Part 3 out of 3
and Wilbur had a sudden glimpse of another sitting on the sand
with his hand to his mouth, the blood spurting between his
Wilbur suddenly realized that he held a knife, and that he was
directly abreast the sand rampart. How he got the knife he could
not tell, though he afterward distinctly remembered throwing away
his revolver, loaded as it was. He had leaped the breastworks, he
knew that, and between him and the vast bright blur of the ocean
he saw one of the beach-combers backing away and watching him
intently, his hatchet in his hand. Wilbur had only time to think
that he himself would no doubt be killed within the next few
moments, when this latter halted abruptly, took a step forward,
and. instead of striking downward, as Wilbur had anticipated,
dropped upon his knee and struck with all his might at the calf of
Wilbur's leg. It was only the thickness of his boots that saved
Wilbur from being hamstrung where he stood. As it was, he felt
the blade bite almost to the bone, and heard the blood squelch in
the sole of his boot, as he staggered for the moment, almost
tripping over the man in front of him.
The Chinaman sprang to his feet again, but Wilbur was at him in an
instant, feeling instinctively that his chance was to close with
his man, and so bring his own superior weight and strength to
bear. Again and again he tried to run in and grip the slim yellow
body, but the other dodged and backed away, as hard to hold as any
fish. All around and back of him now Wilbur heard the hideous
sound of stamping and struggling, and the noise of hoarse, quick
shouts and the rebound of bodies falling and rolling upon the
hard, smooth beach. The thing had not been a farce, after all.
This was fighting at last, and there within arm's length were men
grappling and gripping and hitting one another, each honestly
striving to kill his fellow--Chinamen all, fighting in barbarous
Oriental fashion with nails and teeth when the knife or hatchet
failed. What did he, clubman and college man, in that hideous
trouble that wrought itself out there on that heat-stricken tropic
beach under that morning's sun?
Suddenly there was a flash of red flame, and a billow of thick,
yellow smoke filled all the air. The cabin was afire. The
hatchet-man with whom Wilbur was fighting had been backing in this
direction. He was close in when the fire began to leap from the
one window; now he could go no further. He turned to run sidewise
between his enemy and the burning cabin. Wilbur thrust his foot
sharply forward; the beach-comber tripped, staggered, and before
he had reached the ground Wilbur had driven home the knife.
Then suddenly, at the sight of his smitten enemy rolling on the
ground at his feet, the primitive man, the half-brute of the stone
age, leaped to life in Wilbur's breast--he felt his muscles
thrilling with a strength they had not known before. His nerves,
stretched tense as harp-strings, were vibrating to a new tune.
His blood spun through his veins till his ears roared with the
rush of it. Never had he conceived of such savage exultation as
that which mastered him at that instant. The knowledge that he
could kill filled him with a sense of power that was veritably
royal. He felt physically larger. It was the joy of battle, the
horrid exhilaration of killing, the animal of the race, the human
brute suddenly aroused and dominating every instinct and tradition
of centuries of civilization. The fight still was going forward.
Wilbur could hear the sounds of it, though from where he stood all
sight was shut off by the smoke of the burning house. As he
turned about, knife in hand, debating what next he should do, a
figure burst down upon him, shadowy and distorted through the
It was Moran, but Moran as Wilbur had never seen her before. Her
eyes were blazing under her thick frown like fire under a bush.
Her arms were bared to the elbow, her heavy ropes of hair flying
and coiling from her in all directions, while with a voice hoarse
from shouting she sang, or rather chanted, in her long-forgotten
Norse tongue, fragments of old sagas, words, and sentences,
meaningless even to herself. The fury of battle had exalted her
to a sort of frenzy. She was beside herself with excitement.
Once more she had lapsed back to the Vikings and sea-rovers of the
tenth century--she was Brunhilde again, a shield-maiden, a
Valkyrie, a Berserker and the daughter of Berserkers, and like
them she fought in a veritable frenzy, seeing nothing, hearing
nothing, every sense exalted, every force doubled, insensible to
pain, deaf to all reason.
Her dirk uplifted, she rushed upon Wilbur, never once pausing in
her chant. Wilbur shouted a warning to her as she came on,
puzzled beyond words, startled back to a consciousness of himself
again by this insensate attack.
"Moran! Moran!" he called. "What is it--you're wrong! It-s I.
It's Wilbur--your mate, can't you see?"
Moran could not see--blind to friend or foe, as she was deaf to
reason, she struck at him with all the strength of her arm. But
there was no skill in her fighting now. Wilbur dropped his own
knife and gripped her right wrist. She closed with him upon the
instant, clutching at his throat with her one free hand; and as he
felt her strength--doubled and tripled in the fury of her madness--
Wilbur knew that, however easily he had overcome his enemy of a
moment before, he was now fighting for his very life.
At first, Wilbur merely struggled to keep her from him--to prevent
her using her dirk. He tried not to hurt her. But what with the
spirits he had drunk before the attack, what with the excitement
of the attack itself and the sudden unleashing of the brute in him
an instant before, the whole affair grew dim and hazy in his mind.
He ceased to see things in their proportion. His new-found
strength gloried in matching itself with another strength that was
its equal. He fought with Moran--not as he would fight with
either woman or man, or with anything human, for the matter of
that. He fought with her as against some impersonal force that it
was incumbent upon him to conquer--that it was imperative he
should conquer if he wished to live. When she struck, he struck
blow for blow, force for force, his strength against hers,
glorying in that strange contest, though he never once forgot that
this last enemy was the girl he loved. It was not Moran whom he
fought; it was her force, her determination, her will, her
splendid independence, that he set himself to conquer.
Already she had dropped or flung away the dirk, and their battle
had become an issue of sheer physical strength between them. It
was a question now as to who should master the other. Twice she
had fought Wilbur to his knees, the heel of her hand upon his
face, his head thrust back between his shoulders, and twice he had
wrenched away, rising to his feet again, panting, bleeding even,
but with his teeth set and all his resolution at the sticking-
point. Once he saw his chance, and planted his knuckles squarely
between her eyes where her frown was knotted hard, hoping to stun
her and end the fight once and for all. But the blow did not seem
to affect her in the least. By this time he saw that her
Berserker rage had worked itself clear as fermenting wine clears
itself, and that she knew now with whom she was fighting; and he
seemed now to understand the incomprehensible, and to sympathize
with her joy in measuring her strength against his; and yet he
knew that the combat was deadly serious, and that more than life
was at stake. Moran despised a weakling.
For an instant, as they fell apart, she stood off, breathing hard
and rolling up her sleeve; then, as she started forward again,
Wilbur met her half-way, caught her round the neck and under the
arm, gripping her left wrist with his right hand behind her; then,
exerting every ounce of strength he yet retained, he thrust her
down and from him, until at length, using his hip as a pivot, he
swung her off her feet, threw her fairly on her back, and held her
so, one knee upon her chest, his hands closed vise-like on her
Then suddenly Moran gave up, relaxing in his grasp all in a
second, and, to his great surprise, suddenly smiled.
"Ho! mate," she exclaimed; "that was a tough one; but I'm beaten--
you're stronger than I thought for."
Wilbur released her and rose to his feet.
"Here," she continued, "give me your hand. I'm as weak as a
kitten." As Wilbur helped her to her feet, she put her hand to her
forehead, where his knuckles had left their mark, and frowned at
him, but not ill-naturedly.
"Next time you do that," she said, "use a rock or a belaying-pin,
or something that won't hurt--not your fist, mate." She looked at
him admiringly. "What a two-fisted, brawny dray-horse it is! I
told you I was stronger than most men, didn't I? But I'm the
weaker of us two, and that's a fact. You've beaten, mate--I admit
it; you've conquered me, and," she continued, smiling again and
shaking him by the shoulder--"and, mate, do you know, I love you
A CHANGE IN LEADERS
"Well," exclaimed Wilbur at length, the excitement of the fight
returning upon him. "We have plenty to do yet. Come on, Moran."
