Part 5 out of 8
the throbs and splinterings of the toiling axes. I shall content
myself with giving the cream of our discoveries in a logical
rather than a temporal order; though the two indeed practically
coincided, and we had finished our exploration of the cabin,
before we could be certain of the nature of the cargo.
Nares and I began operations by tossing up pell-mell through
the companion, and piling in a squalid heap about the wheel,
all clothes, personal effects, the crockery, the carpet, stale
victuals, tins of meat, and in a word, all movables from the
main cabin. Thence, we transferred our attention to the
captain's quarters on the starboard side. Using the blankets for
a basket, we sent up the books, instruments, and clothes to
swell our growing midden on the deck; and then Nares, going
on hands and knees, began to forage underneath the bed. Box
after box of Manilla cigars rewarded his search. I took
occasion to smash some of these boxes open, and even to
guillotine the bundles of cigars; but quite in vain--no secret
cache of opium encouraged me to continue.
"I guess I've got hold of the dicky now!" exclaimed Nares, and
turning round from my perquisitions, I found he had drawn
forth a heavy iron box, secured to the bulkhead by chain and
padlock. On this he was now gazing, not with the triumph that
instantly inflamed my own bosom, but with a somewhat foolish
appearance of surprise.
"By George, we have it now!" I cried, and would have shaken
hands with my companion; but he did not see, or would not
accept, the salutation.
"Let's see what's in it first," he remarked dryly. And he
adjusted the box upon its side, and with some blows of an axe
burst the lock open. I threw myself beside him, as he replaced
the box on its bottom and removed the lid. I cannot tell what I
expected; a million's worth of diamonds might perhaps have
pleased me; my cheeks burned, my heart throbbed to bursting;
and lo! there was disclosed but a trayful of papers, neatly taped,
and a cheque-book of the customary pattern. I made a snatch at
the tray to see what was beneath; but the captain's hand fell on
mine, heavy and hard.
"Now, boss!" he cried, not unkindly, "is this to be run
shipshape? or is it a Dutch grab-racket?"
And he proceeded to untie and run over the contents of the
papers, with a serious face and what seemed an ostentation of
delay. Me and my impatience it would appear he had
forgotten; for when he was quite done, he sat a while thinking,
whistled a bar or two, refolded the papers, tied them up again;
and then, and not before, deliberately raised the tray.
I saw a cigar-box, tied with a piece of fishing-line, and four fat
canvas-bags. Nares whipped out his knife, cut the line, and
opened the box. It was about half full of sovereigns.
"And the bags?" I whispered.
The captain ripped them open one by one, and a flood of mixed
silver coin burst forth and rattled in the rusty bottom of the box.
Without a word, he set to work to count the gold.
"What is this?" I asked.
"It's the ship's money," he returned, doggedly continuing his
"The ship's money?" I repeated. "That's the money Trent
tramped and traded with? And there's his cheque-book to
draw upon his owners? And he has left it?"
"I guess he has," said Nares, austerely, jotting down a note of
the gold; and I was abashed into silence till his task should be
It came, I think, to three hundred and seventy-eight pounds
sterling; some nineteen pounds of it in silver: all of which we
turned again into the chest.
"And what do you think of that?" I asked.
"Mr. Dodd," he replied, "you see something of the rumness of
this job, but not the whole. The specie bothers you, but what
gets me is the papers. Are you aware that the master of a ship
has charge of all the cash in hand, pays the men advances,
receives freight and passage money, and runs up bills in every
port? All this he does as the owner's confidential agent, and
his integrity is proved by his receipted bills. I tell you, the
captain of a ship is more likely to forget his pants than these
bills which guarantee his character. I've known men drown to
save them: bad men, too; but this is the shipmaster's honour.
And here this Captain Trent--not hurried, not threatened with
anything but a free passage in a British man-of-war--has left
them all behind! I don't want to express myself too strongly,
because the facts appear against me, but the thing is
Dinner came to us not long after, and we ate it on deck, in a
grim silence, each privately racking his brain for some solution
of the mysteries. I was indeed so swallowed up in these
considerations, that the wreck, the lagoon, the islets, and the
strident sea-fowl, the strong sun then beating on my head, and
even the gloomy countenance of the captain at my elbow, all
vanished from the field of consciousness. My mind was a
blackboard, on which I scrawled and blotted out hypotheses;
comparing each with the pictorial records in my memory:
cyphering with pictures. In the course of this tense mental
exercise I recalled and studied the faces of one memorial
masterpiece, the scene of the saloon; and here I found myself,
on a sudden, looking in the eyes of the Kanaka.
"There's one thing I can put beyond doubt, at all events," I
cried, relinquishing my dinner and getting briskly afoot.
"There was that Kanaka I saw in the bar with Captain Trent,
the fellow the newspapers and ship's articles made out to be a
Chinaman. I mean to rout his quarters out and settle that."
"All right," said Nares. "I'll lazy off a bit longer, Mr. Dodd; I
feel pretty rocky and mean."
We had thoroughly cleared out the three after-compartments of
the ship: all the stuff from the main cabin and the mate's and
captain's quarters lay piled about the wheel; but in the forward
stateroom with the two bunks, where Nares had said the mate
and cook most likely berthed, we had as yet done nothing.
Thither I went. It was very bare; a few photographs were
tacked on the bulkhead, one of them indecent; a single chest
stood open, and, like all we had yet found, it had been partly
rifled. An armful of two-shilling novels proved to me beyond a
doubt it was a European's; no Chinaman would have possessed
any, and the most literate Kanaka conceivable in a ship's galley
was not likely to have gone beyond one. It was plain, then, that
the cook had not berthed aft, and I must look elsewhere.
The men had stamped down the nests and driven the birds from
the galley, so that I could now enter without contest. One door
had been already blocked with rice; the place was in part
darkness, full of a foul stale smell, and a cloud of nasty flies; it
had been left, besides, in some disorder, or else the birds,
during their time of tenancy, had knocked the things about; and
the floor, like the deck before we washed it, was spread with
pasty filth. Against the wall, in the far corner, I found a
handsome chest of camphor-wood bound with brass, such as
Chinamen and sailors love, and indeed all of mankind that
plies in the Pacific. From its outside view I could thus make no
deduction; and, strange to say, the interior was concealed. All
the other chests, as I have said already, we had found gaping
open, and their contents scattered abroad; the same remark we
found to apply afterwards in the quarters of the seamen; only
this camphor-wood chest, a singular exception, was both closed
I took an axe to it, readily forced the paltry Chinese fastening,
and, like a Custom-House officer, plunged my hands among
the contents. For some while I groped among linen and cotton.
Then my teeth were set on edge with silk, of which I drew forth
several strips covered with mysterious characters. And these
settled the business, for I recognised them as a kind of bed-
hanging popular with the commoner class of the Chinese. Nor
were further evidences wanting, such as night-clothes of an
extraordinary design, a three-stringed Chinese fiddle, a silk
handkerchief full of roots and herbs, and a neat apparatus for
smoking opium, with a liberal provision of the drug. Plainly,
then, the cook had been a Chinaman; and, if so, who was Jos.
