Part 7 out of 7
"I'm givin' you a last chance," Bert Rhine answered.
And just then, around the corner of the house, stepped the steward.
In his hand he carried a large galvanized pail, and my casual thought
was that he had come to get rain-water from the barrels. Even as I
thought it, he made a sweeping half-circle with the pail and sloshed
its contents into the ventilator-opening. And even as the liquid
flew through the air I knew it for what it was--undiluted sulphuric
acid, two gallons of it from the carboy.
The gangster must have received the liquid fire in the face and eyes.
And, in the shock of pain, he must have released all holds and fallen
upon the coal at the bottom of the shaft. His cries and shrieks of
anguish were terrible, and I was reminded of the starving rats which
had squealed up that same shaft during the first months of the
voyage. The thing was sickening. I prefer that men be killed
cleanly and easily.
The agony of the wretch I did not fully realize until the steward,
his bare fore-arms sprayed by the splash from the ventilator slats,
suddenly felt the bite of the acid through his tight, whole skin and
made a mad rush for the water-barrel at the corner of the house. And
Bert Rhine, the silent man of soundless laughter, screaming below
there on the coal, was enduring the bite of the acid in his eyes!
We covered the ventilator opening with our flour-device; the screams
from below ceased as the victim was evidently dragged for'ard across
the coal by his mates; and yet I confess to a miserable forenoon. As
Carlyle has said: "Death is easy; all men must die"; but to receive
two gallons of full-strength sulphuric acid full in the face is a
vastly different and vastly more horrible thing than merely to die.
Fortunately, Margaret was below at the time, and, after a few
minutes, in which I recovered my balance, I bullied and swore all our
hands into keeping the happening from her.
Oh, well, and we have got ours in retaliation. Off and on, through
all of yesterday, after the ventilator tragedy, there were noises
beneath the cabin floor or deck. We heard them under the dining-
table, under the steward's pantry, under Margaret's stateroom.
This deck is overlaid with wood, but under the wood is iron, or steel
rather, such as of which the whole Elsinore is builded.
Margaret and I, followed by Louis, Wada, and the steward, walked
about from place to place, wherever the sounds arose of tappings and
of cold-chisels against iron. The tappings seemed to come from
everywhere; but we concluded that the concentration necessary on any
spot to make an opening large enough for a man's body would
inevitably draw our attention to that spot. And, as Margaret said:
"If they do manage to cut through, they must come up head-first, and,
in such emergence, what chance would they have against us?"
So I relieved Buckwheat from deck duty, placed him on watch over the
cabin floor, to be relieved by the steward in Margaret's watches.
In the late afternoon, after prodigious hammerings and clangings in a
score of places, all noises ceased. Neither in the first and second
dog-watches, nor in the first watch of the night, were the noises
resumed. When I took charge of the poop at midnight Buckwheat
relieved the steward in the vigil over the cabin floor; and as I
leaned on the rail at the break of the poop, while my four hours
dragged slowly by, least of all did I apprehend danger from the
cabin--especially when I considered the two-gallon pail of raw
sulphuric acid ready to hand for the first head that might arise
through an opening in the floor not yet made. Our rascals for'ard
might scale the poop; or cross aloft from mizzenmast to jigger and
descend upon our heads; but how they could invade us through the
floor was beyond me.
But they did invade. A modern ship is a complex affair. How was I
to guess the manner of the invasion?
It was two in the morning, and for an hour I had been puzzling my
head with watching the smoke arise from the after-division of the
for'ard-house and with wondering why the mutineers should have up
steam in the donkey-engine at such an ungodly hour. Not on the whole
voyage had the donkey-engine been used. Four bells had just struck,
and I was leaning on the rail at the break of the poop when I heard a
prodigious coughing and choking from aft. Next, Wada ran across the
deck to me.
"Big trouble with Buckwheat," he blurted at me. "You go quick."
I shoved him my rifle and left him on guard while I raced around the
chart-house. A lighted match, in the hands of Tom Spink, directed
me. Between the booby-hatch and the wheel, sitting up and rocking
back and forth with wringings of hands and wavings of arms, tears of
agony bursting from his eyes, was Buckwheat. My first thought was
that in some stupid way he had got the acid into his own eyes. But
the terrible fashion in which he coughed and strangled would quickly
have undeceived me, had not Louis, bending over the booby-companion,
uttered a startled exclamation.
