Part 8 out of 9
Then he laughed in an insolent way as though he were reading in the
German illustration something that was provoking his jibes. As though
this were not enough, he raised his eyes with aggressive curiosity in
order to study the portraits adorning the wall.
Then he realized the great transformation which had just taken place in
the bar. Almost all the customers had filed silently out during his
reading. There remained only four blear-eyed drunkards who were
guzzling with satisfaction, occupied with the contents of their
glasses. _Hindenburg_, turning his mighty back upon his clientele, was
reading an evening newspaper on the counter. The Andalusian, seated in
the background, was looking at the captain, smiling. "There's an old
sport for you!..." He was mentally chuckling over the fact that one of
his countrymen had put to flight the brawling and brutal drinkers who
gave him so much trouble on other evenings.
Ulysses consulted his watch: half-past seven. Already he had driven
away all those people that Freya was so afraid of. What was left to do
here?... He paid and went out.
Night had fallen. Under the light of the electric lamp posts street
cars and automobiles were passing toward the interior of the city.
Following the arcades of the old edifices near the harbor, groups of
workers from the maritime establishments were filing by. Barcelona,
dazzling with splendor, was attracting the crowds. The inner harbor,
black and solitary, was filled with weak little lights twinkling from
the heights of the masts.
Ferragut stood undecided whether to go home to eat, or to a restaurant
in the Rambla. Then he suspected that some of the fugitives from that
dirty cafe were near, intending to follow him. In vain he glanced
searchingly around: he could not recognize anybody in the groups that
were reading the papers or conversing while waiting for the street car.
Suddenly he felt a desire to see Toni. Uncle Caragol would improvise
something to eat while the captain was telling his mate all about his
adventure at the bar. Besides, it seemed to him a fitting finale to his
escapade to offer to any enemies that might be following him a
favorable occasion for attacking him on the deserted wharf. The demon
of false pride was whispering in his ears: "Thus they will see that you
are not afraid of them."
And he marched resolutely toward the harbor, passing over railroad
tracks outlining the walls of long storehouses and winding in and out
among mountains of merchandise. At first he met little groups going
toward the city, then pairs, then single individuals, finally
Further on, the darkness was cut by silhouettes of ebony that sometimes
were boats and at others, alleyways of packages or hills of coal. The
black water reflected the red and green serpents from the lights on the
boats. A transatlantic liner was prolonging its loading operations by
the light of its electric reflectors, standing forth out of the
darkness with the gayety of a Venetian fiesta.
From time to time a man of slow step would come within the circle of
the street lamp, the muzzle of his gun gleaming. Others were lying in
ambush among the mountains of cargo. They were custom-house men and
guardians of the port.
Suddenly the captain felt an instinctive warning. They were following
him.... He stopped in the shadows, close to a pile of crates and saw
some men advancing in his direction, passing rapidly over the edge of
the red spot made by the electric bulbs, so as not to be under the rain
Although it was impossible for him to recognize them, he was positive,
nevertheless, that they were the enemy seen at the bar.
His ship was far away, near the end of the dock most deserted at that
hour. "You've done an idiotic thing," he said mentally.
He began to repent of his rashness, but it was now far too late to turn
back. The city was further away than the steamer, and his enemies would
fall upon him just as soon as they saw him going back. How many were
there?... That was the only thing that troubled him.
"Go on!... _Go on_!" cried his pride.
He had drawn out his revolver and was carrying it in his right hand
with the barrel to the front. In this solitude he could not count upon
the conventions of civilized life. Night was swallowing him up with all
the ambushed traps of a virgin forest while before his eyes was
sparkling a great city, crowned with electric diamonds, throwing a halo
of flame into the blackness of space.
Three times the Carabineers passed near him, but he did not wish to
speak to them. "Forward! Only women had to ask assistance...." Besides,
perhaps he was under an hallucination: he really could not swear that
they were in pursuit of him.
After a few steps, this doubt vanished. His senses, sharpened by
danger, had the same perception as has the wild boar who scents the
pack of hounds trying to cross his tracks. At his right, was the water.
At his left, men were prowling behind the mountains of freight, wishing
to cut him off; behind were coming still others to prevent his retreat.
He might run, advancing toward those who were trying to hem him in. But
ought a man to run with a revolver in his hand?... Those who were
coming behind would join in the pursuit. A human hunt was going to take
place in the night, and he, Ferragut, would be the deer pursued by the
low crowds from the bar. "Ah, no!..." The captain recalled von Kramer
galloping miserably in full daylight along the wharves of
Marseilles.... If they must kill him, let it not be in flight.
He continued his advance with a rapid step, seeing through his enemies'
plans. They did not wish to show themselves in that part of the harbor
obstructed by mountains of cases, fearing that he might hide himself
there. They would await him near his ship in a safe, hidden spot by
which he would undoubtedly have to pass.
"Forward!" he kept repeating to himself. "If I have to die, let it be
within sight of the _Mare Nostrum!_" The steamer was near. He could
recognize now its black silhouette fast to the wharf. At that moment
the dog on board began to bark furiously, announcing the captain's
presence and danger at the same time.
He abandoned the shelter of a hillock of coal, advancing over an open
space. He concentrated all his will power upon gaining his vessel as
quickly as possible.
A swift flame flashed out, followed by a report. They were already
shooting at him. Other little lights began to twinkle from different
sides of the dock, followed by reports of a gun. It was a sharp
cross-fire; behind him, they were firing, too. He felt various
whistlings near his ears, and received a blow on the shoulder,--a
sensation like that from a hot stone.
They were going to kill him. His enemies were too many for him. And,
without knowing exactly what he was doing, yielding to instinct, he
threw himself on the ground like a dying person.
Some few shots were still sounding. Then all was silent. Only on the
nearby ship the dog was continuing its howling.
He saw a shadow advancing slowly toward him. It was a man, one of his
enemies, coming out from the group in order to examine him at close
range. He let him come close up to him, with his right hand grasping
his revolver still intact.
Suddenly he raised his arm, striking the head that was bending over
him. Two lightning streaks flashed from his hand, separated by a brief
interval. The first flitting blaze of fire made him see a familiar
face.... Was it really Karl, the doctor's factotum?... The second
explosion aided his memory. Yes, it was Karl, with his features
disfigured by a black gash in the temple.... The German pulled himself
up with an agonizing shudder, then fell on his back, with his arms
This vision was instantaneous. The captain must think only of himself
now, and springing up with a bound, he ran and ran, bending himself
double, in order to offer the enemy the least possible mark.
He dreaded a general discharge, a hail of bullets; but his pursuers
hesitated a few moments, confused in the darkness and not knowing
surely whether it was the captain who had fallen a second time.
Only upon seeing a man running toward the ship did they recognize their
error, and renew their shots. Ferragut passed between the balls along
the edge of the wharf, the whole length of the _Mare Nostrum_. His
salvation was now but a matter of seconds provided that the crew had
not drawn in the gangplank between the steamer and the shore.
Suddenly he found himself on the gangplank, at the same time seeing a
man advancing toward him with something gleaming in one hand. It was
the mate who had just come out with his knife drawn.
The captain feared that he might make a mistake.
"Toni, it is I," he said in a voice almost breathless because of the
effort of his running.
Upon treading the deck of his vessel, he instantly recovered his
Already the shots had ceased and the silence was ominous. In the
distance could be heard whistlings, cries of alarm, the noise of
running. The Carabineers and guards were called and grouped together in
order to charge in the dark, marching toward the spot where the
shooting had sounded.
"Haul in the gangplank!" ordered Ferragut.
The mate aided three of the hands who had just come up to retire the
gangplank hastily. Then he threatened the dog, to make it cease
Ferragut, near the railing, scanned carefully the darkness of the quay.
It seemed to him that he could see some men carrying another in their
arms. A remnant of his wrath made him raise his right hand, still
armed, aiming at the group. Then he lowered it again.... He remembered
that officers would be coming to investigate the occurrence. It was
better that they should find the boat absolutely silent.
Still panting, he entered the saloon under the poop and sat down.
As soon as he was within the circle of pale light that a hanging lamp
spread upon the table Toni fixed his glance on his left shoulder.
"It's nothing.... Merely a scratch. The proof of it is that I can move
And he moved it, although with a certain difficulty, feeling the weight
of an increasing swelling.
"By-and-by I'll tell you how it happened.... I don't believe they'll be
anxious to repeat it."
Then he remained thoughtful for an instant.
"At any rate, it's best for us to get away from this port quickly....
Go and see our men. Not one of them is to speak about it!... Call
Before Toni could go out, the shining countenance of the cook surged up
out of the obscurity. He was on his way to the saloon, without being
called, anxious to know what had occurred, and fearing to find Ferragut
dying. Seeing the blood, his consternation expressed itself with
"_Cristo del Grao!_... My captain's going to die!..."
He wanted to run to the galley in search of cotton and bandages. He was
something of a quack doctor and always kept things necessary for such
Ulysses stopped him. He would accept his services, but he wished
"I want to eat, Uncle Caragol," he said gayly. "I shall be content with
whatever you have.... Fright has given me an appetite."
"FAREWELL, I AM GOING TO DIE"
When Ferragut left Barcelona the wound in his shoulder was already
nearly healed. The rotund negative given by the captain and his pilot
to the questions of the Carabineers freed them from further annoyance.
They "knew nothing,--had seen nothing." The captain received with
feigned indifference the news that the dead body of a man had been
found that very night,--a man who appeared to be a German, but without
papers, without anything that assured his identification,--on a dock
some distance from the berth occupied by the _Mare Nostrum_. The
authorities had not considered it worth while to investigate further,
classifying it as a simple struggle among refugees.
Provisioning the troops of the Orient obliged Ferragut, in the months
following, to sail as part of a convoy. A cipher dispatch would
sometimes summon him to Marseilles, at others to an Atlantic
port,--Saint-Nazaire, Quiberon, or Brest.
