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Title: A Madcap Cruise
Author: Bates, Oric
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A MADCAP CRUISE

BY ORIC BATES

[Illustration: Logo]

_Boston and New York_
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1905


COPYRIGHT 1905 BY ORIC BATES
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

_Published March 1905_


TO
MY FATHER


[Illustration: Decoration]



Contents


_Chapter_                               _Page_
    I. The Cardinal Points                   1

   II. The Fog comes in                     19

  III. It blows Southeast                   36

   IV. It blows Northwest                   50

    V. Land Ho!                             64

   VI. Dinner Ashore                        81

  VII. Luncheon Aboard                     104

 VIII. A Change of Tactics                 129

   IX. The Doldrums                        147

    X. Mr. Wrenmarsh, the Extraordinary    163

   XI. A Lone-Hand Game                    199

  XII. At Vergil's Tomb                    228

 XIII. A Bid for the Odd Trick             240

  XIV. Clearing the Decks                  250

   XV. In the Cattewater                   263

  XVI. Storm!                              288

 XVII. Facing the Music                    310

XVIII. Epilude                             327


[Illustration: Decoration]


A MADCAP CRUISE



Chapter One

THE CARDINAL POINTS


"It strikes me," said Jerrold Taberman, "that we are booked for
everlasting fame, win or lose. We'll either sail down the ages as a
brace of heroes, or as the most egregious pair of donkeys that ever
botched a job."

"Well, Jerry," returned his companion, smiling, "you've as much to do
with making the thing a success as I have. I hope you realize the
responsibility."

The young men chuckled in concert at the thought of all that was
involved in this remark, although they looked, not at each other, but
out over the sea.

It was early twilight in the last week of the month of May. The two
speakers were standing on a little jetty that ran out into a small and
all but landlocked harbor of an island in East Penobscot Bay. Both were
evidently in the earlier twenties, both were dressed in such canvas
working-suits as are worn by the sailors in our navy, and both were, at
half a glance, gentlemen.

The second speaker, John Castleport, was tall and dark. His face, with
its prominent features and keen brown eyes, was rather striking than
handsome. He stood looking southward to where, in the fading light, the
Atlantic shouldered away to the west as if with a hidden purpose of its
own. In his hand he held a pair of powerful binoculars, and despite his
smile he had the air of being pretty seriously in earnest.

Taberman contrasted curiously with his host. He was short and thickset,
with blue eyes and fair hair which showed a tendency to curl. As he
stood with shoulders turned to the wind, the square collar of his canvas
jumper was blown against his round pate, and made a background for his
tanned face. He held a briar drop-pipe between his teeth, and his hands
were thrust deep into his trousers pockets. Working his pipe into the
corner of his mouth, he spoke again.

"Hope this breeze won't trouble the old gentleman," he remarked, casting
a glance at the billowing double-headers that were driving by aloft.

The wind shrilled by the watchers on the jetty, clear, strong, and
salt.

"Guess not," replied Castleport; "anything short of a hurricane's a
sailing-wind for him. He's a mettlesome old chap."

"That's right enough. Can't have him spoiling our game by being late,
you know. Let's go up; it's getting beastly chilly."

They turned and walked along the pier. At the point where it met the
shore stood a small boathouse. Thence the ground, covered with a stunted
growth of spruce and fir, and the inevitable New England boulders, rose
abruptly. Directly in the line of the jetty the shingled roof of a small
house showed above the trees. To the westward, in the dimming afterglow
of the sunset, the Camden Hills stood out luminous, purple, yet rimmed
with a thread of golden fire. Away to the east, clad in soberer colors,
rose Mt. Desert, a mass of shadowy greens and blues. The steepness of
the path they were ascending soon cut off from the view of the young men
these beauties and grandeurs, which, however, they were probably not in
a mood to dwell upon; and a minute's walking brought them to the door of
the house, a small affair with high-pitched roof and broad veranda. Its
shingles were almost the color of the dark evergreens that encircled
the clearing in which it stood; its windows reflected with a vacant and
glassy stare the fast-fading light. Castleport opened the door for his
guest, and followed him into the living-room.

The darkness seemed the greater from its contrast with what light yet
remained outside, and not until Taberman had put a match to the pile of
old shingles and light driftwood in the wide fireplace could they see
fairly. The crimson glow showed a room some twenty feet square, with
windows on two sides,--the south and east. The joists and sheathing were
of planed spruce, left unpainted. The big Mexican fireplace of brick
occupied the northwestern corner; in the middle of the room stood
conspicuously a round deal table, covered with a litter of pipes,
tobacco, magazines, and nautical hardware; between the two eastern
windows, below a box-like cabinet which was attached to the wall, was a
smaller table with a square top, piled with books and charts. Beneath
the southern windows was placed a heavy desk with a faded baize top, the
cloth ink-stained and full of holes due to moths and carelessly handled
cigars. Of the happy-go-lucky assortment of chairs which completed the
furniture of the room, no large portion was in an entirely unbroken
condition, but all evidently were meant for service and ease. The walls
of the room were decorated with devices in scallop-shells and a few
unframed water-colors of the impressionist type. A large chart of
Penobscot Bay was tacked to the inside of the door, and a venerable
flintlock musket hung below a battered quadrant over the chimneypiece.
Everything was simple almost to rudeness, yet the place gave at once and
most strongly the impression of comfort and good-fellowship.

Castleport laid his binoculars on the desk, and, stepping to a door on
his right, opened it and called out:--

"Oh, Gonzague?"

"Sair?" promptly replied some one from beyond the short passage into
which he looked.

"Dinner when you're ready, Gonzague."

"A' right, sair."

Taberman had seated himself by the fire, and here Castleport joined him.
Each filled and lighted a pipe, and together they stared at the flames
roaring up the wide chimney. The smaller sticks already began to fall
apart, pitching outward or dropping between the dogs, and for some
moments the young men watched them in silence. At length, as Taberman
flung a fresh stick into the flames, Castleport spoke, half to himself.

"What a lesson it'll be to the old chap! My aunt! He'll grind his teeth
to powder!"

"Tooth-powder, eh?" queried the other with a grin. "But we must be sure
we have the laugh on the right side. It isn't merely the getting away
with the Merle that's the joke; it's the hanging on to her and bringing
her back safe."

"That's true enough," assented Castleport; "but with pluck and luck and
an eye to the three L's, we ought to manage."

"You'd better go over the whole plan for me, Jack; you haven't given me
half the details, and I'd like to know the latest version. It's
certainly important to have everything perfectly understood beforehand."

"All right; I'll go over the whole business after dinner, old man. We
will act the conspirators rehearsing their villainy; but let's wait for
food. I hate discussions on an empty stomach."

"Correct; here's Gonzague now."

A tall, gray-haired man, with a much-bronzed face, came in and began to
clear away the litter on the round table. He had a rugged,
weather-beaten countenance, with prominent features and luminous black
eyes. Beneath his big, hooked nose a large white mustache, stiff and
curled like that of a walrus, half hid a firm, full-lipped mouth. A
native of Provence,--soldier, sailor, cook, and deck-hand,--old Gonzague
Mairecalde had led sixty-odd years of exciting and polyglot existence,
the last three of which had been spent in Castleport's service. Dressed
in blue flannel trousers and an immaculate white jacket, the old man
moved noiselessly about, swiftly disposing of the things on the table.
He seemed to have a place for everything, and the lightest tread and
deftest hands imaginable. Having cleared away, he went out, and soon
reappeared with linen and service. In a short time the table was ready
for the bringing in of the food.

"A' ready, sair?" asked Gonzague, tugging at his mustache with his bony
fingers.

"Two minutes," answered Jack. "Come on, Jerry; let's scrub up."

In ten minutes they were seated before a dinner plain but hearty, well
cooked and appetizingly served. They were apparently not at all troubled
by any incongruity between their rough and not over-fresh sailor clothes
and the snowy napery and the silver on which the fire threw dancing and
wavering lights. On the walls opposite the fireplace mute, shadowy
grotesques helped each other to huge supplies from dishes of vague
outline and uncertain size, plied dark forks and spoons with ogre-like
gusto, or with heads thrown back and crooked elbows drank like trolls
from enormous tankards.

After dinner the table was cleared, a jug of ale was placed upon it,
with a plate of ship-biscuit and a supply of tobacco. It was the theory
of Castleport that the climate of the Island was English enough to
warrant this nightly attack upon the October, of which his uncle, who
owned the Island, kept always a butt in the cellar. In truth, the fresh
coolness of the air at night, the pleasant blaze of the fire, the
agreeable scent of burning tobacco, made a tankard or two of ale seem
hardly to need an excuse of any sort.

With the table pulled forward so that its edge came between them, their
pipes lit, their feet stretched out comfortably toward the hearth, the
pair of friends smoked for a time in silence, until at last Jack, after
refilling and relighting his pipe with great deliberation, broke into
speech.

"Before I go into the details of this job," he observed, "there's one
thing I have to say. It's a waste of breath for me to talk until I know
you're with me. I haven't done anything more than to ask you off-hand,
old man; now I'd like you to say seriously whether you'll come on this
cruise with me or not. I hate to be so horribly businesslike, Jerry,
especially in the matter of a lark; but in--er--larking on this scale,
things have got to be put on a definite basis,--be perfectly understood,
as you said before dinner."

Taberman gave his companion a sidelong glance, and began to smile. The
smile grew into an audible chuckle; and this in its turn developed into
a laugh increasing to a jovial roar.

"You solemn old pirate," he cried, "what sort of a quitter do you take
me for? I'll give you any kind of a promise you like, provided--_semper
more equitis_, you know--Can't bind myself to cut throats, scuttle
ships, fly the jolly roger, et cetera. What's your form of oath, eh? Do
we drink each other's blood out of a skull, or what?"

There was a boyish exuberance about Jerrold Taberman, a debonair
abandon, which he never could outgrow. It accorded well with his
youthful face and careless mien, which made him so marked a contrast to
his friend. Castleport, although impulsive and disposed to jollity as
only a hale and hearty young man of twenty-two can be, was, on the
whole, of a temperament the reverse of boisterous. He responded frankly
to Jerry's outburst.

"Well, old man," said he, "there's nothing more needed than your word
that you'll go, and stick it out to the end. I knew you would, Jerry.
Confound it, give us your flipper!"

In his enthusiasm he caught Taberman's hand and wrung it heartily, being
evidently moved more by some inner consciousness of the weighty nature
of the scheme he was about to outline than by anything that had actually
been said between them. Jerry laughed, and returned the grip with
interest.

"And now," continued Castleport, "I'll let you have particulars galore.
I'll tell you the beginning of it first: how the idea came to me. About
three weeks ago I decided I'd go abroad,--I wrote you, you remember.
Well, I went to Uncle Randolph, and asked him for a letter of credit.
That's what comes of the pleasant arrangement by which all my property's
in trust till I'm twenty-five! Beastly nuisance!"

"Of course it is," assented his companion. "It's queer your father made
such a will. However," he added, as if with the feeling that he was
perhaps touching upon delicate ground, "that's neither here nor there.
Heave ahead."

"You know why I wanted to go," Jack went on, "and so"--

"Slow up a bit," interrupted the other, mischief shining in his eyes;
"why should you want to go particularly?"

"Confound you!" retorted Castleport. "You know perfectly well! Do you
think it's any fun to be here when--when"--

"When Miss Marchfield's on the other side," finished Jerry, with the air
of enjoying a huge joke.

Jack shifted uncomfortably in his seat, leaned forward to rap the ashes
out of his pipe on the firedog, and then looked at his friend seriously.

"I won't be roughed, Jerry," he said. "You know perfectly well I'm dead
in earnest about her, and I'll thank you to let up."

"All right, Jack; I beg your pardon; but I would like to ask one thing.
It's not exactly my business, of course, but really it's something I'd
like to know in connection with this scheme."

"Fire away," Castleport said rather grimly.

"Well, then, what I want to know is why the President's so set against
your marrying Katrine Marchfield?"

"It isn't time to talk of marrying," Jack returned somewhat stiffly.
"She may have something to say to that."

"Of course, old fellow; but you know what I mean. What's his objection
to your trying?"

"I don't see how that affects the cruise, exactly, but I don't mind
telling you; only of course I shouldn't want it talked about. It's so
unreasonable, and honestly I should hate to seem to be giving Uncle
Randolph any sort of a black eye."

"I shouldn't repeat it, Jack; but you needn't say anything if you'd
rather not."

"It's only that it looks as if Uncle Randolph was infernally obstinate
and cranky, and he really isn't. He hadn't any reason to give me, that
amounted to anything. He talked about Katrine's not having any money;
but of course that's all poppy-cock. I've got a good bit myself when I
come into it, and he's always told me I should have all his. Of course
Katrine hasn't much, though she'll have something, I suppose, from her
aunt."

"Aunt?"

"Why, Mrs. Fairhew. Katrine's traveling with her now. She's the only
near relative Katrine has."

"But if it isn't money"--

"No, it isn't that. The truth is--I heard it from Mrs. Fairhew once; I
wasn't sure then, and I'm not now, whether she knew quite how much she
was telling me, and meant it for a warning, or not. I'm half inclined to
think she did."

"But what was it?" inquired Jerry, as Jack paused to meditate, with his
eyes fixed earnestly on the fire.

"Oh, Uncle Randolph had some sort of a row with Katrine's father when
they were young men. I fancy it was about a girl, for I know there was
one somewhere along about that time. I've heard father speak of it, and
say it altered Uncle Randolph's whole life. Anyway, there was some sort
of a scrap, and Uncle Randolph never forgave it."

"Humph!" was Taberman's comment. "It's rather crotchety of him to vent
his spite on Miss Marchfield."

"Of course it is," Castleport answered, "but he's not so bad as it
looks. He's been awfully good to me all my life."

A brief pause followed, in which both were probably reflecting upon the
character of Randolph Drake, one of Boston's prominent men, president of
one of the largest banks, and trustee of a dozen important corporations;
a man whose chief aim in life was, apparently, making money, whose
amusement was yachting. It was in connection with this sport that he had
a few years before bought the island and put up the house in which his
motives were now being discussed. The place served as a shooting-box or
as a base of supplies, and was provided with a trig little harbor
exactly adapted for the accommodation of the President's yacht, the
Merle.

"After all," Jack said at length, "Uncle Randolph really cares more for
me than he does for anything else in the world."

"And so when he suspected that you were going abroad to try to marry the
daughter of his old enemy, he wouldn't supply the funds."

"He can't seem to get it into his head that I am grown up, anyhow,"
grumbled Jack. "I've made up my mind now that I'll convince him that I
am."

"Why in the world didn't you borrow the money, Jack? That would have
been easy enough."

"Well, when I came of age I made Uncle Randolph a sort of a promise that
I wouldn't borrow. He put it that it would be evading the intent of my
father's will; and of course it would. Anyway, Uncle Randolph himself
put a bigger idea into my head. It took me one day and two nights,
mostly without sleep, to think it out, and then I got hold of you."

"How did he suggest it?"

"He was really sorry for me; I could see that. Only he had the air of
feeling I was so young that any other cake would do as well as the one
I wanted. The very day that he refused to let me go abroad, he suggested
that I come down here with Gonzague and some friend or other. He thought
that if I fooled round the bay until he came to pick me up on the Merle,
I should get over my wish to go abroad. He said I was run down, needed
change, and so on. He's coming June 5, and plans to go on down to the
Provinces. Then he said that after he had had his cruise on the Merle I
might perhaps like to have her a week or two myself. It was a mighty
great concession, let me tell you. When I think of taking the boat, I'm
half ashamed of myself, the old gentleman's so rum fond of her."

"And that put the notion into your head?"

"Yes, only not at the moment. I said to myself that if I was going to
cruise in the Merle I'd like to go across in her; but it wasn't till
that night, just as I was turning in, that the idea of getting her now
and running off came to me. It fairly bowled me over!"

"I should think it might!" laughed Taberman.

"At first it seemed the easiest thing in the world. Then I began to
think of objections, and as fast as I got one out of the way another
popped up. I've worked at it like a prize puzzle. I've got my crew
picked out, I've planned how to get possession of the yacht and to get
rid of her old crew; and then--Hurrah for the Mediterranean!"

"Oh, Jacko, you devil!" cried Taberman. "I wouldn't have believed you
had it in you! Do you really think we can do it?"

"Do it! Of course we'll do it. Didn't I tell you I'd got my crew
already? Ten strappers, not counting Gonzague."

"Did Gonzague kick?"

"Gonzague? Did you ever consider, Tab, those eyes of his, with that nose
and mouth?"

"No," Jerry responded, "I've never given his features any especial
critical overhauling."

"_Saracen!_" Jack said, lowering his voice. "When you see that
combination in a Spaniard or a Provençalese, it spells Moorish marauder
every time. He doesn't know it, I fancy; but there's good old ripe
Moorish pirate blood in him, and it came sizzling to the top the moment
I broached the scheme. Besides, Gonzague would have his throat cut for
me any time."

"That's so, but he's as honest an old soul as there is above ground."

"Of course I told him, and I told the crew, that it was a lark. You
know I've knocked about Penobscot Bay ever since I got out of the
nursery. Everybody knows me, and at Isle au Haut I've been so much that
I'm almost like one of their own pals to the natives. I got hold of my
men pretty easily. Of course they look on me as the same as the
President's son; and they were willing enough to leave the fishing for
better wages than they could earn anywhere else. They all like me, and
so of course they all take advantage of me in the way of wages."

"I confess I don't see where your economy comes in, Jacky," observed
Taberman, giving a poke to the wasting fire. "I don't know much about
expenses, but I should think it would cost as much to hire a crew as to
go without one."

Castleport grew grave and moved a little impatiently.

"There's a question for a casuist," he said. "I'm taking these men off
on the trust that Uncle Randolph will let me pay them when I get home.
It's a deuced sight more like borrowing than I wish it were, though of
course my allowance comes in; but I'm bound that he shall get it into
his head that I'm no longer in leading-strings, and"--

Taberman looked at him affectionately and comprehendingly.

"That'll be all right, old man," he said consolingly. "We'll get out of
that somehow. I'd like to see the President's face when he finds he's
left high and dry down here and the Merle has flitted across the
Atlantic without him."

"Oh, he won't be here. We'll capture the yacht at North Haven. I'll show
you the whole scheme to-morrow on the chart. I've brought down more than
a thousand for this coast and the Mediterranean! Now let's get to bed.
It's only a week or so that we have left to sleep with a clear
conscience."

Taberman rose from his seat, then without warning suddenly slapped his
knees with his hands and burst into a roar of laughter.

"Oh, by George," he cried, "what a jolt it'll be for Uncle Randolph!"

"That's the cream of the whole thing," responded Jack, joining in the
laugh. "He'll be so surprised to find out that I'm grown up."

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Two

THE FOG COMES IN


The Casino at North Haven is a curious little box, known
locally--possibly from its situation at the end of a fairly long
wharf--as the "Fo'c'sle." It has but one room, paneled with imitation
Japanese carvings, and having an attractive divan-like seat in a wide
bay-window, where one may lounge and watch the vessels passing through
the Thoroughfare. Outwardly the building is very plain, its two
prominent features being the bay-window, which looks south, and a flight
of outside stairs on the west which lead to a little nest of a balcony
half hidden under the gable-end of the roof above this window.

The balcony is so covered by the peak of the roof that its interior is
not visible from the wharf, and a person sitting on the settle at the
back of it can be seen only from a boat some distance out on the water.

The Casino is little used, and although the caretaker unlocks the door
each morning, the place is more generally deserted than not. The
subscribers who come down to the wharf to start for rowing or sailing
sometimes step in, wait for friends, or use the place as a storage for
extra wraps; sometimes a riotous group of children holds brief but noisy
possession; but after sunset the solitude is generally unbroken until
ten o'clock, when the caretaker comes to lock up for the night. If the
weather be bad, it is not unusual for the Casino to remain unvisited for
the entire day. It affords a convenient shelter when it is needed,
however, and its wharf, with a float on either side, makes a good
landing-place; and it is, in a word, one of the numerous class of things
which in this world are not constantly in demand, but which, when they
are wanted at all, are wanted badly.

Here, on the evening of the fourth of June, Jerrold Taberman, wrapped in
a shapeless ulster,--for a thick fog was driving in from the
southeast,--sat awaiting his friend. Half an hour earlier Jack had gone
to get something to eat, and Jerry had agreed to meet him here. Taberman
was somewhat tired to-night, and beginning to feel the strain of three
crowded and exciting days in which he had had little time for anything
but action and sleep. The young men had completed their arrangements at
the Island, had left Gonzague in charge there, had notified the future
crew to report to the Provençalese on the evening of the third, and to
hold themselves in readiness to sail immediately on the arrival of the
Merle. The pair had then taken the big market-boat, a whitehall used for
bringing supplies from Isle au Haut, and with a couple of the most able
of the Isle au Haut men, selected beforehand, had sailed over to an
unfrequented cove in Vinal Haven, on the south side of the Thoroughfare.
There they encamped in hiding. They had reached their place of
concealment by night, and next afternoon had the satisfaction of seeing
the Merle come in from the westward and drop anchor just inside the
channel, off the "Fo'c'sle."

"By Jove, isn't she a fine sight!" Castleport exclaimed
enthusiastically; and Jerry assented no less warmly.

The Merle ran in under full sail, with a quartering breeze. Her clean
white hull, eighty-four feet on the water-line, her shining brasses, her
broad spread of snowy canvas, the easy run of her long counter, combined
to make a picture which, even personal interest aside, could not fail to
stir such enthusiasts as Jack and Tab.

On the evening of the arrival of the Merle two gentlemen and three
ladies had gone on board, evidently to dine, as they did not leave until
nearly ten o'clock. Castleport and Taberman, lying concealed among the
bushes overgrowing a tiny promontory on Vinal Haven, had watched all
this through their night-glasses. Jack, whose eyes were as keen as a
hawk's, had even thought that he could distinguish who the visitors
were. With guests on board there was evidently nothing that the
conspirators could do but to watch, and when this was over they smoked a
good-night pipe together over their campfire, and for the hundredth time
fell to considering their chances of success. Behind them in the shadow
lay the two sailors, wrapped in their blankets and sleeping the sleep
which only the genuine mariner knows; Jack glanced at them as if he felt
that somehow he was personally responsible for carrying through the
enterprise for which they had been enlisted.

"What the deuce shall we do if the President takes it into his head to
get under weigh for the island to-morrow?" Jerry demanded in a subdued
voice.

"Oh, that's all right," Jack answered in the same key. "He won't. He's
fond of North Haven; it's an old stamping-ground of his, and he'll never
go on without having had at least one night's bridge here. That's part
of the cruise. Besides, it's going to be thick, or I'm a duffer."

Thick it certainly was next day. The brisk southeasterly breeze that
blew through the Thoroughfare all day seemed to roll in white billows of
fog far more rapidly than it could take them out at the other end. The
strait acted as a sort of condenser, in which the mist became almost
tangibly more solid, until at nightfall it was, as one of Castleport's
men put it, "blacker 'n a tar-bucket." Under cover of the obscurity Jack
had had the market-boat reloaded with such necessities as they had
brought over for their camp, and rowed silently over to one of the
Casino floats. Here he and Taberman got out, and then the men, by his
orders, worked the boat into concealment between the spiles of the
wharf, there to await further orders, utterly invisible in the fog.

The two arch-conspirators mounted the wharf, and for some time kept
watch to see if any one came ashore from the Merle; but as the time wore
on to half-past seven they concluded that the President must be dining
on board. Assured of this, Jack left Jerry to keep watch, and went up to
the village bakery for food, dinner for himself and his friend having
been forgotten in the midst of more important things. Tab, left alone
in the wet darkness, had mounted to the balcony, and there sat in gloomy
state, wondering if Jack were never coming back. He had no light by
which to see his watch, but since he had heard seven bells from the
Merle he felt sure that eight o'clock must be close at hand, when his
attention was caught by the sound through the fog of the quick
_thud-thud_, _thud-thud_ of oars against thole-pins. In an instant he
was thoroughly alert, his senses primitively acute, and his growing
sensation of vague depression utterly dispelled. He heard some one pull
hastily to the "Fo'c'sle;" the muffled chugging of the oar-blades as the
rower held water; the gentle slapping of the boat's wash against the
float; and then the clatter of the oars on the thwarts. Then by the dim
light of the lantern at the end of the pier he saw a man spring on to
the east float and secure his boat; give a quick, nervous tug at the
painter to be sure that it was fast, and disappear from the field of
vision which was bounded by the edge of the sloping roof. He fancied he
heard a murmur as if the newcomer spoke a word of encouragement to the
sailors in damp concealment under the wharf, and then had hardly time to
wonder where Jack had been in a boat, before Castleport had run lightly
up the plank from the float to the pier, and thence up the steps to
Tab's place of concealment.

"Sit tight!" whispered Castleport breathlessly.

"What's--" began Jerry.

"Sh! We've the chance of a lifetime! I--I"--He gasped for breath, but
caught it with a great gulp, and hurried on. "I've been aboard, Tab!
Come in, man! Get back, get back!" He forced his friend into a seat in
the farthest corner of the little balcony, caught his breath again, and
began to chuckle. The sound of oars was again audible,--this time the
steady, measured stroke of a heavy boat well pulled.

"Here's Uncle Randolph," cried Jack with a sort of whispered shout.
"Here's Uncle Randolph!" And seizing his friend by the shoulders, he
shook him and banged his head noiselessly against the wall for sheer
glee.

"Stop, Jacko, stop it! Hold up, or by Jumbo I'll yell! Look there! Here
they are."

As the pair hurried cautiously to look out over the edge of the balcony,
a large cutter, pulled by six men, came out of the fog into the dim
illumination of the pier-light. Three gentlemen in light overcoats were
visible in the stern-sheets, the one in the middle steering. A little
removed from the President and the two men who were evidently his
guests, sat one of the officers of the Merle.

"Way enough," called the steersman in a sharp voice.

"Oh, my aunt!" whispered Tab, giving Jack a nudge. "The President has
very little idea that he's made all the way in the Merle he's likely to
for one while."

The cutter ran smoothly along beside the float.

"In bows! Fend off, there!"

At the word the oars were unshipped, and a couple of sailors caught the
rope which edged the staging. The cutter came to a stop. A seaman leaped
out and held the boat, the officer sprang to the float and presented an
arm for the President and his guests as they stepped to land.

"We'll be down at eleven," the President said to the officer. "If you
want an hour or two ashore, there's some sort of a shindy going on
opposite the post office, I believe--dance or something. Mind you're
sharp on time for me, though."

"All right, sir. Eleven o'clock it is, sir," returned the officer,
touching his cap deferentially as the three gentlemen turned away.

"Great Scott!" cried Jack into Tab's ear in an excited whisper. "Do you
suppose the President's going to get rid of all those men for me
himself? Was ever such luck!"

The boat still lay at the landing. The men began to discuss going
ashore, and every word was easily audible to the two watchers in the
balcony.

"I vote we go," quoth he with the boat-hook. "It ain't every day the old
hunks gives us a chance to stretch a leg ashore."

"It'll be dry, Tom," spoke up one in the boat. "Ye won't get so much as
a swig o' cider-water this side o' Bar Harbor."

"Well, boys, let's try it, anyhow," advised the officer. "If it's dry
there, it's wet enough here."

"That's right," responded another. "Damn yer slops, Bill, ye dude; the'
're's good as mine, an' any togs is good enough for po'r Jack. Let's go
ashore an' take a look at these Thoryfare bewties."

This seemed to settle it. The boat was made fast, and the men straggled
up the pier, talking and laughing as they went.

Tab and Jack fairly hugged each other in delight at this development,
and then Jerry opened fire.

"You said you'd been aboard," he began, "what"--

"When I left the bakery," Jack answered, without waiting for the
question to be finished, "I said to myself that the fog was so thick it
would be perfectly safe to take a boat and row out, on the chances that
I might find out something. I meant to get astern of the Merle and give
the wind a chance to bring me some of the talk aboard. I borrowed a
little pea-pod from the pier behind Staples', and out I went. When I got
to the yacht, I found I could lay alongside, for there wasn't a soul on
deck. I hauled off my jacket and hung it over the boat's side for a
fender, so she wouldn't make any noise, and took the painter in my fist.
Then I stood on the thwart and jumped for the rail on the port side."

"You'd have made the devil of a mess if you'd missed it," commented
Jerry.

"But I didn't. I got hold, but, Gad, I came near going overboard!"

He stopped to laugh, this time fearlessly aloud, while Jerry chuckled.

"I lay flat along the bulwark," Jack went on, "by the main rigging. The
skylight-covers were on, of course, but the frames were half up, and I
could get scraps of the talk in the cabin. The men Uncle Randolph's got
along with him are old Melford and Tom Bardale. I thought I'd die to
hear them go on. Old Melford was grumbling away,--he's always an awful
croaker, you know. He piped up once, and said it was just his luck to
have to suffer both fog and bridge when he came for solid cruising.
Uncle Randolph and Bardale both poo-poohed him, and asked him if he'd
rather play slap-Jack. The old boys are going to play bridge
somewhere,--I didn't find out where, but it doesn't matter; they're
settled, anyway. I didn't hear anything else, for I'd hardly time to
drop into the pea-pod and get out of the way of the men from the
fo'c'sle that came out to haul in the cutter on the boat-boom. I rushed
ashore as tight as I could pelt, and you saw the rest. This dance
business, too! Luck's with us!"

He stopped, all but breathless. With one accord the pair started for the
stairs, and took their way to the pier, where the lantern made a dim and
watery illumination in the midst of the fog. Castleport seized Jerry by
the arm and led him to the edge of the pier.

"With this wind," he said with great earnestness, "we'd best run out to
the westward, and beat along the south of Vinal Haven. We'll have more
sea-room, and with the weather as thick as this, I don't deny that even
that's risky enough."

"It is a nasty night," Taberman assented with emphasis. "Are you for
going outside Wooden Ball Island?"

"Tell that when we've got by Dogfish and the rest of 'em," replied Jack
briefly. "I mean to leave that to Dave, anyhow."

"You're dead sure you want to do it, old man?" queried Tab with the air
of one who would not have asked the question had he not been confident
that the answer would be in the affirmative.

"I'd do it ten times over just for the lark!" snorted Jack. "Now
then--business!"

They descended the ladder to the eastern float, and Castleport called
out guardedly to the men who had all this time been lying concealed in
the market-boat under the wharf. A slight bumping, a muttered oath, the
rattle of an oar on the thwart, and then the nose of the boat emerged
from beneath the pier. A vigorous thrust with the boat-hook against one
of the outer stringers shot her up alongside the float.

"All right?" inquired Jack.

A stoutly built man of short stature standing in the bow of the boat
answered.

"Right enough, sir; but a mite holler."

"Well, Dave, we'll fix that in a spell," said Jack. "We've got a bit to
do first, though. Let's have your watch, Tab."

He pulled out his own as he spoke, and took Jerry's with it in one hand.
Then with the other hand he struck a match, which he craftily sheltered
from the wind.

"You're a minute fast of me, Jerry," he commented, throwing away the
match and returning the watch. "I say eight seventeen, and you say eight
eighteen. You and Jim take the market-boat and go over to the other
float. Take the Merle's cutter and tow her out to one of the moorings
off the club here. At eight forty-eight sharp,--just half an hour,--you
hail the Merle. Sing out like the deuce, and tell 'em to send a boat
ashore. I'll see that they send one, and that when they've left there'll
be nobody aboard but me. In about fifteen minutes from now a boat'll
come ashore, but you needn't mind her. Dave'll look out for that
business. Just you pick out some mooring a bit to windward of the direct
line between the yacht and the Casino, so they shan't spot you. When you
hear a boat coming in answer to your hail, you come out yourselves, and
tow the cutter. That you're to make fast astern the Merle. Got it all
clear?"

"I guess so," Jerry answered. "I don't notice a boat till eight
forty-eight; then I hail, and when I hear a boat coming in answer I cut
out to the Merle. Give me some matches to see the time with. Well, good
luck, old man; be sharp, or you'll dish the whole game."

With this parting caution Taberman stepped into the market-boat, while
Dave got out. Oars were not needed, but Jerry and the sailor easily
pulled the market-boat around by the spiles to the other float, where
they lay concealed in the rolling fog.

"Now then, Dave," Jack said as they disappeared, "you and I are the ones
that are going to open this ball. You take me out, set me aboard just as
if you did that sort of thing regularly,--do you see? As if I'd paid you
a quarter for setting me aboard, you know. Then you row back. Here's a
boat that'll do," he broke off, pointing to a small whitehall boat made
fast to the staging. "Get in, and pull me out."

The pair stepped into the little craft, and when Dave began rowing Jack
continued his instructions.

"When you get back to the float," he said, "you just make this boat
fast, and hide under the shadow of those stairs on the outside of the
Casino--you know?"

"Yes, sir."

"Wait for a boat from the yacht with three or four men in it.--Pull on
your port oar a bit; that's good.--When they get ashore and go up the
wharf, you take their tender and rush her out to a mooring same as Mr.
Taberman's done. Do you see?"

"Guess so, sir," was Dave's response. "Do you want me to catch the same
one?"

"Any one'll do, provided it won't be seen by a boat pulling ashore from
the Merle. You won't have to go far to hide in this fog.--Little
stronger on your port oar again; tide's cutting you down.--When you hear
Mr. Taberman hailing, you stand by, and as soon as a boat goes by in
answer, you pull out to the yacht and make fast astern. Give her plenty
of painter; all she's got. Do you see now?"

"I guess I do, sir. You're going to have a boat on every davit that way,
ain't you, sir?"

"If it works," Jack answered in a low voice, for they were now under the
yacht's port quarter.

Dave pulled around in silence to the steps on the starboard side.

"Here we are, sir," he said in an even tone as he caught at the ladder
grating.

The Merle, dimly visible by the foggy glow of her riding-light, was
pitching slightly in the chop, and the small dinghy bobbed up and down
beside her like a cork beside a floating spar. The waves slapped against
the yacht's sheer, wetting her top-sides with spray and poppling away
merrily under her counter. In the thick dimness her masts loomed up
almost supernaturally tall.

"Hello aboard the Merle," shouted Castleport.

"Hello?" answered a voice from forward, and in a moment a tall, burly
figure appeared on deck by the ladder.

"What is it?" asked the tall man. "What d' you want?"

"Hello, Camper," cried Jack, recognizing the voice as that of his
uncle's sailing-master. "Hello, Camper, don't you know me?"

He sprang up the steps and gained the deck.

"Why, Mr. Castleport," the skipper cried in a hearty tone, "whatever are
you doin' here? Thought you was over to the Island. How are you, sir?"

"Cold," Jack answered with a laugh. "How's yourself? Fit as usual, I
suppose. President aboard?"

"No, sir. He's gone ashore to some sort of a gatherin'. I never thought
to see you here, sir."

"Oh, I came over to join the yacht here. I got tired of waiting. I
shan't want you any longer," he called down to the figure in the dinghy
below. "Much obliged."

The dinghy and Dave melted into the blackness of the night.

"Come below, Mr. Castleport, sir. You'll have a bracer?" the genial
sailing-master asked. "Nasty night, ain't it?"

"It is that," Jack agreed, "but I'm in hopes there'll be a change soon."

And smiling at the thought how truly the words expressed his secret
intent, he followed the worthy Camper below.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Three

IT BLOWS SOUTHEAST


The saloon of the Merle was a spacious cabin, paneled in Cuban cedar.
Along both sides ran transoms cushioned in dark green corduroy, which
contrasted pleasantly with the red of the woodwork. On either side of
the companion-way were big closets, the doors of which, framing large
mirrors, opened forward against the after ends of the transoms. Both to
port and to starboard the cabin was lined with lockers for flags,
charts, and bottles, except where the recessed bookcases came in the
middle. Large nickeled Argand lamps to port and starboard on the for'ard
bulkhead illuminated the interior. Sheathed in cedar, the butt of the
schooner's mainmast stood in the fore part of the saloon; and aft from
it ran a mahogany table around which were placed some
comfortable-looking chairs. All in all, the impression of power and
grace which one received from regarding the outside of the Merle was
equaled by the feeling of comfort, and, indeed, almost of luxury, one
had upon viewing her below decks.

It was in this pleasant retreat that Jack had settled himself in less
than a minute after his arrival on the yacht. The good skipper, who had
kept an almost fatherly eye on the youth ever since he was old enough to
"fist a rope," sat uneasily on the edge of the divan on the port side.
Jack, sprawled out on the opposite transom, lit a cigarette, and looked
up at the skylight.

"My aunt! But I'm glad to be aboard again," he declared. "How is
everything? What sort of a run down did you have?"

"Pretty fair, sir," returned the master. "We went to Marblehead, and
then to Portsmouth. Mr. Drake, he spent the time in seeing his friends.
Then we run to Portland, and then to Boothbay. We run in here yesterday.
Nothin' much to tell of on the cruise."

"You've made schedule time," Jack commented. "You are here just when you
were due."

"Yes, we got here," Camper assented, "though 't one time, when I see the
stores that had to come aboard, I doubted if we should get started for a
week."

"More stores than usual?" queried Jack, with a little spark of interest
in his eye.

"Well, Mr. Drake, he 'lowed that last year when we got becalmed down
the coast some of the provisions fell short, and he vowed he'd never get
caught in that shape again; so this time he's stocked up fit to do the
Nor'west Passage. He's got every kind of a thing to eat that man ever
put into tins, you may bet your life."

"Trust him to have an eye to the galley," laughed Jack, reflecting how
satisfactory a complement to the plain provisions waiting at the Island
would be this extensive assortment of choice eatables. "Well, I'm for
sleeping aboard. Can you give me a lift with my luggage?"

Everything he had said since he came on board had been preliminary to
this. His one chance of getting the sailing-master to a safe distance
lay in inducing Camper to go ashore on an errand. To this question the
skipper replied, Yankee fashion, with another.

"Where is it, sir?"

"Go to Mullin's and tell 'em you're from me;--you'd better do it
yourself, Camper;--and get them to give you a steamer-trunk and two
bags. Do you know the place? It's the only boarding-house there is in
the village. Anybody can tell you."

"I know it, sir. 'Bout a cable's length up the road."

"Yes; that's it. I don't think you'll find the trunk heavy," Jack went
on, with a secret inclination to speak very fast and a consciousness
that he must appear cool and deliberate. "Of course you'll take a couple
of men to tote it, but I don't like to send an ordinary seaman up
there."

He wondered what he should reply if asked why not; but Camper, who had
long been trained under President Drake to habits of unquestioning
obedience, replied with perfect simplicity:--

"All right, sir, I'll have it aboard in half an hour. Your old
stateroom's all ready, I believe. You just ring for the steward if you
want anything, sir."

"Thanks," responded Jack, taking a book from its place as he spoke, as
if with the intention of settling himself to read.

Camper withdrew, and Jack listened eagerly till he heard footsteps on
the deck, the rattle of the davit-tackle, the splash of the boat
alongside, and then the rhythm of receding oars. The moment he was sure
of not being seen by the skipper he closed his book with a bang, flung
it on the table, looked at his watch, and went hurriedly on deck. In the
lee of the mainmast he paused to light a fresh cigarette, and then began
untying the cover of the mainsail, loosening the points and pulling
them through the grommets. As he worked his way aft, he suddenly
thought he heard the sound of oars. He stopped to make sure: there could
be no doubt of it; some one was pulling toward the Merle. In a flash
Jack saw his scheme ruined in any one of a thousand ways. He set his
teeth and ran over rapidly in his head the possibilities, but without
reaching any satisfactory conclusion. Then he walked aft, and putting
his hands on the rail, bent over the yacht's port quarter and peered
into the fog. With a feeling of relief he realized from the sound and
time of the strokes that the approaching boat was a small one, and was
pulled by one pair of oars only. He had hardly decided this when he
discerned the cause of his alarm, and almost laughed to see nothing more
formidable than a small pea-pod, pulled by a boy. The rower came
alongside and rested on his oars, while Jack watched him curiously.

"Is that Mr. Drake's vessel?" inquired the boy.

"Yes," Jack returned. "What's wanted?"

"The postmaster said 'f I'd bring ye these letters ye'd give me a
quarter," replied the youthful oarsman.

"Mr. Drake isn't aboard now," said Jack.