It was no longer Moran who took the initiative--who was the
leader. The brief fight upon the shore had changed all that. It
was Wilbur who was now the master, it was Wilbur who was
aggressive. He had known what it meant to kill. He was no longer
afraid of anything, no longer hesitating. He had felt a sudden
quadrupling of all his strength, moral and physical.
All that was strong and virile and brutal in him seemed to harden
and stiffen in the moment after he had seen the beach-comber
collapse limply on the sand under the last strong knife-blow; and
a sense of triumph, of boundless self-confidence, leaped within
him, so that he shouted aloud in a very excess of exhilaration;
and snatching up a heavy cutting-in spade, that had been dropped
in the fight near the burning cabin, tossed it high into the air,
catching it again as it descended, like any exultant savage.
"Come on!" he cried to Moran; "where are the beach-combers gone?
I'm going to get one more before the show is over."
The two passed out of the zone of smoke, and reached the other
side of the burning cabin just in time to see the last of the
struggle. The whole affair had not taken more than a quarter of
an hour. In the end the beach-combers had been beaten. Four had
fled into the waste of sand and sage that lay back of the shore,
and had not been pursued. A fifth had been almost hamstrung by
one of the "Bertha's" coolies, and had given himself up. A sixth,
squealing and shrieking like a tiger-cat, had been made prisoner;
and Wilbur himself had accounted for the seventh.
As Wilbur and Moran came around the cabin they saw the "Bertha
Millner's" Chinamen in a group, not far from the water's edge,
reassembled after the fight--panting and bloody, some of them bare
to the belt, their weapons still in their hands. Here and there
was a bandaged arm or head; but their number was complete--or no,
was it complete?
"Ought to be one more," said Wilbur, anxiously hastening for-ward.
As the two came up the coolies parted, and Wilbur saw one of them,
his head propped upon a rolled-up blouse, lying ominously still on
the trampled sand.
"It's Charlie!" exclaimed Moran.
"Where's he hurt?" cried Wilbur to the group of coolies. "Jim!--
where's Jim? Where's he hurt, Jim?"
Jim, the only member of the crew besides Charlie who could
understand or speak English, answered:
"Kai-gingh him fin' pistol, you' pistol; Charlie him fight plenty;
bime-by, when he no see, one-piecee Kai-gingh he come up behin',
shoot um Charlie in side--savvy?"
"Did he kill him? Is he dead?"
"No, I tinkum die plenty soon; him no savvy nuttin' now, him all-
same sleep. Plenty soon bime-by him sleep for good, I tink."
There was little blood to be seen when Wilbur gently unwrapped the
torn sleeve of a blouse that had been used as a bandage. Just
under the armpit was the mark of the bullet--a small puncture
already closed, half hidden under a clot or two of blood. The
coolie lay quite unconscious, his eyes wide open, drawing a faint,
quick breath at irregular intervals.
"What do you think, mate?" asked Moran in a low voice.
"I think he's got it through the lungs," answered Wilbur, frowning
in distress and perplexity. "Poor old Charlie!"
Moran went down on a knee, and put a finger on the slim, corded
wrist, yellow as old ivory.
"Charlie," she called--"Charlie, here, don't you know me? Wake up,
old chap! It's Moran. You're not hurt so very bad, are you?"
Charlie's eyes closed and opened a couple of times.
"No can tell," he answered feebly; "hurt plenty big"; then he
began to cough.
Wilbur drew a sigh of relief. "He's all right!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, I think he's all right," assented Moran.
"First thing to do now is to get him aboard the schooner," said
Wilbur. "We'll take him right across in the beach-combers' dory
here. By Jove!" he exclaimed on a sudden. "The ambergris--I'd
forgotten all about it." His heart sank. In the hideous confusion
of that morning's work, all thought of the loot had been
forgotten. Had the battle been for nothing, after all? The moment
the beach-combers had been made aware of the meditated attack, it
would have been an easy matter for them to have hidden the
ambergris--destroyed it even.
In two strides Wilbur had reached the beach-combers' dory and was
groping in the forward cuddy. Then he uttered a great shout of
satisfaction. The "stuff" was there, all of it, though the mass
had been cut into quarters, three parts of it stowed in tea-
flails, the fourth still reeved up in the hammock netting.
"We've got it!" he cried to Moran, who had followed him. "We've
got it, Moran! Over $100,000. We're rich--rich as boodlers, you
and I. Oh, it was worth fighting for, after all, wasn't it? Now
we'll get out of here--now we'll cut for home."
"It's only Charlie I'm thinking about," answered Moran,
hesitating. "If it wasn't for that we'd be all right. I don't
know whether we did right, after all, in jumping the camp here. I
wouldn't like to feel that I'd got Charlie into our quarrel only
to have him killed."
Wilbur stared at this new Moran in no little amazement. Where was
the reckless, untamed girl of the previous night, who had sworn at
him and denounced his niggling misgivings as to right and wrong?
"Hoh!" he retorted impatiently, "Charlie's right enough. And,
besides, I didn't force him to anything. I--we, that is--took the
same chances. If I hadn't done for my man there behind the cabin,
he would have done for me. At all events, we carried our point.
We got the loot. They took it from us, and we were strong enough
to get it back."
Moran merely nodded, as though satisfied with his decision, and
"Well, what next, mate?"
"We'll get back to the 'Bertha' now and put to sea as soon as we
can catch the tide. I'll send Jim and two of the other men across
in the dory with Charlie. The rest of us will go around by the
shore. We've got to have a chin-chin with Hoang, if he don't get
loose aboard there and fire the boat before we can get back. I
don't propose taking these beach-combers back to 'Frisco with us."
"What will we do with the two prisoners?" she asked.
"Let them go; we've got their arms."
The positions of the two were reversed. It was Wilbur who assumed
control and direction of what went forward, Moran taking his
advice and relying upon his judgment.
In accordance with Wilbur's orders, Charlie was carried aboard the
dory; which, with two Chinamen at the oars, and the ambergris
stowed again into the cuddy, at once set off for the schooner.
Wilbur himself cut the ropes on the two prisoners, and bade them
shift for themselves. The rest of the party returned to the
"Bertha Millner" around the wide sweep of the beach.
It was only by high noon, under the flogging of a merciless sun,
that the entire crew of the little schooner once more reassembled
under the shadow of her stranded hulk. They were quite worn out;
and as soon as Charlie was lifted aboard, and the ambergris--or,
as they spoke of it now, the "loot"--was safely stowed in the
cabin, Wilbur allowed the Chinamen three or four hours' rest.
They had had neither breakfast nor dinner; but their exhaustion
was greater than their hunger, and in a few moments the entire
half-dozen were stretched out asleep on the forward deck in the
shadow of the foresail raised for the purpose of sheltering them.
However, Wilbur and Moran sought out Hoang, whom they found as
they had left him--bound upon the floor of the cabin.
"Now we have a talk--savvy?" Wilbur told him as he loosed the
ropes about his wrists and ankles. "We got our loot back from
you, old man, and we got one of your men into the bargain. You
woke up the wrong crowd, Hoang, when you went up against this
outfit. You're in a bad way, my friend. Your junk is wrecked;
all your oil and blubber from the whale is lost; four of your men
have run away, one is killed, another one we caught and let go,
another one has been hamstrung; and you yourself are our prisoner,
with your teeth filed down to your gums. Now," continued Wilbur,
with the profoundest gravity, "I hope this will be a lesson to
you. Don't try and get too much the next time. Just be content
with what is yours by right, or what you are strong enough to
keep, and don't try to fight with white people. Other coolies, I
don't say. But when you try to get the better of white people you
are out of your class."
The little beach-comber (he was scarcely above five feet) rubbed
his chafed wrists, and fixed Wilbur with his tiny, twinkling eyes.