Every few days ships of different class and nationality were arriving.
There were those that displayed their aristocratic origin by the fine
line of the prow, the slenderness of the smokestacks and the still
white color of their upper decks: they were like the high-priced steeds
that war had transformed into simple beasts of battle. Former
mail-packets, swift racers of the waves, had descended to the humble
service of transport boats. Others, black and dirty, with the pitchy
plaster of hasty reparation and a consumptive smokestack on an enormous
hull, plowed along, coughing smoke, spitting ashes, panting with the
jangle of old iron. The flags of the Allies and those of the neutral
navies waved on the different ships. Reuniting, they formed a convoy in
the broad bay. There were fifteen or twenty steamers, sometimes thirty,
which had to navigate together, adjusting their different speeds to a
common pace. The cargo boats, merchant steamers that made only a few
knots an hour, exacted a desperate slowness of the rest of the convoy.
The _Mare Nostrum_ had to sail at half speed, making its captain very
impatient with these monotonous and dangerous peregrinations, extending
over weeks and weeks.
Before setting out, Ferragut, like all the other captains, would
receive sealed and stamped orders. These were from the Commodore of the
convoy,--the commander of a torpedo destroyer, or a simple officer of
the Naval Reserve in charge of a motor trawler armed with a quickfiring
The steamers would begin belching smoke and hoisting anchors without
knowing whither they were going. The official document was opened only
at the moment of departure. Ulysses would break the seals and examine
the paper, understanding with facility its formal language, written in
a common cipher. The first thing that he would look out for was the
port of destination, then, the order of formation. They were to sail in
single file or in a double row, according to the number of vessels. The
_Mare Nostrum_, represented by a certain number, was to navigate
between two other numbers which were those of the nearest steamers.
They were to keep between them a distance of about five hundred yards;
it was important that they should not come any nearer in a moment of
carelessness, nor prolong the line so that they would be out of sight
of the watchful guardians.
At the end, the general instructions for all the voyages were repeated
with a laconic brevity that would have made other men, not accustomed
to look death in the face, turn pale. In case of a submarine attack,
the transports that carried guns were to come out from the line and aid
the patrol of armed vessels, attacking the enemy. The others were to
continue their course tranquilly, without paying any attention to the
attack. If the boat in front of them or the one following was
torpedoed, they were not to stop to give it aid. The torpedo boats and
"chaluteros" were charged with saving the wrecked ship if it were
possible. The duty of the transport was always to go forward, blind and
deaf, without getting out of line, without stopping, until it had
delivered at the terminal port the fortune stowed in its holds.
This march in convoy imposed by the submarine war represented a leap
backward in the life of the sea. It recalled to Ferragut's mind the
sailing fleets of other centuries, escorted by navies in line,
punctuating their course by incessant battles, and the remote voyages
of the galleons of the Indies, setting forth from Seville in fleets
when bound for the coast of the New World.
The double file of black hulks with plumes of smoke advanced very
placidly in fair weather. When the day was gray, the sea choppy, the
sky and the atmosphere foggy, they would scatter and leap about like a
troop of dark and frightened lambs. The guardians of the convoy, three
little boats that were going at full speed, were the vigilant mastiffs
of this marine herd, preceding it in order to explore the horizon,
remaining behind it, or marching beside it in order to keep the
formation intact. Their lightness and their swiftness enabled them to
make prodigious bounds over the waves. A girdle of smoke curled itself
around their double smokestacks. Their prows when not hidden were
expelling cascades of foam, sometimes even showing the dripping
forefoot of the keel.
At night time they would all travel with few lights, simple lanterns at
the prow, as warning to the one just ahead, and another one at the
stern, to point out the route to the ship following. These faint lights
could scarcely be seen. Oftentimes the helmsman would suddenly have to
turn his course and demand slackened speed behind, seeing the
silhouette of the boat ahead looming up in the darkness. A few moments
of carelessness and it would come in on the prow with a deadly ram.
Upon slowing down, the captain always looked behind uneasily, fearing
in turn to collide with his following ship.
They were all thinking about the invisible submarines. From time to
time would sound the report of the guns; the convoy's escort was
shooting and shooting, going from one side to the other with agile
evolutions. The enemy had fled like wolves before the barking of
watch-dogs. On other occasions it would prove a false alarm, and the
shells would wound the desert water with a lashing of steel.
There was an enemy more troublesome than the tempest, more terrible
than the torpedoes, that disorganized the convoys. It was the fog,
thick and pale as the white of an egg, enshrouding the vessels, making
them navigate blindly in full daylight, filling space with the useless
moaning of their sirens, not letting them see the water which sustained
them nor the nearby boats that might emerge at any moment from the
blank atmosphere, announcing their apparition with a collision and a
tremendous, deadly crash. In this way the merchant fleets had to
proceed entire days together and when, at the end, they found
themselves free from this wet blanket, breathing with satisfaction as
though awaking from a nightmare, another ashy and nebulous wall would
come advancing over the waters enveloping them anew in its night. The
most valorous and calm men would swear upon seeing the endless bar of
mist closing off the horizon.
Such voyages were not at all to Ferragut's taste. Marching in line like
a soldier, and having to conform to the speed of these miserable little
boats irritated him greatly, and it made him still more wrathful to
find himself obliged to obey the Commodore of a convoy who frequently
was nobody but an old sailor of masterful character.
Because of all this he announced to the maritime authorities, on one of
his arrivals at Marseilles, his firm intention of not sailing any more
in this fashion. He had had enough with four such expeditions which
were all well enough for timid captains incapable of leaving a port
unless they always had in sight an escort of torpedo-boats, and whose
crews at the slightest occurrence would try to lower the lifeboats and
take refuge on the coast. He believed that he would be more secure
going alone, trusting to his skill, with no other aid than his profound
knowledge of the routes of the Mediterranean.
His petition was granted. He was the owner of a vessel and they were
afraid of losing his cooeperation when means of transportation were
growing so very scarce. Besides, the _Mare Nostrum_, on account of its
high speed, deserved individual employment in extraordinary and rapid
He remained in Marseilles some weeks waiting for a cargo of howitzers,
and meandered as usual around the Mediterranean capital. He passed the
evenings on the terrace of a cafe of the _Cannebiere_. The recollection
of von Kramer always loomed up in his mind at such times. "I wonder if
they have shot him!..." He wished to know, but his investigations did
not meet with much success. War Councils avoid publicity regarding
their acts of justice. A Marseilles merchant, a friend of Ferragut,
seemed to recall that some months before a German spy, surprised in the
harbor, had been executed. Three lines, no more, in the newspapers,
gave an account of his death. They said that he was an officer.... And
his friend went on talking about the war news while Ulysses was
thinking that the executed man could not have been any one else but von
On that same afternoon he had an encounter. While passing through the
street of _Saint-Ferreol_, looking at the show windows, the cries of
several conductors of cabs and automobiles who could not manage to
drive their vehicles through the narrow and crowded streets, attracted
his attention. In one carriage he saw a blonde lady with her back to
him, accompanied by two officers of the English navy. Immediately he
thought of Freya.... Her hat, her gown, everything about her
personality, was so very distinctive. And yet, when the coach had
passed on without his being able to get a glimpse of the face of the
stranger, the image of the adventuress persisted in his mind.
Finally he became very much irritated with himself, because of this
absurd resemblance suspected without any reason whatever. How could
that English-woman with the two officers be Freya?... How could a
German refugee in Barcelona manage to slip into France where she was
undoubtedly known by the military police?... And still more
exasperating was his suspicion that this resemblance might have
awakened a remnant of the old love which made him see Freya in every
At nine o'clock the following morning, while the captain was in his
stateroom dressing to go ashore, Toni opened the door.
His face was scowling and timid at the same time, as though he had some
bad news to give.
"That creature is here," he said laconically.
Ferragut looked at him with a questioning expression: "_What_
"Who else could it be?... The one from Naples! That blonde devil that
brought us all so much trouble!... We'll see now if this witch is going
to keep us immovable for I don't know how many weeks just as she did
the other time."
He excused himself as though he had just failed in discipline. The boat
was fastened to the wharf by a bridgeway and anybody could come aboard.
The pilot was opposed to these dockings which left the passage free to
the curious and the importunate. By the time he had finished announcing
her arrival, the lady was already on deck near the staterooms. She
remembered well the way to the saloon. She had wished to go straight
in, but it had been Caragol who had stopped her, while Toni went to
advise the captain.
"_Cristo_!" murmured Ulysses. "_Cristo!_..."
And his astonishment, his surprise, did not permit him to utter any
Then he burst out furiously. "Throw her overboard!... Let two men lay
hold of her and put her back on the wharf, by main force, if
But Toni hesitated, not daring to comply with such commands. And the
impetuous Ferragut rushed outside of his cabin to do himself what had
When he reached the saloon some one entered at the same time from the
deck. It was Caragol, who was trying to block the passage of a woman;
but she, laughing and taking advantage of his purblind eyes, was
slipping little by little in between his body and the wooden partition.
On seeing the captain, Freya ran toward him, throwing out her arms.
"You!" she cried in a merry voice. "I knew well enough that you were
here, in spite of the fact that these men were assuring me to the
contrary.... My heart told me so.... How do you do, Ulysses!"
Caragol turned his eyes toward the place where he supposed the mate
must be, as though imploring his pardon. With females he never could
carry out any order.... Toni, on his part, appeared in an agony of
shame before this woman who was looking at him defiantly.
The two disappeared. Ferragut was not able to say exactly how they got
away, but he was glad of it. He feared that the recent arrival might
allude in their presence to the things of the past.
