with the lift of the northeast sea behind her.

It was just before eight bells, when a man who had gone forward on
lookout hailed the Captain.

"Something white dead ahead, sir," he cried.

The sanctified man heard and thought of the untrue compass. The next
instant there was a dull reverberating snore alongside as a giant
breaker burst into a white smother and rolled away in the darkness. It
was breaking in three fathoms, and the yacht was racing to her end.

There was a rush of feet on deck. Wild cries came from aft, where
the Captain had rolled the wheel hard down and was struggling with
the sailor to get the jigger on her and force her offshore. She had
not touched yet, but as the yawl came to in the gale, she brought up
broadside in a sea that burst upon her with the weight of an avalanche,
heaving her on her lee beam and washing everything off her, fore and
aft. The water poured down the companionway and flooded the cabin.

The sanctified man reached the deck by dint of a fierce struggle up
through the forward companion. The men who were below followed as
best they could; swashing, floundering through the flood and loosened
fittings, and they managed to get aft in time to get a line to the
sailor who had been at the wheel and who was now close alongside. The
Captain was gone.

All the time the _Dartmoor_ was drifting to leeward and into the
breakers. She had swung off again under the pressure of her jib, and
just as the tall man seized the jigger halliards to get the after sail
upon her, she struck on the Frying Pan Shoals. The next sea rolled over
her and was the beginning of the end.

Mr. Holbrook had been below all this time, and he now appeared at the
companion with his wife and boy. The sea that fell over the wrecked
craft nearly drowned them and washed Richard back into the cabin. Mr.
Jones roared out for the men to get the only small boat left alongside,
and his voice rose to a deep sonorous yell. He led the way himself to
the falls, where the small boat trailed to leeward, the davits having
been torn out bodily with the weight of the breaking seas. The hauling
part was still on deck and he handed in the line quickly, the three
sailors and steward taking heart at his example and helping all they
could. Mrs. Holbrook was placed in the small boat and her husband
waited not for an invitation to follow, but floundered in after her.
The three sailors sprang aboard. At that instant a giant sea rose to
windward. It showed for a second in the ghastly phosphorescent glare of
the surrounding foam. Then it thundered over the doomed yacht.

When the sanctified man came up from the blackness below, he was just
aware of the vessel's outline some fifty feet away to windward, and he
struck out strongly for her. In a few minutes he was alongside. A great
sea broke over her again, but he held well under the rise of her bow
and managed to cling to the trailing débris. Then he climbed on deck.
There was nothing living left there. He looked for the boat, but it had
disappeared. Then he was suddenly aware of a bright light and as he
looked he remembered the Bald Head tower which marks the dreaded shoals
of Cape Fear.

He knew he was a mile or more from the beach and all the way was the
rolling surf. It was a desperate swim at any time, but in a northeast
gale, with the sea rolling high, it was useless to think of anything
human attempting it without artificial aid. He clung to the stump of
the mainmast and tried to live through the torrents that swept over him
by getting directly in its lee. This was the only way he could stay
even a few moments aboard the vessel. She was lifting still with each
succeeding sea and driving higher and higher upon the bank, but she
had not broken up badly yet. Yachts like the _Dartmoor_ could stand a
tremendous pounding before going to pieces, but he knew that nothing
could stand the smashing long. Before daylight there would be not a
stick to show that a fine ship had gone ashore in the night.

The cabin scuttle was open and he wondered if the cabin was full of
water yet. The silver was still there and belonged to the man who could
save it. There was a chance for him and he was already looking about in
the blackness for a proper spar or piece of wood to float him for the
struggle in. It might be just as well to try to take in a little extra
weight along with him, for he would not start until he could get his
float.

In a smooth between two seas he made a dash for the companion,
springing along the coamings of the skylight to get a footing, for the
deck was at a high angle. He reached it and clung under its lee for
shelter. Then he peered down into the darkness below. The cabin was not
quite full of water and he climbed down, feeling for the magnificent
cup he had seen there the day before. His hand touched it, although he
was now almost shoulder deep in the water. A mattress floated against
him and he seized it. The cork within would float him and his prize. He
tried to find something else that would float, but just then a torrent
of sea water rushed below and he saw that if he would get away at all
he must soon start. He lugged his prize to the steps and started to
drag it clear. He reached down in the water to get a better grip of
it and his great fingers closed upon a human hand. Then he made out
the form of the boy with his head still above water, clinging to the
topmost step of the ladder. He peered into the child's face and saw
the frightened eyes open and look at him. Then he stopped and stood
motionless upon the ladder.

In all his work he had only been a few minutes, but those few minutes
had been minutes of his old life, the life of a sailor. The late past
had been forgotten and he was now a shipwrecked mariner, getting ashore
as best he could, saving what he might from a wreck. But the touch
of the boy's hand brought him back again to the realization of his
condition. The hand of an enemy's son, but the hand of one who had
treated him kindly. The mattress would not hold all three. It would be
between the boy and the cup. He swore savagely at the piece of silver,
held it for an instant, then started to hurl it from him. In the
precious seconds he was making a desperate fight. He gripped it again
with both hands and held it before him. A sea roared over the wreck and
half smothered him, pouring down the open companion.

He dropped the heavy cup, seized the half-fainting Richard and quickly
passed a lashing about him. Then he seized the cork mattress and boy
and plunged to leeward.

In the dim gray of the early morning, the keeper of the Bald Head
Lighthouse saw the tall form of a man staggering up the beach carrying
something in his arms. He ran down the steps of the tower and met the
tall stranger and relieved him of his burden of a still living but
half-drowned boy.

"His mother and father are crazy with grief," said the keeper. "The
woman is crying all the time that it was the will o' God, because she
had a convict aboard her yacht. If you are the Captain, you had better
bring the lad to her yourself. I reckon she'll be careful what kind o'
passengers she takes aboard again, and take your word for things aboard
her boats."

"Does she think it was because a convict was aboard, the vessel went
ashore?" asked the tall man, drawing his half-naked figure up to its
full height.

"Sure, she says the Captain didn't want him. A mighty fine religious
woman she is, too," said the keeper.

"I reckon I won't bother her just now," said the tall man, in a voice
hardly above a whisper. "You take the little fellow to her--I'll go and
get some clothes on."

The light-keeper strode away with the boy in his arms. The tall man
stood still for several minutes, looking after him. When the keeper
reached the dwelling he turned and saw the tall man still standing
there in his soaking trousers, his giant torso looking like the statue
of a sea-god. "The ways o' Providence air mighty strange," muttered the
sanctified man, slowly to himself----"But somehow I feel that I won."



VII

When the Light Failed at Carysfort


The United States Lighthouse Establishment organized by Thornton
Jenkins, Rear-Admiral, United States Navy, had built many important
lighthouses upon the coast of the States. The appropriations admitted
the lighting of the dangerous coral banks of the Florida Reef, which
rose from the blue Gulf Stream many miles offshore and stretched away
from Cape Florida to Tortugas.

From Fowey Rocks to Sand Key the high, long-legged towers, built of
iron piling driven into the rock and braced with rods, rose above the
shoal water, and at night their huge lenses flashed forth a warning
gleam for twenty miles or more over the sea.

Carysfort was the second from the beginning the reef: a tall iron
structure, the lantern or lens mounted atop of a wooden house built
upon the platform at the end of the piling.

Inside of the house were the two bedrooms of the keepers, the oil-room,
storerooms, and kitchen. Large tanks of iron held hundreds of gallons
of water caught from the roof.

Outside the structure the platform extended six feet clear all around,
making a comfortable porch or piazza, with a high rail which hung out
over the sea at a height of about a hundred feet.

A long iron ladder extended from a trap-door in the flooring to the
sea below, stopping at a landing about half-way, where the keepers had
a small woodpile, a flower-bed, and a few things which would stand
exposure to the weather. At the sides of the platform above were
davits, on which the two whale-boats hung.

Altogether, the little house and platform offered some inducements to
men who were not particular about being alone for a long time.

It was many miles to the nearest land, clear out of sight from even the
top of the tower; and to those who lived there it was like being at
sea upon a small vessel which neither pitched nor rolled in a seaway,
nor yet changed position in any manner. It was almost like living in
mid-air.

It was a healthy life for the keepers. No germs of any known disease
ever reached the distant lighthouse, and no sickness had ever occurred
there.

On shore, it was a well-established axiom that among the offshore
keepers none died--and few retired.

Every few months each could get a leave of absence on full pay and
spend the time in any manner he pleased. The supply-ship stopped off
the reef twice each year, and the lighthouse tender traversed the
district as high as Cape Canaveral if anything was wanted.

So at least three or four times a year the keepers would hold
communication with the outside world and converse with their fellow men.

The ships passing up the Hawk's Channel from Key West went within a few
miles of the reef, and steamers going north outside sometimes stood in
close enough to be recognized: but the Carysfort and Alligator Reefs
were good places to keep away from, and no vessels except the spongers
remained long in sight.

The spongers consisted of small sloops and schooners, which hailed from
Key West whose owners were the wreckers of the reef, and who spent the
best part of the good weather in summer hunting the growths upon the
coral which brought such good prices in the Northern drug-stores.

Few wreckers are piously inclined, some less so than others, but the
outlying light was safe from thieves, for by hauling up the iron
ladder the keepers were shut off completely from the world below. No
one could, or would, climb those polished iron columns painted a dull
red and as slippery as glass, unless something valuable was to be had
at the top. So the keepers often left the trap-door open or unbolted,
knowing their security.

Black Flanagan was the head keeper, a six-foot giant from Wisconsin,
who had found his way to Florida while evading a Michigan sheriff. The
work and confinement upon the light were not as irksome to him as might
be expected.

His assistant was a preacher, a broken-down Methodist minister without
a flock, whose religious tendencies were of an order which brooked
solitude.

He had the reputation of being the most blasphemous man upon the
Florida Reef, and his short sojourns ashore were marked by every excess
capable of being committed by a human being within the law.

They called him "the howler," for, when he was drunk--which he
invariably was an hour after he came ashore--he would stop at the
village street corners and bellow for converts.

Any one within a mile would know what was taking place, and many would
stop to listen. Failure to get responses brought forth such a torrent
of profanity that he would have to be locked up until sober--when he
would repeat the effort until his leave was over.

Then, solemnly and with ponderous dignity, he would take himself back
to his home in the air over the blue Gulf Stream, and no one would see
him again for several months. Black Flanagan would greet him with a
grunt, and the two would take up the even life of lighting the lantern
and putting it out.

Men were not struggling for their positions, and they took some comfort
from the fact. They would probably live so for a long time, drawing
good pay, with nothing whatever to do except clean and light the lamp.

It was a hot and sultry morning in August, and the keepers were hanging
lazily over the rail of the platform, when they saw the wrecking-sloop
_Sea-Horse_ coming slowly up the Hawk's Channel.

Her main-boom was well off to port, and she was fanning along before
a very light air from the southeast, going not more than two knots an
hour.

Upon her deck lay the crew of half-naked Conchs, while at her wheel the
giant form of "Bahama Bill," the mate, stood leaning against the shaft,
smoking a short pipe.

The fact that the black man now and then looked astern at a thin trail
of smoke caused Black Flanagan to notice him.

"There goes the _Sea-Horse_," said he to his assistant; and they both
came to the side of the platform nearest the passing vessel.

"Never seen thet big feller show so much consarn about what was astern
o' him, hey?" said the preacher. "Looks like they were from the
east'ard." And he nodded significantly.

The sloop drew nearer, and the thin line of smoke rose blacker a
dozen miles astern. Then there seemed to be signs of life aboard. Two
men sprang up and began to drop large kegs overboard, making a great
splashing. They kept this up for some minutes, and the keepers went
inside the light for the telescope.

Astern of the sloop they made out small, black objects, which floated
at intervals upon the swell, and were just discernible through the
powerful glass.

For half an hour the men aboard the wrecking-vessel worked heaving
cargo overboard, and, as they went along, the long line of tiny specks
marked their wake.

"Corks," said Flanagan; "I thought so."

"They better hurry up," said the preacher; "the cutter's rising fast."
As he spoke, he looked toward the steamer, which was now coming along
in plain view, her hull rising slowly above the horizon, and her funnel
pouring out a black cloud, which hung over the sea.

"They'll get caught fair enough. Half an hour, an' the officers'll be
aboard."

"Well, they won't find anything. They'll never see them corks--she's
already heading out to get them clear of the wake. When they catch her,
she'll be an innocent sponger--an' we'll----"

They looked at each other and smiled.

An hour later the _Sea-Horse_ and revenue-cutter were upon the northern
horizon heading into Biscayne, and the keepers were lowering their
boats.

It is an unwritten law of the reef that a man may steal as much as he
can from the United States, but he must not touch property belonging to
an individual. A smuggler is not by any means a common thief.

Flanagan's ideas were different. He held that it was well to steal
whenever the opportunity offered without danger of getting caught; and
upon this principle he had little difficulty in converting his pious
assistant, whose thirst had not been slaked for three full months.

Together they loaded three of the kegs into the boats by simply
pulling up the fishing-lines whose ends were floated by beer-bottle
corks.

The lines anchoring the kegs were lying upon the bottom in six fathoms
of water, out of sight, and the small cotton cords were amply strong
enough to raise them. Once getting a grip of the anchoring-lines, they
had no difficulty in hauling the liquor aboard their whale-boats.

The temptation to sample the goods was so strong that they desisted
after the third keg, and made straight away for the lighthouse to enjoy
the plunder. They could come back again and get the rest at their
leisure, for the corks would be in plain view during the calm weather.

What transpired at the lighthouse during the next three days is
somewhat hazy. No light appeared at night, and the Key West steamer
almost ran ashore on her trip south. She reported the light out, and
the tender was despatched to see what had happened.

The day was clear and bright, and the keepers were on the lookout,
seeing the steamer when fully fifteen miles away. Their liquor was
promptly put out of sight, and everything made snug to receive the
inspector.

While there were evidences of drink in the faces of the men, they
showed a properly kept light, and swore solemnly that they had not left
the tower, and that the light had not failed at all.

They mildly suggested that the captain of the Key steamer may have been
in a highly reprehensible condition to have accused two perfectly
sober and diligent light-keepers of neglect of duty.

The pious one broke forth in prayer and exhortation for the delivery of
deluded pilots from the wiles of the devil, and soon the inspector was
glad to go aboard his vessel to return to Key West.

The _Sea-Horse_, having been searched at Miami and found to be clear
of contraband, was allowed to go her way. She stood out to sea, and
headed down the Hawk's Channel just as the keepers lit the lantern for
the evening watch. Black Flanagan was just sober enough to do this, and
then turn in to continue his debauch with a pannikin of rum at his bed.

The _Sea-Horse_ anchored near the light and waited for daylight to pick
up the floats.

In the gray of early morning the black mate turned out the crew,
leaving the captain below, and, taking the small boat, put off.

It was calm, and the corks were plainly visible. They were promptly
hauled aboard, and the sunken kegs stowed until the end of the line was
reached.

Here the mate found three floats missing, and, being in a suspicious
frame of mind, he looked toward the light, which was still burning,
although the rays of the rising sun were colouring the eastern horizon
a rosy hue.

"They've got 'em, all right," said he. "If we're quick enough, we might
catch 'em--give way hard."

The small boat with three men was headed for the tower; and the
_Sea-Horse_, with her captain now thoroughly awake, lay by for
developments.

The big mate lost no time gaining the tower. It was broad day now, and
Flanagan had just staggered up the steps into the lantern when the
small boat arrived alongside the piles below.

In his befuddled state Flanagan saw nothing, until, after putting the
light out, he came stumbling back again. He arrived in the lower room
just in time to see the black head and shoulders of the mate emerging
upward through the trap-door in the floor.

The mate was not in a good humour; moreover, he had turned out early
without eating his breakfast, and his great black head and giant arms
seemed supernatural in both vindictiveness and size.

Flanagan thought he had taken too much, and that the horrors were upon
him at last. With a yell, he launched himself upon the seaman, taking
him at a disadvantage, and endeavoured to smash him back into the void
below.

But the mate was strong. He had come to the light expecting trouble.
With a mighty effort he forced the keeper upward, and, amid a fierce
snarling and threshing about, he soon engaged in a desperate struggle.

The "howler," hearing the uproar, sprang to the rescue, and joined in
the fray just as the sailors, following their trusty mate, climbed
through the door. In less than five minutes the keepers were lashed
fast, and were being lowered down through the door into the waiting
boat below.

What remained of their spoil was also found and lowered after them; and
in the bright light of the tropic sunrise the _Sea-Horse_ put to sea,
leaving the great tower of the Carysfort light to the westward.

For nearly a week no light was shown from the tower. Strangely enough,
no one reported the light out.

The sixth day a sponger, sailing past at dark, noticed the absence of
light, and went to the tower to see what was wrong.

He found it deserted, and, being a very poor man, he made his boat fast
to the piles and took possession, enjoying the fare and taking care of
the lantern in proper style for several days.

All might have gone well with him for several months, but for the fact
that the supply-steamer was due, and arrived before he thought it time
to make a getaway.

Finding the keepers missing, and no account made for them by the
inhabitant, the officers promptly accused him of murdering them, and
forthwith took him aboard the vessel to be carried ashore and tried. He
was promptly convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment
for life.

Meanwhile, the _Sea-Horse_, having made the Bahamas, put the thieving
keepers ashore to shift for themselves. After vainly trying to get
passage back to their home, they finally managed to get a small
boat and put to sea, to make the two hundred miles or more to the
lighthouse.

They had been absent more than a month, and they arrived at Carysfort
one sunny morning in time to see the two new keepers who had been
appointed in their place take their whale-boat and start fishing along
the reef to the northward of the tower.

Seizing the opportunity, they promptly gained the lighthouse and
climbed into the landing, dropping the trap-door fast behind them.

The new keepers, seeing the strangers in possession of the tower,
hailed them lustily, and started back to inquire their business.

For answer Flanagan leaned over the railing and gazed calmly down upon
them with a quizzical look.

"What d'ye want?" inquired the tall keeper, in response to a hail.

"What are you doing in that light?" asked the new keeper.

"I am the keeper, and when you address me say 'sir,'" roared the tall
man in stentorian tones. "Tie that boat to the spiles and git away from
here, or I'll fall on top o' ye."

But the new keepers were not made of easy stuff. They gained the lower
landing, and held forth under threats and persuasion for a day and
a half, when the "howler," getting tired of their proximity, began
attacking them with hot water and other missiles, which he hove or
dropped from the platform above.

The new keepers could not get up, but they determined that the men
above should not get down, and they built a bomb-proof shelter to
protect themselves until help should arrive.

After two days, they finally gave it up and started for Miami, where
they arrived and reported the state of affairs.

The inspector came along, but found the two worthies sober, and
attending strictly to their duties.

They explained how they had been attacked by a huge smuggling vessel
bound for the North, and how, after a desperate fight, they finally had
been overpowered, taken forcibly from their abode in the light, where
they had been attending to their duties, and put ashore in the Bahamas.

They described how, after a tremendous exertion, they had managed to
get back again, only to find two strangers in possession of the tower.
Naturally, they treated them as trespassers and took charge. The light
had been kept regularly ever since, and they had no fault to find with
the job.

After listening to their tale, there was nothing to do but to leave
them to their duties, for nothing could be found against them.

Their absence from the light would have enabled the inspector to give
them their discharge, but they could prove they had not left of their
own accord. The forepart of their story would necessarily remain in the
dark, for they would not talk of it, and the crew of the _Sea-Horse_
would rather have it kept quiet. Besides, it would be more than useless
to try to find the vessel from their description. The tender steamed
away for Miami to inform the authorities of the existence of the
keepers.

"Virtue is usually triumphant," said the inspector to the judge, who
ordered the release of the convicted prisoner. "But in this case there
seems to be an exception."

"There are exceptions to every rule," quoted the judge wisely.
"Light-keepers are rare birds--trouble will probably not happen
again--I would therefore sentence them to life imprisonment in--well, I
reckon there is no worse place than the Carysfort light."

"I don't know but what you are right," said the inspector.



VIII

The Trimming of Mr. Dunn


Mrs. Dunn sat under the awning stretched over the quarter-deck of the
yacht _Sayonara_ lying in the stream, off the government coal-dock, at
Key West. It was winter, but the air was warm, and white linen duck was
the most comfortable clothing. Even the six men who composed the crew
of the trim little schooner showed nothing but white in their garments,
save the black silk ties knotted rakishly, drawing together their wide
sailor-collars. Phenix Dunn was a broker, a gambler in the productions
of others, and because of this he was wealthy. He had bought and sold
certain commodities known as stocks, and they had proved profitable--so
profitable that he had decided to take a few months away from the
excitement of the game and buy a yacht and cruise.

Mrs. Dunn was something of a beauty. That is, many men thought so. Some
women differed in opinions, especially those women whom she counted
as her friends. Anyhow, she possessed a dashing air, a figure beyond
criticism, and clothes that made Phenix say many bad words when the
bills came in. Also she had a disposition the gentle side of which had
not been overdeveloped. She was not quarrelsome. Far from it. She had
plenty of tact and ability, but the absence of children and household
cares had given her more time than necessary for the contemplation of
self, and this had not been satisfying. She worked it off by dint of
much outdoor exercise.

Dunn joined her at the taffrail and flung himself into a chair with a
show of wrath. Something had gone wrong, as it always does upon yachts
of any size where the owner is not used to the sea or its peculiar
people.

"The steward is gone, the cook is going, and here we are a thousand
miles from anywhere at all--anywhere at all, I say; and the commandant
of the yard will be aboard to-morrow with not less than twenty officers
and their wives. What'll we do about it?" he rapped out.

"Why do you ask me?--I'm not good at riddles," answered his wife lazily.

"Well, we've got to take on a couple of blacks--niggers they call 'em
here--and I don't like the idea of it. I've no use for 'em. What I
want is Japanese servants. Japanese are good. Good fighters make good
servants. You don't want a servant to think, and a good fighter never
thinks. If he did he would see something else besides glory in walking
up to a man with a gun. The Japs do that--and they are good servants. I
don't want any of these black people aboard this vessel."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know," grumbled Dunn, "but when in doubt, take a drink--I'll
go and get one."

While he was below, a dingy-looking vessel came slowly in the northwest
channel. She was a heavily built sloop, and upon her deck lounged
a rather numerous crew. They were picturesque, half-clothed in
nondescript rags, their bare arms and shoulders seeming impervious to
the rays of the torrid sunshine, for along the Florida reef, even in
winter, the sun is burning.

The craft dropped anchor about twenty fathoms astern of the yacht,
and when Dunn came from below, bringing with him an odour of gin and
bitters, the crew of the sloop regarded him silently.

"Hello, a wrecker!" exclaimed Dunn.

His sailing-master had come to the taffrail and was gazing at the
stranger, while Mrs. Dunn, careless of nautical neighbours, read her
magazine.

"Yes, seems like one of the wreckers," said Captain Smart; "an
ugly-looking crew, for a fact. They say these spongers divide their
time between wrecking and smuggling. Not that either's bad if indulged
in moderately, but they are apt to get loose after awhile and do queer
things."

"There ought to be plenty of good in a wrecker, if he plied his trade
right--ought to save lives and property," said Dunn. "Let's have a look
through the glass."

The men of the wrecking-sloop gazed back insolently at the yachtsman,
and a giant black man among them rose up, placed his fingers in line,
and applied the thumb of one hand to his big, flat nose, wiggling his
huge digits in derision.

"That fellow is a corker," said Dunn, watching the wrecker
good-humouredly.

"He's a big one, all right," assented Smart, "and I reckon they don't
like us looking so hard at 'em."

"Lower a boat and send over for that fellow--I want him," said Dunn.

The captain looked at him for a moment. "I go ashore for Miss Marion
Harsha in a few minutes," he said. "Mrs. Dunn gave the order. If you
say so, I'll let the gig go for the wrecker afterward--go myself in
her."

The yacht skipper was about forty, and slightly grizzled, his tanned
face lined from work and exposure in more than one hard-run merchant
vessel. But he made a rather good-looking yacht captain when dressed in
his blue broadcloth coat with gold-braided cuffs, white duck trousers,
and white canvas shoes. His cap bore the flag of Mr. Dunn upon its
front, and was the only badge of dependence about him.

"All right, go ahead when you're ready; I'm in no hurry," said the
owner. "Only I want to see that big nigger who was insolent enough
to poke his fingers at me. Seems like he'd make a good man aboard
here--steward, maybe, or even cook, if he knows how to do the work.
They say these Southern darkies know how to cook like a French
chef--and maybe his wife takes in washing. Get him, bring him
in--there's some one waving on the dock now."

"Bring the gig to the starboard gangway," ordered Smart; and two men
swung into her from the boom-end and dropped her aft. In a moment the
captain was on his way to the dock.

Miss Harsha was young, stout, pug-nosed, and short-haired, but she
dressed well and swung her parasol daintily as she walked down the
dock end beside a uniformed marine officer from the yard. At the
landing-steps the officer assisted her into the gig, talking so
interestedly that she failed to notice the yacht captain until he took
her hand and helped her into the cushions in the stern-sheets. She
suddenly dropped his hand, started, and stared at him a moment.

"You--you--what are you doing here?" she stammered.

"I'm to bring you aboard--Mrs. Dunn's orders," said Smart.

"Er--yes, I suppose so. Oh, good-bye, Major Simson, we'll see you
to-morrow; you must come aboard, you know. Nice little boat--so
different from a ship, and Miss Jennings will be there. Good-bye."

The officer bowed low, waved his helmet, and started back as the small
boat pulled away.

"I thought you were still aboard the liner--the _Ampersand_," said Miss
Harsha casually, as she edged away to give the captain room to steer.

"No, I left the next voyage. I was taught that a ship's officer was not
in the class I supposed him to be."

"Please don't," interrupted the girl. "You know, or ought to know,
the difference between a common sailor--a mate of a transatlantic
steamer--and a naval officer. I hoped to spare your feelings, but you
would not listen to me. I am the daughter of a naval officer. You are
very little different from Mr. Dunn's butler, socially speaking. You
wear his livery----"

"A very pretty uniform it is," suggested the skipper, interrupting and
smiling complacently at her.

"You must pardon me if I hurt your feelings, but it seems necessary for
me to make myself plainly understood----"

"Oh, I understand you thoroughly," said Captain Smart gently. "You are
away above me--high up. I know I'm only a sailor. So was my father.
But I'm not a bit ashamed of it. I work for my living. I have no kind
Uncle Sam to provide for me that I may loaf about in white duck and
seek diversion among the fairer sex. You'll excuse me if I cannot hold
a poorer opinion of myself than I do of many of those who wear the
country's livery and draw pay for it. They are mostly good fellows--but
there are others."

"But you won't understand. It isn't that. It's the--well, we won't
discuss it any further. I know you are too much of a man to make me
uncomfortable aboard the yacht. If you do, I shall have to speak to
Mr. Dunn."

Captain Smart chuckled softly. He seemed to enjoy the situation very
much, but he said no more, for the men rowing were beginning to listen
to the conversation. He swung the boat alongside with precision, and
assisted the girl up the companion.

Aboard the wrecker the crew watched these proceedings with interest.
The big mate bit off a piece of tobacco and settled himself comfortably
in the sun upon the deck, with his head just above the rail.

"Here comes the boat for us," grinned Captain Sanders, poking his head
out of the cuddy. The rest grinned silently in turn.

Captain Smart came alongside, and the big mate rose to a sitting
position at the rail, squirting a stream of tobacco over the side,
barely missing the gig.

"Mr. Dunn, the owner of the _Sayonara_, would like to see you aboard
the schooner," said Smart, addressing the black.

"What fur?" growled the giant.

"Oh, he has some business, I suppose--will you come?"

Sanders winked at his mate, and a Dutchman named Heldron nudged him in
the ribs.

"Sho', I'll come," said the mate.

"Me, too," said Sanders, winking hard at the rest. "I'm the captain of
the wreckin'-sloop _Sea-Horse_, an' it's no more'n proper for me to pay
my respect to his nibs. This here little black boy"--pointing to the
black giant--"is my first officer. They calls him Bahama Bill. He's a
bad man to call out o' his name."

Bahama Bill frowned and his ugly face leered for a moment at the crew
on deck. Then he swung easily over the side and dropped with a crash
into the small boat. Some of the men sniggered, but Sanders gave them a
look and followed.

"Shove off," said Smart, and in a moment the gig was heading for the
yacht.

Upon the deck of the schooner the captain and mate of the _Sea-Horse_
seemed slightly out of place, but Bahama Bill swaggered aft with an
air that had little retirement or modesty about it, and his skipper
followed behind him.

The giant mate was much amused by the immaculate decks, the new
rigging, and, above all, the spotless clothes of the crew. He knew
a good ship, and this toy, this playship of the rich Northerner was
much to his liking, for the _Sayonara_ was strongly built and had much
valuable material in her building.

Dunn was sitting under the awning aft when the visitors were announced.
Sanders, hat in hand, stood awkwardly smiling and smirking at the
ladies, but his mate cocked his cap over his ear and leered savagely at
the owner.

"You sent fur us, cap--an' here we is," said he.

Dunn had been watching them for several seconds.

"Yes, yes, my good man, I wanted to see you," he said. "Do you know of
any one who wants a job cooking aboard here? I heard there were some
good sea-cooks knocking about these keys, perhaps you're one--what?"

"Does I look like a cook?" said Bahama Bill, staring at him.

"Most certainly not, but appearances are sometimes deceptive. Maybe you
know of one--what?"

"I does," said Bill.

"Can you get him aboard here to-day?" asked Dunn.

"I cayn't--nussur. I cayn't."

"Why not? I'll give good pay--fifty dollars. Steady job, if they make
good."

"Well, de onliest good cook I knows is 'Scrappy Jule,' dey calls
her----"

"Oh, no, she won't do; we don't want any disrep----"

"She's my wife," went on Bill, with a smoothness in his tone that made
his captain smile broader than ever, "an' don't reckon she'll come
abo'd no boat onless hit's me dat takes her."

"Perhaps she'll do some washing for us, then?"

Bill stared at the yachtsman for nearly a minute, and the smile died
away from Sanders' face.

"Look here, yo' white man, did yo' send fur us to come ober heah to
listen to a lot ob nonsense?" said Bill solemnly. "What yo' takes me
fur, anyhow? We comes ober to take a drink an' pass de time o' day like
ship's officer, an' yo' begins wid a lot o' foolishness 'bout cooks
an' washerwomen. What yo' reckon I am?"

"Good heavens! Captain Smart, come here a minute," called Mr. Dunn,
while the two ladies who were near enough to hear the last part of the
conversation sat staring at the wreckers in amazement.

"Take these men forward and give 'em liquor," said Dunn, as his skipper
came aft, "and then send them back aboard their craft. They won't suit
us."

"You men come with me," said Smart, motioning to Sanders and Bahama
Bill. His tone was quiet, but there was no mistaking its meaning. He
had seen enough of them, and would put them back aboard their craft.
He had known from the first that it was a mistake to have brought
them. They were a rough, independent type who respected no one, a type
that had furnished the worst class of buccaneers and pirates some
generations before. The West Indies had been infested with them for
years, and these wreckers, the descendants of the wild seamen of the
Spanish Main, were not the kind of men for a yacht.

Bahama Bill glared sourly at the men forward as he made his way to the
gangway followed by Sanders.

"I don't drink with no such po' white men as yo'," said the giant. "Yo'
kin put me back abo'd the _Sea-Horse_--sorry I came."

"I'll take a pull afore I go," put in Sanders. "Bring out yer pizen
an' let's have a try at it. I seen more onsociable fellers than your
owner--but I can't quite call to mind jest where."

"You ought to know yachtsmen, captain," said Smart. "There's a
difference between them and seamen. I'll drink with you, if you don't
mind."

"Naw, yer needn't. I don't want nothin' more to do with yer--see? I
drinks alone."

Smart took a bottle of liquor from the boy, who had brought it from the
cabin and poured a tumblerful, handing it to Sanders.

"Drink, and make your getaway," he said.

Sanders tossed off the glassful, and looked hard at him.

"I'll go when I git good an' ready," he said. "Don't give me none o'
your slack, or I'll take it out o' yer." Then he flung the dregs of the
liquor into Smart's face.

The sting of the fiery stuff blinded the captain for an instant, but it
also angered him enough to do a foolish thing. He brought the bottle
down upon the wrecker's head and stretched him upon the deck. The next
instant he was seized by the giant black man and flung like a coil of
rope into the scuppers.

"Don't make no rough-house, or you'll be sorry. Put us abo'd the
_Sea-Horse_," said the big mate.

Dunn had rushed for the cabin at the first signs of a fracas, and now
came forward with a rifle held in readiness.

Smart saw that any further strain would result in bloodshed, and he was
used to handling men. With strong self-control he sprang to his feet
and held up his hand to Dunn. Then he called for the boat in a natural
tone, and the men who had witnessed the trouble obeyed.

The yacht's deck was not the place for an affair of force. Captain
Smart knew it at once and deplored his action. In a second he could
precipitate a fight that would be fatal to at least one or more men,
for Dunn was an excellent shot and exceedingly quick. The mate of
the _Sea-Horse_ cared as little for the rifle as for a cane, if he
once broke loose. Even Sanders would not hesitate to face any kind of
weapon. The two wreckers were ushered over the side and rowed back to
their craft.

Bahama Bill was sullenly silent all the afternoon. Something, an
indefinable something of refinement, of an air above what he had been
used to, had kept him from an outbreak aboard the yacht. He had many
times gone forth on the beach and made rough-house for the sport of
it, handling half a dozen tough longshoremen, armed and unarmed. On
the _Sayonara_ the presence of the ladies had kept him in check. He
could not quite understand it. Sanders had less control of himself, and
growled out vengeance during the hours of daylight. When it grew dark
he took his mate to one side.

"When the tide turns we'll rake her--hey?" he said.

"I dunno--I cayn't quite make up my mind," said Bill.

"Feared?"--with a sneer.

"Feared o' what?" asked the black man.

"Oh, I dunno. I reckon the captain, or the owner--hey?"

Bahama Bill spat disdainfully over the side into the dark water where
the phosphorus shone in the ripples. He sat for an hour upon the rail,
and the rest of the crew watched him, for they knew pretty well what
was coming.

After supper the big mate went on deck. Heldron brought him a hook, a
powerful instrument with a long tooth that would reach well into the
seams of a vessel and pull out any calking that might be there. Sanders
took out a fine steel bar, a regular jimmy, and joined them. The rest
of the crew remained below and played checkers or cards, making no
comment whatever.

The giant mate took the bar and hook and slid gently over the side, and
the next instant they saw a thin line of fire, his wake, leading toward
the yacht.

Aboard the yacht the incident of the afternoon was almost forgotten.
Miss Harsha played the piano and Mrs. Dunn sang sea songs, while Dunn
smoked and applauded alternately. The men were all below, and only
Smart and his mate, a tall Yankee sailor from Maine, sat on deck, for
the air was chill.

"Looks like we'll have a bit o' weather coming along soon," said the
mate to Smart; "heavy bank makin' to th' north'ard."

The captain smoked in silence. He thought of the scene on deck that
day, and he felt more than ever that Miss Harsha had reason to feel
displeased at his attentions. He remembered the nights upon the liner
when he had taken the girl for walks against the rules of the company,
the usual ending of such affairs, and the cold-blooded manner in which
she had sent him off. He was occupied intensely with his thoughts and
keenly disgusted. In the dark water alongside a large fish seemed to
make considerable disturbance and attracted his attention. He went to
the rail and looked over, and instantly the creature, whatever it was,
sank below the surface. Then he went back and smoked.

Bahama Bill, the wrecker, had reached the yacht and had started to work
her seams about three strakes below the water-line. It was his business
to drag out the oakum and spread the seam, leaving nothing but a bare
thread to keep the water from coming into the hull.

It was an old game, but new to the vicinity and victims. When the
vessel filled and sank, which she would surely do if not docked at
once, the wreckers would be on hand to claim their salvage. As this
would amount to about one-third the value of the yacht, it would be
worth while. Even if the marks of bar and hook were discovered, no one,
unless an expert in the methods of the reefers, would suspect what had
caused the trouble. No one could possibly give any testimony of any
value against the wreckers.

They would board her boldly at just the right moment, and, knowing her
condition, would have no rivals on hand. Her salvage would ease the
pain of the insults they had received at the hands of her owner. He
wouldn't drink with them--what? He would wish he had drunk many bottles
before they were through with him, the rich bum. Who was he to put on
airs to them?

The giant black diver had raked the seam and then swung his weight
upon the bar. The two-inch planking of the small vessel gave to his
tremendous strength. His head, a foot beneath the surface, kept him out
of sight while he worked, but he had to raise it clear every little
while to breathe. At these times he turned his eyes upward and tried to
pierce the gloom, letting just his nose come out, and drawing breath
ready for instant disappearance should any one be looking over the side.

It was desperate work, toiling there in the tideway, and, in spite of
his power, he found that he must rest after the first seam had been
raked to the bends. He jammed the bar fast in a seam and clung to it,
lying at full-length and letting his body float with the current.

The night was quite still and very dark. The bank of cloud in the
north told of a heavy wind approaching, the uncomfortable norther
which sweeps at periods over the reef during the winter months. The
water, however, was always warm; the close proximity of the Gulf Stream
kept it near the temperature of eighty all through the year. While he
rested, he was aware of a movement in the sea near him, and he sniffed
the air uneasily. The smell of a shark was plain in his nostrils.

To lie quietly in the sea at night with a shark in the vicinity was
to invite almost certain destruction. To thresh about aimlessly would
surely attract attention from the deck above, and bring death in the
shape of a rifle-bullet, or, worse yet, a boat, which would catch
him before he could gain the _Sea-Horse_. He left the bar in the
_Sayonara's_ side, and, grasping the hook, swam strongly to the bobstay.