"What you do now?"
"We go home. I'm going to maroon you and your people here on this
beach. You deserve that I should let you eat your fists by way of
table-board; but I'm no such dirt as you. When our men left the
schooner they brought off with them a good share of our
provisions. I'll leave them here for you--and there's plenty of
turtle and abalone to be had for the catching. Some of the
American men-of-war, I believe, come down to this bay for target-
practice twice a year, and if we speak any on the way up we'll ask
them to call here for castaways. That's what I'll do for you, and
that's all! If you don't like it, you can set out to march up the
coast till you hit a town; but I wouldn't advise you to try it.
Now what have you got to say?"
Hoang was silent. His queue had become unbound for half its
length, and he plaited it anew, winking his eyes thoughtfully.
"Well, what do you say?" said Moran.
"I lose face," answered Hoang at length, calmly.
"You lose face? What do you mean?"
"I lose face," he insisted; then added: "I heap 'shamed. You
fightee my China boy, you catchee me. My boy no mo' hab me fo'
boss--savvy? I go back, him no likee me. Mebbe all same killee
me. I lose face--no mo' boss."
"What a herd of wild cattle!" muttered Wilbur.
"There's something in what he says, don't you think, mate?"
observed Moran, bringing a braid over each shoulder and stroking
it according to her habit.
"We'll ask Jim about it," decided Wilbur.
But Jim at once confirmed Hoang's statement. "Oh, Kai-gingh
killum no-good boss, fo' sure," he declared.
"Don't you think, mate," said Moran, "we'd better take him up to
'Frisco with us? We've had enough fighting and killing."
So it was arranged that the defeated beach-comber, the whipped
buccaneer, who had "lost face" and no longer dared look his men in
the eye, should be taken aboard.
By four o'clock next morning Wilbur had the hands at work digging
the sand from around the "Bertha Millner's" bow. The line by
which she was to be warped off was run out to the ledge of the
rock; fresh water was taken on; provisions for the marooned beach-
combers were cached upon the beach; the dory was taken aboard,
gaskets were cast off, and hatches battened down.
At high tide, all hands straining upon the warp, the schooner was
floated off, and under touch of the lightest airs drew almost
imperceptibly away from the land. They were quite an hour
crawling out to the heads of the bay. But here the breeze was
freshening. Moran took the wheel; the flying-jib and staysail
were set; the wake began to whiten under the schooner's stern, the
forefoot sang; the Pacific opened out more and more; and by 12:30
o'clock Moran put the wheel over, and, as the schooner's bow swung
to the northward, cried to Wilbur:
"Mate, look your last of Magdalena Bay!"
Standing at her side, Wilbur turned and swept the curve of the
coast with a single glance. The vast, heat-scourged hoop of
yellow sand, the still, smooth shield of indigo water, with its
beds of kelp, had become insensibly dear to him. It was all
familiar, friendly, and hospitable. Hardly an acre of that sweep
of beach that did not hold the impress of his foot. There was the
point near by the creek where he and Moran first landed to fill
the water-casks and to gather abalones; the creek itself, where he
had snared quail; the sand spit with its whitened whale's skull,
where he and Moran had beached the schooner; and there, last of
all, that spot of black over which still hung a haze of brown-gray
smoke, the charred ruins of the old Portuguese whaling-cabin,
where they had outfought the beach-combers.
For a moment Wilbur and Moran looked back without speaking. They
stood on the quarter-deck; in the shadow of the main-sail, shut
off from the sight of the schooner's crew, and for the instant
"Well, Moran, it's good-by to the old places, isn't it?" said
Wilbur at length.
"Yes," she said, her deep voice pitched even deeper than usual.
"Mate, great things have happened there."
"It doesn't look like a place for a Tong row with Chinese pirates,
though, does it?" he said; but even as he spoke the words, he
guessed that that was not what he meant.
"Oh, what did that amount to?" she said, with an impatient
movement of her head. "It was there that I first knew myself; and
knew that, after all, you were a man and I was a woman; and that
there was just us--you and I--in the world; and that you loved me
and I loved you, and that nothing else was worth thinking of."
Wilbur shut his hand down over hers as it gripped a spoke of the
"Moran, I knew that long since," he said. "Such a month as this
has been! Why, I feel as though I had only begun to live since I
began to love you."
"And you do, mate?" she answered--"you do love me, and always
will? Oh, you don't know," she went on, interrupting his answer,
"you haven't a guess, how the last two days have changed me.
Something has happened here"--and she put both her hands over her
breast. "I'm all different here, mate. It's all you inside here--
all you! And it hurts, and I'm proud that it does hurt. Oh!" she
cried, of a sudden, "I don't know how to love yet, and I do it
very badly, and I can't tell you how I feel, because I can't even
tell it to myself. But you must be good to me now." The deep
voice trembled a little. "Good to me, mate, and true to me, mate,
because I've only you, and all of me is yours. Mate, be good to
me, and always be kind to me. I'm not Moran any more. I'm not
proud and strong and independent, and I don't want to be lonely.
I want you--I want you always with me. I'm just a woman now,
dear--just a woman that loves you with a heart she's just found."
Wilbur could find no words to answer. There was something so
pathetic and at the same time so noble in Moran's complete
surrender of herself, and her dependence upon him, her
unquestioned trust in him and his goodness, that he was suddenly
smitten with awe at the sacredness of the obligation thus imposed
on him. She was his now, to have and to hold, to keep, to
protect, and to defend--she who was once so glorious of her
strength, of her savage isolation, her inviolate, pristine
maidenhood. All words seemed futile and inadequate to him.
She came close to him, and put her hands upon his shoulders, and,
looking him squarely in the eye, said:
"You do love me, mate, and you always will?"
"Always, Moran," said Wilbur, simply. He took her in his arms,
and she laid her cheek against his for a moment, then took his
head between her hands and kissed him.
Two days passed. The "Bertha Millner" held steadily to her
northward course, Moran keeping her well in toward the land.
Wilbur maintained a lookout from the crow's-nest in the hope of
sighting some white cruiser or battleship on her way south for
target-practice. In the cache of provisions he had left for the
beach-combers he had inserted a message, written by Hoang, to the
effect that they might expect to be taken off by a United States
man-of-war within the month.
Hoang did not readily recover his "loss of face." The "Bertha's"
Chinamen would have nothing to do with this member of a hostile
Tong; and the humiliated beach-comber kept almost entirely to
himself, sitting on the forecastle-head all day long, smoking his
sui-yen-hu and brooding silently to himself.
Moran had taken the lump of ambergris from out Kitchell's old
hammock, and had slung the hammock itself in the schooner's waist,
and Charlie was made as comfortable as possible therein. They
could do but little for him, however; and he was taken from time
to time with spells of coughing that racked him with a dreadful
agony. At length one noon, just after Moran had taken the sun and
had calculated that the "Bertha" was some eight miles to the
southwest of San Diego, she was surprised to hear Wilbur calling
her sharply. She ran to him, and found him standing in the waist
by Charlie's hammock.
The Chinaman was dying, and knew it. He was talking in a faint
and feeble voice to Wilbur as she came up, and was trying to
explain to him that he was sorry he had deserted the schooner
during the scare in the bay.
"Planty muchee solly," he said; "China boy, him heap flaid of
Feng-shui. When Feng-shui no likee, we then must go chop-chop.
Plenty much solly I leave-um schooner that night; solly plenty--
"Of course we savvy, Charlie," said Moran. "You weren't afraid
when it came to fighting."
"I die pletty soon," said Charlie calmly. "You say you gib me
fifteen hundled dollah?"
"Yes, yes; that was our promise. What do you want done with it,
"I want plenty fine funeral in Chinatown in San Francisco. Oh,
heap fine! You buy um first-chop coffin--savvy? Silver heap much--
costum big money. You gib my money to Hop Sing Association,
topside Ming Yen temple. You savvy Hop Sing?--one Six Companies."