He remained contemplating her a long time. He had believed the day
before that he had recognized her back, and now he was sure that he
might have passed on with indifference had he seen her face. Was this
really the same woman that the two English officials were
accompanying?... She appeared much taller than the other one, with a
slenderness that made her skin appear more clear, giving it a delicate
transparency. The nose was finer and more prominent. The eyes were
sparkling, hidden in bluish black circles.
These eyes began to look at the captain, humbly and pleadingly.
"You!" exclaimed Ulysses in wonder. "You!... What are you coming here
Freya replied with the timidity of a bondslave. Yes, it was she who had
recognized him the day before, long before he had seen her, and at once
had formed the plan of coming in search of him. He could beat her just
as at their last meeting: she was ready to suffer everything ... but
"Save me, Ulysses! Take me with you!... I implore you even more
anxiously than in Barcelona."
"What are you doing here?..."
She understood the captain's amazement on meeting her in a belligerent
country, the disquietude he must naturally feel upon finding a spy on
his vessel. She looked around in order to make sure that they were
entirely alone and spoke in a low voice. The doctor had sent her to
France in order that she should "operate" in its ports. Only to him
could she reveal the secret.
Ulysses was more indignant than ever at this confidence.
"Clear out!" he said in a wrathful voice. "I don't want to know
anything about you.... Your affairs do not interest me at all. I do not
wish to know them.... Get out of here! What are you plaguing me for?"
But she did not appear disposed to comply with his orders. Instead of
departing, she dropped wearily down on one of the divans of the
"I have come," she said, "to beg you to save me. I ask it for the last
time.... I'm going to die; I suspect that my end is very near if you
will not hold out a helping hand; I foresee the vengeance of my own
people.... Guard me, Ulysses! Do not make me go back ashore; I am
afraid.... So safe I shall feel here at your side!..."
Fear, sure enough, was reflected in her eyes as she recalled the last
months of her life in Barcelona.
"The doctor is my enemy.... She who protected me so in other times
abandons me now like an old shoe that it is necessary to get rid of. I
am positive that her superior officers have condemned me...."
She shuddered on remembering the doctor's wrath when on her return from
one of her trips she learned of the death of her faithful Karl. To her,
Captain Ferragut was a species of invulnerable and victorious demon who
was escaping all dangers and murdering the servants of a good cause.
First von Kramer; now Karl.... As it was necessary for her to vent her
wrath on somebody, she had made Freya responsible for all her
misfortunes. Through her she had known the captain, and had mixed him
up in the affairs of the "service."
Thirst for vengeance made the imposing dame smile with a ferocious
expression. The Spanish sailor was doomed by the Highest Command.
Precise orders had been given out against him. "As to his
accomplices!..." Freya was figuring undoubtedly among these accomplices
for having dared to defend Ferragut, for remembering the tragic event
of his son, for having refused to join the chorus desiring his
Weeks afterwards the doctor again became as smiling and as amiable as
in other times. "My dear girl, it is agreed that you should take a trip
to France. We need there an agent who will keep us informed of the
traffic of the ports, of the goings and comings of the vessels in order
that our submersibles may know where to await them. The naval officials
are very gallant, and a beautiful woman will be able to gain their
She had tried to disobey. To go to France!... where her pre-war work
was already known!... To go back to danger when she had already become
accustomed to the safe life of a neutral country!... But her attempts
at resistance were ineffectual. She lacked sufficient will-power; the
"service" had converted her into an automaton.
"And here I am, suspecting that probably I am going to my death, but
fulfilling the commissions given to me, struggling to be accommodating
and retard in this way the fulfillment of their vengeance.... I am like
a condemned criminal who knows that he is going to die, and tries to
make himself so necessary that his sentence will be delayed for a few
"How did you get into France?" he demanded, paying no attention to her
"Freya shrugged her shoulders. In her business a change of nationality
was easily accomplished. At present she was passing for a citizen of a
South American republic. The doctor had arranged all the papers
necessary to enable her to cross the frontier.
"But here," she continued, "my accomplices have me more securely than
as though I were in prison. They have given me the means of coming here
and they only can arrange my departure. I am absolutely in their power.
I wonder what they are going to do with me!..."
At certain times terror had suggested most desperate expedients to her.
She had thought of denouncing herself, of appearing before the French
authorities, telling them her story and acquainting them with the
secrets which she possessed. But her past filled her with terror, so
many were the evils which she had brought against this country. Perhaps
they might pardon her life, taking into account her voluntary action in
giving herself up. But the prison, the seclusion with shaved head,
dressed in some coarse serge frock, condemned to silence, perhaps
suffering hunger and cold, filled her with invincible repulsion.... No,
death before that!
And so she was continuing her life as a spy, shutting her eyes to the
future, living only in the present, trying to keep from thinking,
considering herself happy if she could see before her even a few days
The meeting with Ferragut in the street of Marseilles had revived her
drooping spirits, arousing new hope.
"Get me out of here; keep me with you. On your ship I could live as
forgotten by the world as though I were dead.... And if my presence
annoys you, take me far away from France, leave me in some distant
She was anxious to evade isolation in the enemy's territory, obliged to
obey her superiors like a caged beast who has to take jabs through the
iron grating. Presentiment of her approaching death was making her
"I do not want to die, Ulysses!... I am not old enough yet to die. I
adore my physical charm. I am my own best lover and I am terrified at
the thought that I might be shot."
A phosphorescent light gleamed from her eyes and her teeth struck
together with a chattering of terror.
"I do not want to die!" she repeated. "There are moments in which I
suspect that they are following me and closing me in.... Perhaps they
have recognized me and at this moment are waiting to surprise me in the
very act.... Do help me; get me away from here; my death is certain. I
have done so much harm!..."
She was silent a moment, as though calculating all the crimes of her
"The doctor," she continued, "depends upon her consuming patriotic
enthusiasm as the impetus to her work. I lack her faith. I am not a
German woman, and being a spy is very repugnant to me.... I feel
ashamed when I think of my actual life; every night I think over the
result of my abominable work; I calculate the use to which they will
put my warnings and my information; I can see the torpedoed boats.... I
wonder how many human beings have perished through my fault!... I have
visions; my conscience torments me. Save me!... I can do no more. I
feel a horrible fear. I have so much to expiate!..."
Little by little she had raised herself from the divan, and, while
begging Ferragut's protection, was going toward him with outstretched
arms; abject, and yet at the same time caressing, through that desire
of seduction that always predominated over all her acts.
"Leave me!" shouted the sailor. "Do not come near me.... Do not touch
He felt that same wrath that had made him so brutal in their interview
in Barcelona. He was greatly exasperated at the tenacity of this
adventuress who, in addition to the tragic influence she had already
exercised upon his life, was now trying to compromise him still
But a sentiment of cold compassion made him check his anger and speak
with a certain kindness.
If she needed money in order to make her escape, he would give it to
her without any haggling whatever. She could name the sum. The captain
was disposed to satisfy all her desires except that of living with her.
He would give her a substantial amount in order to make her fortune
assured and never see her again.
Freya made a gesture of protest at the same time that the sailor began
repenting of his generosity.... Why should he do such a favor to a
woman who reminded him of the death of his son?... What was there in
common between the two?... Their vile love-affair in Naples had been
sufficiently paid for with his bereavement.... Let each one follow his
own destiny; they belonged to different worlds.... Was he going to have
to defend himself all his life long from this insistent charmer?...
Moreover, he was not at all sure that even now she was telling the
truth.... Everything about her was false. He did not even know with
certainty her true name and her past existence....
"Clear out!" he roared in a threatening tone. "Leave me in peace."
He raised his powerful hand against her, seeing that she was going to
refuse to obey. He was going to pick her up roughly, carry her like a
light bundle outside the room, outside the boat, flinging her away as
though she were remorse.
But her physique, so opulent in its seductions, now inspired him with
an unconquerable repugnance; he was afraid of its contact and wished to
avoid its electric surprises.... Besides, he wasn't going to maltreat
her at every meeting like a professional Apache who mixes love and
blows. He recalled with disgust his violence in Barcelona.
And as Freya instead of going away sank back on the divan, with a
faintness that seemed to challenge his wrath, it was he who fled in
order to bring the interview to an end.
He rushed into his stateroom, locking the door with a bang. This flight
brought her out of her inertia. She wished to follow him with the leap
of a young panther, but her hands collided with an obstacle that became
impassable, while from within sounded the noise of keys and bolts.
She pounded the door desperately, injuring her fists with her fruitless
"Ulysses, open it!... Listen to me."
In vain she shrieked as though she were giving an order, exasperated at
finding that she was not obeyed. Her fury spent itself unavailingly
against the solid immovability of the wood. Suddenly she began to cry,
modifying her purpose upon finding herself as weak and defenseless as
an abandoned creature. All her life appeared concentrated in her tears
and in her pleading voice.
She passed her fingers over the door, groping over the moldings,
slipping them over the varnished surface as though seeking at random a
crevice, a hole, something that would permit her to get to the man that
was on the other side.
Instinctively she fell upon her knees, putting her mouth to the
"My lord, my master!" she murmured in the voice of a beggar. "Open the
door.... Do not abandon me. Remember that I am going to my death if you
do not save me."
Ferragut heard her, and, in order to evade her moaning, was getting as
near as possible to the end of his stateroom. Then he unfastened the
round window that opened on the deck, ordering a seaman to go after the
"_Don Antoni! Don Antoni!_" various voices cried the whole length of
Toni appeared, putting his face in the circular opening only to receive
the furious vituperation of his captain.
Why had they left him alone with that woman?... They must take her off
the boat at once, even if it had to be done by main force.... He
The mate went off with a confounded air, scratching his beard as though
he had received an order very difficult to execute.
"Save me, my love!" the imploring whisper kept moaning. "Forget who I
am.... Think only of the one of Naples.... Of the one whom you knew at
Pompeii.... Remember our happiness alone together in the days when you
swore never to abandon me.... You are a gentleman!..."