I joined him, and one whiff of the air that came up from below made
me catch my breath and gasp. I had inhaled sulphur. On the instant
I forgot the Elsinore, the mutineers for'ard, everything save one
The next I know, I was down the booby-ladder and reeling dizzily
about the big after-room as the sulphur fumes bit my lungs and
strangled me. By the dim light of a sea-lantern I saw the old
steward, on hands and knees, coughing and gasping, the while he shook
awake Yatsuda, the first sail-maker. Uchino, the second sail-maker,
still strangled in his sleep.
It struck me that the air might be better nearer the floor, and I
proved it when I dropped on my hands and knees. I rolled Uchino out
of his blankets with a quick jerk, wrapped the blankets about my
head, face, and mouth, arose to my feet, and dashed for'ard into the
hall. After a couple of collisions with the wood-work I again
dropped to the floor and rearranged the blankets so that, while my
mouth remained covered, I could draw or withdraw, a thickness across
The pain of the fumes was bad enough, but the real hardship was the
dizziness I suffered. I blundered into the steward's pantry, and out
of it, missed the cross-hall, stumbled through the next starboard
opening in the long hall, and found myself bent double by violent
collision with the dining-room table.
But I had my bearings. Feeling my way around the table and bumping
most of the poisoned breath out of me against the rotund-bellied
stove, I emerged in the cross-hall and made my way to starboard.
Here, at the base of the chart-room stairway, I gained the hall that
led aft. By this time my own situation seemed so serious that,
careless of any collision, I went aft in long leaps.
Margaret's door was open. I plunged into her room. The moment I
drew the blanket-thickness from my eyes I knew blindness and a
modicum of what Bert Rhine must have suffered. Oh, the intolerable
bite of the sulphur in my lungs, nostrils, eyes, and brain! No light
burned in the room. I could only strangle and stumble for'ard to
Margaret's bed, upon which I collapsed.
She was not there. I felt about, and I felt only the warm hollow her
body had left in the under-sheet. Even in my agony and helplessness
the intimacy of that warmth her body had left was very dear to me.
Between the lack of oxygen in my lungs (due to the blankets), the
pain of the sulphur, and the mortal dizziness in my brain, I felt
that I might well cease there where the linen warmed my hand.
Perhaps I should have ceased, had I not heard a terrible coughing
from along the hall. It was new life to me. I fell from bed to
floor and managed to get upright until I gained the hall, where again
I fell. Thereafter I crawled on hands and knees to the foot of the
stairway. By means of the newel-post I drew myself upright and
listened. Near me something moved and strangled. I fell upon it and
found in my arms all the softness of Margaret.
How describe that battle up the stairway? It was a crucifixion of
struggle, an age-long nightmare of agony. Time after time, as my
consciousness blurred, the temptation was upon me to cease all effort
and let myself blur down into the ultimate dark. I fought my way
step by step. Margaret was now quite unconscious, and I lifted her
body step by step, or dragged it several steps at a time, and fell
with it, and back with it, and lost much that had been so hardly
gained. And yet out of it all this I remember: that warm soft body
of hers was the dearest thing in the world--vastly more dear than the
pleasant land I remotely remembered, than all the books and all the
humans I had ever known, than the deck above, with its sweet pure air
softly blowing under the cool starry sky.
As I look back upon it I am aware of one thing: the thought of
leaving her there and saving myself never crossed my mind. The one
place for me was where she was.
Truly, this which I write seems absurd and purple; yet it was not
absurd during those long minutes on the chart-room stairway. One
must taste death for a few centuries of such agony ere he can receive
sanction for purple passages.
And as I fought my screaming flesh, my reeling brain, and climbed
that upward way, I prayed one prayer: that the chart-house doors out
upon the poop might not be shut. Life and death lay right there in
that one point of the issue. Was there any creature of my creatures
aft with common sense and anticipation sufficient to make him think
to open those doors? How I yearned for one man, for one proved
henchman, such as Mr. Pike, to be on the poop! As it was, with the
sole exception of Tom Spink and Buckwheat, my men were Asiatics.
I gained the top of the stairway, but was too far gone to rise to my
feet. Nor could I rise upright on my knees. I crawled like any
four-legged animal--nay, I wormed my way like a snake, prone to the
deck. It was a matter of several feet to the doorway. I died a
score of times in those several feet; but ever I endured the agony of
resurrection and dragged Margaret with me. Sometimes the full
strength I could exert did not move her, and I lay with her and
coughed and strangled my way through to another resurrection.