Amalu? Or had Jos. stolen the chest before he proceeded to
ship under a false name and domicile? It was possible, as
anything was possible in such a welter; but, regarded as a
solution, it only led and left me deeper in the bog. For why
should this chest have been deserted and neglected, when the
others were rummaged or removed? and where had Jos. come
by that second chest, with which (according to the clerk at the
What Cheer) he had started for Honolulu?
"And how have YOU fared?" inquired the captain, whom I
found luxuriously reclining in our mound of litter. And the
accent on the pronoun, the heightened colour of the speaker's
face, and the contained excitement in his tones, advertised me
at once that I had not been alone to make discoveries.
"I have found a Chinaman's chest in the galley," said I, "and
John (if there was any John) was not so much as at the pains to
take his opium."
Nares seemed to take it mighty quietly. "That so?" said he.
"Now, cast your eyes on that and own you're beaten!" And with
a formidable clap of his open hand he flattened out before me,
on the deck, a pair of newspapers.
I gazed upon them dully, being in no mood for fresh
"Look at them, Mr. Dodd," cried the captain sharply. "Can't
you look at them?" And he ran a dirty thumb along the title.
"'_Sydney Morning Herald, November 26th,' can't you make
that out?" he cried, with rising energy. "And don't you know,
sir, that not thirteen days after this paper appeared in New
South Pole, this ship we're standing in heaved her blessed
anchors out of China? How did the _Sydney Morning Herald_
get to Hong Kong in thirteen days? Trent made no land, he
spoke no ship, till he got here. Then he either got it here or in
Hong Kong. I give you your choice, my son!" he cried, and fell
back among the clothes like a man weary of life.
"Where did you find them?" I asked. "In that black bag?"
"Guess so," he said. "You needn't fool with it. There's nothing
else but a lead-pencil and a kind of worked-out knife."
I looked in the bag, however, and was well rewarded.
"Every man to his trade, captain," said I. "You're a sailor, and
you've given me plenty of points; but I am an artist, and allow
me to inform you this is quite as strange as all the rest. The
knife is a palette-knife; the pencil a Winsor and Newton, and a
B B B at that. A palette-knife and a B B B on a tramp brig! It's
against the laws of nature."
"It would sicken a dog, wouldn't it?" said Nares.
"Yes," I continued, "it's been used by an artist, too: see how it's
sharpened--not for writing--no man could write with that. An
artist, and straight from Sydney? How can he come in?"
"O, that's natural enough," sneered Nares. "They cabled him to
come up and illustrate this dime novel."
We fell a while silent.
"Captain," I said at last, "there is something deuced underhand
about this brig. You tell me you've been to sea a good part of
your life. You must have seen shady things done on ships, and
heard of more. Well, what is this? is it insurance? is it piracy?
what is it ABOUT? what can it be for?"
"Mr. Dodd," returned Nares, "you're right about me having
been to sea the bigger part of my life. And you're right again
when you think I know a good many ways in which a dishonest
captain mayn't be on the square, nor do exactly the right thing
by his owners, and altogether be just a little too smart by
ninety-nine and three-quarters. There's a good many ways, but
not so many as you'd think; and not one that has any mortal
thing to do with Trent. Trent and his whole racket has got to
do with nothing--that's the bed-rock fact; there's no sense to it,
and no use in it, and no story to it: it's a beastly dream. And
don't you run away with that notion that landsmen take about
ships. A society actress don't go around more publicly than
what a ship does, nor is more interviewed, nor more
humbugged, nor more run after by all sorts of little fussinesses
in brass buttons. And more than an actress, a ship has a deal to
lose; she's capital, and the actress only character--if she's that.
The ports of the world are thick with people ready to kick a
captain into the penitentiary if he's not as bright as a dollar and
as honest as the morning star; and what with Lloyd keeping
watch and watch in every corner of the three oceans, and the
insurance leeches, and the consuls, and the customs bugs, and
the medicos, you can only get the idea by thinking of a
landsman watched by a hundred and fifty detectives, or a
stranger in a village Down East."
"Well, but at sea?" I said.
"You make me tired," retorted the captain. "What's the use--at
sea? Everything's got to come to bearings at some port, hasn't
it? You can't stop at sea for ever, can you?--No; the Flying
Scud is rubbish; if it meant anything, it would have to mean
something so almighty intricate that James G. Blaine hasn't got
the brains to engineer it; and I vote for more axeing, pioneering,
and opening up the resources of this phenomenal brig, and less
general fuss," he added, arising. "The dime-museum
symptoms will drop in of themselves, I guess, to keep us
But it appeared we were at the end of discoveries for the day;
and we left the brig about sundown, without being further
puzzled or further enlightened. The best of the cabin spoils--
books, instruments, papers, silks, and curiosities--we carried
along with us in a blanket, however, to divert the evening
hours; and when supper was over, and the table cleared, and
Johnson set down to a dreary game of cribbage between his
right hand and his left, the captain and I turned out our blanket
on the floor, and sat side by side to examine and appraise the
The books were the first to engage our notice. These were
rather numerous (as Nares contemptuously put it) "for a lime-
juicer." Scorn of the British mercantile marine glows in the
breast of every Yankee merchant captain; as the scorn is not
reciprocated, I can only suppose it justified in fact; and
certainly the old country mariner appears of a less studious
disposition. The more credit to the officers of the Flying Scud,
who had quite a library, both literary and professional. There
were Findlay's five directories of the world--all broken-backed,
as is usual with Findlay, and all marked and scribbled over
with corrections and additions--several books of navigation, a
signal code, and an Admiralty book of a sort of orange hue,
called _Islands of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Vol. III._, which
appeared from its imprint to be the latest authority, and showed
marks of frequent consultation in the passages about the French
Frigate Shoals, the Harman, Cure, Pearl, and Hermes reefs,
Lisiansky Island, Ocean Island, and the place where we then
lay--Brooks or Midway. A volume of Macaulay's _Essays_
and a shilling Shakespeare led the van of the belles lettres; the
rest were novels: several Miss Braddons--of course, _Aurora
Floyd_, which has penetrated to every isle of the Pacific, a good
many cheap detective books, _Rob Roy_, Auerbach's _Auf der
Hohe_ in the German, and a prize temperance story, pillaged
(to judge by the stamp) from an Anglo-Indian circulating
"The Admiralty man gives a fine picture of our island,"
remarked Nares, who had turned up Midway Island. "He
draws the dreariness rather mild, but you can make out he
knows the place."
"Captain," I cried, "you've struck another point in this mad
business. See here," I went on eagerly, drawing from my
pocket a crumpled fragment of the _Daily Occidental_ which I
had inherited from Jim: "'misled by Hoyt's Pacific Directory'?
"Let's look into that," said Nares. "I got that book on purpose
for this cruise." Therewith he fetched it from the shelf in his
berth, turned to Midway Island, and read the account aloud. It
stated with precision that the Pacific Mail Company were about
to form a depot there, in preference to Honolulu, and that they
had already a station on the island.
"I wonder who gives these Directory men their information,"
Nares reflected. "Nobody can blame Trent after that. I never
got in company with squarer lying; it reminds a man of a
"All very well," said I. "That's your Hoyt, and a fine, tall copy.
But what I want to know is, where is Trent's Hoyt?"
"Took it with him," chuckled Nares. "He had left everything
else, bills and money and all the rest; he was bound to take
something, or it would have aroused attention on the Tempest:
'Happy thought,' says he, 'let's take Hoyt.'"