"Tellum Hop Sing I want funeral--four-piecee horse. You no
flogettee horse?" he added apprehensively.
"No, I'll not forget the horses Charlie. You shall have four."
"Want six-piecee band musicians--China music--heap plenty gong.
You no flogettee? Two piecee priest, all dressum white--savvy? You
mus' buyum coffin yo'self. Velly fine coffin, heap much silver,
an' four-piecee horse. You catchum fireclacker--one, five, seven
hundled fireclacker, makeum big noise; an' loast pig, an' plenty
lice an' China blandy. Heap fine funeral, costum fifteen hundled
dollah. I be bury all same Mandarin--all same Little Pete. You
"I promise you, Charlie. You shall have a funeral finer than
Charlie nodded his head contentedly, drawing a breath of
"Bimeby Hop Sing sendum body back China." He closed his eyes and
lay for a long time, worn out with the effort of speaking, as if
asleep. Suddenly he opened his eyes wide. "You no flogettee
"Four horses, Charlie. I'll remember."
He drooped once more, only to rouse again at the end of a few
"First-chop coffin, plenty much silver"; and again, a little later
and very feebly: "Six-piecee--band music--China music--four-
"I promise you, Charlie," said Wilbur.
"Now," answered Charlie--"now I die."
And the low-caste Cantonese coolie, with all the dignity and
calmness of a Cicero, composed himself for death.
An hour later Wilbur and Moran knew that he was dead. Yet, though
they had never left the hammock, they could not have told at just
what moment he died.
Later, on that same afternoon, Wilbur, from the crow's-nest, saw
the lighthouse on Point Loma and the huge rambling bulk of the
Coronado Hotel spreading out and along the beach.
It was the outpost of civilization. They were getting back to the
world again. Within an hour's ride of the hotel were San Diego,
railroads, newspapers, and policemen. Just off the hotel,
however, Wilbur could discern the gleaming white hull of a United
States man-of-war. With the glass he could make her out to be one
of the monitors--the "Monterey" in all probability.
After advising with Moran, it was decided to put in to land. The
report as to the castaways could be made to the "Monterey," and
Charlie's body forwarded to his Tong in San Francisco.
In two hours' time the schooner was well up, and Wilbur stood by
Moran's side at the wheel. watching and studying the familiar
aspect of Coronado Beach.
"It's a great winter resort," he told her. "I was down here with
a party two years ago. Nothing has changed. You see that big
sort of round wing, Moran, all full of windows? That's the dining-
room. And there's the bathhouse and the bowling-alley. See the
people on the beach, and the girls in white duck skirts; and look
up there by the veranda--let me take the glass--yes, there's a
tally-ho coach. Isn't it queer to get back to this sort of thing
after Magdalena Bay and the beach-combers?"
Moran spun the wheel without reply, and gave an order to Jim to
ease off the foresheet.
The winter season at the Hotel del Coronado had been unusually gay
that year, and the young lady who wrote the society news in diary
form for one of the San Francisco weekly papers had held forth at
much length upon the hotel's "unbroken succession of festivities."
She had also noted that "prominent among the newest arrivals" had
been Mr. Nat Ridgeway, of San Francisco, who had brought down from
the city, aboard his elegant and sumptuously fitted yacht
"Petrel," a jolly party, composed largely of the season's
debutantes. To be mentioned in the latter category was Miss Josie
Herrick, whose lavender coming-out tea at the beginning of the
season was still a subject of comment among the gossips--and all
the rest of it.
The "Petrel" had been in the harbor but a few days, and on this
evening a dance was given at the hotel in honor of her arrival.
It was to be a cotillon, and Nat Ridgeway was going to lead with
Josie Herrick. There had been a coaching party to Tia Juana that
day, and Miss Herrick had returned to the hotel only in time to
dress. By 9:30 she emerged from the process--which had involved
her mother, her younger sister, her maid, and one of the hotel
chambermaids--a dainty, firm-corseted little body, all tulle,
white satin, and high-piled hair. She carried Marechal Niel
roses, ordered by wire from Monterey; and about an hour later,
when Ridgeway gave the nod to the waiting musicians, and swung her
off to the beat of a two-step, there was not a more graceful
little figure upon the floor of the incomparable round ballroom of
the Coronado Hotel.
The cotillon was a great success. The ensigns and younger
officers of the monitor--at that time anchored off the hotel--
attended in uniform; and enough of the members of what was known
in San Francisco as the "dancing set" were present to give the
affair the necessary entrain. Even Jerry Haight, who belonged
more distinctly to the "country-club set," and who had spent the
early part of that winter shooting elk in Oregon, was among the
ranks of the "rovers," who grouped themselves about the draughty
doorways, and endeavored to appear unconscious each time Ridgeway
gave the signal for a "break."
The figures had gone round the hall once. The "first set" was out
again, and as Ridgeway guided Miss Herrick by the "rovers" she
looked over the array of shirt-fronts, searching for Jerry Haight.
"Do you see Mr. Haight?" she asked of Ridgeway. "I wanted to
favor him this break. I owe him two already, and he'll never
forgive me if I overlook him now."
Jerry Haight had gone to the hotel office for a few moments' rest
and a cigarette, and was nowhere in sight. But when the set
broke, and Miss Herrick, despairing of Jerry, had started out to
favor one of the younger ensigns, she suddenly jostled against
him, pushing his way eagerly across the floor in the direction of
the musicians' platform.
"Oh!" she cried, "Mr. Haight, you've missed your chance--I've been
looking for you."
But Jerry did not hear--he seemed very excited. He crossed the
floor, almost running, and went up on the platform where the
musicians were meandering softly through the mazes of "La Paloma,"
and brought them to an abrupt silence.
"Here, I say, Haight!" exclaimed Ridgeway, who was near by, "you
can't break up my figure like that."
"Gi' me a call there on the bugle," said Haight rapidly to the
cornetist. "Anything to make 'em keep quiet a moment."
The cornetist sounded a couple of notes, and the cotillon paused
in the very act of the break. The shuffling of feet grew still,
and the conversation ceased. A diamond brooch had been found, no
doubt, or some supper announcement was to be made. But Jerry
Haight, with a great sweep of his arm, the forgotten cigarette
between his fingers, shouted out breathlessly:
"Ross Wilbur is out in the office of the hotel!"
There was an instant's silence, and then a great shout. Wilbur
found! Ross Wilbur come back from the dead! Ross Wilbur, hunted
for and bootlessly traced from Buenos Ayres in the south to the
Aleutian Islands in the north. Ross Wilbur, the puzzle of every
detective bureau on the coast; the subject of a thousand theories;
whose name had figured in the scareheads of every newspaper west
of the Mississippi. Ross Wilbur, seen at a fashionable tea and
his club of an afternoon, then suddenly blotted out from the world
of men; swallowed up and engulfed by the unknown, with not so much
as a button left behind. Ross Wilbur the suicide; Ross Wilbur,
the murdered; Ross Wilbur, victim of a band of kidnappers, the
hero of some dreadful story that was never to be told, the
mystery, the legend--behold he was there! Back from the unknown,
dropped from the clouds, spewed up again from the bowels of the
earth--a veritable god from the machine who in a single instant
was to disentangle all the unexplained complications of those past
"Here he comes!" shouted Jerry, his eyes caught by a group of men
in full dress and gold lace who came tramping down the hall to the
ballroom, bearing a nondescript figure on their shoulders. "Here
he comes--the boys are bringing him in here! Oh!" he cried,
turning to the musicians, "can't you play something?--any-thing!