"Well, ye c'n give me my quarter jes' the same," the boy rejoined. "I'll
let ye hev the letters, 'n' he'll make it right with ye later. He lef'
word this evenin' for his mail to be brung him every time it come, an'
't was that foggy the Sylvy got in late from Rocklan', 'n' I couldn't
get roun' to bring it out before. 'Twan't sorted till after Mr. Staples
hed his supper."

"All right," Jack said hastily. "Come alongside."

He feared to create suspicion, and felt that the only thing to do at the
moment was to get rid of the boy. He gave the youth a quarter, and took
the letters in exchange, mentally saying to himself that he hoped they
were not of importance. The boy went pulling away as if in most unusual
elation, and Castleport, thrusting the letters into the breast pocket of
his coat, returned to his work. He had not quite finished untying the
points when he heard Jerry's hail from the mooring.

"Merle, ahoy! Ho-ro aboard the Merle!" came booming through the fog in
Taberman's most stentorian tones.

Jack placed himself in the companion-way as if just emerging from the
cabin, and waited for another hail.

"Merle ahoy! Aho-o-o-y aboard the Merle!" again rang through the thick
night above the sound of the wind, the water, and the cordage.

"Hallo-o-o!" bawled back Castleport.

"Send ... boat ... ashore!" came the voice.

Jerry was apparently able to outroar all the bulls of Bashan, and was
doing his worst.

"Aye--oh!" Jack yelled in reply, and walked quickly forward.

The steward had heard the rumpus, and was standing in the forecastle
companion. Capless, and wearing his white jacket, he gaped about like a
quizzical seal.

"Some one hailing from the shore," said Jack shortly; "want a boat.
Don't know what you'll take unless you go in the longboat. Tell the
men."

"Beg pardon, sir; there's only me and the cook and two hands aboard.
It'll take us all to pull the longboat."

The steward had a slow, exasperating whine which always irritated Jack.

"Then you'll have to take an oar," Jack responded roughly. "There's some
one ashore waiting, and I said I'd send a boat. Get a move on. I'll
watch ship."

The steward went below grumbling, but soon reappeared with the cook and
the two hands. With some delay they got off in the longboat, pulling
wretchedly toward the shore and nagging at each other. As he stepped to
the foot of the mainmast to take the halyards off the pins, Jack
fervently thanked his stars for the heaviness of the boat and the
evident fact that both cook and steward were hopeless duffers with an
oar. He cleared the halyards with nervous fingers, stripped off the
cover of the mainsail, and undid the canvas stops with which it was
furled. Then he turned to the headsails, and had all clear before his
ear again caught the sound of oars. He ran aft, and called out
guardedly. Dave's voice answered him, and then he heard Taberman urging
his companion to quicken his stroke. In the mist Castleport could dimly
distinguish the heavy boats slowly nearing the yacht. It was all the men
could do to get them alongside and make them fast astern. Once this was
accomplished, all hands turned eagerly to the still harder labor of
getting the Merle under weigh.

"Jim," ordered Castleport, "skip along for'ard and take down that
riding-light. Set it on deck so it won't show out-board. Dave, you get
up the boat-boom. Haul it right up, 'thout minding the guys! Lively,
now!"

As Dave and Jim hurried forward to execute these orders, Jack himself
stepped aft, took off the binnacle-cover, and got the lamps lit and in
their places.

"All hands for'ard on the anchor!" he sang out, rapping his shins on
the cockpit combings as he scrambled out and ran along the deck. "We'll
make sail when we get out the mudhook. 'F we try to get her mains'l up,
they'll hear us all over the place. We'll drop down under heads'ls.
Catch ahold there!"

The Merle was riding at her port bower in some six fathoms of water. She
had out a good bit of scope, however, and between the eight hands which
gripped the quarter-inch chain and the anchor to which it was bent were
some ten fathoms to be "handed over." In the light of the big Fresnel
anchor-lantern upon the deck, the men, silent, rigid, braced back,
strained steadily. For a full half-minute there was no gain whatever,
but then one link of the chain came to the brazen lip of the hawse-hole
with a sharp rap. The men grunted and hissed, bringing every muscle into
play. Taberman was foremost on the chain. He faced the hawse-hole
squarely, his legs wide apart, and his head thrown back. His face, even
as seen by the white light of the Fresnel, was a dark brick-red, and out
of the left corner of his mouth his tongue protruded. Dave was behind
him, his left knee bent, and his right leg straight from toe to hip. He
hung on savagely, his face unnaturally blank; his hair, damp with fog
and sweat, clung to his brown forehead and temples. The third man was
Jim, lying back in a strange posture, as though the small of his back
were invisibly supported. His cheeks were white; his breathing was
inaudible.

With a little salvo of metallic snaps a scant dozen links more came in.
Jack was last on the chain, and was separated from the man next him by a
space greater than that between any other pair, so that he could when
necessary take a turn of the slack about one of the brass-capped
bollards at his side. His body was tense and rigid, his face and
forehead full of odd puckers and lines. He was white at the lips, and
the corners of his mouth were drawn down. His nose moved nervously with
almost the suggestion of a rabbit's. One more link came in.

"Better take it on the winch," gasped Jerry.

"Damn it,--pull!" cried Jack.

Jim grunted and Dave drew a breath through his closed teeth with a sharp
whistling sound. Suddenly the chain rattled in so quickly that they
could almost over-hand it. The Merle was moving at last.

"Smartly!" Jack cried. "Smartly, and we'll make her trip it out
herself."

The four hauled lustily.

"Nigh up and down," called Jerry.

Jack threw a couple of bights of the chain over the bollard, and held
it. The big yacht forged ahead slowly into the eye of the wind, carried
along by the impetus given her by the handing of the chain. The bits
creaked a little, the chain grew very taut and vibrant. The Merle
checked up and began to drift back.

"Now then!" cried Jack. "Lay along!"

Each one of them grasped the chain with a fierce vigor, as a man might
seize the throat of his enemy, while Jerry burst into an explosive
whaling chantey, and the men fell into time with its rhythm.


     "Haul the bowline, the bowline, the bowline;
     Haul the bowline, the bowline,--_Haul!_"


"Here she comes!" he shouted in the midst of a stave, as, all at once,
the anchor was broken out.

Jack dropped his end of the chain and ran aft to mind the wheel, leaving
the men to take in the rest of the slack. The headsails were up in
stops, but before breaking them out it was necessary to lay the yacht
round on the port tack. As she was under sternway, Jack whirled the
spokes over to port, and so--for her steering-gear was
"balanced"--brought her head around to the southward. When he felt the
wind on his left cheek, he put his hand to his mouth and shouted.

"Break out fore-staysail!" he bellowed. "Trim it a-weather!--Hang on to
the weather-sheet till she falls well off!"

With a great slatting and booming of canvas the schooner payed off
rapidly.

"Catch on to that port sheet there!" shouted Jack. "Port, I say, port!
Make fast! Not too flat! Give her all she'll use!"

The Merle was now moving slowly before the wind.

"Break out the jibs," ordered Jack, "both jibs! That's good. Make fast!"

The wind had so freshened that the yacht began to move in earnest. At
this juncture voices, faint but frantic, were heard hailing from astern.

"Merle ahoy! Ahoy-oy-oy! Show--light! A-hoy-oy-oy--'board the Merle!"

"Hear the steward?" called Jack to Jerry, who was at work with the
head-sheet cleats.

"Hear him!" laughed Jerry. "His music's a merry send-off."

"Ahoy-oy-oy!" came the voice again, fainter and full of a dismayed
distress that made them both break out afresh into derisive laughter.
"Ahoy! Anchor! An-chor--Anch"--

The despairing wail died away on the freshening wind.

"Hope they won't poke round in the fog all night looking for the Merle,"
Jack said gayly. "I never did like that steward, though."

A moment or two later, as the yacht was nearing the entrance of the
Thoroughfare, Jack called for Dave. The man came aft.

"See here, Dave," Castleport asked, suddenly grown grave; "we've got
more weather than we counted on. Can you pilot this yacht round Vinal
Haven in this fog?"

"Reck'n I kin, sir," Dave replied with pleasing assurance. "Man and boy
I've worked round these shores twelve years."

"Very well, then,--come down here and take her. Her gear's balanced: put
the wheel over same way you want to swing her head. She's quick as a
flash. If you want the chart"--

But Dave shook his head with a grin.

"Well, anyhow," said Jack, turning to leave him, "there's your compass."

"That don't bother me none," replied the intrepid Dave, with a glance at
once scornful and defiant at the smart binnacle. "I go mos' gin'rally by
the smell," he added by way of explanation.

"All right," laughed Jack. "Handle her carefully."

"One thing, sir,--how much does she draw?"

"Twelve feet," returned Jack.

Then he stepped up on to the deck, and the Merle sped on into the black
night.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Four

IT BLOWS NORTHWEST


With Dave as her Palinurus the Merle ran down the wind until she was
well outside the western entrance to the Thoroughfare. The headsails
were then dropped, the yacht was put into the wind, and the mainsail was
hoisted. The foresail was left furled, as the wind had freshened
considerably, and the schooner started on a southerly course on the port
tack.

How Dave knew where he was or by what subtle instinct he was moved to
give the Merle now a spoke or two to starboard or again to port, were
mysteries as insoluble as complex. Taberman was lost in wonder at Dave's
cool assurance; but to Jack, who knew of old the marvelous way in which
the local fishermen handle their craft in the fog, the helmsman's skill,
if wonderful, was yet no new thing.

The beat to the Island was not, however, without incident. Twice, as
they were tacking about in the thick fog, they ran close to wicked
ledges over which the slow seas just rolled without breaking. At another
point they came about just in time to avoid going ashore against a
precipitous cliff which loomed high in the mist. Near the end of the run
they worked into some shoal water where the uneasy heave and thrust of
the sea made the schooner reel and stagger madly, while all about them
was the thunder of unseen breakers. But in each and every peril Dave
kept his head completely and brought the Merle through in safety.

The passage was a busy one. Three times they luffed up in open water,
and each time took a boat aboard. It was a difficult--almost a
perilous--operation, but the night was flying and the boats dragged
heavily. The foresail was made ready for hoisting, a reef being tucked
into it without its being raised. The port bower was taken aboard;
lanterns were got ready against the work which was to be done at the
Island; a careful survey was made of the places available for stowage.
Jack and Taberman made a list of the men, assigned watches and berths.
They agreed that Gonzague, as cook, steward, and general major-domo,
should have to himself the little cabin formerly occupied by the
steward. To the men they gave the berths of the old crew; and in
general arranged everything for the ocean voyage which had been left
for adjustment until they should be actually on board. The personal
effects of the President, his guests, the officers and the crew, they
made ready to leave at the Island.

"How about clothes for the men?" Taberman asked. "I never thought of
that; and we should look like the deuce with a crew in fishermen's rigs.
The police of any harbor in the world would be after us."

"The uniforms belong to the yacht," Jack answered. "They are cut for the
crew, but the men never own them."

"Do you suppose those poor devils' traps will be safe at the Island?"

"Safe as in a church."

"But how'll they get 'em?"

"Oh, by nine o'clock to-morrow morning the President will be on his way
to the Island if he has to buy the Sylvia to go on. Camper'll tell him I
ran away with the Merle, and he'll start to the Island to find me or get
track."

So they talked until, about two in the morning, the yacht ran past
Hardwood Island, hauled her wind, and worked along to the southeast.
Suddenly through the fog a dull red gleam showed on the weather bow.

"There's Gonzague's bonfire," Jack cried. "You've brought us through,
Dave, about as slick as anything ever was done in this world. 'Twas a
tough job, too."

The main-peak was dropped to lessen the yacht's way, and as the red
flare became more distinct, the outer jibs were doused. Keeping the
shore close aboard on the port side, the Merle ran along toward the
ruddy blur of the fire, which was now seen to be burning at the end of a
point. As the boat neared this point, Jack seized the megaphone, and
putting the big cone to his lips, faced the fire, which was now abeam.

"Hallo!" he roared. "Hallo, there! Gonzague!"

A sudden and confused shouting out of the fog answered him. Then black
figures, silhouetted against the red brightness of the fire and waving
burning brands, ran to and fro with odd antics and caperings.

"'Bout ship!" cried Dave. "'Ware boom! Douse the heads'ls!"

The Merle came over on the other tack, and the staysail and jibs were
run down. The main-sheet was then so started as to spill the wind out of
the sail, and the yacht's way was quickly lessened. Having rounded the
point, the schooner moved ahead sluggishly, again passing the bonfire
on the port hand.

"Stand by the anchor!" sang out Dave, as they ran by the end of the
jetty.

"Hooray!" yelled a chorus of voices from the pier. "Hooray, Dave!"

Dave twirled the wheel to starboard, and the Merle came slowly into the
eye of the wind, where he kept her until she seemed to be making
sternway.

"Well enough!" he shouted. "Let her go!"

And the anchor-chain rattled down in three and a half fathoms.

It was after two o'clock, and still thick. The wind, however, was
hauling around to the southward, and the fog was beginning to thin a
little. The main-sheet had hardly been hauled aft when some of the men
were alongside in a boat. Jack stood by the steps, which had not been
taken aboard during the run, while Tab, standing by his side, held a
lantern. The first man aboard was Gonzague. Agile as an ape, for all his
years, the old Provençal ran up the steps and touched his cap smartly,
man-o'-war fashion.

"I see you leaf in a great hoory, cap'n," he chuckled to Jack. "You 'av'
loosed de matting of de step-grating, eh?"

"Yes, rather," laughed Jack. "Pile aboard there," he added, addressing
the men in the two boats now alongside.

The new crew made their boats fast to the grating and came on board.

"Now, then, all hands aft here for a minute," Jack ordered, when every
one was assembled on deck.

He knew that with such men as he had been able to collect for this
expedition it was essential to bind them in some way. He had therefore
prepared a paper in which were five articles for them to sign, and he
was firmly resolved that unless they agreed to bind themselves, he would
not trust the President's schooner to their care. The men were resolute
in the face of danger, yet were unused to discipline; they were imbued
with a crude sense of loyalty, but were unruly and quick to take
offense; and unless they should consent at the outset to submit to his
authority, Jack knew that little dependence could be put upon them.

He instinctively assumed an arbitrary air,--almost dropping half
consciously into the latent bully which lies hid in all strong
characters. Had he reasoned it out, he would have adopted much the same
tone as that which he took by instinct. These men, wild followers of
the sea, would scorn to be led, and were to be mastered only by one who
could browbeat and domineer,--who could, in their own word, "man-handle"
them. They responded to the primitive necessity of seeing force in the
man who is to command; and in showing his determination at the outset
Jack was displaying at least one characteristic of a proper leader of
men.

He took from his pocket the list of names, and telling the men to answer
to the roll he read it off by the light of Tab's lantern.

"Elihu Coombs?" he read.

"Here," answered a thickset lad with a rugged and weather-beaten face.

"Here, SIR!" said Jack sharply, as he check'd off the name.

"Edward Turner?"

"Here, sir," answered a quiet voice on the outer ring of the men.

"Haskell Dwight?"

"Here, sir."

They were all aboard: ten men, exclusive of Jack, Jerry, and Gonzague.
When he had finished the list, Jack handed it to Jerry, and taking from
his pocket a second paper,--the simple articles he had written,--he
knocked the creases out of it with a back-handed rap, and then made a
short speech.

"My men," he began, "I don't want to haul you into any game with your
eyes shut, so I've drafted articles for you to sign. Of course this
whole business is only a joke, but it's got a serious side to it too.
You can all see that plain enough; and it's my interest--and yours--to
see to it that we don't have to laugh out of the wrong side of our
mouths.

"If you come on this cruise you'll sweat for your wages, now let me tell
you! I'm not for grinding any man,--most of you know what I am, for
you've seen me growing up from a kid,--but the yacht's got to be kept
up, and that means that every man-jack aboard has got to keep as neat as
a pin and not slight his job.

"On the other hand, you men'll get a lot of experience in handling a
larger vessel than you've been used to; you'll have good grub; and
you'll see foreign ports. Top o' that, you draw good pay, and keep what
clothes you can save.

"Now then, these are the articles that every man who sails with me has
got to put his name to."

He read the whole paper, as distinctly and as impressively as he could.

"Now," he concluded, "if any man here lacks the heart for this
business, let him clear out. The rest of you, step up and sign."

Jack laid the paper on the companion-hatch, and produced a fountain-pen,
which he put beside it. Jerry was the first, in virtue of his position
as mate, to put down his name. He set down his lantern and scrawled his
signature at the foot of the articles in a hand that would have dwarfed
that of John Hancock. He passed the pen to Gonzague, who, laboriously
fisting it, wrote his name in a small, cramped hand, absurdly unlike the
characters above it.

For an instant--an appreciable instant--the rest hung back. Jack's brown
eyes challenged theirs, and every one was very silent. That Castleport
was seconded by those who were obviously attached to him gave the men,
rather than confidence, an uneasy feeling of being another party, and
this prompted an instinctive caution almost like antagonism. Had things
been allowed to rest for a moment, the day might easily have been lost.
Discussion might have arisen to beget argument and discord, explanations
have been demanded, and the men have asked to be satisfied as to the
real grounds on which Castleport was to be justified in appropriating
his uncle's yacht and making off with it, a question which could hardly
have been answered so as to satisfy everybody. At this unrealized
crisis, old Gonzague quietly stepped among the men, passed a jest with
one of them in an undertone, and so equilibrium was restored. He at once
became one of them, and the vague idea of parties and opposition
vanished into thin air before the men had had time even to recognize it.
Dave stepped forward and signed, Jim followed him, and the rest of the
men came after. Jack had sounded all of them separately before unfolding
his plans, and the result was that not one of them drew back now. As the
last one laid down the pen, Castleport spoke.

"Before we fall to work I don't think anybody'd mind a good glass of
grog; and while Gonzague's getting it, I just want to add one word to my
say. I know this gentleman, Mr. Jerrold Taberman, to be a good
navigator, and I've chosen him as my mate. Gonzague'll be cook and
steward, and A1 you'll find him. I'm bound to make things go as easy as
may be, and I will. I'm sure you'll do your duties, and you may bank on
my doing mine."

The grog being brought, Tab proposed the captain's health, and the crew
drank it with enthusiasm. Jack emptied his glass to the "crew and a good
cruise;" and then the entire company went to work, loading and stowing.

Under Jerry's orders part of the crew began to carry provisions from
the boathouse to the yacht, while under Jack's surveillance Gonzague and
two of the crew stored what the others brought out. Gun-tackle purchases
were rigged by the foremast to take the heavier cases aboard. The men
worked feverishly, and almost without sound, as if subdued by the fear
of being heard. At the end of a couple of hours the Merle had only to
fill her water-tanks and she would be ready for sea. The fog was by this
time so thin that in the dim light of the yet unrisen sun Jack, as he
stood in the rigging, could discern vaguely the form of the house on the
Island. As he was considering the weather, Gonzague, his face red with
exertion and his usually immaculate clothes stained and torn, came up
hastily.

"Mistair Castleport, sair," he said, "I don' fin' any beeg funnel for de
watter-tank. Dey mus' always feel dem from de watter-boat 'ose,--stick
de en' into de deck-plate, I t'ink."

"How's that?" exclaimed Jack. "No funnel?"

The tender containing the first installments of the water-supply had
already left the jetty, and Jack fell hastily to considering how the
water was to be got out of the big unheaded casks into the tanks
without its being dribbled in by the dipperful.

"Did you look everywhere?" he demanded.

"I look in de peak and go all de way aft to de run," replied the
steward, "and all I find was de funnel in de kerosene-barrel. It ees too
small, and it do fair reek wid de pairfume of de oil, sair."

"Is there any piping aboard? any hose?" Jack asked. "We might siphon
it."

Gonzague shook his head, and at that moment the boat laden with water
came alongside. Jack leaned over the rail.

"I say, Jerry," he called out, "there's no funnel to fill the tanks
with. How the deuce can we make water-stowage?"

"Search me," returned Jerry with cheerful inelegance. "How should I
know? Might use the megaphone."

"You're a genius!" roared Jack. "It'll do to a T!"

The keys were found, the caps unscrewed from the deck-plates, and the
large papier-maché cone of the megaphone was set big-end-up over the
orifice. Two men held it by the rim, while others kept it brimming with
buckets of water bailed out of the casks. At the end of another hour
both tanks were filled and the caps screwed down.

The Merle was ready for her long cruise. Jack was well satisfied with
the sufficiency of her stores, as in addition to the plain provisions
which he and Taberman had provided, the yacht had been most abundantly
victualed by the President for her summer's cruising.

"Think of anything we've left, Jerry?" Jack asked.

"The President?" Tab suggested.

Jack's official seriousness went entirely to pieces at this suggestion,
but he turned to the steward with an air of business.

"Have you got everything, Gonzague?"

"Yes, sair. I t'ink de leest is feel," the old man responded, closely
regarding the dirty paper on which he had made his inventory and checked
off each article as it came on board. Each item in the list had a black
scratch beside it.

"Well, then," the captain said, with a spark in his eye, "we're off!"

He gave the word to clear the decks and to get under weigh.

The wind had come around to the west, and was blowing fresh. They made
all sail, however, chancing the gusty squalls which they were likely to
meet off the high land of Isle au Haut, which they meant to leave on the
starboard. The fog had gone entirely, except for long ghostly wreaths
clinging to the dark green gullies of the Haut or encircling the distant
mountain-tops of Mt. Desert; and when the sun rose clear and fair, all
auspices seemed most cheeringly propitious.

Jack took his departure from the Eastern Ear of the Haut, when it bore
west-northwest three miles. At four that afternoon, when he and Jerry
came on deck for time-sights, no land was to be seen.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Five

LAND HO!


Some three weeks after the morning when the Merle left the Island, Jack
and Tab were sitting in the saloon, working out the sights they had just
taken for longitude. It was shortly after eight o'clock in the morning;
the air was warm, and had in it a suggestion of the south. Through the
open skylight came a shaft of light which cast a brilliant patch on the
green cushions on the port side of the cabin. As the yacht rolled or
pitched easily over the long seas, the patch of light moved about,--up,
down, fore, aft; now it glanced on the rich red sheathing, now on the
transom, and again on the big table.

On the leeward side of this table the two men, dressed in canvas
trousers and blue flannel shirts, were seated with their work lying
before them. Between them lay several sheets of paper, parallel-rulers,
the log-book in its brown duck cover, a copy of Norie open at the
tables, and the American "Ephemeris." A large sheet-chart of the North
Atlantic, weighted with a pair of binoculars, was spread in front of
Jack. A heavy line, full of zigzags and acute angles, and running nearly
across this chart, represented the Merle's track. Presently Jack laid
down the pencil with which he had been figuring, and reaching out for
the "Epitome," turned to the table of functions.

"Through?" asked Tab, without looking up.

"'Most," returned Jack, running one finger down a column of figures as
he glanced first at his paper and then at the book. "I have it now," he
added, and after jotting down a number he pushed the volume over to Tab,
went to a cupboard on the port side, and brought back a case of
instruments. He took out a pair of long-legged dividers, and with these
and the parallel rulers he bent over the chart a minute or two, until
the silence was again broken by Jerry.

"What d' you get?" he asked.

"Nine-eighteen-fifteen," replied Jack. "What's yours?"

"Nine-sixteen-nought," answered Tab. "Wait a shake, I'll average them;"
and he fell to figuring rapidly. "Mean is nine-seventeen-seven plus.
Prick it off, and let's see where we're at--the D. R. latitude's
thirty-six forty-eight."

They bent together over the chart. Jack carefully manipulated rulers
and dividers, found the point, and marked it in red ink.

"She's making just over six knots now," he said. "We ought to make old
Cape St. Vincent shortly. Let's put up these traps and go on deck."

They stowed the things in their several lockers, and went out together.
The Merle was running along with a quartering breeze, under all lower
sails, sliding easily over the long swell on the port tack.

"How about putting a lookout up aloft, Jack?" asked Tab. "We'll be
raising the land pretty soon--if we're anywhere right in our reckoning,
that is."

"All right," agreed Jack. "Step down and get a pair of glasses; I fancy
Hunter has the best eyes of any of the men. I'll get hold of him."

Jerry disappeared below, and Jack walked along the windward side. The
sea, rolling eastward in long, measured swells, reflected the sun from a
myriad of glancing ripples that gleamed and glittered in the morning
light. The sky, light blue and cloudless, looked like pale fire. On
board the schooner the brass-work, as she rose and dipped in the troughs
of the long seas, flashed and shone like burnished gold. The white
canvas caught the sunshine, while on the decks, still undried from their
recent scrubbing, the putty in the curving seams showed sharply white.
The four boats were inboard, turned bottom up and cross-lashed to the
rail.

Castleport found the four men of the watch gathered in the peak, looking
over the bows. He came up and saw that they were watching a school of
dolphins that were keeping ahead of the yacht. The big fish seemed to
vibrate. They sounded and leaped clear of the water, flashing and
dripping with sparkling drops. A thousand colors rippled along their
backs, as they turned and swayed, and they swung ahead like the very
incarnation of frolic.

The captain saw the man he wanted standing on the port side, and called
him to him.

"Hunter," he said, "go aft to Mr. Taberman; he'll give you a pair of
glasses. Go aloft and keep a sharp lookout for land. We ought to raise
it on the port bow."

The effect produced by this order was electrical. The four men whipped
around and stared at Jack and at each other.

"Land!" exclaimed one with a foolish grin. "Land!"

Hunter touched his duck hat and flew aft; Jack followed more leisurely.
In a couple of minutes Hunter was ensconced in the foretop, eagerly
scanning the eastern horizon. Castleport settled himself in the sun on
the leeward side of the cockpit, and filled his pipe. He had hardly
lighted it and taken half a dozen whiffs, when from aloft rang out the
magical cry, "Land!"

"Where away?" shouted the captain, leaping to his feet just as Tab
appeared in the companion-way.

"Have we raised it, Jack? Have we raised it?" Tab demanded excitedly.

"Not yet, Tab. Just been sighted," returned Jack, peering up at the
fore-crosstrees, and awaiting the lookout's answer to his hail.

"'Bout two points off the weather-bow," sang out Hunter from aloft.
"Just a low bank. Looks like cliffs through glasses!"

"Come along, Tab!" cried Jack. "Let's go aloft and have a look at it."

They made their way quickly along the deck, gained the weather-shrouds,
and ran up. The watch below had turned out, just as they were,
half-dressed and bareheaded. Two of the men had run out to the
bowsprit's end, and holding on to the topmast stay were looking over the
luff of the flying-jib. Old Gonzague, venerable as Vanderdecken, his
white hair stirred by the wind,--for he was as usual without a cap,--had
already gained the main-trees, where he stood shading his eyes with one
hand while he gripped the shrouds with the other.

"Where is it?" demanded Jerry, when he and Jack had reached the trees.

"There away, sir," Hunter answered, pointing as he passed the glasses to
the captain.

With the unaided eye Jack and Jerry could discern, lying low on the
eastern rim of the horizon, a faint brownish streak. With one arm about
the topmast for support, Jack looked at the land through the glasses. At
first, owing to the oscillation of the mast, he could not keep the brown
streak in the field of vision, but in a moment he overcame this
difficulty, and was able to make out a length of cliff of nearly uniform
height, although split by numerous fjord-like bays. By its varied
color--for he could see that the ribbon of shore was splashed with reds
and blues--he decided that the land-fall was in the neighborhood of Cape
St. Vincent.

"Have a look?" he asked, passing the glasses to Tab. "It's the Painted
Cape, fast enough,--or close to it."

"What country is that, please, sir?" asked Hunter, in a tone almost of
awe.

"Portugal," the captain answered. "Sou'-western point of the land. We'll
have Spain aboard before eight bells this afternoon."

"By Grab, sir! Beg pardon, sir, but do them Portigee fishermen ye see to
Boothbay an' Boston, do they come from hereaway?"

"Here or from the islands,--Cape Verde, the Canaries, or the Azores;
here for the most part. You may go below, if you want, Hunter."

The man went, frequently pausing to look over his shoulder at the coast,
glimpses of which could now be caught from the deck between the rolls.

After a brief consultation, the captain and the mate followed Hunter,
and went aft to consult the chart. As they passed along the deck, they
noted that all hands were much excited. These men, used as they were to
the sea, had been fishermen of the purely local sort, and it was
doubtful if any one of them save Gonzague had ever before been out of
sight of the high land of his native place; and here they were, in view
of a strange country where the people spoke outlandish jabber, and, for
all they knew to the contrary, went about in toggery as ridiculous as
that of the Chinese laundrymen at Green's Landing. Discussion became
all the more heated when Hunter came down and told them that the land
was one of the countless possessions belonging to the "Portigee king."
Frequent appeals were made to Gonzague, who had descended, and was the
centre of an excited group. As Tab remarked, it was a sight worth
remembering to see these self-contained New Englanders in such a state.

Down below, Jack and Tab held a brief colloquy over the chart. They
calculated, if the wind held, to make the Straits at nightfall, and run
through by the aid of the lights on Cape Spartel and Tariffa. Having
settled this point, they went on deck and had the course changed
slightly.

"By Jumbo!" cried Jerry, banging his fist on the deck as he stood in the
cockpit, "by Jumbo, I can't sleep a wink with this land in sight.
Portugal, too! By Jove, it's all very fine," he ran on, "for a _blasé_
old globe-trotter like you to keep cool, but I'm fair dry with it all."

Jack laughed, and reminded his friend of having lived in England and
France, and of having traveled not a little in northern Europe.

"Pooh!" sniffed Tab. "That's not really doing anything; everybody does
that. And to think," he burst out, "that we brought ourselves! God bless
me, Jacko, I little thought when you crammed me with navigation in
vacation days aboard the old Luna that I'd ever use it all; really, that
is, as we have used it these three weeks past."

"Well, I hope you're duly grateful," laughed Jack. "It may prove a
source of bread and butter if you're ever stranded."


All that day the Merle ran along gallantly over the bright seas,
occasionally passing ships of different nationalities bound in or out of
the Straits. At sundown, although the bold coast of Morocco was not yet
in sight, a lookout was sent aloft to watch for the light on Cape
Spartel.

At a little before nine o'clock in the evening, the breeze had so died
down that the yacht hardly had steerage-way. Jack was asleep below; Tab
had charge of the deck. What air there was was soft and warm. It had
hauled around a couple of points against the sun, and was now fragrant
with a faint tellurian odor, which would have been imperceptible to a
landsman, but which was full of meaning to those who follow the sea.
Overhead the great stars blazed in lustrous serenity. Their images kept
appearing and vanishing on the now smooth and oily surface of the
restless sea. The only sounds were those of the water and the
cordage,--the sudden spanking of a big wave under the counter as the
yacht flung her nose starward; the occasional crashing of the great
booms and traveler-blocks as she righted suddenly after a heavy roll to
port or a lurch to starboard; the pattering of the reef-points against
the canvas; and the sharp reports made by the slatting of the lazy-jacks
against the sails.

In the west, growing smaller and smaller in the distance, the receding
stern-light of an Italian steamship glimmered faintly. Taberman watched
it long after it kept sinking out of sight and again rising in the
weltering seas, and until it at last vanished as if quenched. He was
following out certain grim speculations as to the feelings of a forsaken
swimmer who should watch this star of his hope moving relentlessly away
into the west, grower fainter each time it emerged from the waves,
when--

"Light ho!" shouted the lookout from the darkness aloft.
"There's--light; 'bout--point--off--starb'd--bow!"

"What kind?" hailed Jerry from the deck, straining his eyes to where, a
dim blot against the stars, the figure of the lookout could be discerned
standing by the rigging on the cross-trees.

"Fixed white, red flash," called the man.

"All right," shouted Jerry; and added in his ordinary tone of command
to the hands on deck: "Lay along, now! Trim in main-sheet a bit--well
enough. Now then, fore and head sheets. Good. That'll do.--We want to
get what air there is," he added to himself.

Although the wind was slight, yet about the Straits is always a
strongish set of current. The surface current flows into the
Mediterranean continuously, and it kept setting the Merle steadily
ahead. When Taberman judged the light to be no more than five or six
knots away, he sent below to rouse the captain, who was asleep. When
Castleport came on deck, the bearing of the light was taken, the chart
consulted, and a slight change made in the course. It was now calm, and
the yacht, no longer steadied by the wind, rolled heavily.

"We ought to see it air up before long," remarked Jack, after a short
silence. "It's so beastly calm now. When it's calm on one side of the
Straits, it's always blowing on the other. An Italian sea captain told
me there is always just so much air about here, and however much or
little is on one side, the balance is always kicking about on the
other."

"Then we'll take the sticks out of her, once we're through the
Straits," Jerry responded with conviction.

As the schooner entered the Straits, the blue-black sky to the eastward
became dimly albescent, and shortly a blood-red moon rose slowly behind
the inky mass of Monkey Mountain. The huge pile of rock, the more
impressive though the less famous of the Pillars of Hercules, loomed
vast, mysterious, and perdurable in the soft darkness. The waves, as the
face of the moon cleared, were lit with a gray light.

Suddenly, as a long, smooth swell shouldered the yacht past the edge of
a small promontory, they opened out the lights of Tangiers on the
starboard beam. The moon as yet illuminated only the western half of the
scarped bowl in which lie the little villas which surround the town. The
scattered lights on the east side of the valley were accentuated by the
surrounding gloom.

"There's Tangiers," cried Jack. "There's old Tangiers."

"Those lights?" asked Jerry. "What sort of a place is it?"

"Jolly little hole. All white and pink in the daytime, with red tile
roofs. Hot as Tophet, though. There's Tariffa, boy! That's Tariffa over
there."

They excitedly discussed the points along their way. To Jerry it was
all new, but Jack had traveled a good deal about the Mediterranean, and
was well able to play the mentor. For an hour they talked, and the Merle
drifted with the current; but they had not passed out of the shadow of
Monkey Mountain before a faint breath of air stirred the headsails. It
came stealing down out of the upper canvas, hot and dry.

"By Jove!" cried Jack, "we'll have all the wind we want in a bit. You
can tell how hard it is blowing outside the Straits by the distances it
reaches in."

Then he raised his voice, and called to the watch,--

"Hello there! Clew up the topsails! Pass gaskets on them!"

The men, who had a dog-like trust in the captain, obeyed quickly, though
from the remarks they interchanged _sotto voce_ it was easy to see that
the order puzzled them. When everything was made snug aloft, Jack had a
reef tucked in the main and foresails, and the outer headsails stowed.

Still no wind. The schooner slowly moved along the edge of the great
shadow of the mountain, only her topmast trucks and the peak of her
mainsail silvered by the moonlight.

A dull, hoarse whisper, faint and continuous, was now audible ahead. It
grew louder by very slow degrees, and Jerry, unused as he was to
Mediterranean weather, knew it for the roar of a mighty wind. In the
moonlight ahead the waters appeared troubled, the hard-heaving seas
being strangely and almost weirdly demarked from the calm in which the
Merle rolled forward languidly. All at once, as the yacht emerged from
the obscurity of the mountain's shadow, a sudden gust of warm air struck
her without warning, and heeled her lee-rail under.

"Hard down!" roared Jack.

Jerry leaped to the wheel, and it took all the force of himself and the
helmsman to put the helm hard-a-lee. The Merle righted, and being
unusually quick, flew into the eye of the wind. From the threshing sails
came a thunderous volley of heavy boomings. The sheet-blocks were
whipped to and fro with such violence that twice Jack saw red sparks
struck from the fore-traveler guard. Then, as suddenly as it had come,
the wind left, and it was only by the way she had gathered that the
helmsman could pay the yacht off.

"We are going to catch it for fair," Jack said. "Best dowse the foresail
entirely, I fancy. Pass the word along to Gonzague to make all snug
below. Jerry, step into the cabin and make sure of the course from off
Ceuta to Port Mahon."

"Right-o," answered Jerry briskly, diving down.

"Get down the fores'l!" shouted the captain to the men.

"Helm up a bit there--steady! That's the talk! Get all the stops
on.--Now then--make fast that sheet there."

The Merle was hardly on her course again when a second squall struck
her. Her canvas having been reduced, however, the helmsman kept her
broadside to it. The yacht's strongest point was the quickness with
which she gathered way, and on this occasion, when nine tenths of her
class would simply have lain over and quivered, she rushed ahead with
the fury of an avenging goddess. When the hot flaw left her, she was at
the very last verge of the calm water.

"Stand by the main-sheet to square off when she meets it!" shouted Jack.

The men had hardly time to get to their stations before a third squall
caught the Merle and sent her tearing over the line into the full
strength of the wind. The air, hot from the desert, and laden with fine,
parching dust, sang in the shrouds and the running-rigging. It slashed
the salt spindrift in the smarting faces of the men. The seas grew
suddenly confounding in size; huge weltering masses--tons--of greenly
black water wallowed without rhythm all about the yacht, up as high as
the light-boards. To a landsman it would have seemed impossible that
thus scourged by the sirocco across these maddened seas the schooner
should escape destruction.

The sheets were started, the yacht was paid off before the wind, and
began the last stretch of her run. Tab came on deck with the course,
staggering and holding on, and shouted it into Jack's ear. Jack nodded,
and gave orders for setting it, a fresh departure being taken from the
light on the mole at Ceuta.

The Merle ran close in on the eastern side of Gibraltar. The great rock,
sheer and silver-gray in the moonlight, rose out of the raging seas
which ringed it about with a zone of roaring breakers. Grimly
self-reliant, it stood grand, silent, stupendous, unassailable in the
midst of the turmoil and uproar. As the yacht raced by, staggering under
her reefed canvas, Taberman regarded the rock, in face of which their
craft seemed a mere mote on the blast, with a feeling as near awe as it
is possible for buoyant youth to feel. He did not speak until the Merle
had swept past the rock-hewn fortress. Then he drew a deep breath and
bent over so that Jack could hear him amid the hissing of the sirocco.

"That's immense, Jack, isn't it?" he said.

Without taking his eyes from the throat of the mainsail he was watching
as a physician at a crisis watches the pulse of a patient, Jack nodded a
deep assent.

At times the Merle seemed fairly to leap like a flying fish from one
wave-crest to the next in her northeasterly flight.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Six

DINNER ASHORE


On a Thursday afternoon in the middle of July, the Merle dropped anchor
behind the inner mole of Nice. In her course northward from the Straits,
she had passed to the eastward of the Baleares, crossed the Gulf of
Lyons, and run smoothly into harbor before the same powerful wind that
had greeted her so boisterously on her entrance into the Middle Sea.

The moment when the port officer came aboard had been a nervous one, but
the dapper little official had merely glanced at the yacht's papers,
complimented the captain on his seamanship, and then gone ashore without
a sign of suspicion.

The yacht had no sooner been made trig and ship-shape, her sails stopped
with "harbor furl," the canvas covers on, the boats unlashed and swung
on the davits, the running-rigging coiled down, and the details proper
to coming into port attended to, than Jack, unable to put off going
ashore until the morrow, gave orders for the crew to turn out in their
best attire. Then with Taberman he went below to array himself for the
land. In Castleport's mind the idea of calling on Mrs. Fairhew and Miss
Marchfield, who he knew should now be in Nice, was paramount to all
else. He would see Mrs. Fairhew, he would see Katrine, and then--well,
then it would be time to consider.

Once below, Jack and Jerry began the overhauling of their wardrobes,
doing their dressing half in their staterooms and half in the cabin,
that they might go on with afternoon tea at the same time. During the
voyage they had gone about most of the time in flannel shirts and duck
trousers, the only two rules in regard to toilet having been that they
should shave regularly, and that they should not come to dinner in
oilers, no matter what the weather. The first rule had been framed by
Jack; and Tab, as author of the second, had declared that he would
rather eat hardtack in his pajamas, than a six-course dinner in his
oilers. Now, as they stood in the doors of their staterooms examining
their shore clothing,--each holding, like the Hatter at the trial of the
Knave of Hearts, a teacup in his hand,--they had the air of being almost
surprised at finding themselves in possession of so many garments, or
of not knowing exactly what to do with them.

"Got any extra duck trow-trows, Jack?" asked Jerry. "We made a great
mistake not shipping a laundress along with the other stores."

"Hanging them up on the rigging to dry doesn't give them an extra fine
polish," Jack returned. "I have two pairs I've been saving for shore,
and I suppose I can sacrifice one of them on the altar of friendship."