"And has it not occurred to you," I went on, "that all the Hoyts
in creation couldn't have misled Trent, since he had in his hand
that red admiralty book, an official publication, later in date,
and particularly full on Midway Island?"
"That's a fact!" cried Nares; "and I bet the first Hoyt he ever
saw was out of the mercantile library of San Francisco. Looks
as if he had brought her here on purpose, don't it? But then
that's inconsistent with the steam-crusher of the sale. That's the
trouble with this brig racket; any one can make half a dozen
theories for sixty or seventy per cent of it; but when they're
made, there's always a fathom or two of slack hanging out of
the other end."
I believe our attention fell next on the papers, of which we had
altogether a considerable bulk. I had hoped to find among
these matter for a full-length character of Captain Trent; but
here I was doomed, on the whole, to disappointment. We
could make out he was an orderly man, for all his bills were
docketed and preserved. That he was convivial, and inclined to
be frugal even in conviviality, several documents proclaimed.
Such letters as we found were, with one exception, arid notes
from tradesmen. The exception, signed Hannah Trent, was a
somewhat fervid appeal for a loan. "You know what
misfortunes I have had to bear," wrote Hannah, "and how much
I am disappointed in George. The landlady appeared a true
friend when I first came here, and I thought her a perfect lady.
But she has come out since then in her true colours; and if you
will not be softened by this last appeal, I can't think what is to
become of your affectionate----" and then the signature. This
document was without place or date, and a voice told me that it
had gone likewise without answer. On the whole, there were
few letters anywhere in the ship; but we found one before we
were finished, in a seaman's chest, of which I must transcribe
some sentences. It was dated from some place on the Clyde.
"My dearist son," it ran, "this is to tell you your dearist father
passed away, Jan twelft, in the peace of the Lord. He had your
photo and dear David's lade upon his bed, made me sit by him.
Let's be a' thegither, he said, and gave you all his blessing. O
my dear laddie, why were nae you and Davie here? He would
have had a happier passage. He spok of both of ye all night
most beautiful, and how ye used to stravaig on the Saturday
afternoons, and of auld Kelvinside. Sooth the tune to me, he
said, though it was the Sabbath, and I had to sooth him Kelvin
Grove, and he looked at his fiddle, the dear man. I cannae bear
the sight of it, he'll never play it mair. O my lamb, come home
to me, I'm all by my lane now." The rest was in a religious
vein and quite conventional. I have never seen any one more
put out than Nares, when I handed him this letter; he had read
but a few words, before he cast it down; it was perhaps a
minute ere he picked it up again, and the performance was
repeated the third time before he reached the end.
"It's touching, isn't it?" said I.
For all answer, Nares exploded in a brutal oath; and it was
some half an hour later that he vouchsafed an explanation. "I'll
tell you what broke me up about that letter," said he. "My old
man played the fiddle, played it all out of tune: one of the
things he played was _Martyrdom,_ I remember--it was all
martyrdom to me. He was a pig of a father, and I was a pig of
a son; but it sort of came over me I would like to hear that
fiddle squeak again. Natural," he added; "I guess we're all
"All sons are, I guess," said I. "I have the same trouble on my
conscience: we can shake hands on that." Which (oddly
enough, perhaps) we did.
Amongst the papers we found a considerable sprinkling of
photographs; for the most part either of very debonair-looking
young ladies or old women of the lodging-house persuasion.
But one among them was the means of our crowning discovery.
"They're not pretty, are they, Mr. Dodd?" said Nares, as he
passed it over.
"Who?" I asked, mechanically taking the card (it was a quarter-
plate) in hand, and smothering a yawn; for the hour was late,
the day had been laborious, and I was wearying for bed.
"Trent and Company," said he. "That's a historic picture of the
I held it to the light, my curiosity at a low ebb: I had seen
Captain Trent once, and had no delight in viewing him again.
It was a photograph of the deck of the brig, taken from forward:
all in apple-pie order; the hands gathered in the waist, the
officers on the poop. At the foot of the card was written "Brig
Flying Scud, Rangoon," and a date; and above or below each
individual figure the name had been carefully noted.
As I continued to gaze, a shock went through me; the dimness
of sleep and fatigue lifted from my eyes, as fog lifts in the
channel; and I beheld with startled clearness the photographic
presentment of a crowd of strangers. "J. Trent, Master" at the
top of the card directed me to a smallish, weazened man, with
bushy eyebrows and full white beard, dressed in a frock coat
and white trousers; a flower stuck in his button-hole, his
bearded chin set forward, his mouth clenched with habitual
determination. There was not much of the sailor in his looks,
but plenty of the martinet: a dry, precise man, who might pass
for a preacher in some rigid sect; and whatever he was, not the
Captain Trent of San Francisco. The men, too, were all new to
me: the cook, an unmistakable Chinaman, in his characteristic
dress, standing apart on the poop steps. But perhaps I turned
on the whole with the greatest curiosity to the figure labelled
"E. Goddedaal, 1st off." He whom I had never seen, he might
be the identical; he might be the clue and spring of all this
mystery; and I scanned his features with the eye of a detective.
He was of great stature, seemingly blonde as a viking, his hair
clustering round his head in frowsy curls, and two enormous
whiskers, like the tusks of some strange animal, jutting from
his cheeks. With these virile appendages and the defiant
attitude in which he stood, the expression of his face only
imperfectly harmonised. It was wild, heroic, and womanish
looking; and I felt I was prepared to hear he was a
sentimentalist, and to see him weep.
For some while I digested my discovery in private, reflecting
how best, and how with most of drama, I might share it with
the captain. Then my sketch-book came in my head; and I
fished it out from where it lay, with other miscellaneous
possessions, at the foot of my bunk and turned to my sketch of
Captain Trent and the survivors of the British brig Flying Scud
in the San Francisco bar-room.
"Nares," said I, "I've told you how I first saw Captain Trent in
that saloon in 'Frisco? how he came with his men, one of them
a Kanaka with a canary-bird in a cage? and how I saw him
afterwards at the auction, frightened to death, and as much
surprised at how the figures skipped up as anybody there?
Well," said I, "there's the man I saw"--and I laid the sketch
before him--"there's Trent of 'Frisco and there are his three
hands. Find one of them in the photograph, and I'll be
Nares compared the two in silence. "Well," he said at last, "I
call this rather a relief: seems to clear the horizon. We might
have guessed at something of the kind from the double ration of
chests that figured."
"Does it explain anything?" I asked.
"It would explain everything," Nares replied, "but for the
steam-crusher. It'll all tally as neat as a patent puzzle, if you
leave out the way these people bid the wreck up. And there we
come to a stone wall. But whatever it is, Mr. Dodd, it's on the
"And looks like piracy," I added.
"Looks like blind hookey!" cried the captain. "No, don't you
deceive yourself; neither your head nor mine is big enough to
put a name on this business."
THE CARGO OF THE "FLYING SCUD."