Her voice ceased for a moment. Ferragut heard footsteps on the other
side of the door. Toni was carrying out his orders.
But in a few seconds the pleading again burst forth, reconcentrated,
tenacious, bent only upon carrying its point, scorning the new
obstacles about to interpose between her and the captain.
"Do you hate me so?... Remember the bliss that I gave you. You yourself
swore to me that you had never been so happy. I can revive that past.
You do not know of what things I am capable in order to make your
existence sweet.... And you wish to lose and to ruin me!..."
A clash against the door was heard, a struggle of bodies that were
pushing each other, the friction of a scuffle against the wood.
Toni had entered followed by Caragol.
"Enough of that now, Senora," said the mate in a grim voice in order to
hide his emotion. "Can't you see that the captain doesn't want to see
you?... Don't you understand that you are disturbing him?... Come,
now.... Get up!"
He tried to help her to stand up, separating her mouth from the
keyhole. But Freya repelled the vigorous sailor with facility. He
appeared to be lacking in force, without the courage to repeat his
rough action. The beauty of this woman made him afraid. He was still
thrilled by the contact of her firm body which he had just torched
during their short struggle. His drowsing virtue had suffered the
torments of a fruitless resurrection. "Ah, no!... Let somebody else
take charge of putting her off."
"Ulysses, they're taking me away!" she cried, again putting her mouth
to the keyhole. "And you, my love, will you permit it?... You who used
to love me so?..."
After this desperate call, she remained silent for a few instants. The
door maintained its immobility; behind it there seemed to be no living
"Farewell!" she continued in a low voice, her throat choked with sobs,
"you will see me no more.... I am soon going to die; my heart tells me
so.... To die because of you!... Perhaps some day you will weep on
recalling that you might have saved me."
Some one had intervened to force Freya from her rebellious standstill.
It was Caragol, solicited by the mate's imploring eyes.
His great hairy hands helped her to arise, without making her repeat
the protest that had repelled Toni. Conquered and bursting into tears,
she appeared to yield to the paternal aid and counsel of the cook.
"Up now, my good lady!" said Caragol. "A little more courage and don't
cry any more.... There is some consolation for everything in this
In his bulky right hand he imprisoned her two, and, passing his other
arm around her waist, he was guiding her little by little toward the
exit from the salon.
"Trust in God," he added. "Why do you seek the captain who has his own
wife ashore?... Other men who are free are still in existence, and you
could make some arrangement with them without falling into mortal sin."
Freya was not listening to him. Near the door she again turned her
head, beginning her return toward the captain's stateroom.
"Ulysses!... Ulysses!" she cried.
"Trust in God, Senora," said Caragol again, while he was pushing her
along with his flabby abdomen and shaggy breast.
A charitable idea was taking possession of his thoughts. He had the
remedy for the grief of this handsome woman whose desperation but made
her more interesting.
"Come along, Senora.... Leave it to me, my child."
Upon reaching the deck he continued driving her towards his dominions.
Freya found herself seated in the galley, without knowing just exactly
where she was. Through her tears she saw this obese old man of
sacerdotal benevolence, going from side to side gathering bottles
together and mixing liquids, stirring the spoon around in a glass with
a joyous tinkling.
"Drink without fear.... There is no trouble that resists this
The cook offered her a glass and she, vanquished, drank and drank,
making a wry face because of the alcoholic intensity of the liquid. She
continued weeping at the same time that her mouth was relishing the
heavy sweetness. Her tears were mingled with the beverage that was
slipping between her lips.
A comfortable warmth began making itself felt in her stomach, drying up
the moisture in her eyes and giving new color to her cheeks. Caragol
was keeping up his chat, satisfied with the outcome of his handiwork,
making signs to the glowering Toni,--who was passing and repassing
before the door, with the vehement desire of seeing the intruder march
away, and disappear forever.
"Don't cry any more, my daughter.... _Cristo del Grao!_ The very idea!
A lady as pretty as you, who can find sweethearts by the dozen,
crying!... Believe me; find somebody else. This world is just full of
men with nothing to do.... And always for every disappointment that you
suffer, have recourse to my cordial.... I am going to give you the
He was about to note down on a bit of paper the proportions of brandy
and sugar, when she arose, suddenly invigorated, looking around her in
wonder.... But where was she? What had she to do with this good, kind,
half-dressed man, who was talking to her as though he were her
"Thanks! Many thanks!" she said on leaving the kitchen.
Then on deck she stopped, opening her gold-mesh bag, in order to take
out the little glass and powder box. In the beveled edge of the oval
glass she saw the faun-like countenance of Toni hovering behind her
with glances of impatience.
"Tell Captain Ferragut that I shall never trouble him again.... All has
ended.... Perhaps he may hear me spoken of some time, but he will never
see me again."
And she left the boat without turning her head, with quickened step as
though, fired by a sudden suggestion, she were hastening to put it into
Toni ran also, but toward Ulysses' stateroom window.
"Has she gone yet?" asked the captain impatiently.
The mate nodded his head. She had promised not to return.
"Be it so!" said Ferragut.
Toni experienced the same desire. Would to God they might never again
see this blonde who always brought them misfortune!...
In the days following, the captain rarely left his ship. He did not
wish to run the risk of meeting her in the city streets for he was a
little doubtful of the hardness of his character. He feared that upon
seeing her again, weeping and pleading, he might yield to her
Ulysses' uneasiness vanished as soon as the loading of the vessel was
finished. This trip was going to be shorter than the others. The _Mare
Nostrum_ went to Corfu with war material for the Serbs who were
reorganizing their battalions destined for Salonica.
On the return trip Ferragut was attacked by the enemy. One day at dawn
just as he mounted the bridge to relieve Toni, the two spied at the
same time the tangible form that they were always seeing in
imagination. Within the circle of their glasses there framed itself the
end of a stick, black and upright, that was cutting the waters rosy in
the sunrise, leaving a wake of foam.
"Submarine!" shouted the captain.
Toni said nothing, but shoving aside the helmsman with a stroke of his
paw, he grasped the wheel, making the boat swerve in another direction.
The movement was opportune. Only a few seconds had passed by when there
began to be seen upon the water a black back of dizzying speed headed
directly for the steamer.
"Torpedo!" shouted the captain.
The anxious waiting lasted but a few seconds. The projectile, hidden in
the water, passed some six yards from the stern, losing itself in
space. Had it not been for Toni's rapid tacking, the boat would have
been hit squarely in the side.
Through the speaking tube connecting with the engine-room the captain
shouted energetic orders to put on full speed. Meanwhile the mate,
clamped to the wheel, ready to die rather than leave it, was directing
the boat in zigzags so as not to offer a fixed point to the submarine.
All the crew were watching from the rail the distant and insignificant
upright periscope. The third officer had rushed out of his stateroom,
almost naked, rubbing his sleepy eyes. Caragol was in the stern, his
loose shirt-tail flapping away as he held one hand to his eyebrows like
"I see it!... I see it perfectly.... Ah, the bandit, the heretic!"
And he extended his threatening fist toward a point in the horizon
exactly opposite to the one upon which the periscope was appearing.
Through the blue circle of the glasses Ferragut saw this tube climbing
up and up, growing larger and larger. It was no longer a stick, it was
a tower; and from beneath this tower was coming up on the sea a base of
steel spouting cascades of smoke,--a gray whale-back that appeared
little by little to be taking the form of a sailing vessel, long and
A flag was suddenly run up upon the submarine. Ulysses recognized it.
"They are going to shell us!" he yelled to Toni. "It's useless to keep
up the zigzagging. The thing to do now is to outspeed them, to go
forward in a straight line."
The mate, skillful helmsman that he was, obeyed the captain. The hull
vibrated under the force of the engines taxed to their utmost. Their
prow was cutting the waters with increasing noise. The submersible upon
augmenting its volume by emersion appeared, nevertheless, to be falling
behind on the horizon. Two streaks of foam began to spring up on both
sides of its prow. It was running with all its possible surface speed;
but the _Mare Nostrum_ was also going at the utmost limit of its
engines and the distance was widening between the two boats.
"They are shooting!" said Ferragut with the glasses to his eyes.
A column of water spouted near the prow. That was the only thing that
Caragol was able to see clearly and he burst into applause with a
childish joy. Then he waved on high his palm-leaf hat. "_Viva el Santo
Cristo del Grao!_..."
Other projectiles were falling around the _Mare Nostrum_, spattering it
with jets of foam. Suddenly it trembled from poop to prow. Its plates
trembled with the vibration of an explosion.
"That's nothing!" yelled the captain, bending himself double over the
bridge in order to see better the hull of his ship. "A shell in the
stern. Steady, Toni!..."
The mate, always grasping the wheel, kept turning his head from time to
time to measure the distance separating them from the submarine. Every
time that he saw an aquatic column of spray, forced up by a projectile,
he would repeat the same counsel.
"Lie down, Ulysses!... They are going to fire at the bridge!"
This was a recollection of his far-away youth when, as a contrabandist,
he used to stretch himself flat on the deck of his bark, manipulating
the wheel and the sail under the fire of the custom-house officers on
watch. He feared for the life of his captain while he was standing,
constantly offering himself to the shots of the enemy.
Ferragut was storming from side to side, cursing his lack of means for
returning the aggression. "This will never happen another time!... They
won't get another chance to amuse themselves chasing me!"
A second projectile opened another breach in the poop. "If it only
won't hit the engines!" the captain was thinking. After that the _Mare
Nostrum_ received no more damage, the following shots merely raising up
columns of water in the steamer's wake. Every time now, these white
phantasms leaped up further and further away. Although out of the range
of the enemy's gun, it continued shooting and shooting uselessly.
Finally the firing ceased and the submarine disappeared from the view
of the glasses and completely submerged, tired of vain pursuit.
"That'll never happen again!" the captain kept repeating. "They'll
never attack me another time with impunity!"