Silently the mighty black hauled himself clear of the water, just as
a long shadow, darker than the surrounding sea passed beneath him,
leaving a long line of fire to mark its passage. He had cleared with
about a second to spare. The sea-monster passed on down the tide toward
the open ocean, but Bahama Bill waited before slipping back again to
his task.

In a short time he worked the next seam; then, taking the thin cotton
line he had fast about him as a belt, he unwound it, pulled the last of
the calking oakum out, and replaced it quickly with the line the entire
length of the destroyed seam, leaving the ends clear to be jerked forth
at a moment's notice. It would at once let a stream of water into the
hull of the yacht which would test her pumps to their fullest capacity,
and where he had worked there was hardly a trace of violence. A few
augur-holes would have accomplished the end more readily, but they
would remain as telltale evidence. The starting of a seam and butts
could not be proven against such careful work.

At the right minute the wreckers would pull the cord, and then it would
be--stand by the pumps or run her ashore. All they would have to do
now would be to follow her about the reef until she arrived at a spot
conveniently far from a tugboat or dry dock, follow her like a shark
until, wounded and unable to keep the sea, they would fall upon her the
instant her crew and owner would leave her, or call for help.

Bahama Bill had just put the finishing touches upon his excellent work,
and was resting, preparatory to swimming back to the _Sea-Horse_,
where he knew Sanders and the rest were awaiting his arrival with some
impatience. He had his bar jammed in a seam, and was hanging upon it,
when the mate of the _Sayonara_ happened to peer over the side.

The wrecker saw him just in time, and sank from view. In doing so he
made a slight disturbance in the sea, and the phosphorus flared and
trailed from him, giving him the long shape beneath the surface common
to a fish of about his length.

"I reckon I'll take a whack at them fellers swimmin' around us," said
the sailor to Smart, "seems to me there might be a barracuda, or
jew-fish, loafing about. I'm going to get the harpoon."

Bill, instead of making good his getaway, at this moment, hung easily
on to his resting-place and poked his head clear about the time the
mate had ceased speaking. Seeing that the head over the rail had gone,
the wrecker started to pull his bar clear, and had just shoved off from
the yacht's side, when the mate arrived with the iron.

The long Yankee had been accustomed to spearing sword-fish upon his
native coast in summer, and he hesitated not an instant, but hurled
the iron at the form below him. As he did so Bill saw the movement and
gave a mighty shoot ahead. It saved his life by a fraction of a second,
but the iron struck him fair upon the ankle and passed through between
his heel-cord, or tendon, and the bone. He was hung as securely as a
quarter of beef upon a hook.

"I got him," yelled the mate. "Lend me a hand. Captain Smart."

"Killed him outright," said the captain. "He makes no flurry for a
heavy fish. Must have struck his backbone."

They put their weight upon the line, and it came in easily, hauling as
though a log were fastened to the iron. And in the meantime Bahama Bill
was whirling over, trying to think of some way to cut clear.

Still holding to his bar, the giant wrecker came swashing alongside
the yacht, making a lot of foam and fire, which completely hid his
identity. By good luck the men above him stopped hauling just when his
great weight began to put a heavy strain upon the line.

Captain Smart, not wishing to trust the thin runner, went for a heavy
line to make a bowline to slip over the fish's tail and heave him
aboard shipshape Bill jammed the jimmy into a seam and worked it
far enough in to get a strong hold. His head was half-submerged, but
he held on while the strain upon the harpoon lifted his leg clear of
the sea. His leg was numbed from the wound, and when they slipped the
bowline down upon it he knew there was no use of further resistance.

The pain was intense when they put the line to a tackle, and he gave
up. Throwing the bar clear to make away with the last evidence of his
work, he let them haul him feet foremost into the air and hang him
dangling over the rail.

"A nigger, by all that's holy!" exclaimed the long mate. "Now, how in
the name did----"

"The mate of the wrecker," said Smart, slacking the giant down upon the
deck and gazing at him. "Hooked in the ankle, all right and seamanlike.
Is he drowned?"

"Naw, I ain't drowned," said Bill, staggering to his feet, the iron
from the harpoon still transfixing his leg. "Yo' put a stopper on that
barb, and pull that iron out. Cayn't a man take a swim without you
fellows huntin' him like a bloody fish?"

The mate offered his apologies, somewhat tinged with humour, for the
mistake, and, being entirely without suspicion, went below to get a
stiff drink for his victim. The giant black stood gazing down at the
yacht captain for a moment, and as the wound did not bleed to any
extent, he refused to have any further fuss made over it.

"Aren't you afraid of sharks--to be swimming about this harbour in the
night?" asked Smart.

"No, I ain't scared o' much," said Bill, "an' I takes it all in good
part, yo' ketchin' me the way yo' did. I don't mind the little hole in
mah laig, but I do mind bein' h'isted up feet fo'most. I don't allow no
liberties wid me body, 'n' ef yo' had dun it a purpose, I sho' would
have tu wake yo' up some--but I takes no offence."

The long mate appeared with the liquor, and the wrecker drank it down.

"Ah'm goin' now," said Bill, and without further ado he made a plunge
over the rail and was gone. A faint trail of fire showed his rapid
progress toward the _Sea-Horse_, and his captors were left alone again
on deck.

"That was something strange--what?" said the mate.

"'Twas a bit out of the ordinary," said Smart, thinking of the
strangeness of the scene, the dark night, the disturbed water, and
the sudden appearance of a giant negro hauled on deck feet foremost
by a bowline run over a whale-iron. "You better keep an anchor-watch
to-night. Some of those fellows might steal half our brasswork before
morning. I'm going to turn in. Good night."


II

In the brisk wind of the failing norther, the _Sayonara_ hoisted
her snowy canvas. The mainsail, taut as a board and white as the
coral-beach, stood with luff cutting the wind and leach cracking gently
while the boom-tackles held it like a hound in leash. The foresail was
run up, and the word was passed aft that the ship was ready.

Mr. Dunn stood near the companion and chatted to Miss Harsha, while
Mrs. Dunn entertained two marine officers from the yard with tales of
the yacht. The reception aboard the day before had been a success, and
these remaining guests were to spend a week cruising to the northward
as far as Boca Grande.

Dunn was a keen fisherman, and would try for tarpon, the giant herring
of the reef.

"I tell you, Miss Marion," said he, "it's a great sport. It takes skill
to land one of those fellows, skill to hook him, skill to play him, and
skill to kill 'em--are you a good fisherman?"

Miss Marion, pug-nosed, fat, and not entirely good-natured, thought a
moment. Not upon fish, but concerning certain officers she had known
lately.

"I--er--I really don't quite know, you know. I never tried it. It must
be something grand. It appeals to me, the idea of fishing. It must be
awfully exciting when you've hooked him." And her eyes roved just for a
moment in the direction of Mrs. Dunn and her friends.

"She's hove short, sir," said Smart, coming near. "Shall we break her
out and let her go? The tide is just right, and the wind a close reach
up the Hawk's Channel."

"Er--yes. I don't know. Well, yes, let her go. What's the odds?"
murmured Dunn, losing interest suddenly. "You'll excuse me, Miss
Marion." And he went down the companionway. "When in doubt, take a
drink," he repeated to himself. "Maybe I'll run into some people who
think of something besides their--their-----" but he left the sentence
unfinished as he drank off a dram of gin and lime-juice. Dunn was a bit
of a sport at bottom, and his wife's friends were not--not of the kind
he was used to. It was hard to run a yacht as big as his schooner for
the amusement of silly women, and even more silly men.

Captain Smart hove up his anchor, hoisted both jib and staysail, and
while the trim little ship broke off to port, the white-ducked crew
neatly catted her hook and stretched up her topsails, sending out a
big balloon forward which bellied out and sent her racing through the
northwest passage.

It was a beautiful day, and the sun shining upon the white hull made
a very pretty picture of the fabric rushing through a whitening path
upon the blue water. The solid-silver trophies in the saloon were made
fast in their places, for the vessel was leaning heavily away from the
breeze, and Dunn locked his little buffet and came on deck to join his
guests.

The men of the _Sea-Horse_ watched the yacht until she was hull-down to
the northward, her canvas alone marking the spot of her whereabouts,
which was changing at the rate of ten knots an hour. But they were in
no particular hurry to follow.

Sanders had found out where she was bound, and it was not until late in
the afternoon, when the sun was setting, that the _Sea-Horse_ hoisted
her dirty mainsail. Then she stood away for Cuba, passing out by the
Sand Key Light into the Gulf Stream.

When darkness fell she was shortened down and allowed to drift along
slowly with the current, which took her many miles before the following
day.

In the morning the _Sayonara_ stood in through the pass of Boca Grande.
It is here that the tarpon, the giant herring of the south sea, makes
his entrance to the shallow waters of the Florida reef. Dunn lost no
time engaging guides and preparing for the kill. In the waters of the
reef one does not catch fish; he kills them. A tarpon is not usually
eaten, and is caught solely for the excitement of the fight. Nearly all
the great game fish are equally unpalatable, therefore the sportsman
has long ceased to speak of his catch, which in other waters is useful,
and generally brought home for food.

The small boats were gotten overboard, and the party, made up in pairs
with a guide to each, headed into the pass. Boats from the floating
hotel back among the keys joined them, and during the forenoon the fish
struck.

Dunn managed to land two huge fellows, but the boat containing Miss
Harsha and the major of marines caught nothing. If there was an
attempted killing, it was only witnessed by the guide, and he, being
a discreet "Conch," had the good taste to remain silent for ever
afterward.

Late in the evening, after the fish had stopped striking, the party
sat upon the deck of the _Sayonara_ enjoying the soft air of the
semi-tropical sea. Far away to the southward the sail of a single
vessel rose above the sapphire rim of the horizon. The air was warm,
and felt almost oppressive. There was evidently going to be a change in
the weather, and Smart noticed it at once.

"The glass has fallen considerable since morning," said he to Dunn,
"and the pass is not the best anchorage in the world. I don't exactly
like the idea of lying so far off."

"We'll stay as long as the fish bite," said Dunn. "Now that I've gotten
here you'll not scare me away until there's something happened. Give
her plenty of scope and let her ride it out, if it blows. A bit of
motion will do the party good, shake 'em up and put some sense into
them. Stay where you are."

"All right, sir," said Captain Smart. "I don't want to cut out the
sport, but if I know anything of the weather by signs, it'll sure blow
some before this time to-morrow. The warm weather may make the fish
come in, but it means something back of it. It's too late in the season
for such warm air up here, or it's too early. We'll catch it from the
southeast, and we'll have a nasty sea where we are lying."

"Let her blow," said Dunn, "but when in doubt, take a drink." He went
below.

"I do so wish we would have a terrible storm--then you could have a
chance to show how superior a U.S. marine officer is in an emergency,"
said Miss Harsha, smiling up at the major, who had noticed the
threatened weather and had heard part of the conversation between Dunn
and his captain.

The major leered at her. He was trying to think how a pug-nose and
freckles would inspire him at the psychological moment. It seemed to
cause him an effort, for he spoke wearily in reply.

"You remember what we did at Guantanamo?" he said.

"Yes, but I have heard of nothing else since the Spanish War," said the
girl sweetly. "You surely have something else in the record of your
excellent corps, for I know personal bravery exists everywhere in it. I
love heroes--men who can do things. It's foolish, no doubt, but, then,
most women are foolish. What use would your beautiful uniform be to us
if we were not?"

The major gazed out over the darkening sea and watched the tiny speck
of white where the single sail rose above the horizon. He was tired and
thirsty, and he had seen Dunn go below.

"We are to have a fish-dinner--I must go and get out of these
fish-killing togs," said Miss Harsha, and she left him to follow his
inclinations.

The night was dark and quiet, the sea murmuring distantly under the
black pall which crept up from the southward. The glass fell lower, and
Smart ranged twenty fathoms of cable to let out when the wind struck.
He also got his heavy anchor ready to let go, with sixty more, and made
ready with hemp-stoppers to take the strain off the bitts when she
surged.

There were only four fathoms of water in the part of the pass where
they lay, and with a great scope to both anchors he felt certain that
he could hold on unless some accident happened.

The sea would not break where he lay, on account of the formation
of the reef beyond, and if he could get all his line out before she
started to drag, he could hold her without great danger, although she
would do some lively jumping if it blew heavy. A man on watch would
report the first change for the worse.

By midnight all was silent aboard. The anchor-light burned brightly,
and its rays fell upon the form of the man upon the forecastle, who
nodded drowsily. The calm continued, and the great flame from the
lighthouse at the pass sent long streaks into the darkness.

Coming along with the flood-tide and just going fast enough to keep
steering-way upon her, a small vessel headed into the pass, burning no
lights and heading close to where the _Sayonara_ lay. At her helm a
giant negro sprawled, and upon her deck several men lay in attitudes of
great ease.

"She lays still, like mit a ghost," said Heldron, peering at the yacht.

"Good graft," said Sam, straining his eyes to catch every detail.

"I reckon we'll git to work on her," said Sanders. "Lower down those
jibs and slack the anchor away easy when I luff her under the lee o'
that p'int yander. How is it, Bill? Do you feel like swimming to-night?"

Bahama Bill, the mate of the wrecker, growled out an assent. His
leg was sore from his experience with the iron in the hands of the
_Sayonara's_ mate, and his feelings were exceedingly ruffled from
certain personal affronts he had endured from the yacht's owner. Could
he cook? Could his wife, the renowned Julia, wash? Well, he would ask a
few questions some day after settling his account with the yacht--maybe.

At present the cotton line he had placed in the opened seam was ready
to haul out. Then he would witness some work upon that yacht's deck.
There would be something doing.

He grinned as he thought of the trim white duck clothes. How they
would look after twenty-four hours' work at the pumps! Even the
yacht's captain, who seemed to be something of a sailor in spite of
his wonderful rig, would have something to do besides sitting about
like a well-dressed monkey. And as for those officers, the guests of
Dunn--well, he had already had dealings with them, and once spent the
night in the "cooler" for ruffling a couple of their Jap messmen.

"Yo' kin lower down the starbo'd boat when we lets go," said Bahama
Bill; "'n' I wants one o' you fellers to drap to lor'ard toe pick me
up, fer I'll be comin' mighty fast--see?"

Sam understood, and a few minutes later the _Sea-Horse_ had hooked the
reef close in the shelter of the key and about a mile distant from the
yacht. Her mainsail was left standing, in case of sudden need. They
could lower it any minute after the job was done. If anything happened
they could stand out in less time than it takes to tell of it, for the
head-sails were all ready to hoist and the anchor just holding. Six
strokes upon the brakes, and she would go clear. Then, with everything
drawing, she would stand through the pass.

The mate dropped into the small boat, and Sam rowed him rapidly ahead
of the yacht. He would drop overboard and drift and swim quickly down
with the current, while the small boat would circle around at a great
distance and out of sight to pick him up after he had finished and
drifted astern.

Swimming strongly with a deep breast-stroke which made no foam or
noise, Bill slipped through the black sea like a fish. In a short time
he gained the anchor-chain, which strained out ahead with the force of
the tide upon the hull.

Resting for a few moments and listening to make sure the man on deck
had not seen him, he let himself drift along the vessel's side until he
reached the end of his line. This he pulled out of the seam and let go.

It opened her for a length of thirty feet--a thin, nasty leak, which
would be hard to find and impossible to stop without docking. It was
the work of an expert wrecker, and he grinned to himself as he let the
current take him away.

Not a mark had he made upon the beautiful white hull, and yet she was
even now filling rapidly through seams which had been carefully calked.

Of course, if the weather remained calm enough for them to work a small
boat alongside and study her bilge a couple of feet below the water,
they would come upon the seam. But the weather was not going to remain
calm very long. He knew it would be blowing hard before daybreak,
before there would be any light to see her smooth side below the water
where the green of her copper paint had hardly been disturbed.

He had passed his knife along the seam after the line was removed, and
it was open. His work was done.

Sam picked him up half a mile astern, and they rowed silently back
aboard the _Sea-Horse_. All the others had turned in, and they did
likewise, after lowering down the mainsail and paying out enough cable
to hold the vessel should it blow before they awoke. The small boat
was towed astern, for they were well back behind the key, and quite
sheltered.

In the still hours of the early morning Captain Smart was awakened
by the unusual sound of water washing about in the yacht's bilge. He
roused himself and listened. The first note of the rising wind droned
through the rigging, and the man on watch came to his door to call him.
In a moment he was on deck.

The night was still dark, although it was nearly four o'clock. The wind
had come from the southeast, and it was freshening every moment. The
hands were called, and the cable given to the anchor while the heavy
bower was dropped, that she might set back upon them both.

There was plenty of room, and she brought up nicely, riding easily to
the fast-increasing sea. She was heading it, and, therefore, had not
begun to plunge enough to wake the party aft. But every moment the
whistling snore aloft told of what was coming.

After seeing that his ship was snug and safe for the time being, Smart
went below to get into his oilskins. It had not yet started to rain,
but it was coming, and he would not have time to leave the deck if
anything went wrong.

While he sat upon his bunk-edge he again heard the washing sound from
below. It came loud and insistent, not to be confounded with the wash
from the sea outside. At that moment the mate came into his room.

"What's the matter below, sir?" he asked. "Sounds like we've got water
in her. Shall I try the pumps?"

"Well, if we do, it will frighten every one. It's going to blow a
regular snorter. There can't be any water in her--she's tight as a
bottle. You might sound her, but don't let any one see you do it."

Before Smart had buttoned on his sou'wester, the mate came below again.
He had a naturally long face and seemed solemn even in his most happy
moment. Now he pulled a face as long as a rope-yarn.

"Four feet of water in her, sir," he said, and he looked at Smart as
though that officer had said something to hurt him.

Smart gazed at him for a moment-in perplexity. He saw his mate was
sober. He was too good a sailor to come aft with any silly story. He
knew there was something wrong, and he sprang up the companion.

In the rush of the wind on deck all sounds from below were, of course,
silenced. The droning roar in the rigging as squall after squall tore
past made it evident that it was beginning to blow some. Forms appeared
aft, and Dunn came staggering along the rail to the mainmast followed
by his male guests.

"Will she hold on all right?" called Dunn to his captain, who now stood
at the pump-well with the sounding-line in his hand. It was too dark
for the owner to notice the skipper's movements, but Smart put the line
out of sight.

"Oh, yes, she'll hold all right," bawled the captain. "You better go
below for a bit, or else put on your rain-clothes; it's going to wet up
here soon."

The men stood near the mast for a few moments, and, seeing that nothing
unusual was taking place, began edging aft again. A spurt of rain sent
them down the cabin companion, and Smart dropped his line into the
well. It showed a depth of four and a half feet of water below, or just
up to the cabin floor.

Something must be done at once. All hands were called to the pumps, and
the clank of the brakes warned the owner that all was not well. He came
on deck with his guests, and as they were now in their rain-clothes,
Smart requested them to get busy. He would need all the men he could
get to keep her clear.

Daylight dawned upon a wild sea to the eastward. The reef roared in a
deep thunder, but the heaviest sea was shut off from them. Streaming
scud fled past above them with the gale, and the mastheads seemed to
pierce a gray sky, which hurled itself to the northward at a terrific
rate.

The sea that struck the _Sayonara_ was short, and had a great velocity,
but it was not high enough to make her plunge bows under. She rode it
with short jerks and leaps, smashing into it and sending a storm of
flying water as high as her crosstrees. This the wind hurled aft and
away in a heavy shower.

She was holding to one hundred fathoms on one, and seventy fathoms upon
her largest anchor, and as the sea was shallow where she lay, the taut
chains stretched right out ahead, like two stiff bars of metal.

"How did it happen--what is it?" Dunn kept asking; but his skipper
could give no response. All he knew was that she was filling fast, so
fast that they could just keep her about even with the leak. It was
three hours before it showed less than four feet of water below, and by
that time the men were getting tired.

Smart told off the watches, and sent one below for a rest while the
makeshift cook tried to get all hands some coffee. They were going to
have plenty of work cut out for them, and they needed all the rest and
refreshment they could get.

With only one watch at the pumps the water began to gain slowly upon
them, and by noon it was as high as ever again. The yacht plunged
heavily under this extra weight, and Smart gave her every link he had
aboard, afterward putting heavy stoppers upon both cables to take the
strain of the setback from the bitts.

He had done all he could, and now waited with anxious eye upon the
glass, hoping for the shift which he knew must soon come. If he could
hang on for another twelve hours, he felt certain he would ride the
gale down safely; then--well, then it was up to Dunn to say whether to
risk a run to Key West or beach her. Just now the sea was too heavy to
think of going to leeward anywhere. She would go to pieces on the reef.

Smart crouched under the lee of the foremast, watching men and anchors
alternately. Dunn joined him.

"The women are getting a bit nervous, Smart," said the owner. "There's
no danger as long as she holds, is there?"

"Not a bit," was the short answer. He was thinking how much easier it
would have been if Dunn had allowed him to make a good anchorage before
the blow began.

"Well, I'll go below and tell 'em--when in doubt take a drink--come!"
And his two guests followed him.

All that wild day the _Sayonara_ tugged and plunged at the end of her
cable, the water gaining slowly in her bilge; and when the darkness
with all its terrors came on, the men began to have some misgivings as
to what the yacht would do.

Just as the wild night darkened the storm-torn sea, Smart wiped the
ends of his glasses to get them free from the flying salt water and
spume. He then took a last look around to see if anything was in sight.
Only the lighthouse showed above the waste of reef and white water to
the westward. Not a sign of humanity. Not a thing else from which to
expect human sympathy.

Suddenly he noticed something like a mast rising from behind the end
of the key. Yes, it was a single vessel, snug and close in behind the
shelter. He could not make out her hull, or he would have at once
recognized the _Sea-Horse_, victor over many a hard-fought battle with
the elements of the Florida reef, now lying snug and safe as a house
with her crew below. He was not aware of it, but a pair of eyes were
at that moment gazing fixedly at his vessel, peering out of a dirty
port-hole.

Bahama Bill had never ceased to watch the yacht from the first drone
of the storm, and all the night the giant mate had kept watch upon the
tiny star of his anchor-light as it rose and fell with each plunge.

As the night wore on and the water had not gained sufficiently to make
it necessary to call all hands, Smart went below for the first time and
took a good meal, eating heartily of everything, and washing down the
food with two large cups of coffee.

It was now nearly midnight, and the glass showed signs of rising. The
squalls were of less violence, and the captain hoped now to weather it
out safely before putting his ship upon the beach to get at the leak.

While he ate he was aware of a sudden shock. The _Sayonara_ seemed to
shift her nose from dead into the sea, and then a peculiar trembling
of the hull told him of that thing all ship-masters dread. At the same
instant the rush of feet sounded upon the deck, and the mate poked his
head into the hatchway.

"Starboard anchor's gone, sir--she's dragging back unto the reef inside
the light----"

"Get the foresail on her--all hands!" roared Smart, tearing up the
ladder.

The _Sayonara_ had carried too heavy a load. She was too deep with the
water in her, and had at last parted her steel cable to starboard. The
other anchor was not heavy enough to hold her with the extra tons of
water below; she had broken it clear, and was dragging it back--back
upon the coral bank, where she would soon be a wreck if she struck.

One instant told Smart what he must do. He was too far in to try
to get to sea, and, even if he were not, he could not drive the
half-sunken vessel up against that sea and wind. To do so would be
certain destruction, for there would be no chance to keep the leak
under. He must run her in and beach her where it would be least
dangerous.

In the blackness of midnight he might make a mistake and hit a bad
spot, but it was the only chance. If he could get her far enough in
behind the key to make a lee upon the bank beyond, he might save
her--at least save all hands. There was little room to work her, but
she was a stanch ship.

"Cut the chain--break it with an axe!" he bawled. And the men sprang to
obey.

The thunder of the close-reefed foresail brought Dunn from below, but
as he was no use forward he wisely remained aft. His two guests stood
near him. A feminine form appeared in the companionway.

Smart was at the wheel, rolling it hard over to break the yacht off and
fill away the foresail, but he caught the words:

"Oh, isn't it grand? A real storm! Oh, major, this is what you're used
to. I know you will bring us out of it all right. No, I don't need a
wrap, my dear Mrs. Dunn. Splendid!"

The _Sayonara_ filled away, the chain was broken, and the dragging
anchor left behind. With the wind upon her quarter, she tore away
through the night, leaving a white path astern.

Smart strained his eyes for the edge of the bank behind the lower key.
It was the most sheltered spot, but even in a sheltered spot to leeward
there would be a mighty sea breaking, with the wind blowing with
hurricane force. He would do the best he could.

The whole uselessness of the affair lay upon him, and he swore,
muttering at the folly of his owner. A little shelter and the yacht
would have ridden down anything as long as she would float. The leak
would not have mattered so much had they been in out of that heavy sea
that made her surge so heavily upon her cables. He could have kept it
under easily enough, but now he was running the vessel to her end to
save those aboard.

The light of the Boca Grande Pass showed him the direction of the reef.
The surrounding blackness showed nothing. He must make his landing by
the bearing of the lighthouse, and trusting that his distance would be
run right.

A heavy squall snored over him, and the straining bit of foresail
responded to the furious rush, heeling the _Sayonara_ down to her deck.
All about them the water was snow-white with the sweep of the wind. He
heard a call from forward, and saw his mate running aft at full speed.
A heavier sea lifted the yacht, heeled her to leeward; then there was a
tremendous shock.

A wild burst of sea tore over the yacht, the following sea had broken
against her side as she stopped in her run. The water was blinding, but
Smart could feel her swing up, and off from the wind. The wheel was
suddenly whirled out of his hands, and with a crash the _Sayonara_ set
her heel again into the coral of the reef.

"Get below, every one," roared Smart, and the struggling Dunn, with the
major, who had been washed to leeward, fought their way back to the
companion.

Smart shoved them roughly down and followed, closing the hatchway after
him. It was the only way. To remain on deck while the sea broke over
her would be to invite almost certain death. Again and again the yacht
rose and crashed down upon the coral bank beneath, the smashing crash
of her rending timbers making a deafening noise to those confined in
her. It was like being within a drum while it was being beaten by a
mighty stick.

If they could remain below until the vessel drove well up on the bank,
it would be well. If the filling hold drove them on deck they would
have to face a whirling sea, which was breaking in a wild smother clear
across the wreck. Smart watched the water rising above the cabin floor,
and waited.

Forward, the mate had got the crew below and closed all hatches. It
would be some time before she filled full enough to drive them on deck,
and all the time the stanch little craft was driving higher and higher
up the bank into shallow water.

Smart took a look at the glass. It was rising. There would be three
more hours of inky darkness, and he hoped the little ship would last
it out. In the morning it would break clear, and there would be good
weather, a splendid chance to save not only the people aboard the
vessel, but much of her valuable fittings.

Dunn tried to calm the fears of his guests. The major, white and
ghastly in the light of the cabin lamp, tried to put on an air of
unconcern. His companion tried to joke with Miss Harsha, but even that
young woman seemed to feel that the storm was entirely too real, the
end not quite in sight.

"When in doubt, take a drink," suggested the owner, and proceeded to
fill three glasses. A sudden rise and smash of the yacht flung the
glasses to leeward, where they shivered into fragments upon the cabin
deck. Dunn saved his whiskey only by hanging on to it with one hand,
while he clung to the buffet with the other.

The water rose rapidly in the cabin. It was over the floor two feet
deep by three o'clock, and the mate came through the bulkhead door and
announced that the yacht had stove amidships, and was hanging upon a
point of coral, which prevented her from driving farther in.

As near as he could make out, there was still seven feet of water
alongside to leeward, the vessel now lying almost broadside to the sea,
which broke heavily over her. She had been drawing twelve feet, and had
driven up five feet, resting upon her starboard bilge, except when she
lifted with the sea. Something must be done, for the water would be too
deep below to remain there much longer. It would be at least five feet
deep in the cabin, and would swash about enough to drown any one.

The roar of the wind was growing rapidly less, but the crash of the
seas prevented Smart from noting it definitely. He waited and watched
the rising flood. O for a little daylight, to see where he had struck!
Was there a chance to make a landing? To put off in that smother
in the small boats without knowing where he would bring up was too
disagreeable to contemplate until the last moment.

The water gained steadily, and the women became panicky. The major no
longer jested, and Dunn was not in doubt. He had stopped drinking, for
the peril of the night was upon him now in earnest.

Smart, with the mate, made his way on deck, closing the hatchway after
them. They crawled along the weather-rail and gained the waist, where
the whale-boat was snugly stowed under the shelter of the rail to
leeward. The water broke over them constantly, but the wind was going
down, and Smart decided to make ready to try to effect a landing.

The whale-boat was in perfect order, and it would hold all hands, but
he decided that half of the crew should make the first attempt, in
order to see if there was any place to make the beach. They could bring
her back for the rest, and if they failed, there was the gig; it would
hold the women and the rest of the crew.

When they had the boat over the side, it was all they could do in the
darkness to keep it from smashing back with the back-wash of the sea.
The mate managed to get four men into her, and sprang in himself. Smart
went aft and brought Dunn and some of the others, the major staying
with Mrs. Dunn and Miss Harsha. Ten men left the _Sayonara_, and were
instantly swallowed up in the gloom. Then Smart went back below to
await the mate's return.

In the meantime the water below had risen so high that even the
transoms upon which the refugees perched were several inches under, and
at each surge it went all over them, roaring and washing about. The
cabin lamp was extinguished, and the black darkness which ensued lent
terror to the turmoil in that little cabin.

An hour passed, and no boat came back. It looked ominous. The mate
would surely come back if he could. He was evidently lost or unable to
pull up against the heavy wind and sea. There was no use waiting any
longer. The water was still rising below, and the women must be taken
ashore if it were possible.

Smart got the rest of the watch to work upon the gig, and by superhuman
efforts they finally swung her to leeward, and held her clear of the
side. Miss Harsha was lowered into her, and then Mrs. Dunn. The latter
seemed perfectly at ease, and scorned the assistance of the major,
who gallantly offered to go with her. The noise of the roaring water
precluded any attempt at conversation, and the darkness made all cling
close to the rail in a bunch, each helping the other as best they could.

After all hands had jumped in, Smart followed, and gave the order to
shove clear, and, with the hope of striking the bank in a safe spot,
he headed out from under the lee of the wreck. The gray dawn of early
morning was breaking upon the scene, and the wind was falling rapidly.
It looked as though there would be no great trouble making the land.
But the sea was very heavy.

From under the lee of the wrecked yacht a giant roller, which had
failed to burst upon the outer reef, foamed in a huge smother, and
swept down upon the small boat. Smart had kept her head to the sea,
and was allowing her to drift back very slowly, so that in case he saw
a bad place he could pull out and away without turning around. The
surge struck her and filled her half-full, but she rose again and rode
safely. Men bailed for dear life.

In the growing light Smart saw the rise of the bank to leeward, and the
sea falling heavily upon it. It was a most dangerous surf for a small
boat. He stopped his craft, and lay heading the sea for half an hour,
waiting for a chance to run in, and in the meantime the dawn came to
reveal the desolate coral bank.

Smart stood up and looked about him. Not a sign of the whale-boat
showed anywhere. His own craft was taking the sea heavily, and kept
every one not rowing busy bailing. He saw it was no use waiting any
longer, and began to go back into the surf.

Steering with one of the oars, he managed to keep the craft's head to
the sea until they were in less than six feet of water. The bank being
flat for nearly a mile to leeward of the yacht, the seas rolled foaming
across it. He was within a quarter of a mile of the dry reef, which
showed in the growing light, when a rolling sea caught the small boat
and swerved her head a bit.

The next instant the steering-oar broke, and before the men rowing
could swing her straight to the sea, she took the following one
broadside and rolled over in the smother.

Smart had a vision of floundering men, women, and boat. The seas broke
over his head and blinded him, strangled him, and seemed to hold
him under. It was all white water, rolling foam, and it was almost
impossible to breathe in it.

Then the sense of the danger dawned upon him with renewed force, and he
struggled to where the dress of Miss Harsha showed upon the surface. He
seized her, and dragged her to the upturned boat.

The major was already holding on to the keel, assisted by two men. Mrs.
Dunn swam easily alongside, and grasped a line thrown her. The painter
was passed along the keel and made fast to a ring-bolt aft. Then all
hands held fast to this line, and waited for the sea to wash them in.

After an hour of struggling it became apparent that the boat was not
nearing the shallow water fast enough. The tide was ebbing, and setting
her out to the deep water; carrying her to the heavy sea, when it
would soon be impossible to live.

"If you will take Miss Harsha, major," said Smart, "you will be able to
make a landing. Take two men with you, and swim her ashore before it's
too late."

"I think I'll stay by the boat," said the major.

The girl was half-fainting.

"It's my duty to stay by the boat, Mrs. Dunn," said Smart, "but unless
some one takes Miss Marion in, we'll lose her. I'm going to try for it."

Taking the ablest man to help him, Smart fastened a couple of the oars
together, for an aid to float, and then started the struggle in through
the surf.

It was a long, desperate fight through the broken water over the flat
coral bank. Sometimes they would be able to touch the bottom, and then
were swept from their feet again by the sea. Sometimes they would be
gaining, and then the current, sweeping strongly out, would set them
offshore until the fight seemed hopeless.

With the girl's head resting upon his shoulder, and the oars under his
arms, Smart kept the struggle up. The sailor helped him, and finally
they managed to get into water shoal enough to stand. Then they were
aware of forms approaching along the shore, and the recognized the mate
and his men who had gone in the whale-boat. In a few minutes willing
hands dragged them to the dry land.

The mate's boat had been stove in, and this had kept him from coming
back. He had made a successful landing, but had failed to notice the
other until a few minutes before he had sighted Smart in the breakers.

A glimpse of sunlight shot through the flying scud. The wind was
slacking up and the sea going down very fast. The key they were upon
was separated from the one with the light by a broad sheet of water.
They were unable to reach any help from there.

While they gazed at the speck of the upturned boat, Smart rubbed the
wrists of the fainting girl, and endeavoured to revive her.

The mate spoke up. "Seems like I see a boat coming around the key to
the s'uthard," he said.

From the masthead of the _Sea-Horse_, Bahama Bill had seen the accident
to the gig, and he was coming into the surf with a heavy boat, manned
by a full crew of men who knew the reef. They watched him, and saw him
pick up the survivors of the accident, one by one, and then row slowly
in to where the rest of the yachting-party stood.

In a short time all were landed safely, and by the time they looked
about them they were aware of the wrecking-sloop getting under way and
running to leeward from her shelter. She rounded up to windward of the
_Sayonara_, and dropped both anchors, paying out cable until she was
close to the wreck. Then she signalled to the giant black, and he stood
ready to take passengers aboard.

Dunn came forward and began to thank him for his heroism, but the black
man looked over his head, and just the faintest flicker of a sneer
seemed to show upon his ugly face.

"Yo' think I make a good cook, eh?" he asked, with a leer. "I don't
believe yo' need no washin' done fer a day er two. Git inter that
boat wid de rest, an' thank me fer takin' yo', yo' gin-drinkin',
whiskey-swillin' good-fer-nothin' white man." And Dunn did as he was
bidden.

Aboard the _Sea-Horse_ they were made as comfortable as possible.
That afternoon, when the sea went down and the wind sank to a gentle
breeze, the entire party were taken to the lighthouse in the pass,
and arrangements were made to send them to Key West. The major was
extremely cool and formal in his manner to all, but Mrs. Dunn cheered
them the best she could.

Miss Marion Harsha paid some attention to Captain Smart, more than is
usual to a yacht captain; but Smart appeared tired and unresponsive.

"You saved my life," said the girl indulgently, when they were alone
at the lighthouse. "You saved me from a very disagreeable death--and I
shall never be able to repay you. The major acted abominably. Won't you
forget what I said at Key West?"

"Most certainly," said Smart, "but not what you meant. I was a
fool--and paid the penalty. I'll go back to the liner to-morrow.
There's a great difference between the way we've lived. It could never
be forgotten. I forgive you with all my heart, and if you'll allow me,
I'll kiss you good-bye."

The next day Smart and his owner--owner no longer, for his vessel
was too badly wrecked to use again as a yacht--rowed out to get what
personal belongings they wanted before starting for Key West. Upon the
deck of the _Sayonara_ stood the giant mate of the _Sea-Horse_.

"What yo' want abo'd here?" asked the black man, as they came alongside.

"What d' you mean?" asked Dunn smartly.

"Well, this here wessel was abandoned--left by her crew--an' I be here
to take charge," drawled the black. "Yo' cayn't take nothin' away from
her without my permission. Ef yo' want to make a deal wid the skipper,
he's abo'd de _Sea-Horse_. We generally claims two-third salvage. Yo'
kin make de deal wid him--see?"

Dunn didn't see, but Smart finally convinced him of the truth. It was
humiliating, but there was no help for it--it was the law.

"Right fine ship, cap'n," leered Bahama Bill to Smart, after things
were settled; "seems a shame to have to wrack her. Wouldn't yo' like a
job as cook till yo' git another berth?"

Later they towed her hull into Key West.



IX

The Survivor


"Light dead ahead and close aboard, sir," said the mate in a tone of
anxiety, as he poked his streaming sou'wester down the companionway.

Captain Johnson was bending over his chart, his parallel ruler placed
firmly on east by south. The droning roar of the gale overhead and
the booming of the storm canvas and taut standing rigging made the
officer's voice sound strangely expressionless. The slight nervousness
evident in the lowness of the tone was the only thing that made the
master look up.