In my early days I was a man, the most wedded to his idols of
my generation. I was a dweller under roofs: the gull of that
which we call civilisation; a superstitious votary of the plastic
arts; a cit; and a prop of restaurants. I had a comrade in those
days, somewhat of an outsider, though he moved in the
company of artists, and a man famous in our small world for
gallantry, knee breeches, and dry and pregnant sayings. He,
looking on the long meals and waxing bellies of the French,
whom I confess I somewhat imitated, branded me as "a
cultivator of restaurant fat." And I believe he had his finger on
the dangerous spot; I believe, if things had gone smooth with
me, I should be now swollen like a prize-ox in body, and fallen
in mind to a thing perhaps as low as many types of bourgeois
--the implicit or exclusive artist. That was a home word of
Pinkerton's, deserving to be writ in letters of gold on the portico
of every school of art: "What I can't see is why you should
want to do nothing else." The dull man is made, not by the
nature, but by the degree of his immersion in a single business.
And all the more if that be sedentary, uneventful, and
ingloriously safe. More than one half of him will then remain
unexercised and undeveloped; the rest will be distended and
deformed by over-nutrition, over-cerebration, and the heat of
rooms. And I have often marvelled at the impudence of
gentlemen, who describe and pass judgment on the life of man,
in almost perfect ignorance of all its necessary elements and
natural careers. Those who dwell in clubs and studios may
paint excellent pictures or write enchanting novels. There is
one thing that they should not do: they should pass no
judgment on man's destiny, for it is a thing with which they are
unacquainted. Their own life is an excrescence of the moment,
doomed, in the vicissitude of history, to pass and disappear:
the eternal life of man, spent under sun and rain and in rude
physical effort, lies upon one side, scarce changed since the
I would I could have carried along with me to Midway Island
all the writers and the prating artists of my time. Day after day
of hope deferred, of heat, of unremitting toil; night after night of
aching limbs, bruised hands, and a mind obscured with the
grateful vacancy of physical fatigue: the scene, the nature of
my employment; the rugged speech and faces of my fellow-
toilers, the glare of the day on deck, the stinking twilight in the
bilge, the shrill myriads of the ocean-fowl: above all, the sense
of our immitigable isolation from the world and from the
current epoch;--keeping another time, some eras old; the new
day heralded by no daily paper, only by the rising sun; and the
State, the churches, the peopled empires, war, and the rumours
of war, and the voices of the arts, all gone silent as in the days
ere they were yet invented. Such were the conditions of my
new experience in life, of which (if I had been able) I would
have had all my confreres and contemporaries to partake:
forgetting, for that while, the orthodoxies of the moment, and
devoted to a single and material purpose under the eye of
Of the nature of our task, I must continue to give some
summary idea. The forecastle was lumbered with ship's
chandlery, the hold nigh full of rice, the lazarette crowded with
the teas and silks. These must all be dug out; and that made
but a fraction of our task. The hold was ceiled throughout; a
part, where perhaps some delicate cargo was once stored, had
been lined, in addition, with inch boards; and between every
beam there was a movable panel into the bilge. Any of these,
the bulkheads of the cabins, the very timbers of the hull itself,
might be the place of hiding. It was therefore necessary to
demolish, as we proceeded, a great part of the ship's inner skin
and fittings, and to auscultate what remained, like a doctor
sounding for a lung disease. Upon the return, from any beam
or bulkhead, of a flat or doubtful sound, we must up axe and
hew into the timber: a violent and--from the amount of dry rot
in the wreck--a mortifying exercise. Every night saw a deeper
inroad into the bones of the Flying Scud--more beams tapped
and hewn in splinters, more planking peeled away and tossed
aside --and every night saw us as far as ever from the end and
object of our arduous devastation. In this perpetual
disappointment, my courage did not fail me, but my spirits
dwindled; and Nares himself grew silent and morose. At night,
when supper was done, we passed an hour in the cabin, mostly
without speech: I, sometimes dozing over a book; Nares,
sullenly but busily drilling sea-shells with the instrument called
a Yankee Fiddle. A stranger might have supposed we were
estranged; as a matter of fact, in this silent comradeship of
labour, our intimacy grew.
I had been struck, at the first beginning of our enterprise upon
the wreck, to find the men so ready at the captain's lightest
word. I dare not say they liked, but I can never deny that they
admired him thoroughly. A mild word from his mouth was
more valued than flattery and half a dollar from myself; if he
relaxed at all from his habitual attitude of censure, smiling
alacrity surrounded him; and I was led to think his theory of
captainship, even if pushed to excess, reposed upon some
ground of reason. But even terror and admiration of the captain
failed us before the end. The men wearied of the hopeless,
unremunerative quest and the long strain of labour. They
began to shirk and grumble. Retribution fell on them at once,
and retribution multiplied the grumblings. With every day it
took harder driving to keep them to the daily drudge; and we,
in our narrow boundaries, were kept conscious every moment
of the ill-will of our assistants.
In spite of the best care, the object of our search was perfectly
well known to all on board; and there had leaked out besides
some knowledge of those inconsistencies that had so greatly
amazed the captain and myself. I could overhear the men
debate the character of Captain Trent, and set forth competing
theories of where the opium was stowed; and as they seemed to
have been eavesdropping on ourselves, I thought little shame to
prick up my ears when I had the return chance of spying upon
them, in this way. I could diagnose their temper and judge
how far they were informed upon the mystery of the Flying
Scud. It was after having thus overheard some almost
mutinous speeches that a fortunate idea crossed my mind. At
night, I matured it in my bed, and the first thing the next
morning, broached it to the captain.
"Suppose I spirit up the hands a bit," I asked, "by the offer of a
"If you think you're getting your month's wages out of them the
way it is, I don't," was his reply. "However, they are all the
men you've got, and you're the supercargo."
This, from a person of the captain's character, might be
regarded as complete adhesion; and the crew were accordingly
called aft. Never had the captain worn a front more menacing.
It was supposed by all that some misdeed had been discovered,
and some surprising punishment was to be announced.
"See here, you!" he threw at them over his shoulder as he
walked the deck, "Mr. Dodd here is going to offer a reward to
the first man who strikes the opium in that wreck. There's two
ways of making a donkey go; both good, I guess: the one's
kicks and the other's carrots. Mr. Dodd's going to try the
carrots. Well, my sons,"--and here he faced the men for the
first time with his hands behind him--"if that opium's not found
in five days, you can come to me for the kicks."
He nodded to the present narrator, who took up the tale. "Here
is what I propose, men," said I: "I put up one hundred and fifty
dollars. If any man can lay hands on the stuff right away, and
off his own club, he shall have the hundred and fifty down. If
any one can put us on the scent of where to look, he shall have
a hundred and twenty-five, and the balance shall be for the
lucky one who actually picks it up. We'll call it the Pinkerton
Stakes, captain," I added, with a smile.
"Call it the Grand Combination Sweep, then," cries he. "For I
go you better.--Look here, men, I make up this jack-pot to two
hundred and fifty dollars, American gold coin."
"Thank you, Captain Nares," said I; "that was handsomely
"It was kindly meant," he returned.
The offer was not made in vain; the hands had scarce yet
realised the magnitude of the reward, they had scarce begun to
buzz aloud in the extremity of hope and wonder, ere the
Chinese cook stepped forward with gracious gestures and
"Captain," he began, "I serv-um two year Melican navy;
serv-um six year mail-boat steward. Savvy plenty."
"Oho!" cried Nares, "you savvy plenty, do you? (Beggar's seen
this trick in the mail-boats, I guess.) Well, why you no savvy a
little sooner, sonny?"