Then it occurred to him that this submarine had attack him knowing just
who he was. On the side of his vessel were painted the colors of Spain.
At the first shot from the gun, the third officer had hoisted the flag,
but the shots did not cease on that account. They had wished to sink it
"without leaving any trace." He believed that Freya, in her relations
with the directors of the submarine campaign, must have advised them of
"Ah,... _tal!_ If I meet her another time!..."
He had to remain several weeks in Marseilles while the damage to his
steamer was being repaired.
As Toni lacked occupation during this enforced idleness, he accompanied
him many times on his strolls. They liked to seat themselves on the
terrace of a cafe in order to comment upon the picturesque differences
in the cosmopolitan crowd.
"Look; people from our own country!" said the captain one evening.
And he pointed to three seamen drawn into the current of different
uniforms and types of various races flowing familiarly around the
tables of the cafe.
He had recognized them by their silk caps with visors, their blue
jackets and their heavy obesity of Mediterranean sailors enjoying a
certain prosperity. They must be skippers of small boats.
As though Ferragut's looks and gestures had mysteriously notified them,
the three turned, fixing their eyes on the captain. Then they began to
discuss among themselves with a vehemence which made it easy to guess
"It is he!..." "No, it isn't!..."
Those men knew him but couldn't believe that they were really seeing
They went a little way off with marked indecision, turning repeatedly
to look at him once more. In a few moments one of them, the oldest,
returned, approaching the table timidly.
"Excuse me, but aren't you Captain Ferragut?..." He asked this question
in Valencian, with his right hand at his cap, ready to take it off.
Ulysses stopped his salutation and offered him a seat. Yes, he was
Ferragut. What did he want?...
The man refused to sit down. He wished to tell him privately two
special things. When the captain presented to him his mate as a man in
whom they could have complete confidence, he then sat down. The two
companions, breaking through the human current, were standing on the
edge of the sidewalk, turning their backs to the cafe.
He was skipper of a small craft; Ferragut had not been mistaken. He was
speaking slowly, as though taken up with his final revelation to which
all that he was saying was merely an introduction.
"The times are not so bad.... Money is to be gained in the sea; more
than ever. I am from Valencia.... We have brought three boats from
there with wine and rice. A good trip, but it was necessary to navigate
close to the coast, following the curve of the gulf, without venturing
to pass from cape to cape for fear of the submarine.... I have met a
Ulysses suspected that these last words contained the real motive which
had made the man, overcoming his timidity, venture to address him.
"It was not on this trip nor on the one before," continued the man of
the sea. "I met it two days before last Christmas. In the winter I
devote myself to fishing. I am the owner of a pair of fishing
smacks.... We were near the island Columbretas when suddenly we saw a
submarine appear near us. The Germans did not do us any harm; the only
vexatious thing was that we had to give them a part of our fish for
what they wished to give us. Then they ordered me to come aboard the
deck of a submarine in order to meet the commander. He was a young
fellow who could talk Castilian as I have heard it spoken over there in
the Americas when I was a youngster sailing on a brigantine."
The man stopped, rather reserved, as though doubtful whether to
continue his story.
"And what did the German say?" asked Ferragut, in order to encourage
him to continue.
"Upon learning that I was a Valencian, he asked me if I was acquainted
with you. He asked me about your steamer, wanting to know if it
generally sailed along the Spanish coast. I replied that I knew you by
name, no more, and then he ..."
The captain encouraged him with a smile on seeing that he was beginning
to hesitate again.
"He spoke badly about me. Isn't that so?..."
"Yes, sir; very badly. He used ugly words. He said that he had an
account to adjust with you and that he wished to be the first one to
meet you. According to what he gave me to understand, the other
submarines are hunting for you, too.... It is an order without doubt."
Ferragut and his mate exchanged a long look. Meanwhile the captain
continued his explanations.
The two friends who were waiting a few steps off had seen the captain
in Valencia and Barcelona many times. One of them had recognized him
immediately; but the other was doubtful whether it might be he, and, as
a matter of conscience, the old skipper had come back to give him this
"We countrymen must help one another.... These are bad times!"
Seeing him standing, his two comrades now came up to Ferragut. "What
would you like to drink?" He invited them to seat themselves at the
table, but they were in a hurry. They were on their way to see the
consignees of their boats.
"Now you know it, Captain," said the skipper on bidding him farewell.
"These demons are after you in order to pay you up for something in the
past. You know what for.... Be very careful!"
The rest of the evening Ferragut and Toni talked very little together.
The two had exactly the same thought in their brain, but avoided
putting it in shape because, as energetic men, they feared that some
cowardly construction might be put upon such thoughts.
At nightfall when they returned to the steamer the pilot ventured to
break the silence.
"Why do you not quit the sea?... You are rich. Besides, they'll give
you whatever you ask for your ship. To-day boats are worth their weight
Ulysses shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't thinking of money. What good
would that do him?... He wanted to pass the rest of his life on the
sea, giving aid to the enemies of his enemies. He had a vengeance to
fulfill.... Living on land, he would be abandoning this vengeance,
though remembering his son with even greater intensity.
The mate was silent for a few moments.
"The enemies are so many," he then said in dismay. "We are so
insignificant!... We only escaped by a few yards being sent to the
bottom on our last trip. What has not happened yet will surely happen
some day.... _They_ have sworn to do away with you; and they are many
... and they are at war. What could we do, we poor peaceable
Toni did not add anything further but his silent thoughts were divined
He was thinking about his family over there in the _Marina_, enduring
an existence of continual anxiety while he was aboard a vessel for
which irresistible menace was lying in wait. He was thinking also of
the wives and mothers of all the men of the crew who were suffering the
same anguish. And Toni was asking himself for the first time whether
Captain Ferragut had the right to drag them all to a sure death just
because of his vengeful and crazy stubbornness.
"No; I have not the right," Ulysses told himself mentally.
But at the same time his mate, repentant of his former reflection, was
affirming in a loud voice with heroic simplicity:
"If I counsel you to retire, it is for your own good; don't think it is
because I am afraid.... I will follow you wherever you sail. I've got
to die some time and it would be far better that it should be in the
sea. The only thing that troubles me is worrying about my wife and
The captain continued walking in silence and, upon reaching his ship,
spoke with brevity. "I was thinking of doing something that perhaps you
would all like. Before next week your future will have been decided."
He passed the following day on land. Twice he returned with some
gentlemen who examined the steamer minutely, going down into the engine
room and the holds. Some of these visitors appeared to be experts in
matters pertaining to the sea.
"He wants to sell the boat," said Toni to himself.
And the mate began to repent of his counsels. Abandon the _Mare
Nostrum_, the best of all the ships on which he had ever sailed!... He
accused himself of cowardice, believing that it was he who had impelled
the captain to reach this decision. What were the two going to do on
land when the steamer was the property of others?... Would he not have
to sail on an inferior boat, running the same risks?... He decided to
undo his work, and was about to counsel Ferragut again, declaring that
his ideas were mere conjecture and that he must continue living as he
was at present, when the captain gave the order for departure. The
repairs were not yet entirely completed.
"We are going to Brest," said Ferragut laconically, "It's the last
And the steamer put to sea without cargo as though going to fulfill a
"The last trip!" Toni admired his ship as though seeing it under a new
light, discovering beauties hitherto unsuspected, lamenting like a
lover the days that were running by so swiftly and the sad moment of
separation that was approaching.
Never had the mate been so active in his vigilance. His seaman's
superstition filled him with a certain terror. Just because it was the
last voyage something horrible might occur to them. He paced the bridge
for entire days, examining the sea, fearing the apparition of a
periscope, varying the course in agreement with the captain, who was
seeking less-frequented waters where the submarines could not expect to
find any prey.
He breathed more freely upon entering one of the three semi-circular
sea-ledges which enclose the roadstead of Brest. When they were
anchored in this bit of sea, foggy and insecure, surrounded with black
mountains, Toni awaited with anxiety the result of the captain's
During the entire course of the trip Ferragut had not been inclined to
be confidential. The mate only knew that this voyage to Brest was the
last. Who was going to be the new owner of the _Mare Nostrum_?...
One rainy evening, upon returning to the boat, Ulysses gave orders that
they should hunt up the mate while he was shaking out his waterproof in
the entry to the stateroom.
The roadstead was dark with its foamy waves, choppy and thick, leaping
like sheep. The men-of-war were sending out smoke from their triple
chimneys ready to confront the bad weather with their steam engines.
The ship, anchored in the commercial port, was dancing restlessly,
tugging at its hawsers, with a mournful croaking. All the nearby boats
were tossing in the same way, just as though they were out on the high
Toni entered the saloon, and one look at the captain's face made him
suspect that the moment for knowing the truth had arrived. Avoiding his
glance, Ulysses told him curtly, trying to evade by the conciseness of
his language all signs of emotion.
He had sold the ship to the French:--a rapid and magnificent piece of
business.... Whoever would have said when he bought the _Mare Nostrum_
that some day they would give him such an enormous sum for it?... In no
country could they find any vessels for sale. The invalids of the sea,
rusting in the harbors as old iron, were now bringing fabulous prices.
Boats, aground and forgotten on remote coasts, were placed afloat for
enterprises that were gaining millions by this resurrection. Others,
submerged in tropical seas, had been brought up to the surface after a
ten years' stay under the water, renewing their voyages. Every month a
new shipyard sprang into existence, but the world war could never find
enough vessels for the transportation of food and instruments of death.
Without any bargaining whatever, they had given Ferragut the price that
he had exacted; fifteen hundred francs per ton,--four million and a
half for the boat. And to this must be added the nearly two millions
that it had gained in its voyages since the beginning of the war.
"I am rotten with money," concluded the captain.