The swinging lamp cast a strong light upon the articles of his room,
and as he took up his sou'wester and tied the strings under his chin,
he caught a momentary glimpse of a photograph pinned over his desk. The
wild rolling and plunging of the ship caused him to brace himself for
a moment, and he stood with legs apart, swaying, to keep his balance.
The picture was of his wife and children; those for whom he toiled at
sea, and he thought of them the moment he made ready to go on deck. He
was only a moment getting ready, for he had kept on his rubber boots
and coat, but in that moment his thoughts went to the home ashore. He
loved those children, and he adored the woman who was their mother.
They were all of his world ashore, and it was for that little world he
worked and strove at sea.

In less than a minute after the mate had called he was on deck gazing
through his night glasses at the light ahead. He was almost in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the light was bright, the headlight
of some steamer. Her side lights had not yet appeared through the drift
and spume of the gale, but the headlight was bright and it was not
changing its bearings, which was the bad sign that had worried the mate.

Johnson knew he had the right of way. Every man who knows anything of
the rules at sea knows the sailing ship has the right of way over a
steamer, and Johnson knew he was hove-to under storm canvas and must
not give way or change his course. For him to get out of the steamer's
way would put the burden of blame for anything that might happen upon
himself, for it might confuse the steamer, which would, of course, at
the right time shift her course and go clear.

But the light ahead grew brighter, and the moments were flying like
the gale. The light was right over the jibboom end when the ship
fell downward into the sea. Then it would swing to leeward a little,
and then as the next sea swung her head off it would appear on the
weather bow. Yes, it bore almost dead ahead and it was not changing its
bearings.

The mate was getting nervous.

"Shall we keep her off, sir?" he asked.

"No, hold your course," came the order.

Ten men of the watch on deck had their eyes upon the light. They
gave it small attention, however, for they knew, of course, that the
steamer would sheer clear of them. The watch below and the passengers
were sleeping as well as the rolling and plunging of the vessel would
permit, and they were concerned not at all with lights. Those below in
a ship know nothing of the strenuous life of those on deck.

"I can see his red light, sir," came the voice of the mate, strained
and hoarse with excitement, and raised to a loud cry.

But Johnson could see the green light also, and he saw they were
equally distant on either side of and below the bright eye which was
bearing down upon them. The vessel was now close aboard, and of a
sudden he felt his heart give a great bound under his ribs.

"Hard up the wheel," he roared. "Hard up, hard up--quick," and as he
roared out he sprang to the spanker sheet and cast it off, letting
the sail go to leeward with a thundering thrashing. Sharp cries came
from forward where the men on lookout saw the danger and passed the
word aft. And then as he turned, Johnson saw the giant bulk of a liner
showing dimly through the gloom of the stormy night. A hundred little
lights showed in her upper works. He even saw a man on her forecastle
head peering forward, and then the great black stem rose above him,
and with a thundering crash and rushing roar it tore its way through
his ship almost amidships.

For a moment which seemed an age, the great black side of the hull rose
before his vision, grinding, smashing, tearing its irresistible way
past. Then the great black demon of destruction drew away and faded
into the gloom, leaving nothing but a boiling sea forward of where the
mainmast had been. The next minute the wild sea of the Western Ocean
closed over what had been a short time before a fine ship.

Johnson found himself facing a living hill which rose against the
night sky. Above it a great comber roared and foamed down upon him as
the top of the sea broke and fell downward along the slope. He was in
the sea and the water was warm, warmer than the air had been when on
deck. He had on his rubber boots and oilskins, and he wondered why he
still floated. He had heard that men with boots on sank at once. He
remembered this distinctly and he struck out strongly as the foaming
crest of the comber swept over him and smothered him down into the
blackness beneath. He kept struggling and his head came out into the
night again. The wind swept over his face, driving the foam and spume
so that he could not see or breathe, but he knew he was still upon the
surface of the sea. He turned his back toward it and managed to get a
little breath. Then, half blinded and strangling with the brine, he
struck out again.

It suddenly occurred to him that the steamer would stop and try to
pick up the wrecked crew, but then he knew it would be impossible to
lower a boat that night, and the masters of liners seldom stopped for
anything. Transatlantic express steamers hardly ever stopped in good
weather for a man overboard in daylight. Never unless they could see
him distinctly upon the surface. If those upon the steamer could not
see a four-masted schooner under storm canvas with her lights burning
brightly, they would hardly hope to see a floating man who could not be
seen ten fathoms distant by the sharpest eyes in that wind and sea. He
tried to raise himself to see if the hull of the vessel was still in
view, or if she were burning lights, but not even a Coston flare was
visible. There was nothing save the desolate storm-lashed sea.

He had kicked off his rubber boots in a few moments, as they were
dragging him down, and being a powerful man he struggled steadily to
rid himself of his oilskins. Death had not made his appearance yet.
He could not come upon a strong man so quickly while that man had his
powers still left him to fight with. The very thought of the ending
made him exert more power and a sudden realization of his position
caused him to tear off his coat in a frantic effort. The faces of those
he had left at home came before his half-blinded vision. He knew he was
facing almost certain death, and that it would come quickly if no one
picked him up. He was apparently alone in the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean, and the steamer had kept on her course after completing the
destruction of his ship. The rest of his crew must also have gone
overboard. There were twenty-five souls all told, and he cursed the
men of the steamer who had caused their sudden end. It had been vile
carelessness. It had been more than brutal disregard for life. Their
callousness amazed him, and he had been to sea many years and knew its
heartlessness.

What would his family do without him? He could see their amazed and
terrified looks when the news would be brought to them. His poor wife
who adored him and whose only thought had been for him and the little
ones. No, he could not die. No, no, by God, he would not die. He shook
the water from his face and dashed it out of his eyes with his hand,
and raised his head again for a look. The snoring roar of a comber
sounded near, but even as he noted it he thought he heard the surging
wash of something floating heavily in the sea. He knew there might be
pieces of wreck about him. It was a chance and he flung himself high
out of the water to see. The next instant the bursting wave fell over
him and bore him down again into the blackness below. It seemed a long
time it held him down, and he was exhausted when he got his head out
again and drew in a mixture of water and air. A few more heavy seas
and he would be very weak. The knowledge of it caused a terror within
him. His heart began to beat rapidly. The end was really approaching in
spite of his struggles. He was beginning to realize it, to realize that
death could win after all.

But the thought of those ashore still steadied him. He must do his
utmost. Had he been alone in the world the futility of his exertions
would have been instantly apparent. He would have made a slight,
ordinary effort, the effort of the animal who instinctively fears
death, but his reason would have quickly told him that the sooner he
went under the better it would be for him. He would have died like the
twenty-five souls who had been in his care half an hour before. But he,
no, he could not go, he would swim on, and on, and on.

He had been in the water half an hour now and he saw nothing but the
house where his family lived. The sun was shining bright and the grass
was green near the front gate. His wife stood upon the front steps and
smiled at him. He reached toward her, but she seemed to recede and
smile at him, leading him on, and on, and on.

He was still swimming but did not know it. His breath had gone to
little choking gasps which hardly reached his half-filled lungs. His
jaws were working spasmodically, clinching under the strain and opening
to gasp out the briny mixture which he was forced to breathe. But
always before his vision, before his blinded eyes, was that picture of
his home. The whirling, choking blackness around him seemed to close
in upon him. He stopped time and again to drive the drowning spray and
spume from his face. He was drowning. The wind and sea were too heavy
for a man to face for any length of time. The great combing crests of
the seas swept over him, and it was only by that dogged, persistent
effort to reach the vision before him that he managed to keep himself
upon the surface after the smothering foam held him under. Once he
seemed to realize his hopeless surroundings and raised himself out to
the shoulders to try to see. He happened to be upon the lee slope of a
hill of water and he got a momentary glimpse of the turmoil about him.
All around was the gloom of the night, lit here and there by the white
flashes of foam. It dawned upon his fading senses that he had reached
the limit, he was going under, there was no hope.

Like the lamp that flares up before it dies, the flame of his life rose
again in one more desperate resolve. He would keep on fighting, he
would not go.

The pitiful futility of his struggle roused his expiring senses to a
strange fury. He struck out fiercely, driving himself ahead before the
wind and raising himself with each stroke. He sank into the hollow of
a great sea, the slopes on either hand raised high above him and he
was in a sheltered spot for a second. The surging wash of some heavy
floating thing again came to his half-filled ears, and as he rose upon
the crest he made a mighty effort. He raised himself and shook the
water from his face. Right alongside of him lay a black object outlined
by a white fringe of foam which now and then showed phosphorescent
flares. He had been swimming now for more than fifty minutes.

With failing brain and cramping muscles he strove for it, swimming,
striking, reaching, the last expiring effort of a dying man who dies
hard in the full powers of his manhood. His headway through the water
was almost nothing. He was not a good swimmer. Few sailors can swim
at all. A sea hurled him close to the object, and another swept him
clear out of sight of it. Then one drove him against it heavily and he
clutched frantically for a hand-hold.

When he set his fingers upon an edge about three feet above the
surface he hung and rested. His senses were failing and he fought
instinctively. Something within him seemed to tell him that he must
get upon that object, that he must get clear of the water about him,
and he rested before making the effort which must decide his fate. It
was a high lift for an exhausted man and he set his strength slowly
and persistently, hauling steadily with all his remaining energy. He
managed to get his face level with the edge, but here he stopped. His
head wobbled weakly with the surge of the sea. His eyes were closed and
his jaws set. The sunshine seemed to play upon the green grass before
him and the form of his wife stood beckoning. He sank an inch lower. A
sea washed over him and he was slipping slowly back as it went past.
He gave a choking cry, a strangling groan of despair and slipped down
again into the sea just as a hand reached over the edge and closed upon
his shirt collar.

The sun was shining and the wind-swept sea presented a beautiful
aspect the following morning. The water broke over the lower edge
of the deck-house upon which he lay, but only reached to his feet,
foaming down the slant until it made a whirlpool in a mass of line
which floated in a tangle. A line about his waist was made fast to a
ring-bolt near him, and sitting alongside of him, with his head thrust
forward peering out over the sea, was Garfunkle, his second mate.

An exclamation and their eyes met. Johnson raised himself to a sitting
posture, though the pain in his cramped limbs made him groan.

"The forrad house, eh?" he said.

"Yessir," said the mate.

"You saved me?"

"Yessir, I just heard your call in time. You were done for, but were
right within a foot of me. It was dark."

"No one else but us two?" asked the captain.

"All gone, sir, and it looks like we are going. There won't be another
ship this way in a week. That was the West India liner, _Hammersea_,
from Kingston to Liverpool, who ran us down. I saw the name on one of
her boats that was torn off her. It was smashed up and floating close
aboard us an hour ago."

"To run a man down is carelessness, but to leave him afterwards is
murder," said Johnson with bitterness.

They were about six hundred miles from the Bahamas and to the eastward
of the Stream. The water was warm and blue and the sea was going down.
The easterly weather was dying out and the semi-tropical warmth was
taking its place. Near them several dark objects showed now and again
upon the slopes of the seas, and they knew they must be débris from the
sunken ship.

Johnson had probably not swam over twenty fathoms in the whole
desperate endeavour he had made the night before. The darkness had
prevented him from making any definite course and he had swum with the
drift of the house. Garfunkle had been swept overboard with the wreck
of the mainmast; the stem of the steamer had torn its way through the
forward house, knocking it overboard. It was the only thing that had
floated clear, for the spars were all stayed with steel rigging and the
lanyards of the lee rigging had held against the shock although the
mainmast had been driven out of her. The great spar had been dragged
down with the sinking ship, but the house had floated clear and was
resting upon its side. In the open doorway they could see clothes and
sea-chests which had remained in the forecastle and which had not been
washed out with the force of the sea.

They were weak and exhausted from the night of effort, but they went to
work at a chest and dragged it through the door and upon the slanting
side of the house. It sent the float down a good foot in the sea, but
they persisted in the hope of finding something of value. The chest was
almost empty. It contained a few clothes, a Bible and a large revolver,
the cartridges still intact within the chambers. Johnson stuck the
weapon in his waist-band, and his mate placed the Bible and clothes
clear of the sea. Then he kicked the chest adrift. It floated off,
setting high upon the water and looking absurdly out of place.

"Nothing to eat--nothing to drink--looks pretty bad," said Garfunkle.

Johnson made no comment. He was grateful that he was still alive, and
being a sailor he felt that it was a long way between that floating
deck-house and drowning. He would get ashore again soon enough, and
would not let his wife or children know how near he had come to
passing. It would be simply a money loss. He had owned several shares
in the schooner, and she had been a fine ship, paying twenty per cent.,
but he would get another and go on as before. If he ever caught up with
the pilot of that steamer, he would see that the fellow gave an account
of himself. His cargo had been insured fully, and the underwriters
would make things hot for the rascal who had so ruthlessly run him down.

The first day passed without incident of importance. The pangs of
hunger were beginning to be felt keenly by both men upon the float.
Johnson was cheerful but Garfunkle was pessimistic and grumbled
continually. He stood up every now and then to scan the horizon, but
nothing broke the evenness of the dark blue rim.

The second day it was hot and calm. Both men took off their clothes and
cooled themselves in the sea until a huge shadow rising alongside made
them hasten up the slanting side of their float. A great tiger shark
rose at the edge of the house, and taking a shove, sent his broad nose
up the slanting side until it almost touched their feet. Then he slid
back again into the sea and swam slowly around the house, coming back
again to the side that sloped into the water for another effort to get
his prey. The men were more amused than frightened at his attempts.
Garfunkle stripped a plank off the edge where it had been shattered,
and at the monster's third effort he drove the ragged sharpened point
deep into its eye. He floundered back into the sea and remained
motionless some ten fathoms distant upon the surface. A smaller denizen
of the same species came up and tried the same method, but he was
rapped sharply over the head and he kept away. But as the darkness came
on, the men realized that they must not relax their vigilance, for the
hungry fish made other attempts to get them.

The morning of the third day Garfunkle was delirious. He raved about
water and stood up oftener to scan the sea. Johnson was very weak,
but kept his senses. He noticed a floating object near at hand and
soon made out the sunken small boat torn from the steamer's side. As
the morning wore on it drifted nearer and finally came alongside. He
grasped the painter and managed to get the mate to give him a hand.
Together they managed to drag the boat's bow up the slope of the float,
and they saw that the plank at the stem just below the water-line had
been smashed in. Weakened as he was, Johnson determined to patch it
and accordingly set to work. By placing a piece of the house planking
on the outside and lashing it fast with the line, he managed to get
the leak stopped sufficiently to allow the bailing of the craft. Then
by getting into the stern, they kept the leak clear of the sea and
the boat was safe enough. Searching through the locker aft, where
the food for emergency was kept, they came upon the case of biscuit,
water-soaked, to be sure, but still in partly solid shape. They ate
some and felt better for a time, but their thirst was aggravated. The
small water-breaker usually kept in lifeboats was missing. Under the
thwarts was a sail, and one oar was still fast in her bottom. Johnson
cut the lashings and drew the gear out. It would be of service to them
for a rudder.

The hunger pains had died away by the fourth day, but their thirst was
terrible. A man may go for days upon water alone, but without it he can
last only a short time under a warm sun. By keeping their bodies wet
they eased themselves a little, but not much. The absorption through
the skin was insufficient to do them much good. Time and again, they
seemed to see a ship bearing down upon them and one or the other would
cry out, but after a while they desisted. The sea was a heaving plain
as far as the sight could reach, unbroken by a single object. The deep
blue turned to a deeper steel-gray nearer the horizon in the calm,
meeting the almost cloudless sky in a haze. There was no wind, but
they must get away. To remain any longer on the house was to invite a
terrible death. It might be the same thing in the boat, but they would
at least feel that they were going somewhere, getting nearer to help
and water.

It was water, always water. The liquid around them made the madness of
thirst double. They had gazed down into the clear depths for hours,
seeing visions of streams of fresh water, craving to plunge into them,
the burning and all-consuming thirst in their throats waxing more and
more intense. They had no longer any idea of hunger. The ship's bread
they left untouched, for it was wet with salt water and the slightest
bit of that liquid made them frantic. They could have just as well
drunk pure alcohol.

Garfunkle was for starting off at once. He had become rational again,
but his eyes held a certain light when they met the captain's that
told of the madness in his brain. He always lowered them when Johnson
looked at him, but he spoke always in a low, soft voice now, a sort of
purring, and Johnson knew it was the purring of the famished tiger.
Garfunkle was a big man and very powerful. He had risen to mate's berth
as much by his physical abilities as mental. He was stripped to the
waist, and his body, which he had kept wet, was burned to a bright
red by the sun. The patch of hair on his broad chest showed in marked
contrast to the surrounding skin. Johnson had kept his shirt on his
back and saved himself the extra annoyance of the sun. He preferred to
shiver a bit at night than to burn during the daytime.

When they had stepped the mast and made all ready for a start, they
noticed some small fish swimming close to the edge of the float.
The dorsal fin of a large shark lay twenty fathoms distant upon the
surface of the sea, and they wondered at the carelessness of the fish
who ignored it. They seemed quite tame, and Johnson took the piece
of wood they had used to keep off the sharks, whittled the end into
a fresh point and lay at full length upon the house, his idea being
to spear a few of the small fry and take them along for food. He was
quite weak and his brain was dizzy. The exertion of mending the boat
was exhausting and he made many ineffectual attempts to strike the fish
without looking up.

Suddenly he was aware of a feeling of danger. He turned and saw
Garfunkle stealthily coming upon him with the upraised oar. There was
a wild look in the mate's eyes, but he grinned when Johnson turned
and began a soft speech, half incoherent. Johnson was lying down, but
managed to draw the pistol he had kept in his belt. The mate smiled,
put the oar back into the boat and suddenly shoved her clear of the
house, springing into her and sitting down upon a thwart.

Johnson looked at him, dazed, half understanding, his brain reeling in
the sunshine.

"Come back," he said calmly.

Garfunkle grinned at him and grasped the sheet, hauled it aft and put
the oar over the stern for a rudder. There was no wind and the boat
remained motionless. The mate began to scull away slowly.

"Come back," said Johnson in a low tone.

The mate turned his back upon him and as the boat's head payed off,
kept her on her course to the westward.

"Come back," said Johnson again.

The boat drew slowly off. She was ten fathoms before Johnson realized
that he was being deserted. Garfunkle sculled her slowly, the sail
slatting with the roll of the sea.

Johnson still held the revolver. It came upon him suddenly that he was
being left, that he was lost. The vision of the home ashore flashed
before him, the green grass and white cottage, with his smiling wife
and romping children. He was being left to die.

He drew the hammer of the revolver back and raised the weapon, letting
the front sight stop full upon the middle of Garfunkle's back between
the shoulders. He hesitated, and as he did so he remembered that the
man had saved his life but a few days before. He would have drowned
but for the rescuing grip which hauled him upon the house. He let the
weapon sink until its muzzle touched the planks, and he put his left
hand to his head to try to help his reeling brain to reason properly.
No, he could not die. The vision of the home ashore came stronger to
him. It was not for himself alone that he would live, but live he must,
and would.

The sights of the pistol settled again upon the back of his mate. He
was twenty fathoms distant and drifting slowly away. Johnson pressed
the trigger.

The report jarred him. The puff of smoke disappeared at once into the
air, and he saw Garfunkle look around and grin. Then the mate stood up,
reeled, staggered, and plunged headlong overboard. He saw him no more.

Without waiting an instant Johnson swam toward the craft and managed to
gain her. He had forgotten about the sharks, but nothing struck him. He
took the oar the mate had dropped in the water alongside, and after he
climbed aboard he trimmed the sheet and settled himself in the stern,
making the oar fast in a becket. If he let go of it now he would not
lose it. The sun was in the west and he headed away, steering as near
as he could guess for the Bahamas.

The wrecking sloop _Sea-Horse_ was coming along up the coast and the
captain, Sanders, of Key West, noticed something floating upon the
broad stretch of sea which looked like a small white boat. Boats were
not met with so far off shore, and the object sat so low in the water
and appeared without control that the skipper of the wrecker called his
mate.

"What d'ye make of that, Bill?" said he, pointing to the white speck.

Bahama Bill, the huge negro diver and wrecker, looked long and intently
at it.

"'Pears to me like it was er wrack, cap--what? Looks to be a stove-in
boat, an' I reckon we might as well pick her up--maybe we kin fix her
to be ob use wid a little paint and putty. Ennyways, we kin sell her to
some dub in Miami en clar enough fo' de trouble--what yo' say, cap?"

"Oh, let her head up to it if you want to," said Sanders. "I don't like
running out of my line when I'm in a hurry, but if you want her, get
her. I reckon we might pass her off for a few dollars--stand by the
main sheet."

"Ship's boat--yassir, dat's a ship's boat fo' shuah, cap," said the
giant mate as the wrecking vessel drew nearer. "Must be some ob de
wrack hereabouts--we better lay by en take a look eround, yassir."

"Let her luff a little," called Sanders to the man at the wheel.
"Steady--so, let her go, jest so--steady--Good God! What--There's a man
in her--"

"Stand by de jib sheet," roared Bahama Bill. "Yo' kin let her come to
when yo' ready, sah--I'll stand by toe ketch him, sah."

The huge mate leaned far over the side of the _Sea-Horse_ and with a
mighty grip seized the floating small craft by the gunwale. She was
half full of water, but he sprang into her and passed up her painter
to a man on deck while the wrecking sloop plunged and bucked into the
sea, her sails slatting and switching as she lay right in the wind.
In a moment the mate had lifted the body and passed it aboard and the
half-sunken small boat was dropped astern.

They poured water between his sun-baked lips and upon his swollen,
livid tongue. In a few hours the corpse showed signs of life, but
the blue-black face was motionless for days, and they had reached
Jacksonville before the man's features relaxed enough for him to
speak. He could not make himself understood, and it was three weeks
later, when he was able to sit up in the cot at the seaman's hospital,
before he could tell of his affair.

He was discharged as cured and went to his home. He had heard nothing
from his wife and supposed she had heard nothing concerning him. When
he entered the gate he noticed that all was silent about the place. A
neighbour accosted him and asked who he was, but he was put out at the
delay and refused to tell his business. Then the man told him how the
news had come in that he had gone down in his ship nearly a month ago
and that his wife had failed and died within a week.

He listened silently, and when the man finished he went into the house.

They found him dead that evening with a bullet-hole between the eyes.

"Crazy with grief," said the neighbours who knew his home life. The
doctor who examined him thought differently.

"There is absolutely nothing abnormal about him," said the physician.
"He looks like a man who has gotten tired out--clean exhausted with the
futility of some great effort--look at his face."



X

On the Great Bahama Bank


Stormalong Journegan was a Conch, a native of the Bahamas. He stood six
feet four inches upon his thin spindle-shanks, and it is doubtful if he
ever weighed more than one hundred pounds; no, not even when soaking
wet. He was thin.

He lit up for the night, wiped the bar free from the gin and bitters
spilled there by a drunken customer, and then turned to survey his
room, waiting for the whistle of the liner. It was the night the ship
was due, the giant New York mail liner, ten thousand tons and not less
than three hundred passengers. All of these would be thirsty, for the
weather is always warm in Key West in the early spring.

Journegan was a "spouter." That is, he had been with a religious bunch
of reefers, and he was free to make use of the Scriptures--too free
entirely to suit the orthodox ecclesiastics of Key West. Over the sign
of "The Cayo Huesso" the legend ran thus: "As it was in the beginning,
it is now," showing that Journegan was not a reformer at all, but
believed in the Bible and the true creed. And the worst of it all
was that he was accurate in his quotations; not only accurate, but
invincible and gifted with that terrible weapon--an unfailing memory.

"Why do you use such blasphemy?" asked a divine, shocked at the sign
and its motto.

"I was taught that there creed by a better man than you, suh, and he
said: 'As it ware in the beginning, it is now, an' ever shall be, world
without end. Amen.' I heard ye say them same words onct when I 'tended
meetin'. What ye got agin' 'em, hey?"

"Nothing at all--nothing at all."

"Then cl'ar out. Git erlong. Don't come makin' no trouble fer me. I
don't ask ye to drink--git away."

"Yes, sir," went on Journegan, turning to an approaching customer.
"It's the same now as it always ware--same as it ware in the
beginning--always shall be just the same--human nature never changes,
not at all. There'll always be the bad, and always be the good. The bad
are the strong gone wrong. The good are the weak tryin' to make good;
sometimes they're strong too, but very seldom. Strength and goodness
don't go together except in rare cases, but when a good man's strong,
he's sure nuff strong.

"Ye see, we've all got a livin' to make. We hire men to study religion
for us and pay 'em to preach it out of pulpits--yes, sir, actually pay
'em to git up and preach about th' Gospel as if you or me couldn't
read or write! What's the sense? What's the sense of paying a man for
doing something you can do yourself just as well? If salvation depends
on a fellow's ability to translate the Gospel, then it's a mighty
poor Gospel for poor folk--but it don't. It's a good livin' they make
preachin', and I for one don't take no offense at a feller chargin' for
his talk; not that he knows any more than you or me--'cause he can't
know a blame bit more--but we've all got to live, an' the feller what
talks has to live, too. Let him live by talk. Let me live by sellin'
things. I don't ask no favours, but I don't want no guy what jest talks
an' talks fer money to come around an' bother me--that's all; yes,
that's erbout all, I reckon."

You will see that Journegan was very popular with the strong men who
worked and very unpopular with the men who preached.

"Your head is as long as your body," admitted Captain Smart, entering
the gilded hall. "What you say goes, Stormalong--gimme a drink."

"Goin' to meet the ship?" asked Journegan.

"Yep, I'm goin' back in her if I get the chance," said Smart. "I've
been on the beach here a week now. Dunn settled up his wrecking bill
with that fellow 'Bahama Bill' and Captain Sanders and their gang, and
that lets me out. I'm out a good berth. She was a fine yacht."

"'Twasn't your fault you lost her, I heard tell," said Journegan, with
a leer.

"I did all I could," admitted Smart, "but I lost her, just the same.
There is no excuse for the loser, you know."

"Yep, I knows well enough," said Journegan slowly, as if thinking over
something. "'Peared to be leakin' badly all o' a sudden-like, hey?"

"Yes, started to leak during the blow, or just before it. A bit of hard
luck you may say."

"Well, you'll know more about the reef if you stay here a while."

There was some strange meaning in Stormalong's tone, and it was not
lost on Smart.

"You are the second man who has said something to that effect," said
the seaman. "Now, what the devil do you mean by it?"

"Oh, nothing much. No use getting worked up by what I said. You don't
know much about the ways of folk along the reef and bank. That's
all--there goes the whistle of the liner."

A deep-toned siren roared out over the quiet waters of the reef,
sounding far away to sea, and seemed to be coming from some distant
point to the southward. Smart recognized it as the call of his ship,
the ship he had left months before for the sake of a woman.

He drank off his liquor and started for the dock, making his way along
the white roadway and joining the throng of Conchs who lazily walked
toward the shore to see the great liner make her landing. She was a new
ship, a ship of huge tonnage for a Southern liner, and it was a treat
to watch her officers dock her. Slowly she came drifting in toward the
land, her mighty engines sending the white coral water moving gently
from her stern.

Her giant bows came near the landing. A tiny figure flung a filmy line
through the air, a line so small in proportion to her great bulk that
it seemed but a spider-web. But behind it followed a great hawser,
and a dozen lazy black men hauled it ashore and threw the loop over a
pile-end.

Then a shrill whistle sounded, and the deep rumble of the engines told
of the backing strain. She swung alongside the wharf finally and made
fast her stern and spring-lines. Then a gangway shot out, and the
captain came quickly down, followed by a swarm of passengers.

As the ship was to stop only a half-hour at Key West, her commander had
to make a quick clearance and entry, taking on some fifty passengers
who were in the cigar business and who made Key West an important stop
on that account. They were all through first-class to New York. Smart
joined Captain Flanagan while he walked briskly toward the customhouse.
The skipper shook his hand warmly, and asked how he came to be down
there. Then followed the story of the wreck of a yacht, and the tale
of an officer out of a berth, all of which Flanagan listened to with
waning interest. The old, old story was uncommonly dull to him. He was
powerless to do anything, and he spoke forth.

"It's no use of talking about it any more, Smart. You know the rules
of the company as well as I do. You know there are other men waiting
to step into berths, and when a man steps out like you did it's up to
him to stay out and give the rest a chance. How would you like to have
a man come back into a ship and block you for perhaps twenty years? No,
it won't do, even if I could do it. You are out. Stay out, unless you
want to start in again at the foot, as a third mate."

"No, I can't drop to that position at my age," said Smart sadly. "I'm
holding a master's ticket, and if you can't take me on as a second at
least, why, all right, I'll have to ship somewhere else."

"I'm mighty sorry, old man," said Flanagan, "but you know it's not my
fault. It's the rules of the company, and if I took you on to New York
you would be dropped as soon as we landed. I can give you a passage up,
if you want it. Here's a key to the stateroom--take it."

"No, you don't. If I stay ashore, I stay right here. Don't worry about
me. I'll try to make good. I know I was a fool, but sometimes we all
play the fool. Good-bye, and good luck. How does the ship run?"

Flanagan was gone. The light of Stormalong's shone out brightly in
the distance. Smart kept his eyes upon them for a long time, and
wandered about the streets. The warning whistle of the liner blew for a
farewell, and as the sound roared out upon the night the seaman turned
away and went up the street.


II

Captain Smart was in a particularly uncomfortable mood. He had left
the liner for a woman, a woman whom he desired and whom he thought
worth any sacrifice. Later he discovered that she was selfish to the
core. He had expected companionship, love, and sympathy. He had found
cold, calculating animalism: a brutality all the more horrible for its
refinement, for its servitude to wealth and position. Yes, she had
told him plainly just how she felt about it, and had made it perfectly
plain that she would mate only with some one who could place her in
surroundings which she desired, not what she would get as the wife of
a seaman, a captain of a ship. And he could not blame her. No, it was
manifestly not her fault. It was the fault of the society in which she
had been brought up. It had stifled the woman in her and developed the
snob to an extent that would admit of no choice on the part of either.

He had seen his mistake, and the loss of the yacht upon which she was a
guest had given him a chance to complete the affair, to get away from
all the familiar surroundings. Now he was "on the beach."

"On the beach," to a sailor means without a ship and without money.
Smart had neither ship nor money, but he had a strong constitution
and high spirits, and the lights of Stormalong's were still burning
brightly down the long, smooth road.

He entered and noticed that the tables were full. A company of men were
playing cards at the farthest end of the saloon, and he made his way
toward them. A game of poker always fascinated him, and he hung over
the back of a player, watching his cards and noting the manner he
threw away a high pair to fill a flush.

"Would ye like to set in?" asked Stormalong, who had come over to get
an order for drinks.

"I wouldn't mind setting in for a short time," Smart nodded. "No
all-night séance for me, and quit when you want to."

"Gents," began the saloon-keeper, "this is Captain Smart, of the
schooner--ah, well, never mind that, hey? Well, Smart was chief officer
of the ship just gone out. He's got the dough, and kin play a keard or
two, if you give him a chance."

"Set right in here, cap," said a thick-set, sunburnt man whose calling
was manifest in his face. "I'm a reefer, an' run a sponger, but I
reckon I kin play with yer."

"You make five--just right for luck," was the greeting of another, a
thin, eagle-nosed fellow who declared that his name was Smith--Wilson
Smith.

A man with a thick growth of beard nodded to him across the board, and
a squat, twinkling-eyed little fellow, with the hue of the tobacco
factory upon him, held out his hand. "My name's Jacobs--traveller for
the Garcias'--glad to meet you."

The cards were dealt round afresh, and Smart took up his hand. For some
time nothing occurred to distract the attention of the players from
the game, but gradually their talk and the clink of money as they made
change attracted the crowd.

Smart was aware of a huge form just behind him, and, glancing up,
he looked right into the face of Bahama Bill, the black mate of the
wrecking-sloop _Sea-Horse_. A huge grin was upon the black man's ugly
face, and he laid his enormous hand upon Smart's shoulder. "Huh, how
yo' is, cap? Thought you'd gone away fo' sho. Stopped to teach 'em how
toe play de game, huh? Yah, yah, ya-a-a!"

"Stormalong," broke in Wilson Smith, "I don't want to appear rude, but
I draw the colour line sometimes, especially at keards. If the big
nigger standing behind us will sit down or move along, it'll facilitate
the game some."

Bahama Bill heard the remarks, but, being in a white man's saloon,
he said nothing. He showed his teeth in a mirthless smile, a smile
which boded no good for the man who had spoken and who was evidently a
stranger to him.

Stormalong motioned to the wrecker to sit down, and Bill did so without
comment. He was well known and fairly well liked, and his record
allowed him some privileges which were not accorded to men of his
race. Being part owner as well as mate of the wrecking-sloop made him
a person of more or less note. Therefore Stormalong furnished him with
unlimited rum, which he paid for from a wad of bills which made the
observers gaze with surprise. Mr. Dunn, the owner of the yacht which
Smart had lost, had been trimmed very cleanly. The salvage on her had
been large for so small a vessel, owing to the valuable silverware,
furnishings, and other fittings.


III

The game progressed slowly, but Wilson Smith began to win little by
little. Smart suddenly found he held three aces. He raised the limit
before drawing, and discarded two cards, hoping to draw another ace.
Jacobs, the cigar man, came in, and Smith raised it one better, which
Smart made good, the other two men dropping out.

Bahama Bill had drunk several glasses of rum by this time, and he again
appeared to fix his attention upon the game, but not so as to attract
attention, standing well back of all but keeping his eyes fixed in a
steady gaze upon the thin-faced man's cards.

The cards were dealt, and Smart drew a pair of queens, filling, and
thus holding a strong hand. Jacobs drew one card, and quietly slipped
it into his hand. His face was emotionless, and he puffed lazily at his
cigar, complacently cocked up at a high angle in his jaws. Smith drew
four cards, and, after conning his hand carefully, bet a dollar.

Jacobs raised, and Captain Smart came upon him for the limit. Wilson
Smith, to the surprise of all, raised back the limit. The cigar man was
game, and came again. Smart holding an ace-full, could not, of course,
let it pass him, so he again raised it.

"We all bein' so mighty peart about our hands--let's throw the limit
off," suggested Smith.

"I'm more'n willin'," agreed Jacobs. "What d'ye say, cap?"

"I haven't much money"--Smart hesitated--"and just came in the game to
pass the time, but if the rest are willing, I'll stay."

Wilson Smith looked around approvingly. "I'll make it fifty dollars
better than what there's in it." He drew a cigar from his pocket and
lit it with an easy air.

"I'll have to make it two hundred better," Jacobs protested grimly. "I
hate to gamble, but I can't let a hand like this pass me."

"Oh, I haven't any money like that." Captain Smart's brows were raised
in surprise. "Fifty is all I can show."

"Well, I'm sorry about that," said Jacobs. "Of course we'll give you a
show, but the limit was put off on purpose to let us play keards."

Smart was aware of a heavy hand upon his shoulder. He turned, and found
Bahama Bill standing close to him.

"Take dis hear, cap." And Bill thrust an enormous roll of bills unto
his pile upon the table. "I'll stand by toe see yo' through."

Wilson Smith looked up again, and then called for Stormalong Journegan.

"Journegan," said he, "this is the second time I have had to speak to
you about being annoyed. If it happens again there'll be trouble."

"Play poker," came a voice from the crowd.

Smart gazed about him for a moment. It was evident that the mate of the
_Sea-Horse_ had an object in putting up his cash. He was quick-witted
enough to see that it was best to go ahead without making any comment.
He could stop after this hand.

Bahama Bill drew back at a sign from Journegan, but still fixed his
gaze upon Smith's hand. It seemed as though he had seen the hands of
the men, and was betting upon the best. Smart could think of no other
reason for the money being left him, and he felt certain that he would
win. Bill was just backing the hand he had seen to be the winner.

As long as that was the case he would go the limit. He counted out five
hundred dollars and laid it upon the table. Then he picked up his cards
again and skimmed over the squeezers, waiting for the end.

Jacobs drew out the amount to make good, and the thin-faced man felt
in his pocket for his roll. He bent over in doing this, and as he did
so he held his cards close to his breast in his left hand. He was
still fumbling in his trousers pocket with his right when a black hand
suddenly reached over his shoulder and drew forth a complete "hold-out"
from under his waistcoat where his hand pressed. The movement was so
quick, so powerful, and so disconcerting, that for an instant there was
a silence, and the fellow threw up his head. The next moment he had
drawn his gun, a long, blue-barrelled revolver of heavy pattern, and
had swung it up over his shoulder and fired like a flash of lightning
into Bahama Bill.

Instantly there was an uproar, and above the noise of the struggling
mass of men there sounded the bull-like bass of the mate of the
_Sea-Horse_: "I got yo' fer sho, Skinny Ike--I got yo'."


IV

Captain Smart grabbed what money he could get hands upon, and while
thus engaged the cigar man dealt him a powerful blow over the shoulders
with a chair. It had been meant for his head, but instead it landed
upon the heavy muscles Smart had earned by hard work hauling lines.
He gave a yell, and sprang upon his assailant. Just then Stormalong
Journegan opened with his gun, and the quick firing drowned all other
sounds.

Through the smoke of the fight Smart saw his man, and smote him with
all his power upon the jaw. The fellow went down and out. Many of the
bystanders had been with the crooks, probably a gang of six or more,
and these fell upon Smart and Bahama Bill.

Smart found himself fighting two quick, agile fellows who struck at him
with weapons he could not distinguish. The rest piled upon the giant
mate while Journegan fired upon the bunch, taking care not to hit any
one, for he had no desire to ruin his business. His lead, however,
went so close that one man got a clip that knocked him over. The room
filled with smoke, and the uproar was loud enough, but suddenly Smart
was aware of the giant Conch struggling to his feet and swinging out
right and left with two mighty fists, sending men tumbling about like
chips before a storm. Just beneath him the thin-faced man, Wilson
Smith--dubbed "Skinny Ike" by Bill--lay in a heap.