"I think bimeby make-um reward," replied the cook, with
"Well, you can't say fairer than that," the captain admitted, "and
now the reward's offered, you'll talk? Speak up, then. Suppose
you speak true, you get reward. See?"
"I think long time," replied the Chinaman. "See plenty litty mat
lice; too-muchy plenty litty mat lice; sixty ton, litty mat lice. I
think all-e-time: perhaps plenty opium plenty litty mat lice."
"Well, Mr. Dodd, how does that strike you?" asked the captain.
"He may be right, he may be wrong. He's likely to be right: for
if he isn't, where can the stuff be? On the other hand, if he's
wrong, we destroy a hundred and fifty tons of good rice for
nothing. It's a point to be considered."
"I don't hesitate," said I. "Let's get to the bottom of the thing.
The rice is nothing; the rice will neither make nor break us."
"That's how I expected you to see it," returned Nares.
And we called the boat away and set forth on our new quest.
The hold was now almost entirely emptied; the mats (of which
there went forty to the short ton) had been stacked on deck, and
now crowded the ship's waist and forecastle. It was our task to
disembowel and explore six thousand individual mats, and
incidentally to destroy a hundred and fifty tons of valuable
food. Nor were the circumstances of the day's business less
strange than its essential nature. Each man of us, armed with a
great knife, attacked the pile from his own quarter, slashed into
the nearest mat, burrowed in it with his hands, and shed forth
the rice upon the deck, where it heaped up, overflowed, and
was trodden down, poured at last into the scuppers, and
occasionally spouted from the vents. About the wreck, thus
transformed into an overflowing granary, the sea-fowl swarmed
in myriads and with surprising insolence. The sight of so much
food confounded them; they deafened us with their shrill
tongues, swooped in our midst, dashed in our faces, and
snatched the grain from between our fingers. The men--their
hands bleeding from these assaults--turned savagely on the
offensive, drove their knives into the birds, drew them out
crimsoned, and turned again to dig among the rice, unmindful
of the gawking creatures that struggled and died among their
feet. We made a singular picture: the hovering and diving
birds; the bodies of the dead discolouring the rice with blood;
the scuppers vomiting breadstuff; the men, frenzied by the gold
hunt, toiling, slaying, and shouting aloud: over all, the lofty
intricacy of rigging and the radiant heaven of the Pacific. Every
man there toiled in the immediate hope of fifty dollars; and I, of
fifty thousand. Small wonder if we waded callously in blood
It was perhaps about ten in the forenoon when the scene was
interrupted. Nares, who had just ripped open a fresh mat, drew
forth, and slung at his feet, among the rice, a papered tin box.
"How's that?" he shouted.
A cry broke from all hands: the next moment, forgetting their
own disappointment, in that contagious sentiment of success,
they gave three cheers that scared the sea-birds; and the next,
they had crowded round the captain, and were jostling together
and groping with emulous hands in the new-opened mat. Box
after box rewarded them, six in all; wrapped, as I have said, in
a paper envelope, and the paper printed on, in Chinese
Nares turned to me and shook my hand. "I began to think we
should never see this day," said he. "I congratulate you, Mr.
Dodd, on having pulled it through."
The captain's tones affected me profoundly; and when Johnson
and the men pressed round me in turn with congratulations, the
tears came in my eyes.
"These are five-tael boxes, more than two pounds," said Nares,
weighing one in his hand. "Say two hundred and fifty dollars
to the mat. Lay into it, boys! We'll make Mr. Dodd a
millionnaire before dark."
It was strange to see with what a fury we fell to. The men had
now nothing to expect; the mere idea of great sums inspired
them with disinterested ardour. Mats were slashed and
disembowelled, the rice flowed to our knees in the ship's waist,
the sweat ran in our eyes and blinded us, our arms ached to
agony; and yet our fire abated not. Dinner came; we were too
weary to eat, too hoarse for conversation; and yet dinner was
scarce done, before we were afoot again and delving in the rice.
Before nightfall not a mat was unexplored, and we were face to
face with the astonishing result.
For of all the inexplicable things in the story of the Flying
Scud, here was the most inexplicable. Out of the six thousand
mats, only twenty were found to have been sugared; in each we
found the same amount, about twelve pounds of drug; making
a grand total of two hundred and forty pounds. By the last San
Francisco quotation, opium was selling for a fraction over
twenty dollars a pound; but it had been known not long before
to bring as much as forty in Honolulu, where it was
Taking, then, this high Honolulu figure, the value of the opium
on board the Flying Scud fell considerably short of ten
thousand dollars, while at the San Francisco rate it lacked a
trifle of five thousand. And fifty thousand was the price that
Jim and I had paid for it. And Bellairs had been eager to go
higher! There is no language to express the stupor with which I
contemplated this result.
It may be argued we were not yet sure; there might be yet
another cache; and you may be certain in that hour of my
distress the argument was not forgotten. There was never a
ship more ardently perquested; no stone was left unturned, and
no expedient untried; day after day of growing despair, we
punched and dug in the brig's vitals, exciting the men with
promises and presents; evening after evening Nares and I sat
face to face in the narrow cabin, racking our minds for some
neglected possibility of search. I could stake my salvation on
the certainty of the result: in all that ship there was nothing left
of value but the timber and the copper nails. So that our case
was lamentably plain; we had paid fifty thousand dollars, borne
the charges of the schooner, and paid fancy interest on money;
and if things went well with us, we might realise fifteen per
cent of the first outlay. We were not merely bankrupt, we were
comic bankrupts: a fair butt for jeering in the streets. I hope I
bore the blow with a good countenance; indeed, my mind had
long been quite made up, and since the day we found the opium
I had known the result. But the thought of Jim and Mamie
ached in me like a physical pain, and I shrank from speech and
I was in this frame of mind when the captain proposed that we
should land upon the island. I saw he had something to say,
and only feared it might be consolation; for I could just bear my
grief, not bungling sympathy; and yet I had no choice but to
accede to his proposal.
We walked awhile along the beach in silence. The sun
overhead reverberated rays of heat; the staring sand, the glaring
lagoon, tortured our eyes; and the birds and the boom of the
far-away breakers made a savage symphony.
"I don't require to tell you the game's up?" Nares asked.
"No," said I.
"I was thinking of getting to sea to-morrow," he pursued.
"The best thing you can do," said I.
"Shall we say Honolulu?" he inquired.
"O, yes; let's stick to the programme," I cried. "Honolulu be it!"
There was another silence, and then Nares cleared his throat.
"We've been pretty good friends, you and me, Mr. Dodd," he
resumed. "We've been going through the kind of thing that
tries a man. We've had the hardest kind of work, we've been
badly backed, and now we're badly beaten. And we've fetched
through without a word of disagreement. I don't say this to
praise myself: it's my trade; it's what I'm paid for, and trained
for, and brought up to. But it was another thing for you; it was
all new to you; and it did me good to see you stand right up to
it and swing right into it, day in, day out. And then see how
you've taken this disappointment, when everybody knows you
must have been tautened up to shying-point! I wish you'd let
me tell you, Mr. Dodd, that you've stood out mighty manly and
handsomely in all this business, and made every one like you
and admire you. And I wish you'd let me tell you, besides, that
I've taken this wreck business as much to heart as you have;
something kind of rises in my throat when I think we're beaten;
and if I thought waiting would do it, I would stick on this reef
until we starved."