Hit it up for all you're worth! Ridgeway--Nat, look here! Ross was
Yale, y' know--Yale '95; ain't we enough Yale men here to give him
Out of all time and tune, but with a vigor that made up for both,
the musicians banged into a patriotic air. Jerry, standing on a
chair that itself was standing on the platform, led half a dozen
frantic men in the long thunder of the "Brek-kek-kek-kek, co-ex,
Around the edges of the hall excited girls, and chaperons
themselves no less agitated, were standing up on chairs and
benches, splitting their gloves and breaking their fans in their
enthusiasm; while every male dancer on the floor--ensigns in their
gold-faced uniforms and "rovers" in starched and immaculate shirt-
bosoms--cheered and cheered and struggled with one another to
shake hands with a man whom two of their number old Yale grads,
with memories of athletic triumphs yet in their minds--carried
into that ball-room, borne high upon their shoulders.
And the hero of the occasion, the centre of all this enthusiasm--
thus carried as if in triumph into this assembly in evening dress,
in white tulle and whiter kid, odorous of delicate sachets and
scarce-perceptible perfumes--was a figure unhandsome and unkempt
beyond description. His hair was long, and hanging over his eyes.
A thick, uncared-for beard concealed the mouth and chin. He was
dressed in a Chinaman's blouse and jeans--the latter thrust into
slashed and tattered boots. The tan and weatherbeatings of nearly
half a year of the tropics were spread over his face; a partly
healed scar disfigured one temple and cheek-bone; the hands, to
the very finger-nails, were gray with grime; the jeans and blouse
and boots were fouled with grease, with oil, with pitch, and all
manner of the dirt of an uncared-for ship. And as the dancers of
the cotillon pressed about, and a hundred kid-gloved hands
stretched toward his own palms, there fell from Wilbur's belt upon
the waxed floor of the ballroom the knife he had so grimly used in
the fight upon the beach, the ugly stains still blackening on the
There was no more cotillon that night. They put him down at last;
and in half a dozen sentences Wilbur told them of how he had been
shanghaied--told them of Magdalena Bay, his fortune in the
ambergris, and the fight with the beach-combers.
"You people are going down there for target-practice, aren't you?"
he said, turning to one of the "Monterey's" officers in the crowd
about him. "Yes? Well, you'll find the coolies there, on the
beach, waiting for you. All but one," he added, grimly.
"We marooned six of them, but the seventh didn't need to be
marooned. They tried to plunder us of our boat, but, by -----, we
made it interesting for 'em!"
"I say, steady, old man!" exclaimed Nat Ridgeway, glancing
nervously toward the girls in the surrounding group. "This isn't
Magdalena Bay, you know."
And for the first time Wilbur felt a genuine pang of
disappointment and regret as he realized that it was not.
Half an hour later, Ridgeway drew him aside. "I say, Ross, let's
get out of here. You can't stand here talking all night. Jerry
and you and I will go up to my rooms, and we can talk there in
peace. I'll order up three quarts of fizz, and--"
"Oh, rot your fizz!" declared Wilbur. "If you love me, give me
As they were going out of the ballroom, Wilbur caught sight of
Josie Herrick, and, breaking away from the others, ran over to
"Oh!" she cried, breathless. "To think and to think of your
coming back after all! No, I don't realize it--I can't. It will
take me until morning to find out that you've really come back. I
just know now that I'm happier than I ever was in my life before.
Oh!" she cried, "do I need to tell you how glad I am? It's just
too splendid for words. Do you know, I was thought to be the last
person you had ever spoken to while alive, and the reporters and
all--oh, but we must have such a talk when all is quiet again! And
our dance--we've never had our dance. I've got your card yet.
Remember the one you wrote for me at the tea--a facsimile of it
was published in all the papers. You are going to be a hero when
you get back to San Francisco. Oh, Ross! Ross!" she cried, the
tears starting to her eyes, "you've really come back, and you are
just as glad as I am, aren't you--glad that you've come back--come
back to me?"
Later on, in Ridgeway's room, Wilbur told his story again more in
detail to Ridgeway and Jerry. All but one portion of it. He
could not make up his mind to speak to them--these society
fellows, clubmen and city bred--of Moran. How he was going to
order his life henceforward--his life, that he felt to be void of
interest without her--he did not know. That was a question for
"We'll give another cotillon!" exclaimed Ridgeway, "up in the
city--give it for you, Ross, and you'll lead. It'll be the event
of the season!"
Wilbur uttered an exclamation of contempt. "I've done with that
sort of foolery," he answered.
"Nonsense; why, think, we'll have it in your honor. Every smart
girl in town will come, and you'll be the lion of--"
"You don't seem to understand!" cried Wilbur impatiently. "Do you
think there's any fun in that for me now? Why, man, I've fought--
fought with a naked dirk, fought with a coolie who snapped at me
like an ape--and you talk to me of dancing and functions and
german favors! It wouldn't do some of you people a bit of harm if
you were shanghaied yourselves. That sort of life, if it don't do
anything else, knocks a big bit of seriousness into you. You
fellows make me sick," he went on vehemently. "As though there
wasn't anything else to do but lead cotillons and get up new
"Well, what do you propose to do?" asked Nat Ridgeway. "Where are
you going now--back to Magdalena Bay?"
Wilbur smote the table with his fist.
"Cuba!" he cried. "I've got a crack little schooner out in the
bay here, and I've got a hundred thousand dollars' worth of loot
aboard of her. I've tried beach-combing for a while, and now I'll
try filibustering. It may be a crazy idea, but it's better than
dancing. I'd rather lead an expedition than a german, and you can
chew on that, Nathaniel Ridgeway."
Jerry looked at him as he stood there before them in the filthy,
reeking blouse and jeans, the ragged boots, and the mane of hair
and tangled beard, and remembered the Wilbur he used to know--the
Wilbur of the carefully creased trousers, the satin scarfs and
"You're a different sort than when you went away, Ross," said
"Right you are," answered Wilbur.
"But I will venture a prophecy," continued Jerry, looking keenly
"Ross, you are a born-and-bred city man. It's in the blood of you
and the bones of you. I'll give you three years for this new
notion of yours to wear itself out. You think just now you're
going to spend the rest of your life as an amateur buccaneer. In
three years, at the outside, you'll be using your 'loot,' as you
call it, or the interest of it, to pay your taxes and your tailor,
your pew rent and your club dues, and you'll be what the
biographers call 'a respectable member of the community.'"
"Did you ever kill a man, Jerry?" asked Wilbur. "No? Well, you
kill one some day--kill him in a fair give-and-take fight--and see
how it makes you feel, and what influence it has on you, and then
come back and talk to me."
It was long after midnight. Wilbur rose.
"We'll ring for a boy," said Ridgeway, "and get you a room. I can
fix you out with clothes enough in the morning "
Wilbur stared in some surprise, and then said:
"Why, I've got the schooner to look after. I can't leave those
coolies alone all night."
"You don't mean to say you're going on board at this time in the
"Why--but--but you'll catch your death of cold."
Wilbur stared at Ridgeway, then nodded helplessly, and, scratching
his head, said, half aloud:
"No, what's the use; I can't make 'em understand. Good-night I'll
see you in the morning."
"We'll all come out and visit you on your yacht," Ridgeway called
after him; but Wilbur did not hear.
In answer to Wilbur's whistle, Jim came in with the dory and took
him off to the schooner. Moran met him as he came over the side.
"I took the watch myself to-night and let the boy turn in," she
said. "How is it ashore, mate?"
"We've come back to the world of little things, Moran," said
Wilbur. "But we'll pull out of here in the morning and get back
to the places where things are real."
"And that's a good hearing, mate."
"Let's get up here on the quarterdeck," added Wilbur. "I've
something to propose to you."
Moran laid an arm across his shoulder, and the two walked aft.
For half an hour Wilbur talked to her earnestly about his new idea
of filibustering; and as he told her of the war he warmed to the
subject, his face glowing, his eyes sparkling. Suddenly, however,
he broke off.