"That's truly noble of you," Tab said, coming over to Jack's cabin after
the clean ducks; "but it's all right. When we go ashore we'll take
Gonzague and a bag of things, and have some real washing done on land.
What's that official-looking envelope?"

From the pocket of a coat which Castleport had thrown aside in his
search for the desired garment, a long blue envelope, still sealed, had
fallen to the floor. Jack pounced upon it, with an exclamation of
dismay.

"Great guns!" he exclaimed. "It's Uncle Randolph's mail!"

"It's what?"

"Why," the captain explained, rummaging in the pocket from which the
letter had fallen and producing a couple of others, "I told you about
the boy's bringing out the letters to the Merle while she was changing
crews at North Haven."

"You mean the letters the boy brought out for the President?"

"Yes, damn it!" responded the other, regarding the letters with a
troubled brow. "This is a pretty kettle of fish. Uncle Randolph's
letters are apt to be important, and this one has a beastly official
look. It's sure to be something that couldn't wait. It's probably the
thing he was looking for when he gave orders to have his mail brought
out to him."

"'If not delivered in five days return to R. B. Tillington, 57 State
Street, Boston,'" read Jerry over his shoulder. "Tillington's the
zinc-mine man, isn't he?"

"Zinc, copper, gold,--any old thing that you can make a mining
speculation out of. I think he's a slippery old fraud, but he's hand in
glove with Uncle Randolph; or rather they have a lot of business
together. Uncle Randolph thinks Tillington wouldn't dare to play him
false, but he's an eely old beggar. Anyhow, this letter may mean the
making or the losing of a fortune for all I know. Gad! Running away with
his yacht is nothing to going off with his letters!"

"I don't suppose it would do to mail them here?" suggested Jerry.

"That would dish us all right," Jack answered. "It would give us away by
the postmark. Uncle Randolph isn't likely to think of our coming across.
He can't know we were provisioned, and he very likely thinks we are
still knocking about on the other side of the Atlantic."

"He might find out about the stores by asking at the express offices and
that sort of thing."

"Why should he, unless something puts the idea into his head?"

"I suppose he wouldn't," Jerry assented thoughtfully. "How would it do
to return this letter to Tillington?"

"Just as bad as to send it direct to Uncle Randolph. Once let them know
at home where we are, and we are done for fast enough."

"Well," Taberman said, after a brief pause in which he had apparently
been summing up the situation in his mind, "the harm's done by this
time, anyway; and I don't see that there's anything for us but to stick
to our guns, blow high, blow low. We'll mail 'em when we get ready to go
back."

Castleport regarded the letters in his hand gravely.

"I suppose there's nothing else to do," he said slowly. "The Merle is
of course registered at Lloyd's, and he'd only have to cable over to
have us nabbed anywhere along the whole coast."

"He may see the arrival in the shipping-lists as it is, I should think,"
Jerry observed rather gloomily.

"Of course; but we've got to run our chances on that. He's not very much
in the habit of studying the sailing-lists as far as I know, but he may
do it now. Anyway we've got to run for luck."

"The luck has been pretty good so far," was Jerry's consoling
observation; "and I won't begin to distrust it now."

The result of the conversation was that the letters were put carefully
away, and the two adventurers resolved not to worry about them.
Castleport admitted that the matter troubled him not a little, but he
was under the circumstances disposed to accept his comrade's very
sensible observation that after all the letters might be of no especial
importance.

"You see," Jerry said, with a laugh, as he gulped down the last of his
tea, which had had time to become thoroughly cold, "we are really
pirates, and here you go bringing the conscience of a gentleman into the
business. None of that."

Castleport laughed, and once more their attention was given to dressing
for the shore.

No one aboard understood the care and manipulation of the small
steam-launch which the President used on state occasions, so they went
ashore in the big cutter, with six men to pull and old Gonzague in
charge.

They landed at the quays, and left Gonzague to act as interpreter and
mentor to the men, while they took their way across the Quay Rosaglio
and along the narrow Rue Paglione. They came out soon upon the Promenade
des Anglais, thronged, in spite of the time of year, with foreigners of
many nationalities. Delicate French ladies in the latest fashions from
Paris, were here escorted by anæmic gentlemen looking absurdly out of
place in evening dress; vulgar Teutons in baggy trousers with impossibly
dowdy wives, legitimate evolutions from generations of sauerkraut and
beer; now and then an unmistakable "remittance man" from England, with
puffy eye-sockets and brutal face, accompanied by the companion paid by
some noble family to take charge of the prodigal till he drank himself
into a dishonored grave; the British cleric, too, with the inevitable
string of hopelessly dull daughters tagging after him like bobs on a
kite; swarthy Roumanians or Swabians; Russians deep-eyed and surrounded
by an almost palpable atmosphere of haughtiness; in a word, the
cosmopolitan crowd of a fashionable promenade of Southern Europe.
Through such a throng Jack and Jerry made their way toward the centre of
the foreign element of the better sort, the Hôtel des Anglais.

As they reached their destination, Jack became visibly excited, and made
his way to the office with an air of determination vastly amusing to his
companion. He was on the point of asking for Mrs. Fairhew when he was
startled by a voice behind him.

"Why, Mr. Castleport!"

Her voice! Jack spun around like a teetotum.

"Katrine--Miss Marchfield!" he cried. "How do you do? I--I-- You know, I
came here--this minute--I was just going to ask if you were here."

"Well," laughed the lady, whose heightened color and shining eyes were
evidences of a pleasant excitement, "you see I am.--Oh, Mr. Taberman,
how do you do? I'm delighted to see you."

"How are you?" responded Jerry, taking her slim hand in his own hard
paw. "It's awfully jolly to see you here. How's Mrs. Fairhew? Well, I
hope."

"Yes, thank you," answered Katrine. "She's never better than when she's
traveling, you know."

Miss Katrine Marchfield was one of those girls who, though not
beautiful, are more than pretty. She was too attractive to be fairly
disposed of by being credited with mere prettiness; yet she had not
fully that quality, august and indefinable, which confers upon the
fortunate possessor real beauty. She was slightly above medium height,
and could now, having been out for a couple of winters, carry herself
exquisitely. A beautiful figure could not have been denied her by the
most envious rival; and her fairly broad shoulders, always drawn well
back, gave her a charming air of delicately athletic power. Her face, at
first merely piquant,--perhaps from the slight arching of her eyebrows
and the wholly delightful way in which she carried her head,--showed at
a second glance, by the height of the forehead, the clear chiseling of
the features, and the intelligent sympathy of the gray eyes, a true and
sensitive nobility of nature which gave to her countenance a charm at
once fine and abiding. Her eyes Jack--and for that matter a score of
adoring youths--considered her greatest beauty. They were at times
thoughtful, at others sparkling with vivacity. Now and then they might
be surprised in a quickly vanishing expression wistful or even almost
sad, as if some deeper self looked out but did not will to be seen. A
mouth small, the upper lip a trifle fuller than the under; a nose almost
Greek; and above the high forehead a cloud of dusky brown hair,--these
physical attributes, with a sympathetic temperament and a mind sensible
yet deliciously feminine, a pleasant voice and a delightful laugh, had
won for Katrine Marchfield more conquests than could be boasted by many
an older woman of really marked beauty.

Her relations with Jack Castleport, whether she had admitted it to
herself or not, had for some time been greatly different from those she
held with any one else. They had met at a dinner shortly after Katrine,
for two years doubly orphaned, had come from Philadelphia to live with
her widowed aunt, Mrs. Fairhew, in Boston. After meeting Katrine,
Castleport had taken to calling at Mrs. Fairhew's, at first nominally to
see the aunt and later frankly to see the niece. He was at this time a
Junior at Harvard, and a popular man on both sides of the river; the
acquaintance during his Senior year had ripened into friendship, and the
most important feature of Class Day for Jack was the presence of Miss
Marchfield; he had thought more of her in the audience than of the
dignitaries on the platform when on Commencement Day he had taken his
degree; and what with dancing with Katrine, driving with Katrine, and
dreaming of Katrine for the winter which lay between Harvard and this
summer, he had come to measure the uses of life chiefly as they might
help to make her care for him or to reveal to him what were her feelings
toward him.

For a moment or two the three Americans stood talking near the desk of
the hotel. Then Miss Marchfield stepped forward and dropped into the
mail-box some letters she was carrying.

"If you'll excuse me one minute," she said, "I'll send for Aunt Anne,
and see about dinner. Of course you'll stay to dine?"

"Delighted," Jack said. "That is," he added, "if it's all right for us
in these clothes. You see, we stupidly came off without evening togs."

"That's all right," Katrine returned; and went away smiling.

Jack looked after her with an expression which made Jerry smile.

"Gad! She's looking ten times better than when she left home," Tab said
in an undertone.

"She always does," the captain responded with fervent fatuousness. "She
can't help it, you know. God bless me," he added with equal fervor and
absurdity, "it's worth coming over steerage just to hear her voice!"

"Well, you _are_ hit!" commented his friend; and then, seeing a shade
come over Jack's face, he laid his hand on his friend's shoulder, and
added: "Don't mind my chaff, old man. I really wish you all kinds of
luck."

Jack gave him a flash of sympathy and understanding, and then turned his
head aside.

"Pity we haven't got evening slops," Jerry remarked, by way of changing
the conversation; "but I suppose we'll do, seeing the way we came over,
and all that."

"I'm not worrying about clothes," returned the captain of the Merle.
"Men wear all sorts of things traveling. I'm thinking what Mrs.
Fairhew'll say about our being here in the yacht without Uncle
Randolph."

"What's your game if we're quizzed about the President?"

"I'm hanged if I really know," Jack returned; "but I've got to pull it
through somehow, and you'll have to follow my lead."

He had time to say no more, for Katrine came forward to rejoin them, and
before she had reached the friends, Mrs. Fairhew appeared.

Mrs. Fairhew was a striking woman of some forty years, of medium
height, with quick and alert bearing, with the unmistakable air of a
well-bred woman of the world. A widow of some six years, she still,
except upon occasions of particular state, wore black,--from devotional
feeling, according to her friends, and, according to the captious,
because it so well became her. Between her and her niece existed a
subtle and baffling likeness, but in what it consisted one would have
found it well-nigh impossible to say. Of good birth, perfect breeding,
and a wide social experience, she possessed also an intellect naturally
good and improved by careful training; while for her rare good taste she
was perhaps equally indebted to nature and to a somewhat old-fashioned
training in whatever is best in the English classics. With these good
gifts and graces and a perfect poise, she combined whatever is most
admirable in the best type of American gentlewoman.

"Mr. Castleport," she said, giving that gentleman her hand with gracious
cordiality, "this is an unexpected pleasure! How do you do, Mr.
Taberman. I am very glad to see you both."

Greetings were exchanged, and then, after a moment's chatting, the men
gave over their hats to an attendant, and the party went into the
dining-room. On account of the season, the number of people at the
hotel was comparatively small, and the huge _salle à manger_, with its
slim pilasters and its long French windows, its tubs of palmetto and
oleander, might have impressed Jack and Jerry as rather barn-like and
forsaken had either been in the mood to find anything in their
surroundings unsatisfactory. The four made their way to a small square
table in an alcove, behind which stood a tall, round-shouldered waiter
in an antediluvian dress-suit. Jack put Katrine into her chair and was
placed next her, and with much pleasant talk the party began dinner.

The fish was served before any mention was made of the President. Then
Jack suddenly found himself in dangerous waters, owing to a random
remark from Mrs. Fairhew.

"And Mr. Drake?" she asked. "What a pity he didn't come too. I suppose
he couldn't get away."

"Not on the Merle," responded Jack. "It takes a long time to cross on
such a small boat."

Jerry watched his friend closely to detect signs of embarrassment, but
was able to perceive nothing more than a faint flush in the brown
cheeks. He recalled the captain's words about following his lead, and at
this point, in his own picturesque phraseology, "shoved in his oar."

"Besides," he said glibly, with a secret mischievous glee at feeling
Jack's anxious eye upon him, "it's so hard to get the President away
from his everlasting bridge,--_Pons Asinorum_, I call it. When we left
North Haven he was so absorbed in his game that he didn't even see us
off."

"I didn't know he was so attached to cards," Mrs. Fairhew commented,
with a smile. "As you have the yacht, Mr. Taberman, you should at least
speak well of the bridge that has brought you over."

"Did Mr. Drake put you two in charge of his sailing-master, Mr.
Taberman?" asked Katrine, with a suspicion of a glance at Jack, as if
she meant to tease him.

"No," returned Jerrold. "Jack and I did the navigating; he's a past
master, I assure you."

"Yes," rejoined Katrine, "but I should have fancied he would have had
some one that was--Well, some one with a professional experience, you
know."

"If the idea struck him he didn't mention it," put in Jack. "If it
occurred to him after we left, I can't tell, as I haven't heard from
him."

"Haven't heard from him!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairhew in mild surprise.
"Haven't you been to your bankers?"

"Haven't been anywhere except at this hotel," Jack returned sturdily;
and then added: "It was after bank hours when we came ashore."

"Of course you cabled him your arrival?"

"Mercy! I might have done that, mightn't I? Upon my word, it never
occurred to me."

"Thoughtful of you," Katrine commented demurely.

"Well, I did get some letters ready to send to him," Jack protested,
while Jerry grinned broadly.

"Got them ready! How like a man!" laughed Mrs. Fairhew. "A woman would
have had them ready before she saw land, and had them mailed by the time
the anchor was down."

"So did Jack have them ready," put in Jerry imperturbably.

"Then it's doubly dreadful that they are not posted," retorted Mrs.
Fairhew.

Jack leaned forward and settled a pink candle-shade that threatened a
conflagration, and by a comment on the inflammability of these table
ornaments managed to bring the conversation into safer channels.

In the course of the talk it transpired that the ladies had no very
definite plans, except that Mrs. Fairhew had determined, despite the
heat of the Italian summer, to visit an old school friend, whose
husband was vice-consul at Naples.

"I fancy," she said, "that we shall go straight to Genoa. I'm going to
make Katrine work, and to see that she does her duty by the galleries
and things,--Florence and all the Tuscan cities, you know. Then Rome and
the Campagna. It will be dreadfully hard on us both, I dare say, but we
shall be upheld by the proud consciousness of doing our best."

She made a little gesture of comical despair, and her niece laughed.

"It would doubtless be intolerable to either of you without the other,"
said Jerry in one of his boyishly elaborate attempts to be gallant.

Mrs. Fairhew regarded him with a glance well-bred though quizzical, but
evidently perceived that he was completely sincere in his desire to say
something agreeable, and smiled, although less broadly than Katrine, who
showed in her amusement a row of beautiful teeth.

"Won't it be pretty hot in the south?" asked Jack. "I've never been in
Naples in summer, nor south of Rome, in fact; but I've always been told
that it is too torrid for foreigners."

"Oh, we are used to it," Mrs. Fairhew returned. "Besides, it is after
all the English that have spread the stories about Italy's being so
hot. They've been kept at so low a temperature all their lives by their
horrid fogs that they're the greatest babies imaginable about climate."

"I fancy you're right," assented Jack. "At all events, as you are used
to all climates, and as Miss Marchfield comes from Philadelphia"--

"Oh, but I've never been there in summer," Katrine broke in. "And,
besides, I've lived in Boston so long that"--

"That you can stand anything?" interrupted Jerry in turn.

"I think I can," laughed Katrine.

Mrs. Fairhew toyed with her coffee-spoon thoughtfully a moment; then she
looked up at Jack.

"Where are you bound, Mr. Castleport?" she asked.

"I don't know," Jack answered quite frankly. "I think we shall probably
coast along--Monaco, Bordighera, and Mentone, you know; and then go to
Genoa. Then perhaps we'll see Elba and Naples and Capri. After that we
must start for home. Nothing is settled with us."

"I detest Monaco," Mrs. Fairhew said, with some irrelevance.

"Why?" inquired Jack, with a smile. "Does the gambling offend the
Puritan that is in every Bostonian?"

"It certainly does," was the reply, "though my aversion isn't entirely a
matter of conscience. I bought it on the spot for a thousand francs."

"That was awfully dear," remarked Jerry. "It would have been much
cheaper to be born with it."

"As in your case?" asked the lady, raising her eyebrows a little and
smiling.

"Oh, one can't inherit all the virtues!" responded Taberman with the
greatest seriousness.

"Most certainly not," laughed Mrs. Fairhew. "At least I had not that
good fortune."

"Nature left you one to get for yourself, because she knew you'd do it
so easily," Tab said gallantly.

"Really," cried the lady, "you are evidently determined to overwhelm me,
Mr. Taberman. Compliments drop from your lips like the traditional
showers of pearls."

"There are frogs too in that fairy story," suggested Jack.

"Oh, Mr. Castleport," declared Katrine, coming to the rescue of Jerry,
"that is simply brutal."

"Of course it's brutal," retorted Jack, willfully twisting her meaning,
"but he keeps it up all the same."

Jerry tried to defend himself by charging Jack with never being able to
appreciate a compliment unless he were himself the subject, and so they
drifted lightly from one bit of good-natured raillery to another. Now
and then a more serious note was struck, and through it all the spirit
of the party was more kindly and friendly than could be pictured by any
words in which they might have tried to express it.

When dinner was over, they went for a short stroll on the promenade. It
naturally happened that Mrs. Fairhew walked with Taberman, and that Jack
and Katrine strolled on together some little distance behind.

"You don't know," said Jack, for the fourth or fifth time that evening,
but with an evident sincerity which might have excused even further
repetition, "how good it is to see you again."

"Yes," Katrine responded with a carelessness too complete to be entirely
genuine, "I suppose that it must be pleasant for you to see any one
after being cooped up in a boat for five or six weeks."

"That's not at all what I meant," he returned pointedly, and with a
little vexation.

"Perhaps not; but it's practically what you said."

"I said it gave me pleasure to see you," Jack insisted, with a daring
emphasis on the final pronoun.

"Oh, a compliment!" she exclaimed, as if the thought had just struck
her.

"You may take it as such," he replied rather grumpily. "It's the
feminine attitude toward everything."

Katrine was silent a moment, examining with an appearance of the
greatest interest the ground at her feet.

"How queer you are this evening," she said at length.

"Am I?" he retorted. "Well, I suppose if I'm only amusing into the
bargain that's all that's necessary."

Another brief interval of silence intervened, and then he remarked
blunderingly:--

"I suppose it makes very little difference to you whether you see any
one while you're here."

"What an atrocious reflection on my efforts to be entertaining," she
laughed.

"Oh," he said savagely, "that's a nice meaning to twist out of my words!
You know I don't mean that."

"You seem to have some difficulty in saying what you do mean this
evening," Katrine commented mockingly.

Jack laughed uneasily, with that absurdly tragic air possible only to a
young man much in love.

"See here," he asked explosively, "why do you think I came over here?"

"I'm sure I can't say, Mr. Castleport," she replied, with a touch of
coolness. "I never was good at riddles. Don't you think we had better
catch up with Aunt Anne and Mr. Taberman?"

And greatly to his own disgust, and perhaps, could he but have known the
truth, to the secret disappointment of Katrine, Jack acted upon her
suggestion without a word more.

As they were taking leave of the ladies at the hotel a little later,
Jerry broke out with a clumsily worded invitation that they should on
the morrow go for a sail on the Merle.

"You are really very good, Mr. Taberman," Mrs. Fairhew said, "but I 'm
afraid it's only half an invitation, for Mr. Castleport doesn't second
it."

"I certainly do," Jack responded. "I was hesitating only because I
didn't think the yacht, just in from an ocean voyage, was exactly in
trim. I wasn't sure it was fair to invite you."

"I think we can put up with anything that is amiss in that line," Mrs.
Fairhew answered, smiling. "What do you say, Katrine? Would you like to
go?"

"Very much, Aunt Anne," her niece said, with a quick little glance at
Jack, a sort of bird-twinkle of the eyes, "if we shall not be too
intrusive."

"Capital!" cried Jack, whose good nature had returned, and who was
anxious to make amends for his fit of pique. "I'll call for you in the
morning at about noon, if that will suit you. We shall want a little
time to get the yacht in trim."

"Any time after ten will do for us," Mrs. Fairhew answered. "Don't, I
beg, bother too much about making things neat. I know how necessary
disorder is to the real happiness of you men."

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Seven

LUNCHEON ABOARD


Noon.

The famous promenade was deserted, and all the foreigners who were able
were safe in the coolest retirement of their little pink and white
villas. A warm off-shore breeze wandered through the silent streets of
Nice, came to the water-front, and there, as if alarmed by the noise and
bustle of the few sailors and fishermen whom the heat had not driven
from the quays, grew brisker and fled away southward over the sea.

Down one of the smaller streets between the Hôtel des Anglais and the
Porta Vecchia, Mrs. Fairhew and her niece, escorted by Jack, were making
their way. Miss Marchfield, dressed in a simple gown of white, looked
deliciously rosy under her red sunshade. Mrs. Fairhew walked in the
narrow strip of shadow next the wall; Katrine was between her and Jack,
who, owing to the straitness of the sidewalk, picked his way--to the
evident amusement of Miss Marchfield--along the kennel. As Katrine was
fond of him, she paradoxically took unfailing delight in seeing him
humiliated, always provided, of course, that no one other than herself
was the author of the discomfort. The three were nearing the water-front
when the elder lady broke a silence of some minutes' duration.

"I hope the yacht is not very much farther, Mr. Castleport," she
ventured.

"No," Jack answered, "she's at the foot of the next street. 'Twas
awfully stupid of me not to have got hold of a fiacre, but it seems so
short a distance for me to walk that I didn't think."

"I wonder why a yacht is always _she_ and _her_," observed Katrine. "Why
not _it_?"

"Oh, the reason's plain enough," was Jack's answer. "Yachts have two
characteristics that are thoroughly feminine,--caprice and beauty."

"It is good of you to temper the aspersion on my sex with a compliment,"
Katrine returned.

"It is obliging in me," Jack assented; "but politeness requires that I
should stretch a point, since you are my guest."

"I am sorry to put you to the inconvenience," she said.

"Of being polite? Thank you!"

"Do you know, I'm sorry that your uncle is not here, Mr. Castleport,"
said Mrs. Fairhew, as they turned the corner. "It is all very well to
have an old woman for a chaperon, but it is rather hard on you and Mr.
Taberman not to have some older man to talk to me."

"Oh, you mustn't depreciate your charm at the expense of your age," Jack
cried.

"Very pretty," laughed Mrs. Fairhew; "but your uncle"--

"Ouch!" exclaimed Jack, making a fine show of stubbing the toe of his
rubber-soled shoe against a projecting paving-stone.

"What did you say?" inquired Katrine, with an air of mild interest.

"Nothing. I stubbed my toe on that beastly stone," answered Jack, with a
feeling of satisfaction that the President was once more shelved. "Now,"
he added, "the boat is just here."

A small but motley crowd was scattered along the water-front: bronzed
fishermen, with close-cropped hair and long earrings, carrying osier
baskets of shining sardines from their boats to their little carts; fat,
raucous-voiced women, with red or yellow scarves pinned across their
bosoms; lean-shanked 'longshoremen, too old for the sea this many a day;
brown sailors, picking their way among the piles of iridescent
fish,--liver-colored squid and flabby octopi; half-naked boys,
outrageous and beautiful; with a miscellaneous sprinkling of human
flotsam and jetsam, as if the sea had cast them up battered and damaged.
Over all floated a distracting hubbub, made up of the rattling of
cart-wheels on the flags, the shrill cries of the venders, the calls of
the lads, the songs of the fishermen, and a medley of oaths, jests,
curses, directions, questions, and all sorts of vociferous shoutings.

Both the ladies drew closer to Jack, who, masterfully making his way
through the press, piloted them across the quay. At the landing-steps
they found Jerry and the Merle's cutter, the object of the staring
curiosity and admiration of the wharf-rats and the loungers of the
docks.

"Good-morning, Mr. Taberman. Have we kept you waiting long?" asked Mrs.
Fairhew.

Tab had been broiling for half an hour, but was too courteous to say so.
He responded cheerily, then helped the ladies aboard, and established
them in the sheets. Jack took the tiller-lines, word was given, and the
men fell to pulling. The breeze was fresher and cooler on the water; it
made the ripples dance and glitter in the sunshine, and kept playfully
curling the ensign at the stern of the cutter about Jack's head.
According to previous instructions, the watch on the Merle got up anchor
on seeing the cutter leave the quay, and were now holding the yacht in
the wind's eye. When the boat came alongside, the ladies were handed
aboard, the guest-salute was fired, the cutter was hoisted to the
davits, and the yacht was paid off.

They ran out past the old battery and the lighthouse on the outer mole,
and coasted along to the westward. In the bright sunlight the numerous
dwellings--villas, hotels, and _pensions_--showing among the green
foliage of the trees looked very gay and attractive. The sea was dimpled
with laughter. The breeze, although it gave promise of freshening, was
now only strong enough to make the schooner, which was carrying all
sail, heel gracefully as she slipped along. The day was perfect for
light sailing.

At one o'clock old Gonzague, his linen jacket dazzling in its whiteness
and his snowy hair brushed back from his high forehead, served luncheon.
Jack sat by Mrs. Fairhew on the starboard side, with Katrine and Jerry
opposite. Gonzague had outdone himself for the occasion. A Provençal by
birth, he knew the culinary value of all the wares--to foreign eyes so
puzzlingly useless and hopelessly inedible--displayed in Mediterranean
markets. The dishes which appeared on the table made Jack and Tab stare:
fresh sardines broiled and served with some mysterious sauce of which
they tried in vain to guess the ingredients; something which Katrine
pronounced delicious until she discovered it to be cuttlefish, and then
could not be prevailed upon to taste further; a salad which had lettuce
as its obvious foundation, but which was fragrant with a dozen strange
and piquant herbs; ripe citrons and limes; figs and bullaces; and a
wonderful fruity sherbet for dessert.

"Do you generally fare like this on board the Merle?" Mrs. Fairhew
inquired. "If you do, I should like to come here to board while you are
in harbor."

"Not much," returned Jerry bluntly. "This is all Gonzague's gallantry to
you ladies. As a rule he gives us only pork and beans."

"Dear me," she commented. "That's pretty hard fare."

"Do you really have to live on pork and beans on a cruise?" asked
Katrine.

"Jerry was only speaking figuratively," explained Jack, with a laugh.
"Of course we do better than that. The only time we really suffered was
in a bit of a shake-up we had on the way over. The second week out we
had a blow, and had to live on hardtack and coffee for three days."

"And Gonzague must have stood on his head to make the coffee, too," put
in Tab.

"Was it really so bad as that?" asked Katrine. "I mean," she explained
as the others laughed, "did it really blow so hard he couldn't cook
things?"

"Well," responded Taberman, "for forty hours we had it so hard we jolly
well thought we'd have to cut."

"Cut?" queried Mrs. Fairhew.

"Yes, the sticks, you know," Jack explained.

From the expression on her face it was abundantly evident that the lady
did not know, but she said nothing. She had but the most casual
acquaintance with nautical affairs, and made no pretense of
understanding the speech of mariners; and she was always willing to let
a matter of this sort go, rather than to submit to a lengthy exposition.

Katrine, on the other hand, while of course not proficient in the art of
handling yachts, knew enough to appreciate that when cutting away the
masts had been contemplated, things must have been at a pass really
dangerous. Now she made no comment, but she gave a swift glance at
Jack, that had in it much of the admiration which Desdemona felt at the
recital of the perils through which Othello had borne himself bravely.
Jack happened to catch her eye; she flushed and turned to Jerry.

"Don't you tire of it all?" she asked. "I should think that to have the
monotony broken only by danger in which you can't have any rest or
comfort would be dreadfully wearisome."

"Oh, it's great sport!" cried Tab heartily. "Besides, you know, there
are no end of things to do."

"Such as what?" inquired Mrs. Fairhew. "I've always found the ocean
voyage the most boresome thing about traveling, although I'm a perfectly
good sailor."

"Oh," said Jerry, with a flourish of his cigarette,--for coffee had been
served and the ladies had permitted smoking,--"there are rope-ends to be
attended to, and gear changed, and all that sort of thing, besides
seeing that the men go over the brasswork properly every day; and there
is taking sights, and making reckonings, and all sorts of things."

"But I thought the men did all the work on the ropes and things."

"So they do," Jack said, with a smile; "but it is our business to tell
them what to do and to see that they do it. You must remember that we
are the ship's officers."

"We have to look things over all the time," Jerry added. "Just before we
went ashore to-day I saw a thing that'll have to be attended to as soon
as we get back at anchor. The fore-peak halyards are 'most chafed
through where they reeve through the block on the cap."

"Dear me!" said Mrs. Fairhew. "Is it dangerous?"

"Not in the least dangerous," Jack returned reassuringly. "Is it really
bad, Tab?"

"Oh, well, I fancy it'll hold; leastways if there's no sudden strain on
it. The rope's new enough; but it jammed there the other day, you
remember."

"Well, let's go on deck," suggested the captain. "It's such a gorgeous
day, it's a shame to miss any of it."

On coming up they found that the wind had so freshened that the
fore-topsail and staysail had been struck, as well as the outer jib.

"We can run on till about four o'clock," Castleport said, "and have
plenty of time to run back with this wind."

They still held to the westward, keeping about a mile off shore, now
and then passing fishing craft, headed for Nice, their big lateen sails
shining in the sunlight. Jack, watching Katrine keenly, read her delight
and enjoyment in her eyes, and could see how she responded to the beauty
of the day, the picturesqueness of the shore, the exhilaration of the
wind, and the sparkling sea. At eight bells they had tea _au Russe_ on
deck, and before they had finished drinking it the Merle was put about
and headed for the harbor.

They had hardly gone a knot before they fell in with a large black yawl
flying the English colors and the burgee of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
She was sailing easily along under all lower canvas, her black hull
lifting gracefully over the sloping seas at about two cable-lengths
ahead. She was in cruising rig, with no boom to her mainsail, yet was so
large that her spread of canvas was at half a glance much greater than
that of the Merle. She crossed the schooner's bows, and then, luffing
occasionally, waited until the American yacht was on her beam.

"Looks's though she wanted something of us," remarked Jerry. "Will you
take another look at her, Miss Marchfield?" And he handed her the
glasses.

"She is a beauty!" exclaimed Katrine, regarding the yawl through the
binoculars. "I can see her name now. I-s-i-s Isis, of--of Plymouth.
Don't you want to look at her, Aunt Anne?"

Mrs. Fairhew took the glasses with the air of a person doing a favor,
and stared at the yawl in a perfunctory manner.

"What an absurd bobtail of a sail that is set 'way back," she observed.
"It looks quite like a deformity."

"That's for balance in heavy weather," said Jerry, with gusto. "Hadn't
we better salute, Jack?"

"I suppose so," was the answer. "See; he's fallen off. Means to give us
a run for it, I fancy."

The Merle dipped her ensign, and the Englishman returned the salute in
kind.

"I say," cried Jerry, "they're setting their topsail. They want a race
in earnest."

"They've an able boat, to carry all sail when it's breezed up like
this," commented Jack, giving the black yawl a critical look.

"Come!" urged Tab. "Let's take a brace and give 'em a run for their
money. We can beat 'em all right enough, both sides of the Atlantic."

Jack looked first at Katrine and then at her aunt.

"Would you mind?" he asked.

"Mind?" cried Mrs. Fairhew, "I shouldn't mind it the least in the
world--especially if we beat them."

"All right," shouted Tab, leaping boyishly out of his wicker chair.
"We'll show 'em! Watch along!" he roared to the crew.

"Sway up on the main-peak halyards there," sang out Jack, who had also
started up quickly. "That's good! Fore-peak now--that'll do! Set
fore-topsail there--haul away! Good enough! All hands up to windward!"
Then he turned to the helmsman. "I'll take her," he said. "You get up to
windward with the rest."

The man handed the helm over to him, and the race began.

The yawl was on the windward beam, and both she and the schooner were
carrying so much sail as now and again to be heeled lee rail under. At
the end of twenty minutes the American boat seemed to be drawing ahead,
although the Englishman, his red flag blowing out from his maintop, was
still to windward.

Katrine and her aunt had abandoned their chairs for the weather transom
of the cockpit. Katrine was thoroughly alive to the excitement of this
impromptu contest, while Mrs. Fairhew's well-bred face wore a smile
which might be taken to signify either her superiority to such a
youthful means of enjoyment or confidence in the power of the Merle to
outstrip her rival.

Jack, his strong, shapely hands grasping the spokes of the wheel,
glanced only from the sails aloft to the yawl and back again. Katrine
watched him furtively. His keen, eager pose, wholly free from
self-consciousness and suggestive of power and vigilant activity, his
masterful management of his craft,--she noted them all, and felt a
certain pleasure in them, as if in some way she were responsible for
them.

"Think we'll come 'round, Jerrold," said the captain.

He gave a rapid succession of orders as he twirled the spokes to port.
The Merle came about on the other tack, the men got to stations on the
weather side, and the ladies changed their places.

"Now we'll see how much we've gained on them," said Jerry, half to the
guests and half to himself.

They drove toward the shore in the roughening sea, the port runway being
now covered with a thin sheet of hissing green water. Up forward an
occasional wave would come slap against the yacht's shoulder with a
sound like a rifle-shot. The Isis crossed their bows at a distance so
little ahead of them that her name and hail could be read easily
without the aid of a glass.

"We're outfooting them, Jack. We'll have 'em cold in twenty minutes!"
cried Tab enthusiastically.

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched," laughed Katrine.

"Oh, but we can't help doing 'em," he responded. "We'll have 'em so
walloped that they'll go into dry-dock for a month."

"You'd better rap on wood, Mr. Taberman," cautioned Mrs. Fairhew, with a
smile. "I don't wish to be a croaking raven, but surely they're ahead
now."

Mrs. Fairhew had, as the race went on, grown more and more alert. Her
eyes had in them the spark of a genuine lover of sport, and all the
womanly love of contest and conquest showed in the eagerness of her pose
and air.

"Of course they're ahead," Jerry answered; "but we have the wind of them
by a good deal."

"I hope that means something," the lady commented, with a movement of
the head half eager, half humorous, "but I confess that it is all Greek
to me."

Jerry began to explain, but before he could make things clear to the
lady's unnautical mind, the yacht came about again to the port tack.
The Merle was then so far to weather of the yawl that Jack ordered the
sheets to be started a trifle.

"Now then, Jerry, here's where we overhaul them," Jack cried exultingly.
"Just set the balloon-jib outside the headsails. I think she'll stand
it."

"Want the staysail?" asked the mate.

"No--'twould spoil her helm," returned the captain. "Jump along, old
man."

The change was effected as quickly as might be, and the yacht's speed
was visibly increased.

"That yawl's better on the wind than off," the captain commented. "We're
picking up on 'em now like smoke."

After an hour's chase and half an hour's jockeying off the mouth of the
port, the Merle was about to run in when the English yacht luffed up and
crossed the schooner's bows. Both boats were close-hauled, but the
American was on the starboard tack and had the right of way. The
helmsman of the Isis gave Jack his choice of running the yawl down or
luffing himself. Jack chose the latter alternative; although naturally
angry at such an unsportsmanlike trick, he could not take risks with his
uncle's yacht, least of all with the ladies on board. The Englishman did
not spare him, but first blanketed him, and then, putting his helm up
and leaving the Merle with a small ledge frothing to leeward, forced the
schooner about. Under his tan Jack grew white with indignant anger. He
was not the man to lose his temper in his pastimes, but he had a strong
sense of justice, a thorough contempt for trickery, and he was quick to
resent a deliberate outrage of this sort. The performance was so
evidently premeditated on the part of the Isis that it amounted to a
most flagrant insult, a cold-blooded piece of sporting caddishness. The
only remedy possible under the circumstances was a desperate one, but in
his state of mind he did not hesitate.

"Stand by to jibe!" he roared. "Cast off the topsail halyards! Now aft
on the sheets!"

It was blowing too hard for jibing with safety even under reduced cloth,
and barring staysail and topsails, the Merle was under full canvas.

"My God!" exclaimed Jerry to the winds, as he tumbled aft to help on the
sheet, "he'll pull the sticks out of her! Something's bound to go!"

Jack held the wheel hard up, and the schooner swung steadily off. The
booms rushed over the decks, fetched up with a crash, and then swung out
as the men payed off the sheets. The lee rail went clean under, and for
a second or two unpleasant and portentous creakings and groanings
filled the air. The men flew about with wonderful dexterity, while the
two ladies held on to each other to avoid being pitched headlong.

"Are any of your teeth shaken out, Katrine?" Mrs. Fairhew inquired, when
they were able once more to sit up. "All mine were loosened by that
awful jerk."

"They are all safe, Aunt Anne," Katrine cried, her voice vibrant with
delighted excitement. "Isn't it splendid?"

Her hair was blowing about her face, her eyes were shining, her cheeks
were flushed; and Jack, though his swift glance merely caught a view of
her as it flashed up to the sails, carried the alluring picture in his
mind for many a day. The thought of it was for the time being instantly
crowded out of his mind as he caught sight of the rigging. As the Merle
had leaped ahead, the fore-peak halyards, which had not been started
before the yacht was jibed, had parted. The gaff hung nearly at right
angles to the boom, and the sail was being strained out of shape. The
captain was so upset that in his rage he was guilty of swearing before
ladies.

"What shall we do?" sang out Jerry.

Jack's cry had called his attention to the mishap, and he had run
forward.

"Really this grows exciting," remarked Mrs. Fairhew, as if she were at
the theatre.

"Oh, what a shame! what a shame!" wailed Katrine, looking despairingly
up at the drooping gaff.

"Get some half-inch on it!" shouted Jack, almost beside himself at
having been bullied into this predicament. "Take it out as far as you
can! Reeve it through the cap-block first. Move along there! Smartly!"

"All right!" cried Tab; and in the same moment, with a coil of new rope
over his shoulder, and followed by one of the men, he ran up the weather
rigging.

On reaching the cross-trees, Tab passed the end of his rope through the
block on the masthead cap and fastened it to his belt. Then he swung
himself down to the jaws of the gaff and lay out along the spar. The big
stick threshed about wildly, threatening to snap him into the sea at
every fling. Slowly and painfully he worked his way out. He clung on
desperately, so that it seemed like a conscious fight between himself
and the plunging spar whether he should be shaken off. It was like a
man's trying to tame a bucking horse, only a hundred times more
exciting, and Katrine grew pale as she watched, while even Mrs. Fairhew
set her lips closely. The three minutes it took Jerry to reach the
peak-halyard block seemed to every person on the Merle all but
interminable. Twice he nearly fell,--once at the outset when he slipped,
and again when he had to crawl around the throat halyards between rolls.
The second time he was actually thrown off the spar, but fortunately he
held his grip on the halyards. The next lurch of the yacht playfully
tossed him into the air, and he was lucky enough to regain his position
on the spar.

Getting to the peak-block, he unknotted the rope from his belt, passed
it about the spar, and took a "timber-hitch." He then slowly worked his
way back, and eventually reached the cross-trees in safety. The nervous
tension had been so strong that when the men saw him coming down the
ratlines they fell to cheering lustily, Gonzague, his white hair ruffled
by the wind, waving his arms and out-shouting the whole of them. They
speedily got hold of the jury halyard, and even before Jerry had reached
the deck, the gaff was again well raised, and the topsail set.

In the mean time the Isis had in her turn got into difficulties. It is
poor business jockeying among reefs, and the yawl had been forced to
come about, luff up, and drift sternwards until her chances of beating
the Merle were utterly gone. The fact seemed to be that the English
captain had counted upon the Merle's not daring to jibe, and so had been
too clever by half.

Jerry came aft, very red in the face, and with the customary twinkle in
his eye. The ladies were evidently greatly impressed by his feat, and
Jack, who of course understood more clearly than they how dangerous the
task had been, took one hand off the wheel and wrung Jerry's.

"Awfully sorry, old man," he said. "But I was so hot at that Englishman
I lost my head for a minute."

"Oh, go 'long!" returned Jerry, grinning. "Don't you suppose I was hot
myself?"

He dropped on to a seat beside Mrs. Fairhew, to recover his breath.