And the door was open. The doors to starboard and to port were both
open; and as the Elsinore rolled a draught through the chart-house
hall my lungs filled with pure, cool air. As I drew myself across
the high threshold and pulled Margaret after me, from very far away I
heard the cries of men and the reports of rifle and revolver. And,
ere I fainted into the blackness, on my side, staring, my pain gone
so beyond endurance that it had achieved its own anaesthesia, I
glimpsed, dream-like and distant, the sharply silhouetted poop-rail,
dark forms that cut and thrust and smote, and, beyond, the mizzen-
mast brightly lighted by our illuminators.
Well, the mutineers failed to take the poop. My five Asiatics and
two white men had held the citadel while Margaret and I lay
unconscious side by side.
The whole affair was very simple. Modern maritime quarantine demands
that ships shall not carry vermin that are themselves plague-
carriers. In the donkey-engine section of the for'ard house is a
complete fumigating apparatus. The mutineers had merely to lay and
fasten the pipes aft across the coal, to chisel a hole through the
double-deck of steel and wood under the cabin, and to connect up and
begin to pump. Buckwheat had fallen asleep and been awakened by the
strangling sulphur fumes. We in the high place had been smoked out
by our rascals like so many rats.
It was Wada who had opened one of the doors. The old steward had
opened the other. Together they had attempted the descent of the
stairway and been driven back by the fumes. Then they had engaged in
the struggle to repel the rush from for'ard.
Margaret and I are agreed that sulphur, excessively inhaled, leaves
the lungs sore. Only now, after a lapse of a dozen hours, can we
draw breath in anything that resembles comfort. But still my lungs
were not so sore as to prevent my telling her what I had learned she
meant to me. And yet she is only a woman--I tell her so; I tell her
that there are at least seven hundred and fifty millions of two-
legged, long-haired, gentle-voiced, soft-bodied, female humans like
her on the planet, and that she is really swamped by the immensity of
numbers of her sex and kind. But I tell her something more. I tell
her that of all of them she is the only one. And, better yet, to
myself and for myself, I believe it. I know it. The last least part
of me and all of me proclaims it.
Love IS wonderful. It is the everlasting and miraculous amazement.
Oh, trust me, I know the old, hard scientific method of weighing and
calculating and classifying love. It is a profound foolishness, a
cosmic trick and quip, to the contemplative eye of the philosopher--
yes, and of the futurist. But when one forsakes such intellectual
flesh-pots and becomes mere human and male human, in short, a lover,
then all he may do, and which is what he cannot help doing, is to
yield to the compulsions of being and throw both his arms around love
and hold it closer to him than is his own heart close to him. This
is the summit of his life, and of man's life. Higher than this no
man may rise. The philosophers toil and struggle on mole-hill peaks
far below. He who has not loved has not tasted the ultimate sweet of
living. I know. I love Margaret, a woman. She is desirable.
In the past twenty-four hours many things have happened. To begin
with, we nearly lost the steward in the second dog-watch last
evening. Through the slits in the ventilator some man thrust a knife
into the sacks of flour and cut them wide open from top to bottom.
In the dark the flour poured to the deck unobserved.
Of course, the man behind could not see through the screen of empty
sacks, but he took a blind pot-shot at point-blank range when the
steward went by, slip-sloppily dragging the heels of his slippers.
Fortunately it was a miss, but so close a miss was it that his cheek
and neck were burned with powder grains.
At six bells in the first watch came another surprise. Tom Spink
came to me where I stood guard at the for'ard end of the poop. His
voice shook as he spoke.
"For the love of God, sir, they've come," he said.
"Who?" I asked sharply.
"Them," he chattered. "The ones that come aboard off the Horn, sir,
the three drownded sailors. They're there, aft, sir, the three of
'em, standin' in a row by the wheel."
"How did they get there?"
"Bein' warlocks, they flew, sir. You didn't see 'm go by you, did
"No," I admitted. "They never went by me."
Poor Tom Spink groaned.
"But there are lines aloft there on which they could cross over from
mizzen to jigger," I added. "Send Wada to me."