"Come on, yo' muckers, come on an' git yo' medicine," he bawled. Then
he picked up the prostrate man, and, taking him by the shoulders, used
him as a flail, swinging him about his head and knocking every one
in his path into a state of submission. The men around Smart fled in
confusion, and in a moment Bahama Bill and the captain stood alone in
the end of the room, the rest of the onlookers making good their escape
to the street. Journegan stood behind his bar and grinned down the
barrel of his empty gun.

"Air ye hurted much, Bill?" he asked.

"Hurt!" roared the giant mate. "What'd hurt me here, anyway, 'cept yo'
blamed rum, hey?"

"Well, if you want to make a gitaway now's the time, I reckon, for this
place'll be pulled to-night sure--an' that in a mighty few minutes."

Bahama Bill dropped the limp form of Wilson Smith. The man was not
seriously hurt, only horribly bruised. The rest were either insensible
from blows or unable to rise from the smash of the thin fellow's body
upon them, for the mate had stove them hard enough to break ribs and
arms with his human whip. Some of the gang essayed to sit up and take
notice after the mate ceased to speak. One had the temerity to draw a
gun, which Bill unceremoniously kicked out of his hand.

"I reckon we'd better be goin' 'long, cap," said the big black. "This
place'll be pulled by the marshal inside o' ten minutes. Take up w'at
dough you sees; I'll kerlect it off'n you later."

"Didn't you git a plug?" asked Journegan.

"Oh, yas; jest a little hole in de shoulder--dat's nothin'. Come on,
cap."

Smart hesitated a minute. "Where do we go?" he asked.

"Aboa'd de _Sea-Horse_--an' to sea as fast as we kin git her movin'.
Ought toe been gone befo' dis, but when I see dat Skinny settin' in to
skin yo' I jest naterally had toe take a hand. Whatcher s'pose I handed
yo' dat money fer?"

"But I haven't done anything wrong--nothing to run for," said Smart.

"Yo' try an' think straight a minute, cap. Yo' ain't got many friends
here. Take my advice an' don't git pulled. De clink is mighty mean
here. I don't know why I should take a shine toe yo' cap, but yo' shore
did set in dat game ter win--an' yo' kin hit pretty straight, too."

"Gwan, before it's too late," said Journegan.

A rush of feet sounded in the street, followed by the hoarse voices
of men nearing "The Cayo Huesso." The door of the saloon was suddenly
burst open, and the marshal, with a posse of twenty men behind him,
came into view.

"De window, cap," yelled Bahama Bill, and without waiting a moment he
sprang through, carrying the sash and glass, shutters, and all with
him. Through the opening Smart plunged instinctively, and as he did so
he heard the sharp command to halt, followed by the crack of a gun. He
had managed to get clear by a fraction of a second, and, landing upon
his feet, started after the dark shadow which he knew was the black
sailor making for the beach.


V

Down the road Captain Smart ran as fast as he could go, trying vainly
to reach the tall form of the mate, who kept the lead easily until the
lights of the harbour came into view. Then he slacked up and Smart came
up with him.

"Dat sho was fun, hey?" laughed the mate, not the least winded from his
dash for liberty. "Cost yo' a hundred dollars to git clear ef dey catch
yo'. Dey don't run yo' in fer fun down here. Dat's de _Sea-Horse_. Git
inter dat small boat--so."

"How about Journegan? Will they fine him for the fracas?"

"Oh, no. He stands in wid de gang--pays fer de trouble he makes.
Journegan is a good man--he's all right."

"He was with the crooks, was he?" asked Smart.

"Oh, yes, he thought you had money--he has to stand in wid de gang.
He was mad as er hornet at me buttin' in, but jest couldn't help it.
I'll square him some day, an' he knows it. If he didn't know it, he'd
'a' plugged me when dey jumped me. I reckon he c'u'd 'a' done it, all
right, for he's a mighty fine shot, dat Journegan. But I sho had it in
fer Skinny Ike--he done me onct."

"Seems like a pretty tough bunch of men along the bank here, don't it?"
said Smart. "Journegan hinted that there was something done wrong to
Mr. Dunn's yacht--he said she must have leaked--what?"

Bahama Bill stopped rowing the small boat. They were half-way to the
_Sea-Horse_, and lights were already showing along the shore, telling
plainly that pursuit would be made in short order. The tide set them
toward the vessel, but Bill gazed steadily at Smart through the
darkness.

"Did Journegan say dat?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, and I would like to know what he meant by it."

"You know why he did all dat shootin'--all dat firin' to hit nobody?
Dat was jest to get the place pulled--pulled before you made a gitaway,
toe git your money. He knowed you an' me were enemies--knowed dat yo'
had it in fer me, knowed dat I wrecked Mr. Dunn's yacht, an' dat yo'
sho had no claim wid me--an' dat's where he made a mistake----"

"You wrecked the schooner?" cried Smart.

"Sho, cap, I dun wrecked her. Don't yo' remember de day--de night--I
came abo'd, harpooned by a fool Yankee mate? Well, I was pullin' a seam
dat night--dat's what made her leak----"

"You are a devil--the blackest rascal I ever met. You can take me
ashore, I won't have anything more to do with you--turn about."

"Not a bit--no, suh. Yo' goes wid me dis trip, sho."

Smart hesitated not a moment, but sprang overboard and struck out for
the shore, calling loudly for help.

Bahama Bill sat gazing after him for a moment, swearing deeply. Then
he carefully shipped the oars, stood up, and the next moment plunged
over the side after him. In a few rapid strokes he came up to the
sailor. With one mighty arm he circled the swimmer, holding his arms to
his sides as easily as though he were a child. With his other hand he
struck out lustily for the sloop and gained her side, where two heads
peered over looking at him.

"Pass a line, quick," he called.

A line dropped instantly over the side and fell within reach. Smart was
quickly trussed and hoisted aboard and the mate climbed up after him.

"Put de mains'l on her--heave her short--jump!" bellowed Bahama Bill,
at the same time casting off the gaskets from the boom and throwing the
beckets off the wheel.

A Dutchman, Heldron by name, and a Conch called Sam, sprang to obey.
The sail went quickly up with a clucking of blocks and snapping of
canvas. Then in came the anchor, the three men hauling line with a
will. One man loosed the jib while another sent it up with a rush, and
just as the sweeping strokes of a pursuing oar fell upon their ears
the _Sea-Horse_ stood out the nor'west passage and to sea.

"Where's Sanders?" asked the mate.

"Oh, de cap'n, he dun take de mon' he get an' go to Tampa on de steamer
this night. He say he goin' to do somet'in' to dem big hotels Mr.
Flagler builds--dem dat run de gamblin'-houses. Won't be back fer a
week."

"Cap," said Bahama Bill, casting Smart adrift, "yo' kin go below an'
put dat money in de co'ner of de right-han' locker--no use yo' tryin'
to swim away wid it. Yo' an' me is goin' to the Bank fer a bit o'
work--dat's it, Sam, hook de boat as we come past--pass de painter aft,
an' let her tow."

Smart saw that he was caught fair enough. To resist was only to make
more trouble. He was broke, anyway, and without a berth. He might just
as well try wrecking for a change--why not? Yes, he would go below and
turn in without more ado. He had forgotten the money he had taken from
the game at Journegan's, the money which belonged to the mate of the
_Sea-Horse_. No wonder Bahama Bill had jumped in after him and brought
him aboard. It was easy to see that in spite of all Bill's apparent
carelessness he took no chances as he saw them. The _Sea-Horse_ was
standing out, and there was no chance of spending the night in the
lockup. After all, it was pleasanter out here in the brisk sea air,
even in the company of such men. He went slowly below.

"Turn in the po't bunk, cap," came the mate's big voice down the cuddy.

Smart did so, and he fell asleep while the wrecking-sloop rose and
plunged into the short sea.


VI

"I reckon we're about dar, cap. Dem masts stickin' up yander air de fo'
an' main' o' de brig _Bulldog_. We skinned her clean, took a share ob
de salvage, an' cleared fo' town." Thus spoke Bahama Bill, resting one
hand upon the wheel-spokes to hold the _Sea-Horse_ and sprawling upon
the deck. The sloop was approaching the edge of the Great Bahama Bank,
and the shoaling water told of the coral bottom.

"Well, what are you going to stop here for, then?" asked Smart.
Although he had decided to cast in his lot with Bahama Bill temporarily
he was averse to wandering about on the old _Sea-Horse_ for any length
of time. He was anxious to hunt a berth as navigator upon some ship of
size. Nassau was close at hand, not fifty miles away, and there were
many ships stopping there.

"I'll tell yo', cap--I'll tell yo' jest what I want yo' to do fer me,"
said the big black. He rounded the sloop to, and Sam let go the anchor,
while the Dutchman Heldron hauled down the jib.

The _Sea-Horse_ dropped back with the sweep of the current and wind,
until she lay just over the mainmast of a sunken brig, which stuck out
of the water at a slant, the top coming clear some twenty feet to port
of her. The wreck was lying upon her bilge and heeled over at a sharp
angle, the partners of the mainmast being about ten feet below the
surface.

"I heard yo' tell Stormalong Journegan you'd been down in a
diving-suit, de kind dey use in de No'th--hey? Yo' know about rubber
suits an' pumps?" He looked keenly at Captain Smart while the seaman
told him that he had heard aright. He had been in suits, and helped
others diving in them. He thought he knew something about air-pumps.

The mate went below forward, and shortly came on deck with a complete
rubber diving-suit, helmet, and weighted shoes.

"I don't go in much fer dis kind ob divin'," said he, "but I dun paid
a fellow a hundred dollars fer de whole suit. Show me how to work it,
an' show me how dat pump works. Ef yo' do, we'll go halves--break
even--on what I think is below in dis hear wrack. I knowed yo' must
know something erbout divin'--dat is, erbout rubber divin', which ain't
divin' at all, but dat's what I want ter know."

"I thought you said the wreck was finished with?" Smart commented.

"All de money, all de coin was got out ob her, yas, suh, dat's all
straight, but dishar wrack ain't been under water more'n a few months,
an' I been thinkin' dat maybe some hard work would tell on some cases
of ammunition left in her."

"What did she have?"

"Rifles, money, and provisions for Vensuela--some ob dem
revolutionists had de charter. Dey took up de rifles, and dey took up
de money, but dey left a lot ob ammunition in her, sayin' it ain't no
good. Well, suh, I got a hole in mah shoulder where one ob dem bullets
came troo--yo mind de little fracas at Stormalong's. I dun sold a
feller a dozen boxes ob dem ca'tridges, de onliest .45's in Key West.
Dat's de reason I cum to know somethin' about dem. Ef dey kin mak' a
hole in me, dey kin mak' a hole in mos' enny one, I reckon--hey, what?"

"I see," said Smart. "And that's the reason you wanted me to help you
out? You want me to help dive for the goods. How much is there--and how
were they put up? They won't stay for ever any good under water, you
know."

"Dey were put up in tins too big to handle, goin' naked like I dives.
De cases were mighty big, an' I don't care much erbout smashin' 'em up
wid de 'tarnal things ready to go off. I knows where dey is--way back
in de lazarette 'way back aft, an' I knows dat dere's erbout a millun
ob dem."

Smart had been overhauling the suit and found it to be in fair
condition. Evidently some hard-up diver had sold out to Bahama Bill,
who always went naked as deep as three or four fathoms, and could stay
long enough under to do the ordinary work required of divers upon
vessels on the reef. He could make two or three minutes' work at short
intervals, and being a mighty man, the strain told upon him very little
indeed.

The rubber part of the suit was just about right for a man of Smart's
build. It would not begin to go upon the giant frame of Bahama Bill.
The great mate of the wrecker very well knew it, and he knew also that
he could never get any of his men to go down in it. They knew nothing
about such gear, and the very sight of it filled them with dread. It
was up to Captain Smart to make the effort, if effort there was to be
made.

In the meantime Bahama Bill would go down once or twice to locate the
place in the wreck to work upon. It would require careful work not to
explode the cases in blowing out a hole in the bilge to make an entry;
further, it was impossible to think of going down the hatchway aft, for
the distance was too great.

It was upon this vessel that the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ had had
trouble before, being chased into her by a shark and barely escaping
with his life. He knew her pretty well, and could locate the ammunition
in a couple of dives. After that Smart could take his time in four
fathoms and work the stuff out to hoist aboard, using as little
dynamite as possible.

"How about the pump?" asked Smart, after he had overhauled the suit.

The machine was brought on deck. It was dirty and much out of order,
but after an hour's work he had it so it could be relied upon for the
shallow water. For greater pressure than four fathoms he would not have
cared to test it with himself upon the bottom.

While he was refitting it the mate stripped and stood upon the rail
ready for the plunge. The water was clear and the bottom could plainly
be seen, the varicoloured marine growths making it most beautiful.

Bahama Bill dropped outboard, and went down with a plunge so light that
he hardly disturbed the surface. The others, watching, saw him swim
rapidly down under the bends of the wrecked ship, leaving a thin trail
of bubbles.

He was only down a few moments this dive, and came rising rapidly to
the surface, his ugly face showing through the clear liquid, his eyes
wide open and gazing upward.

"Gimme a piece ob chalk, Sam," he said, as he came into the air again.

A piece was handed him, and he went below again and marked the spot
where the hole would be blown in the vessel's side, and in the meantime
Smart donned the diving-suit.

The Dutchman Heldron had never even seen a suit of this kind before,
and his messmate Sam gazed at it with a sort of superstitious dread.

"Yo' sure ain't goin' under in that outfit, cap?" he protested, as
Smart put on the shoes weighing fully twenty pounds apiece. "Man, them
slippers will sure hold you to the bottom!"

"I guess you dummies will have sense enough to haul me up when I pull
the line and signal," remarked Smart. "Now, give me the helmet and
screw down these bolts." He had the head-piece on by the time Bahama
Bill came on deck and surveyed the proceedings.

"I'll have to trust you to tend the lines," said Smart to the black
giant. "Remember, now, one strong pull and you haul me up--not quickly
unless I give three quick pulls afterward. Two pulls is to slack away,
one on the hose is to give me more air, and two to give me less.
Understand?"

Bahama Bill wiped the water out of his bleary eyes and nodded. He
apparently had some misgivings about the concern, but he was far too
careless of human life to express them. He coupled up the air-hose and
started the pump, and the whistling inside the helmet told of the wind
coming in behind the diver's head.

Smart held the front glass ready, and after being satisfied that the
machine was working, he had Sam screw it on and Captain Smart was cut
off from the wrecker's crew, his face showing dimly through the thick
glass plate. The heavy leaden belt was fastened tightly about his
waist and he stepped over the rail on to the little side ladder, and
so overboard, letting himself slowly down until he swung clear of the
sloop's side. Then he was lowered away and went to the bottom, Bahama
Bill slacking off the life-line and hose until he saw him standing upon
the coral bank some twenty-five feet below the wrecker's deck.

Heldron turned the air-pump and Sam made fast the charge of dynamite,
fixing the wires of a "Farmer's Machine" into the mercury-exploder and
wrapping the whole tightly in canvas made fast with marline, the whole
weighted so that it would sink quickly.

He lowered the charge, and saw Smart's hand go out and receive it. Then
the diver disappeared under the bilge of the wreck, leaving a thin
trail of boiling water just over his head to tell of the escapement of
the air.


VII

Having fixed the charge where the mate had marked the surface of the
wreck, Smart started to walk away. The light was strong in the clear
water, and he gazed about him at the beautiful coral formations. The
heavy growths took on many-coloured hues, and he walked out among them
to admire them as one would the scenery on shore.

An albacore darted past like a flash of silver light. In the shadow of
a huge sponge an enormous grouper took shelter, his eyes sticking out
and gazing unwinkingly at the apparition of the man upon the bottom.

Smart went toward him and gave him a gentle poke, and in doing so gave
the lines a sudden jerk. Instantly he was lifted off his feet and drawn
upward, for Bahama Bill had felt the pull, and lost no time hauling his
man aboard. Luckily the depth was not great, or the sudden change of
pressure would have hurt.

Smart came to the side gesticulating wildly, and the more he waved his
hands the quicker he was yanked up. In a moment the mate had him on
deck, and was unscrewing the front glass.

"What's de matter, cap?" he asked anxiously, when the diver's face
appeared.

"Nothing; you fellows make me tired!" said Smart. "Go ahead and fire
the charge."

The spark was sent along the wire, and a dull crack sounded from below.
The water rose in a boiling mass astern, and spread out, churning and
bubbling. It was not a large charge, and it had not been necessary to
move the sloop.

Smart started Heldron again at the pump, and screwed on the glass.
Then, taking his tools and a line, he went back to the work below.

The hole blown in the wrecked hull was quite large for the amount of
powder used, but the splintered edges made it necessary to be careful
on entering, on account of the air-hose and line. A swirling of
disturbed water still made the light bad, but Smart, feeling the edges
with his hand, stepped within the darkness, and proceeded to explore
the interior of the lost ship.

He climbed slowly upward, dragging his lines after him, and stumbling
over a mass of timber which obstructed the way. He was in the
after-part of the brig, the part where the dead wood, narrowing toward
the stern-post, made a difficult passage to go through. He went along
carefully, feeling for dangerous projections which might entangle his
air-hose. The ammunition was supposed to be in the lazarette, under
the cabin flooring, and he made his way in this direction.

Owing to the darkness, he was some time locating anything in the way
of cases. Finally, however, he felt the square ends of boxes, and made
haste to break one open. There were cans of tomatoes, or some kind of
food, in the first one, and he felt along farther. Then he came in
contact with a bulkhead. As it was inky dark below in the bilge of the
sunken ship, he had to do all his work by means of the sense of touch
alone. He couldn't see his own hand upon the glass of his helmet.

Something brushed against him and nearly upset him. It gave him an
uncomfortable feeling, and a longing for the sunshine upon the sea
floor of the Bank. He was not of a nervous temperament, and he knew
that some sea denizen had evidently made the brig his home. Perhaps
some spawning grouper or huge jew-fish.

Feeling along the bulkhead, he came upon a lot of small boxes. One
of these he took under his arm and backed slowly out of the hole
and into the clear water of the Bank. He laid the box upon the sea
floor, and broke the covering with his hammer, hitting it lightly, the
resisting power of the surrounding medium making it difficult even to
strike at all. He tore away the fragments of the lid, and saw rows of
cartridge-clips, the whole fixed and packed carefully. Making fast a
line to the case, he signalled to hoist away, and brought his find to
the surface.

The stuff proved to be all right. On breaking open a cartridge, the
powder appeared dry, in spite of the long submergence, showing how
carefully the ammunition had been put up. The dipping of the bullets
into tallow had made the cartridges absolutely airtight, and they were
as good as new.

The usual cost of ammunition was about two cents per cartridge
wholesale. Half a million rounds would make quite a fortune, or
something in the neighbourhood of ten thousand dollars to divide
between himself and the black mate. Yes, it had been worth while, after
all. Wrecking was not such a bad thing, if there was anything worth
wrecking, and he wondered how the salvors of the brig had overlooked
such a valuable asset. Even if he had to divide with the former
owners--which he probably would not--he would have something worth
going below for.

"Git de stuff--we'll ship him to Noo York," said Bill. "Ought to cl'ar
a bit on dis hear deal. Dey's got de Winchester mark on dem, an' dat
goes wid de agents, so do de Union ca'tridge. Git de stuff outen her,
cap, fo' we cayn't stay here long--it's comin' on bad befo' dark, an'
dere'll be too much sea to work ag'in fer a week."

Smart lost no time getting back to the lazarette of the brig. He took
his line with him, and, after fastening it to some of the cases, he
signalled to haul away.

Case after case he removed in this manner, and, after being below
nearly an hour, he began to feel the effects of the pressure. He
concluded to go up and rest for a short time before finishing the job.
He hauled a lot of boxes together and lashed them firmly with a line,
and signalled to haul away. He felt the pull, the tautening of the
rope, and the cases slipped from under his hand. He straightened up and
started to follow.

Then he felt the whole side of the ship suddenly fall toward him. It
seemed like a mass of stuff, chest upon chest, toppling down upon him,
and, before he could make even the slightest movement to get away, the
whole pile of cases rolled over him like a great wave.

He was thrown upon his back, and a heavy weight rested upon the lower
part of his body. He tried to move, and found himself jammed fast.
Feeling nervously for his life-line and hose, he saw they were clear.
He would not suffocate for awhile, anyway. He pulled lustily upon his
life-line, and felt the strain of Bill's strength upon it, but it
failed to move him. He was afraid the line would cut into his suit with
the enormous strain.

He pulled the signal to slack away, but the men above were evidently
excited, and they pulled all the harder. Then came a sudden slacking.
He reached up and drew in the end of the life-line. It had parted near
his helmet.

In the blackness of the sunken wreck Smart felt his nerve going. It was
a bad place to have trouble. There was no other suit, no other machine
or outfit for a man to go to his assistance. He might live for an hour
longer, or perhaps even two, but the end seemed certain unless he could
free himself from the mass of cargo which had so suddenly piled down
upon him.

It had been one of those accidents which are likely to happen to any
one working in the darkness of a ship's hold where the cargo is not
known, or not located by previous knowledge of the ship's loading.

He had evidently unshipped some of the ammunition-cases, and brought
a mass of boxes of both provisions and cartridges upon him like an
avalanche. His right arm was free, but his left was crushed under some
mighty weight, and hurt him painfully. The air still whistled into his
head-piece, showing that Heldron was working the pump steadily.

Bahama Bill was a cool hand, a man used to desperate emergencies, and
Smart felt that the giant mate of the _Sea-Horse_ would do what he
could to set him free. He knew the black diver to be a mighty swimmer.
He had cause to remember that fact, but it was far away from the
surface where he now lay, and it looked as if he would have to pass in,
to die the terrible death of the lost diver.

His imagination held him thinking, in spite of the pain and weight upon
him. He could breathe easily, and the numbing effect of the pressure
made his sufferings less than otherwise. He tried again and again to
shift some of the cases, straining until the stars flashed into the
darkness before him. It was useless. He could not budge anything.

The minutes seemed hours, and he began at last to feel the drowsy
effect of the air too long driven into his lungs. He saw the beach, the
white coral sand--then he was again at Key West.


VIII

Upon the deck of the _Sea-Horse_ the men gazed blankly at each other
when Bahama Bill hauled up the life-line, parted far below. Heldron
stopped pumping, and Sam gave an exclamation.

"Keep dat pump workin'; keep it goin', I tell yo'," snapped the black
mate, turning upon his man.

Heldron instantly turned away again, rapidly, sending the air below.

"Name ob de Lord--now whatcher make wid dat?" said Bill, looking at Sam.

"Gone fer sure," said Sam. "I wouldn't go down in them lead shoes for
no money. I done knowed something like this would happen."

"I t'ink I don't need to give no more air, den," said Heldron.

"You turn dat pump, yo' blamed Dutchman, or I'll turn yo' hide
wrong-side out, yo' hear me," snarled the mate. "Gimme a heavy line,
Sam; gimme something I can't break--jump, yo' Conch!"

"Goin' after him?" asked Sam, hauling the end of the mainsheet clear to
the rail. "I don't think you kin get him. Better leave him down; them
shoes is enough to hold him. I'd hate to lose the cap'n, but he's gone
for sure!"

The huge form of the mate balanced for an instant upon the rail. He
cleared enough line to take to the bottom, and had Sam stand with
coils of it ready to pay out. Then down he went with the end of it,
swimming strongly for the hole in the bilge of the brig. The opening
showed before him, but he hesitated not a moment. He swam straight
into the black hole, butting his head against the carlines under the
half-deck, but keeping straight as he could for the diver by following
the air-hose with his hand.

It was a long swim to the place where Smart lay. A full minute had
been taken up before the mate felt the contact of the metal helmet. He
passed the heavy line under it, but found his wind giving way under the
strain. Quickly following the air-hose out, he struggled for the clear
water, and came to the surface with a blow like a grampus. He had been
down two minutes and a half.

Sam seized his hand and helped him aboard, where he lay upon the deck,
bleeding, a slight trickle from the corner of his ugly mouth and from
his nose.

"You can't make it, Bill," Sam declared. "Let the poor devil go. You
done the best you could."

"I stop now wid de air, hey? Wat you says, Mr. Bill?"

Heldron's query aroused Bahama Bill. "If you slack up on dat pump, yo'
dies a wuss death 'n Cap'n Smart," he said wearily, and in an even
tone. It was evident that the strain had been hard on him, but he was
game.

In a minute he sat up.

"I get him dis hear time," he growled, shaking himself and standing
upon the rail again.

His giant black body twitched, the huge muscles under the ebony skin
worked, flowing, contracting, and slacking up, making a wavelike
motion, but showing the mighty power which lay in his frame. He was
getting worked up to a nervous pitch, and the trembling was not from
weakness. It was the gathering power in his thews which was beginning
to work.

He flung far out, and dropped straight downward with a pitch-pole
plunge, going furiously down like some monstrous sea-demon. Only a
flash of his black body showed before he had turned the bend, and was
following the air-hose into the hole.

This time he saved many seconds. He reached the form of Smart, and
caught the end of the mainsheet about him, quickly slipping a hitch.
Then he hauled himself out into the sunshine again, and came rising
like a fish to the surface. In a moment he was back aboard the
_Sea-Horse_, and then he spoke.

"Git on to dat line, yo', Sam ... git hold quick ... I got him ... give
him de air, yo' Dutchman. ... An' now fer a heave what is a heave."

With a mighty effort the two men threw their whole weight upon the
line. It held. Nothing gave for a moment. Bahama Bill, bracing his
naked feet upon the rail, bent his mighty loins, and took a deep
breath.

"Heave-ho!" he bellowed, and set his muscles to the strain.

Sam lifted with all his force. Almost instantly the two of them plunged
backward, and fell over each other on deck. The line became slack, but
before they could get to their feet, Heldron had left the pump and was
hauling in hand-over-hand, and in a moment the form of Smart showed
below the surface.

The black mate sprang to his feet and gave the Dutchman a cuff which
sent him over the side, and, seizing the line, he hauled the limp form
of the diver on deck quicker than it takes to tell it. In a moment he
had the glass off the helmet, and was staring into the white face of
the insensible seaman.

"Get somethin' to drink--quick," he said.

Sam rushed for a dipper of water, and, upon bringing it, was knocked
over the head with it for his pains.

"Yo' bring me somethin'--quick--yo' understand," roared the mate. "I
knows yo' got some forrads--now, then, jump!"

Sam quickly brought a bottle of gin, half-full. Smart had some of the
fiery liquid poured between his lips. Then Heldron, who had scrambled
back aboard, cursing and spluttering, came aft, and helped them to get
off the suit.

It was half an hour afterward before the captain came around enough to
tell what had happened. His left arm was badly mashed, but not broken.
The heavy suit had not been cut through, and to this fact he owed his
life. His legs were stiff and sore from the heavy weight which had lain
upon them, but he was otherwise uninjured.

"I reckon yo'll be able to go down ag'in in a little while," said the
mate. "We got most of the stuff, I reckon, but we might as well take
all dat's dere."

"How many cases have we?" asked Smart.

"'Bout fifty--nearly a million rounds, an' all good."

"Well, that's all we'll get to-day," said Smart, "unless you want to
take a try at it."

"Toe bad, toe bad," muttered Bahama Bill. "I'se sho sorry you's sech
a puny little man, cap, but de wedder is gittin' bad, ennyways, an' I
reckon we might as well make a slant fer Nassau."

"That'll about suit me, all right," said Smart.



XI

The Iconoclast


The wrecking-sloop _Sea-Horse_ came smashing the seas headlong past
Fowey Rocks, heading for the channel over the reef into Bay Biscayne.
She had left Nassau the day before, and had made a record run across
the Gulf Stream, carrying sail through a heavy head sea, which flew
in a storm of white water over her bows and weather-rail all day,
making the deck almost uninhabitable. Bahama Bill, otherwise known
as Bill Haskins, wrecker and sponger, mate and half-owner, held the
wheel-spokes, and sat back upon the edge of the wheel-gear, bracing one
foot to leeward. Sam, a Conch, and Heldron, a Dutchman, both sailors
and able seamen, lounged in the lee of the cabin-scuttle and smoked,
their oilskins streaming water, but loosened on account of the warmth
of the air. Captain Smart, late of the Dunn schooner wrecked just
below Carysfort Reef, on a cruise to Boca Grande Pass for tarpon, sat
in the doorway of the companionway and watched the giant mate of the
_Sea-Horse_ hold the flying sloop on her course with one powerful hand,
while with the other he shielded his pipe from the spray.

Smart was thinking over the strange events which happened to bring him
in contact with the wreckers: the loss of his schooner caused by the
leak made by Bahama Bill; the loss of his position as officer on the
liner he had left to take command of the yacht, and the strange fight
in the saloon at Key West, which ended in his going with the giant
black to keep out of trouble.

They had now just ridden out a bad spell of weather in Nassau, where
they had laid up with cartridge-cases taken from the brig _Bulldog_,
wrecked on the Great Bahama Bank, and they were hurrying to the nearest
American port to discharge them to some dealer, and realize what
profits they could. The ammunition was perfectly good and sound, in
spite of being submerged under the sea for a long time, for the cases
had been put up for tropical weather and made perfectly water-proof.
They had several thousand dollars' worth aboard, and it would only be
necessary to prove their fitness for use to realize upon them. To Miami
they laid their course without delay, to get in touch with the express
and railroad.

"Seems like we got to git thar to-night, sure," said the mate, sucking
at his pipe.

"Looks like we'll make it easily," assented Smart. "I suppose you know
the reef well enough to go in any time, hey?"

"Jest as well at night as daytime," said the mate.

"And when we get in--what then? Do you know any one who'll deal with
us? Do you know who'll buy ammunition from you even at a twenty per
cent discount?" asked Smart.

"I reckon we won't have to burn any of them ca'tridges, cap; not by a
blamed sight. We might have to wait a spell fo' suah, but we kin sell
'em, all right."

"Got enough money to live on while we wait, hey?" asked Smart.

Bahama Bill scowled. Then he gave the captain a queer look.

"See here, cap," he said. "Yo' know Bull Sanders is skipper an'
half-owner of this here sloop? Well, he's on a tear up the beach.
If he comes back broke he'll want toe borrow off'n me--see? Well, I
knows what that means. I jest naturally sent all the money abo'd to my
Jule--yo' ain't married, cap, or you'd know what a wife means. 'Scrappy
Jule' kin take keer of all de money I gets, an' yo' needn't make no
moan toe dat. Jule is all right, an' if yo' got a right good memory,
yo' suah remember she don't do no washin' fo' po' white folks."

"I suppose that means that the ten-spot I saved from the fracas in
Journegan's barroom is all the cash aboard, then," said Smart.

He was thinking how strange it was for him to be associating with a
self-confessed wrecker of the old school, the type which waited not for
the elements, but made events happen with a rapidity which put even a
stormy season to shame.

He would have liked to get away from the whole business, get away
from men of Bahama Bill's class, but he could not help thinking that
the giant black man had some cause, according to his way of looking at
things, to do as he had done.

The yacht owner had insulted him, had made it an open question of
hostility between them, and the wrecker had simply gone ahead and
regarded the owner's feeling not at all, but caused by indirect means
the loss of his vessel.

Bill had many good points. He had helped Smart out of a difficult
situation in Key West, where the land-sharks had set out to trim him
clean. He had put him in the way, almost in spite of himself, of making
a few thousand dollars within a week or two, and had saved his life by
diving into a dangerous wreck after him when caught in her shifting
cargo.

Smart was in a strange position, almost dead broke, with several
thousand dollars' worth of salvage due him from his efforts. He would
be tied up with the sloop for several weeks, perhaps several months,
until the sales were made and the salvage divided. To leave her would
risk losing the share due him, for Bahama Bill would hardly stand for
desertion until the affair was settled, no matter what the provocation.

They beat in over the reef, up the crooked, shallow channel into
Biscayne Bay, and laid their course for the docks at Miami, where they
arrived during daylight.

Two days were spent trying to make the sales of the cargo, but the
dealers insisted on testing the powder from each and every case before
paying, or taking it on, so there was a delay of at least two weeks
staring them in the face. The crew having enough to eat minded the
waiting not the least. The mate cared nothing as long as the ultimate
end was in sight, for he had enough hog and hominy aboard to last twice
as long.

The sloop lay off the docks in a scant seven feet of water, her keel
just grazing the coral bottom, which was as plainly visible beneath
her as though she were surrounded by clear air instead of the clearer
water of the bay. The huge, fashionable hotel loomed high against the
background of palms and cocoanuts, making an impressive sight, and also
a comfortable abode for the rich tourists who filled it during this end
of the season. Prices were high, and Smart spent much time watching the
idle rich wandering about the beautiful gardens.

Several gambling-joints were in full blast, for it was always the
policy of the eminent Florida philanthropist who owned the tourist
accommodations on the east coast to build a church upon one side of his
dominions, and then a gambling-hell upon the other. Both were necessary
to draw the lazy rich.

Smart noticed several of the sporting gentry wandering about, but,
having nothing to gamble with, he was forced to look on with little
interest.

On the third day of their stay in harbour, a man sauntered down to
the dock close aboard, and stood gazing at the _Sea-Horse_. He was
perfectly dressed in the height of fashion, and he swung a light cane
lazily while he gazed at the wrecker. He wore a thin moustache, and
his high, straight nose seemed to hook over it to an abnormal extent.
His eyes were a very light blue, so pale that they appeared to be
colourless, but he had an altogether well-fed, well-satisfied look;
one of seeming benevolence and kindliness, which attracted Smart's
attention. Smart and the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ were sitting upon the
cabin-house in the shade of a drying trysail, and the stranger spoke to
them.

"Sloop for charter?" he asked abruptly, in a high voice, which carried
over the short distance of water with some force.

"What fo'?" asked Bahama Bill, without moving.

"Oh, we want to fish and shoot. I don't care for the yachts for hire;
their owners don't seem to know where to go to get sport. I'd rather
charter from a man who knows something of the reef to the southward,
and you look as if you belong around here."

"Yo' sho' got a bad guesser in yo' haid, Mister Yankee," said the mate.
"What make yo' think we belongs around here?"

Smart studied the man carefully while he was talking. He was a close
observer, but he failed to place this suave, well-groomed gentleman in
his vocation. He might be a gambler, a sport, or just a rich fellow
wanting amusement. The latter seemed most likely, so Smart spoke
up, hoping to land a few dollars while waiting for his share of the
salvage.

"We'll charter for thirty dollars a day," he said reluctantly, and, as
he did so, the black mate gave a grunt and grinned insultingly at the
shore.

"Will you go anywhere we want?" asked the man.

"Sho' we will dat, perfesser," broke in Bahama Bill, unable to restrain
himself at the thought of the graft. The idea of thirty dollars per day
was good, and he slapped Smart a terrific blow upon the back in high
good nature at the thought of it. "Sho', perfesser, we'll carry yo' toe
hell--an' half-way back, fer thirty a day. Are yo' on?"

There was a slight sneer on the man's face when he heard the mate's
manner, but he answered quietly, in the same far-reaching voice, that
he would consider the vessel his, and that if one of them would come
ashore for the money, he would bind the bargain by pay for the first
day at once.

At the instant he stopped speaking Heldron the Dutchman came aft to
where the mate sat. Bahama Bill at once seized him about the waist and
hove him far out over the side.

"Git that money, yo' beggar," he laughed, as the sailor landed in the
water with a tremendous splash. Sam, the Conch, snickered. "Yo' go
after him, toe see he comes back," said Bill, and, making a pass at the
man, sent him over also. They swam the distance in a few moments, much
to the amusement of the gentleman on the wharf, who seemed to like the
mate's energetic manner of doing things. The money was paid, and the
men swam back aboard, climbing into the small boat towing astern, and
coming over the taffrail none the worse in temper. There was good money
for all in the deal, and they were pleased.


II

In about an hour the man returned with a friend, both of them loaded
with fishing-rods and other parts of a gentleman's sporting outfit.
They were rowed aboard by the mate, and announced that they were ready
at once to get to sea. The mainsail was hoisted, and in a few minutes
the wrecking-sloop was ready to stand down the channel.

Just at this moment the gentlemen, who had been arranging their
fishing-rods and clothes upon the transoms in the cabin, came on deck
and said that they had forgotten to bring any provisions for the
cruise. The second man declared he had ordered a large box sent aboard,
and asked with some anxiety if it had arrived.

"There ain't nothing come abo'd sence yo' left," said Bill surlily,
annoyed at the delay. "We's got good grub abo'd here, an' enough fer a
week."

"You will pardon me, my good fellow," said the second man, who was
very tall and thin, with a lined face. "You know, or should know, I'm
an invalid, and cannot eat the ordinary food which I love so well. It
is for this that we have taken the boat. Won't you allow me the use of
your crew to help carry the provisions aboard? We expect to be out for
several weeks, and must have plenty of the kind of food I am forced to
eat."

"Yo' don't look so very puny," said Bill; "but, o' co'se, if youse an
invalid, yo' sho'ly wants toe git some soft feed. We eats hoag an'
hominy abo'd here, an' I tells yo' it's mighty good hoag; costs me
seven cents a pound."

The small boat was called away, and, with Sam and Heldron to help carry
the provisions, the two gentlemen went ashore again.

Half an hour passed, and Bill was getting surly. The tide was
falling, and the chances of hitting the reef were good. The wind
dropped, and the surface of the bay was just ruffled by it. Far away
to the southward the little hump of Soldier Key stood out above the
surrounding reef, and the tall palms of Florida Cape seemed to be
motionless.