"But no!" he exclaimed. "You don't understand, Moran. How can
you--you're foreign-born. It's no affair of yours!"
"Mate! mate!" cried Moran, her hands upon his shoulders. "It's
you who don't understand--don't understand me. Don't you know--
can't you see? Your people are mine now. I'm happy only in your
happiness. You were right--the best happiness is the happiness
one shares. And your sorrows belong to me, just as I belong to
you, dear. Your enemies are mine, and your quarrels are my
quarrels." She drew his head quickly toward her and kissed him.
In the morning the two had made up their minds to a certain vague
course of action. To get away--anywhere--was their one aim.
Moran was by nature a creature unfit for civilization, and the
love of adventure and the desire for action had suddenly leaped to
life in Wilbur's blood and was not to be resisted. They would get
up to San Francisco, dispose of their "loot," outfit the "Bertha
Millner" as a filibuster, and put to sea again. They had
discussed the advisability of rounding the Horn in so small a ship
as the "Bertha Millner," but Moran had settled that at once.
"I've got to know her pretty well," she told Wilbur. "She's sound
as a nut. Only let's get away from this place."
But toward ten o'clock on the morning after their arrival off
Coronado, and just as they were preparing to get under way, Hoang
touched Wilbur's elbow.
"Seeum lil one-piece smoke-boat; him come chop-chop."
In fact, a little steam-launch was rapidly approaching the
schooner. In another instant she was alongside. Jerry, Nat
Ridgeway, Josie Herrick, and an elderly woman, whom Wilbur barely
knew as Miss Herrick's married sister, were aboard.
"We've come off to see your yacht!" cried Miss Herrick to Wilbur
as the launch bumped along the schooner's counter. "Can we come
aboard?" She looked very pretty in her crisp pink shirt-waist her
white duck skirt, and white kid shoes, her sailor hat tilted at a
barely perceptible angle. The men were in white flannels and
smart yachting suits. "Can we come aboard?" she repeated.
Wilbur gasped and stared. "Good Lord!" he muttered. "Oh, come
along," he added, desperately.
The party came over the side.
"Oh, my!" said Miss Herrick blankly, stopping short.
The decks, masts, and rails of the schooner were shiny with a
black coating of dirt and grease; the sails were gray with grime;
a strangling odor of oil and tar, of cooking and of opium, of
Chinese punk and drying fish, pervaded all the air. In the waist,
Hoang and Jim, bare to the belt, their queues looped around their
necks to be out of the way, were stowing the dory and exchanging
high-pitched monosyllables. Miss Herrick's sister had not come
aboard. The three visitors--Jerry, Ridgeway, and Josie--stood
nervously huddled together, their elbows close in, as if to avoid
contact with the prevailing filth, their immaculate white outing-
clothes detaching themselves violently against the squalor and
sordid grime of the schooner's background.
"Oh, my!" repeated Miss Herrick in dismay, half closing her eyes.
"To think of what you must have been through! I thought you had
some kind of a yacht. I had no idea it would be like this." And
as she spoke, Moran came suddenly upon the group from behind the
foresail, and paused in abrupt surprise, her thumbs in her belt.
She still wore men's clothes and was booted to the knee. The
heavy blue woolen shirt was open at the throat, the sleeves rolled
half-way up her large white arms. In her belt she carried her
haftless Scandinavian dirk. She was hatless as ever, and her
heavy, fragrant cables of rye-hued hair fell over her shoulders
and breast to far below her belt.
Miss Herrick started sharply, and Moran turned an inquiring glance
upon Wilbur. Wilbur took his resolution in both hands.
"Miss Herrick," he said, "this is Moran--Moran Sternersen."
Moran took a step forward, holding out her hand. Josie, all
bewildered, put her tight-gloved fingers into the calloused palm,
looking up nervously into Moran's face.
"I'm sure," she said feebly, almost breathlessly, "I--I'm sure I'm
very pleased to meet Miss Sternersen."
It was long before the picture left Wilbur's imagination. Josie
Herrick, petite, gowned in white, crisp from her maid's grooming;
and Moran, sea-rover and daughter of a hundred Vikings, towering
above her, booted and belted, gravely clasping Josie's hand in her
own huge fist.
San Francisco once more! For two days the "Bertha Millner" had
been beating up the coast, fighting her way against northerly
winds, butting into head seas.
The warmth, the stillness, the placid, drowsing quiet of Magdalena
Bay, steaming under the golden eye of a tropic heaven, the white,
baked beach, the bay-heads, striated with the mirage in the
morning, the coruscating sunset, the enchanted mystery of the
purple night, with its sheen of stars and riding moon, were now
replaced by the hale and vigorous snorting of the Trades, the roll
of breakers to landward, and the unremitting gallop of the
unnumbered multitudes of gray-green seas, careering silently past
the schooner, their crests occasionally hissing into brusque
eruptions of white froth, or smiting broad on under her counter,
showering her decks with a sprout of icy spray. It was cold; at
times thick fogs cloaked all the world of water. To the east a
procession of bleak hills defiled slowly southward; lighthouses
were passed; streamers of smoke on the western horizon marked the
passage of steamships; and once they met and passed close by a
huge Cape Horner, a great deep-sea tramp, all sails set and
drawing, rolling slowly and leisurely in seas that made the
At last the Farallones looked over the ocean's edge to the north;
then came the whistling-buoy, the Seal Rocks, the Heads, Point
Reyes, the Golden Gate flanked with the old red Presidio, Lime
Point with its watching cannon; and by noon of a gray and
boisterous day, under a lusty wind and a slant of rain, just five
months after her departure, the "Bertha Millner" let go her anchor
in San Francisco Bay some few hundred yards off the Lifeboat
In this berth the schooner was still three or four miles from the
city and the water-front. But Moran detested any nearer approach
to civilization, and Wilbur himself was willing to avoid, at least
for one day, the publicity which he believed the "Bertha's"
reappearance was sure to attract. He remembered, too, that the
little boat carried with her a fortune of $100,000, and decided
that until it could be safely landed and stored it was not
desirable that its existence should be known along "the Front."
For days, weeks even, Wilbur had looked eagerly forward to this
return to his home. He had seen himself again in his former
haunts, in his club, and in the houses along Pacific avenue where
he was received; but no sooner had the anchor-chain ceased
rattling in the "Bertha's" hawse-pipe than a strange revulsion
came upon him. The new man that seemed to have so suddenly sprung
to life within him, the Wilbur who was the mate of the "Bertha
Millner," the Wilbur who belonged to Moran, believed that he could
see nothing to be desired in city life. For him was the unsteady
deck of a schooner, and the great winds and the tremendous wheel
of the ocean's rim, and the horizon that ever fled before his
following prow; so he told himself, so he believed. What
attractions could the city offer him? What amusements? what
excitements? He had been flung off the smoothly spinning
circumference of well-ordered life out into the void.
He had known romance, and the spell of the great, simple, and
primitive emotions; he had sat down to eat with buccaneers; he had
seen the fierce, quick leap of unleashed passions, and had felt
death swoop close at his nape and pass like a swift spurt of cold
air. City life, his old life, had no charm for him now. Wilbur
honestly believed that he was changed to his heart's core. He
thought that, like Moran, he was henceforth to be a sailor of the
sea, a rover, and he saw the rest of his existence passed with
her, aboard their faithful little schooner. They would have the
whole round world as their playground; they held the earth and the
great seas in fief; there was no one to let or to hinder. They
two belonged to each other. Once outside the Heads again, and
they swept the land of cities and of little things behind them,
and they two were left alone once more; alone in the great world
About an hour after her arrival off the station, while Hoang and
the hands were furling the jib and foresail and getting the dory
over the side, Moran remarked to Wilbur:
"It's good we came in when we did, mate; the glass is going down
fast, and the wind's breezing up from the west; we're going to
have a blow; the tide will be going out in a little while, and we
never could have come in against wind and tide."