When the latter relieved me I went aft. And there in a row were our
three pale-haired storm-waifs with the topaz eyes. In the light of a
bull's-eye, held on them by Louis, their eyes never seemed more like
the eyes of great cats. And, heavens, they purred! At least, the
inarticulate noises they made sounded more like purring than anything
else. That these sounds meant friendliness was very evident. Also,
they held out their hands, palms upward, in unmistakable sign of
peace. Each in turn doffed his cap and placed my hand for a moment
on his head. Without doubt this meant their offer of fealty, their
acceptance of me as master.
I nodded my head. There was nothing to be said to men who purred
like cats, while sign-language in the light of the bull's-eye was
rather difficult. Tom Spink groaned protest when I told Louis to
take them below and give them blankets.
I made the sleep-sign to them, and they nodded gratefully, hesitated,
then pointed to their mouths and rubbed their stomachs.
"Drowned men do not eat," I laughed to Tom Spink. "Go down and watch
them. Feed them up, Louis, all they want. It's a good sign of short
At the end of half an hour Tom Spink was back.
"Well, did they eat?" I challenged him.
But he was unconvinced. The very quantity they had eaten was a
suspicious thing, and, further, he had heard of a kind of ghost that
devoured dead bodies in graveyards. Therefore, he concluded, mere
non-eating was no test for a ghost.
The third event of moment occurred this morning at seven o'clock.
The mutineers called for a truce; and when Nosey Murphy, the Maltese
Cockney, and the inevitable Charles Davis stood beneath me on the
main deck, their faces showed lean and drawn. Famine had been my
great ally. And in truth, with Margaret beside me in that high place
of the break of the poop, as I looked down on the hungry wretches I
felt very strong. Never had the inequality of numbers fore and aft
been less than now. The three deserters, added to our own nine, made
twelve of us, while the mutineers, after subtracting Ditman Olansen,
Bob and the Faun, totalled only an even score. And of these Bert
Rhine must certainly be in a bad way, while there were many
weaklings, such as Sundry Buyers, Nancy, Larry, and Lars Jacobsen.
"Well, what do you want?" I demanded. "I haven't much time to waste.
Breakfast is ready and waiting."
Charles Davis started to speak, but I shut him off.
"I'll have nothing out of you, Davis. At least not now. Later on,
when I'm in that court of law you've bothered me with for half the
voyage, you'll get your turn at talking. And when that time comes
don't forget that I shall have a few words to say."
Again he began, but this time was stopped by Nosey Murphy.
"Aw, shut your trap, Davis," the gangster snarled, "or I'll shut it
for you." He glanced up to me. "We want to go back to work, that's
what we want."
"Which is not the way to ask for it," I answered.
"Sir," he added hastily.
"That's better," I commented.
"Oh, my God, sir, don't let 'm come aft." Tom Spink muttered
hurriedly in my ear. "That'd be the end of all of us. And even if
they didn't get you an' the rest, they'd heave me over some dark
night. They ain't never goin' to forgive me, sir, for joinin' in
with the afterguard."
I ignored the interruption and addressed the gangster.
"There's nothing like going to work when you want to as badly as you
seem to. Suppose all hands get sail on her just to show good
"We'd like to eat first, sir," he objected.
"I'd like to see you setting sail, first," was my reply. "And you
may as well get it from me straight that what I like goes, aboard
this ship."--I almost said "hooker."
Nosey Murphy hesitated and looked to the Maltese Cockney for counsel.
The latter debated, as if gauging the measure of his weakness while
he stared aloft at the work involved. Finally he nodded.
"All right, sir," the gangster spoke up. "We'll do it . . . but
can't something be cookin' in the galley while we're doin' it?"
I shook my head.
"I didn't have that in mind, and I don't care to change my mind now.
When every sail is stretched and every yard braced, and all that mess
of gear cleared up, food for a good meal will be served out. You
needn't bother about the spanker nor the mizzen-braces. We'll make
your work lighter by that much."
In truth, as they climbed aloft they showed how miserably weak they
were. There were some too feeble to go aloft. Poor Sundry Buyers
continually pressed his abdomen as he toiled around the deck-
capstans; and never was Nancy's face quite so forlorn as when he
obeyed the Maltese Cockney's command and went up to loose the mizzen-
In passing, I must note one delicious miracle that was worked before
our eyes. They were hoisting the mizzen-upper-topsail-yard by means
of one of the patent deck-capstans. Although they had reversed the
gear so as to double the purchase, they were having a hard time of
it. Lars Jacobsen was limping on his twice-broken leg, and with him
were Sundry Buyers, Tony the Greek, Bombini, and Mulligan Jacobs.