I tried in vain to thank him for these generous words, but he
was beforehand with me in a moment.
"I didn't bring you ashore to sound my praises," he interrupted.
"We understand one another now, that's all; and I guess you
can trust me. What I wished to speak about is more important,
and it's got to be faced. What are we to do about the Flying
Scud and the dime novel?"
"I really have thought nothing about that," I replied. "But I
expect I mean to get at the bottom of it; and if the bogus
Captain Trent is to be found on the earth's surface, I guess I
mean to find him."
"All you've got to do is talk," said Nares; "you can make the
biggest kind of boom; it isn't often the reporters have a chance
at such a yarn as this; and I can tell you how it will go. It will
go by telegraph, Mr. Dodd; it'll be telegraphed by the column,
and head-lined, and frothed up, and denied by authority, and
it'll hit bogus Captain Trent in a Mexican bar-room, and knock
over bogus Goddedaal in a slum somewhere up the Baltic, and
bowl down Hardy and Brown in sailors' music halls round
Greenock. O, there's no doubt you can have a regular domestic
Judgment Day. The only point is whether you deliberately
"Well," said I, "I deliberately don't want one thing: I
deliberately don't want to make a public exhibition of myself
and Pinkerton: so moral--smuggling opium; such damned
fools--paying fifty thousand for a 'dead horse'!"
"No doubt it might damage you in a business sense," the
captain agreed. "And I'm pleased you take that view; for I've
turned kind of soft upon the job. There's been some
crookedness about, no doubt of it; but, Law bless you! if we
dropped upon the troupe, all the premier artists would slip right
out with the boodle in their grip-sacks, and you'd only collar a
lot of old mutton-headed shell-backs that didn't know the back
of the business from the front. I don't take much stock in
Mercantile Jack, you know that; but, poor devil, he's got to go
where he's told; and if you make trouble, ten to one it'll make
you sick to see the innocents who have to stand the racket. It
would be different if we understood the operation; but we don't,
you see: there's a lot of queer corners in life; and my vote is to
let the blame' thing lie."
"You speak as if we had that in our power," I objected.
"And so we have," said he.
"What about the men?" I asked. "They know too much by half;
and you can't keep them from talking."
"Can't I?" returned Nares. "I bet a boarding-master can! They
can be all half-seas-over, when they get ashore, blind drunk by
dark, and cruising out of the Golden Gate in different deep-sea
ships by the next morning. Can't keep them from talking, can't
I? Well, I can make 'em talk separate, leastways. If a whole
crew came talking, parties would listen; but if it's only one lone
old shell-back, it's the usual yarn. And at least, they needn't
talk before six months, or--if we have luck, and there's a whaler
handy--three years. And by that time, Mr. Dodd, it's ancient
"That's what they call Shanghaiing, isn't it?" I asked. "I
thought it belonged to the dime novel."
"O, dime novels are right enough," returned the captain.
"Nothing wrong with the dime novel, only that things happen
thicker than they do in life, and the practical seamanship is off-
"So we can keep the business to ourselves," I mused.
"There's one other person that might blab," said the captain.
"Though I don't believe she has anything left to tell."
"And who is SHE?" I asked.
"The old girl there," he answered, pointing to the wreck. "I
know there's nothing in her; but somehow I'm afraid of some
one else--it's the last thing you'd expect, so it's just the first
that'll happen--some one dropping into this God-forgotten
island where nobody drops in, waltzing into that wreck that
we've grown old with searching, stooping straight down, and
picking right up the very thing that tells the story. What's that
to me? you may ask, and why am I gone Soft Tommy on this
Museum of Crooks? They've smashed up you and Mr.
Pinkerton; they've turned my hair grey with conundrums;
they've been up to larks, no doubt; and that's all I know of them
--you say. Well, and that's just where it is. I don't know
enough; I don't know what's uppermost; it's just such a lot of
miscellaneous eventualities as I don't care to go stirring up; and
I ask you to let me deal with the old girl after a patent of my
"Certainly--what you please," said I, scarce with attention, for a
new thought now occupied my brain. "Captain," I broke out,
"you are wrong: we cannot hush this up. There is one thing
you have forgotten."
"What is that?" he asked.
"A bogus Captain Trent, a bogus Goddedaal, a whole bogus
crew, have all started home," said I. "If we are right, not one of
them will reach his journey's end. And do you mean to say that
such a circumstance as that can pass without remark?"
"Sailors," said the captain, "only sailors! If they were all bound
for one place, in a body, I don't say so; but they're all going
separate--to Hull, to Sweden, to the Clyde, to the Thames.
Well, at each place, what is it? Nothing new. Only one sailor
man missing: got drunk, or got drowned, or got left: the
proper sailor's end."
Something bitter in the thought and in the speaker's tones
struck me hard. "Here is one that has got left!" I cried, getting
sharply to my feet; for we had been some time seated. "I wish
it were the other. I don't--don't relish going home to Jim with
"See here," said Nares, with ready tact, "I must be getting
aboard. Johnson's in the brig annexing chandlery and canvas,
and there's some things in the Norah that want fixing against
we go to sea. Would you like to be left here in the chicken-
ranch? I'll send for you to supper."
I embraced the proposal with delight. Solitude, in my frame of
mind, was not too dearly purchased at the risk of sunstroke or
sand-blindness; and soon I was alone on the ill-omened islet. I
should find it hard to tell of what I thought--of Jim, of Mamie,
of our lost fortune, of my lost hopes, of the doom before me: to
turn to at some mechanical occupation in some subaltern rank,
and to toil there, unremarked and unamused, until the hour of
the last deliverance. I was, at least, so sunk in sadness that I
scarce remarked where I was going; and chance (or some finer
sense that lives in us, and only guides us when the mind is in
abeyance) conducted my steps into a quarter of the island
where the birds were few. By some devious route, which I was
unable to retrace for my return, I was thus able to mount,
without interruption, to the highest point of land. And here I
was recalled to consciousness by a last discovery.
The spot on which I stood was level, and commanded a wide
view of the lagoon, the bounding reef, the round horizon.
Nearer hand I saw the sister islet, the wreck, the Norah Creina,
and the Norah's boat already moving shoreward. For the sun
was now low, flaming on the sea's verge; and the galley
chimney smoked on board the schooner.
It thus befell that though my discovery was both affecting and
suggestive, I had no leisure to examine further. What I saw
was the blackened embers of fire of wreck. By all the signs, it
must have blazed to a good height and burned for days; from
the scantling of a spar that lay upon the margin only half
consumed, it must have been the work of more than one; and I
received at once the image of a forlorn troop of castaways,
houseless in that lost corner of the earth, and feeding there their
fire of signal. The next moment a hail reached me from the
boat; and bursting through the bushes and the rising sea-fowl, I
said farewell (I trust for ever) to that desert isle.
IN WHICH I TURN SMUGGLER, AND THE CAPTAIN CASUIST
The last night at Midway, I had little sleep; the next morning,
after the sun was risen, and the clatter of departure had begun
to reign on deck, I lay a long while dozing; and when at last I
stepped from the companion, the schooner was already leaping
through the pass into the open sea. Close on her board, the
huge scroll of a breaker unfurled itself along the reef with a
prodigious clamour; and behind I saw the wreck vomiting into
the morning air a coil of smoke. The wreaths already blew out
far to leeward, flames already glittered in the cabin skylight;
and the sea-fowl were scattered in surprise as wide as the
lagoon. As we drew farther off, the conflagration of the Flying
Scud flamed higher; and long after we had dropped all signs of
Midway Island, the smoke still hung in the horizon like that of
a distant steamer. With the fading out of that last vestige, the
Norah Creina, passed again into the empty world of cloud and
water by which she had approached; and the next features that
appeared, eleven days later, to break the line of sky, were the
arid mountains of Oahu.