"Mr. Taberman," said that lady, "I'm an old woman,"--it was one of Mrs.
Fairhew's idiosyncrasies to call attention thus whimsically to the fact
that she looked hardly more than thirty,--"I'm an old woman, and
consequently I disapprove of rashness; but I don't mind saying that I
like your pluck."

She looked at him in a curious way, as if he were an amusing case of
arrested development, but her glance was full of kindliness.

"Thank you," Tab answered, with a smile which was too confused not to
be almost a grin. "It's more a sound wind than pluck, I assure you."

"It was perfectly magnificent!" Katrine cried. "You're a perfect hero!"

They all laughed, more perhaps from the nervous reaction after the
strain than from any especial amusement, and Jerry blushed more than
ever.

"I'm afraid you're inclined to make a mountain out of a molehill," he
said. "We don't allow heroics aboard here, you know. Jack did the
only"--

"That'll do, Jerry," called Jack from the wheel.

"All right, captain," Tab returned, laughing. "Under orders."

"Oh, but that's not fair," cried Katrine. "If Mr. Castleport played the
hero too, we want to know all about it."

"I'll masthead that mate if he goes on talking about his superior
officer," Jack threatened. "See, the Isis has given the whole thing up."

"She'd better," commented Jerry, "though I don't see that she had
anything left to give."

The yawl was well astern now. Her sailing-master had for a little time,
in a vain endeavor to overtake his rival, pinched his boat unmercifully,
so that with her nose in the wind's eye her sails were every now and
then a-shiver. Now she had evidently accepted the inevitable, and was
making quietly for an anchorage.

"Tell us about Mr. Castleport," Katrine said to Jerry in an undertone.

"Oh," returned Tab, "he stuck to the wheel over forty-eight hours when
we had that blow we were talking about. It was a magnificent thing to
do, and I think he saved us from everlasting smash. Of course he
pooh-poohs the idea, but Jack's never willing to have anybody say he's
done anything big. He's as modest as he is stunning," he ended warmly,
throwing at the captain a glance of admiration and affection.

Katrine made no audible comment, but her glance followed his, and had
Jack intercepted her look at that moment, he might have felt his heart
beat more briskly.

The superior speed of the Merle, aided by the poor tactics of the
skipper of the Isis, who seemed to lose his head when he found he was
beaten, gave the American so much the lead that the schooner had dropped
her anchor a minute or two before the yawl rounded the inner mole.

"I never had so splendid a sail in my life," Katrine said.

"I was sure you would beat that other boat, Mr. Castleport," Mrs.
Fairhew told him, "and I confess I enjoyed seeing you do it."

"I couldn't be so rude as to let you ladies be beaten in a race," the
captain responded, laughing.

"Of course not," put in Jerry; "no gentleman would let a lady be
beaten."

"What an atrocious pun!" cried Katrine; "and Mr. Taberman looks actually
wistful for fear we shouldn't see it."

"Well," her aunt said, moving toward the ladder, where the cutter was in
waiting, "it has been a delightful day, and we are greatly obliged."

While the ladies were being pulled ashore, and before Jack and Jerry had
returned, everything on the Merle was put in order. Just as they went
below to dress for going ashore for dinner, a boat from the yawl came
alongside with a note for the "Captain of the Merle; sch. Y't." Gonzague
brought it to Castleport, who looked at it, and then read it aloud to
Jerry.


     YAWL YACHT ISIS. Y. S.

     Lord Merryfield presents his compliments to the gentleman who
     handled the Merle in such a masterly fashion this afternoon, and
     requests the honor of his presence at dinner on board the Isis this
     evening at six bells, A. T. It will be an additional pleasure to
     Lord Merryfield if the gentleman who so pluckily rose to the
     occasion in the matter of a parted halyard will accompany the
     captain of the Merle.

     R. S. V. P.

     NICE, July 17, 1902.


"Rot!" said Jerry inelegantly. "Let me answer it."

"Get out!" responded Jack. "I think I can settle him."

He got out the President's most elaborate stationery, and after some
meditation and the destruction of one or two epistles which would not go
quite to suit him, he handed to Jerry the following:--


     SCH. YT. MERLE, E. Y. C.

     Captain John Castleport and Mr. Jerrold Taberman present their
     compliments to Lord Merryfield and regret that, owing to a previous
     engagement, it is impossible for them to accept the invitation so
     kindly tendered to them. Captain Castleport further desires
     earnestly to express his opinion in regard to having been forced
     about by the Y. Yt. Isis this afternoon when he had the right of
     way; and to say that he considers such a manoeuvre so
     unsportsmanlike and insulting that it should be impossible in a
     gentleman's race. As the injured party, he ventures to remind Lord
     Merryfield that the only reparation that can be made is the
     severest reprimanding of the sailing-master, or whoever was
     responsible for this inexcusable expedient.

     NICE, July 17, 1902.


"You see," Jack explained, "we let him know what we think of that
caddish trick without being in the least rude ourselves. Of course the
chances are that he was responsible for the thing himself, and there we
have him on the hip."

"I suppose it's all right," grumbled Jerry. "You know best; but if I 'd
written it, I should have told him straight out that I thought him a
damned cad!"

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Eight

A CHANGE OF TACTICS


As they sat that evening in the garden of the hotel drinking their
after-dinner coffee, which the gentlemen accompanied with cigarettes,
they discussed the news from home contained in a batch of letters Mrs.
Fairhew and her niece had found awaiting them on their return from the
yacht. The announcement of an engagement, rumors of flirtations which
might end in others, the latest gossip about people they all knew, were
mingled with chat about an extraordinary yacht race at Northeast Harbor,
a Russian princess at Nahant, an automobile accident at Lenox, and a
fresh divorce at Newport.

"Everything else," Mrs. Fairhew said at length, "is simply nothing at
all in comparison to a piece of business news I received. Have you heard
of the Tillington failure?"

"What!" cried Jack. "R. B. Tillington?"

"Yes. Their own notice was with the other mail this afternoon," she
responded. "Liabilities something like a third of a million and their
assets nothing."

"How in the world did it happen?" asked Tab. "I knew they had a lot to
do with mines, and of course those are always risky; but Tillington
always had the name of being awfully clever."

"Perhaps he was too clever," Jack suggested.

"Clever or not," Mrs. Fairhew said, "he has come to grief, and, I am
ashamed to confess, he has lost some money for me."

"I am very sorry for that," Jack responded. "I'll wager you'll have
plenty of distinguished company. I'm awfully afraid Uncle Randolph got
his fingers burned. He's had dealings with Tillington for ever so long.
I never took kindly to the man myself, but Uncle Randolph had a great
opinion of his business sagacity."

"I'll wager Mrs. Fairhew's bound to be in good company even in
misfortune," Jerry declared with his usual somewhat clumsy gallantry.

Mrs. Fairhew smiled, and made a little sweeping gesture with her fan as
if the subject were a disagreeable one and should be waved aside.

"Even that," she said, "doesn't soothe my wounded vanity. The money I've
lost is fortunately not very much, but I pride myself on my business
head, and I made this investment in spite of the advice of my banker.
Think how he will chuckle! I'd rather have lost three times as much on
an investment he selected."

"How thoroughly feminine!" Jack laughed.

"Of course you can't understand," Katrine struck in. "I agree with Aunt
Anne entirely. Of course one would rather lose money than to give a man
a chance to crow over her."

The talk was thus drawn into the inexhaustible discussion of feminine
and masculine characteristics, that topic about which revolves two
thirds of all the small talk of the world. Then it drifted back to the
personal news of the letters.

"I don't think Billy Rafton's to be congratulated," announced Tab
emphatically, in reference to a recent wedding. "Edna Leighton has
plenty of money of course, and is a stunning girl and all that; but
she's so horribly ambitious that she won't give poor Billy a minute's
peace."

"And Billy is one of the most quiet men alive," put in Jack.

"Ambitious?" queried Katrine. "How? I've known her pretty well, and to
me she always seemed nice. Certainly she's clever."

"So she is clever," Jerry assented; "but of course that'll make it
harder for Billy to stand out against her."

"She naturally would have the instinct to get ahead in the world,"
commented Castleport. "Her mother was a Farquhar."

"Mr. Castleport," remonstrated Mrs. Fairhew, "that remark is too
feminine to be worthy of you."

"Do you regret that I didn't leave it for you to say?" he asked saucily.
"I know you entirely agree with me."

"Her father, Stephen Leighton," Mrs. Fairhew continued, making no answer
but a hardly perceptible smile to his statement, "was a thoroughly
charming man and of very good family. You can't deny that, Mr.
Castleport."

"I haven't any wish to. I'm not trying to run down Edna
Leighton--Rafton, that is."

"I always thought," began Katrine. Then she stopped, with an involuntary
movement of the eyes in the direction of Taberman.

"Oh, I was hit there once," Tab said jovially, "if that's what you mean.
I got over it at a boat race."

They all laughed, and the topic seemed exhausted, when the elder lady
said:--

"We shall have sight of them at Florence, I suppose. They are to be at
the Villa Foscagni for the summer. It belongs to the Raftons."

"When do you expect to get there?" Tab inquired carelessly.

"Florence? In five or six days."

"Five or six days!" cried Jack. "Why, when do you leave here?"

"To-morrow afternoon," answered Katrine in a tone of which the
indifference might have struck Jack as a little overdone had he not been
too perturbed to notice.

"Why--but--" Jack began; "I had no idea"--

"Did you fancy we were here for the summer?" queried Katrine with demure
interest.

The hint of teasing in her tone brought Castleport to himself. Half his
social success lay in the fact that he was not easily disconcerted.

"As Mrs. Fairhew was good enough to tell me her plans," he returned
coolly, "I naturally understood that you were to leave here before long,
but I admit I hadn't thought you would go so soon."

"You see," Mrs. Fairhew explained, "we really must get on. Katrine has
to do museums and things, as I told you. When I was a girl it wouldn't
have been thought respectable for a girl to come out before she'd seen
the Pitti and Uffizzi; but it's all different now."

"What nonsense, Aunt Anne! I don't believe you'd seen the galleries
yourself when you came out."

"Indeed I had. I'll make you read all the finest print in the
guide-books if you are impertinent. We take," she added, turning to
Castleport, "the 3.08 for Genoa."

Jack was by nature quick and resolute; and before Mrs. Fairhew had got
to this remark he had conceived a plan, and resolved to follow it out.
Gravely regarding the thicket of oleanders behind Miss Marchfield, yet
with the tail of his eye on the face of Jerry, which was alternately
lighted and obscured as his cigarette glowed or waned, the captain
remarked coolly:--

"That's a curious coincidence."

"Coincidence?" repeated Mrs. Fairhew questioningly.

"It would seem so," Jack almost drawled. "You said the 3.08, didn't you?
How far do you go? All the way to Genoa?"

"Yes. What is there extraordinary about that?"

"Why, nothing much," returned Jack in a brisker tone, throwing away the
butt of his cigarette; "only--yes--that's the very train I go on
myself. Same destination, too, unless I decide to stop at Bordighera."

There naturally was a sensation at this unexpected announcement. Katrine
drew in her breath audibly; in the very nick of time Jerry caught
himself in the act of saying profanely what he would be; Mrs. Fairhew
closed her fan quickly, but she was too much mistress of herself to give
any indication of her feelings beyond a little quick laugh.

"I had not remembered that you spoke of going," she said.

"No?" Jack said politely.

"But," gasped Jerry, "I say--you know, I say"--

Evidently his feelings were too much for him, and he collapsed. So
sudden a move on the part of Jack was sure to disconcert his
slower-witted comrade, and the captain had fortunately been prepared by
previous experiences for some mental confusion on the part of the mate.

"Yes, Jerry?" he asked.

"Nothing--I--I don't remember what I was going to say," murmured the
bewildered Tab.

"Really," observed Mrs. Fairhew, "it hadn't occurred to me that you
could or would leave the yacht. What becomes of her?"

"Oh, you don't doubt Jerry, do you? He's going to take her in charge."

Once determined upon his plan, Jack felt it best to carry matters off
with a high hand. He did not in the least care whether Mrs. Fairhew and
Katrine suspected that his resolution to go on by land had been taken on
the spot or not; but he liked to play the game well, and to put a good
face on things. He spoke as though his mind had been made up long
before, although all the time his brain was working with furious energy,
as he tried to shape the scheme thoroughly and to foresee all possible
contingencies. To give over to Jerry the care of the President's yacht
was a bold stroke, but he said to himself that he was confident his
friend was entirely competent to manage her for the comparatively short
run to Naples; and his thought nimbly disposed of objection after
objection as they rose in his mind.

Rapid as had been his decision, it was less wild than it might seem; and
by the time he spoke again Jack had all the details pretty well
mastered.

"Do you leave the Merle here?" inquired Mrs. Fairhew.

Katrine, Jack noted, had said nothing, but he had heard that quick,
indrawn breath, and he did not believe that her silence arose from
indifference.

"Oh, no; Jerry's going to take her to Naples," was Castleport's cool
reply.

It was to Tab's credit that at this astounding piece of intelligence he
did not make a violent demonstration; but he was not unaccustomed to the
rapidity with which Jack came to a decision, and he had before been
trained in accepting what his captain said. Now he only dropped his
cigarette, and on picking it up put the lighted end between his lips,
spluttered and smothered a profane comment, and hurled the offending
butt as far as he could.

"Have another?" asked Jack, unruffled, as he pushed his case across the
little table by which they were sitting.

"Thank you, no!" replied Tab with quite unnecessary emphasis.

"You've no need to touch your lips with fire, Mr. Taberman," Mrs.
Fairhew observed, opening and closing her fan in a way which she had
when amused; "you have been sufficiently eloquent in compliments ever
since you arrived. May we hope, then," she went on, turning to
Castleport, "for the pleasure of your company on the journey?"

"If you and Miss Marchfield do not object, I shall be delighted."

"It will be a great pleasure to me. Of course I can't speak for
Katrine."

Jack turned to look at Katrine. On her face the soft light of a Japanese
lantern fell between a couple of trees, but she at once moved so that
the shadows hid her expression.

"Nothing could please me more, Aunt Anne, than that you should be
pleased," she responded.

"Then you had better bring Mr. Taberman and your luggage ashore, and
come to luncheon to-morrow," the aunt said, rising. "In that way we can
take our time and be comfortable. Does that suit your plans, Mr.
Castleport?"

Jack detected the suspicion of mirth in her voice, but he felt that if
she had disapproved she would not only have shown no amusement but that
she was clever enough to have thwarted his scheme.

"I don't want to abuse your hospitality," he said.

"Oh, we shall make you useful as an escort, and get enough service out
of you on the journey to pay that," spoke Katrine, with the air of
feeling that she had been too noticeably silent.

"We're only too delighted to come, of course," Jerry said with boyish
enthusiasm. "Anybody'd be glad of a chance to lunch with you, Mrs.
Fairhew."

"Your compliments are rather direct, Mr. Taberman," that lady answered
with a laugh. "We'll say 1.30, then. That will give us plenty of time. I
hate to be hurried; it is so undignified."

As Mrs. Fairhew had risen the others were of course on their feet, and
as Jack stood aside for Katrine to pass him, the elder lady took his
arm. By this she detained him an instant, until her niece and Jerry were
a few yards away. When they approached the door of the hotel and it was
light enough for him to see her clearly, she dropped his arm; and as he
turned his face toward her at the movement, she regarded him through her
lorgnette with a look quizzical though kindly.

"You are a clever boy," she said after a little, and with a peculiar
faint stress on the adjective. "Do you want to marry my niece?"

Jack of course recognized that the question would never have been asked
had there been any doubt of the answer, and even in the confusion of the
moment he had a dim perception that Mrs. Fairhew was, with kindly whim,
helping him to ask her sanction to his wooing. He felt his cheeks grow
hot, but he faced his inquisitor frankly, and he spoke with a manner
which though instinctively subdued was full of energy and feeling.

"You know I do," he said. "You know I'd die the worst of deaths for
her. I--As God's above me," he burst out, breaking off and feeling
himself strangle with his emotion, "I'll win her or die trying! I--I--
Of course I want to marry her! What do you suppose I came to Europe
for?"

Mrs. Fairhew's face softened, for no true woman could have heard the
passion of his voice unmoved; but she laughed at the sudden change with
which he ended.

"I hope you may succeed," she said softly. "I think you will." Then she
took his arm again, and spoke in her ordinary voice: "Come, we must go
in."


"Now, then, Jack, in the name of heaven," demanded Jerry, as soon as he
and the captain were out of hearing of the ladies, "what is this awful
josh of yours about leaving the yacht?"

"I'll tell you when we get aboard," his friend answered. "Don't bother
me now; I'm thinking."

Tab snorted contemptuously, and in silence the pair held on until they
reached the quay. The cutter awaited them, and still in silence they
were pulled out to the Merle. There was not a breath of wind now; the
stars blazed brilliantly above them, and not a cloud-blot was to be
seen. In a stillness broken only by the rhythmical oar-strokes the pair
watched the myriad star-points which dotted the heavens as they had
adorned it centuries before when old Nice was new Nicæa, and some brown
Sicilian pilot may have gazed up at them and made haven by their
faithful guidance.

No sooner were they aboard than Gonzague came to ask if they would have
supper.

"Oh, I don't know," Jack answered, still in a dream from the spell of
Mrs. Fairhew's words.

"Well, I do," put in Jerry. "We'll have some caviare sandwiches,
Gonzague, and a glass of sherry."

The supper was eaten almost in silence, and it was not until Gonzague
had taken away the things and left them with pipes lighted that the
inevitable explanation was reached.

"Now then?" said Tab impatiently.

His face wore a sober expression, full of expectancy, but not without a
hint of annoyance and reproach. Jack blew a large smoke-ring at him, and
laughed to see how in dodging it Jerry kept his solemnity unchanged.

"Well, Tab," he began, "I don't suppose it's necessary to say that the
idea of leaving the yacht never came into my head till I knew Mrs.
Fairhew and Katr--Miss Marchfield were off to-morrow."

"Heave ahead," grumpily retorted Jerry. "Don't mind me. Of course I
shall be delighted to be left alone on the yacht."

"Come, cheer up, old man," Jack exhorted. "Don't be grouchy. I'm awfully
sorry to leave you; but of course it's only for a little while, and we
shall both have compensations. I hope I shall be coming nearer
to--to--well, to something definite, you know; and you'll have the Merle
to do what you jolly well please with."

"That's all very well, of course," Tab responded, his face relaxing a
little; "but what's your game? We've beastly little money, you know; and
this shore cruise of yours is bound to sop up a lot of tin."

"We've money enough to carry us through," Jack declared. "I'll go to
Genoa, of course. I know Italy pretty well, and I can make myself
useful,--sort of 'guide, philosopher, and friend,' and courier all in
one. When they go on to Naples,--well, from something Mrs. Fairhew said
to-night, I think I shan't have any difficulty going on to Naples with
them. A man's a handy article in traveling, you see, especially if he
knows the language."

Jerry regarded the captain as if his slower wits found it somewhat hard
to follow the swift flights of his friend's mind.

"But the Merle?" he objected. "It's bad enough for you to be skylarking
about the world with the President's yacht, but when it comes to turning
it over to me--Why, the old gentleman would throw five hundred fits at
the bare idea."

"Oh, I'll trust you there," Jack said lightly, consciously trying to
make his confidence as flattering as possible. "You can manage, and do
as you please for the next month. Who ever heard of a mate that didn't
jump at the chance of taking command for a while. I'd advise you to
stop, say, at Elba, if you're for doing the sights. Then, if you like,
while you're on the Napoleonic tack, you might run 'round to Ajaccio.
It's an out-of-the-way place, rather, but it's jolly when you get there.
As for Elba, I've never been ashore there, though I've passed it and
know the chap that owns it. I'll give you a letter in case you want to
go ashore."

"But, Jack--Damn it!" broke out Jerry, as if exasperated by the very
feasibility of his friend's sudden change of tactics, "I can't speak a
word of their blessed lingo!"

"Pooh! Your French will carry you about well enough, and if worst comes
to worst, you can fall back on Gonzague. At Naples you'll find them
speaking English all over the lot."

"Jack Castleport, you're certainly the damnedest man to handle I ever
came across," Jerry said in despairing tones. "A fellow might as well
try to bully-rag a sea-cow as to argue you out of any of your confounded
schemes."

"That's because they're so good," laughed Jack. "You see their profound
wisdom carries me away so completely that objections can't touch me."
Then he stretched his hand across the table corner, and caught hold of
Jerry's. "I'm deuced sorry to give you the slip like this," he said,
"but you know the reason."

The good-natured Tab melted at once. He returned the pressure of his
friend's hand and tried to quote


     "But when a woman's in the case,
     All other things, you know, give place;"


but made so hopeless a mess of it that he could only break out into one
of his boisterously jovial guffaws.

"Well, by George," he cried, "if she only knew how devoted you are,
Jack, she'd let you wait a dog's age, just to try you."

They spent an hour or so in arranging details, going over charts,
dividing their funds, and so on. Jack gave Tab addresses at Genoa,
Florence, and Rome by which he might be reached, and told him that at
Naples he should go to the Hôtel du Vesuve. On the twentieth of August
Jerry was to inquire for him there. These and other affairs having been
arranged, the pair smoked a final pipe, and turned in.

Jack was very wakeful. He lay thinking of this and of that, restlessly
tossing about in his berth. Just as at last he was dropping off to
sleep, he was aroused by the voice of Jerry, who called softly across
the passage:--

"I say, Jack,--are you awake?"

"Almost," replied Jack; "but I shouldn't have been, if you'd let me
alone."

"I say, Jacko, do you fancy the President came a cropper in that
Tillington smashup?"

"Don't know," Jack answered. "He's pretty shrewd, and Mrs. Fairhew would
have been likely to hear of it, I should think, if he had come seriously
to grief."

"Well, you know, it struck me that perhaps that beastly letter from
Tillington might have been something important, and"--

"Oh, take a liver-pill!" interrupted Jack. "You've got an attack of
_Conscientia Novanglicana_."

"What's that?"

"Forerunner of nervous pros.," replied the captain with a chuckle. "Go
to sleep or you'll get it."

"Well, good-night."

"Good-night, boy."

Silence again reigned, but Jack, once more aroused, threshed about
uneasily until far into the night. Resolutely as he might determine not
to think of the possible consequences of the carrying off of that big
blue letter, he could not prevent doubt from recurring constantly to his
mind, and something not so far removed from remorse mingled with his
thoughts of Katrine and of the delight of traveling in her company. He
was so long awake that on the next afternoon Mrs. Fairhew, when he had
installed her and her niece comfortably in a first-class compartment on
the 3.08 train, and they were beginning to see the olive groves and the
villas slip picturesquely past the windows, noted the shadows beneath
his eyes, and smiled to herself discreetly and unseen.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Nine

THE DOLDRUMS


For two weeks the Merle had been lying at anchor at Naples. From Nice
she had run first to Elba; thence she had doubled north again and
rounded Corsica; she had touched at Calvi and Ajaccio; and lastly,
running through the Straits of Bonifacio, she had held on
east-southeasterly to her present anchorage off the Castle.

Despite the novel pleasures of command, Taberman felt Jack's absence so
much as at times to be almost unhappy, even at times a little inclined
to be resentful. He was still too boyish not to feel that to leave a
yacht for a girl was the height of madness, if not of idiocy; and while
he was too loyal to Jack to confess this feeling even to himself, it
would at times rise in his mind, especially when he felt more than
usually lonely. On his arrival at any port Jerry experienced to the full
the excitement which even the oldest traveler feels in some degree at
entering a new town. Whenever the port officer appeared in his official
dignity, another sensation was added in the fear of detection and
apprehension. A reaction would set in with the departure of the easily
satisfied official, and Jerry would go mooning about with his hands in
his pockets, whistling some spiritless tune until the time came to get
up anchor and sail anew.

At Naples, however, things went somewhat better with Jerry than at any
of his previous ports. In the first place even Jerry, unæsthetic as he
was, could not escape the magic of the beautiful bay and the
surroundings which opened up before him in the morning light as he
approached the city. He said to himself, half as if in excuse for being
so much pleased by mere scenery, that it looked as it should. It had, as
it were, kept faith with him; and its beauty was to him an honest
fulfillment of its fame. The gray cone of Vesuvius, palpably and
gratifyingly like the pictures, stood at the head of the bay, crowned
with an inky cloud of smoke. Away from it to the south stretched the
cliffs of blue Sorrento and bluer Capri, melting magically into a
background of hills or of the azure sky. On the north of the smoking
cone a stretch of shadow-wrought shore, and then Naples itself, from the
old Spanish fort on the water-front to the Castle of St. Elmo, long and
gray, crowning the summit of the ridge behind, and the stone-pines
silhouetted like palms against the sapphire sky. Naples, with its great
four-square houses of pink, and white, and yellow, heaped, as it were,
one above another; its red-tiled roofs, its terraces tricked out with
vines or fig-trees; Naples, with its church roofs of variegated tiles,
its long quays yellowish gray about the shore--Jerry could well have
believed himself in some enchanted picture city, a city which might
almost be expected to vanish suddenly if one should close the book it
graced.

Behind the Government Mole were lying five Italian battleships, their
big red, white, and green flags floating over their sterns, and
everywhere over the liquid blue of the bay sailed fisher-craft and small
boats, gilded with the morning light.

Scarcely was the Merle's anchor down than the yacht was surrounded by a
gay flotilla of boats, all laden with piles of fruit or vegetables, and
manned by crews as noisy as they were picturesque. Baskets heaped with
figs, great piles of green melons, lemons, citrons, plums, fresh
vegetables of all sorts, were there; and each ware was extolled by the
vendors with vociferous volubility, until the ears of Jerry fairly sang
with the din. From the crowding boats screamed blowsy, dark-eyed women
with brown oval faces and raiment of reds and yellows; boys with Greek
faces and slim bare arms yelled with shrill voices; doddering old men,
sitting in the stern-sheets of skiffs pulled by impish youngsters, waved
impotent hands and moved toothless mouths whose sounds were lost in the
feverish uproar; stalwart market-men, with brown, wrinkled faces and
hairy bosoms exposed, fought their way through the press, disregarding
age, sex, and condition in their effort to be nearest the possible
purchasers on the Merle; all around the yacht the piratical
water-peddlers made a floating Pandemonium, at which the Yankee crew
stared not only in surprise but with some appearance of not unnatural
alarm.

As an opposing bulwark to this flood of southern vivacity, old Gonzague
alone stood as the spokesman of the yacht. Requested by Jerry to make
the vendors "stow their jaw," he laid about him right and left with a
profane volubility which outdid even that of the assailants. The old man
had not spoken Italian for so long that he might well be supposed to
have forgotten it, but the occasion found him splendidly adequate to all
the requirements of the situation. The Neapolitans raved and pleaded,
execrated and lowered their prices, with appeals to the Madonna and all
the saints to witness their honesty and their liberality; but once the
floodgates of Gonzague's Italian were opened, he dealt with them so
eloquently and so roundly, his objurgations were so much more
picturesque and more emphatic than any they could compass, that one by
one they drew away baffled, calling on high Heaven and the blessed
Virgin to protect them when Vesuvius should belch forth a torrent of
fire to overwhelm this blasphemous and impious _vecchiastro_.

Gonzague was perhaps sustained under the volleys of curses which the
defeated bumboat men and women threw back at him, by the admiration with
which he was regarded by the crew of the Merle. They had come to idolize
the old man, and to look upon him with roughly affectionate wonder. The
beauty of the scenes through which they had been passing in the
Mediterranean had of course impressed them very little æsthetically, and
Naples with its matchless bay they saw only with the eyes of Isle au
Haut fishermen. They were, however, never tired of wonders. The
childlike sailor nature is always easily touched by the marvelous, and a
real volcano was something worth seeing. As long as the Merle was in
sight of Vesuvius they would hang over the rail and watch it for hours.
If the smoke ceased they would cluster together and discuss the
probable causes; they would talk of the mountain as if it were a
conscious monster, lying in wait for prey, whose every movement was to
be watched with a view to detecting the sinister design that must lie
behind it. When a great dun cloud would suddenly puff up from the cone,
the men would greet it with deep exclamations half of awe and half of
applause. Continually they beset Gonzague with questions, as if he were
the keeper or the high priest of this fiery monster. They apparently had
complete confidence that Gonzague could explain it all if he would. His
knowledge of the language and such use of it as he made in dispersing
the voluble rabble of vendors were exactly in the line of their
understanding, and they followed his every movement with an admiration
amusingly tinged with something not unlike uncouth reverence.

On the afternoon of his arrival at Naples Taberman had gone ashore. He
had landed at the steamship quay, and passed half the night in an
aimless ramble. There is something about Naples at night which goes to
the head like wine; especially if the head is young and set on the
shoulders of one who has never before known the life of southern cities.
Jerry walked from the railroad station to the Public Gardens, and from
the Mola to the Hôtel Britannique upon the heights. He attempted no
systematic exploration, but simply wandered with no other object than
the simple delight of rambling. By daylight the picturesque streets; the
variegated rabble, ragged, dirty, beautiful, impudent, at once repulsive
and enchanting; the crooked, crowded ways that climb the hill; the
awnings, the heaps of fruit, the strange wares, the familiar air of the
family life which made of the streets a home, and seemed to turn all the
inhabitants of the town into one huge family; the unconsciously artistic
groups, the tumbling _bambini_, the women, bold, piquant, handsome, or
ugly with a hideousness of which Jerry had never conceived,--all these
things passed before him like the whirling shows of an opium dream. As
night fell, and the lights appeared, the scenes through which he went
half dazed and wholly delighted took on a new quality of the weird and
fantastic. The flaring lamps, the mysterious shadows, the blazing colors
which not even the night could subdue, the theatrical effects seen down
the narrow streets as on a stage set for opera, the inexhaustible
vivacity, which seemed not to diminish with the lateness of the hour,
all blended in an intoxicating experience such as Taberman had never
known, and indeed such as had never come into his liveliest fancy.

The next day Jerry went ashore in the morning, and set himself to more
regular sight-seeing under the care of a professional guide. He went
over the famous Museum, saw Vergil's Tomb, Posilipo, Sanazar's house,
and Marti's _pozzo_. After a capital luncheon in one of the cafés in the
Arcade, he rejoined his guide, who took him to the Aquarium. On the way
they stopped at the Royal Palace and the Morro, Tab being duly impressed
by the grandeur of royalty and the majesty of the law. Continually he
wished that Jack were with him, for he had so fallen into the habit of
depending on Jack for opinions that without his friend his impressions
seemed to lack the clearness of sanction. When it came to the Aquarium,
however, not only did the things he had seen in his day's explorations
fade from his mind, but he was too delighted not to know exactly what he
felt.

The Aquarium of Naples is by far the most wonderful in the world. It is
smaller and less elaborate than others, as, for instance, that of the
Trocadero, but it outranks all in interest and impressiveness. The
virtue of the place lies in its simplicity of construction and in the
rarity of its exhibits. A sense of restful shadow and coolness
succeeding to outside glare and heat; a dim greenish light in broad,
glass-faced tanks of sea-water; an odd feeling of being fathoms deep in
a tropical sea,--these are the sensations the visitor has first in this
wonderful home of strange fish in exile.

Tab made the rounds half a dozen times before he could bring himself to
leave. Quite unscientific, but as enthusiastic as a boy, he stood in
front of each tank, and tried vainly to determine which was most
fascinating. Here were spiny lobster-like crustacea, spotted with a
dozen colors; there were beautiful fish with shining iridescent sides
and waving filmy, vaporous tails; one tank was inhabited by repulsive,
warty octopi, splotched with dull browns and plague-spots of ugly red,
which melted and slimed about, so disgusting that they seemed almost
obscene; from another a huge sea python, with body as large as the thigh
of a man and a head like that of a bald wolf, seemed to grin with
sinister, snarling face at Jerry, while all about the monster bloated
globe-fish and distorted marine shapes swam and circled; in a corner
tank a brood of asp-like fish, with skins that seemed of richest velvet,
dusky and wonderful in hue, lay heaped like incarnate poison; and near
by the angel-fish went waving and trailing their way about the sand.
Jerry was perhaps most impressed, however, by the mysterious life which
went on in a tank to which he came among the last. Thin, slow-waving
filaments of colorless jelly, crowned with diaphanous cups, not
differing greatly from the poppy-flower in shape; and near them other
forms, transparent, hardly more than condensed sea-water in appearance,
yet with slow pulsations, continuous and wonderful, of phosphoric
sparks,--as if one saw life itself throbbing rhythmically in the
pellucid hairs of jelly.

Jerry had not been so completely happy since he parted from Jack. He
reveled in a boyish delight, and let no wonder of the place escape him.
He tipped the keeper to feed the octopi with young crabs, lowered on a
string; he took a smart electric shock from a morose torpedo which lay
sulkily in a small open tub with a pebbly bottom; he had the big
anemones and the coral-polyps "put to sleep," in the words of his
guide,--an operation consisting simply of the moving in the water of a
small stick which caused them to close in alarm; he did, in a word,
everything his guide could think of for him to do, and went away in the
end only half content to leave.

After the Aquarium, Jerry turned a deaf ear to the alluring speeches of
the guide, the burden of whose song was all of curiosities unseen and of
pleasures untasted. He paid the importunate manikin, and made his way
back to the Merle. The truth was that he had seen something which
thoroughly pleased him, and after that it was impossible to return to
the perfunctory seeing of regulation sights which really did not take
hold of him in the least.

Before the first week was ended, Jerry had visited Pompeii and Baiæ, and
what was to be seen of Herculaneum. He had made some purchases; and then
he began to wait about, ashore or aboard, for Jack. That gentleman had
written no response to Tab's letter announcing the arrival of the Merle
at Naples, and Jerry could only think of him as so absorbed in his
wooing as to have forgotten all about his friend. Some not unnatural
jealousy began to ferment in his mind, and did not add to his comfort.
By the advice of Gonzague he took the market-boat, and setting out early
one morning he sailed with a couple of the men across the bay to Capri,
where he passed the day. The only thing which cheered him on his lonely
expedition was a tarantella, which was danced for his diversion by a
romantic-looking _raggaza_, with black eyes and short petticoats. The
moonlight sail back would have pleased him more had it not been
necessary to keep the men rowing for two thirds of the way. On the
whole, Jerry could find nothing to please him on land or sea.

The major part of the next week he had spent stretched out in a cane
_chaise longue_ in the cockpit, drinking iced sangaree and reading
Didron's _Artémise_. He had a fly stretched over the awning for
increased coolness, and the "dusters" put up to shut out the glare from
the water; there, like some melancholy monarch beneath his canopy, he
read, dozed, and grumbled--without even the satisfaction of any fit
audience--from morning to sundown.

In the cool of the evening he usually went ashore, and one night he was
strolling along the water-front, stick in hand and his Panama set well
back on his head. As he passed the Hôtel du Vesuve, wondering when Jack
would arrive, a small figure moved quickly in front of him and bowed. At
first he was startled, but almost instantly he saw that it was the valet
de place who had gone about with him in the early days of his stay at
Naples.

"Hello," said Jerry in surprise, yet not without a feeling of
satisfaction at finding even this apology for a companion.

"_Buon' sera, signor_," responded the little man vivaciously. "How do?
You tek-a de night air? _É verament' un' bellissima notte._ It mek-a
cool, eh?"

And he waved his arms expressively.

He might have been thirty or thirty-five, and had coarse black hair,
with fiery eyes. He was not ill-looking, but his clothes were hopelessly
threadbare and his face pinched. He bore dark circles under his eyes,
and was in no way markedly different from others of his numerous and
futile class, who, with a smattering of French, German, or English,
struggle desperately for a livelihood by acting, not always very
virtuously, as guides for traveling _forestieri_.

"You busy?" Jerry asked, a sudden thought striking him.

"No--no," replied the Neapolitan, his face as eager as his tone. "What-a
you like see? Eh? Some of dose oder curiosities _forse_?" he asked with
a suggestive smile.

"Thanks, no," Jerry returned dryly; "but if you aren't busy, I wish
you'd walk along with me. I'm bored--tired--'most to death, and I fancy
you might tell me how I may best kill time for the next few days."

The little guide was delighted. He suggested a multitude of things which
might be done,--visits to Castellmare and Sorrento or Amalfi; wonders
the signor had neglected in the museum; the _pasta_ shops; and so on for
a variety of possible and impossible diversions. But still Taberman
shook his head. He wanted to be amused, but he was lonely and rather
homesick, so that while he regretted being so difficult, nothing
appealed to him. Finally, the guide, quite at his wit's end but still
bland, smiling, patient, obsequious, and apparently unruffled by the
careless way in which the American rejected all his suggestions one
after the other, mentioned Pesto.

"Pesto?" queried Tab carelessly. "What is that?"

"_Si!_ Pesto. It ees dere dey hav-a de gret-a temple; t'ree gret-a
temple, all put een de row-a,--_uno, due, tre_." And he held up three
fingers to make his statement at once clearer and more emphatic.

"Temples? Real ones?" asked Jerry. "I mean are they old--Roman, that
is--or just churches?"

"_Ma verament'_," laughed the valet de place, "_ci son' tre templi_;
bot-a dey not-a Roman; dey Gre'k. Fin-a, big-a temple; big-a like Hôtel
du Vesuve!"

He waved his spread arms as if he would embrace the universe. Jerry
laughed at the little man's enthusiasm, but his interest was excited.

"Greek, eh?" he said. "How far is it? How do you get there?"

The guide explained volubly, told the time of trains to Pæstum,
declared that the trip was easily made in a day, and proffered his
services as escort. This Jerry declined, quite as much from motives of
economy as from any other reason; but he invited the little guide to sit
down at one of the small tables on the sidewalk before Zinfoni's, where
he furnished him with refreshments and made him repeat his account of
the temples, the details of the journey, and whatever information he
could furnish. Jerry was really lonely enough to be amused by the
company of the Neapolitan, and as he sat listening and watching the
people drifting past, he was soothed with the feeling of being not so
entirely alone. From Zinfoni's the pair sauntered down to the quay,
where they parted. The Italian was profuse in his thanks and
protestations, and Jerry was considerate enough to act in such a manner
as to make the little man think him the most affable of _Inglesi_.

When he was aboard again, Jerry got out a chart, and after some
searching located Pæstum. As it was not too far from Naples to be
possible in a day, he determined upon the expedition. Jack was not due
for two or three days yet, and the time must be killed somehow. He
summoned Gonzague, ordered an early breakfast, told him he should be
absent all the next day, and that he should leave him in charge. He had
a sort of mild exhilaration at his boldness in thus venturing off into
the midst of a land whose language he could not speak, and he went to
bed that night with a great feeling of relief. The doldrums were over;
he had something to do to bridge the time until Jack came.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Ten

MR. WRENMARSH, THE EXTRAORDINARY


On the following morning, as, a few minutes after nine, the southbound
train from Naples to Tarento drew out of the station, Taberman, winking
a little at the sudden glare of the sun, began to look about him. The
morning promised a hot day, and his comfort in traveling was likely to
be lessened by the fact that in the second-class compartment with him
were five Italians. They had already settled themselves back against the
cushions, turning upward sunburnt, perspiring faces, and allowing
themselves to be jolted by the train like so many dead-weights. Their
ugly straw hats, high-crowned and narrow-brimmed, were set on their
knees or wedged beside them on the seat; two of the travelers had gay
bandannas tucked into their collars about their throats. One man--a
pursy old codger in the corner--had lighted, after a mumbled "con
permesso," a long Virginia, which filled the compartment with a thin
blue haze and an acrid smell as of burning leather.

The train rumbled along over a dubious roadbed, flanked by its
cinder-strewn berms; and Tab, looking through the window on his right,
recognized the line as that by which he had gone to Pompeii. At times
the train went close to where the curling ripples of the sapphirine bay
were breaking gently on the shore; sometimes it ran through small
hamlets, and again passed country places where the busy peasants were at
work in the rich vineyards, the orchards, or the tilled fields.

At the end of half an hour, they stopped at Pompeii for a moment, and
Jerry, through the opposite window, recognized the station and the
paltry inn beyond. As the train drew out again, he caught brief glimpses
of the ancient city, dull red-brown walls among the silver-gray of the
olive-trees.