Nosey Murphy held the turn.
When they stopped from sheer exhaustion Murphy's glance chanced to
fall on Charles Davis, the one man who had not worked since the
outset of the voyage and who was not working now.
"Bear a hand, Davis," the gangster called.
Margaret gurgled low laughter in my ear as she caught the drift of
The sea-lawyer looked at the other in amazement ere he answered:
"I guess not."
After nodding Sundry Buyers over to him to take the turn Murphy
straightened his back and walked close to Davis, then said very
"I guess yes."
That was all. For a space neither spoke. Davis seemed to be giving
the matter judicial consideration. The men at the capstan panted,
rested, and looked on--all save Bombini, who slunk across the deck
until he stood at Murphy's shoulder.
Under such circumstances the decision Charles Davis gave was
eminently the right one, although even then he offered a compromise.
"I'll hold the turn," he volunteered.
"You'll lump around one of them capstan-bars," Murphy said.
The sea-lawyer made no mistake. He knew in all absoluteness that he
was choosing between life and death, and he limped over to the
capstan and found his place. And as the work started, and as he
toiled around and around the narrow circle, Margaret and I
shamelessly and loudly laughed our approval. And our own men stole
for'ard along the poop to peer down at the spectacle of Charles Davis
All of which must have pleased Nosey Murphy, for, as he continued to
hold the turn and coil down, he kept a critical eye on Davis.
"More juice, Davis!" he commanded with abrupt sharpness.
And Davis, with a startle, visibly increased his efforts.
This was too much for our fellows, who, Asiatics and all, applauded
with laughter and hand-clapping. And what could I do? It was a gala
day, and our faithful ones deserved some little recompense of
amusement. So I ignored the breach of discipline and of poop
etiquette by strolling away aft with Margaret.
At the wheel was one of our storm-waifs. I set the course due east
for Valparaiso, and sent the steward below to bring up sufficient
food for one substantial meal for the mutineers.
"When do we get our next grub, sir?" Nosey Murphy asked, as the
steward served the supplies down to him from the poop.
"At midday," I answered. "And as long as you and your gang are good,
you'll get your grub three times each day. You can choose your own
watches any way you please. But the ship's work must be done, and
done properly. If it isn't, then the grub stops. That will do. Now
"One thing more, sir," he said quickly. "Bert Rhine is awful bad.
He can't see, sir. It looks like he's going to lose his face. He
can't sleep. He groans all the time."
It was a busy day. I made a selection of things from the medicine-
chest for the acid-burned gangster; and, finding that Murphy knew how
to manipulate a hypodermic syringe, entrusted him with one.
Then, too, I practised with the sextant and think I fairly caught the
sun at noon and correctly worked up the observation. But this is
latitude, and is comparatively easy. Longitude is more difficult.
But I am reading up on it.
All afternoon a gentle northerly fan of air snored the Elsinore
through the water at a five-knot clip, and our course lay east for
land, for the habitations of men, for the law and order that men
institute whenever they organize into groups. Once in Valparaiso,
with police flag flying, our mutineers will be taken care of by the
Another thing I did was to rearrange our watches aft so as to split
up the three storm-visitors. Margaret took one in her watch, along
with the two sail-makers, Tom Spink, and Louis. Louis is half white,
and all trustworthy, so that, at all times, on deck or below, he is
told off to the task of never letting the topaz-eyed one out of his
In my watch are the steward, Buckwheat, Wada, and the other two
topaz-eyed ones. And to one of them Wada is told off; and to the
other is assigned the steward. We are not taking any chances.
Always, night and day, on duty or off, these storm-strangers will
have one of our proved men watching them.
Yes; and I tried the stranger men out last evening. It was after a
council with Margaret. She was sure, and I agreed with her, that the
men for'ard are not blindly yielding to our bringing them in to be
prisoners in Valparaiso. As we tried to forecast it, their plan is
to desert the Elsinore in the boats as soon as we fetch up with the
land. Also, considering some of the bitter lunatic spirits for'ard,
there would be a large chance of their drilling the Elsinore's steel
sides and scuttling her ere they took to the boats. For scuttling a
ship is surely as ancient a practice as mutiny on the high seas.
So it was, at one in the morning, that I tried out our strangers.
Two of them I took for'ard with me in the raid on the small boats.