And he said it sadly, remembering with a homesick longing the days of
peace when he was wrestling with the problems of a badly paying
business. But then his son was living. Of what avail was all this
wealth that was assaulting him on all sides as though it were going to
crush him with its weight?... His wife would be able to lavish money
with full hands on works of charity; she would be able to give her
nieces the dowry suitable for daughters of high-born personages....
Nothing more! Neither he nor she could for one moment resuscitate their
past. These useless riches could only bring him a certain tranquillity
in thinking of the future of his wife, who was his entire family. She
was at liberty henceforth to dispose freely of her existence. Cinta, on
his death, would fall heir to millions.
In order to evade the emotions of farewell, he spoke to Toni very
authoritatively. A chart of the Atlantic was lying on the table and
with his index finger he marked out the mate's course; this course was
not across the sea, but far from it, following an inland route.
"To-morrow," he said, "the French are coming to take possession. You
may leave whenever you please, but it will be convenient to have you go
as soon as possible...."
He explained his return trip to Toni, just as though he were giving him
a lesson in geography. This sea-rover became timid and downhearted when
they talked to him about railroad time-tables and changing trains.
"Here is Brest.... Follow this line to Bordeaux; from Bordeaux to the
frontier. And once there, turn to Barcelona or go to Madrid, and from
Madrid to Valencia."
The mate contemplated the map silently, scratching his beard. Then he
raised his canine eyes slowly until he fixed them upon Ulysses.
"And you?" he asked.
"I remain here. The captain of the _Mare Nostrum_, has sold himself
with his vessel."
Toni made a distressed gesture. For a moment he almost believed that
Ferragut wanted to get rid of him and was discontented with his
services. But the captain hastened to explain further.
Because the _Mare Nostrum_ belonged to a neutral country, it could not
be sold to one of the belligerent nations while hostilities lasted.
Because of this, he had transferred it in a way that would not make it
necessary to change the flag. Although no longer its owner, he would
stay on board as its captain, and the ship would continue to be Spanish
the same as before.
"And why must I go away?" asked Toni in a tremulous tone, believing
"We are going to sail armed," replied Ulysses energetically. "I have
made the sale on that account more than for the money. We are going to
carry a quickfirer at the stern, wireless installation, a crew of men
from the naval reserves,--everything necessary to defend ourselves. We
shall make our voyages without hunting for the enemy, carrying freight
as before; but if the enemy comes out to attack us, it will find some
one who will answer."
He was ready to die, if that was to be his fate, but attacking whoever
"And may I not go, too?" persisted the pilot.
"No; back of you there is a family that needs you. You do not belong to
a nation at war, nor have you anything to avenge.... I am the only one
of the former crew that remains on board. All the rest of you are to
go. The captain has a reason for exposing his life, and he does not
wish to assume the responsibility of dragging all of you into his last
Toni understood that it would be useless to insist. His eyes became
moist.... Was it possible that within a few hours they would be bidding
each other a last good-by?... Should he never again see Ulysses and the
ship on which he had spent the greater part of his past?...
In order to maintain his serenity, the captain tried to bring this
interview promptly to an end.
"The first thing to-morrow morning," he said, "you will call the crew
together. Adjust all the accounts. Each one must receive as an extra
bonus a year's pay. I wish them to have pleasant memories of Captain
The mate attempted to oppose this generosity by a remnant of the keen
interest that the business affairs of the boat had always inspired in
him. But his superior officer would not let him continue.
"I am rotten with money, I tell you," he repeated as though uttering a
complaint. "I have more than I need.... I can do foolish things with it
if I wish to."
Then for the first time he looked his mate square in the face.
"As for you," he continued, "I have thought what you must do.... Here,
He gave him a sealed envelope and the pilot mechanically tried to open
"No, don't open it at present. You will find out what it contains when
you are in Spain. Within it is enclosed the future of your own folks."
Toni looked with astonished eyes at the light scrap of paper which he
held between his fingers.
"I know you," continued Ferragut. "You are going to protest at the
quantity. What to me is insignificant, to you will appear excessive....
Do not open the envelope until you are in our country. In it you will
find the name of the bank to which you must go. I wish you to be the
richest man in your village that your sons may remember Captain
Ferragut when he is dead."
The mate made a gesture of protest before this possible death, and at
the same time rubbed his eyes as though he felt in them an intolerable
Ulysses continued his instructions. He had rashly sold the home of his
ancestors there in the _Marina_, the vineyards,--all his legacy from
the _Triton_, when he had acquired the _Mare Nostrum_. It was his wish
that Toni should redeem the property, installing himself in the ancient
domicile of the Ferraguts.
He had money to spare for that and much more.
"I have no children and I like to feel that yours are occupying the
house that was mine.... Perhaps when I get to be an old man--if they do
not kill me, I will come to spend the summers with you. Courage now,
Toni!... We shall yet go fishing together, as I used to go fishing with
my uncle, the doctor."
But the mate did not regain his spirits on hearing these optimistic
affirmations. His eyes were swollen with tears that sparkled in the
corners of his eyes. He was swearing between his teeth, protesting
against the coming separation.... Never to see him again, after so many
years of brotherly companionship!... _Cristo!_...
The captain was afraid that he, too, might burst into tears and again
ordered his mate to present the accounts of the crew.
An hour later Toni reentered the saloon, carrying in his hand the
opened letter. He had not been able to resist the temptation of forcing
the secret, fearing that Ferragut's generosity might prove excessive,
and impossible to consider. He protested, handing to Ulysses the check
taken from the envelope.
"I could not accept it!... It's a crazy idea!..."
He had read with terror the amount made out to him in the letter of
credit, first in figures then in long hand. Two hundred and fifty
thousand pesetas!... fifty thousand dollars!
"That is not for me," he said again. "I do not deserve it.... What
could I ever do with so much money?"
The captain pretended to be irritated by his disobedience.
"You take that paper, you brute!... I was just afraid that you were
going to protest.... It's for your children, and so that you can take a
rest. Now we won't talk any more about it or I shall get angry."
Then, in order to conquer Toni's scruples, he abandoned his violent
tone, and said sadly:
"I have no heirs.... I don't know what to do with my useless fortune."
And he repeated once more like a complaint against destiny: "I am
rotten with money!..."
The following morning, while Toni was in his cabin adjusting the
accounts of the crew, astonished by the munificence of their
paying-off, Uncle Caragol came into the saloon, asking to speak to
He had placed an old cape over his flapping and scanty clothing, more
as a decoration for the visit than because the cold of Brittany was
really making him suffer.
He removed from his shaved head his everlasting palm-leaf hat, fixing
his bloodshot eyes on the captain who continued writing after replying
to his greeting.
"What does this mean, this order that I've just received to prepare to
leave the boat within a few hours?... It must be some kind of a joke of
Toni's; he's an excellent fellow but an enemy to holy things and likes
to tease me because of my piety...."
Ferragut laid aside his pen, swinging around toward the cook whose fate
had troubled him as much as the first mate's.
"Uncle Caragol, we are growing old and we must think about retiring....
I am going to give you a paper; you will guard it just as though it
were a sacred picture, and when you present it in Valencia they will
give you ten thousand dollars. Do you know how much ten thousand
Bringing his mentality down to the level of this simple-minded man, he
enjoyed tracing out for him a plan of living. He could invest his
capital in whatever modest enterprise in the port of Valencia might
appeal to his fancy; he could establish a restaurant which would soon
become famous for its Olympian rice dishes. His nephews who were
fishermen would receive him like a god. He could also be partner in a
couple of barks, dedicated to fishing for the _bou_. There was awaiting
him a happy and honorable old age; his former sailing companions were
going to look upon him with envy. He could get up late in the morning;
he could go to the cafes; as a rich devotee he could figure in all the
religious processions of the Grau and of the Cabanal; he could have a
place of honor in the holy processions....
Heretofore, when Ferragut was talking, Uncle Caragol had always
mechanically interrupted him, saying: "That is so, my captain." For the
first time he was not nodding his head nor smiling with his sun-like
face. He was pale and gloomy. He shook his round head energetically and
"No, my captain."
Before the glance of astonishment which Ulysses flashed upon him, he
found it necessary to explain himself.
"What am I ever going to do ashore?... Who is expecting me there?... Or
what business with my family would have any interest for me?..."
Ferragut seemed to be hearing an echo of his own thoughts. He, like the
cook, would have nothing to do on land.... He was mortally bored when
far from the sea, just as in those months when, still young, he had
believed that he could create for himself a new profession in
Barcelona. Besides, it was impossible to return to his home, taking up
life again with his wife; it would be simply losing his last illusions.
It would be better to view from afar all that remained of his former
Caragol, meanwhile, was going on talking. His nephews would not
remember the poor old cook and he had no reason to trouble himself
about their fate, making them rich. He would prefer to remain just
where he was, without money but happy.
"Let the others go!" he said with childish selfishness. "Let Toni
go!... I'm going to stay.... I've got to stay. When the captain goes,
then Uncle Caragol will go."
Ulysses enumerated the great dangers that the boat was about to face.
The German submarines were lying in wait for it with deadly
determination; there would be combats ... they would be torpedoed....
The old man's smile showed contempt of all such dangers. He was certain
that nothing bad could possibly happen to the _Mare Nostrum_. The
furies of the sea were unavailing against it and still less could the
wickedness of man injure it.
"I know what I'm talking about, Captain.... I am sure that we shall
come out safe and sound from all dangers."
He thought of his miracle-working amulets, of his sacred pictures, of
the supernatural protection that his pious prayers were bringing him.
Furthermore, he was taking into consideration the Latin name of the
ship which had always inspired him with religious respect. It belonged
to the language used by the Church, to the idiom which brought about
miracles and expelled the devil, making him run away aghast.
"The _Mare Nostrum_ will not suffer any misfortune. If it should change
its title ... perhaps. But while it is called _Mare Nostrum_,--how
_could_ anything happen to it?..."