The train sped on southward. It dipped into little vales, and wound its
way up and into the hills that ring themselves around the plain of
Pæstum. In an hour's time they pulled up at a small town on the left of
the track. Jerry made out the name of the station, enameled in big white
letters on a blue field, Battapaglia. The guard came by, unlocking the
compartment doors, and as the men in his compartment got out and left
their luggage behind them, Jerry concluded that here was to be a wait
of some minutes. He therefore followed the example of his fellow
travelers, and stepped down upon the sunny platform. It was very hot.
Tab mopped his face with his handkerchief and turned down the brim of
his Panama all around.

"_Graniti, signor? Citron? Orang'?_"

A small boy had singled him out, probably because he was the only
_forestiere_ on the platform, and was offering him syrupy drinks cooled
with cracked ice. For a soldo Tab secured a glass of sherbet,
fruit-juice and water half frozen and very delicious. It was so
refreshing that he bestowed an extra soldo on the vender in sheer
gratitude. The lad rewarded him with a curt "grazie," and a look half
grateful and half suspicious, and then hastened on to urge his wares on
other travelers. Jerry looked after him in amusement at the fringe made
by the tatters of his trousers, and in lazy admiration of the sinewy
brown arms left bare by the sleeveless cotton shirt and of the jaunty
poise of the curly head.

The train still waited.

Jerry lighted a cigarette and got into the shadow of the cars. Presently
a big express came thundering out of the pass in the hills with a roar,
and rushed away to southward on the main track.

"_Pronto! Partenza! Partenza!_" cried the guard, with a blast of his
horn.

The road was again clear, the express-mail having passed. The passengers
clambered aboard, and settled themselves in their former places. The old
man with the Virginia had purchased a copy of "Il Papagallo," though it
was a mystery how he could have got hold of it in such a place. He
clucked oilily as he read, occasionally calling the attention of his
nearest neighbor to some gaudy cartoon or some political pasquinade.
Jerry speculated in regard to what it might all be about, and was filled
with that vague sense of baffled irritation which comes from seeing
others enjoying jokes in a language one cannot understand.

Mile after mile of level track, flanked by the interminable
cinder-covered berms. Once in a while the level was broken by clumps of
dusty cactus, ugly and forbiddingly aggressive in the sun. To the right,
beyond a flat, gorse-grown waste, relieved only by an occasional palm or
oleaster, Tab could discern the blue shimmer of the sea. To the left, he
could see only the same dull plain, bounded by bluish hills, which rose
about it like the seats of some titanic amphitheatre. Now and again two
or three buffaloes, their black hides caked with patches of yellow mud,
lay in their wallows or stood contemptuously indifferent to the noisy
train, which beside them seemed so impertinently modern.

At last the train, with a screaming of gritty brakes on the wheels, and
the inevitable clanking and banging of cars and couplings, drew up
beside a tiny station on the right of the track.

"Pesto! Pesto!"

The guard unlocked the compartment door, and Jerry stepped out. The
station was smaller than any they had passed, and Tab smilingly
reflected that the lodge at the entrance of his father's place at Dedham
was bigger. He was the only passenger to alight, and no sooner was he
out than the guard, like an overgrown mechanical toy, called out his
"_Pronto! Partenza!_" blew his toy horn, and swung himself aboard again.
The long train, with bitter metallic complaint at being obliged to go
farther, drew past the little station, and rolled away toward a gap in
the southern hills, far beyond which lies Tarento.

Taberman turned to the station master, a discouraged-looking individual
who stood on the platform with his truncheon tucked under his arm,
examining a batch of dispatches as if this were the first time such
papers had ever come under his notice. Jerry's Italian vocabulary was
limited to some score of words, with a few expressions, such as _dolce
far niente_ and the like, more ornamental than useful. As, however, he
could perceive no sign of any temples,--or town either, for the matter
of that,--he determined to question the _capo_.

"_Bonn giorno_," he began with a painful sense of effort, but with a
mild self-congratulatory thrill at having said something in Italian.

"_Buon' giorno_," responded the station master, turning a pair of dull
eyes and an emaciated face from the dispatches to Taberman.

Jerry spoke French moderately well, and resolved to address the official
in that tongue, in the hope that the Italian might understand.

"Peut-être vous parlez Français?" he began.

"_Cosa?_" asked the Italian, obviously puzzled, as he stepped out of the
sun into the shadow of the little station.

"What?" demanded Jerry in English, and with much the same puzzled air.

"_Non capisco_," said the man, with a sort of dull finality.

Conversation languished. Jerry felt himself pretty well baffled, yet he
had no choice but to go on with the unpromising attempt to elicit
information here, as no other human being was in sight. He considered a
moment, and then in an explosive tone, demanded:--

"_Templi?_"

"_Bruto Inglise!_" murmured the _capo_ under his breath. "_Che volete?_"
he added aloud.

"What?" asked Jerry, again scared over the dubious boundary of his
Italian into English.

"_Non capisco_," repeated the Italian morosely, wetting his dingy
forefinger, and going over his papers for at least the third time.

"Damn it!" cried Jerry, in complete exasperation, "if you say that again
I'll punch your head!"

The other started back in such obvious terror that Tab hastened to
propitiate him by putting on quickly his most ingratiating smile, and
nodding as if he had made a merry joke. The other seemed reassured,
although he edged away a little, as if he were doubtful of the sanity of
this foreign brute; and Tab fell again to the effort to rally all the
words in his Italian vocabulary about one idea.

"_Dove_," he began in one grand final attempt to wring information out
of this sullen and taciturn official, "_dove_"-- He was so pleased with
himself for having remembered the word that he came near forgetting all
the rest, but with a desperate rally, he went blundering on. "_Dove_, I
say, is--is--_la via per i templi_?"

The _capo_ looked at him, apparently in mingled curiosity and disgust.
Then he beckoned him to the edge of the platform on the other side of
the station, whence stretched westward a ribbon of dust-heaped road.

"_Ecco-la_" he ejaculated, waving his truncheon vaguely toward the
distance.

"Ah," said Jerry, "_grazie_."

As the _capo_ responded to this speech not at all, Tab set out on the
dusty road without more ado. The way was inches deep in loose, gray
dust, and spiny cacti bristled on either hand. Jerry had not gone far
before, turning a bend, he saw at no great distance ahead of him an
arched gateway through which the road passed. The arch, broken and
crumbled, was set in a ruined wall, which trailed away on either hand,
now rising to the height of something like a dozen feet, now razed to
the very ground.

"That's a forlorn-looking piece o' work," commented Tab aloud.

Had Jerry been blessed with the education of his forefathers, instead of
having brought out of school and college a hodgepodge smattering of
physics and economics, he might have known and reflected that the wall
he thus carelessly characterized had been standing some two thousand
years, and gloriously attested the puissance of old Rome. With no such
thought, however, he passed beneath the crumbling gateway and continued
his march. At some distance ahead he now perceived signs of life in the
shape of a few dwellings.

As he looked at them he became aware of two horsemen, who were cantering
toward him on the crest of the little slope made by the road just inside
the old gateway. Their horses' hoofs stirred up light clouds of yellow
dust. Even at first glance the riders showed themselves to be ruggedly
dressed, and with something of a thrill Jerry noticed instantly that
slung across their shoulders they carried carbines. Wild tales of
brigands flashed confusedly through his brain, and especially a tale the
Neapolitan guide had related of the capture and murder at this very
place of an English gentleman and his wife. The guide had said that that
was sixteen years ago, but the place seemed sq lonely, so remote, Tab's
ideas of rural Italy were so vague, the effect of the landscape and of
these wild figures was so startling as, riding toward him, they stood
out against the sky, that it was no wonder Jerry involuntarily cast a
quick glance around to note the lay of the land and to see if any
possible help were in sight in case of need.

The horsemen rode down to him on a lazy lope. They were big, bronzed
fellows, smoking cigarettes, and riding with their feet out of the
stirrups. They nodded to him pleasantly and smiled, showing large white
teeth. They had about them, these big fellows, a look so engaging that
Tab was won at once, and the vague mist of his suspicions vanished like
smoke in air. He grinned to himself at the idea of brigands.

"_Dove templi?_" he asked, returning their salutation.

The big men smiled more broadly, and one of them replied in French.

"Vous ne parlez pas beaucoup d'italien?" he asked in a pleasant voice.

"Ne pas de tout!" responded Jerry heartily, with a laugh.

Having found some one with whom he could talk, he at once began a lively
conversation. He found the two men to be the custodians appointed by the
government to look after the temples and to collect the fees of
travelers. They explained that at this season it was extremely rare for
a visitor to appear, and that they were therefore not particular about
being exactly at their posts. They had heard some rumor of the discovery
of antiques by peasants, and were setting out to investigate. They
explained, however, that the chances of finding out anything were very
small; the peasants all held together, and would all lie for one
another. Jerry inferred, moreover, that they were by no means anxious to
make discoveries. It was part of their duty to investigate such a rumor,
for the government claimed the right to have a hand in the disposal of
any treasure-trove; but the custodians seemed to have a good deal of
sympathy with the wretched peasants, who tried to conceal anything they
might find, in order to sell it for a fraction of its value to any stray
_forestiere_ who might appear. Now that a visitor had come, one of the
men went alone on this errand, and the custode who spoke French returned
toward the temples, which were near at hand, that he might formally take
Tab's lira at the gate.

The Italian walked his horse beside Taberman past the two or three
ruinous and apparently deserted houses, and in a few minutes the pair
came to where their road ended in a broad turnpike which ran at right
angles to it. On the other side of this turnpike, a little distance to
his left, Jerry saw the ruins of a couple of temples, and beyond them
the sea. His guide disregarded them, and led him to the right hand,
where, a hundred yards or so along the highway, they came to a square
two-story building of gray rubble. On its dingy front was painted in
black letters the word "Osteria."

"V'là l'auberge," announced the jovial custodian. "If Michu is fatigued,
he can get eggs and polenta within. The wine is rough, but not so bad as
the water. This way, Michu."

And leaving his horse to crop the rank grass by the doorway, he strode
into the building, Tab following.

The inn was a poor place, even for southern Italy. The floor was of
trampled clay; the walls were unfinished within as without, but like the
ceiling, from which hung bunches of garlic and black and dusty herbs,
they were garnished with abundant cobwebs and a generous coating of soot
and dirt. At the back of the room was a counter, above which a grimy
sign announced the right of the proprietor to sell salt and tobacco. In
the left-hand corner of the back of the place was one of the altar-like
ranges of Italy, upon which glowed a minute heap of charcoal. Tab smiled
to find himself recognizing its use from its resemblance to the
cooking-places he had seen in the ruins of Pompeii, and reflected, with
the superiority of a youth born in a young land, upon the conservatism
which keeps its kitchen arrangements practically the same as they were
two thousand years ago. The room was lighted simply by the door through
which the visitors had entered. Another doorway at the left simply
yawned blackly like the mouth of a cavern. The furniture consisted of a
small square table and three stools. Over the entire place was spread an
appearance of squalor and neglect, depressing, but in key with the air
of poverty and of deadness which had been more evident to Tab with every
step he had taken in Pæstum.

The room was empty when they entered it, but after the custode had
bellowed lustily once or twice for "Angelo," the innkeeper appeared
suddenly. He was a little man doubled up as if with rheumatism, and with
a face as yellow as a dried lemon. On seeing Taberman he croaked
something to the custode, and bowed to his guest again and again,
rubbing his hands and all but losing his crooked balance with each
genuflection.

With the air of an archduke ordering a banquet for his retainers,
Jerry's companion gave some rapid instructions to the innkeeper, told
the Michu to make the place his own, and then departed to attend to his
horse and other trifles, saying that he would be back in half an hour.

Tab seated himself on a stool to await his luncheon. His host puttered
about the altar, occasionally mumbling to himself, like the devotee of
some Stygian power making sacrifice. Jerry was watching him with
amusement, and wondering what would be the outcome of his incantations
in the way of food, when on a sudden the doorway was darkened, and a man
entered the room. At a glance Jerry saw that the newcomer was, like
himself, a traveler. The stranger was of medium height, rather inclined,
hardly to stoutness, but certainly to plumpness; he was well
proportioned, with broad shoulders, but had a carriage curiously
shuffling and insignificant. He held a stiff-brimmed straw hat in his
hand, and Tab could see, where the outer light fell upon his crown, that
his hair was slightly touched with gray. His face, Jerry decided, would
have been handsome, had it not been marred by two deep lines from the
nostrils to the corners of the mouth, which gave an appearance of
sinister suspicion not without a hint of selfish cruelty. Except for a
very silky mustache, he was clean-shaven.

The traveler threw Taberman a quick, almost furtive glance, and then,
turning to the innkeeper, addressed that individual sharply in Italian.
The crooked host bowed furiously, made apologetic and deprecatory
gestures with the rapidity of a mountebank, skipped about in feverish
excitement, and jerked his head more and more frantically. The
gentleman--for he seemed one--continued his objurgations unappeased by
all these demonstrations, and ended by swearing roundly in English.

"Oh!" exclaimed Taberman involuntarily.

The stranger turned to him.

"I beg your pardon," he said in a curious sing-song voice with a
markedly rising inflection, "but this brute has not prepared my
luncheon. Do you mind sharing the table with me?"

"Not the least in the world," replied Jerry. "I'm sure it will give me
great pleasure."

"Good," said the stranger. "I see you are an American," he flung out as
an addition.

"I am," returned Taberman, feeling a simple pride in the fact.

"Thank God I'm not," remarked the stranger. His voice showed no trace of
truculence; it was murmured as if to himself. Before Jerry had time to
explode the gentleman continued: "I'm English. What does that mean?
Celt, Angle, Saxon, and ages of tradition--ages of it. By the bye, you
mustn't mind the things I say, you know; your pernicious self-respect
would force you to resent them if you did. May I ask your name?"

"My name is Taberman," Jerry replied, struggling with a mingling of
indignation, amazement, and amusement, "Jerrold Taberman. I live in
Boston."

"Dedham rather," returned the other easily. "I knew a Taberman when I
was in college. Curious chap. I-- My name's Wrenmarsh, Gordon Wrenmarsh.
Fact is, I was an American, but I couldn't stand the place. Bostonians
have good manners; but New York is a vile spot. So is Boston; that is--
Well, perhaps you see the difference."

The tricks this extraordinary man played with his voice were
astonishing, and as he went on talking he quite dizzied Tab by the
cryptic, baffling nature of his nervous speeches. He had, too, a curious
and disconcerting habit of displaying great emotional intensity--opening
his eyes to their greatest extent and distending his nostrils--in
dealing with trifles of the slightest consequence; while whenever, as
happened once or twice in the course of the luncheon, they touched even
remotely on subjects of really vital importance, the extraordinary Mr.
Wrenmarsh fairly oozed indifference. His conduct was so thoroughly
strange that once or twice Jerry felt a puzzled doubt whether the man
were entirely sane.

"I'll tell you," said Mr. Wrenmarsh, when their slight repast was over,
"we'll do the temples together. I've been camping in this abominable
hole of an _osteria_ for over a week, so that I know them pretty well.
One of them is in my period, moreover."

Jerry looked at him as if to ask if the stranger claimed to be a
contemporary of the ruins.

"Your period?" he echoed confusedly.

"Yes; you see, I'm an archæologist--collector, in fact. Hello; here's
the custode."

The custodian entered as Mr. Wrenmarsh spoke, and Taberman had somehow
the idea that the look he gave the Englishman was not very friendly.

"Ah, Michu, have you found a friend?" he asked in his queer French.

"I don't know," Jerry returned, with a half laugh.

"Well," responded the Italian, "if Michu is ready to see the temples, I
am waiting."

"Bien," responded Jerry; and then turning to the archæologist, he asked,
"Are you coming?"

"Of course," the Englishman answered. "Never mind this custode; he's
only an ignorant pig."

Jerry secretly felt that, ignorant or not, the big Italian, with his
merry face and open smile, would be a much more companionable guide than
the eccentric collector; but without comment he paid the reckoning, and
they set out. They went down the road to a gate, paid a lira each to the
custode, and entered upon a field of ploughed land, planted with maize.
The Italian, who had more and more the air of not liking the Englishman,
made some remarks to the effect that Michu l'Anglaise was a very learned
man, and one much better fitted to explain the marvels of ancient
architecture than he, a plain man who had had to pick up his education
in the army. On these grounds he excused himself and went into a little
lodge, while the others walked on to the temples which stood before
them, ideal in their beauty.

The two pushed their way across the field and entered the nearest
temple. Jerry's was not an impressionable nature, and in one way to him
these august colonnades meant little; yet despite a certain sophomoric
exuberance which he had never outgrown, his nature was fundamentally too
refined to fail to respond to the silent grandeur of this solemn harmony
in stone. The roofless enclosure, after all the indignities a score of
centuries had been able to inflict upon it, possessed still a nobility
and a beauty which seemed almost personal and conscious. One feels in
seeing the ruins at Pæstum as if a certain inherent and indestructible
loveliness would pervade the very stones were they thrown down to the
last one; and while the columns stand, the place is one to make the
visitor catch his breath with admiration and almost with awe. Taberman
did not analyze, and indeed he was instinctively so occupied in
concealing from his companion how profoundly he was impressed as to have
little attention left for introspection; but he was more deeply stirred
than he could have conceived possible.

He walked about with Mr. Wrenmarsh, who talked along in his curious
voice, expatiating upon styles and orders, influence and epochs, with
all sorts of things of which Jerry understood at best not more than a
quarter; until at last, instead of going on to the neighboring temple,
the strangely assorted pair sat down on the western steps of the ruin
through which they had come. Taberman looked away westward, where the
rim of the sea shone like a fillet of molten silver. For some time
neither spoke; but at length Mr. Wrenmarsh broke in upon Tab's train of
thought with a question.

"Are you traveling alone?" he asked quite suddenly.

Taberman explained that he had come over from America in a yacht. It is
to be feared that it was vanity which led him to make the unlucky
addition that he was in command of her until his friend should rejoin
him at Naples.

"Ah," commented the archæologist, with a new appearance of interest;
"you're cruising."

"Yes," said Jerry.

The spell of the temple was upon him, and he had no inclination to talk.
He was conscious of a half-defined desire to have this stranger take
himself off, and not bother him further with questions.

"And what do you suppose I am doing here?" queried the collector in a
tone of almost fierce intensity.

"Why," Jerry responded rather absently, "I supposed you were studying or
something."

"Why, yes, to be sure I am; haven't I told the custode so?" chuckled Mr.
Wrenmarsh. His laughter was as extraordinary as his speech and manner.
He would double up as if with a sort of a spasm and snigger gastrically.
"But that's not all," he went on, as Jerry turned to look at him
questioningly; "that's not all. I'm doing something else. I'm waiting."

"What for?" asked Taberman, seeing that he was expected to speak.

"Help," replied Wrenmarsh laconically.

"Help?" repeated Jerry blankly.

"Yes, help; waiting. Collecting is nothing but waiting anyway,--waiting
for news, waiting for funds, waiting for auctions, waiting for old
countesses to die, waiting for some fool of a peasant to discover
something; waiting, waiting, waiting all along the line. It's the man
who waits with his ears and eyes open and his mouth shut that gets what
he wants. He's the man."

"But--but what sort of help do you want now?" Tab inquired.

He was sympathetic by nature, and this extraordinary individual had
aroused not only his curiosity, but in some mysterious manner stimulated
him to a desire to be of service. He had come to Pæstum for amusement.
He felt that in meeting the collector he had been amply repaid. The
unwonted emotion which had been stirred by the temple melted in his
boyish heart before the warmer human interest which the collector
aroused, and it was perhaps with some unrealized relief at getting back
to more familiar levels of feeling that he now began to enter into the
affairs of his companion. It came over him that he was being appealed
to, and he was ready to take the position that if any aid of his could
bring relief to Mr. Wrenmarsh, that eccentric gentleman should no longer
need to go on waiting for help.

"I'll tell you the whole business," said the archæologist, in a sudden
burst of frankness. "You look trustworthy. I've been here ten
days--waiting. I've written, of course, for help; but it doesn't seem to
come. Three weeks ago I was in Naples, and heard--no matter how--that
somewhere down here a lot of good stuff had turned up. I kept coming
down here daily until, by dint of discreet questions--discretion's the
backbone of the game--I found out what had happened. A peasant here had
been spading over some ground. One day the earth sunk suddenly under
him, and down he went into a hole. He found, as soon as he could get his
wits together, that he had broken through the roof of an ancient _cella_
of some sort. He got out without much trouble, pulled himself together,
and did what any peasant would know enough to do,--covered the place
with brush and dirt so that no news of the thing should get to the
custodi. Then he went on with his spading."

"Without investigating?" asked Jerry, full of interest.

Mr. Wrenmarsh looked at him curiously.

"Of course," he responded. "If he had let his curiosity get the better
of him, or his tongue wag, he'd be a good deal poorer than he is at
present. They are stupid louts, these peasants, but they do learn
enough not to take the government into their confidence when they find
anything. They know that they'd get nothing out of it if they did.
Besides, they are as stolid as buffaloes. They can wait well enough."

"But what did he find?" demanded Taberman, his interest thoroughly
aroused by this tale of treasure-trove, which appealed to every boyish
and every adventurous fibre in him.

"He went by night with a lantern and a couple of panniers. He filled his
baskets twice, filled them with priceless things in a perfect
condition--beautiful kylixes and glass bowls. There's one that measures
at least half a metre across the top. Think of that! Why, it's the
finest glass I've ever seen or heard of! It's the finest glass there
is!"

"Great Scott!" cried Jerry, alive with excitement. "It must be awfully
old!"

"Old!" retorted Wrenmarsh with scorn; "do you know where you are?"

Jerry twisted his head to look up at the tall columns and broken
pediment above him, on the pinkish-gray stones of which the afternoon
sun fell with loving warmth.

"Yes, of course," he said. "But what did he do with the things?"

"I kept at him till I wormed the whole business out of him," the
collector answered, "and I bought his things--damn him!"

He brought out the objurgation with amazing vigor; then stopped and
stared gloomily before him.

"Well?" said Jerry. "What are you waiting for? More?"

"More!" exploded the collector, disgust and indignation in his face.
"Man, I've got hold of a collection that is all but unique! More! Don't
you see--I can't get away with it! Piece by piece I could run it out of
the country, but I don't dare to leave anything behind me. If only my
men were at hand--but they're not, they're not. One's off the track in
the T road, and the other's in America."

He passed his hand before his eyes with a gesture so expressive that it
was even more impassioned than his tone.

Taberman was moved, both by the enthusiasm of this man for his work and
by the exciting romance of the finding of this treasure. He knew vaguely
of the laws that forbade the taking of works of art out of Italy and
Greece, but he had no conception that they were strictly enforced. It
gave him a new sensation to be thus brought in contact with the actual
working of a statute which was aimed to prevent a man from removing his
own possessions from one country to another. He had been too well
brought up under a high protective tariff to have any moral scruples
about smuggling anything. A Mugwump atmosphere had acted upon the
natural inclination of youth to defy authority, and had bred in Jerry
the feeling that smuggling, however little its true nature was
appreciated in high places, was really in its essence a maligned virtue.
In the present instance, moreover, the boyish feeling that what one owns
is his to do what he chooses with despite all fiats of principalities,
potentates, and powers, helped to make the idea of this especial case of
an attempt to defy the laws one of particular merit. He gave himself
eagerly to considering how it could be done.

"Can't you take your traps to Naples, and ship 'em from there?" he at
last demanded of the archæologist.

"You don't understand, I'm afraid," replied the other. "My reputation in
itself compels me to lie close. Besides that, there's the awkward
problem of the octroi and the export examinations. I couldn't take the
things into Naples without running into the one, or out of it without
getting afoul of the other. They'd be no end sharp in examining
anything I tried to pass. I'm hideously notorious in Italy." His pride
in this last statement was entirely evident, but Jerry was impressed by
the deeds of archæological daring which were implied in such a
reputation. "I simply can't get these things away without help," he
continued. "I've written and telegraphed to every mortal I can count
on,--there are only five or six of them,--and not one of them can help
me out just now. Meanwhile I starve on eggs and polenta, under the
suspicious eyes of the custodi--damn 'em! They'd have got me a week ago
if they'd had any brains."

"Upon my word," cried Jerry, the idea suddenly striking him for the
first time, "it's extraordinary you should tell me all this, and I a
stranger."

"I count on your helping me," responded Mr. Wrenmarsh in keenly incisive
tones.

"My helping you!" ejaculated Tab in amazement. "What in the world have I
to do with the business?"

"You practically said so," returned the collector. "At least your face
did." He looked at Jerry, and then turned away to the brown expanse of
plain in a manner so stricken and so reproachful that Taberman could not
help feeling convicted of consummate wickedness. "I counted on you," he
added, in a tone of profoundest pathos.

Jerry was completely nonplussed. He felt that he was being played with;
he was angrily conscious that the whole affair was no concern of his,
and that he had no business to be dragged into it. Yet he felt no less
but rather more keenly that he could not endure the imputation of having
encouraged a man in difficulties with a hope of assistance and of having
then refused to fulfill them. His youthful blood, moreover, was stirred
by the flavor of adventure which came alluringly to his inner sense. For
a moment there was a strained silence, and then it was broken by Tab.

"You've mistaken my interest for something else, I'm afraid," he said,
trying to speak lightly, and feeling that he was making a mess of it.
"It never even occurred to me that I could help you out of this blessed
muss; and I don't see that there's anything I can do anyway, except to
keep mum about it. Of course that I'd do anyway."

"No use," retorted the archæologist. "If you can help me and won't,
after my taking you into my confidence, you--you ruin me."

"Hmm," Jerry observed rather coldly, "that's too subtle for me. I fail
to see it in that light. You're no worse off than you were before."

"I'm sure, Mr. Tableman"--

"Taberman," Jerry corrected.

"Pardon me, Mr. Taberman; but you don't see the _catena logica_ by which
I arrive at my conclusions!" Mr. Wrenmarsh, both in speech and gestures,
was momentarily growing more and more theatrical. "Suppose you should,
knowing my story and the law against taking works of art out of the
country, tell my case to the police. What then?"

"It would be the trick of a blackguard, of course," Jerry replied
promptly, "but"--

"_Momento!_" interrupted the other, holding up his hand. "Now suppose
things to be as they are, and you learn that the custodi are on my
track"--

"They've heard something of the find," interposed Jerry; "they told me
that."

"There! You see!" Wrenmarsh said, with a gesture which seemed to appeal
to all humanity to bear witness that in whatever he had said he had been
completely right. "Suppose, now, that you have--with perfect security to
yourself, mind--a chance to give me a friendly word of warning, and
don't do it. What then?"

"Why," Tab answered, feeling every moment more and more as if he were
being snarled up in a web, "it would be, in such a case as you suppose,
a pretty shabby trick, of course. At the same time"--

"Wait a bit," cried Mr. Wrenmarsh, again interrupting him, and growing
visibly more excited still; "wait a bit. I want you to consider the
present case. You say yourself the secret is leaking out, and of course
every moment makes my danger greater. With practically no bother and
with absolute safety you can help me out of the whole tangle. If you
don't, I shall be caught; I shall lose this incomparable treasure and
all the money I paid for it,--and that's no small sum, let me tell
you,--and all because you, my forlorn hope that I've confided in _in
rebus angustis_, won't devote twenty-four hours of your time to saving
your own self-respect. By Jove!" he cried, starting to his feet, "if you
don't help me you betray me as much as if you went straight to the
custodi with my story."

"Sit tight!" cried Jerry, startled by the violence of the other's
demonstration. "Sit tight!"

"Will you help me?" demanded Mr. Wrenmarsh, his brown eyes blazing.
"Will you help--help me to dodge these Italian robbers and get my
things--my antiquities that I have paid for with hard cash--out of this
rotten country? Will you help, or will you desert me, and take sides
with those that are waiting to rob me?"

"By George, I've a mind to try!" incautiously ejaculated Jerry, for the
moment carried off his balance by the enthusiasm and the persuasive
personality of the other.

"Good man!" cried the antiquarian in a rapture; "good man! I knew you
would. We'll beat 'em! I"--

"Hold your horses a bit!" put in Tab hastily, taken aback by the force
Wrenmarsh gave to his unconsidered words. "Go slow, please. I may
have"--

"Oh, that's all right," returned the collector impetuously. "We'll take
a turn down the road, and plan it all out. I can think better when I'm
walking--sort of peripatetic, you see. Ha, ha!--and it'll look queer if
you don't go down to see the other temple. Come on."

Mr. Wrenmarsh made his way toward the road, trampling impetuously over
the wild thyme and the acanthus, while Taberman followed in a mixture of
amused amazement and indignation, but with a full determination to
expostulate. He found, however, that he was not allowed any opportunity
for remonstrance. Every sentence he began was choked off with some fresh
exclamation of gratitude from the collector, or by some burst of
delight that out of the skies, as it were, he had fallen to be the
savior of the perplexed archæologist. By the time they had walked around
the third temple, which stands at some distance from the other two,
Taberman had given up protesting. He merely listened to his companion's
bewildering flow of talk, and felt as if he were being drawn into a
whirlpool. He was helped by his own secret delight at the thought of
having a share in a real adventure, and perhaps pushed on by a boyish
shame at the idea of seeming to draw back and to fail another in an
extremity. He had not much chance to speak,--but he soon found that what
he did say was in the line of his having accepted the position into
which Mr. Wrenmarsh had been endeavoring to force him.

As they returned from the third temple they found the custode beside the
fountain which stood across the road from the inn. He was trying to
teach his horse to shake hands.

"Ah, Michu," the Italian said as they came up to him; "I hope you were
pleased with the temples."

"Much," Taberman assured him. "They are magnificent."

Seeing his companion fee the man, he in turn slipped a coin into the
brown hand. His conscience gave him a little twinge at the thought of
plotting to outwit this frank, big creature; but he reflected instantly
that the matter was entirely impersonal, and it was not in a
tariff-hating youth like Jerry to have any scruples over tricking the
Italian government in a matter of this sort.

"How long would it take you to sail down here from Naples?" asked
Wrenmarsh, as they took the road toward the station.

Tab considered.

"Five or six hours with a good breeze," was his conclusion.

Mr. Wrenmarsh wrinkled his brows and quickened his pace. Those
uncomfortable lines from the nostrils to the corners of his mouth
deepened, and he half shut his eyes. After a little meditation he spoke
again.

"Very good," he said decisively. "This is the way we'll put the thing
through. You go back to Naples now. Be off the shore here by eleven
o'clock, and send a boat ashore for me and my boxes. They're rather big,
and fairly heavy; and they've got to be handled tenderly. I couldn't get
proper means of packing the things, and I've had to take what there was.
Once we get the stuff on board, we must run back so as to be in Naples
by sunrise. Does that suit you?"

"You seem to be running this cruise," laughed Jerry. "I suppose it's all
right; but there's one thing I must know. There's no chance of getting
the yacht into a scrape, is there?"

"Oh, no danger whatever."

"You're sure?" Tab insisted. "It wouldn't be exactly pleasant to get my
friend's boat confiscated, you know, or into any sort of a mess of that
kind."

"Bosh!" retorted Mr. Wrenmarsh brusquely. "You may make your mind easy.
The worst that could happen is that I might lose my things. But we must
walk a bit faster, if you're to get your train."

"It's better to say to-morrow night," Tab remarked, as they took their
way down the road and beneath the old Roman arch. "You see I might be
late in getting back, and"--

"Of course, of course," interrupted the collector. "You can't count on
getting here to-night. To-morrow night, of course."

At the station the _capo_ was standing almost where Jerry had left him,
looking at the hills. When the two came up, he merely turned his head
and nodded.

"The _facchino_ must be doing ticket-duty," the collector remarked.
"We'll go in and get your ticket."

A tall, yellow, broken-looking man was behind the little wicket in the
ticket-office, puttering with some sort of repair work on a shelf. Mr.
Wrenmarsh addressed him in Italian. The man took a blue and green ticket
from a pigeon-hole on the wall, placed it under the stamp, on the knob
of which he then brought down his fist with a nervous bang. Instantly he
broke out into a violent exclamation.

"_Sacro sangue della Madonna!_" he shouted, and began to rave
hysterically.

"What's the matter?" asked Taberman. "What is he saying?"

"He is cursing quite well," returned the archæologist coolly. "His hand
was unsteady, and he's broken the stamp. He wants to know what will
become of him when the _capo_ finds the punch is broken."

"Is he tight?" inquired Jerry inelegantly.

"Oh, he's only bally-rotten with malaria. Look at his face."

"Tell him he ought to take some quinine," suggested Taberman, genuinely
sorry for the wretched-looking fellow.

Mr. Wrenmarsh interpreted, but the Italian replied in a tone of mingled
despair and contempt, and went out to show the broken punch to his
superior.

"What does he say?" asked Jerry.

"Says he took twenty-four grains this noon," answered Wrenmarsh,
chuckling as if it were funny.

"Gad!" exclaimed Tab. "No wonder his hand shook. What a country!"

"You say that?" returned the other. "You may remember that I'm tied to
it till I can get my things out."

They went out to the platform, and at the moment the train came in.
Jerry took his seat in an empty compartment, and the collector stood
outside the window.

"You'll surely come?" asked Mr. Wrenmarsh, in a voice almost
threatening.

"I can't see that I should," Taberman returned; "but wind and weather
permitting, I suppose I shall."

"I can't attempt to argue with you here," the other said; "but
mind--you'll come."

"_Pronto! Pronto!_" called the guard in his hoarse sing-song.

"I shall come," Jerry said reassuringly. "You may bet on it."

"_Partenza! Partenza!_" the guard bawled, blowing his horn.

"Good-by. Don't miss it!" cried Wrenmarsh, giving Jerry's hand a
farewell grip.

"To-morrow night," returned Taberman.

"I show a light," the collector vociferated, running along the platform
beside the now moving train, and repeating the details he had already
arranged. "A white light."

"Right-o!" shouted Taberman, as the train bore him beyond the reach of
further communication.

He threw himself back into the corner of the compartment, and all the
way to Naples he kept wondering over and over what there was about Mr.
Wrenmarsh that had induced him to promise to have a share in a scheme so
mad.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Eleven

A LONE-HAND GAME


On the morning after his return Jerry rose at an hour comfortably late,
took a swim, shaved, and having finished his breakfast, sat down to
write a short note to Jack. As the captain might put in an appearance at
any moment now, Taberman did not wish to go away from Naples without
leaving some explanation and a hint as to his whereabouts. He found the
letter somewhat difficult to write, since to give Jack a satisfactory
reason for his errand to Pæstum, especially in brief space, was no easy
task. He had been more or less troubled ever since his preposterous
promise to Mr. Wrenmarsh; but now that he was confronted with the
difficulty of making his course appear rational to Jack, he felt himself
so completely a fool that he groaned as he wrote, and then tore up the
note, with a curse. On the whole, he decided to say no more than that he
had gone to take a short run down the coast, as he was bored at Naples.

He went ashore with the note himself, and leaving the cutter at the
quay to wait for him, he set out on foot for the Hôtel du Vesuve, where
Jack was to report on his arrival. The morning was already well
advanced, and the heat was becoming fervent; but Jerry, freshened by his
recent swim, went blithely on his way. At the hotel he said to the
porter that he wished to leave a letter for a gentleman who was soon to
arrive, and produced his note. The official glanced at the
superscription, and observed that the traveler was already there.

Jerry stared at him dumfounded.

"Arrived?" he gasped. "When?"

"He came on the night train from Rome," replied the porter, whose
English was almost as good as that of Taberman. "He came on the train
that gets in at half-past eight in the morning. He is escorting two
ladies. They are now at breakfast."

Tab stood for a moment plunged in perplexity. This unexpected arrival of
Jack made his scheme of aiding Wrenmarsh dreadfully difficult, and
perhaps even impossible. He felt himself pledged, however, and he
reflected that whatever were Jack's plans the captain would hardly
hinder him from keeping a promise which he had made on the strength of
the supposition that the Merle was to be in his hands a full month. Jack
had come back before his time, but Tab said to himself that this would
surely make no difference in his fulfilling his obligations to the
archæologist.

He asked for the breakfast party, and was shown into the carefully
shaded dining-room where they were seated. Hearty greetings followed,
and he sat and talked with them while they finished their repast.

All three looked a bit fagged. Even Mrs. Fairhew, accustomed as she was
to European travel of all sorts, had dark circles under her keen eyes.
She was dressed, not according to her wont in black, but in a soft gray
which well set off her brilliant complexion, so that in spite of the
look of fatigue she appeared much as she had when the travelers had met
at Nice. Jack was clad in a suit of white linen, with a collarless
jacket such as is worn by naval officers in hot climates. His hair had
been recently cut, and in such a manner as to cause each separate spike
along the parting to stand up in stiff defiance. Jerry politely told him
he looked more like a criminal than usual, but Miss Marchfield protested
rather indignantly. In Katrine Jerry seemed to detect more alteration
than in the others. Her air had grown more sedate, as if the widening
of her mental horizon had, even in these few weeks, given her a new
maturity and self-poise. The heat had perhaps told on her more than on
the others, but in spite of some appearance of fatigue she had an air of
joyous alertness which showed her buoyant and happy.

"How is it that you are here so soon?" Taberman asked, after a minute of
general talk. "I thought you'd be late, if anything."

"There was a good deal of sickness at Rome," Jack answered, "and when a
man died of typhoid fever in the very hotel we were at, it seemed time
to move on."

Mrs. Fairhew gave a little shudder.

"Only fancy," she said,--"we knew nothing about it until he had been
dead an hour. They told us after breakfast yesterday morning. It was
rather unpleasant, you'll grant."

"It must have been ghastly," agreed Tab, "but I hope you'll do better in
Naples. It has at least the advantage of being on the sea."

"And of being one of the dirtiest places in Italy," she responded
grimly. "However, I'm not one to borrow trouble, and we'll trust in the
sea air."

"You're really becoming amphibious, Mr. Taberman," Katrine observed,
with a smile. "I half fancy that if you were blindfolded you could
smell your way to the water like a turtle."

"The man that piloted the Merle from North Haven to the Island said he
went by smell," responded Jerry.

He caught Jack's eye as he spoke, and cast down his glance in confusion.
Mrs. Fairhew regarded him curiously.

"How did Mr. Drake like that sort of a pilot?" she asked.

"He didn't hear the remark," Jack put in hastily. "Uncle Randolph
wouldn't have approved of that sort of work, I rather fancy."

Jerry made a grimace, and echoed the sentiment, but he added that Dave
was really an excellent sailor, and that personally he'd trust the
fellow's sense of smell sooner than he would the skill of most pilots.
The dangerous moment passed without further allusion to the President,
and the talk turned to other matters.

"Is there any one here we know?" inquired Mrs. Fairhew. "I suppose it is
hardly possible at this time of year."

"I don't believe there is," answered Tab, "unless," he added, a sudden
thought striking him, "you know where Pæstum is?"

"Certainly. I've been looking forward with dread to dragging Katrine
down there to see the temples, though really the time of year ought to
excuse us."

"Well, there's a sort of Anglo-American lunatic archæologist down there,
named Wrenmarsh. Have you ever heard of him? He has relatives in Boston,
I understood him."

Mrs. Fairhew set down the coffee-cup she was just raising to her lips,
and looked at Jerry with a keen glance in which amusement and surprise
seemed to be mingled.

"What is his Christian name?" she asked.

"Gordon."

"Gordon Wrenmarsh at Pæstum! Well, the world is small, and he might be
anywhere,--at least anywhere where he was not expected to be. Did you
never hear of him? But no, you wouldn't; you're too young. He is one of
my contemporaries, and he has been on this side of the water for ever so
long."

"Is it possible?" Jerry cried gallantly. "I shouldn't have suspected
that he was so young!"

"Nobody can mistake you when you wish to pay a compliment," she said,
with a smile that had in it a tinge of satire. "But did you really see
Gordon Wrenmarsh? I haven't heard of him for years. What is he doing? At
one time he was a friend of Mr. Fairhew; they were in the same class at
Harvard."

She showed a genuine interest, Jerry thought; and at any rate this
seemed to him a good time to prepare Jack for the plan evolved between
him and the archæologist, so he launched forth on the narrative of his
visit to Pæstum. He did not particularize, but he did not hesitate to
say that the archæologist had chanced upon a rich find which he was
guarding in the hope of running it safely out of the country.