One I left beside Margaret, who kept charge of the poop. On the
other side of him stood the steward with his big hacking knife. By
signs I had made it clear to him, and to his two comrades who were to
accompany me for'ard, that at the first sign of treachery he would be
killed. And not only did the old steward, with signs emphatic and
unmistakable, pledge himself to perform the execution, but we were
all convinced that he was eager for the task.
With Margaret I also left Buckwheat and Tom Spink. Wada, the two
sail-makers, Louis, and the two topaz-eyed ones accompanied me. In
addition to fighting weapons we were armed with axes. We crossed the
main deck unobserved, gained the bridge by way of the 'midship-house,
and by way of the bridge gained the top of the for'ard-house. Here
were the first boats we began work on; but, first of all, I called in
the lookout from the forecastle-head.
He was Mulligan Jacobs; and he picked his way back across the wreck
of the bridge where the fore-topgallant-yard still lay, and came up
to me unafraid, as implacable and bitter as ever.
"Jacobs," I whispered, "you are to stay here beside me until we
finish the job of smashing the boats. Do you get that?"
"As though it could fright me," he growled all too loudly. "Go ahead
for all I care. I know your game. And I know the game of the hell's
maggots under our feet this minute. 'Tis they that'd desert in the
boats. 'Tis you that'll smash the boats an' jail 'm kit an' crew."
"S-s-s-h," I vainly interpolated.
"What of it?" he went on as loudly as ever. "They're sleepin' with
full bellies. The only night watch we keep is the lookout. Even
Rhine's asleep. A few jolts of the needle has put a clapper to his
eternal moanin'. Go on with your work. Smash the boats. 'Tis
nothin' I care. 'Tis well I know my own crooked back is worth more
to me than the necks of the scum of the world below there."
"If you felt that way, why didn't you join us?" I queried.
"Because I like you no better than them an' not half so well. They
are what you an' your fathers have made 'em. An' who in hell are you
an' your fathers? Robbers of the toil of men. I like them little.
I like you and your fathers not at all. Only I like myself and me
crooked back that's a livin' proof there ain't no God and makes
Browning a liar."
"Join us now," I urged, meeting him in his mood. "It will be easier
for your back."
"To hell with you," was his answer. "Go ahead an' smash the boats.
You can hang some of them. But you can't touch me with the law.
'Tis me that's a crippled creature of circumstance, too weak to raise
a hand against any man--a feather blown about by the windy contention
of men strong in their back an' brainless in their heads."
"As you please," I said.
"As I can't help pleasin'," he retorted, "bein' what I am an' so made
for the little flash between the darknesses which men call life. Now
why couldn't I a-ben a butterfly, or a fat pig in a full trough, or a
mere mortal man with a straight back an' women to love me? Go on an'
smash the boats. Play hell to the top of your bent. Like me, you'll
end in the darkness. And your darkness'll be--as dark as mine."
"A full belly puts the spunk back into you," I sneered.
"'Tis on an empty belly that the juice of my dislike turns to acid.
Go on an' smash the boats."
"Whose idea was the sulphur?" I asked.
"I'm not tellin' you the man, but I envied him until it showed
failure. An' whose idea was it--to douse the sulphuric into Rhine's
face? He'll lose that same face, from the way it's shedding."
"Nor will I tell you," I said. "Though I will tell you that I am
glad the idea was not mine."
"Oh, well," he muttered cryptically, "different customs on different
ships, as the cook said when he went for'ard to cast off the spanker
Not until the job was done and I was back on the poop did I have time
to work out the drift of that last figure in its terms of the sea.
Mulligan Jacobs might have been an artist, a philosophic poet, had he
not been born crooked with a crooked back.
And we smashed the boats. With axes and sledges it was an easier
task than I had imagined. On top of both houses we left the boats
masses of splintered wreckage, the topaz-eyed ones working most
energetically; and we regained the poop without a shot being fired.
The forecastle turned out, of course, at our noise, but made no
attempt to interfere with us.
And right here I register another complaint against the sea-
novelists. A score of men for'ard, desperate all, with desperate
deeds behind them, and jail and the gallows facing them not many days
away, should have only begun to fight. And yet this score of men did
nothing while we destroyed their last chance for escape.
"But where did they get the grub?" the steward asked me afterwards.
This question he has asked me every day since the first day Mr. Pike
began cudgelling his brains over it. I wonder, had I asked Mulligan
Jacobs the question, if he would have told me? At any rate, in court
at Valparaiso that question will be answered. In the meantime I
suppose I shall submit to having the steward ask me it daily.