"What the name o' sin d'ye think dem folks is doin'?" said Bahama Bill
finally, rising from the quarter and gazing toward the shore. "I sho'
likes toe make money easy, but when I gits de sail on dis hear ship, I
likes toe see her go. Gittin' hot, an' de wind's dropped. I hate to run
that channel on a fallin' tide without wind enough to drive her good
an' strong over dem shoal places. Hello! what's dat?"

Smart looked up, and followed the direction of the man's gaze. A wagon
was tearing down the street at a breakneck pace, and upon it were the
two gentlemen who had chartered the sloop. Sam and Heldron sprang up
from the dock to meet them as the vehicle drew up, and with a great
show of haste all four men were struggling with a small but apparently
very heavy box.

In a few moments, in spite of its weight, it was being lowered into the
small boat, and Smart noticed that when all hands sprang in, she was
nearly gunwale down with the cargo. The men rowed as though urged to
their utmost, and in a few minutes the boat was alongside.

"Didn't want to keep you waiting," cried the tall, thin-faced man.

"No," said the man who had chartered the sloop, "we knew you would hate
to be delayed, so we hurried." His benevolent expression beamed up at
the mate, but Smart noted that every now and then his pale eyes shifted
uneasily toward the dock, where the wagon was still standing unattended.

A line was cast over the side, and Bill took hold to hoist the box on
deck. He gave a tug, and then stopped suddenly.

"What in thunder yo' got toe eat in dere?" he growled. "Dat's lead,
sho' 'nuff lead, an' no mistake. We got sinkers enough abo'd here fer
all de fishin' yo'll do dis spring. Sam! Heldron, yo' Dutchman! Cap'n,
come, all hands git a hold an' h'ist away. Man, I nigh broke my pore
ole back wid de heft ob dat box."

They all tailed on to the line, and hoisted the box on deck.

"Get it below," said the man with the moustache and pale eyes; "we'll
give you a hand."

In a few minutes the weighty box, which appeared to be of wood, was
landed safely below in the cabin. The gentleman opened a small bottle
of liquor, and offered a drink all around. It passed until Bahama Bill
came to it, and he silently uptilted the bottle and drained it to the
last drop, flinging it up the companionway and overboard.

"Good!" cried the gentlemen together. "Now for the open sea. Let's try
to find out how quick we can get from here to the end of the reef."
And suiting the action to the words, they sprang up the companionway,
followed by the mate, who was now in a better frame of mind.

"Git de hook off'n de groun'," bawled Bill. "H'ist de jib." And he
hauled flat the mainsheet, and rolled the wheel over as the short cable
came in and the anchor broke clear.

Smart hoisted the head-sails, and they filled away for the open sea.

Smart sat aft upon the taffrail, and the two guests settled themselves
upon boxes which Sam brought out in place of chairs. Bill held the
wheel, heading the _Sea-Horse_ down the narrow channel. She moved
slowly in the light air, and the thin-faced man stretched out his long
frame and looked her over critically.

"Seems like she isn't very fast," he remarked to his pale-eyed
companion.

Bahama Bill looked at him a moment, but said nothing.

"Pretty dirty sort of ship, hey?" said the thin fellow again, in a low
tone.

The mate was about to make some reply, but Smart nudged him, and he
relaxed into a scowl.

"Aw, well, I reckon we'll make it all right," said the pale-eyed man,
his face beaming satisfaction and his high nose sniffing the salt air.

"With a decent boat, yes," said the other, "but this one's mighty
rough. I never saw a more poorly rigged affair. Seems like she's rigged
from the wrecks of other vessels. Don't look like she'll make six
knots."

Bahama Bill grunted, but Smart nudged him again, and he said nothing.
The yacht captain knew that gentlemen would not stand for rough talk
from men of Bahama Bill's type, and he did not want to lose the
charter. It meant plenty of money and comfortable living until he could
get his salvage.

"Let them talk--don't butt in--say nothing," he admonished Bill, in a
whisper.

The big mate heard, but seemed resentful. "What dey want toe knock my
ship fo'?" growled the giant. "Ain't she a good sloop? Ain't she done
her work all right every time? She's paid me good money, me an' Bull
Sanders--no, I don't like no knockin' goin' on abo'd here."

"Cut it out, keep quiet--we get the money if you do," said Smart. "What
good will it do you to get them angry, so they won't want to charter us
again? Man! it's good money, thirty dollars a day--let it go at that."

The pale-eyed man looked at the mate. "It's about dinner-time, isn't
it?" he asked. "We're mighty hungry, and if you can let the cook get to
work, we'll be ready."

"Where's the soft grub fo' dat invalid?" growled Bahama Bill. "I
thought he couldn't eat hoag an' hominy--Heldron, yo' Dutchman, git the
fire started an' let the perfessers eat as soon as yo' kin."

They were well down the channel now, but Smart, on looking back, saw a
small schooner making sail hastily. She started off, heading in their
wake, and about a mile astern.

The passenger with the pale eyes watched her sharply for some moments,
and the benevolent expression faded from his face. The thin man, the
invalid, started up and gazed at her, but was pulled down again by his
companion.

"That fellow astern," said the charterer, his high nose sniffing
sneeringly at the schooner, "thinks he has a smart vessel, and bet us
this morning that he could beat this old sloop to the Fowey Rocks.
Don't let him come up on us whatever you do. I'll give you ten dollars
extra to-day if you run him out of sight before dark."

"Looks like a smart vessel," said Bahama Bill, gazing aft. "I ain't
much at racing, but give this sloop a good breeze, an' maybe you'll
land yo' money."

The passengers ate their meal, and to the credit of the invalid be it
said that he ate more of the "hoag" than his companion. He also put
away an immense portion of the hominy, and his thin face seemed less
wrinkled when he appeared on deck to take a look at the schooner.

Smart watched the following vessel, and saw that she was gaining. The
expression of the pale-eyed man was even more sinister than before, and
the quiet, urbane look gave way to one of ferocity. The high, thin nose
seemed like the beak of some bird of prey, and the moustache bristled
with anxiety and apparent vexation. The thin-faced invalid's expression
was also one of evident concern, the lines of his face drawing tighter
as the distance lessened between the two ships.

"Who's that fellow that looks like the marshal abo'd the schooner?"
asked the mate.

"Oh, that's a friend of mine. He dresses up like that when he goes
hunting or fishing. He used to be in the army, and he likes to wear the
clothes like a uniform," said the thin-faced man.

"Speaking of the army," said the pale-eyed one, "that puts me in mind
of that little Colt automatic-gun I have. They use them now in the
service, and say they carry like a rifle. I believe I'll take a pop at
Charlie just to scare him, hey? It won't hurt him at this distance,
anyway."

"By all means," laughed the thin-faced man, "take a try at him. It'll
scare him to death, I bet you."

Bahama Bill eyed the men curiously, but as it appeared to be none of
his business whether they indulged in rough play, he said nothing.
Smart was too engrossed to notice that the pale-eyed man had drawn
a large automatic pistol, and was resting it upon the rail, until
he had pulled the trigger. The sharp, whiplike report without any
smoke startled him. The shrill whine of the projectile whistled over
the water, and the man who stood upon the schooner's deck quickly
disappeared. In a few moments the "cheep" of a rifle-bullet cut the
air, and "spanged" with a thud into the mainmast, followed by a faint
crack sounding over the sea.

The pale-eyed man fired six shots in answer now, and they came so
quickly that there was hardly a second between the reports.

"What yo' doin', havin' a gun fight?" roared Bill. "What yo' mean by
shootin' a fellow up what ain't doin' nothin' but sailin' after yo'?
What's de lay? Sing out."

The pale-eyed man turned his gaze upon the giant mate, and, as he did
so, he shoved another clip of cartridges into his weapon.

"Don't get excited," he said calmly. "My friend here is an iconoclast,
a knocker. He objects to the simplicity of your ship, to her rigging,
to her going qualities. He objected to the perfection of that schooner,
also. He speaks out, and consequently gets into trouble. Now it's for
you to show him that he's right; that, after all, racing is a game
between men, not between ships, I'll make it fifty dollars if you keep
that schooner just where she belongs."

"I'll run her out of sight befo' night, if de wind comes--hit looks
like it's coming now, by the shake outside the reef--but dat's de
United States marshal youse fired on, perfesser. I knows him of old,
an' I got no use fer him. But watcher got in de box? Speak up, or I
throws her into the wind."

"If you so much as alter the course of this sloop one point," said the
thin-faced man quietly, from a place to leeward, where he had gone
unobserved, "I'll fill you so full of lead that you'll make a hole in
the bottom where you'll strike. Head her out over the reef, and then
due east, until further orders."

While he spoke he rested a long-barrelled six-shooter of the heaviest
pattern in the hollow of his arm, with its muzzle pointing directly at
the heart of the giant mate. The man with the pale eyes sat upon the
taffrail with his Colt automatic in readiness, and looked Smart and the
two men over without a word. Speech was unnecessary. The iconoclast
had done all that was needed to bring about a perfect understanding,
and, as both men were armed with guns that admitted of some respect,
the _Sea-Horse_ held her way over the reef under all sail, while the
freshening breeze heeled her gradually over until she fairly tore along
through a calm sea, leaving a snowy, boiling wake astern.


III

Bahama Bill looked his men over. He feared neither gun nor knife when
the time came for a fracas, but there was another consideration which
moved him deeper than the threat of the thin-faced invalid. The marshal
had libelled his vessel upon an occasion, for the payment of a small
bill. Here he was forced, at the point of a gun, to run away, to carry
the evident prey with him. It would exonerate him if caught, for he
could prove that it was a matter he had no discretion in. He could,
with all safety, put as much space between the two vessels as possible.
All hands would swear that he was forced to do so.

The idea tickled him, and his huge, ugly mouth broadened out into a
sinister grin as the _Sea-Horse_, racing along through the choppy water
of the edge of the Gulf Stream, poked her short horn out over the foam,
and tore away to windward.

The box in the cabin excited his curiosity, but he felt sure that it
was of value, and that the men were trying to make a getaway with it.
Smart was sitting quietly watching the affair, and being, like the
mate, under the guns of the passengers, there was nothing to do but
obey orders, or take the consequences.

"Seems like your health has improved wonderfully since you dined on the
ship's grub," said the yacht captain, addressing the invalid, who held
the revolver.

"The sea air is good for the health," assented that gentleman, his thin
face lining up into something resembling a smile. "It'll be healthy
for all of us out here in the broad ocean, free from all cares. Oh,
the life on the bounding wave for me--isn't that so, Jim?" said he,
referring to his companion.

The sharp "ping" of a bullet interrupted the answer, and it was found
that to be perfectly safe it was necessary to remain under cover.

"Those bullets would go through the ship both ways and back again,"
said the invalid, as the rest snuggled down, "but of course it's well
to keep out of sight. Better put everything you can on her, skipper,"
he added, addressing the mate, "if you want to keep clear. Let her go.
Don't stop on our account. When we get an offing, I'll trust you to
steer without trouble, and I'll put out a line to catch some supper.
There ought to be fine fishing off the reef this time of year."

"Oh, I'm mighty feared ob those guns," said Bahama Bill, in a deep
voice, which he tried to raise to a frightened treble. "I'll steer her
all right toe any place yo' wants toe go. Lay de co'se, says me. I'll
take youse dere if the hooker'll go."

"It's a pity you haven't some decent canvas aboard her," said the
invalid.

"If you had some decent gear, we might show that fellow a clean wake.
You seem to know your business, all right."

"If you want to make a getaway, you better stop knocking this sloop,"
said Smart.

"Dat's right, cap'n, ef dese perfessers want toe make good, dey
better quit hittin' de _Sea-Horse_. I won't stand fer much ob dat
foolishing," said Bahama Bill.

"The invalid is a regular image-breaker," said the pale-eyed man
sympathetically; "don't mind the knocks, my good fellow. Tell me what
other cloth you can put on the ship, and I'll see that it's spread.
They're getting out everything that will hold wind astern of us."

This was the case aboard the schooner. The United States marshal, Tom
Fields, had been told of the successful onslaught of "Thin Jim" and
Dick Nichols, sometimes known as "the Owl" on account of his colourless
eyes, upon the safe of the gambling establishment. This contained seven
thousand dollars in cash, and nearly as much more in jewelry that had
been accepted for gambling debts.

The two crooks, a pair of the most desperate and notorious cracksmen,
had made good the haul in broad daylight, having first arranged to
have the sloop ready and waiting for the reception of the valuables.
The ignorance of her crew was rightly depended upon, and the plot had
so far been fairly successful. If they could once get to sea, the rest
would be easy, for they could land anywhere upon the Bahamas, from
Nassau a thousand miles down to the Great Inagua Bank. It would be next
to impossible to catch them. It all depended upon the vessel and her
manoeuvring.

Fields recognized the _Sea-Horse_ at once, and, knowing her peculiar
character, and also that of her owners, he at once came to the
conclusion that the giant mate of the wrecker was in the game with the
other two experts from the North. He at once pressed the yacht _Silver
Bar_ into service, and making sail about the time the _Sea-Horse_ was
standing out the channel, came along in pursuit, with the conviction
that he would soon run the heavier working vessel down under his gun
and force her to surrender.

Armed with a modern rifle of small bore and great range, he had
returned the fire of the burglars at once, in the hope that he might
cripple some one, even at the range of half a mile. His ammunition
consisted of hardly more than a handful of cartridges, and he was
forced to use these sparingly, depending now upon the seamanship of his
crew and the seaworthiness of the _Silver Bar_ to make his catch.

With all sail he stood down the channel, and was beginning to haul
up on the _Sea-Horse_, when she took the first of the southerly wind
coming over the reef. This had given her a good start, and she was now
about a mile to windward, and going like mad to the eastward, across
the Gulf Stream.

"Clap everything you can on her," begged the marshal; "put out the
awning, tarpaulins, anything that will drive us. It's a thousand
dollars reward if we land them, and I'll split even with you if we do."

The captain of the _Silver Bar_ needed no urging. He wanted that
five hundred. He would have to go, anyway, and here was the chance
of the season. He broke out jib-topsails, stretched his mainsail
to the utmost, and trimmed his canvas for the struggle, setting a
club-topsail aft and a working one forward, with a big maintopmast
staysail. He was soon making the most of the lively breeze, and
plunging through the blue water to the tune of ten knots, heading right
into the wake of the flying _Sea-Horse_.

The wrecking-sloop, leaning well down to the now freshening gale, tore
a way through the Gulf Stream, sending the spray flying over her in a
constant shower. She headed well up, a trifle closer than the schooner,
and she waded through it like a live thing. Her rough gear, meant for
work and hard usage, stood her in good stead in the heavy water off
shore.

All the lines stretching taut as bow-strings to the pressure made a
musical humming which sounded pleasantly upon the ears of the listening
men aft. They still held their weapons in readiness, but it was evident
that Bahama Bill was going to send his favourite through to a finish in
a style fitting her record.

With one hand upon the wheel-spokes, he lounged upon the steering-gear,
nor ducked nor winced as the rifle projectiles now and again sang past.
The range was getting too great to be dangerous, and the ammunition
of the marshal was getting low. Finally the fire astern ceased, and
the two vessels raced silently across the Stream, each striving to the
utmost for the objective point, the Great Bahama Bank, seventy miles
away, due east.

Once upon the shoal, the wrecker would have the advantage, for he knew
the Bank well, and could follow channels which the heavier schooner
would almost certainly fetch up in. The marshal knew this, and urged
the schooner to the limit of her powers.

Away they went across the Stream. The _Silver Bar_ was rooting deeply
into the choppy sea, caused by the strong northerly current which flows
eternally between the Florida Reef and the Great Bahama Bank. She would
plunge headlong, and bury her bows clear to the knightheads, ramming
the water so heavily that it burst into a great comber from both sides.
Then she would raise her dripping forefoot clear, until one could
see under her body aft to the heel of the foremast, rearing up like
a spirited horse under the spur. Down she would plunge again with a
forward lunge, and every line of standing rigging would set like a bar
with the strain.

Fields, the marshal, was getting all he could out of her, and she was
gradually hauling up in the wake of the wrecker. Before the sun sank
in the west she was less than half a mile astern, and coming along
handsomely.

Smart, on the _Sea-Horse_, trimmed his canvas, stretched the peak of
the mainsail, and sweated the topsail sheet and tack until the lines
would stand no more. The _Sea-Horse_ was literally flying through it,
and her heavy build caused her to strike the seas with a smash which
flung the spray in showers.

Bahama Bill glanced astern, and saw that he would soon be alongside the
pursuer, and the anxious faces of the passengers told of a nervousness
which could not be concealed. Both Sam and Heldron were aware that
they were making a getaway, but they had no choice in the matter, and
they would obey the mate to the last.

Smart studied out several wild propositions which occurred to him to
disable the sloop and be overhauled, but, as there was every prospect
of getting shot for any attempt, he wisely kept on, feeling sure that
the marshal would soon be alongside and force surrender.

They had run all the afternoon, and had gone many miles, but now that
they were really at sea, the schooner would have the advantage.

Darkness came on, and the thin man holding the revolver appeared to
tire. "You might get dinner ready," said he, "I'm about ready to eat
again."

"I don't got noddings but pork, cold an' fat," said Heldron, who acted
as cook.

"Bring it on deck," said the invalid. "It's a shame you fellows live
the way you do."

He bolted a full pound of the greasy meat, and seemed to enjoy it.

"Does me good to see how you've improved under the salt air," said
Smart.

"The more he eats the thinner he gets," said the pale-eyed man,
shifting his automatic pistol into his left hand. "You can let me have
a try at it now."

After all hands had eaten, the darkness had grown to the blackness of a
tropic night. The _Sea-Horse_ kept along without lights, but those of
the schooner soon showed close astern, and appeared exceedingly near.
No shots had been fired, although the range was now close, and there
was every opportunity, could the marshal see, of hitting a man, but
the plunging of the vessels evidently made his aim uncertain, and he
reserved his fire, feeling sure that he would soon be close enough to
force matters to a satisfactory conclusion without bloodshed.

"Dere ain't but one chanct in fo'ty ob our makin' de gitaway," said
Bill, gazing astern at the approaching vessel, "but I'll do the bes'
I kin to shoo fly dat ornery marshal. Dere's a bit ob a squall makin'
ah'ad, an' ef we kin hold on till it comes up, I'll try to fluke him
when it's thick."

"My black friend, if your boat was any good you could make a getaway
without trouble, but this craft is surely on the bum," said the
thin-faced invalid ruefully. "I've no doubt you think her all right in
her way, but her way is not that of those who expect to make either
comfort or time when afloat--she's rotten."

"Look here," said Bahama Bill. "Yo' better take my advice an' not hit
this sloop any more. If yo' don't think she's any good, why yo' come
abo'd her? Why yo' want to run off with her, hey?"

"Why, indeed?" sighed the invalid, shifting his gun and gazing ahead
at the gathering blackness of the squall, which was just one of
those little puffs of smudge, a bit of breeze and drizzle, common to
southerly wind in the Stream.

"Shall I run her off an' make the try fo' it?" asked the mate.

"Yes, do the best you can," said the iconoclast, nursing the barrel
of the six-shooter. "Looks like we're up against it," he added to his
pale-eyed partner, who seemed to grow more and more anxious as the
pursuing schooner drew up in the wake of the _Sea-Horse_.

"Stand by to haul down the jib an' fo'sta's'l," ordered the mate, and
just then the first puff of the squall heeled the sloop over slightly,
and gave her greater speed. The rain came with the breeze, and for a
moment the vessel fairly tore along with the increased pressure. It
gave them considerable advantage over the schooner, for it struck them
first.

Just as it began to show signs of slacking up, Bahama Bill gave his
final orders. The head-sails were run down so as not to show against
the sky, and the mainsail run off until the leech was on edge to the
pursuing vessel, the _Sea-Horse_ squaring away and running off at
nearly right angles to her course. In this manner she presented little
besides her mast to be seen in the darkness, her white canvas being now
almost if not quite out of sight.

"Stan' up an' look astern, now," said Bahama Bill to the thin-faced man.

The request was complied with, both men standing up and gazing back
into the blackness, which now showed only the port, or red, light of
the schooner, telling plainly that she had not discovered their ruse,
and was holding on with the freshening breeze, confident that when it
let up she would be close aboard the sloop.

The course of the _Sea-Horse_ was almost due north, while that of the
pursuing vessel was east. Before the thickness of the rain was over,
the wrecker would be safely out of sight to the northward, and the
marshal would hold on only to find he was chasing nothing. They watched
her pass on toward the Bahamas, and her lights fade out, and then the
thin-faced passenger spoke.

"For a bum old boat, this did the trick, all right," said he to his
partner. "I didn't think we'd make it, but I guess we will, all right,
now--what?"

"Looks like we're off for fair," said the pale-eyed man. "We'll make
a landing without delay, and let the marshal go hunting the town of
Nassau for two well--but not favourably--known gentlemen. That's a
strong shooting rifle he carries, hey?"

While they talked, interested in the chase, the mate of the _Sea-Horse_
had begun to think of his part in the affair. Both he and Smart had now
to face a serious charge, and the prospect was not pleasant, especially
as they had not chosen to take part in the escape of the two men who
now had shown that they were fugitives from the law and the marshal.

The mate had outwitted his old enemy, and, as the success of his
seamanship became evident, he began to realize that the game was now
up to him. Smart stood near, and was about to say something to that
effect, when he caught the glint of the black man's eye, shining white
in the darkness.

It conveyed a meaning to the yacht captain, for he was well versed in
tricks of the sea, and he at once spoke to the passengers, calling
their attention to the vanishing ship. He did not know just what Bahama
Bill would do, but he knew from that look he would act, and act at once.

Almost instantly the mate pushed the wheel-spokes slowly over, doing it
so gently, so gradually, that only Smart was aware that the wind was
hauling to the lee, and that the mainsail would soon be taken aback. He
spoke again, and the men gazed a moment more at the shadow passing out
across the Stream. Then the mainsail took the wind to port, and swung
with a quick jibe to starboard.

The sheet well off came over in a bight, and, while the two gentlemen
of fortune had agility enough to dodge the main boom, the line caught
the tall, thin-faced invalid, and jerked him quickly over the side into
the sea.

The other man sprang out of the way, but almost instantly recovered
himself, and covered the mate with his weapon. He seemed to realize
that some trick had been played, but just what he failed to understand.
He hesitated to fire, and that instant cost him the game. Bahama Bill
made a quick plunge over the taffrail, and disappeared in the white
wake astern. The pale-eyed man held his pistol in readiness to shoot,
but he was warned again by Smart's voice.

"Don't fire, you fool, he'll save your friend," cried the captain.
"They'll hear the shot aboard the schooner--put up your gun."

The quickness of events seemed to cause even the cool-headed burglar
to hesitate as to what course to pursue. The mate had gone overboard
evidently to save his companion. It was certain death to be left out
there in the ocean, and Smart was even now swinging the _Sea-Horse_
around in a great circle, heading well to the westward, to make it
farthest from the disappearing schooner.

Heldron and Sam had sprung to the sheet, and were rapidly hauling it in
hand over hand, while Smart bawled out orders for them, regardless of
the saturnine passenger with the gun, who seemed undecided whether to
shoot some of them or not.

He sat down and gazed astern at the place where the two men had
vanished. He knew his companion was a strong swimmer, but he knew
nothing of the black man's giant strength, his remarkable staying
powers, and fishlike ability in the sea.

Smart hauled the sloop up on her port tack, and slowly circled, knowing
almost exactly where he would pick up the mate. He would not go too
fast, for fear of overrunning him, and he felt certain that he need not
hurry on his account.

The pale-eyed man appeared to think there was little use hunting for
men in the darkness, and his knowledge of his whereabouts was evidently
completely lost.

"What's the use, now?" he asked finally. "You can't find a man in the
ocean on a dark night. Better give it up. Let's make a run back for the
Keys."

"With Bill trying to save your partner?" asked Smart, in feigned
disgust.

"Oh, well, my friend, if there was any use of hunting for them, I would
stay as long as the next man."

"I'm not exactly what you might call your friend," said Smart coldly,
"but I'm going to stay around here a little while. Don't try to force
matters, because I won't leave this part of the Atlantic until I'm
satisfied both are gone for good."

"See here, Mr. Sailor-man," said the pale-eyed one. "I hold the
decision just now. I don't want to make rough-house on board of your
excellent yacht, but you must do as I say. I'm not a knocker. I don't
want to say anything against you. But you take my orders, and make a
getaway from here in about two minutes. I want to land that box before
daybreak--you understand?"

Smart was about to argue the matter further, but desisted for a few
minutes while he had the forestaysail run up and the jib hoisted. He
was swinging around in a large circle, and was now ready to carry
head-sail and have his vessel manageable. In the meantime, Bahama Bill
was busy some two hundred fathoms distant.


IV

When the mate plunged overboard after the thin-faced gentleman, he had
a very definite idea of what he must do. To attempt to retake his ship
under the guns of two armed men who were expert at the use of firearms
would have been suicide. They would have shot him before he could have
taken charge.

He knew Smart to be a good sailor, and had considerable faith in his
ability to handle himself properly in an emergency. He felt certain
that the captain understood the game, and gave him merely a look to
signify that he was ready. Then he had gone over the side for the man
who had the six-shooter, feeling sure that the fellow would not let go
of the weapon until he had to.

He swam quickly along in the swirl of the wake, keeping his eyes open
for the head of the passenger to appear upon the whitened surface. In a
moment he saw him.

The thin-faced rogue was a strong swimmer. He was also a powerful man,
spare and muscular, capable of taking care of himself in that smooth
sea for a long time. He had suddenly found himself flung far over the
side by the jibing sheet, but he clutched his pistol firmly, knowing
that his partner would take charge until he was safe aboard again.

The weapon was heavy, but he jammed it into his waist-belt and struck
out slowly, meaning to swim along easily until the sloop returned to
pick him up. He could see her plainly, and he saw Smart start to swing
her around to return.

Then he was suddenly aware of a black head and face close aboard him,
the head sticking out of the sea and coming along at a smart pace. At
first the sight startled him. He hardly knew what had happened. Then he
surmised that the mate had been swept overboard also, and was swimming
near for company.

"You got it, too?" he asked, as the head of Bahama Bill came nearer.
The answer was a terrific blow between the eyes, which sent the stars
sailing through his brain. Then he felt the powerful hands of the
giant black closing upon him, and he fought with furious energy to
keep free. They clutched and clinched, the mate getting a firm hold of
the man's right hand, which he twisted around behind him. The struggle
caused them to sink below the surface, and the straining made breathing
necessary.

The giant mate swam fiercely to regain the surface, dragging his
antagonist along with him. He finally got his head clear, and breathed
deeply the salt air of the ocean, spitting out a quantity of salt water.

The thin-faced man had swallowed much brine, and he came up weakly.
He still struggled, but he was no match for the black diver. In a few
minutes Bahama Bill had his hands secured behind him, and then rolling
easily over upon his back, he grasped the fellow by the collar, and
proceeded to swim with him in the direction of the _Sea-Horse_, turning
his head now and then to keep her whereabouts certain.

He lost her several times in the splash and froth of little seas, which
broke again and again over his head, for he swam low and saved his
strength, but he knew that Smart would stand by. Soon he made her out
coming along smartly right for him, and he suddenly raised himself and
called out loudly:

"Get the small boat over--don't yo' try to pick me up from de sloop,"
he bawled, in his bull-like tones.

Smart understood, and threw the _Sea-Horse_ into the wind, Sam and
Heldron heaving the small boat upon the rail, and waiting for her
headway to slacken before launching her. Then they dropped her over and
sprang aboard.

Somewhere off in the darkness they stopped and pulled the men from
the water, but neither Smart nor his passenger could see in just what
condition they were rescued. The boat seemed to take a long time over
the matter, and when she finally started back the pair on board the
_Sea-Horse_ saw only the two men, Sam and Heldron, rowing as they had
started out.

As the boat came alongside, the pale-eyed man peered over to see if his
partner had been rescued. He still held his weapon in readiness for
enforcing his orders, intending to push matters rapidly the moment the
men were aboard again.

The first intimation he received of anything wrong was a spurt of
fire issuing from the bottom of the small boat, accompanied by a loud
explosion.

At the same instant a heavy bullet struck him just below the
collar-bone, slewing him around and causing his pistol to fall from his
hand. The next instant Smart was upon him, and bore him to the deck.

The men clambered aboard, Bahama Bill leading, and in less than
five minutes they had the two worthies triced up in a shipshape and
seamanlike manner, lying upon the after-deck.

The giant mate gave a grunt of approval as he glanced at Smart.

"Yo' suah did de right thing, cap--I reckoned yo' might--but dat was a
bad place toe jump a man, out dere in de water; it was dat, fer a fact.
Now, yo' Dutchman, yo' Sam, git de grub from de box ob dat invalid,
I'm mighty hungry, I kin suah eat a tid-bit--then we'll see how long
it takes us toe git in behind Floridy Cape. I s'pose yo' wouldn't mind
a bite ob dat good grub yo' brought abo'd, hey, perfesser?" he asked,
addressing the reclining invalid.

"Don't rub it in, cap'n; don't rub it in," said the thin-faced man from
his place upon the planks. "You take my advice and let that box alone.
It'll take a stick of dynamite to bust it, being as it is made of steel
under the outside wood cover. It's a very good safe, and strong. Better
let that Dutchman get us a few pounds of that salt pig you have aboard,
and some boiled corn. I'll risk the indigestion--and let it go at that."

Before daylight they had landed their prisoners and the safe upon the
dock at Miami, and Sam had gone up-town to notify the authorities that
the marshal was taking a cruise for his health to the Great Bahama Bank.

"If the vessel had been any good," muttered the thin-faced, as he
was led away, "we'd have made good easily enough. She was a bum ship,
mighty poor, and that was what caused the trouble."

"I still has a lot ob faith in her," said Bahama Bill.



XII

Journegan's Graft


When Stormalong Journegan found that running a saloon in coöperation
with the police had its draw-backs, he turned his attention to more
lucrative fields.

"It's no use fooling with such fellows as you," he said one day, "you
are sharks, pure blood-sucking sharks, you don't give a fellow half
a show to make a living. I'm through with you. I'm done. I sell out
to-day. Shanahan might be able to stand you off, he's rough, rough as a
file and ready to get into trouble. I'm past that stage of the game. I
want to live quietly without so much fuss, so much fracas and so much
blackmail. I'm going where brains count for as much as trickery and
downright rascality. I'm going where there are some educated Yankees,
some Northern men of means who can tell a man when they see him--yes,
I'm through with you Conchs and crabs."

After delivering himself he spent several days winding up his affairs
at the Cayo Huesso, the beautiful white bar at Key West, converted his
belongings into cash and took the steamer for Miami, where he arrived
in due course of time. He stood upon the deck of the steamer one
morning and watched the rising of the Florida Cape to the northward,
stood and gazed at the beautiful bay of Biscayne, where the Northern
tourists had been flocking during the cold weather to fish and hunt
in the bright sunshine of the reef. The bay was full of small craft,
yachts of all descriptions thronged the dredged harbour and small boats
came and went over the bright coral banks which shone varicoloured a
few feet beneath the surface in the glare of the torrid sun. Yes, there
was some life here, something more than the dull and sullen Conchs, the
voracious grafters of the reef city and the straying ship's passenger.
Here was Northern capital, Northern progress.

"It looks very good to me," mused Mr. Journegan as he gazed serenely
down from the hurricane deck of the Key West steamer.

They passed several vessels he knew. There was the wrecking-sloop,
_Sea-Horse_ of Key West, the _Silver Bar_, schooner-yacht for charter,
and several others. Upon the deck of the wrecker he saw the big black
mate, Bahama Bill, sitting smoking his pipe, his muscular shoulders
shining like coal in the sunlight, while he rubbed his rheumy eyes, the
red-rimmed eyes of a diver in salt water, to see better as he watched
the approaching ship. Yes, and there was Captain Smart of the lost Dunn
schooner, sitting upon the taffrail fishing. He waved his hand to them
as the steamer swung past, the thudding of her paddles drowning his
hail of welcome which he called out when abreast.

He landed and made his way to the hotel. He had plenty of money and
would live right while he felt like it. There was no reason why he
should stint himself in any worldly pleasure. Several thousand dollars
would last him some time, and after it was spent--well, he seldom went
broke. It was not men of his ability who went broke. Oh, no, money was
too easy. He never could see why some people found it hard to get. Get,
why it seemed to come to him. He couldn't keep it away. After all, he
figured that he must be something of a man to make it so easily when so
many strove so hard. Yes, it was brains that made money, brains, not
brawn, not toil--foolishness. Well, he was here to see, to watch, to
take notice. If there was anything floating about, it was most likely
he would pick it up. He couldn't help it.

The gambling-place allowed by the management of the hotel was very
well kept. It was surrounded by palms and flowers, and its green
tables were made as enticing as human ingenuity allowed. Mr. Journegan
found them much to his taste, and as the days slipped by he found that
instead of a few thousand dollars in his pockets he had but a scant
hundred. He also had a hotel bill running up at something like twenty
dollars per day. He awoke slowly to the realization that he must quit
the game and hustle for cash. It was about this time that he made the
acquaintance of a gentleman from New York who had read much and studied
more, deeming the human race a fit problem to devote his mind upon. Mr.
Smithe, who insisted that he had an "e" to his name, found the yarns
of Journegan much to his liking. The two met upon the hotel verandas
and also at the gaming-tables, and after a few days they began to spar
for an opening for personal confidences.

"You know," said the studious Smithe, "that there is an enormous waste
of material here. Just look at all that water, that magnificent bay.
Don't you know, my dear Journegan, that every pint of sea-water holds a
small per cent. of gold, yes, real gold, gold that we are playing for
every night, gold that we need to pay our bills with--gold--"

"Are you stung, too?" asked Journegan irrelevantly, interrupting the
flow of wisdom.

Mr. Smithe eyed him a moment with some concern.

"You interrupted me--I don't understand you," he said.

"Come down. Is that straight, that gold business? Are you stringing me,
or is that a chemical fact?" said Journegan.

"I am not in the habit of lying, my friend. That gold remark is a
chemical fact, a truth which can be proven by any one familiar with
analytical chemistry--"

"And you're stung,--broke, or whatever you choose to call it--same as
me, same as some more of the crowd what follows the spinning-wheel.
Smithe, you are the goods, you are the real thing, if you're telling
the truth. If that gold yarn of yours is true, we win--see?"
interrupted the irrepressible Journegan, upon whose mind a great light
was dawning, a vast glare of an intellectual day.

"You seem a bit nutty," spake the learned Smithe, breaking at last into
the speech of his youth. "What the hell has gold in the sea-water to do
with us, hey?"

"It grieves me to hear a learned man speak hastily," said the now calm
Journegan, "but you are like many learned ones, perfectly helpless
when it comes to applying your knowledge to some purpose, to some real
use besides that of entertaining a few half-drunken admirers about a
table. Man, we're as good as made if you are straight about that gold
business. You're known here as the real thing in chemistry, you're
something of a 'Smart Alec' among the push. If you can prove that gold
is in that sea-water--it's all to the good--leave it all to me--don't
waste time asking questions a babykins would laugh at--come away--come
away with your uncle, I want to talk with you--come."

It was only two days later that the announcement was made that the
celebrated chemist, Mr. Smithe, and his friend and manager, Mr.
Journegan, were buying property along the shore for the purpose of
establishing a plant for converting the free gold held in solution in
the clear water of the reef to a commercial commodity in the shape
of gold dust, which same being worth about twenty dollars per ounce
in the coin of the realm. The announcement created some surprise,
and also some curious comment coupled with amusement, but the two
gentlemen maintained such a dignified silence concerning the affair,
and declined with such natural modesty to discuss it in any manner or
form, that the idle rich, from at first laughing, came to regard them
with respect, then with awe, and finally with a desire to a better
acquaintance. Mr. Smithe condescended to shake hands with some of
the most curious, told them many interesting yarns and anecdotes to
hold their attention, and all the time kept his method a mystery, his
discovery a thing which was of far too great importance to talk about
to strangers.

Journegan with commendable activity secured a small frontage a short
distance down the shore. Here he bought a small wharf running out into
the bay until a depth of six or seven feet was reached. With some haste
he had a small enclosure made, a sort of fish-pound built of small
piling and decked over across the middle so that a man could walk
upon the boards and gaze down into the liquid depths where the gold
undoubtedly was. The whole was screened from the curious gaze by high
boarding, and a small door was let into the fish-pound for allowing
free access of the tide. It was necessary, he explained, to have
the water change freely as it was quickly exhausted of its valuable
qualities by the process of electrolysis. The naming of the mysterious
current as part of the outfit caused more and more favourable comment
upon the part of the curious. Electricity, electricity, oh, how many
things unknown and mysterious are relegated to your strange power.
Yes, Journegan had heard of electric combs, electric shoes, electric
belts, electric--well, pretty much anything which an honest dealer
could not sell upon its merits alone. It sounded well to have the plant
run by electricity, convincing, undeniable. Who knew that electricity
would not do anything its master might bid it? It was a force in its
infancy, a giant unknown, undeveloped. It moved the carriages of the
rich. It might just as well separate them from some of their wealth. It
depended--

A set of wires was run from the plant furnishing the lights for the
town, and they were kept in exaggerated evidence all along the little
dock and building at its end. A few bulbs lit the scene at night and
caused more comment by those who passed the place after dark, when the
noise of workmen within could be heard plainly by the curious. It was
Journegan's lay to have the place operated solely at night. He gave it
out finally that the night tides were most favourable for work, and
also that it was a time when for certain mysterious reasons they could
work to better advantage.