It has often since been a comfortable thought to me that we had
thus destroyed the tell-tale remnants of the Flying Scud; and
often a strange one that my last sight and reminiscence of that
fatal ship should be a pillar of smoke on the horizon. To so
many others besides myself the same appearance had played a
part in the various stages of that business: luring some to what
they little imagined, filling some with unimaginable terrors.
But ours was the last smoke raised in the story; and with its
dying away the secret of the Flying Scud became a private
It was by the first light of dawn that we saw, close on board,
the metropolitan island of Hawaii. We held along the coast, as
near as we could venture, with a fresh breeze and under an
unclouded heaven; beholding, as we went, the arid mountain
sides and scrubby cocoa-palms of that somewhat melancholy
archipelago. About four of the afternoon we turned Waimanolo
Point, the westerly headland of the great bight of Honolulu;
showed ourselves for twenty minutes in full view; and then fell
again to leeward, and put in the rest of daylight, plying under
shortened sail under the lee of Waimanolo.
A little after dark we beat once more about the point, and crept
cautiously toward the mouth of the Pearl Lochs, where Jim and
I had arranged I was to meet the smugglers. The night was
happily obscure, the water smooth. We showed, according to
instructions, no light on deck: only a red lantern dropped from
either cathead to within a couple of feet of the water. A lookout
was stationed on the bowsprit end, another in the crosstrees;
and the whole ship's company crowded forward, scouting for
enemies or friends. It was now the crucial moment of our
enterprise; we were now risking liberty and credit; and that for
a sum so small to a man in my bankrupt situation, that I could
have laughed aloud in bitterness. But the piece had been
arranged, and we must play it to the finish.
For some while, we saw nothing but the dark mountain outline
of the island, the torches of native fishermen glittering here and
there along the foreshore, and right in the midst that cluster of
brave lights with which the town of Honolulu advertises itself
to the seaward. Presently a ruddy star appeared inshore of us,
and seemed to draw near unsteadily. This was the anticipated
signal; and we made haste to show the countersign, lowering a
white light from the quarter, extinguishing the two others, and
laying the schooner incontinently to. The star approached
slowly; the sounds of oars and of men's speech came to us
across the water; and then a voice hailed us.
"Is that Mr. Dodd?"
"Yes," I returned. "Is Jim Pinkerton there?"
"No, sir," replied the voice. "But there's one of his crowd here;
name of Speedy."
"I'm here, Mr. Dodd," added Speedy himself. "I have letters
"All right," I replied. "Come aboard, gentlemen, and let me see
A whaleboat accordingly ranged alongside, and three men
boarded us: my old San Francisco friend, the stock-gambler
Speedy, a little wizened person of the name of Sharpe, and a
big, flourishing, dissipated-looking man called Fowler. The
two last (I learned afterward) were frequent partners; Sharpe
supplied the capital, and Fowler, who was quite a character in
the islands and occupied a considerable station, brought
activity, daring, and a private influence, highly necessary in the
case. Both seemed to approach the business with a keen sense
of romance; and I believe this was the chief attraction, at least
with Fowler--for whom I early conceived a sentiment of liking.
But in that first moment I had something else to think of than
to judge my new acquaintances; and before Speedy had fished
out the letters, the full extent of our misfortune was revealed.
"We've rather bad news for you, Mr. Dodd," said Fowler.
"Your firm's gone up."
"Already!" I exclaimed.
"Well, it was thought rather a wonder Pinkerton held on as
long as he did," was the reply. "The wreck deal was too big for
your credit; you were doing a big business, no doubt, but you
were doing it on precious little capital; and when the strain
came, you were bound to go. Pinkerton's through all right:
seven cents dividend; some remarks made, but nothing to hurt;
the press let you down easy--I guess Jim had relations there.
The only trouble is, that all this Flying Scud affair got in the
papers with the rest; everybody's wide awake in Honolulu, and
the sooner we get the stuff in and the dollars out, the better for
"Gentlemen," said I, "you must excuse me. My friend, the
captain here, will drink a glass of champagne with you to give
you patience; but as for myself, I am unfit even for ordinary
conversation till I have read these letters."
They demurred a little: and indeed the danger of delay seemed
obvious; but the sight of my distress, which I was unable
entirely to control, appealed strongly to their good-nature; and I
was suffered at last to get by myself on deck, where, by the
light of a lantern smuggled under shelter of the low rail, I read
the following wretched correspondence.
"My dear Loudon," ran the first, "this will be handed you by
your friend Speedy of the Catamount. His sterling character
and loyal devotion to yourself pointed him out as the best man
for our purposes in Honolulu--the parties on the spot being
difficult to manipulate. A man called Billy Fowler (you must
have heard of Billy) is the boss; he is in politics some, and
squares the officers. I have hard times before me in the city,
but I feel as bright as a dollar and as strong as John L.
Sullivan. What with Mamie here, and my partner speeding
over the seas, and the bonanza in the wreck, I feel like I could
juggle with the Pyramids of Egypt, same as conjurers do with
aluminium balls. My earnest prayers follow you, Loudon, that
you may feel the way I do--just inspired! My feet don't touch
the ground; I kind of swim. Mamie is like Moses and Aaron
that held up the other individual's arms. She carries me along
like a horse and buggy. I am beating the record.
"Your true partner,
Number two was in a different style:--
"My dearest Loudon, how am I to prepare you for this dire
intelligence? O dear me, it will strike you to the earth. The
Fiat has gone forth; our firm went bust at a quarter before
twelve. It was a bill of Bradley's (for $200) that brought these
vast operations to a close, and evolved liabilities of upwards of
two hundred and fifty thousand. O, the shame and pity of it!
and you but three weeks gone! Loudon, don't blame your
partner: if human hands and brains could have sufficed, I
would have held the thing together. But it just slowly
crumbled; Bradley was the last kick, but the blamed business
just MELTED. I give the liabilities; it's supposed they're all in;
for the cowards were waiting, and the claims were filed like
taking tickets to hear Patti. I don't quite have the hang of the
assets yet, our interests were so extended; but I am at it day and
night, and I guess will make a creditable dividend. If the
wreck pans out only half the way it ought, we'll turn the laugh
still. I am as full of grit and work as ever, and just tower above
our troubles. Mamie is a host in herself. Somehow I feel like it
was only me that had gone bust, and you and she soared clear
of it. Hurry up. That's all you have to do.
The third was yet more altered:--
"My poor Loudon," it began, "I labour far into the night getting
our affairs in order; you could not believe their vastness and
complexity. Douglas B. Longhurst said humorously that the
receiver's work would be cut out for him. I cannot deny that
some of them have a speculative look. God forbid a sensitive,
refined spirit like yours should ever come face to face with a
Commissioner in Bankruptcy; these men get all the sweetness
knocked right out of them. But I could bear up better if it
weren't for press comments. Often and often, Loudon, I recall
to mind your most legitimate critiques of the press system.