Smiling before this faith, Ferragut brought forth his last argument.
The entire crew was going to be made up of Frenchmen; how could they
ever understand each other if he were ignorant of their language?...
"I know it all," affirmed the old man superbly.
He had made himself understood with men in all the different ports of
the world. He was counting on something more than mere language,--on
his eyes, his hands, the expressive cunning of an exuberant and
"I am just like _San Vicente Ferrer_," he added with pride.
His saint had spoken only the Valencian dialect, and yet had traveled
throughout half Europe preaching to throngs of different tongues,
making them weep with mystic emotion and repent of their sins.
While Ferragut retained the command, he was going to stay. If he didn't
want him for a cook, he would be the cabin boy, washing up the pots and
pans. The important thing for him was to continue treading the deck of
The captain had to give in. This old fellow represented a remnant of
his past. He could betake himself from time to time to the galley to
talk over the far-away days in which they first met.
And Caragol retired, content with his success.
"As for those Frenchmen," he said before departing, "just leave them to
me. They must be good people.... We'll just see what they say about my
In the course of the week the _Mare Nostrum_ was de-organized and
re-manned. Its former crew went marching away in groups. Toni was the
last to leave, and Ulysses did not wish to see him, fearing to show his
emotion. They'd surely write to each other.
A sympathetic curiosity impelled the cook toward the new marine force.
He saluted the officers affably, regretting not to know their language
sufficiently to begin a friendly conversation with them. The captain
had accustomed him to such familiarity.
There were two mates that the mobilization had converted into auxiliary
lieutenants of the navy. The first day they presented themselves on
board arrayed in their uniform; then they returned in civilian clothes
in order to habituate themselves to being simply merchant officers on a
neutral steamer. The two knew by hearsay, of Ferragut's former voyages
and his services to the Allies, and they understood each other
sympathetically without the slightest national prejudice. Caragol
achieved equal success with the forty-five men who had taken possession
of the machinery and the messrooms in the forecastle. They were dressed
like seamen of the fleet, with a broad blue collar and a cap topped by
a red pompom. Some displayed on the breast military medals and the
recent _Croix de Guerre_. From their canvas bags which served them for
valises, they unpacked their regulation suits, worn when they were
working on the freight steamers, on the schooners plying to
Newfoundland, or on the simple coasting smacks.
The galley at certain hours was full of men listening to the old cook.
Some knew the Spanish tongue on account of having sailed in brigs from
Saint-Malo and Saint-Nazaire, going to the ports of the Argentine,
Chili and Peru. Those who could not understand the old fellow's words,
could guess at them from his gesticulations. They were all laughing,
finding him bizarre and interesting. And this general gayety induced
Caragol to bring forth liquid treasures that had been piling up in
former voyages under Ferragut's careless and generous administration.
The strong alcoholic wine of the coast of the Levant began falling into
the glasses like ink crowned with a circle of rubies. The old man
poured it forth with a prodigal hand. "Drink away, boys; in your land
you don't have anything like this...." At other times he would concoct
his famous "refrescoes," smiling with the satisfaction of an artist at
seeing the sensuous grin that began flashing across their countenances.
"When did you ever drink anything like that? What would ever become of
you all without your Uncle Caragol?..."
These Bretons, accustomed to the discipline and sobriety of other
vessels, admired greatly the extraordinary privileges of a cook who
could display as much generosity as the captain himself. He frequently
communicated to Ferragut his opinion regarding his new comrades. With
good reason he had said that they would understand each other!... They
were serious and religious men, and he preferred them to the former
Mediterranean crews, blasphemers and incapable of resignation, who at
the slightest vexation would rip out God's name, trying to affront him
with their curses.
They were all muscular and well set-up with blue eyes and blonde
mustaches, and were wearing hidden medallions. One of them had
presented to the cook one of his religious charms which he had bought
on a pilgrimage to _Ste. Anne d'Auray_. Caragol was wearing it upon his
hairy chest, and experiencing a new-born faith in the miracles of this
"To her sanctuary, Captain, the pilgrims go in thousands. Every day she
performs a miracle.... There's a holy staircase there which the devout
climb on their knees and many of these lads have mounted it. I should
On some of their voyages to Brest he was hoping that Ferragut would
permit him to go to Auray long enough to climb that same stairway on
his knees, to see _Ste. Anne_ and return aboard ship.
The vessel was no longer in a commercial harbor. It had gone to a
military harbor,--a narrow river winding through the interior of the
city, dividing it in two. A great drawbridge put in communication the
two shores bordered with vast constructions and high chimneys, naval
shops, warehouses, arsenals, and dry-docks for cleaning up the boats.
Tug-boats were continually stirring up its green and miry waters.
Steamers undergoing repairs were lined up the length of the
break-waters undergoing a continual pounding that made their plates
resound. Lighters topped with hills of pit coal were going slowly to
take their position along the flanks of the ships. Under the drawbridge
launches were coming and going from the warships, leaving on the
floating piers the crews celebrating their shore-leave with scandalous
The _Mare Nostrum_ remained isolated while the workmen from the arsenal
were installing on the poop rapid-fire guns and the wireless telegraph
apparatus. No one could come aboard that did not belong to the crew.
The sailors' families were waiting for them on the wharf, and Caragol
had occasion to become acquainted with many Breton women,--mothers,
sisters, or fiancees of his new friends. He liked these women: they
were dressed in black with full skirts, and white, stiff caps which
brought to his mind the wimples of the nuns.... Some tall, stout girls
with blue and candid eyes laughed at the Spaniard without understanding
a single word. The old women with faces as dark and wrinkled as winter
apples touched glasses with Caragol in the low cafes near the port.
They all could do honor to a goblet in an opportune moment, and had
great faith in the saints. The cook did not require anything more....
Most excellent and charming people!
Certain lads decorated with the _Croix de Guerre_ used to relate their
experiences to him. They were survivors of the battalion of marines who
defended Dixmude. After the battle of the Marne they had been sent to
intercept the enemy on the side of Flanders. There were not more than
six thousand of them and, aided by a Belgian division, they had
sustained the onrush of an entire army. Their resistance had lasted for
weeks:--a combat of barricades in the street, of struggles the length
of the canal with the bloodiness of the ancient piratical forays. The
officers had shouted their orders with broken swords and bandaged
heads. The men had fought on without thinking of their wounds, covered
with blood, until they fell down dead.
Caragol, hitherto little interested in military affairs, became most
enthusiastic when relating this heroic struggle to Ferragut, simply
because his new friends had taken part in it.
"Many died, Captain.... Almost half of them. But the Germans couldn't
make any headway.... Then, on learning that the marines had been no
more than six thousand, the generals tore their hair. So great was
their wrath! They had supposed that they were confronted by dozens of
thousands.... It was just great to hear the lads relate what they did
Among these "lads" wounded in the war, who had passed to the naval
reserve and were manning the _Mare Nostrum_, one was especially
distinguished by the old man's partiality. He could talk to him in
Spanish, because of his transatlantic voyages, and besides he had been
born in Vannes.
If the youth ever approached the cook's dominions he was invariably met
with a smile of invitation. "A refresco, Vicente?" The best seat was
for him. Caragol had forgotten his name as not worth while. Since he
came from Vannes, he could not have any other name but Vicente.
The first day that they chatted together, the marine, in love with his
country, described to the cook the beauties of Morbihan,--a great
interior sea surrounded with groves and with islands covered with
pines. Among the venerable antiquities of the city was the Gothic
cathedral with its many tombs, among them that of a Spanish saint,--St.
This gave a tug at Caragol's heart-strings. He had never before
bothered to find out where the famous apostle of Valencia was
entombed.... He recalled suddenly a strophe of the songs of praise that
the devotees of his land used to sing before the altars of this saint.
Sure enough he had gone to die in "Vannes, in Brittainy,"--a mere
geographical name which until then had lacked any significance for
him.... And so this lad was from Vannes? Nothing more was needed to
make Caragol regard him with the respect due to one born in a
He made him describe many times the tomb of the saint, the only one in
the transept of the cathedral, the moth-eaten tapestries that
perpetuated his miracles, the silver bust which guarded his heart....
Furthermore, the principal portal of Vannes was called the gate of St.
Vicente and recollections of the saint were still alive in their
Caragol proposed to visit this city also when the ship should return to
Brest. Brittainy must be very holy ground, the holiest in the world,
since the miracle-working Valencian, after traversing so many nations,
had wished to die there.
It, therefore, did not produce the slightest astonishment that this
slip of a boy who had been picked up at Dixmude covered with wounds,
was now showing himself sane and vigorous.... On board the _Mare
Nostrum_ he was the head gunner. He and two comrades had charge of the
quickfirers. For Caragol there was not the slightest doubt as to the
fate of every submarine that should venture to attack them; the "lad
from Vannes" would send them to smithereens at the first shot. A
picture post-card, a gift of the lad from Brittany, showing the tomb of
the saint, occupied the position of honor in the galley. The old man
used to pray before it as though it were a miracle-working print, and
the _Cristo del Grao_ was relegated to second place.
One morning Caragol went in search of the captain and found him writing
in his stateroom. He had just come from making purchases in the shore
market. While passing through the _rue de Siam_, the most important
road in Brest, where the theaters are, the moving-picture shows, and
the cafes, he had had an encounter. "An unexpected meeting," he
continued with a mysterious smile. "Who do you suppose it was with?..."
Ferragut shrugged his shoulders. And, noting his indifference, the old
man could not keep the secret any longer.
"The lady-bird!" he added. "That handsome, perfumed lady-bird that used
to come to see you.... The one from Naples.... The one from
Barcelona...." The captain turned pale, first with surprise and then
with anger. Freya in Brest!... Her spy work was reaching even here?...
Caragol went on with his story. He was returning to the ship, and she,
who was walking through the _rue de Siam,_ had recognized him, speaking
to him affectionately.