In a very few days Mr. Smithe began to let slip a few secrets
concerning the plant. It was now working all right, he assured his
listeners, and he would not only tell them how the thing was done but
would go so far as to show some of the more worthy the entire process.
If Mr. Jones, who was a millionaire furniture dealer suffering with
tuberculosis, would do him the honour, and Mr. Jackson, a millionaire
iron producer with gout, would also go along, he would show how he
produced gold from sea-water, precipitated it, he said, precipitated
it upon the end of an electric wire under the surface. They would have
refreshments served at the dock, and a negro would carry their things
for them. It might take several minutes to wait for the precipitation,
and as the night was warm, but damp, he would have their comforts
provided for. When this news was spread broadcast it created almost
a panic among the people of the town. When two such men of undoubted
wealth and position as Mr. Jones and Mr. Jackson were to see the thing
in operation it was no longer a thing to doubt, it must certainly be
a success. They had been living all their lives upon the very edge of
a vast gold mine without knowing it, and now these two strangers were
going to enlighten them to the real things of life. It was wonderful,
great, they might even get a chance to go into the thing later on. What
was the use of toiling when gold could be gotten for the trouble of
picking it from the end of a wire.

Mr. Smithe having made this announcement with a confidential air and a
manner urbanity itself, sought at once Mr. Journegan.

"I've invited the gents," he announced with warmth, spitting fluently
at a spider crawling along the veranda, "but it's up to you to make
good. How the thunder we're going to get that piece of gold stuck to
the end of that wire while the current is playing upon it, beats me.
It took two twenties hammered into a passable nugget to make the bait.
Now it's you to land the men, and fix that bait on the wire. Mind you,
it's got to be done right there in that bullpen, right there under
their eyes. When the current is turned on it has got to form and become
attached to the end of the pole in the water."

"It'll be dead easy, Bo, dead easy. Go take a drink and sleep the
afternoon away. You trust in father Bullinger--an' he will see you
through. Beat it, I say, and don't come worrying me with such trifles
as making gold form on the ends of wires. Gimme somethin' dead easy.
If you want to hold my attention explain the philosophy of love, or
something like that, but say, don't come around me, you a full-grown
man, talking about not being able to make gold form on the end of a
wire. Man, you are a strange thing. You know some real facts, but
after that you're at sea, clean plumb out to sea without a chart or
compass. You've done your share, the hard part, getting the yaps into
the game. Hell! that's the whole thing, don't you know it. Getting
the yaps interested. After that the game is like stealing taffy from
a kid, robbing a babe of its milk. You're on. Go take a snooze. I'll
finish this cigar and then attend to the details. I promise to see to
the details and if that gold don't form on that wire you may strike
me dead for a galoot too drunk to know his name. Git out, Bo. Go take
a snooze and leave the rest to your Uncle Rube. Man, I haven't seen
such easy graft for years. Why, we'll be rich if we can hold it two
months. Rich, I say. Money to burn. Why, half a hundred yaps will be
frantic to cast their bread upon the waters, cast their money into our
pockets--and then what--and then--well, the boat leaves here daily for
Nassau--thence to--Oh, well, anywhere at all. What's the difference
where you are if you have the coin in your clothes. Say, Bo, you're all
right. You know a thing or two that's worth knowing, the only thing I
can't understand is how you grew up without becoming a millionaire.
Can't fathom it, old man, can't fathom it. Say, if I knew as much
of the books as you do I'd be in the Standard class all right--very
well--So long, sneak."

Mr. Smithe went back into the hotel. He was a bit nervous for one
who had spent much time and great trouble ascertaining the value
of his fellow men. The scheme seemed now to be futile, for how any
one could finish with any hope of success appeared impossible. He
gathered together his belongings, made them into a bundle easy for
transportation, locked his new and somewhat aggressive trunk after
screwing it firmly to the floor, and having finished these necessary
preparations for a hurried departure, betook himself to the flowing
bowl, which in his case was nothing more or less than a bottle of very
bad whiskey furnished by the management of the hotel at two hundred
per cent. profit. The draught of alcohol gave him new courage. It
warmed the cockles of his heart, a heart that was none too rigorous in
its action, but under the influence of the stimulant he drowsed and
thought, dreamed and wondered at the versatility of his friend Mr.
Stormalong Journegan.


II

"Hello, Stormy," growled the mate of the _Sea-Horse_, who was sitting
upon the deck of his sloop watching the shore, "seems like you struck
it rich fer a fact. Must be a wise one dat guy you goes with."

Journegan had reached the edge of the dock about twenty feet distant
from the _Sea-Horse_ which was lying off.

"Oh, yes, we make a few thousand dollars a day at that gold plant.
'Tain't much, but it goes," said he.

"Don't suppose you'd chin with such fellers as me no more," said Bill,
squirting a stream of tobacco into the sea with a vehemence that told
of his opinion of those who became stuck up at success, "but I ain't
forgot that last deal you played. I'm glad we got clear with our coin,
not as you meant we should, but it goes dat way," and Bahama Bill
looked thoughtfully into the distance. He had not forgotten the game
at Stormalong's bar at the Cayo Huesso when Captain Smart had been
fleeced by the gang of Havana crooks, of which "Skinny Ike" had been
the leader. He had reason to remember that night, for it had made
it necessary for both him and Smart to get to sea without delay, he
himself getting a sore shoulder from the six-shooter of the head crook
for his interference. But he had cleaned up the entire crowd, with
Smart to help, and the memory was evidently pleasant, for he smiled as
he looked into the distance.

"Come abo'd, Stormy, if you don't mind yo' good clothes. Yo' shuah is
gittin' toe be a dude--how you come by dem duds, hey?" he said still
smiling. "I don't need toe make yo' acquainted with Cap Smart--yo'
remember him--what?"

Journegan remembered Smart very well indeed. He looked at him a moment
askance, for he had set out to do up the captain that night in Key
West, and would have succeeded but for the interference of the giant
mate. He, however, saw the point at once and never alluded to the past,
but grasped Smart's hand with vigour and assured him that of all people
in the world he was most glad to see the captain doing so well. Smart
eyed him coldly, but waited for events to shape themselves, knowing
full well that the Conch was not there for idle pastime, but had some
ultimate purpose in view which was probably of importance.

Journegan was not long in getting down to business. He had plenty of
time, but the anxiety of his accomplice caused him to hurry matters and
settle the affair at once.

"I want to get a good diver, Bill," said he, finally. "I want a man
who will work for twenty dollars an hour in shallow water. Yes, I want
a man who can work at a little depth of six or seven feet and do what
he's told without asking questions--do you know of any one?"

"Yep, there's Sam--he kin work at that depth, an' I reckon he'll do it
for twenty an hour, an' not squeal," said the mate of the _Sea-Horse_,
his ugly face wrinkling into a strange smile and his rheumy eyes
turning slowly upon Journegan, fixing him with a curious squinting look
which seemed to go clear through him.

"Don't you think you could do the trick for me?" asked Journegan
pointedly.

"Nix, not fo' dat little money. Why, man, we're just waitin' fo' a few
thousand dollars on some ammunition we salved from the wreck ob de
_Bulldog_, brig--out on de Bank two weeks ago. No, if yo' kin pay a
man's wages I might get toe work fo' yo', but don't come around heah,
Mr. Journegan, with them clothes on an' ask me, me, Bahama Bill, toe
work fo' nothin'--Nix, I say nix--don't keep up de conversation--I
don't want toe hear no mo'."

The mate of the _Sea-Horse_ had received a lesson in regard to pay
only a short time before from Smart when they had been chartered by
a stranger. He was not slow to learn, and he knew that if Journegan
would pay twenty dollars an hour he would pay a hundred--if he had it.
There must be some necessity for urgent work--some work perhaps upon
the gold plant down the bay which needed repair at once, or there might
be a corresponding loss of metal. He had heard of the outfit, and had
laughed when he found out it was Stormalong Journegan who was mixed
up in it. The name of the chemist was unknown to him, but he thought
it might well be that the Northerner had really found something worth
working.

"I'll make it fifty an hour--only working one hour a night--how's
that?" asked Journegan. "Work one hour and do as you're told and you
get fifty--get the money in advance--what?"

"Yo' make me tired, Stormy. I knows yo' fo' a good business man, I seen
dat at de Cayo Huesso, but don't come abo'd heah an' begin fool talk.
Cap'n Smart heah is my partner, jest now,--he wouldn't let me work fo'
dat price." And the big mate rose as though to go below.

Smart looked at Journegan with a cold eye. He knew the fellow, but he
knew also that they were both dead broke, that their money from the
salved cargo was no nearer than it had been the day they arrived in
port. It might be a month or two before they received anything on their
diving. The ammunition had to be tested and there was no use hurrying
matters. That it would be good, there was not the least doubt, but it
had been in the hold of the brig completely submerged for some time,
so long in fact that it had been abandoned by the first wrecking crew,
composed of the _Sea-Horse_ men and the steam tug from Key West. Yes,
fifty dollars an hour might get something to eat while they waited the
leisure of the agents of the ammunition house buying the stuff. Fifty
dollars was good pay, and he knew he could not afford to let the mate
pass it for any personal matter that might exist between himself and
Journegan. He watched the pair steadily and when Bahama Bill showed
signs of giving it up he spoke out.

"Better take it on, Bill," he said, as the giant stretched himself at
the companionway. "I know you're worth more'n that to Mr. Journegan,
but I think you might take it on for a few days."

"De hell yo' do," quoth the mate, glaring at him.

"I'll make it seventy-five," said Journegan, "that's as high as I'll
go."

"Well, so long as Cap'n Smart say do it, I'll jest take it on dat
figure," said the mate. "What's de lay?"

"The process of extracting gold from sea-water is a secret one, my
dear Bill," said Mr. Journegan. "I really don't quite know the manner
of doing it myself. You will come up to the hotel in about an hour
and a half, or before sundown, and Mr. Smithe, the chemist, the
brains of the plant, will give you your instructions. You had better
come alone, and before you make the deal I want you, of course, to
promise that you will not tell of anything--not a thing you see in the
plant--understand. The process is patented, but if every one knew it
there would be no reason in the world why anybody couldn't get money
the same way."

"Dat seems fair enough," assented Bill. "Ob co'se I kin see somethings
dere, but I promise not toe tell de neighbours--yep, it goes at
dat--I'll be up toe de swell shack befo' dark--so-long."

Mr. Journegan stepped into the small boat and a moment later was
walking leisurely up the road to his rooms at the hotel. He could
count on the success of Mr. Smithe's scheme to a certainty and the
knowledge gave him much pleasure. It had been quite easy, only
that shark of the reef, Bahama Bill, had robbed him. He cursed the
avaricious mate, cursed him freely and fluently for his greed, but
in the end he laughed, for was not the gold plant to be a great
success. Bah, a few hundred dollars one way or the other was not to
be considered. He and his partner had enough for a few days yet, and
by then they would be rich men. He made his way to the rooms of Mr.
Smithe, knocked at the door and was confronted with a six-shooter held
in that brainy gentleman's hand.

"Aw, gwan--put it up," said Journegan.

Mr. Smithe quickly did so. The knock had aroused him from pleasant
reveries to an acute appreciation of the present. He saw the form
of the marshal at his door and with trembling fingers he seized his
gun for a last stand. It had been something of a relief to find his
accomplice standing there with a complacent smile upon his face, his
long six feet three of skin and bone fairly shaking with laughter.

Journegan entered unbidden and quickly closed the door.

"It's all right, Bo, the deed is done. I have the means at hand. They
will be here shortly. Let's have a drink?" he said.

Mr. Smithe acquiesced, and over the liquor the plan was gone over to
the mutual satisfaction of both.

"Gad, but you're not so bad, Mr. Journegan," said the brainy Smithe.
"You have executive ability to a marked degree. You have imagination, a
thoughtful mind--oh, if it had only been trained in its youth--"

"Skin it, Bo," said Journegan, "don't make me feel badly. I have seen
things in my day, things just as instructive as anything you get out
of text-books, even chemistry. Have another drink. My man will be here
very soon. Don't go around packing that light artillery. It won't do
if we're caught up suddenly. What would the Muldoons think if they
found us going around this peaceful hostelry armed with Gatlings of
forty-five calibre. No, put on your best duds and come away. We've
won--mark what I say--we've won. I have the best diver on the Great
Bahama Bank to do the trick, the best and biggest man on the reef--see.
It's all right. Now, then, I hear his gentle footsteps on the veranda
and I think we had better get him in here without delay--what?"

Half an hour later the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ emerged from the room
with a faint smile upon his ugly face. He strode forth quickly and made
his way to the water-front, getting into a small boat waiting for him
and starting down the bay in the direction of the gold plant.

It was about eight in the evening, after supper at the hotel, that the
party set out in a gasoline launch for the dock where the gold plant
was located. The evening was fine and the western sky still showed
the last faint tints of the setting sun. Darkness came apace and the
cool sea-breeze made the ride very pleasant, the boat rushing through
the water leaving a long, bright wake, flaring here and there with
phosphorescence where the screw turned the water and sent it whirling
astern. By the time they reached the dock it was quite dark, so dark
in fact that the shadow of the wharf loomed dimly above the tide. The
launch was made fast at the steps and the party climbed up into the
enclosure.

"It is an ideal evening for our work," said Mr. Smithe to Mr. Jackson.
"The tide is right and there seems to be no sea, no extraordinary
commotion which might interfere with the chemical result. It is
generally best to work on calm nights, but the process will obtain
under each and every condition the weather permits. Allow me to light
up." So saying he switched on the electric lights and the enclosure lit
up dimly.

"Seems like you might have had a few more lamps," said Mr. Jones
a little testily. "It'll be hard to see anything with just two
sixteen-candle bulbs."

"I shall have that attended to at once," said Mr. Journegan. "You see
we have been so busy with the results that we seldom miss the lights
to any extent. The same current that lights up the place is used for
forming the precipitate upon the wire--the gold precipitate, you
understand."

"Well, let her commence," said Mr. Jackson, a little unfavourably
impressed at the stillness and peculiar surroundings of the outfit.
"I'll sit here on this box and wait--I hope it won't be long, but I
must say that if you men can do this thing, you certainly can do
something no one else has ever attempted in history--mind you, I don't
say you won't do it, but I say commence, I want to see with my own
eyes."

Mr. Smithe, with great deliberation and some complex manoeuvring, took
up a wire and wrapped it in a cloth. He then fastened it with a small
piece of copper wire and dipped the whole into a strong solution of
something that had a most offensive odour.

"You see, gentlemen," said he, "the contents of this basin,"--here he
pointed to the mixture which had such a terrific odour. "This is the
secret part of the whole process, it produces the electrolysis which
causes the gold to form upon the positive pole of the current. I shall
now toss it overboard and we will await results."

He threw the wire over the edge of the enclosure and it disappeared at
once in the black depths below. The white cloth tied to the end still
showed faintly at a depth of six feet below the surface.

"I now shall start the current," he said, and taking up a hammer he
struck savagely upon the flooring of the dock several time. There was
a faint sound from shoreward, the sound of a gentle splashing, but
this soon subsided. Suddenly a commotion in the water below attracted
the attention of Mr. Jones. A large fish appeared to break water at
the entrance of the enclosure. Then it disappeared, and Mr. Journegan
remarked that the small sharks of the reef were most numerous at this
season.

Mr. Smithe watched the surface of the water carefully. A huge dark
shadow glided beneath him towards the end of the wire which held the
white cloth.

"I must have more current," he called petulantly to Mr. Journegan,
"give me more current for a few minutes, this wire is cold."

For answer Journegan switched off the lights for few seconds. Mr. Jones
and Mr. Jackson watched the water steadily, but nothing broke its now
black surface.

"It's getting warm now," called Mr. Smithe, and on the instant
Journegan switched on the lights again. They all sat there for some
minutes awaiting the result but the water gave no token save that now
the cloth had disappeared from the end of the wire and as the minutes
dragged by Mr. Smithe called attention to this fact.

"You see, it has begun to work," he called, pointing below at the
invisible wire. "In a moment I shall pull it up--a few dollars worth
of metal is all we need wait for to-night. I have an engagement at the
Casino at ten."

Suddenly he pulled up the wire. Upon its end, fixed fast and apparently
imbedded, was a small mass of a peculiar metal, bright, shiny and
unmistakably gold. Yes, he had done it. He had made the sea give up
its own. There it was, gold, pure gold in an ingot Worth about forty
dollars. The astounded Mr. Jones gazed in wonder. The skeptical Mr.
Jackson let his eyes open wide. It was certainly the wonder of the
era. It was tremendous.

"You can take this specimen and have it assayed," said Mr. Smithe,
handing the nugget to Mr. Jackson; "you can return it at your
convenience."

When Mr. Smithe struck the blows with the hammer, thereby causing the
current to flow, it roused Bahama Bill from his drowsing in the bottom
of a small boat close to the shore. He grinned and arose. He had been
told just what to do and paid heavily for keeping his mouth shut about
doing it. It was none of his business why they did these things, it
was his business to dive for money, no matter what the affair. He was
well paid and he saw no reason why he should not take the money. A man
of more refined mind would have possibly refused the work, but Bahama
Bill was brought up in the school where it was necessary to live,
necessary to have the means to live without going too far outside the
rules of the game. It was Journegan's business to make gold out of
sea-water. It was his to do a bit of diving for him and perform certain
feats which might or might not affect the pockets of the gentlemen now
waiting to see the result. There were so many questionable ways of
separating folks from their coin that he was amused at the graft of
these two. At the gambling house kept by the pious and strict manager
of the hotel, there were many ways of separating folks from their
cash. It had the sanction of the "Boss"--that was the only difference
he could see in the matter. He was a plain wrecker, a man who made
his living from the misfortunes of others. Yet it was a legitimate
business, and he generally played fair. He was simply a big, powerful
man, a giant diver of the Bank. He dropped his trousers and stood forth
naked in the darkness as the last banging of the hammer died away. It
was the signal agreed upon and without a moment's hesitation he made
a long clean dive into the dark water. Coming to the surface he swam
quickly and noiselessly toward the end of the dock where the gate, or
opening in the piling, would allow him to get within the enclosure. He
was a little doubtful of finding the end of the wire, as he had been
instructed to, but he thought the white cloth might make it visible,
for the water was very clear.

He never fancied swimming at night over the coral banks, for there
were always many denizens of the ocean that came in and either rested
or fed during the hours of darkness. Many a big shark lay log-wise in
the waters of the reef during the night, waiting for a rush upon the
feeding mullet or other small fry. He had found sharks always dangerous
at this season of the year, and he was now without even a knife.
However, he managed to reach opposite the opening without mishap. Then
he floated silently and took a few deep breaths for the work in hand.

He could hear the voices of the men within the enclosure and he heard
Mr. Smithe announce that the wire was ready. He was just about to
dive when a disturbance in the sea close to him made him hesitate
and turn. A triangular fin cut the surface not two fathoms distant.
It was that of a gigantic shark. Instantly the diver went under and
strove with mighty strokes to gain the opening in the piling. He felt
instinctively that the monster would follow him, but it was the nearest
place of refuge. Guided solely by memory of direction, he fairly tore
through the water, struck the opening with his hand and with a mighty
effort swung himself within, remaining under and shooting ahead with
the momentum of his flight. A commotion, a sweep of a strong current
at the gate told of a passing heavy body, but nothing touched him. He
could not hold his breath much longer on account of the sudden effort,
and he was sworn not to come to the surface within the piles. It was
at this moment that Mr. Smithe, seeing something of what had occurred
by the shadows beneath the surface, called for more electricity, and
Journegan with his rare presence of mind switched off the lights.
Bahama Bill came to the surface gently, and had it not been for the
noisy conversation of Smithe, his deep breathing would surely have made
his presence known to all. As it was he lay upon his back, close within
the shadow of the piling and just let his nose come into the air. In a
few moments he had regained his wind and sank downward to the end of
the wire. Then Mr. Smithe switched on the light and announced that the
wire was warm. It was a close call, close in more ways than one, but
the mate had made good, he had done his part. He saw the white cloth
without difficulty and attached the piece of gold. Then he fled for
the open with a courage which might have called forth the admiration of
the watchers had they known his danger.

Once clear, he swam silently and with all his strength for the small
boat. The feeling that something was pursuing him kept him nerved to
the utmost. He fairly tore through the sea, but only raised his head
every twenty to thirty feet to breathe. He swam almost all the way
under water. This he knew was the safest, for the predatory denizens of
the coral banks depend as much on hearing, or a sense akin to it, as on
sight. The feeling that something still followed drove him along at his
top speed, but he could see nothing, know nothing of its shape or form.
It was just the instinctive fear, or nerve straining one feels in the
dark where danger lurks. He gained the small boat quickly and at that
instant a great shadow swept past leaving a trail of phosphorescent
fire in its wake.

"If you gentlemen are satisfied, we will now go back to the hotel,"
said Mr. Smithe with his most urbane manner. "If at any other time you
would like a renewal of the test, we shall be only too glad to give it,
provided of course, neither you nor your guests talk of the process and
thus set curious people at work to find out our secret."

Amid murmurs of approval and congratulations, the party broke up and
started back in the launch, Mr. Journegan especially active in getting
away from the dock and explaining vehemently the reason that the
extraction had not been made before was that it took a man with brains
and one with executive ability to work a thing like that together, to a
successful conclusion.

Before twenty-four hours had elapsed there had been a company formed
with Mr. Smithe at its head, and there had been twenty-five thousand
dollars in ready cash put at its disposal in the town bank for the
purpose of carrying on the experiments and continuing the production of
gold from the waters of the Bay of Biscayne.

Twice during the week following the experiment was repeated with equal
success. The cloth disappeared from the wire and the gold was found
upon the pole. It was astounding, but there was no way of contradicting
the evidence of the senses. There was the gold. That was enough for
many--gold, gold, gold. The thing took like wild-fire. The news was
spread broadcast, and Bahama Bill sat in the mornings reading the
papers with a grin of derision upon his big ugly face.

"Of course, it's none of my business," said Smart, "but if you're wise
you'll not go into any crooked game. It's all well enough to repair
their outfit, but if you're in anything crooked, you're not playing
fair with me."

"Yo' wanted me toe go into it," growled the mate.

"I dun promised not to gib way nuthin'--fo' a big stake. Yous livin'
high on fresh beef and good whack, Sam and Heldron is paid off and
everythin' seems all right 'Tain't none of mah business what those
fellows do--I'm jest doin' what I agreed to--jest divin'--divin'--see."

"Better quit it when you've got enough to lay by with until we make our
deal," said Smart. "Of course you can't tell me what you do, what your
lay is down at the plant?"

"I dun passed mah word," said Bahama Bill gravely. "I ain't playin'
straight, but I dun passed mah word--"

"Could you give an exhibition of the part you play?" asked the sailor.

The big mate thought a moment. He did not seem to like the idea, it was
not fair according to his standpoint of honour. He had his limitations,
but he generally did what he said he would. At the same time he knew he
was getting into a game which would cause him trouble in the end if he
did not get out quickly. The thing was too good to last.

"Yep,--I--might," he finally said, grinning.

"I'll get some of the gentlemen down to the plant in the small boat and
let them see, for I for one don't take much stock in that fellow who
tried to skin me in his barroom to the southward," said Smart.

"Git 'em any time yo' see fit--I'll do the part I generally does," said
the mate.

Smart dressed and went to the hotel. It was afternoon and the two
partners in the gold plant were at the tables playing heavily. They
were somewhat at ease as to their finances, for the thing was a
veritable gold mine in fact. They knew nothing of the departure of Mr.
Jones and Mr. Jackson in company with Smart and Bahama Bill, rowing
down the shore in the small boat of the _Sea-Horse_. Reaching the dock,
Smart had little difficulty in effecting a landing at the enclosure
and of making an entrance. There was no lock upon the door, for there
was nothing to secure, and the four men were soon within the sacred
precincts of the gold plant.

"Which is the wire?" asked Smart of Mr. Jones. The gentleman explained.

"Was there anything on it?" he asked.

Mr. Jones said there was something like a bit of cloth. Smart tied a
piece to it.

"Now, Bill, do what you generally do," said the captain.

The big mate grinned. He was undecided as to whether he was acting
fairly with those who had employed him. Then he sprang into the small
boat and rowed away a short distance. The three within the place waited.

Suddenly Smart called attention to a shadow approaching under the
surface of the water. It came quickly within the gate of the pound,
and although it was deep below the surface all had no difficulty in
recognizing the giant form of Bahama Bill. The great black diver swam
quickly to the end of the wire, pulled off the cloth and attached
something in its place, going away instantly with powerful strokes.
He was within the enclosure but a minute altogether and as he went
rapidly through the water-gate into the open bay, he broke the surface
just a little with one huge ham-like foot.

"As a swimming feat, that was the best exhibition I ever saw," said
Jones to his friend. "In the night time it was wonderful. That white
cloth was there for an excellent purpose, but even in that clear water
it must have been hard to have picked it up to a certainty in the dark.
I suppose the sooner we get the news to the marshal the better it will
be for all hands. I for one am not very much ashamed of myself."

"Nor I," said Mr. Jackson.

"You will understand," said Smart, "that neither my mate nor myself had
anything to do with the game further than to obey orders and accept pay
for diving."

"You will neither be mentioned nor asked to appear--no matter what
happens," assured Mr. Jones. "We will make this discovery ourselves.
It is due us as intelligent men--eh?" he added to Mr. Jackson. That
gentleman agreed with vigour.

Stormalong Journegan had lost heavily at the wheel, the seductive
roulette. He said very little, but arose before his accomplice and
going to the bank drew out nearly the whole amount to the credit of the
company. As it happened the whistle of the Nassau steamer was blowing
its first warning blast for the people to get ashore who were not going
to sea within a few minutes. Journegan noticed it and walked along
the water-front. As he went his way he noticed the small boat of the
_Sea-Horse_ with Mr. Jones, Mr. Jackson, Smart and--yes, there was no
mistake--Bahama Bill. The giant mate was rowing and sending the craft
along with sweeping strokes. Stormalong Journegan looked but for a
moment more. Then he ran with all the speed his long legs could give
for the steamer. He reached her just as she was pulling out from the
wharf and managed to make the jump aboard without creating comment. He
instantly made his way to the lavatory, where he remained for at least
an hour, washing and rewashing his hands. When he appeared on deck the
steamer was well down the channel standing for the open sea. He was
never seen again after landing the next morning at Nassau.

Mr. Smithe was aroused by a knock at his door some time that afternoon
and he called out affably to the person to enter, thinking it his
energetic partner, Mr. Journegan, whom he had missed for several hours.
The marshal entered, and Mr. Smithe had the satisfaction of seeing his
trusty gun lying safe and snug in his bureau drawer.

"You can raise your hands, Mr. Smithe," said the officer of the law.

Mr. Jones waited not very long before paying his hotel bill. He
proceeded to the writing-room and wrote a short note home, telling of
his marked improvement, his ability to travel alone, and that he would
soon be North again. "I have been taking the gold cure," said he as he
ended his letter, leaving his family very much disturbed.

Mr. Jackson found urgent business calling him North the next day. He
declined to be interviewed. "In the interest of science, I shall keep
the secret of the chemical precipitation of gold in sea-water," he
said. "It is a wonderful discovery."

Bahama Bill sat and grinned in the morning as he read the news in the
daily paper. Captain Smart felt easier in his mind.

"That man, Journegan, surely was a fellow of ability," he said. "He has
cleared--gone clean away on the ship for Nassau--but I don't think he
will ever come back."

"'Tain't likely," grunted Bahama Bill. "No, it won't do for him toe
come along dis way agin--if yo' don't mind, cap, I'll git yo' toe write
me a letter to my wife--fightin' Jule--I reckon I better be gittin'
some ob dishear money down toe her, or she'll be a-coming along up
heah fo' toe take a look at things.--I see dat Mr. Smithe has been let
go--no one to prosecute him--toe bad, toe bad."



XIII

Shanghaing the Tong


Captain Smart sat upon the deck of the wrecking-sloop _Sea-Horse_,
and read a letter from the agents of the cartridge company which had
furnished the ammunition to the _Bulldog_, brig, wrecked some time
before upon the Great Bahama Bank. It caused him some uneasiness, for
he scowled and wrinkled his brow, read and re-read it until the giant
black mate, Bahama Bill, could keep back his curiosity no longer.

"What is it, cap? What dat guy say? No use keepin' bad news back. I kin
stan' it, I reckon. Let's have his lay--ain't dat cartridge case no
good?"

"He says," began Smart, "that the samples are good, that the cases are
all right, and he will take the ten tons, about three hundred thousand
rounds, at a cent and a half, the cartridges retailing at three cents,
or thirty dollars per thousand. That nets us four thousand five
hundred, or a little over two thousand dollars apiece for our day's
work----"

"Well, dat ain't so bad--no, dat's all toe de good, hey?"

"So far, yes," said Smart, "but the railroad won't carry them under
three hundred dollars, and won't give any guarantee that they'll be
delivered on time; won't insure them--in fact, won't do anything but
carry them at an exorbitant rate, and they say they must have the goods
within one week from the eighth of this month, or upon the fifteenth.
Otherwise they won't fill the order, they don't want them. It's now the
tenth--that's the rub. How are we going to make good? Shall we trust
to the railroad? It never does what it agrees to, and in this case we
look like bad ones. That's what's worrying me. What do you say? You're
half-partner--it's up to you, Bill."

The big black mate sat looking at the shore for some minutes. His
ugly face was wrinkled and his rheumy eyes were puckered in thought,
his huge shoulders hunching up, and giving him the air of one who has
struck a problem too great to solve. Finally he spoke.

"Jule will be along on the morning boat," said he solemnly.

"Who is Jule?" asked Smart.

"Jule? Why, I thought you knew, cap--why, Jule is my wife. 'Fightin'
Jule' deys calls her, an' I reckon dat's a good name. She got dat
letter you wrote, and de money I sent from de diving at de gold plant.
She dun heard ob dat gold plant, an' she's comin' on up. She'll be here
in about an hour."

"You think she can give us good advice--is that it?" suggested Smart,
eying the big mate keenly.

"Er--er--dat ain't exactly what I was thinkin'--no, sah, cap," said
Bahama Bill, with a sickly grin.

"I'm not a mind-reader, Bill," said Smart.

"Well, sah, cap--seein' as it's you, well, sah--er--er--well, I don't
know but what we better make de run toe Noo York ourselves. Or else
back toe Key West, an' ketch de Noo York steamer. She kin make de run
in three days; dat'll do de trick, hey?"

"Has your wife brought her children with her?" asked Smart.

"Oh, no, cap, she always leaves dem with her ma when she starts off on
de rampage----"

"I see; you're afraid of her," said Smart, smiling.

"Not eggzactly dat, cap; not eggzactly--I ain't afeared ob nothin';
no, sah, dat I ain't, but she shuah do make me nervous; she shuah
do make me feel--well, I jest don't know how, but it'll be best fo'
you--fo' you, cap--if we start fo' Noo York before she gits here. Yo'
understand?"

Captain Smart thought a moment. He had heard of Bahama Bill's wife,
the well but not favourably known "Fighting Jule," of Key West. On the
whole, it was worth considering. They might make the run in five or six
days. It had been done before, but not often. The _Sea-Horse_ was an
able sloop, but that was testing her too much. The great six-masters
had made the run to Havana in five days, two hundred miles farther on,
but they seldom did it in ten. It was a great risk; a risk which might
end up in the loss of the entire consignment, for they might not be
able to get another chance for a sale.

On the other hand, there was _Key West_, the New York steamer, which
would be due the next morning, and she would take the freight at proper
prices, and be sure to land it in town--she couldn't help it, making
the run North in three days to a certainty. The Key West run seemed to
be the best one, but there were certain other considerations which had
to be thought of.

"How about Key West?" asked Smart. "Do you think we could run in after
that fracas at Journegan's bar? Won't the police want us pretty bad if
they think they can shake us down for a thousand dollars?"

"I shuah think dey will dat," assented the mate, "if dey think we got
anything. Dey certainly trim de folks right smart down dere. I reckon
you're right, 'tain't no place fo' us wid a cargo of ca'tridges. I
reckon you're wise; I reckon we'd better be gittin' farther No'th."

"There's the New York ship from Jacksonville--how's that?" asked Smart.
"We can make that run in two days with a good wind----"

"Git de mainsail on her--Sam, Heldron--lay aft, yo fellers," said
Bahama Bill, springing to action. "We'll catch de Saturday ship, an'
git de stuff in town in plenty o' time--dat's de lay--Jacksonville--an'
dere's de smoke o' de _Key West_ comin' up de Hawk's Channel--see him?"
And he pointed to the southward.

"I'll go ashore and get my clothes. They're at the Chinese laundry,"
said Smart, jumping into the small boat.

"Yo' want toe hurry up--we ain't got no time toe lose. Git my shirts,
too, cap. I dun left 'em with de Chink las' week--an' git a five-poun'
ham on de way back, we'll need a bit o' grub----"

Smart was already rowing briskly toward the shore, where he landed and
made his way rapidly up the street. Wah Lee, the Chinaman who ran the
laundry, stood within his doorway and gazed with mild amazement at the
unwonted gait of the seaman. Fast walking was not the habit of the
Florida cracker, and to see a man sprint along at Smart's gait aroused
the suspicion that he was either making a "getaway" from some one or
something, or was bent upon most important business.

"He allee samee good mans," said Wah Lee, to one of his numerous
brothers ironing a shirt. "Wachee mee skinee him--allee samee bunk. Him
sailor fell! Him gotee mon, mon, mon. Me con mans, allee samee bunk.
Ha! ha! You see."

Smart stepped into the shanty with a brisk step.

"Get the clothes up, John. Get 'em tied fast right away--all, Bahama
Bill's and mine both--hurry, you savvy? Hurry." And the sailor handed
over his slip.

"You go to sea to-day?" asked the active Lee, scurrying around behind
his counter and trying to match the slip of paper with its strange
characters to one of the many bundles already tied fast with white
twine, and laid carefully upon the shelves along the walls.

"Yes; sail in a minute--hurry up. Got to get to sea before the steamer
gets in----"

"Ah! Allee same good--you take him. Two dolla' fiftee cent."

"What! For just three shirts and two ducks? You are a robber."

"Two dolla' fiftee cent, allee right--you pay him--no shirt, no pay
him," said the usurious Lee, lowering truculently at the skipper. One
of his brothers sniggered.

When a Celestial sniggers at a white man it is bad. Especially if the
white man happens to be a sailor--and in a hurry. Just what makes the
Easterner an inferior is not quite definite, not quite clear to the
socialistic mind, but that he is inferior is generally conceded--among
white men. Among the Orientals there is a quite different opinion
based upon their point of view, which, when discussed from its ethical
standpoint, is not illogical or unreasonable. Sailors seldom are
analytical, seldom go into the reason of things; they are content to
accept them as they are, or as they appear to be. Therefore, Smart was
much wroth at the sniggering Chink, the more so because he knew he was
being cheated by Wah Lee in his wash bill.

But Wah Lee was a hatchetman. He was a leader of the Hip Sing Tong, and
a very bad Chinese to fool with. He was in Florida only for his health,
not for gain; and the fact that gain came his way was incidental. He
took advantage of it. His little ratlike eyes glinted strangely as he
spoke his soft sing-song speech.

"Two dolla' fiftee cent--no shirt, no pay--you savvy?" he drawled.

"Come, come, John, be quick about it, and don't put up any
foolishness--I haven't time to play this morning," said Smart quickly.
"Get the clothes or I'll wade in and take charge of some of those on
the shelves."

"You pay two dolla' fiftee cent--you no' pay right off you pay tlee
dolla' slixty cent," sang Mr. Wah Lee, his eyes still narrowing, and
his hands feeling softly in among his sleeves, where he kept his
weapons; "I no time to foolish mans."

"You're on the 'bunk,' then," said Smart; "is that it?"

"Two dolla' fiftee cent, or----"

His answer was quickly given. Smart swung for his jaw, and landed
full upon the Oriental chin. Wah Lee went to the floor with a crash,
bringing down an ironing-board with him; the flat-irons, clothes, and
other gear rolling in a mess. He drew a huge, blue-barrelled gun from
his sleeve, and, while he lay supine, levelled it at the sailor. Smart
missed getting the shot by a hair, and managed to land a kick upon
Lee's pistol-arm before the furious Chink could fire, whereupon not
less than four powerful hatchetmen, trained athletes from the Orient,
sprang upon him at once.

The seaman was dumfounded at the assault. A Chink was beneath
contempt, and to find oneself beset by several powerful Orientals, who
were more than his match, was simply heart-breaking, pride-destroying.
He swung right and left, furiously clinched, and the five of them
rolled with a surging smash against the counter, breaking it down
in a mass of splinters, sending clothes, boards, and other laundry
paraphernalia in all directions.

One of the men let out a shrill yell, and the two not fighting sprang
to the doors and slammed them fast. It would not do to let the populace
of the town see the fracas. A Chinaman never advertises the fact that
he is a fighter, and is never glad to have it found out, especially
among Americans. Besides, had not the foreign pig struck down their
leader, the most high Wah Lee, and had not the august Lee essayed to
kill the pig--was he not doomed?

Yet none of them wished to act as executioner without direct and
explicit orders from the chief. This was a poor country to kill a man
in, his friends always made such a fuss; and the police with clubs
always made it bad, impossible to hide for a very long time. A rope and
a neighbouring tree were the usual finishing touches if they failed to
find the lost one.

Smart fought with a fury born of broken pride, lost self-esteem. He was
degraded, lowered to the level of common Chinks, and he gave short-arm
jolts with amazing lifting power begotten of many years' hard hauling
upon lines.

With both hands and feet he strove wildly to free himself from the
tangle of baggy sleeves, cotton trousers, and yellow arms. The mass of
struggling men rolled and surged over the floor. Smart raised himself
again and again to his knees, striking, punching, clinching, using
elbows, feet, and knees; and the tide of struggling forms flowed across
the room, demolishing everything in its path.