"Why shouldn't he take it out of the country if he's bought it?" Katrine
asked, with an air of interest.

"The Italian law says he shan't," Jack answered, with a smile.

"Why, if it's his, he has a right to do what he pleases, I should
think," she responded.

"But there's a law against carrying works of art out of the country."

"What a horrid, unjust law!" she protested. "If they were mine, I'd take
them out; you may be sure of that."

"I'd help you," Jack assured her lightly.

Jerry was secretly so pleased at this passage that he endeavored to keep
the conversation in the same line by inquiring of Mrs. Fairhew further
particulars about the strange creature with whom he had made tryst.

"Was Mr. Wrenmarsh always as peculiar as he is now?" he asked.

"I'm not able to tell you that," she returned, "as I have no means of
knowing how much he has changed; but when I knew him he was the most
extraordinary creature. He was always offended if people didn't notice
his eccentricities, and if they did he jibed at their provincialism. He
said he had to become an Englishman because our civilization was so
crude, and he never forgave Bostonians for being so little concerned by
his change of nationality."

"You seem to have picked up rather a choice acquaintance, Jerry,"
observed Jack good-naturedly.

"Oh, Mr. Wrenmarsh became utterly impossible," Mrs. Fairhew continued.
"He really had a lot of ability, and I'm told that now he's done some
remarkable things in getting antiques for the British Museum. His own
people couldn't get on with him at all."

"What an extraordinary creature he must be!" commented Katrine. "Did you
take him for a wild man, Mr. Taberman, when you found him wandering
about among the ruins of Pæstum?"

"No," Jerry returned, rather regretting that he had continued the talk
about Mr. Wrenmarsh. "He came into the little hovel of an inn there
while I was trying to get something to eat."

"Well, anyway I hope he'll get his things safe," she added. "They're
his, and the government has no right to interfere with him."

"I hope he may," Tab responded rather dispiritedly.

Breakfast being ended, the ladies betook themselves to their rooms to
rest after the fatigues of their night of travel.

"If I were a billionaire," Mrs. Fairhew observed, "I would never go
anywhere by night except on my own private car. All sleepers are an
abomination, and I hate the thought of who may have been in the
compartment when I have to sleep in it. I hope we shall see you at
dinner, Mr. Taberman?"

"Thank you," Jerry answered, "but I have business to-night. I assure you
I regret it tremendously."

"Well," the lady returned over her shoulder as she departed, "at least
we shall expect to see you to-morrow; and I hope you'll leave us Mr.
Castleport.

"Glad to," laughed Jerry, with a nod; and the men were left to
themselves.

Jerry turned quickly to Jack the moment they were alone, with a look of
earnestness and concern in his face.

"Cap'n," he said urgently, "come somewhere where we can talk, will you?
We've got heaps to say, and my time's precious."

"Jerry," cried the other, catching him by the arm, "something has
happened to the Merle!"

"Not a thing, Jacko. She is as right as a trivet, but I'm in a hurry.
Come on!"

"Hurry?" echoed Jack, following him in evident disquiet; "what in the
world's up? It can't be mutiny, and if the yacht's all right, I don't
see"--

"I'll explain," Taberman responded. "I know a jolly little place just
round the corner. Come on."

Jack suffered himself to be led to a small café which bore the rather
incongruously ambitious name _Albergo del Sole_, and which displayed on
the yellowish wall above its entrance a rising sun, blood-red and most
magnificent as to its rays. At one of the little tables which covered
the sidewalk before this establishment, the pair took their places. Tab
produced his cigarette-case and ordered a glass of vermouth as he
offered his friend a smoke. Jack, with a hardly perceptible compression
of the lips which showed that he was controlling his impatience and
waiting for Tab to speak, rolled his cigarette between his thumb and
forefinger to loosen it, tapped it on the table-top, and lighted it with
great deliberation. Jerry did the same, but with evident nervousness.

"Jack," said he, "I have been, and gone, and done it, for fair!"

"What?" inquired Jack in a tone mildly incisive.

"Well, you see--it's this way," Tab answered. "Of course I haven't
really done anything yet, but I think I'm bound to, and if you don't
think so--Well, you can see it'll be devilish hard on me as well as
him."

Jack blew a smoke-ring, and looked at Jerry with a queer smile.

"It must be something pretty bad, Jerry," he said, "if you don't dare
tell me what it is."

Jerry looked at him a minute, and then broke into a grin.

"Why," he said, more at his ease, "it's that damned archæologist, that
bedlamite Wrenmarsh I was talking about at the hotel. Well, not having
anything else to do, I went down to Pæstum to see the temples and kill
time, and I fell into his clutches. I had a lot of talk with him, or he
did with me. He knows a pile about the temples, and he did the showman
in great shape. Incidentally he told me all about his own affairs. I
didn't ask him, mind you. He just did it off his own bat. I couldn't
help that, now could I?"

"I don't see how you could," Jack assented; "and no more do I see why
you should want to."

"Why, a chap down there--a Dago peasant, you know--has turned up a
dreadful mess of stuff Wrenmarsh has bought. I told you all that at
breakfast."

"Yes," Jack said imperturbably.

"You see, Wrenmarsh turned to and bought the whole slithering lot of it,
and he's just crazy over it; but as I said at the hotel, he's up against
the government, and he doesn't know how under the heavens he's going to
get the loot out of Italy."

"Great Scott, Tab, did you undertake to run his things out of the
country for him? In the Merle, too?" cried Jack, at last showing some
consternation.

"It's not quite so bad as that," Jerry protested; "but I did tell him
I'd help him out of Pæstum and up here. Naples is all I agreed to.
That's all he asked."

Castleport smoked in silence a moment, looking decidedly grave.

"Jack, old man," Jerry said pleadingly, "I've been an awful ass, but the
way that beastly Wrenmarsh snarled me up with his talk was perfectly
inconceivable. He'd have talked the tail off a brass monkey. He kept
appealing to my sense of honor and heaven knows what, until I felt that
I'd be a perfect cad not to help him."

"That's all right, Tab," Jack answered thoughtfully. "It's only the
Merle--I should hate awfully to get her into a mess."

"He assured me that nothing could happen to her, and I don't think he'd
lie."

"Well, if that's so, there's no great harm done, old man. What are you
worrying over?"

"I'm not worrying at all, Jacko, if you don't object to my keeping my
word. Just continue my letters of marque until to-morrow. I promised him
I'd go down this afternoon. You will be in command, of course, now
you're here; but I'd hate to think of the poor wretch waiting down there
in the marshes for me--it's an awful place for malaria!--and I not
coming at all."

"Oh, I shan't interfere," Jack said quickly. "I had made up my mind to
stay on shore one night more anyway, and I really gave you the yacht
till the twentieth. You shall run this thing yourself; but, by Jove, to
think of Uncle Randolph's Merle in business like that!"

"We started out to be pirates anyway," laughed Jerry, "and we haven't
lived up to our reputation so far. Well, I'll try it. I shall be rid of
the beggar by ten o'clock to-morrow, wind and weather permitting. It's
awful good of you, old man. I thought you'd think I was a bally-ass to
let myself be bamboozled that way; but when he was talking to me I felt
as if he was being awfully bully-ragged, and I ought to help him out."

"Of course," was Jack's response. "Didn't you notice how Katrine had
exactly the same feeling, just from your telling about it?"

Tab felt like winking to himself, but he preserved a grave countenance,
and only asked,--

"What will you tell Mrs. Fairhew about the Merle's being away?"

"Oh, that 's simple enough. I'll tell her you wanted to visit Pæstum
again, and you can say afterward that you ran across Wrenmarsh and
brought him up to Naples. Twig it?"

"Clear as a bell. Come down and see me off."

He sprang from his chair with animation, greatly relieved that the
captain had not prevented him from carrying out his plan. As Jack rose
also, Jerry laid his hand affectionately on his shoulder.

"It's awfully good of you, old man," he said.

"Nonsense. It's a mighty little thing to do for you, when you came
across the Atlantic for me."

"Oh, rats!" Tab rejoined inelegantly. "I came for the fun of it."

They paid the reckoning, and made their way to the quay, where for an
hour and a half the boat had been waiting for Jerry. The men were
lolling about in the stray corners of shade available, smoking and
sleepily exchanging occasional remarks; but at the sight of the captain
they woke up at once.

"Here's the skipper," cried one, jumping to his feet and saluting.

The others followed his example with alacrity, and Jack could not but be
gratified by the unmistakable pleasure they showed at seeing him again.

"How are you, boys?" he said cheerily. "Glad to see you all. You seem to
be in fighting trim, the whole lot of you."

"We're bang up, sir," responded Dave, with a grin. "'Tain't the kind o'
weather we left home in, sir."

"Not exactly," Jack responded laughingly, as he took his place in the
stern-sheets; "but I hope you don't miss the fog too much. Oars!"

Jack stayed on the Merle for an hour and a half, reading the log and
exchanging with Jerry all the news that either could rake up. Gonzague
made errands into the cabin evidently for the purpose of feasting his
eyes on his master, and beamed with delight at every word Castleport
spoke to him. When the old man found that the captain had not come to
remain, he looked so doleful that Castleport rallied him about not
liking Tab as a skipper.

"Eet ees not dat," Gonzague responded, with eloquent hands and
shoulders; "he ees fine as de seelk, but--but Mistaire Taberman he ees
not zee capataine you."

Jerry was anxious to make an early start for Pæstum, as the wind was
light, so Jack took his leave with hearty wishes for a prosperous run.
Jerry went with him to the steps.

"By the way, Jack," he asked in an undertone, as the captain was about
to descend to take his place in the cutter, "are congratulations in
order?"

Castleport looked away from his friend toward where, across the bay, in
a dim haze of purple, stood Capri. Then he glanced quickly into Jerry's
eyes.

"I--I haven't said anything to her," he answered simply.

He ran down the steps to the cutter. Gonzague himself had taken the
boat-hook to hold the craft steady. Castleport put his hand kindly on
the old man's shoulder.

"Good-by, Gonzague," he said. "I'm coming aboard for keeps to-morrow.
Good-by, Jerry."

"Good-by, and--good luck," called Tab in reply, as the cutter started
away.


It lacked a quarter of an hour to twelve that night when the Merle hove
to a cable's length off Pæstum. The wind had freshened at sundown, and
was blowing a smart breeze from the west. Jerry had the cutter lowered,
and, leaving Gonzague in charge, with stringent orders to keep the yacht
lying where she was, had himself pulled toward the shore. The men had no
notion what was going on, but they obeyed orders with a prompt alacrity
which showed that they felt that something of unusual import was in this
business. When the cutter was within about a hundred feet of the shore,
Tab ordered the men to lie on their oars, and keep watch for a light. In
silence and utter darkness, for though the stars were shining there was
no moon, they tossed about in the black troughs of the sea for twenty
minutes. Then Dave uttered a guarded exclamation.

"There's a light, sir," he said. "See, there it is again."

"Lay her head for it, and pull!" commanded Jerry, feeling as if he were
in a pirate novel. "No noise, mind!"

The light had appeared for an instant some two or three hundred feet up
the shore from the point off which the cutter lay rolling. They pulled
quietly for the spot, the oars sounding softly, the water lapping the
bows of the boat, and the wind bringing to their ears the muffled rote
as of a sand beach.

"Let her run," ordered Tab in an undertone. "Can you see the light?"

For a minute they rolled in darkness as before, and then again sighted
the signal, this time straight in shore. Jerry felt his heart beat as he
gave the order to run in, and a consciousness of romantic adventure,
lawless and wild, was like a sweet and exhilarating flavor in his mouth.
Such a deed on his native shores would have had an atmosphere of secret
villany about it, but here, in alien waters, on a foreign coast, under
the darkness of night, the romantic side was intensified a
thousand-fold. A whimsical feeling flitted through the back of his head
that he ought to be dressed differently for such an occasion; that he
should have had a shaggy black beard, a red sash stuck full of pistols,
and half a dozen cutlasses disposed promiscuously about his person. He
was not without a fleeting consciousness that some time he might at
home, to the old crowd of college boys, find a keen joy in telling of
this night, and--But the light flashed out again, this time so near that
the cutter lay full in the middle of the dark, fire-sprinkled path it
illumined; and Jerry's entire mind was called back to the business in
hand. He could in the light see the cheeks of the men in front of him as
they swayed with their rowing, the brass rowlocks of the cutter, and the
dripping blades of the oars. He strained his eyes toward the land, but
was blinded by the glare into which he looked; and on the instant a
voice, eager but subdued, hailed from the shore some twenty feet away.

"Hallo! Are you there, Mr. Taberman?"

"Here all right," answered Jerry. "Eyes in the boat!" he added sharply
to the men, every one of whom except Dave had turned to look ashore.
"Three good strokes now: Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!... Let her run!"

The nose of the cutter ground on a sand-beach; the bowsman sprang ashore
with the painter and held her, while Jerry clambered forward, steadying
himself with a hand on the shoulder of the rowers. On leaping to the
land, he was confronted by Mr. Wrenmarsh. That gentleman shifted the
lantern he held from his right hand to his left, and shook hands with
Taberman fervently.

"You're just in time," he said hurriedly. "We haven't a second to lose.
The boxes are right here on the edge of the grass. Come on with your
men. It'll take four of them for that biggest box."

Jerry called the four men who were nearest, and telling the rest to
stand by, he hurried up the beach. In the sand, by the light of the
lantern with which the archæologist came after him, he saw the print of
wheels leading up to a pile of rude wooden cases. Three of them were of
moderate size, but the fourth looked to Tab huge in the semi-darkness.

"How big is that thing?" he asked, touching it with his foot.

"Don't kick it!" Wrenmarsh responded quickly and sharply. "It's only
about a metre square and half as deep. I couldn't make it any smaller."

Jerry whistled with dismay.

"We may lose it overboard on the way to the Merle," he remarked cruelly.
Then without heeding the dismayed exclamation of the collector, he
ordered the men to take that first. "Put it as far astern as you can,"
he said. "I'm afraid you'll have to wade in with it."

"For God's sake hurry," cried Wrenmarsh. "I know that beastly carter has
put the custodi up to the job by this time. Only don't drop that case!"
he added, running along by the side of the bearers with the lantern
swinging wildly to and fro and bumping against his legs.

The case was evidently pretty heavy, and the men breathed deep as they
carried it across the loose sand. By dint of the men's wading in beside
the cutter the big box was safely deposited in the stern-sheets, and the
sailors went back for a new load. A second box was stowed without
trouble, but as the two others, which were fortunately the smallest,
were being lifted by two men each, Wrenmarsh clutched Taberman by the
arm.

"Look there!" he cried. "Look there! Quick, men! For God's sake, quick!"

Not more than a hundred yards away on the beach to the southward was an
advancing lantern. Suddenly it stopped.

"What is it?" asked Tab.

The men, spurred on by Wrenmarsh, were fairly running across the sand,
and Tab skurried along with them toward the boat.

"Hurry! Hurry!" was the breathless response of Wrenmarsh. "It's the
custodi and the police--those cursed _carabinieri_! I told you the
carter'd sell me out."

It was only a minute before the men had reached the boat, and hurriedly
stowed the boxes they carried. Taberman and Wrenmarsh scrambled in, and
Jerry, sitting in a distorted and cramped position behind the big box,
got hold of the lines. The men pushed off, and got into their places
anyhow. Just as Tab opened his lips to order the men to give way, a
peremptory voice came to them from the shore to the south. The light had
not advanced from where they had seen it stop, but it had gone waving
wildly up and down the beach as if the bearers had encountered some
impassable obstacle and sought in vain for a place which would allow a
passage.

"_Aspetta!_" bawled the voice. "_Aspetta nel nomme del Re!_"

"What's that?" asked Jerry.

"They're calling us to stand--in the king's name," Mr. Wrenmarsh
returned with sullen nervousness.

"Head the boat 'round," cried Tab. "Why the devil don't they come down
if they want us?"

"I can't imagine," the collector answered.

"Perhaps they're afraid of us; but I don't think that can be it."

"_Aspetta!_" thundered the voice on shore more savagely. "_Aspetta o
tiriamo!_"

"By Jove! The sands!" cried Wrenmarsh. "There's a brook there--the
bottom's quicksand. They daren't try to cross."

"Quicksand?" echoed Tab. "How'd they come there, then?"

"They must have thought we were on the other side of the stream. They've
come up on the wrong bank, and now they can't get over."

Bang! There was a quick, loud report, and Jerry heard the _wht_ of a
carbine ball close astern.

"Great Scott!" he shouted. "Douse that glim! Pull! Pull!"

Wrenmarsh seized the lantern and dipped it overboard, an effective if
irregular way of quenching it.

Bang! Bang! Two more shots. One of the men, Hunter, pulling on the third
thwart, afterward swore that he felt the wind of the second bullet.

Bang!

"Pull hard, men! Steady!" cried Jerry.

A man of race and training, while in a crisis of this sort he feels more
excitement than his thicker-skinned fellows, displays more outward
coolness. Social development means the power of self-control, especially
when any sense of responsibility is involved. Taberman was inwardly wild
with the stirring emotions of an experience such as he not only had
never encountered but of which he had heard in a hundred ways which lent
associations to heighten the effect; yet he did not lose for a moment
his sense of having the men to care for. He kept his head, and called
the stroke for the rowers. They showed by their tendency to pull wildly
how near they were to demoralization, and Jerry urged them to steadiness
with language of the most picturesque emphasis.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots. At the third there was a sharp rap, as if
the cutter had been hit by a pebble, and a queer little squeak of
splintering wood. Tab started up, but instantly sat down again, catching
at the yoke-line he had half let fall.

"Close call," Wrenmarsh said nervously.

"Yes," Jerry answered laconically. "Stroke! Stroke! Steady!"

At the instant he had heard the sound of the ball on the wood of the
boat, he had felt a sharp twinge in his left arm, as if the muscle had
been suddenly tweaked off the bone by a pair of white-hot pincers. The
pain was exquisite, but he forced himself to keep calm, and beyond the
first involuntary spring he gave no indication that he had been hit. In
a sort of double consciousness he kept saying to himself that he
wondered how severe the hurt was, and at the same time he seemed to be
lifted by sheer will and excitement above even the physical feeling of
the moment.

"Steady!" he said, and was queerly conscious of a sort of exultation
that his voice was so strong and natural. "We're 'most out of range."

Other shots followed, but they splashed harmlessly astern. The darkness
was a shelter, and although the carbines flashed again and again from
the shore, no more damage was done on board the cutter. Ahead of them
Tab, holding himself together grimly, saw the red and green
sailing-lights of the Merle, and realized that at the sound of the
firing Gonzague must have run the yacht in shore.

"Ahoy!" Jerry called.

Tears of pain suffused his eyes in spite of him, and made the colored
lights big and blurry, as if they were the glaring orbs of some huge
dragon.

"Hollá!" came Gonzague's voice. "A'right, sair!" and with a deafening
boom of canvas the schooner luffed up.

Jerry put his right arm behind him, his left hanging limply, and
getting hold of the rudder-yoke he laid the cutter alongside the yacht.
He and Wrenmarsh got up to the deck, a davit was turned out-board as a
crane and the boxes hoisted, and then the boat slung up.

Faint and savage with pain, Jerry still fought with himself to keep up,
and to fulfill his duties as commander. He remembered that his order for
the Merle to lie to where she was had been disregarded; and though he
was inwardly glad that the yacht had been brought to meet the cutter, he
felt that discipline was discipline, and he was in no mood to let any
infringement of orders go unnoted. He called Gonzague.

"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded fiercely. "Didn't I give
orders to keep the yacht hove to till I came out?"

"Yes, sair," Gonzague answered contritely, stroking his stiff white
mustache with nervous fingers, "bot I heer de shotin' ashore, an'"--

"That made no difference. I'm ashamed that an old seaman like you should
disobey orders simply because he heard a row ashore. Go forward. I shall
mark you in the log."

The old man took himself off without a word. However much he was likely
to feel the sting of this reproof, he was not the man to fail to
respect the mate for it, and of this Tab might be assured when he had
the calmness to think things over.

Jerry gave the helmsman the course for Naples, and the Merle swung off
on her return. Then he started to go below, but now that the need of
immediate action was over he suddenly turned sick and dizzy. He put out
his uninjured arm with a quick clutch at Mr. Wrenmarsh.

"Give me--your arm," he said weakly. "I'm--I'm hit, you know, and things
go round."

"Hit!" echoed the collector. "Where? Is it serious?"

"Arm," answered Jerry. "Help me get below."

The archæologist supported Jerry to the companion, and then almost
carried him down the steps. He tried to place him on the transom, but
Taberman stubbornly walked half the length of the cabin, and sank into a
chair by the table. His lips seemed to him queerly stiff as he twisted
them into a wry smile.

"Mustn't bleed on the cushions, y' know," he said feebly. "Call
Gonzague."

Wrenmarsh shouted the name explosively, hovering solicitously over
Jerry, and in a moment the Provençal appeared. Jerry made a mighty
effort to pull himself together.

"Here, Gonzague," he said, "get the medicine-chest, and strip my coat
off. I've got to be fixed. I want some hot water and a b. and s. Beg
your--pardon," he added, turning slowly to Mr. Wrenmarsh, and confusedly
wishing that the cabin would not turn so much faster than he could. "I'm
forgetting. This gentleman's to have Jack's--the captain's stateroom.
Will you have anything to drink? 'Fraid I'm poor host, but"--

"No, no," cried the archæologist. "That's all right. The brandy,
Gonzague, quick!"

A brandy and soda put fresh life into Jerry, who still tried to be
polite, and protested that the collector should not bother.

"You'll find me a first-class chirurgeon," responded the other. "Where's
the medicine-chest, Gonzague?"

He proved remarkably ready and efficient and kindly withal. He stripped
off Jerry's jacket and cut away the shirt-sleeve, to discover a two-inch
sliver of African oak from the gunwale of the cutter stabbed into a
jagged hole in the forearm. He probed and cut and trimmed with the skill
of a trained surgeon, while Jerry, pale and with set teeth, bore it all
with Spartan firmness until everything was over, and then, as he tried
to rise when the last bandage was in place, fainted dead away.

When the plucky mate had been brought round and stowed away in his
berth, Gonzague again took charge of the Merle, and dropped her anchor
once more in the harbor of Naples at about eight o'clock in the morning.

Just before Mr. Wrenmarsh turned in for the night, he put his head into
the door of Jerry's stateroom to ask if he could do anything for him.

"No, thank you," Jerry returned. "Much obliged; but the man by my door
will hear if I want anything. I'm all right now. I'm jolly much obliged
to you for fixing me up."

"'Pon my word, Table--Taberman, you're the most extraordinary man for a
Bostonian I ever saw. Good-night."

"Good-night," Jerry responded. Then he chuckled, and added, "But
Boston's full of better men than I am, if you'd only stayed there to see
'em."

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Twelve

AT VERGIL'S TOMB


"I never could touch it," Katrine said, with an emphatic shake of her
head. "I should think a baby brought up on goat's milk would run round
and bleat. Why, I think the idea of it is horrid!"

Her eyes sparkled and her whole air was full of a delicious animation,
so that it was no wonder Jack threw back his head and laughed, as much
in sheer admiration as from amusement. He was in high spirits this
morning, the excitement of a mighty resolve stirring in his blood.

"How do you know that you haven't been having goat's milk at the hotel?"
he demanded. "Aren't you afraid you'll begin to break out in a baa
yourself all of a sudden?"

"Why, how rude you are!" she cried, her dimples deepening and shoaling.
"Of course they wouldn't dare to give it to us, and we should know it if
they did!"

The young people were being driven in a Neapolitan _vettura_ to the
tomb of Vergil. Jack had mentioned the spot that morning at breakfast as
being well worth a visit, if only for the view, and said that the ladies
ought to see it. Mrs. Fairhew had, for reasons perhaps not wholly
unconnected with remembrances of her own youth and the late Mr. Fairhew,
declined to make the jaunt, on the score that it was too hot and that
she had a thousand trifles to attend to. She had refused her niece's
prompt offer of assistance, and so left that young woman free to accept
Jack's invitation that she take the drive with him.

Their talk was light enough, the lighter because Jack at least hardly
dared to venture to be serious lest he betray how terribly in earnest he
was. The sight of a little flock of goats, which had scattered at the
pistol-like crack of their driver's whip, had given them a theme for a
moment. The agile brown animals skipped along the gutters, assailed by
the effervescent profanity of their conductor, a half-naked, slim-limbed
lad browner than the beasts themselves; and with more detonations of the
whiplash the carriage whirled up the hill with hardly diminished speed
as the grade grew steeper. Through picturesque, squalid streets, braver
in their poverty than many a splendid thoroughfare, through nooks that
seemed to be private courtyards with entire families disposed about
them, the carriage took its way noisily; it turned now to the left, now
to the right, continually ascending; it brought them to the top of
narrow ways down which they looked as through a kaleidoscope gleaming
with a confusion of gay colors; it seemed about to land them on the roof
of some building which lay directly before them, and then at the last
moment whisked around some unseen corner and carried them still higher.

"Isn't it wonderful," Katrine said. "I never saw such a city. I feel
almost as if we were in a flying-machine,--we keep going up so and see
such wonderful sights all the time. Oh, do look down that street! Did
you ever see such colors?"

"It is stunning," Castleport answered, his eyes on her face.

"You didn't look at it at all," she said half pouting, as the carriage
whirled them past.

"Oh, I could see it all in your eyes," he returned. "You don't know what
excellent mirrors they are."

"What nonsense! How silly you are this morning!"

Her color deepened, however, and Jack did not feel that his remark had
missed fire. He smiled to himself, and just then the carriage brought
up with a jerk on the left side of the way, in front of a small green
door in a gray retaining-wall. Over the door was printed in black
letters: _Tomba di Virgilio_.

"Here we are," Jack said.

He got out with the field-glasses he had brought, and extended his hand
to assist Katrine. She hardly touched his arm with her finger-tips, but
the air was electric, and he felt the thrill like a pulse of warm blood
from head to foot. He did not speak to the driver, but with a manner
that made that piratical Neapolitan regard him with a new respect simply
ordered him in the sign-language of the town to remain in waiting. A
soldier came slouching out of a shop near by wherein he was evidently
lounging, took the prescribed gate-fees, and then opened the narrow
door. This disclosed a staircase, strait and steep, cut from the living
rock, which led upward and to the right.

They climbed the stone stairs without speaking, but at the top the
wonderful beauty of the view which burst upon them called from Katrine
an involuntary exclamation of surprise and delight. Below them,
red-roofed and multi-colored, Naples lay bathed in the strong white
light of the southern sun; beyond, marvelously blue and ruffled by a
gentle breeze, the waters of the bay flashed and sparkled; and beyond
again, farther yet, stood purple Capri and the piled-up southern shore,
luminous and mistily azure. To the eastward, brooding and tragic, yet
with a thrilling beauty of its own in softly flowing curves and wavering
outline, showed Vesuvius, and stupendous as it was, seemed crouching
sinister and awful, the incarnation of pitiless power.

Jack focused the glasses, and handed them to Katrine. Then he began to
point here and there, showing her the different things of interest
visible from the spur of the hill on which they were standing. As she
was looking toward the Mole and the New Harbor, suddenly she uttered a
little cry of surprise.

"There's the Merle," she said. "I'm sure it is. At least she's flying
the American flag."

"Yes," Jack responded. "That's she, fast enough."

"Doesn't it seem like a bit of home to see her down there?" Katrine went
on. "I think it was perfectly wonderful that Mr. Drake let you take her
this summer."

Jack gave a quick movement of the shoulders, and then set his lips
together more firmly.

"I shall have to tell her the whole thing," he thought to himself. Aloud
he said, "I shouldn't have been here when you were if it hadn't been
for having the Merle."

"I suppose not," she answered, and the change in her tone showed most
clearly that she understood in the words more than met the ear.

After they had stood for a time in admiration of the magnificent view
before them, they turned to go to the tomb, twenty yards away. The
uneven path, bordered by beautiful wild poppies and violets, was shaded
by gnarled fig and plum trees. A splendid stone-pine rose superb on the
left, crowned by its dome-shaped cluster of branches.

"Oh," Katrine cried, "it's perfectly beautiful, isn't it? It makes you
feel solemn, it's so lovely."

"Yes," he assented, and unwonted emotion left him with no word to add.

"Just look at those flowers," she went on. "What a pity it is that we
don't have them like that at home."

"It's a fitting place for Vergil to be buried in, isn't it?" Jack said.
"I thought you would like it."

"It is a place I shall remember all my life," she replied. Her eyes met
his as she spoke, and her glance fell with quick consciousness. Before
he could speak, she added hurriedly, "Is this the tomb?"

"Yes," he answered, entirely undisturbed by any chilling scholastic
doubts on the subject, "this is the tomb."

Before them was a lowly structure of old rubble, four square, and a
narrow door, at which the path, with a sudden dip, came to an end.

"Will you go in?" he said, standing aside.

Katrine entered, and he followed. The place was as simple within as
without. The floor seemed to be of beaten earth; the single room, or
_cella_, was lighted by a small window, and it contained only two or
three cinerary urns of dark red clay, which leaned against the wall
opposite the door. Above these, in brown letters on a tablet of white
marble, was an inscription set there by the Academy of France.

The pair stood silent for a minute, Katrine reading the tablet, and
Jack, his head bared, standing beside her. As she turned her head she
caught for a second time his glance. She colored, and moved quickly to
the small window.

"Isn't the view wonderful!" she said, as if she had caught at the first
words that came into her mind.

"Yes," he returned absently. "Fine, isn't it?"

She looked a moment out of the window, and then, avoiding his eyes, she
turned back to the Latin distich cut in the tablet, and by tradition
assigned to Vergil himself:--


     Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
     Parthenope. Cecini pascua, rura, duces.


"You'll think I am unspeakably stupid," she said, "but I confess I
cannot make it out. 'Mantua gave me birth,' I can read that."

"'The Calabrian winds carried me away,'" Jack went on.

"Oh, yes; but I don't understand the Parthenope."

"That's Naples," he answered. "'Naples holds me.'"

"Oh, is that it? I know the rest. 'I sang pastures, fields, leaders.'"

"Good! You shall have an A in the examination in spite of Parthenope,"
he assured her. "Perhaps 'heroes' is a better word for _duces_, though."

"I'm afraid I don't deserve an A," she laughed, "but I am satisfied if I
pass at all."

As they came out of the tomb Jack picked a spray from the beautiful
laurel growing beside the entrance, and held it out to her. She took it
with a murmured word of thanks, and put it in her gown. Not far away on
the right of the path was a rude seat or bench, shaded by fig and olive
trees, and partially screened from the path by dwarf plums. It was
slightly higher than the way by which they had come.

"Here," Jack said, "let's go up and rest a bit. The view is worth
seeing."

They turned to the seat and took their places in silence. The view was
not perceptibly different from that which they had on the path, but as
Jack looked at Katrine and Katrine cast down her eyes, this was not a
matter which they were likely to notice.

"Katrine," the captain began,--for they had come, almost by insensible
degrees, to call each other by their Christian names,--"I've got to tell
you something. It isn't altogether pleasant for me, but it's only fair
that you should know."

She looked up at him in evident surprise and with some disquiet.

"Why, what is it?" she asked. "I hope it isn't anything really
terrible."

He hesitated, and began to scrape the ground with his foot nervously.

"I--er--Well, to be honest, I don't know exactly how to tell you so you
won't be too hard on me," he answered frankly.

"Is it so bad?" she queried in a tone which showed some concern under
its assumed lightness.

"What in the world have you been doing? You haven't been murdering
anybody, I hope."

"What would you say," asked Jack, "what would you think of a man that
acted like this? Suppose a case. Suppose the chap was, in the first
place, in America. Suppose he had a friend, a friend he cared a lot
about, one he thought more of than anybody else in the world, and that
friend was on this side. Suppose the man's property was all tied up,--in
trust, you know,--and he'd promised not to borrow, so he couldn't
honorably raise the money to come over unless his trustee would let him.
The trustee, we'll say, is a nice old fellow,--really nice, you know,
only rather crotchety,--who wouldn't hear a word of the chap's going."

He stopped as if for encouragement, and Katrine, with evident
appreciation of this, murmured, "Yes, I understand."

"And suppose," Castleport went on, a new hesitancy coming into his
voice, "that this trustee--of course the chap is his nearest relative,
you know--has an able schooner yacht. Now if the chap simply couldn't
stand it, but captured that yacht--not violently, of course, but by
stratagem,--and came over to see his friend, and to ask her"--

"Why, Jack Castleport!" cried Katrine, with eyes open to their widest.
"You don't mean that you ran away with the Merle! I never can believe
it!"

"It's true, though," he responded. "Do you blame me so very much?"

Her glance dropped before his, and her manner instantly lost its
boldness.

"I--Why, of course that depends," she murmured.

"Depends on what?"

"On--how--how necessary it was for him to see his friend."

"Oh," Jack cried. "I had to see her! You know I had to come, Katrine! I
had to tell you I love you, and I stole Uncle Randolph's yacht because
he wouldn't let me come any other way. I had to come."

He sprang up in his excitement, and stood before her, his hands twisting
each other in a way odd enough for one of so much self-control.

"You must have known how I cared for you, Katrine. I couldn't tell you
without making a clean breast of this, but don't be too hard on me. I
had to come."

She flashed up at him the merest hair's-breadth of a glance, and with
her hands pressed to her bosom, said softly, "I never could have
forgiven you if you hadn't come."

He simply stooped over and took her unceremoniously in his arms, and it
was several moments before she had breath and presence of mind to
protest.

"Heavens!" she cried with mock terror. "Am I in the arms of a pirate?
Jack, I never knew anything so shocking in my life! How could you do
it?"

"I had to get across the Atlantic to you," he answered, as if that were
an excuse all-sufficient.

And the sun shone down on the sea and on Vesuvius and on Vergil's tomb,
and on that which is more enduring than all these,--the sweetness of
young love.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Thirteen

A BID FOR THE ODD TRICK


While the captain was looking with Katrine down on the Merle, as the
yacht lay quietly at anchor in the harbor, a notable conversation was
taking place on board. At no very early hour Tab had risen, tubbed with
difficulty, and, with some aid, got into his clothes. His left arm was
stiff and very sore, but beyond that he felt no discomfort. His
magnificent physique, improved by the hardy life he had been leading,
saved him from any consequences more serious; so that the archæologist,
who was in capital spirits, rallied him on the prodigious appetite he
displayed at breakfast.

"I have to eat double to make up for the blood I lost last night," Jerry
said, with a grin. "I find there's nothing for the appetite like a
regular brush with the police. I've found it so before, when I was in
college."

After breakfast the two went on deck, and seated under the awning, with
the beautiful bay before them and a soft air to bring a delicious
coolness, they talked over the adventure of the previous night. Then
from this they branched off to more general matters. Mr. Wrenmarsh was a
man of wide experience and of good observation, and was well informed on
almost every topic the talk touched upon. His tricks and eccentricities
had been for the time being laid aside, or showed only as a flavor of
personality piquant and attractive. Jerry found himself soothed and
entertained, although, remembering his previous experience with the
collector, he was not without a feeling that Wrenmarsh had a propensity
to use speech as a squid does his ink, to conceal his course, and so
wondered what the collector had still to gain. Wrenmarsh suddenly took
to intricate and unintelligible sentences without warning and equally
without apparent excuse, when Jerry brought him back to earth with a
question what he intended to do next.

"Do?" exclaimed Wrenmarsh, as if shocked and astonished by such an
inquiry. "Of course I shan't think of setting foot on shore again till I
get to England."

Jerry hardly suppressed an instinctive whistle, and for a brief instant
he had nothing to say; but after all he was not without a shrewdness of
his own. He was still chagrined to remember that the archæologist had
played upon him once for his own purposes, and he had at least learned
that in dealing with this man it was necessary to be cautious.

"To England?" he repeated in a voice so casual as to rouse Wrenmarsh and
to tickle himself inwardly. "How do you go?"

"Go?" once more echoed the other. "With you, of course."

"Oh, are we going to England?" Jerry asked more carelessly than before.

"Surely you are," Wrenmarsh retorted with some sharpness.

"Are we really?" was Jerry's comment. A refrain from a song in a Pudding
play popped into his head, and he hummed it in derision hardly
disguised,--


     "You surprise me!"


"Will you--er--say that again?" asked the collector most courteously.

"Oh, quite unnecessary," Tab returned, not to be trapped into an
apology. "It was only a bit of a song."

He was filled with a pleasant feeling that he was bothering the
collector, astute as that person was, and he determined, as the
circumstances certainly were in his favor, to hold his own with him
this time at least.

"I don't think you have a very clear view of the case," Wrenmarsh said,
after a moment of silent musing with contracted brow. "If you had, you'd
see that it isn't possible for me to go ashore now, after that beastly
business of last night. I assure you, I'm awfully sorry for that mess.
There's another thing,--I couldn't get those boxes ashore from the yacht
without their being examined, and then there'd be the devil of a row."

"That must have occurred to you before you left Pæstum," Jerry remarked
with coolness.

Mr. Wrenmarsh did not move a muscle.

"So it did," he said blandly; "but of course I knew it must have been
evident to you also."

Jerry laughed in spite of himself at the cool impudence of this.

"I confess that it wasn't," he responded.

"Even if it wasn't," the other went on, as smoothly as ever, "I never
for an instant supposed that when once you'd started out to help me,
you'd funk. That is a contingency, I confess, never occurred to my mind.
I thought you were made of different stuff. You were clear game last
night."

Jerry looked at his guest and burst into deep-throated laughter.

"Well, for clean cheek!" he cried. "Do you think I'm going to tote you
about in a yacht I don't own for the rest of my life?"

"Would you like to?" asked the collector, with a fresh aspect of
interest. "Because in the Ægean Sea I've a"--

"Whatever it is, please keep it to yourself, or you'll insist that I
promised to help you with it," interrupted Tab grimly. "As for going to
England in the present case, that's quite out of the question. What are
you going to do? If you stay on board, you'll land in Boston."

Mr. Wrenmarsh's face took on for an instant a look distinctly ugly. It
suddenly occurred to Taberman that the collector was in rather an evil
plight,--worse, indeed, than that from which the Merle had rescued him.

"Surely you're not serious?" Wrenmarsh asked slowly.

"I think I am," Jerry responded pleasantly. "What are you going to do?"

"Damn!" the other broke out explosively, lying back in his chair and
running his fingers through his gray-sprinkled locks.

Jerry was too soft-hearted not to be touched by the other's perplexity,
but an involuntary movement of sympathy which he made happened to give
him a painful twinge in the arm, and he hardened his heart. There was a
silence of some minutes, during which he tried to make out from the face
of his companion what thoughts were passing behind that mask. Suddenly
the cloud lifted from the face of Wrenmarsh, and he flashed a bright
glance on Jerry.

"Bless me," he cried gayly. "I might have thought!
Plutus--Mammon--filthy lucre! But how extraordinary in an American--not
to ask for it, you know! What'll you take for it?"

"For what?" responded Tab, not catching his drift.

He had a dreadful feeling that by becoming incomprehensible, the other
might be getting the better of him.

"What's to pay for a passage of myself and my boxes to--let us say
Plymouth?"

Indignation for the instant flared up in Jerry.

"This is not a passenger ship," he responded brusquely.

"Oh, of course not, my dear fellow; but as every man has his price, I
suppose a yacht has too."

Common-sense and indignation worked together now to keep Taberman from
an angry retort. It flashed upon him that here was a chance, one in a
thousand, to pay off the hands of the Merle without troubling the
President; it was a chance, too, to score off this cheeky archæologist.
Taberman had already noted that Wrenmarsh was a penurious soul who hated
to part with money, and he felt something of the godly joy of the
departing Israelites when Moses announced the project for the spoiling
of the Egyptians. England was not such an impossible distance off. They
might take the Great Circle track home. Surely if Jack--

"Don't you see my position, Mr. Wrenmarsh?" he asked. "I haven't the
power to dispose of the Merle. I'm simply in charge of her while the
captain's ashore, don't you see? Still"--

He paused dramatically.

"Well?" ejaculated Wrenmarsh, apparently keeping his gaze fixed in the
closest interest on the red sails of a big felucca that was standing in
toward the Mole.