"She asked to be remembered to you.... She has been informed that no
foreigner can come aboard. She told me that she had tried to come to
The cook began a search through his pockets, extricating a bit of
wrinkled paper, a white sheet snatched from an old letter.
"She also gave me this paper, written right there in the street with a
lead pencil. You will know what it says. I did not wish to look at it."
Ferragut, on taking the paper, recognized immediately her handwriting,
although uneven, nervous and scribbled with great precipitation. Six
words, no more:--"Farewell, I am going to die."
"Lies! Always lies!" said the voice of prudence in his brain.
He tore up the paper and passed the rest of the morning very much
preoccupied.... It was his duty to defend himself against this
espionage that had even established its base in a port of war.... Every
boat anchored near the _Mare Nostrum_ was menaced by Freya's power to
give information. Who knew but what her mysterious communications would
bring about their attack by a submarine on going out from the roadstead
His first impulse was to denounce her. Then he repented because of his
absurd scruples of chivalry.... Besides, he would have to explain his
past to the head officers at Brest who knew him very slightly. He was
far from that naval captain at Salonica who had so well understood his
He wished to watch her for himself, and in the evening he went ashore.
He detested Brest as one of the dullest cities of the Atlantic. It was
always raining there, and there was no diversion except the eternal
promenade through the _rue de Siam_, or a bored stay in the cafes full
of seamen and English and Portuguese land-officers.
He went through the public establishments night and day; he made
investigations in the hotels; he hired carriages in order to visit the
more picturesque suburbs. For four days he persisted in his inquiries
without any result.
He began to doubt Uncle Caragol's veracity. Perhaps he had been drunk
on returning to the ship, and had made up such an encounter. But the
recollection of that paper written by her discounted such a
supposition.... Freya was in Brest.
The cook explained it all simply enough when the captain besieged him
with fresh questions.
"The lady-bird must just be passing through. Perhaps she flitted away
that same evening.... That meeting was just a chance encounter."
Ferragut had to give up his investigations. The defensive work on the
ship was about terminated and the holds contained their cargo of
projectiles for the army of the Orient and various unmounted guns. He
received his sailing orders, and one gray and rainy morning they lifted
anchor and steamed out of the bay of Brest. The fog made even more
difficult the passage between the reefs that obstruct this port. They
passed before the lugubrious Bay of the Dead, ancient cemetery of
sailboats, and continued their navigation toward the south in search of
the strait in order to enter the Mediterranean.
Ferragut felt increased pride in examining the new aspect of the _Mare
Nostrum_. The wireless telegraph was going to keep him in contact with
the world. He was no longer a merchant captain, slave of destiny,
trusting to good luck, and incapable of repelling an attack. The
radiographic stations were watching for him the entire length of the
coast, advising him of changes in his course that he might avoid the
ambushed enemy. The apparatus was constantly hissing and sustaining
invisible dialogues. Besides, mounted on the stern was a cannon covered
with a canvas hood, ready to begin work.
The dreams of his childhood when he used to devour stories of corsairs
and novels of maritime adventures seemed about to be realized. He was
now entitled to call himself "Captain of Sea and War" like the ancient
navigators. If a submarine should pass before him, he would attack it
from the prow; if it should try to pursue him, he would respond with
His adventurous humor actually made him anxious for one of these
encounters. A maritime combat had not yet occurred in his life, and he
wished to see how these modest and silent men who had made war on land
and contemplated death at close range, would demean themselves.
It was not long before his desire was realized. One morning on the high
seas near Lisbon, when he had just fallen asleep after a night on the
bridge, the shouts and runnings of the crew awakened him.
A submarine had broken the surface about fifteen hundred yards astern
and was coming toward the _Mare Nostrum_, evidently fearing that the
merchant-boat would try to escape; but in order to oblige it to stop,
its gun fired two shells which fell into the water.
The steamer moderated its pace but only to place itself in a more
favorable position and to maneuver with more sea room, with its arms at
the stern. At the first shot the submarine began to recede, keeping a
more prudent distance, surprised to receive an answer to its
The combat lasted half an hour. The shots repeated themselves on both
sides with the speed of rapid fire artillery. Ferragut was near the
gun, admiring the calm coolness with which its servants manipulated it.
One always had a projectile in his arms ready to give it to his
companion who rapidly introduced it into the smoking chamber. The
gunner was concentrating all his life in his eyes, and bending over the
cannon, moved it carefully, seeking the sensitive part of that gray and
prolonged body that was rising to the surface of the water as though it
were a whale.
Suddenly a cloud of kindling wood flew near the steamer's prow. An
enemy's projectile had just hit the edge of the roofs that covered the
galley and mess rooms. Caragol, who was standing in the door of his
dominions, raised his hands to his hat. When the yellowish and
evil-smelling cloud dissolved, they saw him still standing there,
scratching the top of his head, bare and red.
"It's nothing!" he cried. "Just a bit of wood that drew a little of my
blood. Fire away!... Fire!"
He was yelling directions, inflamed by the shooting. The drug-like
smell of the smokeless powder, the dull thud of the detonations
appeared to intoxicate him. He was leaping and wringing his hands with
the ardor of a war-dancer.
The gunners redoubled their activity; the shots became continuous.
"There it is!" yelled Caragol. "They have hit it.... They have hit it!"
Of all those aboard, he was the one who could least appreciate the
effects of the shots for he could scarcely discern the silhouette of
the submersible. But in spite of that he continued bellowing with all
the force of his faith.
"Now you've hit it!... Hurrah! Hurrah!"
And the strange thing was that the enemy instantly disappeared from the
blue surface. The gunners still sent some shots against their
periscope. Then there was left in the place which they had occupied
only a white and glistening expanse.
The steamer went toward this enormous spot of oil whose undulations
were twinkling with sunflower-like reflections.
The marines uttered shouts of enthusiasm. They were sure of having sent
the submersible to the bottom. The officers were less optimistic. They
had never seen one raise itself up vertically, tilting its stern high
in the air before sinking. Perhaps it simply had been damaged and
obliged to hide.
The loss of the submarine was a sure thing in Caragol's estimation, and
he considered it entirely unnecessary to ask the name of the one who
had blown it to smithereens.
"It must have been that lad from Vannes.... He's the only one who could
have done it."
For him the other gunners simply did not exist. And, inflamed by his
enthusiasm, he wriggled out of the hands of the two seamen who had
begun to bandage his head with a deftness learned in land combats.
Ferragut was entirely satisfied with this encounter. Although he could
not be absolutely certain of the destruction of the enemy, the fact
that his boat had saved itself would spread abroad the fact that the
_Mare Nostrum_ was entirely capable of self-defense.
His joy took him to Caragol's domains.
"Well done, old man! We're going to write to the Ministry of Marine to
give you the _Croix de Guerre_."
The cook, taking his words in all seriousness, declined the honor. If
such recompense were to be given to any one, let it be handed to "that
lad from Vannes." Then he added as though reflecting the captain's
"I like to sail in this fashion.... Our steamer has gotten its teeth,
and now it will not have to run like a frightened rabbit.... They'll
have to let it go on its way in peace because now it can bite."
The rest of the journey toward Salonica was without incident.
Telegraphy kept it in contact with the instructions arriving from the
shore. Gibraltar advised it to sail close to the African coast; Malta
and Bizerta pointed out that it could continue forward since the
passage between Tunis and Sicily was clear of enemies. From distant
Egypt tranquillizing messages came to meet them while they were sailing
among the Grecian Islands with the prow toward Salonica.
On their return, they were to take freight to the harbor of Marseilles.
Ferragut did not have to bother about the boat while it was at anchor.
The French officials were the ones who made arrangements with the
harbor authorities. He merely had to be the justification for the flag,
a captain of a neutral country, whose presence certified to the
nationality of the vessel. Only on the sea did he recover command,
every one becoming obedient to those on the bridge.
He wandered through Marseilles as at other times, passing the first
hours of the evening on the terraces of the _Cannebiere_.
An old Marseillaise, captain of a merchant steamer, used to chat with
him before returning to his office. One afternoon, while Ferragut was
absent-mindedly glancing at a certain Paris daily that his friend was
carrying, his attention was suddenly attracted by a name printed at the
head of a short article. Surprise made him turn pale while at the same
time something contracted within his breast. Again he spelled out the
name, fearing that he had been under an hallucination. Doubt was
impossible: it was very clear,--_Freya Talberg_. He took the paper from
his comrade's hand, disguising his impatience by an assumption of
"What is the war news to-day?..."
And while the old sailor was giving him the news, he read feverishly
the few lines grouped beneath that name.
He was bewildered. The heading told little to one ignorant of the
preceding facts to which the periodical alluded. These lines were
simply voicing a protest against the government for not having made the
famous Freya Talberg pay the penalty to which she had been sentenced.
The paragraph terminated with mention of the beauty and elegance of the
delinquent as though to these qualities might be attributed the delay
Ferragut put forth all his efforts to give his voice a tone of
"Who is this individual?" he said, pointing to the heading of the
His companion had some difficulty in recalling her. So many things were
happening because of the war....
"She is a _boche_, a spy, sentenced to death.... It appears that she
did a great deal of work here and in other ports, sending word to the
German submarines about the departure of our transports.... They
arrested her in Paris two months ago when she was returning from
His friend said this with a certain indifference. These spies were so
numerous!... The newspapers were constantly publishing notices of their
shooting:--two lines, no more, as though treating of an ordinary
"This Freya Talberg," he continued, "has had enough said about her
personality. It seems that she is a _chic_ woman,--a species of lady
from a novel. Many are protesting because she has not yet been
executed. It is sad to have to kill one of her sex,--to kill a woman
and especially a beautiful woman!... But nevertheless it is very
necessary.... I believe that she is to be shot at any moment."