Wah Lee tried in vain to use his gun, and a fellow ruffian tried to
strike with the deadly little hatchet used for such occasions, but ever
and again the pile of struggling arms, legs, and bodies prevented.
The noise of the struggle was drowned in the shrill curses of the
contestants, while the sailor fought silently like a bulldog, gripping,
smashing, kicking, and flinging the mass about in the vain hope to
throw them off enough to get in a full arm-stroke from his fists. If
he could but strike a full swing once or twice he felt sure of the
outcome, for a Chinaman will seldom stand to a full-arm stroke upon the
jaw.

Wah Lee, seeing that to shoot was to endanger his men, dropped his gun
into his cash-drawer, and fell foul of the bunch to try to do his share
in overcoming the foreign pig. His remaining followers seeing him,
flung themselves into the pile, and the mass of men was increased.

Smart began to feel the extra weight of numbers. He was growing
tired, and, in spite of his excellent wind, was panting hoarsely, his
breathing hampered considerably by gripping fingers he was forced to
tear time and again from his throat. He raised himself to his knee
for the last giant effort. His heart was breaking. He smashed wildly,
furiously; plunged, bucked, threw himself about, twisting, turning,
striving with the last remnant of his dying strength. Then he gradually
gave way, growing weaker, fighting slower, sinking gradually down,
while the pile of men fastened their grips upon him for the finish. In
a few moments he was lying limp, and the panting Celestials rose, one
after the other, to their feet, while Wah Lee passed a line about the
sailor's arms and legs, making him secure.

It had been a most excellent affair; a most magnificent affray worthy
of a sailor striving for his rights; and Wah Lee gazed with narrowing
eye at the form while he panted out his losses to the surrounding
brothers of his Tong. The entire front of the laundry was swept bare,
the ironing-boards smashed, the clothes in masses of rags; bundles and
papers rolled and mixed in confusion. Flat-irons, holders, chairs,
and shelves arranged themselves in piles as though an earthquake had
swept through the place; and, while Lee looked sadly at the wreck, he
murmured: "Two dolla' fiftee cent."

It had been a bad business for the Chinaman. He had made another
mistake, but he would wreak his vengeance at will now upon the helpless
Smart. Hot irons, melted lead, and quicklime were some of the items
running through his furious mind, and just when and how he would use
them upon his victim. He would have to wait to see if the white pig
had many friends, who might make a thorough search, but sailors, as a
rule, had no friends at all; they were soon forgotten--then he would go
to work.

In the meantime he would place the seaman where the mosquitoes would
not trouble him, after first relieving him of any unnecessary valuables
he might have upon his despicable person.

Into a filthy den he carried the now insensible Smart, casting him into
a foul bunk, which had been used by a smoker of the drug common to the
Chinese coolie, and carefully covering him, so that no one would notice
the form even should the retreat be discovered. Then he set about with
his helpers to straighten up the shop.


PART II

During the period of time Smart spent in serious argument with the
august Lee, Bahama Bill fretted and fumed about the deck of the
wrecking-sloop, _Sea-Horse_. Sam and Heldron both came in for a
dressing, and both narrowly escaped getting a morning bath, for the
big black mate was in a passion at the delay. The steamer from Key
West came to the dock, and a form--the unmistakable form of "Fightin'
Jule"--stepped ashore, and moved with no uncertain stride in the
direction of the _Sea-Horse_.

Bahama Bill grunted forth anathemas, and sprang into the small boat to
gain the wharf before his spouse could intercept him. He felt there
might be something doing. When he arrived at the landing he looked up,
and gazed right into the eyes of his partner.

"Huccum yo' toe git heah, Jule?" asked Bahama Bill.

"I come wid de boat, shuah, nigger. How yo' think I come--swim? I come
toe see just what yo' doin'; why yo' don't come home. I knows yo',
Bill, yo' been runnin' wid some trashy nigger gal up heah----"

"It ain't so, Jule----"

"Don't yo' contradict me, nigger. I _knows_ you. You ain't sent me all
dat money fer nothin'; yo' ain't done it fo' no reason 'cept toe try
toe make me think yo' keers fo' me. Don't yo' make me mad."

"But, Jule, I got ter git toe sea right away. I ain't done nothin'
but gib up de dough fast as I makes it. Got a cargo ob ca'tridges now
abo'd, an' got toe git dem No'th right away. I jest come heah toe see
you an' git de partner I got in de deal. I sho' nuff glad toe see yo',
Jule."

"Don' yo' gib me none o' yo' foolishness, Bill. I knows yo'. I tells
yo' I _knows_ yo', an' I'll set right heah tel yo' gits de partner an'
gits ready toe go abo'd dat sloop--I wants to see de kind o' partner
yo' has. Don' talk toe me. Ef I wasn't a lady, I'd knock yo' blame'
haid off. Gwan!"

Bahama Bill was much disturbed, and he went up the street in no
pleasant frame of mind. His wife he knew would stay right in sight of
the sloop until the sloop sailed, and the indications were she'd want
to go along with him. It was very disturbing to a man of the mate's
temperament. He went along as a man much occupied with his thoughts,
and looked neither to the right nor left until he reached the main
street. Here he met a sailor from a yacht lying in the harbour, and he
asked him if he had seen anything of Smart.

"Yo' knows a yacht feller when yo' see him, I reckon; have yo' seen dat
Cap'n Smart?" he said.

"I saw your captain going toward the laundry about an hour ago," said
the sailor.

Bahama Bill went into a saloon and took a drink. Where could Smart
have gone, except on a drunk, after going to the laundry. He eyed the
barkeeper sourly, and asked him if he had seen his sailor partner.

"Sure," said the man of drinks, handing out a square-faced bottle and a
glass. "He stopped over across the way to the Chink's--heard something
of a fracas going on over in that direction--shouldn't wonder if he
beat up the heathen, only that Wah Lee is a corker; a sure winner for a
yaller skin."

"What yo' mean?" asked Bill.

"I means that the Chink is a scrapper--kin do 'em up; carries a Gatling
gun in his sleeve. He's only here for a few months in the winter.
Belongs to the Hip Sing Tong, or some secret society in New York. He's
something like Fat Duck, or Bill Puck, or some sech Chink I reads of in
th' papers what does up whole theatres full o' them yaller bellies."

"Gimme another drink," said Bahama Bill, meditatively gazing into his
empty glass. "It ain't likely Cap'n Smart stayed wid no Chinks, but I
goes over dere an' takes a peek, jest fer luck, sah. I shuah ain't got
nothing agin' no Chink, but I reckon I makes de yaller boy tell what he
knows." And as he finished the gin, he put the glass down carefully and
strode forth.

He walked to the door of the laundry, and looked in where the men were
now hard at work again ironing, their outfit temporarily repaired, and
business going ahead as usual.

Bill looked at the place for a moment, and his trained eye saw marks of
combat still upon the walls and shelves, which showed in spite of the
new arrangements made.

"Seen a friend ob mine, a sailor man?" asked the mate, peering into the
door.

"No see no ones--heap workee, velly busy," replied Wah Lee.

Bahama Bill entered and stuck forth his big, ugly head right close to
the Chinaman's.

"You tell me where Cap'n Smart went after cleaning yo' place up, yo'
heah?" he said menacingly.

The memory of the fracas was heavy upon Wah Lee. He backed away and
drew his big, blue-barrelled gun.

"You getee 'way velly quick--see?" he said fiercely.

Bahama Bill reached over like lightning and grasped a Chinaman by the
slack of his pigtail, jerking him in front of himself, and seizing
him with his left hand, to keep him in place. An iron lay handy, and
instantly it was sailing straight for the head of the belligerent Lee.

It caught him full in the neck, propelled with the power of the giant
mate's arm, and the Chinaman spun clear across the room, landing limp
and insensible.

The big gun failed to explode, and went clattering upon the floor.
Instantly Bill sprang for it, and seized its barrel just as a powerful
heathen grabbed it by the stock. The mate wrenched it free with a quick
jerk, and struck the fellow twice upon the top of his shaved head.
Then the whole crowd piled upon him, swarmed up against him, grasping,
clinging, gripping for his throat, while a hatchetman made a pass with
his weapon, which reached the black man's skull.

Bahama Bill was tough and hard, his head was thick of bone, and,
although the hatchet struck him hard enough to kill an ordinary man,
the blade glanced off, and cut only a big gash in his scalp. The stars
danced before his eyes, and he staggered for an instant, and in that
instant the whole gang closed upon him. Then the realization of his
predicament dawned upon him, and he let forth a mighty yell, tore loose
from the strangling holds upon his neck, and then smashed right into
the crowd with the fury of a wounded tiger, the blood from his head
pouring over him.

There was a wild mixture of huge black arms, flying forms of pajamaed
Chinamen going through the air, and with yell after yell he grabbed and
smashed the first that came in his path, tearing up the whole place
with the struggle.

He seized an ironing-board and swung it about his head, yelling
hoarsely. Then he struck right and left with it, knocking Chinese,
gear, and clothes indiscriminately about the room, until there was not
the slightest movement to denote life anywhere but in his own mighty
frame.

Upon the floor the forms lay about--smashed, stunned, insensible. Then
his fury abating, he stopped for a moment to gaze through the haze of
blood and dust of conflict. He grinned hideously at the sight, his
wound making him grotesquely horrible. Then he was suddenly taken with
an idea.

He grasped the cue of a Chink and drew it across the room to that
of another, making them fast with a bend. Then he dragged the rest,
the whole six, and fastened them to Wah Lee's cue. It made a pile of
Chinese aggregating about a thousand pounds in dead weight; and he
scanned the mass to contemplate. As he stopped, he was aware of a
sound in the partition. He listened for a moment, and thought he heard
his name called in a low voice--a voice which sounded far away and
indistinct. He roared out a reply, and listened again. Yes, it was the
voice of Captain Smart.

The captain was begging him to hurry and get him out of somewhere, and
the mate roared out in reply:

"Where is yo'? Where is yo'? How I get thar?" And he ran along the
partition, trying to discover a door or other opening. Nothing showed,
and, losing patience, he caught up an iron and began smashing the
planks. In a few minutes he had broken through into a dark recess, into
which he crawled without delay. Something smote him heavily upon the
head, and he fell sprawling, lying helpless and half-insensible, while
a shrill voice cried out in defiance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bahama Bill lay dazed and dizzy for a long time; probably ten minutes.
Then he was aware of Smart's voice cursing furiously and calling for
help. The huge mate slowly gathered himself, managed to rise to his
knees, and, as he did so, the light which now shone through the gap in
the partition showed him a slight girl standing over him with an axe.
She had evidently struck him as he came through the bulkhead, and only
her youth and frailness had prevented the blow from finishing him. He
now saw she was about to repeat the operation, and he quickly snatched
the weapon from her, and drew her to him.

"What fo' yo' hit me?" he asked, angrily.

"You velly bad mans--go away!" screamed the child.

Bill searched the surrounding gloom with a quick, comprehensive glance,
and noticed a form lying in a bunk covered with a cloth. He made his
way to it, and uncovered the prostrate form of Smart, securely bound,
but not securely gagged. The sailor could only use his tongue, but he
did use that member to its fullest extent, while he told quickly of the
way he had run up against Wah Lee. Then the sight of Bahama Bill's head
caught his gaze, and he made a wry face. The giant mate was like a
black fury with his marks of combat upon him.

"This child is a wife of that rascal," said Smart, explaining the
little girl's presence in such a place. "She's about twelve years old,
and his property--his slave, I suppose you would call it. He keeps her
in here, where no one can ever see her, and she thought you were some
fellow going to harm her when she struck you with the axe. I tried
to tell you as you came through, but couldn't make you hear--that's
better, now cut loose my feet." And the mate passed his knife through
the cords, setting him free.

"I sho' feel some ashamed toe think yo' dun up by dese Chinks," said
Bill, as Smart rose from the filthy bunk. "Yo' ain't much hurt?"

"Not hurt at all--not like you," said Smart impatiently.

"Dat clip was jest accident--shuah, shuah. Dey ain't hurt me none toe
speak of--only a little blood. But dat kid gal cum near killin' me wid
dat axe. I ain't quite through yet. Come along into the room where dey
lays."

They took the child with them, and crawled through the bulkhead. One of
the wounded men upon the floor had recovered his senses, and was busily
at work trying to loosen his cue as Bahama Bill stepped up. A jolt with
his foot stopped operations for the time, and Smart stood contemplating
the victory.

"What'll we do about it?" asked the yachtsman.

"Do? I jest reckon we'll take de whole bunch abo'd de ship. We'll need
some extra hands toe make de passage quick. We got toe git a move on,
fo' we got the git dat stuff up toe catch de steamer at Jacksonville.
Dere's a cyart right in dat co'ner, sah. Help me pile 'em in."

Smart, still furious from the treatment he had received, lent a willing
hand, and in a few minutes they had the whole bunch of Celestials
dumped in the cart and made secure.

"What'll we do wif dat little gal?" asked Bill, eying the child. "She
ain't all Chink, by de looks; reckon she's a half-breed."

"We'll have to take her with us," said Smart, and so they started out
of the shop, pushing the cart with the Chinese before them; and they
attracted no attention for some minutes, for the affrays had been
little noticed, as there had been no gun-fire.

"Hold on, let's get the clothes," said Smart, running back into the
doorway and grabbing what bundles he could reach handily, and which had
still been left intact from the whirlwind passage of the giant mate. He
tossed them into the cart, and they went rapidly down to the dock.

Some small boys and one or two loafers followed, wishing to see the
fun, but no one molested them or inquired their purpose. They reached
the water-side without mishap. Fighting Jule was sitting there waiting
for her lord to show up, and she was in anything but a sweet humour.
The sight of the little Chinese girl made her alter her purpose to
assault her huge partner, and she inquired briskly into details.

"Yo' take de kid an' keep her till we git de crew abo'd," said Bill,
with the first approach at gentleness in his voice.

Jule took the child. She was motherly, matronly, and affectionate,
though a fighter. Her own progeny were safe at Key West, and this
little yellow girl, this Chinese, appealed to her curiosity and
motherhood alike. She gathered her in her arms and looked her over in
wonder, while the men lowered their victims into the small boat.

"Huccum yo' toe be wif dem Chinks--is yo' de little pickaninny ob dat
Wah Lee man?" she asked.

"Me Wah Lee's wife," said the child, crying.

"Yo' stop tellin' me lies, lil' gal; yo' ain't nothin' but a baby."

"Me Wah Lee's wife. He bought me last moon. Velly bad mans takee Wah
Lee away; velly bad mans takee me." The child spoke remarkably well for
a Chinese.

A crowd of loafers had now been attracted by the unusual proceedings,
and, in spite of the apathy of the Florida cracker, they managed to
excite some wonder as to what the men of the _Sea-Horse_ were about.
In less time than it takes to tell it, Bahama Bill and Smart had the
Mongolians aboard, where Sam and Heldron were instructed to look after
them, and see that they went to work as soon as they were recovered
sufficiently to do duty.

"Ef yo' boys don't want toe work dis trip, yo' kin make de Chinks work
fo' yo'. Dey owes us a bit ob work. Break out dat hook an' git dat jib
on her."

In less than five minutes the _Sea-Horse_ was standing down the channel
out to sea, Sam and Heldron lost in amazement at the turn of affairs.
Some of the loafers on the dock shouted out something, but they made no
reply, and in a few minutes were beyond hailing.

"De boat leaves fo' home at six--I reckon you'll hab toe cum wif me,"
said Jule, leading the little girl away and gazing angrily after the
_Sea-Horse_. "Ef I wasn't a lady I'd shuah knock dat coon in de haid,"
she added. "I dun paid er dollar an' a half fo' toe git heah, an' now I
got toe go home--cum."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I reckon I'll change mah clothes en clean up er bit," said the mate,
after they rounded the point and stood away northward.

"So will I," said Smart. "Better open up the clothes I brought and get
some clean ones."

Several of the shanghaied men were now able to get about, and Sam took
them in charge. Wah Lee gazed about him dizzily, but made no comment.
Heldron had passed his knife through his cue, cutting it off close to
his head, in order to loose him from the bunch. He looked angrily at
the sailor, and felt his strange-looking pate with a rueful hand.

"You heap sabbee work," said Sam. "Git busy, you dam' Chink." And
he helped the truculent Tong leader to his feet with the toe of his
sea-boot.

The fight was pretty well worked out of Wah Lee, for he obeyed as best
he could, glancing with narrowing, wicked eyes at the sailor. Lines
were coiled up at the direction of the two men, and in less than half
an hour Sam and Heldron were lying at ease, hurling directions at the
bunch of Celestials, who endeavoured to obey orders.

Bahama Bill washed his wounded head, which ached sorely. Then he sought
clean clothes from the bundles brought from the laundry. By some chance
Smart had gotten hold of nothing save female apparel, but one bundle
happened to contain several pairs of pajamas; and, as the weather was
quite warm, he donned a suit and came on deck. Bahama Bill had no
recourse but to do likewise. He jammed his huge limbs into a pair of
the loose trousers, which came to his knees. This appeared not so bad,
for he was used to going barefooted. The loose coat covered him, the
sleeves reaching to his elbows; and thus attired he, also, came on deck
to take a look around.

The recalcitrant Wah Lee looked lugubriously at the black mate.

"Where you takee me?" he asked. "Where you go?"

"Toe China, toe de land ob Chinks," said Bahama Bill lugubriously,
scowling at his former adversary. "Git out de shears, Sam; an' yo',
Heldron, git out de line toe make de Chinks fast."

"What for you do?" asked Wah Lee.

"Me showee you, me showee you," snarled Bahama Bill. "Is yo' good
barber, cap'n?"

"I reckon I can cut the hair fairly well," assented Smart.

"De razzer ob mine is in de locker, toe de right," suggested Bill.

Wah Lee was quickly tied fast and his hair cut close. Then a lather was
made, and before many minutes his head was shaved as clean as a fairly
good razor could shave it.

"Next!" called Bahama Bill, in the tone of a barber.

All went through the same operation, two of the pigtails being kept as
souvenirs of the occasion. The débris was thrown overboard.

"Now yo' Chinks git out de soap an' de water--show 'em where dey
is kept, Heldron--an' I wants toe see dishear ship washed fo' an'
aft--see? Heap sabbee? I wants toe see dishear ship come inter
Jacksonville lookin' like a yacht; lookin' like she was something toe
be proud ob. Git toe work."

The wind held fair, and for two days the _Sea-Horse_ ran up the coast,
making six or seven knots, raising the jetty off the bar the third
day out. The sloop had been scrubbed alow and aloft, her decks rubbed
white, her spare sails even scrubbed clean, and she looked good to a
nautical eye as she rounded the sea-buoy and stood up the St. John's
River for town.

The inhabitants of Mayport and Pilotown were treated to the novel
sight of a heavily built sloop manned by a crew large enough for
a four-master, the officers uniformed in bright-coloured pajamas,
which fitted not at all, and the larger part of the hands distinctly
Mongolian. The customs officer stopped her and boarded her without
delay.

"Where do you come from--China?" asked the official, in amazement.

"Yo' surely ain't forgot de ole _Sea-Horse_, Marse Hennery," said
Bahama Bill, coming on deck and recognizing an old acquaintance in
the boarding officer. "We got a consignment ob ca'tridges--American
ammunition--here's de papers, an' de crew we shipped in a hurry,
without gittin' time toe sign 'em on in regular shape; but dey is all
right; dey belongs right in dishear State."

As it is not necessary to sign on hands in small vessels coasting
unless there is especial reason for it, the officer left without
further remark, and the _Sea-Horse_ proceeded on her way.

The steamer for New York was at the dock, and would not sail until
after dark. There was plenty of time to make the consignment and get
the bill of sale through. The unruly crew were kept at work hoisting
out cases of ammunition until all was aboard the steamer. Then the
ship was washed down and gear put in place, and the _Sea-Horse_ looked
almost like a pleasure craft.

"I will give you a thousand dollars for her," said a shipper who had
been attracted by the strange uniforms and crew.

"Make it fifteen hundred," said Bahama Bill.

"She will never be in better condition to sell," cautioned Smart, who
felt as though losing an old friend.

They finally compromised on twelve hundred, and, as Captain Sanders
showed up before dark, dead broke and very thirsty, he was more than
willing to get cash for his share. The deal was made, the money paid,
and the Celestial crew were at last allowed to go ashore.

Wah Lee made for the depot with his followers. He had no thought for
seeking redress by the aid of the authorities, for, with the Tong men,
the foreign pigs are always dealt with personally. There were plenty of
Chinese who ran laundries in Jacksonville who could be levied upon to
produce the railroad fare to get him and his gang back to their place
of business.

With new clothes and rigged out splendidly, all hands left the dock
long before darkness set in. Smart had a receipt for his share of the
salvaged ammunition, and the feeling that he had several thousand
dollars was not distasteful to him. His cruise on the wrecking-sloop
had been successful, and it was with a somewhat mixed feeling he said
good-bye to the big black mate.

"Good-bye, cap," said Bahama Bill. "I shuah like yo', an' yo' shuah
done well wif me--good-bye. Mebbe we kin make a new deal some day.
Dere's plenty ob money wracking, ef yo' know how toe wrack right.
Mebbe Sanders an' us kin go inter de business right, and git a bigger
ship. Let me heah from yo'."

"I certainly will," said Smart. "Good-bye." And the giant fingers of
the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ closed upon his own with their firm, solid
grip.

Late that night a sheriff came rapidly down the dock to where the
steamer was just pulling out.

"Seen anything of the sloop _Sea-Horse_?" he asked several bystanders.

"Thar she lays--right at the dock," said the watchman of the wharf.

"Ah!" He smiled grimly.

"You want the crew?" asked the watchman.

"I certainly do that," said the sheriff. "There's a bit of a charge of
kidnapping against the mate and captain. Ran off with a whole lot of
Chinks from below. They are aboard, I suppose?"

"That sloop was sold out hours ago, the crew gone, and the whole thing
settled before five o'clock. It ain't likely you'll come up with the
men you're after in this town. No, sir, they don't belong here--good
night." And the watchman grinned as the sheriff, after gazing down at
the deserted vessel, sadly went his way.

At the station Bahama Bill looked up to the window where Smart sat in
the train. He felt the parting with the keenness often developed in the
African character, and he was loath to leave until the train pulled
out.

"Good-bye ag'in, cap; good-bye," he called up to him as the train
gathered headway slowly.

Sanders stood near, and, not knowing the friendship between the two,
was a little disconcerted at the mate's warmth.

"Come on, we take the train going the other way, Bill," he said, as the
mate waved his hand.

"Shuah, shuah. Good-bye, cap----He was all right, Sanders; dat yacht
feller was all toe de good. I ain't got but one t'ing agin' him."

"What's that?" asked Captain Sanders.

"Well--er--er, well, I cayn't hab de highest regyard fo' his--well,
sah, I don't know jest how toe say it, but he sho' never ought toe been
dun up by dem Chinks--dat's all."

He put his hand into his pocket and drew forth two handsomely braided
queues.

"Yo' see dese heah? Well, I'se gwine toe make a nice dog-whip ob dem
fo' mah little boy Will toe play wif." And he stroked their satin
length approvingly as he boarded the cars for home.



XIV

The Edge of the Roncador


"The Canal needs men to dig," said Booker, the head of the firm of
shippers at Kingston, "it's up to us to get 'em and it's up to you to
take 'em to Colon--"

"But I'm not running a slaver, I'm a merchantman, by George, an' you
can go to--"

"Hold on, Captain James," broke in the man of affairs, "if you can't
run the _Enos_, a little five hundred ton steamer the way she should be
run, it'll be about time for me to look for another skipper."

"But, Mr. Booker, she's as rotten as punk--there ain't a plate in her
thicker'n a sheet of blotting paper, an' blame little stronger. She
really ain't fit to run passengers even if you bribe the inspectors to
let us. I ain't kickin' about the way you've treated me, it ain't that
at all, but to ram that ship full o' niggers and send her out is mighty
nigh murder, an', that's a fact."

Captain James was a shifty, fat and altogether sodden specimen of the
tropical white islander. He had lost a fine vessel, and being unable
to get another had drifted about the West Indies handling whatever
he could command. Booker, Benson & Co. had found use for him in one
of their old ships which had seen her best days running bananas to
New Orleans. She had made money, paid for herself ten times over, and
now she was just able to stagger along with leaky boilers and scaled
plates to the tune of seven knots, heading, as James always thought,
for the port of missing ships. Each voyage seemed to be her last, but
she somehow drifted in to her port of destination with pumps working
and crew mutinous, to discharge and stagger home again. James could not
afford to give her up. To do so would have meant ruin for him, and as
long as her owners paid him his seventy-five dollars per month--enough
to pay for his rum and clothes--he stuck to her with the sullenness
of a hungry bulldog gripping a dry bone. How he hated her. He cursed
her daily, he swore at her free and fluently whenever she dipped her
dull gray sides into the beautiful blue water of the Caribbean at each
roll, and when he brought her to her dock, which he did with much care
and concern, his exclamations at her perverseness to minding the helm
were marvels of linguistic art. His mate, a tall, thin, saturnine
Scotchman with bleary eyes from rum and cola, would sometimes deign
to look at him with a languid interest during these moments of loud
speech, and once--only once--he had allowed himself to be so absorbed
in contemplating his master, that he forgot to cast the bowline from
the drum of the donkey engine which was winding it in, and by so doing
pulled and tore out an iron cleat upon the dock end. Then pandemonium
had reigned and the silent mate soon retired to the privacy of his room
to still his quaking conscience and steady his shaking nerves with
potations of his favourite beverage, rum and cola.

"You will proceed to Boddertown, and then to Georgetown in the Great
Cayman, and after seeing Jones there, who will see to clearing you all
right, you will run the crowd to Colon, do you understand," said Mr.
Booker to his ship-master.

"How many will there be?" asked James sullenly, after finding that his
argument was of no avail.

"As many as she will carry--how many do you say, five hundred?"

"Good Lord, Mr. Booker--what? Five hundred niggers in that bit of a
ship? Man, think a little."

"She has her ventilators--has both holds well-ventilated, a fruiter
is as comfortable below as on deck, has as much ventilation with her
blowers as a liner--"

"Make it three hundred at the limit," said James with more decision
than his employer had ever given him credit for.

"Er--er, well, let it go at that, then. You'll attend to stowing 'em,
give 'em plenty of grub--it's only a couple of days with good weather,
and they can stand on deck for that time."

"All right, then," said the sailor with a sigh. He was not a bad man,
only weakened by misfortune. Had he lived a little differently, had
better luck and governed his thirst, he would have compared favourably
with many of the best skippers in the West India trade. He arose,
clapped on his grass hat and mopped his red face, squared his fat
shoulders under his dirty white linen coat, and strode forth into the
glaring sunshine. He went down the street, stopped at a saloon, took
several drinks, and after that went aboard, rousing the chief engineer
and ordering steam for five o'clock that afternoon.

"We will get to sea before dark," said he to the mate Mr. McDuff.
"Don't get too drunk, we've got a big job--I'll tell you later."

A week later the _Enos_ was steaming over the calm and beautiful
Caribbean. The sky was a tropical blue dotted with the lumpy trade
clouds, and the sea was that beautiful tint only seen during perfect
weather. She was running along smoothly down past the Quita-suena Bank,
between it and the Serrano Cays, and so far all had gone well. Jones
had proved an agent worthy of Mr. Booker's best expectations. He had
managed to get together three hundred and ten strapping fellows who
were destined to dig for the good of maritime commerce, and he had held
out inducements which, while models of veracity, were also works of
art. He had made even the most sordid details of life upon the Isthmus
appear in the garb of most attractive romance, and money--why, money
was the thing the Canal cared less for than anything in the world.
Three hundred and ten men were destined to be rich in this world's
goods. He had convinced even the most skeptical of this, and the only
thing that kept the rest of the population upon the Cayman was the size
of the _Enos_. He wished to ship five hundred, but James was sturdy
enough to stop him. Under the influence of six copious drinks of rum
and cola, he had managed to put up a determined opposition. He finally
threatened to go ashore and get very drunk if another man was sent him,
and Jones knowing him to be quite capable of keeping his word in this
respect, desisted at three hundred and ten.

"You fat sea-scutt, I'd fry the grease out o' you if I could get
another man to take the ship," said Jones in a fury. "I get a dollar
a head for those niggers, an' you've done me to the tune of two
hundred--but you can bet I won't forget you, you lobster, you blamed
fat lobster--"

Captain James contented himself with calling the agent every name he
could remember that carried disgrace or disrespect along with it, and
after that stood upon the bridge storming and fuming, every now and
then bursting forth when some new and especially choice adjective
happened to reach his memory.

By the time the _Enos_ reached the vicinity of Quita-suena Bank, the
skipper had cooled both mentally and physically, the evaporation of the
rum with which he supplied himself producing a revivifying effect only
to be appreciated by one who is addicted to rum and cola. His wrath had
subsided until he scarcely mumbled his disdain for the energetic Jones,
and his face, always red and swollen from both the fierce sunshine and
his diet, now took on a more natural hue.

"Let her go well to the westward of the Roncador," said he to McDuff as
the mate came on the bridge that evening. "The current is very strong,
and I ain't quite certain of the rate of our chronometer. Got a jolt
last voyage and seems to be going wrong ever since. Get your lights
burning brightly to-night--there'll be some ships passing and there's
no use saving five cents' worth of oil for that buzzard, Booker--and
tell the chief to hustle her along, toss in the coals, and if the
second is drunk, turn the hose on him, for we'll have to drive her
through. The niggers will have to go below at eight bells; can't have
'em lying about the deck all night getting in the way. It's cool enough
with the blowers on--keep 'em turned to the wind, that's your business.
South five east by Standard, and that'll be about south two by the
binnacle--keep your eye peeled. That's all."

Captain James retired to his room while the _Enos_ rolled slowly down
the Caribbean, dipping her gray sides alternately into the smooth sea
which rolled lazily. The gathering darkness still showed the forms of
many big coloured men lying upon the now silent deck, but when eight
bells struck off they were told to go below, and after that the deck
was deserted save by the men of the watch.

Below in the 'tween-decks, where the banana racks had been removed, the
islanders were grouped in hot and uncomfortable groups. The blowers
made ventilation sufficient, but the air was warm and the odour from
three hundred hot bodies made it far from pleasant. The bo'sn who had
herded the crowd below stood near the hatchway in conversation with a
huge islander.

"Yes, I know it's yo' orders, but I don't see why the captain makes us
stay below. I am a sailor man, sare, and I will not be in the way if
yo' let me go on deck for the night," said the negro.

"I ain't got nothin' to do with it," answered the bo'sn, "my orders is
you stay here below--an' here you stays."

"But if I give you my word as a sailor man to help on deck, don' yo'
think yo' can allow me?" persisted the giant good-naturedly. "Look at
me, sare, I very warm." And he showed his bare chest running water.

"Aw, you niggers ain't satisfied wid anything," said the bo'sn
impatiently. "You'll get to a hotter place 'n this before you
leave Panama. Get your crowd to sleep, fer I'm goin' to fasten the
hatch--there's water a-plenty in them barrels, you kin drink all you
want, an' if you get short holler for the second to start the donkey
an' pump some more in."

"Very well, I reckon I must do as yo' say," and the giant negro
settled himself among his followers, who gradually made the best of
circumstances and went to sleep.

Midnight found the _Enos_ ploughing along over the smooth swell, a
bright moon shining upon the sea and making it almost as light as day.
McDuff on the bridge walked to and fro trying to keep awake, while
the hiss and tinkle of the side-wash was the only sound that broke
the stillness. The slight vibrations from the worn-out engines barely
reached the forward part of the ship, and only the low noise of the
foam told of the ship's headway. She might almost have been at anchor,
rolling slowly from side to side as she took the long easy swell upon
her beam. The chief mate was warm and dry. He had been without liquid
refreshment for nearly four hours, and he saw a long vista ahead of
him into which the nose of the old ship pointed. He speculated a few
moments. He might go below for a drink, for there was nothing in sight,
and although it was against even the orders of James to drink while on
duty, there was no reason to suppose any one would be the wiser should
he do so. He went down the steps from the bridge and entered his room,
pouring forth from a bottle a good, nifty drink, and fizzing it well up
with the sparkling cola--ah, was there ever such refreshment anywhere
else in the world--what was that? Hark,--a jolt ran through the ship,
a slight jar, causing her to tremble. It seemed to McDuff as if the
engines stopped for a few moments--but no, they were going again, for
he could feel the vibration. He hurried on deck.

When he reached the bridge he looked about the horizon, and for a few
minutes saw nothing save the dim line where the night met the sea. Then
he gradually took in an outline close aboard to port. It was white,
and while he gazed he heard the low snore of the surf of the Roncador.
Almost instantly the chief engineer called up from below through the
tube.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Seemed to hit something an' knock the engine
out a bit, but she's goin' all right now--if there's anything wrong
let's have it."

"Nothin' the matter I know of--port, hard a port," he whispered to
the man at the wheel--"nothing wrong here," he went on to the chief,
speaking through the tube. "If the engine is all right let her go,
ram the coal into her and wake her up." Then to the man at the
wheel--"Steady, steady as she goes--how does she head now?"

"Sout' b' west, half west, sur," said the sleepy helmsman.

Five minutes later the chief called up the tube.

"Water comin' in by the jump--must have hit something--started both
pumps, but she'll be over the fire-room floor in ten minutes--for God's
sake tell me what has happened."

McDuff stood petrified, irresolute. Then he drew a deep breath and
looked out over the sea and the ship. All was quiet, there was no sign
of panic or trouble below. Gazing aft he saw the two small boats in
their chocks with their canvas covers, and while he looked he knew it
would be but a few moments before the struggle to take possession of
them would begin. Three hundred and thirty men, or all hands, including
the extra messmen, would have to take to the boats, which would hold
at the most but forty of them. Nearly three hundred were doomed. Before
dawn they would be in the sea unless he ran the _Enos_ upon the bank.
But he could not do this without calling the captain. It was his ship,
or rather his command, and he knew his duty. He went quickly to the
master's room.

"What, hit the Roncador? How the--" but James was enough of a seaman
to spring on deck without wasting words. He was a bit groggy, but the
sight of the quiet ship steadied him. There was nothing to fear just
yet. He rang off the engines and the dull boom of the gong sounded
strangely loud through the quiet night, reverberating through the hull
and making those awake curious.

"For God's sake don't waste any time. Call the chief and second from
below--let 'em keep the pumps going, but we must get those small boats
over and away before the niggers get wind of what is happening. Lord,
if they knew we'd be goners--quick, get the watch quietly and lower
away."

"But ain't we going to run her ashore, sir?" asked McDuff.

"Lord, yes, we'll start her fair for the surf, but we must get away if
we want to live. She won't hold together half an hour, an' we'll be a
good mile from solid land--man, man, hurry for your life--those niggers
will take charge of everything--hurry--"

McDuff needed little urging. He called the watch quietly while the
captain spoke down the tube to the chief, telling him to get his crowd
up as quickly as he could. In less than two minutes men were working
like mad in the moonlight. Straps were cut and lashings cut, while
the low fierce oaths and half-whispered threats of the frantic men
told of their furious haste. The selfish brute was in supreme control,
and it showed in each strained face and trembling hand. The fire-crew
came tumbling from below, cursing each other as they came out of the
hatches, some vowing to take the lives of those who obstructed their
path, all panting, gasping, rushing about with the wild panic of men
who are suddenly forced to face their end. James swore fiercely at them
and struck right and left with a belaying-pin, threatening, begging
them not to alarm the cargo. It was their only chance.

The boats dropped noiselessly over the side, the men sliding down the
tackles, clambering down along the lines, all getting into them as
quickly as possible. The half-naked fire-crew with their bare bodies
shoved and pushed for places, and if there had been even a little sea
on they would have swamped the small craft.

James had run to the bridge intending to point the vessel for the edge
of the reef. He ran the wheel over, but at that moment the second
engineer, who had been told to start the ship ahead, not understanding,
or caring for the cargo, shut off steam and climbed over the side into
the boat below him. There was nothing for the captain to do but go
or be left behind, and he hesitated not an instant, but followed the
second over the side just as the men were pushing off. They rowed
rapidly away from the horrible vicinity, heading due west. Few cared
even to look back at what they felt must become a scene of slaughter,
and only now and then did some conscience-smitten seaman fix his eyes
upon the hull which now rolled silently upon the sea.

By daylight the boat in charge of McDuff sighted the liner bound for
Colon, and in a few moments their hail was answered. Signals were
made and within an hour the entire outfit was aboard the big ship and
heading for their port of destination.

It was a terrible tale the men told, a tale of a foundering ship which
had sprung a leak--how the crowd of negroes had fought for the boats
and how the crew, after desperate efforts, had driven them back. There
were many little deficiencies in the tales which their kind-hearted
rescuers essayed to fill, allowing that the stress and excitement had
made the imaginations of many quite acute. James landed the second day
afterwards and reported his vessel lost in mid-ocean, having suddenly
sprung a leak which all efforts failed to stop. She was somewhere in
the vicinity of the Roncador Bank.

Two days later, while he was standing upon the clock at Colon waiting
for passage on the steamer to Kingston, he noticed a strange-looking
ship coming into the harbour. She was lying on one side until her deck
was awash and she was slowly steaming at the rate of about four knots
an hour. Deep she was in the water, so deep that her plimsoll mark
was several feet under, but she was working slowly in. Upon her decks
were a crowd of negroes. As the ship drew near he noticed a huge black
fellow upon the bridge who walked athwart-ships with a determined
stride. The ship was the _Enos_, there was no mistake about it, his
ship afloat and coming to dock, and the man who walked the bridge and
commanded her was the giant islander, the foreman of the working gang.