"Moran," said Wilbur, "I'm going ashore--into the station here;
there's a telephone line there; see the wires? I can't so much as
turn my hand over before I have some shore-going clothes. What do
you suppose they would do to me if I appeared on Kearney Street in
this outfit? I'll ring up Langley & Michaels--they are the
wholesale chemists in town--and have their agent come out here and
talk business to us about our ambergris. We've got to pay the men
their prize-money; then as soon as we get our own money in hand we
can talk about overhauling and outfitting the 'Bertha.'"
Moran refused to accompany him ashore and into the Lifeboat
Station. Roofed houses were an object of suspicion to her.
Already she had begun to be uneasy at the distant sight of the
city of San Francisco, Nob, Telegraph, Russian, and Rincon hills,
all swarming with buildings and grooved with streets; even the
land-locked harbor fretted her. Wilbur could see she felt
imprisoned, confined. When he had pointed out the Palace Hotel to
her--a vast gray cube in the distance, overtopping the surrounding
roofs--she had sworn under her breath.
"And people can live there, good heavens! Why not rabbit-burrows,
and be done with it? Mate, how soon can we be out to sea again? I
hate this place."
Wilbur found the captain of the Lifeboat Station in the act of
sitting down to a dinner of boiled beef and cabbage. He was a
strongly built well-looking man, with the air more of a soldier
than a sailor. He had already been studying the schooner through
his front window and had recognized her, and at once asked Wilbur
news of Captain Kitchell. Wilbur told him as much of his story as
was necessary, but from the captain's talk he gathered that the
news of his return had long since been wired from Coronado, and
that it would be impossible to avoid a nine days' notoriety. The
captain of the station (his name was Hodgson) made Wilbur royally
welcome, insisted upon his dining with him, and himself called up
Langley & Michaels as soon as the meal was over.
It was he who offered the only plausible solution of the mystery
of the lifting and shaking of the schooner and the wrecking of the
junk. Though Wilbur was not satisfied with Hodgson's explanation,
it was the only one he ever heard.
When he had spoken of the matter, Hodgson had nodded his head.
"Sulphur-bottoms," he said.
"Yes; they're a kind of right-whale; they get barnacles and a kind
of marine lice on their backs, and come up and scratch them selves
against a ship's keel, just like a hog under a fence."
When Wilbur's business was done, and he was making ready to return
to the schooner, Hodgson remarked suddenly: "Hear you've got a
strapping fine girl aboard with you. Where did you fall in with
her?" and he winked and grinned.
Wilbur started as though struck, and took himself hurriedly away;
but the man's words had touched off in his brain a veritable mine
of conjecture. Moran in Magdalena Bay was consistent, congruous,
and fitted into her environment. But how--how was Wilbur to
explain her to San Francisco, and how could his behavior seem else
than ridiculous to the men of his club and to the women whose
dinner invitations he was wont to receive? They could not
understand the change that had been wrought in him; they did not
know Moran, the savage, half-tamed Valkyrie so suddenly become a
woman. Hurry as he would, the schooner could not be put to sea
again within a fortnight. Even though he elected to live aboard
in the meanwhile, the very business of her preparation would call
him to the city again and again. Moran could not be kept a
secret. As it was, all the world knew of her by now. On the
other hand he could easily understand her position; to her it
seemed simplicity itself that they two who loved each other should
sail away and pass their lives together upon the sea, as she and
her father had done before.
Like most men, Wilbur had to walk when he was thinking hard. He
sent the dory back to the schooner with word to Moran that he
would take a walk around the beach and return in an hour or two.
He set off along the shore in the direction of Fort Mason, the old
red-brick fort at the entrance to the Golden Gate. At this point
in the Presidio Government reservation the land is solitary.
Wilbur followed the line of the beach to the old fort; and there,
on the very threshold of the Western world, at the very outpost of
civilization, sat down in the lee of the crumbling fortification,
and scene by scene reviewed the extraordinary events of the past
In front of him ran the narrow channel of the Golden Gate; to his
right was the bay and the city; at his left the open Pacific.
He saw himself the day of his advent aboard the "Bertha" in his
top hat and frock coat; saw himself later "braking down" at the
windlass, the "Petrel" within hailing distance.
Then the pictures began to thicken fast: the derelict bark "Lady
Letty" rolling to her scuppers, abandoned and lonely; the "boy" in
the wheel-box; Kitchell wrenching open the desk in the captain's
stateroom; Captain Sternersen buried at sea, his false teeth
upside down; the black fury of the squall, and Moran at the wheel;
Moran lying at full length on the deck, getting the altitude of a
star; Magdalena Bay; the shark-fishing; the mysterious lifting and
shuddering of the schooner; the beach-combers' junk, with its
staring red eyes; Hoang, naked to the waist, gleaming with sweat
and whale-oil; the ambergris; the race to beach the sinking
schooner; the never-to-be-forgotten night when he and Moran had
camped together on the beach; Hoang taken prisoner, and the
hideous filing of his teeth; the beach-combers, silent and
watchful behind their sand breastworks; the Chinaman he had killed
twitching and hic-coughing at his feet; Moran turned Berserker,
bursting down upon him through a haze of smoke; Charlie dying in
the hammock aboard the schooner, ordering his funeral with its
"four-piecee horse"; Coronado; the incongruous scene in the
ballroom; and, last of all, Josie Herrick in white duck and kid
shoes, giving her hand to Moran in her boots and belt, hatless as
ever, her sleeves rolled up to above the elbows, her white, strong
arm extended, her ruddy face, and pale, milk-blue eyes gravely
observant, her heavy braids, yellow as ripening rye, hanging over
her shoulder and breast.
A sudden explosion of cold wind, striking down blanket-wise and
bewildering from out the west, made Wilbur look up quickly. The
gray sky seemed scudding along close overhead. The bay, the
narrow channel of the Golden Gate, the outside ocean, were all
whitening with crests of waves. At his feet the huge green
ground-swells thundered to the attack of the fort's granite
foundations. Through the Gate, the bay seemed rushing out to the
Pacific. A bewildered gull shot by, tacking and slanting against
the gusts that would drive it out to sea. Evidently the storm was
not far off. Wilbur rose to his feet, and saw the "Bertha
Millner," close in, unbridled and free as a runaway horse, headed
directly for the open sea, and rushing on with all the impetus of
wind and tide!
THE OCEAN IS CALLING FOR YOU
A little while after Wilbur had set off for the station, while
Moran was making the last entries in the log-book, seated at the
table in the cabin, Jim appeared at the door.
"Well," she said, looking up.
"China boy him want go asho' plenty big, seeum flen up Chinatown
in um city."
"Shore leave, is it?" said Moran. "You deserted once before
without even saying good-by; and my hand in the fire, you'll come
back this time dotty with opium. Get away with you. We'll have
men aboard here in a few days."
"Can go?" inquired Jim suavely.
"I said so. Report our arrival to your Six Companies."
Hoang rowed Jim and the coolies ashore, and then returned to the
schooner with the dory and streamed her astern. As he passed the
cabin door on his way forward, Moran hailed him.
"I thought you went ashore?" she cried.
"Heap flaid," he answered. "Him other boy go up Chinatown; him
tell Sam Yup; I tink Sam Yup alla same killee me. I no leaveum
ship two, thlee day; bimeby I go Olegon. I stay topside ship.
You wantum cook. I cook plenty fine; standum watch for you."