"It is murder and mutiny on the high seas," I told them this morning,
when they came aft in a body to complain about the destruction of the
boats and to demand my intentions.
And as I looked down upon the poor wretches from the break of the
poop, standing there in the high place, the vision of my kind down
all its mad, violent, and masterful past was strong upon me.
Already, since our departure from Baltimore, three other men,
masters, had occupied this high place and gone their way--the
Samurai, Mr. Pike, and Mr. Mellaire. I stood here, fourth, no
seaman, merely a master by the blood of my ancestors; and the work of
the Elsinore in the world went on.
Bert Rhine, his head and face swathed in bandages, stood there
beneath me, and I felt for him a tingle of respect. He, too, in a
subterranean, ghetto way was master over his rats. Nosey Murphy and
Kid Twist stood shoulder to shoulder with their stricken gangster
leader. It was his will, because of his terrible injury, to get in
to land and doctors as quickly as possible. He preferred taking his
chance in court against the chance of losing his life, or, perhaps,
The crew was divided against itself; and Isaac Chantz, the Jew, his
wounded shoulder with a hunch to it, seemed to lead the revolt
against the gangsters. His wound was enough to convict him in any
court, and well he knew it. Beside him, and at his shoulders,
clustered the Maltese Cockney, Andy Fay, Arthur Deacon, Frank
Fitzgibbon, Richard Giller, and John Hackey.
In another group, still allegiant to the gangsters, were men such as
Shorty, Sorensen, Lars Jacobsen, and Larry. Charles Davis was
prominently in the gangster group. A fourth group was composed of
Sundry Buyers, Nancy, and Tony the Greek. This group was distinctly
neutral. And, finally, unaffiliated, quite by himself, stood
Mulligan Jacobs--listening, I fancy, to far echoes of ancient wrongs,
and feeling, I doubt not, the bite of the iron-hot hooks in his
"What are you going to do with us, sir?" Isaac Chantz demanded of me,
in defiance to the gangsters, who were expected to do the talking.
Bert Rhine lurched angrily toward the sound of the Jew's voice.
Chantz's partisans drew closer to him.
"Jail you," I answered from above. "And it shall go as hard with all
of you as I can make it hard."
"Maybe you will an' maybe you won't," the Jew retorted.
"Shut up, Chantz!" Bert Rhine commanded.
"And you'll get yours, you wop," Chantz snarled, "if I have to do it
I am afraid that I am not so successfully the man of action that I
have been priding myself on being; for, so curious and interested was
I in observing the moving drama beneath me that for the moment I
failed to glimpse the tragedy into which it was culminating.
"Bombini!" Bert Rhine said.
His voice was imperative. It was the order of a master to the dog at
heel. Bombini responded. He drew his knife and started to advance
upon the Jew. But a deep rumbling, animal-like in its SOUND and
menace, arose in the throats of those about the Jew.
Bombini hesitated and glanced back across his shoulder at the leader,
whose face he could not see for bandages and who he knew could not
"'Tis a good deed--do it, Bombini," Charles Davis encouraged.
"Shut your face, Davis!" came out from Bert Rhine's bandages.
Kid Twist drew a revolver, shoved the muzzle of it first into
Bombini's side, then covered the men about the Jew.
Really, I felt a momentary twinge of pity for the Italian. He was
caught between the mill-stones, "Bombini, stick that Jew," Bert Rhine
The Italian advanced a step, and, shoulder to shoulder, on either
side, Kid Twist and Nosey Murphy advanced with him.
"I cannot see him," Bert Rhine went on; "but by God I will see him!"
And so speaking, with one single, virile movement he tore away the
bandages. The toll of pain he must have paid is beyond measurement.
I saw the horror of his face, but the description of it is beyond the
limits of any English I possess. I was aware that Margaret, at my
shoulder, gasped and shuddered.
"Bombini!--stick him," the gangster repeated. "And stick any man
that raises a yap. Murphy! See that Bombini does his work."
Murphy's knife was out and at the bravo's back. Kid Twist covered
the Jew's group with his revolver. And the three advanced.
It was at this moment that I suddenly recollected myself and passed
from dream to action.
"Bombini!" I said sharply.
He paused and looked up.
"Stand where you are," I ordered, "till I do some talking.--Chantz!