"Well, I think I might be right in making a sort of conditional--a
purely conditional"--he repeated the word for caution, wondering if he
ought to make it any stronger--"arrangement. It wouldn't be valid
without the sanction of the captain. You see that, of course."

"Well?" repeated the other.

"Do you see--merely conditional?" insisted Taberman.

"Yes, I suppose so," assented the other grudgingly.

"I might make a sort of conditional arrangement, then, to go to
Plymouth, or perhaps to any other English port not too much out of the
way, for a consideration of"--He paused again.

"Ten pounds," suggested the archæologist.

"Two hundred," said Jerry coolly.

He could have hugged himself with joy at the sound of his own voice
naming the sum in such a matter-of-fact fashion. He knew well enough
that but for the enormous handicap which circumstances had put upon the
archæologist he would have had no chance whatever to outmanoeuvre him,
but this he did not bother to reflect on at the moment and might have
had scruples about if he had. He gave himself up to the delight of
feeling that he had distinctly the better of the man who had so carried
him off his feet at Pæstum, and who had involved him in an affair of the
seriousness of which Jerry had had good reason to meditate in the times
in the night when his arm kept him awake. It was certainly something to
have the upper hand now; and two hundred pounds, which he had named
almost at random, multiplied itself in his head into a most satisfactory
number of dollars.

"Two hundred pounds!" cried out the archæologist, nearly jumping out of
his chair.

His affected surprise was dramatic, but unfortunately for its effect it
was overdone, so that even Jerry felt it to be theatrical.

"Shall we call it two hundred and fifty?" the mate asked, enjoying
himself more every minute.

"Two hundred and fifty devils!" shouted Wrenmarsh, who appeared more
irritated, it seemed to Jerry, on account of being outmanoeuvred than
because the price was so high.

"Not devils--pounds," Tab responded, smiling at his own wit.

"Leave off the two hundred," begged the collector.

"The agreement is only conditional anyway," Jerry said, with something
of an air, "but if it seems to you fairer, we'll leave off the fifty,
and call it an even two hundred--one for you and one for those precious
boxes, to be paid on arrival. I'm not a Neapolitan. Will you go ashore
here or wait for the captain?"

"I'll wait for the captain, Mr. Taberman," Wrenmarsh replied. He
glowered across the bay for a moment, and then added, "He may not be so
infernally exorbitant as you are."

Jerry smiled secretly to himself, and resolved that at least Jack should
be persuaded to make no easier terms. Then he went to write a note to
summon the captain to come aboard to consider this proposition of taking
a passenger.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Fourteen

CLEARING THE DECKS


When Jack appeared on the Merle, rather late that afternoon, Jerry met
him by the steps, his arm in a sling.

"Good heavens, Tab," cried the captain, "what's the matter? What have
you done to your arm, boy?"

"Nothing much," Jerry answered. "Just got a little piece of the cutter
in it in a night engagement. What the deuce kept you so long?"

"But was it last night?" Jack insisted. "Did you get into trouble?"

"We were under fire," Jerry laughed; "but I had the only casualty."

"The devil you did! What sort of a trap did your infernal Englishman
lead you into?"

"That's just what I want to tell you before you see him. What in the
world made you so late? I've been waiting all the afternoon."

The captain's face grew radiant.

"Well, you see," he returned, with a little laugh in his throat, "time
passed so quickly, and Katrine and I had so much to talk about"--

"Jacko! You've done it!" shouted Tab, loud enough to be heard from one
end of the yacht to the other.

The captain grinned warmly, and nodded with sparkling eyes.

"Oh, good man!" cried Tab, wringing his hand. "Good old Jack! Long life
and all happiness to you, you dear old pirate!"

His words tumbled out helter-skelter, and his honest blue eyes were
moist with pure joy at his friend's happiness. He admired Miss
Marchfield from the bottom of his heart, and Jack was the dearest friend
he could ever have. He rejoiced as sincerely and as warmly as if the
good fortune of the captain had been his own.

"Thank you, old man," laughed Jack, bubbling over with good spirits;
"but if it hadn't been for you, I--I'd never have done it."

"Tush!" flouted Jerry. "Don't talk bosh! It was only a matter of time
anyway. But I'm glad it's all right."

They had been standing at the head of the steps, and now the captain
moved along the deck.

"What did you send for me to come out in such a hurry for?" he
inquired.

"Hurry!" ejaculated Jerry. "Do you call this coming out in a hurry? If
it hadn't been that you left a born diplomat in charge, you might have
lost two hundred pounds by being so slow."

"Two hundred pounds?" the other echoed. "What on earth are you talking
about?"

"Come into the cabin before you go aft," was Jerry's answer. "I want to
tell you about that."

"And about your arm, old man. What is the matter with you?"

"That's part of it," Tab returned, as they went below together. "I'm
trying among other things to recover damages."

When some little time later the two friends came on deck and went aft to
where the guest was sitting, Jack was in full possession of the whole
situation.

"Jack, Mr. Gordon Wrenmarsh; Mr. Wrenmarsh, Captain John Castleport,"
Jerry said.

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Wrenmarsh," Jack said, extending his hand.

He was evidently in the best of humor. His spirits on that day could
hardly be other than at their highest, and he had been vastly amused by
Jerry's plan of raising funds to pay off the men.

"Thanks," responded the archæologist. "I was afraid the pleasure was
largely mine. I've been expecting you all day."

"Well," Jack said, seating himself comfortably, "I am here at last. I am
sorry if I kept you waiting. You might have arranged anything with Mr.
Taberman, though."

"I tried to," Mr. Wrenmarsh responded dryly, "but he seemed to me so
unpractical in his ideas that I thought it better to wait for you."

"I hope you won't find me unsatisfactory in the same way," Jack
returned. "At least I am practical enough to know that in this weather
it will be more comfortable if we have something."

He summoned Gonzague, and the trio were soon furnished with tall glasses
of sangaree, which they sipped with relish.

"Mr. Taberman has suggested,--though I fancy he's half in jest," began
the collector, when these preliminaries had been attended to, "that two
hundred pounds is a fair price for such a trivial service as running up
to England and landing me and my boxes."

"I am glad you think the matter trivial," observed Jack, with a smile;
"it makes it so much easier for me to say that I do not find it
convenient to go to England at all."

"Oh, I say now," Wrenmarsh responded, with a sudden keen glance at Jack
as if he were surprised at the quickness with which his remark had been
met and turned against him; "of course you'll go to England. That was
settled long ago, you know."

"Was it? I supposed that I, as captain of the Merle, had some voice in
such a matter."

"Of course nothing was settled," broke in Jerry. "I made a conditional
arrangement--entirely conditional, mind you--with Mr. Wrenmarsh that you
would take him to England."

"Yes; that is what I said," the collector asserted imperturbably. "Only
the price that you named"--

"Seems to me a very reasonable one," interpolated Jack.

"Not seriously?" Wrenmarsh said, evidently determined not to show that
he was at all ruffled. "Only consider, if I go ashore here, I may get--I
might become a national complication. And you wouldn't want to be mixed
up in that sort of a thing," he added, with a chuckle. "An international
complication," he murmured to himself, as if the idea appealed so
strongly to his vanity that he was half tempted to be put on land at
once to take up the part. Then he recalled his wandering thoughts, and
looked Captain Castleport in the eye. "If you land me in any country
except England, I am quite done for, as you Americans would say. It
stands to reason if there is any paying to be done, you should pay me
for keeping you out of a scrape; for of course if I go ashore it will be
known that the Merle ran away from the _carabinieri_ at Pæstum, and"--

"Rubbish!" interrupted Jack brusquely. "Don't talk that kind of
poppy-cock! Even if there were any truth in it, it wouldn't be decent
for you to say so after getting the Merle into the scrape."

"And giving me your word that the yacht was in no possible danger," put
in Jerry indignantly.

"Oh, no real danger, of course," Wrenmarsh said hurriedly, "only it
might be unpleasant for you, and you might not like to be detained."

"Why must you go to England?" asked Castleport. "Why not to Malta or
Cyprus or Korfu even? They're protectorates and English ground."

"The sun never sets, you know," responded Wrenmarsh, with his
extraordinary ventral chuckle. "The truth is they won't do. Korfu and
Cyprus would be as bad for me as Naples, on account of my reputation.
I'm known to have run out a lot of things, you see. Gibraltar or Malta
would suit me well enough--if it weren't for the same reason. There
isn't a hotel on the entire shores of the Mediterranean that I could put
up at with those boxes in safety."

"I hardly suppose I'm expected to take that too literally," Jack said,
with a smile.

He reflected a moment. He could see that the collector certainly had
good reason for wishing to remain on the yacht, and that it could not
but be of very great convenience to him to be taken to England. He was
no less convinced from what Jerry had told him that the antiquities
which the archæologist had on board must be worth thousands of pounds,
and that their possessor could afford to pay well for their safety. He
was thoroughly stirred up, moreover, by the thought of the episode of
the night before. That Jerry should have been put in actual peril of his
life by Wrenmarsh for his own purposes was to Jack so outrageous that he
was half tempted to order the collector and his boxes off the Merle at
once to take his chances with the officials on the quays of Naples. As
Jerry had planned reprisals along another line, however, and as after
all Jack could not have brought himself to desert a man in extremity,
the captain determined to go on as they had begun.

"Two hundred pounds strikes me as fair enough," he said.

"Too much--too much! Make it fifty," responded Wrenmarsh.

"Two hundred!" repeated Jack.

"I'm sorry; I can't do that," the collector said, with a great show of
decision. "You'll have to take me to Malta. What'll you do that for?"

"Three hundred," Jack returned quietly, although he could not refrain
from a secret exchange of glances with Jerry.

"What!" the other cried, in an exaggerated shriek. "A run like that?
Three hundred pounds! It's not a twentieth the distance to England."

"That's so," was the captain's answer, "but you see we should have a
good deal less value in your company. Besides, you'd get your boxes _ex
territorio_ a great deal quicker."

He had by this time become so interested in the game he was playing that
the beating of the collector seemed in itself a thing worth straining
every nerve to gain.

"They're _ex territorio_ now," Mr. Wrenmarsh said, "as they're on a
foreign yacht. But no matter about that. What'll you take to set me over
to Gibraltar?"

"Oh, that would cost you three hundred and fifty, because there you're
so much nearer England than you'd be at Malta."

He glanced again at Jerry, with an inward chuckle at the utter
balderdash he was talking and a consciousness how closely it resembled
the nature of the arguments with which Wrenmarsh had beguiled Tab. For a
minute there was silence, and then the archæologist spoke angrily.

"You're too commercial," he said, with an unconcealed sneer. "I see no
way in which we can come to an agreement. I never was equal to trading
with a dollar-getting Yankee."

Tab started and looked to hear Jack break out at an insult so gross, but
the captain merely smiled.

"As you are our guest," he said, "there's no chance for me to answer you
properly, but you must remember we're not looking for a job. Shall I
send you ashore now, or would it suit you to take a boat with me in half
an hour? Or perhaps," he added, his manner most elaborately courteous,
"on account of your boxes, it would suit you better to be set ashore
after dark."

"Give you one hundred pounds," the collector said, still fighting, and
ignoring the captain's words entirely.

"We need not go on with the wrangle," Jack said, rising. "I'm not
bargaining with you. If it's worth two hundred pounds to you, all right.
If it isn't, we'll part here, and hope you have the gratitude to
appreciate what has already been done for you at the risk of Mr.
Taberman's life. Come, we've wasted too much time over this already."

"Do you think my time isn't worth anything?" cried the
other,--apparently losing all control of his temper. "I've wasted too
much already. Get up your damned anchor, you mercenary Yankee"--

"Come, sir!" broke in Jack sharply, "apologize at once! At once! You
have been insulting us this half hour like an utter cad, and I've made
all the allowances I'm equal to."

The collector regarded him with furious eyes, but seemed struggling with
himself until he could command his manner and his voice.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said in a hard tone. Then he added, in a
voice softer and more grave, "Indeed, I beg your pardon most sincerely.
My cursed temper got the better of me. Does your offer still hold?"

"If you wish," Jack answered stiffly.

"Then--two hundred pounds--I accept it. Two hundred pounds sterling, to
be paid on our safe arrival in port at Plymouth." He sighed, and put
out his hand to the captain. "Will you pardon my tongue?" he asked.

There was more ingenuousness in this trifling act than in anything Tab
or Jack had yet seen in him. The real man seemed for a moment to show;
and as Jack accepted the collector's apology and took his hand, Jerry
had a fleeting glimpse--short as a flash of changing light--of another
and franker Wrenmarsh, accustomed to hide under a veil of shams and
mockeries made necessary by his difficult vocation.

Wrenmarsh then asked if he might have some letters mailed ashore, and
Jack offered to take them himself in half an hour's time. While the
collector was below writing these, the captain and the mate talked
things over on deck. Tab had to congratulate Jack again, and over and
over, fairly beaming with delight whenever he thought of the happy stage
to which affairs had been brought. When he discovered that the captain
had confessed the lifting of the Merle, he was for a moment
disconcerted.

"Oh, Jacko, how could you give that away?" he cried.

"I had to be honest," Jack replied, and added, with a little shade of
unconscious patronage, "You'll see how it is yourself, old man, when it
comes your turn. You have to make a square deal, of course."

"Yes, I s'pose so," assented the mate humbly. "I hope she won't tell
Mrs. Fairhew."

"Oh, we told her together," Jack stated cheerfully. "Katrine thought
we'd better. I'm glad I did, too; for she's written home about meeting
us, and it's sure to get round to Uncle Randolph sooner or later."

"How did she take it?"

"Oh, do you know," returned Jack, laughing at the remembrance of his
talk with Mrs. Fairhew, "I think she was more bothered that she hadn't
guessed it than she was shocked at us. She couldn't help letting me see
that she thought it an awfully good joke on Uncle Randolph. She said she
should write to him to-day and remind him that she'd often told him he
tried to keep me in leading strings. She said she did have a suspicion
from your jocoseness when we first came over that there was some joke
about our coming, but we parried her questions so well she forgot all
about it. She said nobody could have dreamed of anything so
preposterous, so of course she didn't guess it."

"Didn't she say it was on account of her age she didn't see through us?"
queried Jerry, with a grin.

"By Jove, she did; and then turned it off by saying she never supposed
a Marchfield would be engaged to a pirate. She says, though, that I've
got to cut back at once. She won't have me going about with Katrine in a
stolen yacht."

"It's time to start anyway. It'll be getting late by the time we're
across, and if she's written home, the sooner the Merle is in Boston
harbor the better. I suppose we can get off in a week?"

"We go to-morrow," Jack answered calmly.

"To-morrow! Great Scott! What are we sitting here for? There are oceans
of things to be done."

"Of course we can get stores at Plymouth if we need to, and I've already
ordered a lot of things to come out to-night. We have to get Wrenmarsh
safe, of course, and that'll take some time."

"He's a windfall," commented Jerry.

"And like most windfalls, not entirely sound? Tell Gonzague to fix up
the stateroom Bardale had, the one next mine. I must get ashore now;
she'll be waiting. You're to come to dinner."

"I'll come fast enough. Oh, you bully old pirate, I'm awfully glad for
you!"

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Fifteen

IN THE CATTEWATER


The Merle was at anchor off Plymouth.

By the round brass ship's clock placed over the passageway door, in the
saloon, Jerry could see that it was a little after ten o'clock. The
yacht had come to anchor in the small hours, and the gentlemen had in
consequence slept late. The dull light of an English morning in
September came through the big skylight, and showed the captain, the
mate, and Mr. Wrenmarsh lingering over their breakfast.

"On my word, Mr. Wrenmarsh," said Tab, "we'll be sorry to lose you.
You've been aboard so long and your"--he almost blurted out
"eccentricities," but fortunately had the unusual luck to stop in time
to substitute a better word--"your--er--conversation has such--er--has
been so very entertaining, that is, that we're sure to miss you."

"Ah, well," said the collector, "I'm in hopes that you've improved so
much by contact with me that you'll be able to entertain each other."

"Wouldn't you like to take passage across?" suggested Jack.

"Your rates are too high," the other rejoined grimly. "Gonzague, _'n'
altro bicchier' d' aqua fresca_."

The old steward, who had come in while Jerry was speaking, served the
archæologist with the ready alacrity which marked all he did, and then
departed with a handful of dishes.

"Why do you always speak to Gonzague in Italian?" inquired Jerry. "You
said yesterday that you always had a reason for everything you do."

"Oh," the guest returned, fixing his eyes not on the questioner but on
the ceiling above him, "I speak to him in Italian because he understands
it."

"But he isn't an Italian," Tab objected.

"No, but then I'm not either."

"But he understands English, French, and Spanish, for the matter of
that," Jerry persisted.

Whenever Wrenmarsh began to talk in this whimsical fashion, Taberman had
always a teasing desire to push him into a corner.

"Ah, but, my dear fellow," Wrenmarsh replied, unaccountably addressing
Jack, and making his words seem more distraught by one of his most
earnest, almost burning glances, "I do not speak Spanish, you see."

"Then why not French or English?"

"Because they're so different," returned the collector.

"Why, what rot!" Jerry burst out rudely; then as usual he added
apologetically, "I beg your pardon, but I'm afraid I don't follow you."

"Oh, no; I suppose not," Mr. Wrenmarsh rejoined with much sweetness. He
rose, and with an entire change of manner, added briskly, "Well, I'm
ready. As I wish to catch the eleven thirty-four for London, we must
make haste; otherwise I shouldn't have time to take Mr. Castleport to
the bank, and settle my financial obligations. Can we get ashore?"

"Yes," answered Jack, rising also. "The cutter's ready, and your boxes
are on board. By the by, you said you'd tell me how you dodge--pardon
the word, we use it on the other side--the customs."

"Simplest thing in the world," returned Wrenmarsh, lighting a cigarette.
"Address my boxes to a good friend of mine in the British Museum. They
go through the customhouse as things for the museum, you know."

"Does your friend do that sort of thing as a business?" inquired Jerry
with a laugh. "I wish you'd give me his name, so I could come that
game."

"His name is Gordon Wrenmarsh," said the collector quietly; "but his
charges are high. Shall we go?"

"Yes," Jack responded. "It is high time we were off. I'm not anxious to
speed the parting guest, but a good send-off means an early start."

Jerry left his place, and the three went on deck. The cutter, already
manned, was by the steps. The bleak English air struck chill and raw to
these men fresh from the warm sunshine of the Mediterranean. The harbor
and sound, crowded with shipping as they were, seemed flat and dull; the
Citadel, the Battery, the various docks and buildings were depressing. A
great volume of dun coal-smoke overhanging the "Three Towns," from the
Hamoaze to Sutton Pool, added to the general air of gloom. To cap all
this, the fog was coming in from seaward, and already its ghostly
echelons had floated past the north end of Drake Island. As the three
men came on deck the cutter was bobbing up and down in the wash of the
ferry which plies to and fro across the Cattewater, and which had just
gone heavily past.

"Dear England!" ejaculated Mr. Wrenmarsh fervently under his breath in
the face of all this. Then turning to Taberman, "You're not coming
ashore with us?"

Jerry shook his bare head, and gave an exaggerated shiver for reply.

"No?" the collector said. "Well, we'll say good-by here, then. Lucky we
met, wasn't it? Those combinations--they make the world go round; stop
it sometimes. Good-by. Pity, great pity, you weren't at Oxford, Mr.
Taberman. It would have done you good, made a man of you."

"Not if Harvard's failed to," retorted Jerry loyally. "Good-by, and good
luck. Hope we'll meet again some day."

They shook hands, and Mr. Wrenmarsh and Jack descended to the waiting
cutter.

"_Adio, Signor'_," called out old Gonzague, who was standing by the
main-rigging.

"_A riverderla forse_" returned the collector from the stern-sheets of
the cutter.

"_Il mondo è piccolo, Signor'. Spero_," answered the Provençal.

"Oars!" cried Jack. "Bear away,--let fall,--ready,--pull." And the
cutter bore away the strange collector toward the shore of his adopted
country.

Jerry watched the boat for a moment, his big heart not untouched by a
sympathetic friendliness for the lonely man, whose life seemed to him so
warped and melancholy. He half expected Wrenmarsh to look back to nod or
to wave his hand, but the collector's eyes were turned steadily to the
shore. It was chill on deck, and Tab went below.

Gonzague was just taking away the last of the breakfast things. He set
his tray on the table, and approached the mate deferentially.

"Mistaire Taberman, sair," he said, putting his hand in his pocket, and
drawing out a small square blue box and a note, "Mistaire Wrainmairsh he
geeve me de box and de lettair--also a crown in extrair dat I geeve dem
to you when he have leef."

"Eh? what?" asked Jerry. "Oh, I see. Thank you."

He sat down on the port transom, and opened the box. It contained a
small object carefully wrapped in tissue paper. He unfolded the paper,
and between his fingers a gold finger-ring slipped on to the green
corduroy cushion of the transom.

"Great Scott!" he ejaculated. Then he picked it up and examined it
carefully.

In a thin band of red gold was set a carnelian of beautiful tone, the
color of a red hyacinth blossom. The stone was oval, cut with an
exquisite design in intaglio. It represented a god holding a trident in
his left hand, and on his right a small winged figure. His right foot
rested on a stone, and he was gazing at the figure he held. The gem was
inscribed with the Greek letters [Greek: LIL].

Jerry tore open the note. It read as follows:--


     Really, my dear fellow, had you viewed me more as a friend and less
     as a curiosity, you might have found it to your advantage. But to
     the point. I hope you will wear the ring in memory of our little
     escapade. The figure represents Poseidon, holding a victoriole in
     his hand; and is, as the letters signify, designed to commemorate
     the naval victory of Lilybæum (Capo Boao), in which some of the
     original wearer's ancestors (more likely pretended than real) were
     evidently supposed to have taken part. Of course the wearer, though
     not the cutter, was a Roman; but you won't mind that. Not a bit. So
     no one gets hurt--your arm, you know--in my behalf without cause to
     remember the fact--pleasantly. The stone is by no means the best
     that I obtained, but it seemed appropriate. Poseidon with a
     victoriole--usually an attribute of Zeus Soter (see your
     Furtwängler's A. G.)--is rare enough to give the thing value.

     With merriment,

     WRENMARSH.


"By Jove!" cried Jerry to himself, gloating over the ring, "what a calf
I was to that--that white man! By Gad, though, he was a stunner, and no
mistake!"

He slipped the gold band on his finger. After a time of admiration he
took a book from the shelf, and tried to read; but every minute or two
he stopped to look again at the jewel.

He had not turned many pages when he heard a boat alongside, and a
strange voice hailing.

"Hallo," he thought. "I wonder what that is. It can't be the port
officer; we satisfied him at daybreak."

He tossed aside his book, and went on deck. A shabby jolly-boat was
lying alongside. Jerry noted instantly and with consternation that she
was manned by six men in uniform, in charge of a burly old fellow
liberally adorned with brass buttons and gold braid, who looked to be
every inch a sea-dog. At a second glance Tab decided that these men were
not government employees, such as coast-guards, but belonged to some
sort of a company. With one stunning blow, sudden as the bursting of a
waterspout, the truth flashed over him; at the last, at the very last,
when they had escaped so long that they had practically ceased to think
of the danger, the agent of Lloyd's was upon them.

"Hello there, what d'ye want?" called out the man doing anchor-watch.

"Captain aboard?" demanded the burly officer in charge.

"No," answered the hand suspiciously. "What will you have?"

"I want to see the officer in charge, my spruce little sea-cook,"
returned the big man genially; and the grating of the steps being handy,
without further ceremony he came aboard.

The sailor keeping the deck, although of a slow and plodding
disposition, might have resented the coolness of the stranger, had Jerry
given him time; but with a commendable promptness and a sinking heart
the mate advanced. He told Jack afterward that he felt as if he were
leading a forlorn hope, and had not the remotest idea of what he had
better do or say.

"I am in charge here," he said in a perfectly neutral voice. "What do
you want?"

"You are Captain Castleport?" inquired the big man, giving Jerry a keen
glance not without a suspicion of kindly humor.

He was a fine, strapping creature of perhaps forty-five or fifty, with
fair hair, and a large bushy beard tawny as a lion's mane.

"Captain Castleport is ashore, sir. I am the mate."

"Mr. Taberman, eh?" asked the other. "May I see you in private for a
minute or two, sir? I'm Lloyd's deputy inspector for Plymouth. I've been
hunting about in the fog for you these thirty minutes past. I thought
you were nigh out o' the Cattewater, over toward the Hoe."

"Will you come below?" said Jerry grimly.

Inwardly he groaned for the arrival of Jack. This was a task he felt
himself unable to deal with. Had the emergency called simply for
physical powers or for manual dexterity, the chances were large that he
could rise to the occasion; but in a pass where the demand was for
mental adroitness and nimble wits, Jerry knew the captain to be
infinitely his superior. He determined to devote himself to gaining
time, and to refrain from committing himself until his comrade should
come aboard.

Jerry escorted the burly guest to the cabin without further speech, and
turned to ask him to be seated. The visitor at once drew over his
jovial face like a veil a serious expression, and regarded Taberman
with the greatest gravity. Unbuttoning the top of his serge jacket, he
thrust his hand into an inner pocket as if it were a dip-net, and
brought it up again full of dismally official-looking documents.

"This is bad business, sir," he remarked, eyeing the mate as if to be
sure he was producing a proper impression.

"Eh?" ejaculated Jerry, trying to look like consolidated innocence.

"P'haps you'll be so good's to look these through, sir," the Englishman
went on, proffering his batch of papers.

"Are they for me or the captain?" asked Taberman, fencing to gain time.

"Why, as to that," the official replied, "I expect what they contain's
ekally to your int'rest and 'is."

"Sit down, please," Jerry said, with a confused wave of the hand, which
seemed to invite the visitor to occupy all the seats in the cabin at
once. "You may be right, but I shouldn't want to look any important
papers over until the captain'd seen them."

"Oh, that don't matter," the other said easily, as he settled himself in
a chair. "I don't think you 'ave any cause to mind, sir. You represent
'im aboard."

"Yes," Jerry returned, obstinately determined that nothing should make
him go through the papers without Jack; "but if you're not too much
pressed for time, I'd much rather wait for the captain. He'll be here
presently."

"Why, sir, for the matter o' that, I dunno's I've much to 'urry me this
mornin'; an' I must say I'd rather like a look at 'im. 'E must be a rare
one."

"Then," Jerry said, with infinite relief, "we'll wait till he gets
aboard."

He rang, and Gonzague appeared. The old Provençal stood stroking his
mustache and watching the Englishman furtively out of the corners of his
eyes, as if he appreciated the situation and hoped to have orders to
assist in throwing him overboard. The glance of the bluff Briton at the
same time lighted up in evident anticipation that the appearance of the
steward meant refreshments.

"Gonzague, I'll have a little Scotch and soda. Will you take a glass of
anything, sir?"

"Why, sir, seein' 's I 'ave to wait a bit, I'm not strong agin a finger
or two."

"What will you have?" asked Jerry, enormously relieved to get on ground
so safe as that of playing the host.

"I like red rum 's well 's most, sir," replied the other, his jolly eyes
twinkling. "It's sort o' oilin' to the in'ards."

They were soon served, and Gonzague, on leaving the cabin, placed the
spirits and a siphon in most engaging proximity to the guest. Time
passed in the exchange of more or less nautical chit-chat for half an
hour or so; when, to the great comfort of Jerry, who had been listening
with one ear to the talk of his companion and with the other for the
coming of the captain, Jack's hail sounded outside. Jerry, listening
acutely, heard Castleport pause on deck, and at the companion-way caught
a syllable or two in the unmistakable tones of Gonzague, so that he
apprehended that the captain would come to the interview forewarned.

The captain came briskly into the cabin, his blue pea-jacket beaded with
little globules of moisture from the fog, his hair damp and clinging to
his temples.

"Hallo, Tab," he said. "The fog's as thick as it was the night we
started. Ah!"

The exclamation cleverly conveyed the impression that he perceived the
guest for the first time, and apologized for not being prepared to meet
him.

"Jack, this is Lloyd's deputy inspector, Mr. ----?" Jerry began, and
stopped with an interrogative inflection.

"My name, sir, 's Tom Mainbrace."

"Mr. Thomas Mainbrace," Jerry concluded his presentation. "Mr.
Mainbrace, Captain Castleport."

"Pleased to know ye, cap'n," the Englishman said cheerfully, as Jack
bowed. "Yes, sir; I'm Lloyd's deputy inspector."

"I saw your boat alongside," Jack returned pleasantly. "We haven't any
deputies aboard that need inspecting, though."

"'Aven't ye?" the visitor asked, his eyes twinkling so that the laugh
with which he followed his words seemed a sort of overflow of their
merriment. "I kind o' thought there might be a deputy owner or som'thin'
o' the sort 'ere."

Jack apparently tried to look grave, but ended by grinning in spite of
himself. He put out his hand and laid his fingers on the papers.

"You have business with us?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. The mate 'ere, 'e said 'e 'd rather not begin on it till you
come aboard, sir."

"Quite right," Jack responded quietly. "Shall I read these papers?"

"Yes, if ye'll be so good, sir," Mr. Mainbrace said seriously, and not
without a trace of regret in his jovial, weather-beaten face.

The captain seated himself with deliberation, and began to read; the
Englishman applied himself afresh to his glass, and Taberman watched
closely for a lead. Jerry was not clear what line was to be taken in
this difficult situation, and was keenly anxious to back up the captain
in any way possible. To his surprise Jack began first to smile, then to
grin; from that to chuckle gleefully, and at last he broke out into
full-throated laughter.

"By Jove!" he cried, striking his knee with the hand that held the
papers. "But that is one on Uncle Randolph, and no mistake!"

The deputy inspector looked up with an expression of bewilderment, and
Jerry felt that he was no more enlightened as to what Jack had in mind
than was the guest.

"What is it?" Tab asked.

"Oh, we're run down at last! Think of our being nabbed at the last
moment, when we've done all we wanted to with the yacht!" And he fell to
laughing again, as if being caught red-handed in a pirated yacht were
the merriest jest in the world.

Taberman was still completely bewildered, but he at least perceived that
Jack was bound to carry off the matter with laughter; and by way of
assisting as well as he could, he began also to laugh. He took the
papers, and glanced at them enough to see that one was a letter from
Lloyd's, containing a notification of the Merle's disappearance, with a
description of the yacht and a specification of her captors; the other a
warrant for search and apprehension. He followed Jack's lead, and if his
efforts did not ring as true, he at least made more noise.

"That's rich!" he roared. "Ha! Ha! Ha!"

He thrust the papers back to the captain, who tossed them on the table,
and both together they broke out afresh.

"Excuse our laughing," Jack said, turning to the inspector, who gazed
from one to the other as if he thought they had gone mad; "but really
it's too ripping!"

"Ain't ye the parties?" demanded the official sternly.

"Oh, we're the parties all fast enough; but--Well, now, look here. This
yacht belongs to my uncle, you see."

"Yes, sir," replied the honest Mainbrace, evidently puzzled, as he would
have put it, to make out the other's numbers, but still Britannically
deferential to the nephew of a man who was able to own a yacht such as
the Merle.

"Well, you see, I ran away with her because he wouldn't let me come
across, and he's had no good of her the whole summer. From your papers I
judge he looked for me on the other side six weeks before he notified
you at all. You see how much of the summer that leaves him; and now,
just as I'm starting to carry her back as fast as the wind will take
her, you step in and stop us."

"Why, ye see, sir," began the inspector, evidently endeavoring to
accommodate himself to the new light thrown by the captain on the
situation, "the fact is 'e says 'e wants 'er in a 'urry."

"He won't get her, then," Jack said with a grin. "By the time you've
red-taped her, and charged for her, and negotiated her, and sent her
over with a hired crew, it'll be December at the very earliest--to say
nothing of the twenty or thirty pounds he'll have to pay you and the
cost of the crew you send her over by. It is hard lines for Uncle
Randolph."

"It is so," Jerry agreed, fervently glad to be at last in possession of
the way Jack meant to work.

"I'm really sorry for Uncle Randolph," Jack continued, sobering down.
"But then, he might have trusted me to bring the Merle back."

"Ye ain't takin' it too much to 'eart, are ye, sir?" queried the big
Englishman, with a look so humorous and quizzical that Jerry was seized
by a dreadful suspicion that the twinkling eyes saw through the whole
scheme of bluff.

"Not I," Jack assented blithely; "though of course I'd rather have taken
the yacht home myself. What's the next move? Do you put us in irons, or
hang us to the crosstree-ends?"

"Why, they sent word from Lloyd's," replied Mainbrace, with the
unmistakable grin of a man who regards himself as a humorist, "that the
owner said not to be too 'ard on ye. I expect 't'll be no worse nor
transportation for life." Then he put on a graver and more professional
look, and added, "I'm afraid we'll 'ave to be more serious, sir. Will ye
kindly show me your papers and the log? I suppose you 'ave 'em 'andy."

"Certainly," the captain said, also assuming an official air. "Jerry,
will you give the inspector the papers? I'll get the log."

The examination of the papers was a short matter, and then they took up
the log. It was at once evident that the Englishman had a keen curiosity
to discover what the young men had been doing with the Merle, and that
he was no less eager in his interest in all things nautical. Jerry sat
by in almost open-mouthed admiration to see bow the captain took
advantage of both these characteristics. Jack could be most attractive,
and from the start it was evident that he was doing his best to please
Mr. Mainbrace. He explained all the manoeuvres of that memorable night
when the Merle had been spirited away in the fog, while the jolly face
of the deputy inspector became more and more radiant with each new
development of the story. The charts were produced, each detail of
seamanship carefully brought out, and the whole episode lived over
again. Jack warmed to his subject as he went on; Jerry threw in a word
now and then when the captain in his eagerness seemed in danger of
forgetting to mention some detail; the Englishman listened with chuckles
and with laughter which soon came to be devoid of the slightest pretense
of official dignity; and, in a word, the three became as merry and
companionable over the log as if they were all pirates together.
Mainbrace had been a sailor and a mate in his day, and showed the
keenest zest for every nautical experience. There is no surer bond of
comradeship than mutual love of the sea; and despite differences of
race, age, and social position, Jack, Jerry, and the deputy inspector
fraternized over the Merle's log as only sailors can.

The log-book was read to the last entry. Over the account of the gale
the yacht had encountered on her way across the Atlantic Mainbrace
became as excited as if he had had a personal stake in the safety of the
Merle. His ejaculations became more and more emphatic and more and more
picturesque, and his rejoicing over the safe weathering of the storm
almost as fervid as if he had been in it himself. The race at Nice Jack
told of with as little reflection on the unsportsmanlike conduct of Lord
Merryfield as was possible; but the jovial countenance of Mainbrace
darkened, and he expressed an opinion of the absent nobleman which was
sufficiently tonic to satisfy even Taberman. Jack said afterward that by
the time they got through the log a quotation from "Horatius" popped
into his head, and he came very near breaking out with it:--


     With weeping and with laughter
       Still is the story told.


To which Jerry replied that he couldn't think of quotations, he was so
carried away by the enthusiastic delight of the jolly old inspector and
the quaint ways in which it was expressed.

When at last the record was closed, the conversation still at first ran
on the cruise, but soon it began to take a turn which made Jerry prick
up his ears anew. The inspector remarked, with an exceedingly droll
twinkle of his eyes, that duty was duty, but that he would be summarily
dealt with if he wouldn't feel bad to have to bear on hard on a couple
of fellows that had played the biggest joke he ever heard of in his
life, and had carried the whole thing through with so much cleverness
and grit. To this Jack responded that he was most appreciative of the
kindness of Mr. Mainbrace, but that of course duty was duty--although it
would really have been luck for the owner of the Merle, quite as much as
for himself and his mate, if the yacht could have gone on her way
uninterrupted. To this in turn Mainbrace gave his assent, and went on to
say that he must, of course, carry out instructions, and that he was
legally empowered to leave a keeper on board until he could come out
again to-morrow with directions he expected to receive from London.

"Though I dunno," he added drolly, "'s it's safe to trust a man with ye.
Ye're cap'ble o' runnin' off with 'im."

"We might," Jack responded brightly. "I wouldn't be responsible."

"Or we might throw him overboard," suggested Jerry, with the broadest
possible grin.

"Most o' my men kin swim some," Mainbrace retorted. "I should 'ave to
tell 'im 'f 'e got overboard to tow the yacht in shore."

The jest was not of the first water, but they had got to a merry mood,
and it was properly laughed over. Then Mainbrace, in high good humor,
went on to say that he'd been so well treated, and he had so enjoyed the
log, that he thought on the whole he would not put a man in charge. He
added that it was late, and he must be on his way ashore now, but that
they might expect him out again to-morrow.

"I'm sorry I 'ave to bother ye, gentlemen," he added, as they went on
deck. "I've been to sea myself too many years not to 'ate this bloody
red-tape business,--an' they do reel it off by the cable-length when
they 'ave 'arf a chance."

The inspector's jolly-boat, the most appropriate of conveyances for the
jovial sea-dog, was still alongside. The fog had lightened somewhat, and
watery beams of the sun leaked through it overhead. As Mr. Mainbrace was
about to descend the steps to the boat, he paused a moment and pulled at
his thick beard as if meditating profoundly.

"I'm 'most afraid if you gentlemen took it into your 'eads to give us
the slip we shouldn't know it on shore in this 'ere fog," he observed,
casting a queer, sidling glance at Jack.

"It is trusting somewhat to luck to leave us," the captain responded
coolly, "and I want to say now that I appreciate your kindness in not
forcing a keeper on us."

"Well, cap'n," continued the inspector, gazing out over the water with
the look of one who has no personal interest in the matter under
discussion, "I was goin' to say, if you get a good chance, you'd better
shift your berth. You'll find it kind o' snugger ridin' some ways along
to the west'ard, I expect. But you know best, o' course. All is, you're
in a tightish place here. I alers liked more sea-room myself. Good-day,
sir."

"Good-day. Maybe you'll find we've shifted by to-morrow. If we have,
it'll be to westward."

"I'll come out to-morrow," said the old sailor in his most official
manner. Then he looked from one to the other with his merriest twinkle
and an emphatic nod. "Duty is duty," he remarked. "Good-day, sirs."

He turned to descend, but suddenly Jack arrested him.

"Oh, you've forgotten your pipe," he said.

"My pipe?" echoed Mainbrace, stopping short.

"Yes, I'll get it."

The captain dashed into the cabin, and reappeared with a silver-mounted
briarwood, colored just enough to suggest a comfortable chimney-corner
and a mind at ease.

"You left it on the table," he said, presenting it to the big inspector.

The other took it with an expression queerly compounded of surprise,
awkwardness, amusement, and delight.

"Thank ye, sir," he said. "It's 'ansome of you to fetch it up
ye'self,--most 'ansome. I'm mortal fond o' that pipe."

He regarded it affectionately a moment, and then stowed it away inside
his jacket. Then he turned again to go down to the waiting jolly-boat.

"I'll come out to-morrow," he called up to them. "Duty is duty.
Good-day, sirs."

"Good-day," they called in concert; and off went the deputy inspector
toward the hardly perceptible shore through the fog.

"By George, he's a brick!" Jack cried.

"Right-o," assented Jerry, "but it took you to cement him."

"Atrocious! If you're going to pun like that you must be taken home to
your family at once. 'Duty is duty'! Did you see the solemn wink the
old fellow tipped me when he spoke of shifting to westward? I thought I
should burst out laughing on the spot, and give the whole thing away.
How's the water?"

"Tanks chock-a-block. Gonzague had them filled from the water-boat this
morning. Did you get your money?"

"Every pound of it. Wrenmarsh took me to the bank and identified me, and
was mighty nice about the whole thing. Provisions are O.K. Off we go.
Call the watch."

"Yes, but see my ring first," Tab said, holding it out.

In half an hour the Merle was changing her berth to the westward.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Sixteen

STORM!


A gray sea, a gray sky, and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean in September. Over
the heaving waters the Merle, under reduced canvas, was staggering
westward on the port-tack with a stiff southerly breeze. Jack, clad in
his yellow oil-skins like the rest of the hands, was standing just
outside the cockpit on the windward side of the yacht. Jerry was asleep
below. Having had the early morning watch, he had turned in directly
after breakfast. The captain glanced aloft uneasily, and wondered if
they were going to encounter on their return such a gale as they had
weathered while going over. He reluctantly admitted to himself that
there was every appearance of dirty weather, and thought he had better
step below to take a look at the glass.