"Yes, Ah'm a sailor man," said the good-natured giant an hour later,
after the tugs had gotten to work pumping the flooded bilge. "Ah'm a
sailor man, an' I brought the Captain James his vessel. I sho'd like to
know if he is still alive, fo' I've reason to think he must hab been
lost in de small boats--has yo' heard anything about him? Yo' kin tell
him Bahama Bill would like to see him!"

"Yes, he's here all right," announced the inspector.

"Well, I'd like to have a minute's talk with him, just a moment's
little talk," said the man gently in his musical voice.

"I'll send for him at once," said the official, "but how did you save
the ship? He said she foundered."

"Ah, yes, it was a small matter, a matter of a mattress and some
lines--we drew it over the side and under the bilge whar she hit the
edge of de Roncador--oh, yes, it soon stopped and wid the pumps we kep'
her goin', hundreds of us, sare, passin' the water over the side in
barrels and buckets,--yo' think I kin see de captain soon,--Ah'm very
anxious toe speak with him; I sho' is--yo' reckon I kin?"

Before the ship was properly docked the steamer for Kingston had pulled
out, and upon her decks a crowd of men gazed at the strange vessel
which had just come in. Captain James and McDuff stood side by side
at the rail, and as the ship passed they noticed the giant black man
coming forth from the pilot-house of the _Enos_. He gazed at them long
and intently.

"Come, it's all over with us," said McDuff sullenly, "let's go get a
drink."

The islander stood long in the sunshine, shading his eyes with his
hand, until the steamer was a mere speck out at sea.

"I sho'd like to hab spoken to Captain James," he said to an agent who
had come to see him about the men to work on the Canal. "Yes, I sho'
feel that he missed somethin'--My name is Bahama Bill."

"Well, well, never mind him now. Let's get down to business. Let's see
what we can do with this gang. He'll be back after he has seen his
owners and straightened out this affair. He says you acted pretty rough
about trying to take his boats and he had to drive you off. He'll be
back all right an' you can talk with him--"

"No, he will never come back. No sah. I shall miss dat little talk with
him, but--well, as you say, I'll check off the cargo of men, they're
all good fellows every one. Come--"

"They're a good gang," said the agent to the engineer of the local
work that afternoon; "they're as good a set of men as we'll get. Lazy?
Of course they're lazy, did you ever see a black man who wasn't lazy?
Fight? No, they're not much on a fight, but I believe there is one
fellow, the foreman, a Fortune Islander, who is set upon killing--he
has a way of asking after a fellow, the captain of the ship that
brought 'em here, that makes me a bit nervous, he's so blamed gentle
and insistent about seein' him--but he never will, so what's the
difference. I'll turn 'em to in the morning."



XV

The Wrecker


On the edge of the Great Bahama, near the turn of the Caicos bank,
the hull of the _Stella Polare_ lay high on the coral reef. She was a
passenger steamer, and had made the run many times between Havana and
the Mediterranean ports. She had run with an easy company, and many
passengers had changed their countries in her; for she had been a crack
packet in her day; and her day had passed, joining the vast host in
limitless time.

From a distance the black hull loomed large and sinister, a long iron
mass standing out clearly in the surrounding whiteness of coral and
foam. Closer observation showed the rusty plates, the paintless cabin
houses, and the weather-worn woodwork that still remained. Her two
rakish funnels stood slantwise, holding their places by the aid of
rusty guys, the chains and all valuable metal work having long ago
been stripped from her. And so she lay as the _Buccaneer_, a wrecking
schooner from Nassau, came slowly across the bank.

The rays of the setting sun shone strongly upon the iron hull, and
the crew of the schooner gazed at her from various positions of ease
and lassitude; for the day had been hot and sultry and the air filled
with a brassy coloured humidity that was as thick as a heavy haze on
the horizon. The master of the wrecker was an American named Sanders,
formerly master of the _Sea-Horse_, and his mate was William Haskins,
known as "Bahama Bill." He was a good-looking fellow, bronzed and fine
featured, and his black hair was streaked with gray. Heavy lines in his
face suggested suffering rather than exposure, although his vocation
was rigorous enough.

The master had gazed for fully a quarter of an hour at the wreck as the
vessel fanned along before the light breeze, when his mate addressed
him.

"Shall we get the gear ready, cap? I got a box ob Atlas powder and
twenty fathom of fuse with exploders. Dat's enough, hey?"

"Yes, get what you need in the small boat," said the master absently.
"You can haul down the jib and let go when you're ready. Give her not
more than four fathoms; for we won't stay here long--looks like it's
coming on bad, and the glass is falling. The bank isn't safe this time
of year. We ought to get into some pocket and tie up." The master spoke
absently, still gazing at the wreck, and the mate noted it.

"She shuah don' look much like what she do when yo' had her, Cap," said
Bahama Bill.

"What, the _Stella Polare_?"

"Yes, sare, an' it warn't so long ago neither. A few years on de reef
make a lot o' difference in her. Seems like yesterday you run her into
Havana fer de last voyage in de old charter. It shuah do, Cap."

"When you're ready with the small boat I'll go with you," said the
Captain, still gazing at the black hull.

Anchoring with the fore and mainsails still up, the small boat went
slowly into the bay. There was little or no surf on the lee of the
bank, and the party landed without difficulty. Then they began carrying
their outfit to the wreck. They would break her up, stripping the
plates from her sides for old iron and tearing apart the most valuable
portion of her engines to sell at Key West. It was a job that the men
who had been there before them had declined as unprofitable, for it
required considerable work to strip the plates, and the engines were
well rusted in the half-submerged hull. At high water there was little
of value uncovered in her hold; but the wrecking crew had not been
successful that season, and it was a case of getting what they could.
Wrecks had been few, and the sponging industry, which all wreckers of
the bank usually follow during the summer and hurricane season, had
paid small returns. Dynamite was expensive to use; but it was just as
well to explode a part of it as to have it spoil on their hands. They
could still keep enough for a few loads of fish, for the law of the
reef and bank was never enforced in regard to high explosives, and they
were far away from any prying eyes.

The crew carried sledges and hydraulic jacks, with a spare tackle or
two, and the mate carried the explosive. They reached the high side
where the dry sand had banked against it, and one by one mounted to the
deck, the Captain going aft, still gazing at the old hulk in an absent
manner. She was a long ship, and he walked the entire length of her
deck until he reached the taffrail. Then he turned and looked at the
cabin house. His mind was far away from the work he intended. He saw
that deck as it had been in the days gone by, the days of his youth,
and as he looked a strange feeling of loneliness came upon him.

The deck was there before him, and upon it he saw the faces of the
people who had walked or sat upon it. Even a blistered bit of paint
on the deck-house recalled a certain day in the time gone when he sat
there with the one woman he had lived for, the wife of his youth. A
soft voice called to him and spoke the words he remembered so well. He
almost started, and a choking feeling came in his throat. Yes, he had
sat near that particular spot many times and listened to that voice;
now still, but which seemed to call again. There were the stitches
in the canvas deck covering she used to rub with her foot while
talking, sitting there as they used to do in the old days when the
company allowed him to take his wife with him on the run across. The
deck seemed to slant away and roll from side to side, and he balanced
himself to meet the roll of the ship. The stillness about him was
unbroken save by the distant murmur of the sea and the low voices of
the men waiting forward for the work to begin; but he heard nothing
save the voice of the past.

He went into the deck-house. There was the old settee, now without the
red upholstered cushions. He remembered how many times he had sat there
in the evenings after the voyage was run, and how for years they had
chatted under the light of the saloon lamp when the passengers had all
gone ashore and the ship was deserted by all save the crew. About him
were the signs of wreck and ruin, and he stood for some minutes gazing
about the cabin. A woman's shoe lay mouldy and green upon the floor
near a stateroom door, and it brought a dull pain in his heart as he
noted it. The owner was dead, long dead, probably lost in the hurricane
when the vessel went into her last resting-place. Far away in Nassau
was a mound, grass grown and storm swept, the resting-place of the one
who had made life worth living for him. Soon the sand would bank up
and cover the old hull, and the long beach grass would grow over it,
blotting out all.

He looked into a deserted room. The door was broken and hung slantwise
upon its one rusty hinge. Then he stepped softly back into the middle
of the saloon and listened. A thousand little things brought back
memories, and he raised his head. "Oh, God! the loneliness of it all!"
he cried.

In the stillness he thought he heard the laughter of a woman's voice.
No, it was the sobbing, and he started. A land crab scuttled across the
floor of the cabin, making a disagreeable rattling as it went. In the
ghastly stillness of the lost ship a thousand sounds seemed to fall
upon his listening ears. He saw the table set and the people sitting
about it, the stewards getting the dinner, and the old questions asked
him of the day's run; but foremost and always was the form of one woman
whose bright smile welcomed him from the table end. He stole forward
and went into his room, the Captain's room of the liner. The wreck and
confusion here were even greater than aft; but he saw nothing now save
the time when they used to sit there, she sewing upon some piece of
woman's work and he poring over the chart which held his course.

His heart seemed bursting. The ghastly wreck was awful,--it was the
wreck of his hopes,--and he bowed his head and covered his face with
his hands as he sat upon the edge of the bunk. The light was fading;
but he failed to note it. Fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes he sat there,
and the mate, who had returned with the rest of the gear left in the
boat, was searching for him. The sun sank below the sea before that
officer broke into the room and saw him sitting there.

"It's dun gitting too late toe do enny mo' this evenin', Cap," said he
with a tone of complaint.

"All right. Go aboard, I'll stay here awhile," said Sanders.

There was something in the seaman's face that caused the big mate to
forget his temper at the delay.

"De men want dere grub, sare," he said quietly, "but I reckon I ken
wait. Shall I send de boat in fo' yo', sare?"

"Good Lord! let me alone!" he cried. "Go! Leave a boat for me. I'll row
out aboard myself when I'm ready."

The mate went forward, and the men followed him in the small boat. They
went aboard the schooner for the evening meal, and afterward turned in
for the night. A small boat was towed in by a man in the craft they had
used, and it was left upon the sand.

Comment was made forward at the Captain's absence. No one understood.
Even the mate, who had an idea, did not think it of enough real
importance to dwell upon it; and so the tropic night fell over the
reef, the haze deepened, and the darkness grew intense.

In the dull, heated quiet of the early night the Captain sat upon
the ship's rail. He could not stand the oppressive stillness of the
blackness in the cabin. The outline of the surf upon the sea side of
the wreck shone in a line of phosphorus, but the dull glare failed to
outline the vast bulk of the hull. The wind had all died away and the
warmth of the air was felt, being heavy with a moisture and sultriness
that bespoke of a falling glass. But he sat and wandered through the
memories of a past life which was all the more bitter because of the
happiness that would never return.

"She will never come back--never!" he whispered into the void about
him. "I'm so tired--tired of it all!" and he groaned aloud in his
anguish. He would not break up the ship. In the morning he would find
some excuse to tell the mate and crew. He could not tell them the real
one. They would not understand. How could they--poor devils? What had
they known of life, life as he had known it? No, he would weigh his
anchor and sail away over the tropic seas to live out his existence
as Fate had demanded of him. He might kill himself; but there were
others dependent upon him for a living, and he would not do a cowardly
thing, would not cause them suffering to alleviate his own. He must
live on--just on and on to help the few who trusted in his strength
to provide for them. It was no pleasure save to ease their burden. It
would be to-morrow--and to-morrow--and to-morrow--a broken life of
unending work and hardship.

"God grant I'll not have to make it too long! Let me go to a long--a
long, an unending rest! I want to sleep, to sleep for ever; for I'm
tired out!"

His voice was deep and vibrant; but it fell upon the empty air, and he
more than ever noted the silence. He gazed to the southward. There was
nothing upon the dark sea. To the eastward it seemed a little blacker;
but over the desolate ocean there came no sound of even a breaking wave
top. For several hours he sat there gazing out into the blackness, and
then sometimes watching the riding light of his vessel as it flickered
upon the oily sea. All was quiet upon the schooner. The tired men were
sleeping, for they expected heavy work on the morrow.

A low murmur came from the sea. It seemed to come from some distant
point, and rose and fell faintly. Then a flash of lightning lit the
inky darkness to the southeast. He waited to hear the following
thunder; but none came. Minutes afterward the murmur rose again.

In the sultry air even his breathing oppressed him, and he turned to
fix his limbs in a more comfortable posture. He sat easily now and
waited. Over the sea from the southeast came a low rushing sound, the
sound of a mighty wind, and as he gazed toward it he felt the first
puff in his face. The noise of the surf on the outside of the bank grew
louder. A spurt of sand whistled up against the steel side beneath him.
Then came a fiercer blast, and the storm burst over the reef with a
wild, swirling roar of wind and rain.

He stood up and faced it. It relieved his feelings, this fury of the
elements, and he seemed to be again upon his ship at sea facing the
hurricane of the West Indies. The dry sand of the upper bank struck the
sides of the wreck with great force, and flying over it cut his face
so that he could not see any longer. He made his way to the lee of the
deck-house and looked out over the water to see how his vessel stood
the strain. The riding light was still showing in the same place; but
a faint rattling told plainly that both anchors were now on the bottom,
and that the mate, with the instinct of the true sailor, was giving
them chain as fast as he could, with the hope of holding on. How it
blew! The wind came in fierce gusts, rushing, tearing, over the lost
ship.

The sails of the anchored schooner had been lowered just after dark. He
had heard the creaking of the halliards. There would be no great sea
where she lay, but enough to test the strength of the ground tackle she
possessed. He wished vaguely that he had gone aboard. It was the place
for him, upon the deck of his ship.

He watched the riding light for some minutes. It was jumping now with
the rise and fall of the schooner. It was a desperate undertaking to
row a small boat out to her; but the struggle appealed to him strongly.
He should have gone aboard. He would go, and let himself down over
the side of the wreck, with no concern save for the safety of the
schooner and the crew aboard her. If he failed to make her, it was of
no particular matter.

The small boat was made fast on the shore, and he reached her easily.
The oars were in her, and she was all ready to row out, for the inside
of the bank was partly sheltered, and there was no sea there yet. It
would be a row across the wind with it a little astern, and he was a
strong man. The wildness of the night seemed to stir something within
him, and he grasped the oars eagerly for the struggle. He sent the
small boat's head out into the night and across that hurricane swept
reef with a feeling of something akin to exhilaration. A blast of wind
flung a sea over her, and the salt sea flew in his face, taking his
breath for the instant; but he spat out the brine and drove the boat
ahead.

The riding light appeared to get nearer. He was making good headway,
although the water was flying over the boat and tossing her about
like a cork. All around and about him the sea was white with a
phosphorescent light from the breaking seas; but it failed to outline
the hull of his vessel. He headed for the riding light, and he must
make it, or--

He turned his head now and again to keep the course. The light did not
draw closer very fast, and he knew he was rowing furiously. Then he
noticed that it drew more and more to leeward. He was rowing with the
wind now well aft. He knew what it meant: that his vessel was dragging
her anchors and that there was little or no hope that he would board
her. She might strike, or she might make the open sea. The mate was
an able seaman and would get some canvas on her if he could to try
to fight her off. Out on the wild, storm-swept ocean there might be
safety. To leeward lay certain death.

He rowed now with increased vigour. He would endeavour to get close
enough to hail her at least, even though he could not board her. Over
the tops of the breaking seas the small boat fairly flew. She was
gaining upon the receding light. The Captain turned his head and saw
he was almost alongside. He made out the voices of the men calling to
each other as they close reefed the mainsail. He could hear the mate's
orders, howled into a shriek, sounding faintly but unintelligible above
the roar of the wind and sea. He now made out the hull of the vessel.
He was close aboard. Then the riding light went out.

He knew he had seen the ending; for they had put the forestaysail on
her and were driving her out to sea. As for himself, he was a lost man.
He was so close to her now that he stood up and hailed.

"Keep her east southeast!" he roared out.

A questioning hail came through the night, a wild, terrified cry.

"Keep her east southeast! Good-bye!" he answered.

"Ay, ay, sir! Good-bye, sir!" came the voice of the mate booming
hoarsely above the gale.

The _Buccaneer_ fought her way out that night. She lost her foresail
and half her other canvas before the finish; but she went to sea safely.

Three days later she came in and anchored near the wreck of the
steamer. The mate and two men went ashore and searched the reef for
signs of their Captain. The boat was gone, and so was he. This told
the story. Two hours later they were tearing up the rusted hulk of the
_Stella Polare_, and they carried tons of her to Key West in the little
schooner, with the mate in command.



XVI

The Barrators


Mr. Booker, of the firm of Booker, Benson & Co., closed the door of the
inner office.

"Now, Captain Johns, let's have an understanding at once," said he
in a low tone, "let's make no mistake about this thing. You know we
represent the best there is in the shipping business. You know I've
stood by you. You know how long you'd have been inspector of hulls if
I hadn't fixed it for you with the commissioner. Now, we want James's
certificate returned. He's been master of the _Enos_ for years, and we
can't afford to lose him----"

"But he abandoned his ship in mid-ocean with passengers aboard,"
snapped Captain Johns. "How can we give him a certificate after that,
hey? How'll I get around the fact---- What? I know what I owe you. I
know I'm inspector, but I don't owe you any such rascality as that--no,
sir. I'll lose my place if I do give it to him--you know that--and if I
don't you threaten me----"

"I threaten no man," interrupted Mr. Booker solemnly. "I simply put it
to you as a business proposition. Captain James is our man. We want
him. Now will you give him back his certificate or not?"

The inspector thought a minute. He was a big man, big, strong, capable
of filling the office of inspector of hulls perfectly. He had been
to sea for more than twenty years and was a first-class navigator, a
first-class seaman. He knew the duties of inspector, and he knew the
law. Upon him rested the responsibility of issuing masters' and mates'
certificates, and he had generally conducted the examinations without
fear or favour. He prided himself upon this point, for it was generally
understood that a Board of Trade license was good. It meant something.
But he knew Mr. Booker and he knew his man, Captain James, who had
abandoned his vessel in mid-ocean.

"As far as the taking his license away from him is concerned," said he,
looking straight at the head of the firm, "I had no more to do with it
than others. We did the only thing we could do under the evidence." He
seated himself in a chair and crossed a leg, rubbing his knee as though
to gain time for the struggle he knew would take place. Mr. Booker was
a leading shipper and also a politician of note. It was he who had
swung the party, he who had practically made the inspectors. It would
not do to act hastily. Booker was an able and deadly foe to any one who
blocked his trade. He was unscrupulous when it came to acting against
an enemy of the firm.

"I don't want to tie your vessel up," he went on, "and if I can do
anything in reason I'll do it. Why not let the mate come up? There's
nothing that can't be argued away about him. He had to obey orders.
I'll give him a ticket all right."

A strange light shone in Mr. Booker's eyes. He saw his man was
weakening. It was what he wanted, this mate's ticket, but to state it
openly would have meant ruin to his scheme. He held out strongly for
his captain, but not strong enough to carry his point. If the inspector
chose to promote his mate, it was not Mr. Booker's fault. That would
lie entirely and healthily with others. After a futile struggle lasting
half an hour he gave in.

"Very well, then. If you'll give Mr. McDuff a master's license and let
him take the _Enos_ out, it'll have to go. I don't stand for him, you
know, and I want that distinctly understood. But I'll compromise on
that--and not a little bit less. You know what she's carrying?"

The inspector did not. It was not his business to keep track of all
cargoes before they were shipped. He felt irritated. His victory had at
first seemed a good thing, a fine thing to get out of the hole yawning
before him. Now there seemed to be some complications.

"It's dynamite," went on Mr. Booker indulgently. "Dynamite for the
Canal, and while it's all right, you want a man who's mighty careful
to carry it through the tropics along with the mercury exploders.
Climate affects mercury, and it don't need much to send the whole kit
to kingdom come. But let it go. I'll pay a premium the underwriters
can't refuse. We'll have to stand a heavy insurance with a man like
McDuff--but of course, if you say so, let it go at that. James might go
as mate. You won't take away his living, will you? You'll let him go as
mate--on his old ticket? You know we've got to have men aboard a ship.
A vessel won't run herself."

He arose to show the inspector that further conversation meant a loss
of valuable time to the head of the firm. Captain Johns knew it and
put on his hat. He had certain misgivings about granting McDuff a
certificate, but he had passed his word. To break it would mean almost
loss of position to himself, for Mr. Booker would do what he could to
make him trouble, and he knew that trouble with Booker was trouble
indeed. The inspector before him had cause to know this. There was no
necessity for history repeating itself.

"I'll send McDuff down to you--good morning," said Mr. Booker, bowing
him out.

Captain James and Mr. McDuff were staying at St Lucia. It had been
convenient for them both to keep well away from the curious gaze of the
government officials after the supposed loss of the _Enos_, and St.
Lucia was a beautiful, far-removed spot. Upon the crumbling ramparts of
the fort near the entrance Mr. McDuff sat cogitating a few days after
Mr. Booker had made his little deal with the inspector, and when a
small black lad handed him an envelope bearing the firm's name in the
corner the taciturn mate trembled. It was so beautiful, so far removed
from modern business, so restful at St. Lucia. The trade-wind blew
steadily across the point and the Caribbean sparkled in the sunshine.
The harbour, devoid of shipping save when the week-end steamer from
the States came to load bananas, lay like a deep azure pool unruffled
by the lively breeze outside. It made a picture of quiet repose, and
even the old dismounted guns used hundreds of years before to repel
the buccaneers before Morgan's day seemed to have sunk into attitudes
of profound peace. Then this letter from the world of business and
strife. McDuff hesitated about opening it. It was probably a scouring,
scathing, blistering sheet, edited in the cutting language of the head
of the firm. "Ah, what's the use?" sighed McDuff. He held the missive
in his hand and was about to fling it over the rock and watch it go
fluttering to the sea beneath. Then curiosity came to his aid.

"Might as well open it; if there's any hot stuff in it, I don't have to
read it," he muttered. "Here, boy--here's a tuppence--git out."

He tore the paper, pulled the letter out and read it carefully, and as
he did so his fingers clinched and his back straightened. He was wanted
to go as skipper of the old ship. Would he? Well, he would do almost
anything except eat bananas. He walked swiftly to the town and stopped
only long enough to drink three high-balls of rum and cola. Ah, the
sparkling cola! He must have that. Then he took the train for Kingston.

"The _Enos_ is lying at the dock at Port Antonio," said Mr. Booker,
after he had greeted his man coldly and formally. "You will proceed
there and take command. Go down at once and see Johns. He'll give you
your examination at once. Get your ticket and go. Then wait for further
orders. James will be mate."

McDuff grinned.

"Ah, weel, I ken he'll be a noddy wan--ah, man, man, but I'll fair
dress him down into shape," he said, shifting his watery gaze over the
room.

"You can dress him all you want," said Mr. Booker. "If I were you,
however, I would not tempt Providence too far. James will not stand too
much foolishness. He can lick you."

"Ah, na fear, me laddie, na fear--do I fergit th' times he gie me? Na,
na. Wait till I trim him--my mate--at last, at last," said McDuff with
unction.

"Well, we'll let that go," said Booker; "you're carrying dynamite and
it won't do to get too frivolous. Do you know anything about carrying
dynamite?"

"Na, an' I'm that old to learn," said McDuff, eying the owner
quizzically. All his Scotch canniness was alert.

"Oh, it's all right," said Booker; "only you don't want to make
rough-house aboard your ship the first time you take her out as master.
You're chartered for Colon again, carrying supplies for the Canal."

"Ah, weel," said the mate.

"I reckon that's about all, Captain McDuff. Do your duty like a man.
If you do we'll forget some of your past--understand?"

"I ken it, I'll do it," said the man, dropping his eyes to the floor.
His past was not a thing to speak lightly upon.

"Drink as much cola and good rum as you think you need. It doesn't hurt
a man used to it, like yourself."

McDuff gave the owner a long searching look. The idea tickled him. He
threw back his head and laughed, showing his yellow fangs.

"Good day, Captain McDuff," said Booker, bowing him out.

The new master of the little cargo carrier _Enos_ had hardly arrived
aboard his vessel when James came slinking into the office. He had been
laying up at Montego Bay, well up the hills, where the natives took
care of him for sixpence a day. Booker appeared to have expected the
visit. He closed the door of the inner office as the former skipper of
the ship entered and they were alone.

"You know why I sent for you?" began Booker.

"I'm a good guesser," snarled the captain, his bloodshot eyes roving
furtively about. "Make it short, don't cut in too deep. I'm here for
orders."

"I haven't sent you up for life for desertion, have I?" asked the calm
owner, eying him with a cold look.

"No, an' what's more you ain't going to," growled the captain.

"Lord, what a man!" sneered the owner. "You don't think I'm afraid to,
do you?"

"There's mighty little you fear, Mr. Booker," said Captain James
sourly, "but I understand you're not trading in morals--not yet. If you
were, you might. If there's anything you've got to say, say it and let
me go. I didn't come here for any lecture."

"How would you like to get your ticket back again--on some other
vessel?" James eyed his former employer steadily. The effects of
debauch made his swollen features seem grotesque in their red ugliness,
but he was sober enough for business. He had dreaded the meeting. He
knew his owner's moral tone, but he had not expected a reward where
punishment was plainly indicated. He had given the ship a bad name.

"Let's have it fair and square--out with it," said the seaman.

"You know the ship is old--fit only to carry supplies," said Booker.
"We're chartered to carry one hundred tons of blasting powder with
exploders to Colon--enough to blow the whole Canal through. Can you see
the point?"

"You don't want the stuff to get there--is that it?" asked James
bluntly.

"If you can help us in the matter you shall be treated properly--your
past forgotten," said Booker solemnly, eying him with a strangely
insistent look.

"How much?" asked the practical navigator in a whisper.

"You'll get a thousand straight--my personal recommendation for any
ship you wish. Perhaps in New York you'll find employment. We do a
heavy business there----"

"Anything in writing?" asked James, without moving.

"Nothing," said Booker carelessly.

"Is McDuff wise?"

"He is not--some men you can't trust when drunk--some you can."

"How'll I manage? How'll I make him understand? I can't blow the ship
under him--kill all hands for a paltry thousand dollars," hissed James.

There was a long silence. Booker lit a cigar with a steady hand and
puffed slowly. He was in no hurry. James gazed at him fixedly for a
long time. He shifted uneasily in his chair.

"Suppose I refuse?" he said.

"You know the consequences," said Booker quite calmly.

"Try to hang me for deserting my ship, hey?" snarled the seaman. "Want
me to do a dirty job for the insurance--won't even tell me how you want
it done."

"It's up to you. You are a seaman--a captain. That's what I've been
hiring you for. If I were a sailor I might give you directions. I'm
not. Will you do it or not? Let's have it."

"Yes, I'll do it, you devil," snarled James. "I'll do it--somehow. Good
day."

"Good day, Captain--Mr. James," said Booker without enthusiasm. He
opened the door and the fat form of the disreputable seaman slouched
out. A clerk met him at the door and handed him a note. It was
permission to draw a hundred dollars for travelling expenses. James
took it to the cashier and handed it in.

"Thought you were in jail," sneered the cashier as he took the paper.

"You are a liar," murmured James smoothly.

The official made no further comment. The glare from the old seaman's
eyes did not justify it. He handed the money through the window with
the air of one handing a bone to a starving dog. James stuffed it away
in his clothes and pulling his hat over his eyes, went his way down the
street to his favourite haunt when in town. No one appeared to notice
him. He was not recognized.

"You can get me a bottle of rum," said he to the waiter.

"What kind, sare--three or six?"

"I'll drink somethin' about ten shillin's a bottle," said James. "Wake
up!"

The waiter brought a bottle and drew the cork. The odour filled the
air. It caused James to smack his lips and he drained four glasses in
as many minutes. Then he sat back in his chair and seemed to study the
negro's face.

"Do you know whether Mr. Jackson--firm of Wells & Jackson,
underwriters--is in town?" he asked.

"Yo' mean de insurance company, sare--yes, sare, he's here. Seen to-day
on de street," answered the waiter. "He took a drink with Mr. Booker
befo' closing time."

"Thank you, you can wrap up that bottle--I'll go along now," said the
sailor.

It was plain to him that there had been a special deal, that Booker was
carrying an extra heavy risk on his cargo. What if he should tackle
Mr. Jackson? Jackson might listen to him, might even believe there
was something in his warning, but he was a pariah and Mr. Booker was
a gentleman. Then he had nothing whatever to offer as proof. His word
against that of the owner? No, that wouldn't do at all.

He thought the matter over and finished off the bottle of rum while
doing so. The more he drank the more he became convinced that the only
thing to do was to follow Mr. Booker's wishes. The only thing was how
would he do the job. How was it possible to sink a ship, blow her up,
without killing all hands? He would not kill any one. No, he would not
stoop to that. He must have time to think over the matter. It would
require some nice adjustment to carry off the affair properly and not
land in prison for life. He wondered whether McDuff knew anything of
the deal. It was not likely; Mr. Booker had never made a confidant of
the Scotchman, though the fellow had a close head and never talked,
drunk or sober. James slept over it and took the train for Port
Antonio, arriving there in the afternoon. He at once made his way to
the docks and boarded the _Enos_ without being quizzed, though several
persons seemed to show surprise at his presence. The story of his
deserting his ship was now public property.

"I'm rare glad to see ye," said McDuff. "I'd na take ye for th' sneak
they say ye are, Mr.--Mister James. I've been told ye wanted a place as
mate wid the ould hooker. How is it?"

"Yes, I'll go as mate for you, Scotty," said James, thinking of the
peculiar accent his former mate laid upon the word Mister. It was just
as well to let the fellow know at once how much respect he felt for
him. Then there would be no trouble in the future. He had served under
him for several years, and it would swell his head, of course, to have
command.

"I'm thinkin'--Mister--Meester James, that'll be about time ye took a
reef in your tongue-lashin's. When ye have th' honour to speak to me,
ye canna call me out of me name--that's Captain McDuff, sir--don't
forget the SIR."

"No, Mack, I won't forgit it, an' don't you forgit who's talkin' to you
either. If you do we'll have trouble--and Mr. Booker don't want any
more of it in his ships--see? Let's have a drink, for the sake of old
times?"

McDuff appeared to think a moment. It would hardly do to dress his mate
now while at the dock. James would not stand it. He would drink--and
wait.

"They handle that stuff mighty careless like," suggested James, gazing
out of the stateroom door at the men loading cargo. "Seems to me if
that's dynamite there's apt to be trouble--but then you only have it
once," he added reflectively.

"That's the cargo, but not all dynamite. I dinna ken how much--but we
pull out before dark. See to the gear aft--Meester James--an' remember
the trouble I had with that old stern line last voyage. Ye wouldna gie
me a new wan."

"Where do we go?" asked James.

"To New Orleans--git the cargo there, the rest of it. D'ye think,
Meester James, that the British will furnish the powder? 'Tis good
Yankee stuff we'll take wi' us, good New Orleans powder. Also we'll
take a bit o' men, I'm thinkin', some o' that Dago gang for blasters.
They make fine blasters, do Dagoes; an' if ye lift a few o' them to
heaven, it makes little difference--there's plenty more. But they are
an ugly lot to handle, all armed with pistols or knives, ready to shoot
or stab any one."

"It's the Dago nature to go heeled," said James, drinking his rum and
pondering over his scheme. The run to New Orleans offered nothing new
in the way of developing his plans. He arose, went aft and made ready
to get to sea. He was in an ugly mood, but all who knew him addressed
him as "Captain," and the "Mister" was forgotten in the usual turmoil
of getting the _Enos_ under weigh.

A few days later in New Orleans the dynamite was aboard and the gangs
of labourers who were to mine came down to the dock. James had studied
many ways of getting the ship into trouble, but each one seemed too
dangerous. It would not do to kill the crew. He would not do that, but
to fire the cargo without almost certain death to all aboard appeared
impossible. Then a thing occurred which seemed to be like the hand of
Fate helping him on his way.

"'Tis a light cargo--an' she'll sit high, roll like a log," quoth
McDuff the day after the powder had been safely stowed. "We've cleared
and the insurance agent has had his claim settled. We're all ready for
sea--Meester James--and we'll gie along; but I must ha' a wee bit o'
drink first. Will ye coom along up the town, or will ye bide here till
I come back?"

It still gave him pleasure to address his former captain in a
patronizing manner with an emphasis upon "Meester."

James looked at him sourly and declined.

"Go on, Scotty," said he; "I'll stay by the ship. No drink for me until
we get clear of this foul river. The stinks would spoil the taste of
any kind of poison you'd put aboard ye."

"Weel, have a bit of a care, an' don't let them Dagoes get scuffling on
the lower deck. There's a bit o' powder up there in them boxes," and
McDuff went his way up the levee.

Sengali, the foreman of the gang, stood upon the string-piece of the
wharf and glowered at the small ship. He was not a sailor, but he knew
she would be a dirty and lively vessel in a blow. He had brought his
wife with him, and together they surveyed the scene.

"We will go aboard and look--see," said he to his stout spouse, and
they forthwith stepped upon the ship's deck. As nearly everybody had
gone ashore as soon as McDuff's back had been seen upon the levee,
they met no one and wandered over the _Enos_ at will. Finally Sengali
sat upon the boxes of powder and, lighting his pipe, began to smoke
placidly. He was aware of the contents of the cases, but being an old
hand at the handling of dynamite, he had developed that serenity and
carelessness which is one of their distinguishing qualities. He feared
not either fire or shock.

Mrs. Sengali wandered over the apparently deserted ship and finally
found her way into McDuff's room in the rear of the pilot-house. Here
she made herself comfortable.

It happened that Cellini, a young and amorous Dago, saw her. He had
been drinking heavily, and as the coast appeared clear he made his way
to the forward part of the ship, hoping to entertain the stout and
rosy Mrs. Sengali in a manner common to drunken Dagoes. He saw no one
forward and made his way to the captain's room. Then he quickly entered
and swiftly closed the door.

Sengali, smoking and pondering upon the future to be had in the world
at Panama, was aroused from pleasant dreams by the shrill screams of
his wife. He sprang up the companionway and rushed for the vicinity of
the noise. The cries seemed to come from the captain's room, and he
hesitated. It was a terrible crime to assault a captain upon his own
ship. But his wife. She was in terrible danger, her shrieks were now
being half muffled, showing that the person who had caused them was
stifling them as best he could. The Dago waited no longer; he crashed
against the door.

It gave way with the impact and Sengali landed in the room. Cellini was
holding his wife, but let her go instantly, and drawing a revolver,
fired at Sengali. The latter raced for the companionway, hoping to gain
his bundle, in which reposed his trusty knife. The bundle was lying
where he had sat smoking upon the cases of dynamite, and he tore it
apart, seized his weapon and turned to mete out a just revenge upon his
assailant.

"I keel you now," he roared and rushed at Cellini, who had come
floundering down the stairs after him, but who, being drunk, had
tripped and had thus lost valuable time.

Cellini, lying upon one elbow, took deliberate aim at the enraged
husband. A fireman, who had seen the fracas, fled up the levee shouting
for the police, and James, who had been drowsing in his room, rolled
out of his bunk and went to the scene of the trouble, intending to
quell it, as a mate should. Cellini's first shot from his position
where he had fallen tore through Sengali's uplifted hand. He gave a
yell and drew it down, staggering and flinging the blood about. Then he
rushed again at his prostrate enemy, his knife upraised, ready for the
finishing stroke.

James gained the vicinity just as Cellini raised his weapon for the
last shot. Drunk and furious at the interruption of Sengali, he
appeared not to care for the retribution the husband was going to wreak
upon him. He aimed carefully at the foreman's head and pulled the
trigger. Just then James kicked the pistol aside and it exploded.

A man on the levee at some distance vouched for this much of the final
act. He saw James kick the weapon, saw it explode. The next instant the
forward part of the _Enos_ disappeared in a mass of flame.

Men came running from all directions at the sound of the detonating
thunder. The rolling roar reverberated along the river-front for miles.
People at a distance saw a huge waterspout rise from where the ship had
been a moment before. Splinters, ironwork, rigging, spars and a piece
of her smoke-pipe rose to an appalling height. Then the scene settled
itself under a pall of dust and smoke.

The levee was destroyed for a distance of fifty fathoms. The dock had
melted into the surrounding air. Trees, fences, and houses, everything
at a distance of a quarter of a mile was razed flat. Men were knocked
stunned and senseless who had been within this radius and the whole
place seemed to have been shaved as with a mighty razor. Only a bit of
the ship's stern, a tiny piece of her turtle-back, floated awash to
show that there had ever been anything like a ship in the vicinity. The
_Enos_, loaded with dynamite, had blown up with all on board and had
almost totally disappeared.

A few hours later McDuff came lurching down to his ship. He was
comfortably drunk and was in high good humour.

"I'll trim Meester James--ah, yes, I'll trim him guid an' fine before
we gie th' dock at Colon. 'Tis a fine thing to be th' boss---- What, am
I drunk, or has the knave run away wid me ship? He has run away--yes,
yes, he has run away. Ah, weel, what'll I do-- The rascal has stolen me
ship," said McDuff, looking about him and seeing nothing to indicate
the whereabouts of the _Enos_. "Ah, weel, it was not my ship--but I
will have the police after him. I will have him in th' calaboose. I'm
fair drunk, I'm fair drunk--but na sa drunk I canna see a ship."

Mr. Booker read the cable despatch and handed it to his partner.

"That man James was certainly a genius," said he. "I'm half sorry for
him. I guess he must have been too zealous--'twasn't like him, yet he
must have been too anxious to please me."

"He'll turn up in time," quoth his partner, the amiable Mr. Benson.
"The fact that he was aboard of her does seem a bit out of the
ordinary, but there's probably some mistake about it. It'll straighten
itself out later. He'll be here to see you, or I'm clean disappointed
in him."

"I reckon we might as well attend to the underwriters without waiting
for any complications," suggested Mr. Booker.

"Oh, yes, get the insurance. We've had a bit of luck--that's all."


THE END.





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