Make no mistake. Rhine is boss for'ard. You take his orders . . .
until we get into Valparaiso; then you'll take your chances along
with him in jail. In the meantime, what Rhine says goes. Get that,
and get it straight. I am behind Rhine until the police come on
board.--Bombini! do whatever Rhine tells you. I'll shoot the man who
tries to stop you.--Deacon! Stand away from Chantz. Go over to the
All hands knew the stream of lead my automatic rifle could throw, and
Arthur Deacon knew it. He hesitated barely a moment, then obeyed.
"Fitzgibbon!--Giller!--Hackey!" I called in turn, and was obeyed.
"Fay!" I called twice, ere the response came.
Isaac Chantz stood alone, and Bombini now showed eagerness.
"Chantz!" I said; "don't you think it would be healthier to go over
to the fife-rail and be good?"
He debated the matter not many seconds, resheathed his knife, and
The tang of power! I was minded to let literature get the better of
me and read the rascals a lecture; but thank heaven I had sufficient
proportion and balance to refrain.
"Rhine!" I said.
He turned his corroded face up to me and blinked in an effort to see.
"As long as Chantz takes your orders, leave him alone. We'll need
every hand to work the ship in. As for yourself, send Murphy aft in
half an hour and I'll give him the best the medicine-chest affords.
That is all. Go for'ard."
And they shambled away, beaten and dispirited.
"But that man--his face--what happened to him?" Margaret asked of me.
Sad it is to end love with lies. Sadder still is it to begin love
with lies. I had tried to hide this one happening from Margaret, and
I had failed. It could no longer be hidden save by lying; and so I
told her the truth, told her how and why the gangster had had his
face dashed with sulphuric acid by the old steward who knew white men
and their ways.
There is little more to write. The mutiny of the Elsinore is over.
The divided crew is ruled by the gangsters, who are as intent on
getting their leader into port as I am intent on getting all of them
into jail. The first lap of the voyage of the Elsinore draws to a
close. Two days, at most, with our present sailing, will bring us
into Valparaiso. And then, as beginning a new voyage, the Elsinore
will depart for Seattle.
One thing more remains for me to write, and then this strange log of
a strange cruise will be complete. It happened only last night. I
am yet fresh from it, and athrill with it and with the promise of it.
Margaret and I spent the last hour of the second dog-watch together
at the break of the poop. It was good again to feel the Elsinore
yielding to the wind-pressure on her canvas, to feel her again
slipping and sliding through the water in an easy sea.
Hidden by the darkness, clasped in each other's arms, we talked love
and love plans. Nor am I shamed to confess that I was all for
immediacy. Once in Valparaiso, I contended, we would fit out the
Elsinore with fresh crew and officers and send her on her way. As
for us, steamers and rapid travelling would fetch us quickly home.
Furthermore, Valparaiso being a place where such things as licences
and ministers obtained, we would be married ere we caught the fast
steamers for home.
But Margaret was obdurate. The Wests had always stood by their
ships, she urged; had always brought their ships in to the ports
intended or had gone down with their ships in the effort. The
Elsinore had cleared from Baltimore for Seattle with the Wests in the
high place. The Elsinore would re-equip with officers and men in
Valparaiso, and the Elsinore would arrive in Seattle with a West
still on board.
"But think, dear heart," I objected. "The voyage will require
months. Remember what Henley has said: 'Every kiss we take or give
leaves us less of life to live.'"
She pressed her lips to mine.
"We kiss," she said.
But I was stupid.
"Oh, the weary, weary months," I complained. "You dear silly," she
gurgled. "Don't you understand?"
"I understand only that it is many a thousand miles from Valparaiso
to Seattle," I answered.
"You won't understand," she challenged.
"I am a fool," I admitted. "I am aware of only one thing: I want
you. I want you."
"You are a dear, but you are very, very stupid," she said, and as she
spoke she caught my hand and pressed the palm of it against her
cheek. "What do you feel?" she asked.
"Hot cheeks--cheeks most hot."
"I am blushing for what your stupidity compels me to say," she
explained. "You have already said that such things as licences and
ministers obtain in Valparaiso . . . and . . . and, well . . . "
"You mean . . . ?" I stammered.
"Just that," she confirmed.
"The honeymoon shall be on the Elsinore from Valparaiso all the way
to Seattle?" I rattled on.
"The many thousands of miles, the weary, weary months," she teased in
my own intonations, until I stifled her teasing with my lips.