He pushed back the companion, and descended. The cabin was stuffy and no
warmer than the air without. The racks were on the table, and the lamps
swung in erratic circles in their gimbals. The barometer, a beautifully
finished instrument of the columnar type, was placed against the
after-bulkhead of the saloon on the starboard beside a closet door, its
slender length enclosed in bronze. It gyrated wildly, in unison with the
Thom's list-indicator above it. Jack steadied the tube with his hand,
and looked anxiously to see if the mercury had fallen.

"Good God!" he burst out.

At eight bells that morning the vernier of the glass had been set at
29.32. With staring eyes, Jack saw that now, little more than two hours
later, the mercury had sunk to 27.09,--a drop portentous of a furious
gale. For one brief moment, in the face of approaching danger, and
filled with a quick sense of his great responsibility, he stood
appalled. He put his hand to his forehead as if he were dizzy and found
it hard to think.

"How's the glass, Jack?" asked a voice beside him. He turned with
troubled eyes to see Tab in his pajamas, a freshly lighted cigarette
between his fingers. "What's the trouble?" the mate demanded instantly,
seeming bewildered at the captain's appearance.

"What brought you out here?" the captain retorted, though why he should
have asked he could not have told.

"Heard you exclaiming. What's the trouble?"

"Look!" Jack answered, pointing to the glass.

"All that!" gasped Jerry.

"Get your togs on," was the only reply Jack offered. "Be quick, and come
on deck."

Jerrold left him without a word, and padded off to his cabin. Jack reset
the vernier, and went out. To his disturbed mind it seemed as if in the
brief interval during which he had been below the whole appearance of
nature had grown more ominous. In five minutes Jerry was with him.

"Well, Jack?"

"I've made up my mind what to do," the captain announced. "It's going to
blow fit to take your hair out by the roots: that much is sure."

Jerry nodded soberly, and looked his friend straight in the eye.

"We'll have to lay-to before we see the end of this, and I'd rather do
so at sea-anchor 'n any other way. What do you think?"

"That's right enough. I suppose we'd better make ready now?"

"We sha'n't have much time when it does come. We must get a mess of
things together up for'ard fit to hold a liner. We'll need it."

Jack got the hands together around the winch forward, and set them at
once, under his direction, to the making of the "sea-anchor." The
spinnaker-boom and the two shorter boat-booms were first lashed firmly
together with inch rope in a rough isosceles triangle.

"Now," Jack ordered, "fetch the old staysail, and bend it on in the
frame."

"How are you going to ballast the thing?" asked Tab. "It'll float flat
if you don't give it a sinker."

"I fancy the market-boat's killock would be about the right thing if we
could get at it," Jack answered. "Do you know where"--

"Yes, yes," interrupted Jerry hastily. "It's with the rest of her gear.
I'll get it." And he went aft.

Although the wind had not as yet increased in violence, Jack, standing
as he did almost at the peak of the vessel, felt the motion much more
than he had farther aft. The great gray-green seas heaved hard about the
plunging yacht, and every now and then she ran bowsprit under. She was a
rather dry boat, fortunately, of the "hollow bow" model, and in the
fifteen or twenty minutes that the men had been working on the anchor,
she had not taken any waves aboard. The spindrift, it is true, flew
across her by the bucketful, but the men, dressed in their oilers,
blinked the cold water out of their eyes and went on with their work.
Before Jerry returned, however, as the crew were bending the old
staysail to the triangular frame, the captain, to his consternation, saw
that the Merle was just working her way up the breast of a mighty hill
of water with all likelihood of burying herself in the rising wall of a
wave ahead.

"'Ware water!" he shouted.

The men dropped their work and caught at whatever was nearest at hand.
Some threw an arm about the bollard by the knighthead; some jumped for
the winch; two men got a tight grip on the large ring-bolts by the port
cat-heads; Jack himself leaped for the winch and put his right arm
around the drum.

The Merle labored to the crest of the hill of water. It sank away
beneath her instantly, and she shot down the slope of the wave into the
trough of the sea with a headlong, staggering rush. Towering above her
was the roughened, foam-blotched face of the succeeding wave. She tried
bravely to climb it, but she was too near, the angle was too sharp; she
could not so quickly recover from the impetus of her downward plunge.
She seemed to tremble--to hesitate--for an instant, and then as if in
the courage of despair, to leap forward with a jerk into the very midst
of the flood as if she would force her way through its tons of swinging
sea-water.

Jack went to the deck under the tremendous blow of the on-rushing wave
as if he had been struck down by a thunderbolt. He felt the shock, the
biting cold of the water, and then it seemed as if a giant had gripped
him with hands of ice and were trying to wrench him from his hold. He
clung on, drenched, bewildered, desperate, until he wondered if his arm
would be pulled out of its socket. He had a stifling sensation of having
been for hours without air; he felt as if he were being dragged by some
terrible power swiftly through the sea miles below the surface. On a
sudden he again felt the deck under him, and opened his eyes. The Merle
had forced her way through the wave, and they were again free. He
gasped, spluttered, and rose to his feet, the water streaming from him.
Inside the bulwarks to starboard the green, foam-mixed brine washed
about knee-deep, and was pouring with a hoarse gurgling out of the
scuppers forward. The "anchor" had been swept bodily aft as far as the
foremast, and there was jammed between the mast itself and the
weather-shrouds. Drenched and cursing, the men squelched their way aft,
dislodged the structure, and dragged it forward again. Luckily the
mishap, really a slight one of twenty seconds' duration, had wrought no
damage which could not be easily repaired, and so the crew took up their
work where they had left it.

Jerry reappeared with the killock of the market-boat just as they got
into place once more.

"Did you get wet?" he asked cheerily, with a broad grin which showed
that he saw what had happened.

"What do you think?" burst out the captain hotly. "No; I got dry, damn
it!"

"Did you really, though! Well, I thought you looked damp."

Jack paid this boyish jest with a word that was sharp and a look that
was too near a grin not to take the sting from it. He took the killock
that Jerry had brought, and had the men make it fast to the lower point
of the kite-like frame where the short boat-booms met. To the ends of
the long spinnaker-boom he fastened lengths of strong inch Manilla, and
a piece somewhat shorter to the point where the killock was attached.
The captain meant that the "sea-anchor," when in the water, should ride
not exactly vertical, but that by the shorter line the weighted point
should be lifted a little toward the yacht as the Merle dragged back on
it. In the end of each of these lines a bow-line was bent, and through
the bights of them he had the rode bent and made fast. The whole
contrivance was then like a triangular kite weighted at the point made
by the shorter sides, and held by lines from the three corners joined on
the rode, which corresponded to the string. When the work was finished
Jack inspected it all carefully, and examined the fastenings.

"It's a rough enough concern," he said to Jerry; "but it's stanch, and
if we have to use it, it'll do good service. Make it fast," he added to
the men. "Put on a couple of strong gaskets for stoppers. Come on, Tab;
I don't want another ducking."

They went aft to the cockpit, and the captain started to go below.

"I'll just take another look at that glass," he said. "It's well to keep
a"--

"Look!" cried Jerry suddenly, seizing him by the arm, and pointing away
to the southward.

Jack's eyes followed the mate's arm. Afar off on the gloomy horizon, the
black sea below and the gray sky above were in one place welded together
by a wall of impenetrable haze. It was not much more than a spot, but
Jack at a glance took in its full significance, and knew that before the
Merle was a struggle that would try her strength and his seamanship to
the very utmost. He opened his mouth to speak, and closed his lips
firmly without a word. He looked a moment at the inky mist, and then
dashed below. In a couple of minutes he reappeared with a grim look on
his usually genial face.

"Jerry," he said hurriedly, "I've been down and tried the storm-card on
the chart. If we keep on as she's going, we'll fetch up plumb in the
centre of this mess. The Merle wouldn't live there half an hour."

"Well?" questioned Jerry. His face was sober, and had about it a
suggestion of a big, serious dog that watches its troubled master. "What
can we do?"

"There is only one thing to do," Jack responded quickly, but with
absolute decision. "The centre bears southwesterly,--that's why our
wind's hauled 'round. We've got to put about and run into the heart of
that greasy streak yonder. It'll be a tough job, but not so bad as if we
were farther westward. When we get the wind westerly, we'll lay to. If
we do anything else, we'll be swept into the centre, sure's fate."

"Can't we run it out?" Jerry asked desperately. "It'll be tremendous!
That blow we had coming over'll be pale beside it. Think, man!"

"I have," Jack said shortly. "Ready 'bout ship!" he shouted.

The men sprang to their places, although Jack could see that they threw
swift glances of surprise at him as they did so. The evidence, slight as
it was, that he was acting alone, and that he must see farther and more
wisely than the men under him, accustomed as they were to the sea,
imparted a new ring of command to his voice as he gave the necessary
orders. With some difficulty and with much uproar of booming canvas and
slatting ropes, the schooner came about, and Jack had her headed
straight for the black spot on the horizon.

Jack hurried on preparations for the storm before them. He had sail
taken in and double-reefed; the "spitfire" jib set in place of the
larger forestaysail, and tarpaulins battened over the skylights. He put
the yacht as completely as possible in heavy-weather trim, to meet the
gale scudding along over the black sea toward them.

He was none too soon, for the storm was not long in coming. The gray sky
above the yacht grew darker and darker, the sea about her more and more
"cobbly." The wind freshened rapidly, and veered more toward the west.
The Merle sailed on gallantly, the green waves breaking against her
weather shoulder, and the spindrift flying down the decks as she
slashed her way to windward. The tops of the great seas, as they heaved
themselves skyward, were snatched off by the gale, and sped in white
sheets down the wind.

Jack was standing in the cockpit with Jerry. He was watching the weather
narrowly, and now and then, with a brief word or two, gave the
steersmen--for the wheel needed two of them--a command or a warning. The
force of the gale so increased that at the end of an hour and a half the
mainsail, though triple-reefed, was got down and furled, and the
forestaysail, which had been unbent to give place to the spitfire, was
set on the boom as a trysail.

It had come on to rain, and the big drops were driven along almost in
horizontal lines. When they struck the face Jack felt as if he had been
pelted with hailstones. Mixed with the flying spindrift they filled the
air as if with a mist, blinding and fierce.

Suddenly, as the yacht was dipping into the trough of a long sea, a
strong gust listed her over so that aft the green water rose on the
decks to within a fathom of the cockpit combings. A sharp report burst
out above all the roaring of the wind and the multitudinous clamor of
the waters. Jack looked up to see the trysail streaming out in tattered
ribbons, writhing and twisting like pale snakes in mad fury. The sight
inflamed him like a personal insult flung at him by the storm. He broke
out with a cry, and with a great oath swore he would see the Merle
through in spite of everything.

"Tab," he shouted in the mate's ear, "get along forward on that
sea-anchor! Stand by to launch it. We don't want any more of this!"

He saw Jerry gather the port watch,--for all the men had been on deck
for two hours past, clinging to whatever was nearest and alternately
watching the storm and the captain,--and with them scrabble forward,
making way by the help of whatever could be grasped. Their difficulty in
getting forward was to Jack like a sudden realization of the danger they
were in, and made him for the moment think of the men, whereas he had
before been conscious of nothing but of the yacht herself. He saw the
men gather about the "sea-anchor," swaying and pitching with the motion
of the bow, and Jerry turn to look for his signal. The yacht was
carrying such a strong lee-helm that the steersmen could not keep her
head to the wind, and Jack shouted and gesticulated frantically to Jerry
to get down the storm-jib, while at the same time he ordered the
starboard watch to unstop the mainsail. He was in deadly fear lest the
vessel should get clean broadside to the wind and that the decks would
be swept.

"Unstop the mainsail!" he roared. "Show the peak! Douse the jib!"

Again he motioned to Jerry, knowing that his voice would not be heard
forward. He saw Tab pause a moment, and then wave his arm in reply. To
his utter dismay, however, he saw the mate and the men with him stoop,
get hold of the "sea-anchor," and, tugging and stumbling, begin to haul
it up to the weather side. It flashed on Jack that his gestures had been
misunderstood, and his order to get down the jib mistaken for a command
to launch the "anchor." With a sickening plunge the Merle at that moment
coasted down a mighty wave, fell off, and lay broadside to the seas. For
a second he felt as if everything was lost.

"Smartly!" he roared to the starboard watch, who were working for their
lives upon the main-boom.

He gave them one glance, and started to rush forward, running recklessly
along, and feeling for his sheath-knife as he went. A quick lurch of the
yacht to port flung him off his feet, and shot him forward and to his
right. He instinctively flung out his hand, and clutched something
metallic.

"'Ware water!" he mumbled, half stunned.

A green shadow curled over him. There was a crashing roar to leeward. He
felt the yacht stagger and tremble, and suddenly and with an odd mental
twist he remembered vividly an earthquake shock he had once felt at
Patras. The shadow disappeared, a little water came slap! on his oilskin
jacket between the shoulders. The rest of the wave--tons and tons of
green water--had curled itself over him, and crashed on the decks to
leeward.

He got to his feet unsteadily, and with a queer singing in his ears ran
forward. He threw a quick look to port as he ran. The force of the sea
had evidently been heaviest amidships, for he saw that for thirty feet
on the lee beam the rail had been burst out between the fore and main
rigging; two boats were gone, and the skylights, broken, yawned blackly.
Jack groaned inwardly, but did not stop. Pitching and staggering, he
made his way to the foremast. A sudden fling of the yacht threatened to
make him, as he afterward put it, "overshoot the mark" and tumble past
the halyards. Fortunately, however, he checked himself by catching at
the foretopsail-clewline as he was being pitched by, and he clung to it
desperately. He laid hold of the spitfire halyard. One quick glance at
the turns about the pin in the rack told him how much time he should
save by cutting the rope, and with a swift backdrawing of the sharp
sheath-knife he severed it. The fall of the halyard flew up aloft,
playfully dealing him a smart rap on the chin as it went; the sail ran
down in thunder, and blew away in shreds. The Merle began to rise, and
Jack felt a thrill of joyful relief to see that she was coming up into
the wind. The men aft had showed the peak of the mainsail, and the
schooner was feeling its effects.

A few yards forward, Jerry and the port watch were still toiling over
the "sea-anchor." Twice they had tried to set it in position for
launching, and each time wind and sea had overmastered them. Jack, in an
agony lest the structure should be launched before the yacht was laid
about on the other tack, or at least so near the wind that the awkward
contrivance could be got over the bows to port, stumbled forward
shouting.

"To port!" he roared. "Get it over to port!"

He gripped Jerry by the arm.

"The wrong tack!" he bellowed in the mate's ear. "Run it over to
leeward, and put it over when I wave my arm. Watch sharp!"

"Aye!" shouted Tab, but Jack was already gone.

Castleport stumbled aft much as he had gone forward, now climbing
laboriously up hill, now leaning back and struggling to keep himself
from rushing headlong down the sloping deck with an impetus that would
have carried him overboard. When he reached the cockpit, he dropped
inside almost spent.

"Back the helm every time she rises!" he called to the men at the wheel.
"We want her to fall over!"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Now, then,--over with her!" he cried, as the yacht rose.

The men gave her all they dared. The effect was imperceptible.

"Hold her!" shouted Jack.

At the risk of their lives, the two helmsmen held her as the schooner
slid down the big slope of the wave, shivering as she went. As she rose,
the captain, with a laughing heart, saw that she would make it. He tore
off his "sou'-wester," and waved it frantically to Tab forward. Jerry
threw up his arm in reply; the big "sea-anchor" rose from the deck, and
went out on the port side.

"Helm amidships!" sang out Jack.

"Aye, aye, sir."

The Merle began to drift back.

"Watch along!" the captain roared again. "Gaskets on the mainsail!"

The starboard watch began to wrestle with the heavy canvas which they
had partially freed from its bonds so short a time before. The sail was
made snug, and the Merle dragged back on her "anchor," and though she
plunged and tugged, pitched and rolled, still kept her sharp nose to the
wind. Through the mist of the stinging brine which the wind drove down
the decks in sheets, the captain saw the hands forward pay out some
forty fathoms of scope, and then, man by man, work their way aft.

"I'm awfully sorry I--I made such a mess," Tab shouted in the captain's
ear as he reached him.

"It's all right," returned Jack, aglow with a wild exultation. "It's all
right! No matter."

The ominous belt of opaque mist which they had so shortly before seen on
the horizon was now all about them. The Merle and her crew were
enveloped in a shroud of rushing rain. It drove before the blast in
incredible torrents, and with a force that made them catch their breaths
chokingly whenever they faced it. The seas increased to frightful size.
Even to the sailors, bred on the sea, it seemed hardly possible that
the schooner could live in such surges. The cockpit, although
self-bailing, was kept flooded; in it the water, sloshing about with the
motion of the schooner, was as high as the transoms. The uproar of the
wind, singing on the ropes strung by its own force to tautness, was like
the shrieking of an immense and untuned harp. The crash of the waves
sounded like a continuous cannonade all about the yacht. The mingling of
sea and air produced a vertigo, as if everything was resolving again
into its original chaos. Yet in the midst of it all Jack felt his blood
sing in his veins with pure joy of the battle.

Suddenly the captain remembered the broken skylights. He splashed out of
the cockpit, where he stood almost waist-deep in the jumping water,
steadied himself by the combings, and started forward.

"Pumps!" he shouted. "Come!"

He waved his arm to the men, and the yellow-clad figures detached
themselves in the mist and blurring rain from the points of vantage to
which they had clung, and dumb, obedient, followed him.

The pumps were just abaft the foremast, and were of the semi-rotary
sort. The bars were fitted, and two of the men, swinging themselves
back and forth, back and forth, with a dull and dreary monotony, began
pumping as if they had become parts of a machine. A steady flow of water
came from the waste-pipe in a continuous stream. It spread out over the
deck to port and to starboard as the yacht swayed. It was full of
bubbles and flecks of froth, and was a sickly yellow in hue.

Jack set the rest of the men to stretch new tarpaulins over the gaping
skylights, and then he went below to look at the glass. Drenched,
bruised, cold from his long fight with the storm and the hours which had
gone by without his having had food, he found himself, now that for the
moment action was not imperative, seized with a sort of terror at the
perils he had gone through. The instant reflection that worse might be
yet to come restored his courage. He could face whatever might befall as
long as he might act.

The sight which met him in the once trig cabin was sufficiently
dispiriting. A thin sheet of water swashed softly about over the Turkish
carpet. It chuckled in dark places as if sentient and fully aware of the
impropriety of its being there. A locker door had burst open, and was
banging maddeningly. Farther forward, in the dark staterooms, similar
noises could be heard, with sounds which suggested that all sorts of
small things were being flung about. Everything was sopped with
sea-water and drenched by the beating rain: the transom-cushions, two of
which were skating about the cabin with the wicker deck-chairs; the
books on their shelves; the lockers, the mirrors, the sheathing, down
which large drops ran in dizzying zigzags,--in short, everything. The
sight gave Jack a feeling of discouragement worse than anything on
deck--even the tearing away of the bulwarks--had been able to produce.
He felt as if the cruel old ocean were mouthing the schooner as a beast
breaks the bones of its prey before devouring it. He drew in his breath
with fierce resolution, all his combative spirit aroused to fight to the
last gasp, and made his stumbling way to the barometer. He steadied it
with his hand, and read it. It stood at 27.04. This was a drop of only
.05 since his last observation, and the captain's face cleared a little.
If the glass had practically stopped falling, as apparently it had, the
hardest part of the gale would come soon, and be speedily over. The old
weather saw came into his head,--


     Long foretold, long last;
     Short notice, soon past.


The relief, slight as it was, affected him so strongly that he almost
smiled. He reflected that the Merle was as well prepared to meet it as
under the circumstances she could be, and he had no real doubt of her
ability to ride it out, unless some unexpected accident disabled the
"sea-anchor."

When he came on deck he was greeted by Tab, who had taken charge in his
absence, and who asked eagerly the state of the glass. Jack told him,
and drawing him into the companionway, where they could escape the wind
enough to talk, he added his reasons for thinking that a short time
might see them through the worst.

"How are things below?" asked the mate.

"Look!" the captain answered, with a sweep of his hand.

Tab bent down and peered into the dismantled cabin.

"The devil!" he cried in dismay.

"Precisely--but it might be worse," returned Jack; "but by George, Tab!"
he burst out with sudden vehemence, "I--I'm glad I haven't got all this
to do over again. You don't know--can't imagine the strain of this sort
of thing."

"Does your conscience get up like a cat with the wind?" laughed Jerry.

"No, Tab," Jack answered soberly, "but the men, you know, and thinking I
took them into this when I'd no right to. Oh, rot! No matter, only I'm
jolly glad I ran off with the Merle before I realized all this. I
couldn't bring myself to do it again for"--

"Come on deck, Jacko," Tab said, after a brief silence in which with
eyes cast down awkwardly he had waited for the captain to continue. "I
know how you feel, but thank the Lord there's work to be done, and we'll
fight through all right. Besides, Gonzague's forward getting a ration of
some sort. We can't afford to miss that."

He put out his hand, and Jack grasped it appreciatively, with a
half-conscious thanksgiving for the comfort of a friend.

"Right you are!" the captain said heartily. "We're both of us ready for
a feed, I fancy."

And out into the storm they went again, buoyant and ready.

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Seventeen

FACING THE MUSIC


"Well," Tab said, "I'll see you as far as the door for fear you'll bolt.
You're a sight nearer funking than I ever saw you, Jacko. You must have
your nerve with you if you don't want to come out of the little end of
the horn."

"I feel small enough to go through it," Jack retorted.

"Oh, that's all right. Just take a brace, and"--

"Humph!" snorted the captain. "It's all well enough for you to snoozle
round and give me advice, but if you had to face Uncle Randolph
yourself, you wouldn't be so chipper, let me tell you!"

The young men were crossing Atlantic Avenue not far from the East Boston
Ferry. They had at last, sea-weary and glad of land, made harbor on the
previous evening. Jack had hardly waited for the anchor to be down
before he had sent off in haste for his European letters, intrusting the
messenger to post a voluminous epistle on which he had written
industriously at intervals all the way over; and for half the night he
had read and reread Katrine's missives, giving Jerry tantalizing bits
now and then, with messages from Mrs. Fairhew enjoining him not again to
aid and abet Jack in any nefarious schemes. In the morning the crew had
been paid off generously, and given passages on the City of Rockland.
Then Gonzague had been left in charge of the yacht, and now, with
feelings curiously mixed, the captain was bound for the office of his
uncle for the inevitable reckoning with the owner of the stolen Merle.

It was a bright, sharp morning, without a cloud in the sky. The air had
a clean crispness which went to the head like wine. The streets were
thronged and noisy. Heavy trucks rolled past the pair like batteries
moving into action; the Elevated thundered overhead with its rumbling
screech. The teamsters shouted profanely at their straining horses; a
fat policeman at the crowded crossing waved his arms like semaphores,
now holding up the traffic and again with commanding gesture sweeping it
along. The shrill voices of the newsboys rang out in mechanical
iteration of the leading sensations of the morning journals.

"Oh," cried Tab, as they walked briskly up State Street, "how good it
is, isn't it, Jacko?"

Jack was too much absorbed in the interview before him to do more than
nod mechanically. He could not at the moment bring himself up to the gay
mood of his friend.

"There's no place like it after all," Jerry ran on, his honest, homely
face aglow with delight. "My word, you may talk about Italy and all the
rest of it till the crack of doom, but they can't hold a candle to good
old Boston! Blest if this isn't the best part of the whole cruise!"

"Think so, do you?" asked Jack dryly. "It's funny, but the very reverse
was in my head. What the deuce," he burst out, "what the deuce am I
going to tell the President anyway?"

"Oh, just give him the yarn off the reel," returned Tab, as if it were
all the simplest thing in the world. "You've got the log with you,
and--I say, do look at those pigeons! Aren't they jolly! Come, brace
up!"

"Oh, yes," said Jack. "Brace up, of course--in the very mouth of the
lion's lair. Here's the building,--we're just about seventy feet under
Uncle Randolph's den. Brace up! The very thing, of course! So glad you
suggested it!"

"Now, Jacko," protested Jerry, "you mustn't take things this way. Do
put some spirit into it. I'll leave you here; but if you want, I'll face
the music with you."

"No, thank you," his friend said gravely; "I'll take the medicine
alone."

"Well, that's what we decided last night when we threshed things out. Go
ahead. Bring the remains round to lunch, though. The Roundheads at one.
It's eleven now, and you've got two hours for the job of placating the
president. Come sure; for I shall be in a stew till I know how you two
get on together."

"All right," Jack responded dispiritedly.

"Good luck," Jerry said, stretching out his hand.

"Thank you," Jack returned, giving Tab a hearty grasp. "So long."

"One o'clock," Jerry repeated; and with a buoyant wave of the hand, he
went on his way up State Street.

"Suppose he'll weep when he sees the Frog Pond," muttered Jack to
himself with a wan smile. "Wish I felt half as chipper."

He went to the elevator, and pressed the electric button. The big cage
came down, the boy clashed the door, and Jack went in as he might have
mounted the steps to a scaffold.

"Mr. Drake's," he said briefly, moistening his lips, and wondering why
they seemed so stiff and dry.

Deposited on the proper floor, he tucked the brown log-book more tightly
under his arm, and approached his uncle's office.

"I must have time," he said to himself. "I haven't thought this business
out for a cent."

He turned on his heel, and walked slowly down the marble-flagged
corridor past the glazed doors of half a dozen offices. Then he stopped
with sudden resolution.

"Damn it! Be a man!" he adjured himself. "This won't do."

He walked resolutely up to the door, and entered his uncle's outer
office. A typewriter was clicking busily at one desk, and various clerks
were scratching away assiduously. Several people were seated about,
evidently waiting to speak with Mr. Drake. Even as Jack entered, the
door opened, and a man came out from the inner room. The head clerk
nodded to Jack, but regarded him curiously.

"How do you do, Mr. Castleport?" he said.

"Can I see my uncle?" Jack asked, returning his salutation, and he added
to himself, "He knows all about the Merle. I can tell by his looks."

"He's pretty busy this morning," the clerk answered, "but I'll tell him
you're here. Of course he'll see you as soon as he can."

Jack took a seat and waited until the next man came out of the inner
office. Then the head clerk went in, and in a moment returned with a
queer look on his face. "Mr. Drake says these men are here by
appointment," he reported, "and he cannot see you till they are gone."

"All right," Jack answered, reflecting ruefully that he was not
accustomed to be thus kept waiting in his uncle's office. "I am in no
hurry."

He settled himself in his chair, feeling that he could have borne
anything better than this delay, and half tempted now to give it up, and
beat a retreat. He saw one man after another go into the inner room, and
after a time return and go away. He crossed and recrossed his legs with
an impatient feeling that he had never sat in so uncomfortable a chair.
He tried to beguile the time by reading the log, but first he opened to
the account of the lifting of the Merle, and then to the story of how
her bulwarks were torn away by the storm. He fell to thinking how good
Uncle Randolph had always been to him, and every minute felt more and
more like a wretch for having left the old gentleman stranded at North
Haven. The time grew longer and longer, and every moment more
intolerable as the second hour began to drag its slow length after the
first. Then he noticed that only one man remained to delay his
interview, and so completely was he demoralized that he felt that he
would have given anything in the world to be excused from the trial
before him. It seemed to him that the last man but one did his business,
whatever it was, in an amazingly short time; and he all but bolted when
the last went to his appointment. If he could get away and think things
over once more, he might perhaps be able to devise some sort of excuse
more plausible than anything he had to offer; and he all but started to
his feet to fly when the door opened to let out the only visitor who had
stood between him and the dreaded encounter with the president.

"Mr. Drake will see you now, sir," said the office boy.

Jack got to his feet as if by automatic action, and felt them drag him
forward against his will. Another instant, and the door had closed
behind him; he stood in the inner office. With a tremendous effort--an
effort which was almost physical--to pull himself together, he looked up
at his uncle.

He saw a slight gentleman, dressed in a well-fitting suit of gray,
looking out of one of the windows with his back to the door. The office
was high enough to command a view of the harbor, shining blue in the sun
beyond the clusters of roofs and chimneys. Mr. Drake stood for a moment
as if examining the view for the first time, while Jack wondered whether
this unconsciousness of his presence was real, or was of a piece with
the infliction of the long wait. Then the President turned to him, and
bowed formally, as if to a stranger. His face wore a curious look of
weariness and patience which somehow reminded Jack of his father. The
high forehead was wrinkled with a line or two that Jack did not
remember, and the curly hair was surely more thickly streaked with gray.

"Well, sir?" Mr. Drake said in a tone hard and even.

"Well, Uncle Randolph," said Jack, confused, "I--I'm here."

"So I see," remarked the President. "Is that what you came to say?"

Jack felt that the interview promised to be even worse than he had
feared. He shuffled his feet uncomfortably, and studied the figures in
the rug. Then he looked up at the face of the elder man, and something
in it smote him to the heart.

"Uncle Randolph," he said suddenly, "I suppose it's pretty late to say
anything of the sort, but--but something that happened on the way over
made me see that--made me see what a blackguard I'd been to steal the
Merle as I did. I don't think apologies are much good, anyway,
especially after you've had all the fun. It's a good deal like trying to
sneak out of consequences, but I--I really mean most sincerely that I'm
beastly sorry."

Mr. Drake did not move a muscle of his keen, well-bred face, but into
his eyes came some faint glint of humor which made Jack stop in
confusion.

"Are you done, sir?" his uncle asked.

"I'm not quite through, sir," Jack said in a sort of desperate humility.
"I--I--that is"--He floundered for a moment, and then went on with a
rush, "I may as well explain that I'm not sorry one way; that is--I
can't honestly say I wish I hadn't taken the Merle, for I--you know I'm
engaged to Miss Marchfield, and I never could have been except--that is,
unless I'd got over there. I can't be sorry for that."

"No?" queried Mr. Drake, raising his brows. "You are not thinking,
perhaps, what is the price I have paid for the privilege of
congratulating you on this engagement. I have no son, and from the day
your father died I have made one of you. You deceive me, humiliate me in
the eyes of my guests, make me the joke of my club, leave me high and
dry at North Haven"--

Sad and sorry as Jack really was, he could not help the impulse that
made him see the chance, and murmur under his breath,--

"I didn't think anything could be high and dry in the sort of fog we
went off in."

His uncle gave a slight cough, as if he were strangling an inclination
to laugh, and then went on in the same even voice as before.

"Of course I can't expect you to have any feeling about the way I felt
about your tricking me, any more than of the anxiety I went through when
the Merle disappeared, and I didn't know whether you were on top of the
sea or under it."

"I--I never thought of that," stammered Jack, feeling his cheeks grow
hot.

"No, I suppose not. Nor how I enjoyed the storm you must have been in on
the way home. Lloyd's people sent me word of your giving them the slip
at Plymouth."

"But they let us," Jack put in eagerly, seizing with avidity at any
point which seemed to afford him a chance to defend himself. "I didn't
think, Uncle Randolph, and I'm afraid I've been a beastly cad to you. I
am sorry to the very bottom of my heart."

The President took a quick stride forward and clapped one hand on his
nephew's shoulder, while with the other he grasped warmly the hand Jack
put out swiftly to meet him.

"There, Jack," he said, "that's all I want. You don't know what we old
fools go through worrying over you young ones. Perhaps it's just as well
you don't."

He gave Jack's hand a vigorous shake, and then turned away to blow his
own nose with equal violence. Jack himself felt hot in the eyes, but he
had no words which seemed adequate to the situation.

"Sit down," his uncle said, waving him to a chair, and then going to his
desk. He took from a pigeon-hole some letters and papers. "I have
several things to say to you. Mrs. Fairhew writes a very spicy letter
when she wants to."

"I should think she might, sir. She can be spicy when she talks."

"She says I didn't know you were grown-up, Jack."

Jack blushed at the remembrance, vivid and sharp, of his declaration to
Jerry that he would make his uncle realize that he had come to man's
estate.

"Oh, ho," said Mr. Drake, regarding him keenly, but with humorous eyes,
"you thought so too, did you? Of course you did! Well, I know it now,
and I've been an old fool. I congratulate you, Jack, with all my heart.
If Miss Marchfield is like her mother"--He broke off as if his thought
had got the better of his speech. "If she is all that Mrs. Fairhew says
she is, you have a treasure, my boy. Don't ever run off with her yacht."

"I never mean to repeat that performance with anybody," Jack declared
stoutly, again shaking hands fervently. "You've always been awfully good
to me, Uncle Randolph, and I've never done anything for you."

"Hum, perhaps not that you know of," the other replied, with a humorous
lift of his eyebrows; "but we sometimes do good when we think we're
doing harm. Read this."

He held out a long blue envelope, much stamped and written upon, and
provided with both American and English postage-stamps. Jack knew it at
a glance as the one he had taken from the messenger that foggy night at
North Haven, had found in the pocket of his coat at Nice, and had after
much cogitation remailed at Plymouth. In the upper left-hand corner was
the notice to return to R. B. Tillington, if not delivered in five
days, and the Boston address written in his own hand. He drew out the
letter and read:--


     MY DEAR DRAKE,--You and I have known the ins and outs of the market
     for so many years that we ought to appreciate both the danger of
     getting into an unsound stock and the foolishness of letting the
     real thing go by for the want of a little courage. I think you are
     not likely to have forgotten what Orrington said in the club last
     week about Orion Copper, or that I told you I meant to sift that
     thing to the very bottom. Well, I have been looking it up with a
     microscope ever since. I enclose three or four copies of
     letters,--this is all confidential, of course; you would know that
     without my saying so, but the thing's too important not to be
     particular about. I write to you because I've got to have somebody
     share the thing, and I think you can raise the money without
     putting anybody on the scent. Besides that, we have always got on
     well together, I believe in your luck, and I want somebody to stand
     with me in running the whole thing. There's nothing less than
     millions in it if we can get control at once. Sell anything,--I'm
     selling _everything_ myself,--and get in on the ground floor of
     Orion. If I had known just where to hit you, I'd have got you to
     town to investigate for yourself; but I've wasted a small fortune
     already telegraphing to every damned port on the coast I could
     think of. You'll find wires waiting at every place you put into.
     Orion's bound to be the coming financial constellation. B. B.,
     Mellington, Foster, and two or three others have blundered into it
     just by bull luck, but they haven't got enough stock to hurt us if
     you'll stand by me.

     Yours for Orion,
     R. B. T.


Jack read in steadily increasing consternation.

"Good heavens!" he said. "Did I make you lose the chance? Did you get
the telegrams?"

"I got them, but they referred me to the letter, and I was too upset
about the Merle to pay much attention. Then I went over to the island,
and stayed there three or four days; so that by the time I did get a
letter--a second one--the whole thing was over."

"Was that what broke Tillington?" Jack asked, feeling as if his escapade
had destroyed half the financial world.

"It saved me from going with him," Mr. Drake returned, with a smile.
"See here." He extended a lot of newspaper cuttings, and then drew them
back. "Never mind, though," he went on. "There's no need of going into
the particulars. The whole thing was a trap from beginning to end. If
you made a fool of me, Jack, by running off with the Merle, it isn't a
circumstance to the fool I'd have made of myself if I'd got that letter.
If it hadn't been for that perfectly heartless and entirely inexcusable
performance of yours, we'd both of us be beggars at this blessed moment.
We came so near it that I can't read that sign downstairs, 'Beggars and
Peddlers not Allowed,' without thinking how near I was to having it
forbid me my own office."

"Do you really mean it, Uncle Randolph?" Jack asked half breathlessly.

"I do mean it, my boy, though I'm afraid the moral of it all's pretty
crooked. I had been led in with a cleverness that gives me cold shivers.
That talk at the club that I'd heard as if by accident had all been
planned out, and so on for a lot more things I won't go into.
Mellington's blown his brains out, and poor old Foster isn't up to
anything but cadging for drinks at the club, and telling how he was
roped in when he was drunk, poor old fellow! I was so sure of Orion that
I'd have put in the last dollar of yours or mine I could have laid
hands on! I feel like a humbug when men congratulate me on knowing
enough to keep out of the mess."

"And I saved you?" cried Jack, bending forward with boyish eagerness.

"Yes, you rascally jackanapes; but small credit to you!"

Jack sent the log up into the air, and, bounding to his feet, caught it
as it fell.

"Whoop!" he shouted. "Oh, how glad I am old Tillington wrote that letter
and I carried it off!"

The President laughed with responsive joyousness, but reminded his
ebullient nephew that there were clerks in the other room. He began to
ask questions about the voyage, but the clock struck one and Jack
recalled the fact that Taberman was waiting for him at the Roundheads,
and probably was on tenterhooks for his news.

"You'll come to luncheon, won't you, sir?" he pleaded.

"That'll look well," retorted his uncle with humorous derision.
"Everybody knows about your running off with the Merle--Bardale couldn't
hold his tongue--and I shall be accused of condoning a felony."

Nevertheless they set out arm in arm for the club, and as they went the
President informed his secretary that he should not be back at the
office that afternoon.

"We shall want to run over the log," he explained to Jack as they waited
for the elevator. "I've no doubt it will make you blush to have me read
it, but I'm going to."

"I brought it for you," Jack answered, with a grin of pure joy. "Do you
mind waiting a minute, while I send a cable to Katrine? She was awfully
anxious to know how hard you'd be on me."

"Now she'll think I've no backbone at all. Well, when you played me that
trick, Jack, I felt terribly old and alone; but I think I am a little
bit younger now you're back, and prepared to behave yourself."

"Wait till you've read the log," laughed Jack, "and you'll think you're
in your teens!"

[Illustration: Decoration]



Chapter Eighteen

EPILUDE


Jack, who had been dining at Mrs. Fairhew's, was taking leave of Katrine
one evening a few weeks before the day set for the wedding. The farewell
had all the characteristic deliberateness which has marked the unwilling
separation of engaged couples from time immemorial, and was to-night
prolonged more than usual by his teasing refusal to answer a question.

"Do tell me what the great secret is between you and Mr. Drake, Jack,"
she begged. "I think you are perfectly horrid!"

He looked down into her face and laughed softly.

"You're not," he returned. "You're perfectly stunning to-night."

"Of course I am," she retorted, laughing and pouting; "but you can't put
me off with a compliment. If you hadn't meant to tell me, you wouldn't
have spoken about it at all; and I think you've teased me enough. What
is it about the President and you?"

She touched the tips of her fingers to his cravat, as if she were
straightening it, whereas she was probably only exerting instinctively
her privilege of proprietorship in Jack and his belongings.

"Well," he laughed, "you have borne it beautifully, and I've had you
crazy with curiosity till I don't dare put off telling you. But you'll
probably lie awake half the night thinking about it."

"That depends upon how important it is."

"I expect to be paid for telling you," he declared with a look that made
her flush.

"I should think you might be generous enough to tell me for nothing,"
she responded; but her dimples deepened.

He stooped forward quickly, and kissed her. Then he took both her hands
in his, and stood caressing them while he went on.

"The news is this," he said. "We've got to change our plans for the
wedding journey from stem to stern."

"Why, Jack! What do you mean?"

"It's a fact, dear," he went on, assuming an expression of profound
regret which was too obviously artificial to be depressing.

"But why?"

"Because--Are you ready for a great shock? Wouldn't you like me to
support you in case you couldn't bear it?"

"Don't be silly," she urged, with an adorable smile. "Because what?"

"Because Uncle Randolph has given us the Merle as a wedding present. He
told me this afternoon, so that we should have time to shape our plans
accordingly."

"Oh, dear Jack!"

"Splendid of him, isn't it? How would it strike you to have the Merle
sent over and to take a whole year in her on the Mediterranean?"

"Oh, that would be too beautiful!" Katrine cried.

She clasped her hands, and looked up at him with loving brave eyes. Her
first thought was of his pleasure, and instantly followed the reflection
that she was making her first sacrifice; for her quick mind foresaw that
Jack on a yacht, with duties in which he delighted, would probably be
less wholly hers than in the travel by land which they had arranged. She
smiled wonderfully, and for the first time in their engagement she bent
forward of her own accord, and offered him her lips.


The Riverside Press

_Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co._

_Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._





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