Indeed, ever since leaving Coronado the ex-beach-comber had made
himself very useful about the schooner; had been, in fact,
obsequiousness itself, and seemed to be particularly desirous of
gaining the good-will of the "Bertha's" officers. He understood
pigeon English better than Jim, and spoke it even better than
Charlie had done. He acted the part of interpreter between Wilbur
and the hands; even turned to in the galley upon occasion; and of
his own accord offered to give the vessel a coat of paint above
the water-line. Moran turned back to her log, and Hoang went
forward. Standing on the forward deck, he looked after the
"Bertha's" coolies until they disappeared behind a row of pine-
trees on the Presidio Reservation, going cityward. Wilbur was
nowhere in sight. For a longtime Hoang studied the Lifeboat
Station narrowly, while he made a great show of coiling a length
of rope. The station was just out of hailing distance. Nobody
seemed stirring. The whole shore and back land thereabout was
deserted; the edge of the city was four miles distant. Hoang
returned to the forecastle-hatch and went below, groping under his
bunk in his ditty-box.
"Well, what is it?" exclaimed Moran a moment later, as the beach-
comber entered the cabin, and shut the door behind him.
Hoang did not answer; but she did not need to repeat the question.
In an instant Moran knew very well what he had come for.
"God!" she exclaimed under her breath, springing to her feet.
"Why didn't we think of this!"
Hoang slipped his knife from the sleeve of his blouse. For an
instant the old imperiousness, the old savage pride and anger,
leaped again in Moran's breast--then died away forever. She was
no longer the same Moran of that first fight on board the
schooner, when the beach-combers had plundered her of her "loot."
Only a few weeks ago, and she would have fought with Hoang without
hesitation and without mercy; would have wrenched a leg from the
table and brained him where he stood. But she had learned since
to know what it meant to be dependent; to rely for protection upon
some one who was stronger than she; to know her weakness; to know
that she was at last a woman, and to be proud of it.
She did not fight; she had no thought of fighting. Instinctively
she cried aloud, "Mate--mate!--Oh, mate, where are you? Help me!"
and Hoang's knife nailed the words within her throat.
The "loot" was in a brass-bound chest under one of the cabin's
bunks, stowed in two gunny-bags. Hoang drew them out, knotted the
two together, and, slinging them over his shoulder, regained the
He looked carefully at the angry sky and swelling seas, noting the
direction of the wind and set of the tide; then went forward and
cast the anchor-chains from the windlass in such a manner that the
schooner must inevitably wrench free with the first heavy strain.
The dory was still tugging at the line astern. Hoang dropped the
sacks in the boat, swung himself over the side, and rowed calmly
toward the station's wharf. If any notion of putting to sea with
the schooner had entered the obscure, perverted cunning of his
mind, he had almost instantly rejected it. Chinatown was his aim;
once there and under the protection of his Tong, Hoang knew that
he was safe. He knew the hiding-places that the See Yup
Association provided for its members--hiding places whose very
existence was unknown to the police of the White Devil.
No one interrupted--no one even noticed--his passage to the
station. At best, it was nothing more than a coolie carrying a
couple of gunny-sacks across his shoulder. Two hours later, Hoang
was lost in San Francisco's Chinatown.
* * * * * * * * * *
At the sight of the schooner sweeping out to sea, Wilbur was for
an instant smitten rigid. What had happened? Where was Moran? Why
was there nobody on board? A swift, sharp sense of some unnamed
calamity leaped suddenly at his throat. Then he was aware of a
crattering of hoofs along the road that led to the fort. Hodgson
threw himself from one of the horses that were used in handling
the surf-boat, and ran to him hatless and panting.
"My God!" he shouted. "Look, your schooner, do you see her? She
broke away after I'd started to tell you--to tell you--to tell
you--your girl there on board--It was horrible!"
"Is she all right?" cried Wilbur, at top voice, for the clamor of
the gale was increasing every second.
"All right! No; they've killed her--somebody--the coolies, I
think--knifed her! I went out to ask you people to come into the
station to have supper with me--"
"Killed her--killed her! Who? I don't believe you--"
"Wait--to have supper with me, and I found her there on the cabin
floor. She was still breathing. I carried her up on deck--there
was nobody else aboard. I carried her up and laid her on the
deck--and she died there. Just now I came after you to tell you,
"Good God Almighty, man! who killed her? Where is she? Oh--but of
course it isn't true! How did you know? Moran killed! Moran
"And the schooner broke away after I started!"
"Moran killed! But--but--she's not dead yet; we'll have to see--"
"She died on the deck; I brought her up and laid her on--"
"How do you know she's dead? Where is she? Come on, we'll go right
back to her--to the station!"
"She's on board--out there!"
"Where--where is she? My God, man, tell me where she is!"
"Out there aboard the schooner. I brought her up on deck--I left
her on the schooner--on the deck--she was stabbed in the throat--
and then came after you to tell you. Then the schooner broke away
while I was coming; she's drifting out to sea now!"
"Where is she? Where is she?"
"Who--the girl--the schooner--which one? The girl is on the
schooner--and the schooner--that's her, right there--she's
drifting out to sea!"
Wilbur put both hands to his temples, closing his eyes.
"I'll go back!" exclaimed Hodgson. "We'll have the surf-boat out
and get after her; we'll bring the body back!"
"No, no!" cried Wilbur, "it's better--this way. Leave her, let
her go--she's going out to sea again!"
"But the schooner won't live two hours outside in this weather;
she'll go down!"
"It's better--that way--let her go. I want it so!"
"I can't stay!" cried the other again. "If the patrol should sig-
storm coming up, and I've got to be at my station."
Wilbur did not answer; he was watching the schooner.
"I can't stay!" cried the other again. "If the patrol should
signal--I can't stop here, I must be on duty. Come back, you
can't do anything!"
"I have got to go!" Hodgson ran back, swung himself on the horse,
and rode away at a furious gallop, inclining his head against the
And the schooner in a world of flying spray, white scud, and
driving spoondrift, her cordage humming, her forefoot churning,
the flag at her peak straining stiff in the gale, came up into the
narrow passage of the Golden Gate, riding high upon the outgoing
tide. On she came, swinging from crest to crest of the waves that
kept her company and that ran to meet the ocean, shouting and
calling out beyond there under the low, scudding clouds.
Wilbur had climbed to the top of the old fort. Erect upon its
granite ledge he stood, and watched and waited.
Not once did the "Bertha Millner" falter in her race. Like an
unbitted horse, all restraint shaken off, she ran free toward the
ocean as to her pasture-land. She came nearer, nearer, rising and
rolling with the seas, her bowsprit held due west, pointing like a
finger out to sea, to the west--out to the world of romance. And
then at last, as the little vessel drew opposite the old fort and
passed not one hundred yards away, Wilbur, watching from the
rampart, saw Moran lying upon the deck with outstretched arms and
calm, upturned face; lying upon the deck of that lonely fleeing
schooner as upon a bed of honor, still and calm, her great braids
smooth upon her breast, her arms wide; alone with the sea; alone
in death as she had been in life. She passed out of his life as
she had come into it--alone, upon a derelict ship, abandoned to
the sea. She went out with the tide, out with the storms; out,
out, out to the great gray Pacific that knew her and loved her,
and that shouted and called for her, and thundered in the joy of
her as she came to meet him like a bride to meet a bridegroom.
"Good-by, Moran!" shouted Wilbur as she passed. "Good-by, good-
by, Moran! You were not for me--not for me! The ocean is calling
for you, dear; don't you hear him? Don't you hear him? Good-by,
The schooner swept by, shot like an arrow through the swirling
currents of the Golden Gate, and dipped and bowed and courtesied
to the Pacific that reached toward her his myriad curling fingers.
They infolded her, held her close, and drew her swiftly, swiftly
out to the great heaving bosom, tumultuous and beating in its
mighty joy, its savage exultation of possession.
Wilbur stood watching. The little schooner lessened in the
distance--became a shadow in mist and flying spray--a shadow
moving upon the face of the great waste of water. Fainter and
fainter she grew, vanished, reappeared, was heaved up again--a
mere speck upon the western sky--a speck that dwindled and
dwindled, then slowly melted away into the gray of the horizon.