They published an interview with me, not the least like what I
said, and with JEERING comments; it would make your blood
boil, it was literally INHUMANE; I wouldn't have written it
about a yellow dog that was in trouble like what I am. Mamie
just winced, the first time she has turned a hair right through
the whole catastrophe. How wonderfully true was what you
said long ago in Paris, about touching on people's personal
appearance! The fellow said--" And then these words had
been scored through; and my distressed friend turned to another
subject. "I cannot bear to dwell upon our assets. They simply
don't show up. Even Thirteen Star, as sound a line as can be
produced upon this coast, goes begging. The wreck has thrown
a blight on all we ever touched. And where's the use? God
never made a wreck big enough to fill our deficit. I am haunted
by the thought that you may blame me; I know how I despised
your remonstrances. O, Loudon, don't be hard on your
miserable partner. The funny-dog business is what kills. I fear
your stern rectitude of mind like the eye of God. I cannot think
but what some of my books seem mixed up; otherwise, I don't
seem to see my way as plain as I could wish to. Or else my
brain is gone soft. Loudon, if there should be any
unpleasantness, you can trust me to do the right thing and keep
you clear. I've been telling them already, how you had no
business grip and never saw the books. O, I trust I have done
right in this! I knew it was a liberty; I know you may justly
complain; but it was some things that were said. And mind
you, all legitimate business! Not even your shrinking
sensitiveness could find fault with the first look of one of them,
if they had panned out right. And you know, the Flying Scud
was the biggest gamble of the crowd, and that was your own
idea. Mamie says she never could bear to look you in the face,
if that idea had been mine, she is SO conscientious!
The last began without formality:--
"This is the end of me commercially. I give up; my nerve is
gone. I suppose I ought to be glad; for we're through the court.
I don't know as ever I knew how, and I'm sure I don't
remember. If it pans out--the wreck, I mean--we'll go to
Europe, and live on the interest of our money. No more work
for me. I shake when people speak to me. I have gone on,
hoping and hoping, and working and working, and the lead has
pinched right out. I want to lie on my back in a garden and
read Shakespeare and E. P. Roe. Don't suppose it's cowardice,
Loudon. I'm a sick man. Rest is what I must have. I've
worked hard all my life; I never spared myself; every dollar I
ever made, I've coined my brains for it. I've never done a mean
thing; I've lived respectable, and given to the poor. Who has a
better right to a holiday than I have? And I mean to have a year
of it straight out; and if I don't, I shall lie right down here in my
tracks, and die of worry and brain trouble. Don't mistake.
That's so. If there are any pickings at all, TRUST SPEEDY;
don't let the creditors get wind of what there is. I helped you
when you were down; help me now. Don't deceive yourself;
you've got to help me right now, or never. I am clerking, and
NOT FIT TO CYPHER. Mamie's typewriting at the Phoenix
Guano Exchange, down town. The light is right out of my life.
I know you'll not like to do what I propose. Think only of this;
that it's life or death for
"P.S. Our figure was seven per cent. O, what a fall was there!
Well, well, it's past mending; I don't want to whine. But,
Loudon, I do want to live. No more ambition; all I ask is life. I
have so much to make it sweet to me! I am clerking, and
USELESS AT THAT. I know I would have fired such a clerk
inside of forty minutes, in MY time. But my time's over. I can
only cling on to you. Don't fail
There was yet one more postscript, yet one more outburst of
self-pity and pathetic adjuration; and a doctor's opinion,
unpromising enough, was besides enclosed. I pass them both
in silence. I think shame to have shown, at so great length, the
half-baked virtues of my friend dissolving in the crucible of
sickness and distress; and the effect upon my spirits can be
judged already. I got to my feet when I had done, drew a deep
breath, and stared hard at Honolulu. One moment the world
seemed at an end; the next, I was conscious of a rush of
independent energy. On Jim I could rely no longer; I must now
take hold myself. I must decide and act on my own better
The word was easy to say; the thing, at the first blush, was
undiscoverable. I was overwhelmed with miserable, womanish
pity for my broken friend; his outcries grieved my spirit; I saw
him then and now--then, so invincible; now, brought so low--
and knew neither how to refuse, nor how to consent to his
proposal. The remembrance of my father, who had fallen in the
same field unstained, the image of his monument
incongruously rising, a fear of the law, a chill air that seemed to
blow upon my fancy from the doors of prisons, and the
imaginary clank of fetters, recalled me to a different resolve.
And then again, the wails of my sick partner intervened. So I
stood hesitating, and yet with a strong sense of capacity behind:
sure, if I could but choose my path, that I should walk in it with
Then I remembered that I had a friend on board, and stepped to
"Gentlemen," said I, "only a few moments more: but these, I
regret to say, I must make more tedious still by removing your
companion. It is indispensable that I should have a word or
two with Captain Nares."
Both the smugglers were afoot at once, protesting. The
business, they declared, must be despatched at once; they had
run risk enough, with a conscience; and they must either finish
now, or go.
"The choice is yours, gentlemen," said I, "and, I believe, the
eagerness. I am not yet sure that I have anything in your way;
even if I have, there are a hundred things to be considered; and
I assure you it is not at all my habit to do business with a pistol
to my head."
"That is all very proper, Mr. Dodd; there is no wish to coerce
you, believe me," said Fowler; "only, please consider our
position. It is really dangerous; we were not the only people to
see your schooner off Waimanolo."
"Mr. Fowler," I replied, "I was not born yesterday. Will you
allow me to express an opinion, in which I may be quite wrong,
but to which I am entirely wedded? If the custom-house officers
had been coming, they would have been here now. In other
words, somebody is working the oracle, and (for a good guess)
his name is Fowler."
Both men laughed loud and long; and being supplied with
another bottle of Longhurst's champagne, suffered the captain
and myself to leave them without further word.
I gave Nares the correspondence, and he skimmed it through.
"Now, captain," said I, "I want a fresh mind on this. What
does it mean?"
"It's large enough text," replied the captain. "It means you're to
stake your pile on Speedy, hand him over all you can, and hold
your tongue. I almost wish you hadn't shown it me," he added
wearily. "What with the specie from the wreck and the opium
money, it comes to a biggish deal."
"That's supposing that I do it?" said I.
"Exactly," said he, "supposing you do it."
"And there are pros and cons to that," I observed.
"There's San Quentin, to start in with," said the captain; "and
suppose you clear the penitentiary, there's the nasty taste in the
mouth. The figure's big enough to make bad trouble, but it's
not big enough to be picturesque; and I should guess a man
always feels kind of small who has sold himself under six
cyphers. That would be my way, at least; there's an excitement
about a million that might carry me on; but the other way, I
should feel kind of lonely when I woke in bed. Then there's
Speedy. Do you know him well?"
"No, I do not," said I.
"Well, of course he can vamoose with the entire speculation, if
he chooses," pursued the captain, "and if he don't I can't see but
what you've got to support and bed and board with him to the
end of time. I guess it would weary me. Then there's Mr.
Pinkerton, of course. He's been a good friend to you, hasn't he?
Stood by you, and all that? and pulled you through for all he
"That he has," I cried; "I could never begin telling you my debt
"Well, and that's a consideration," said the captain. "As a
matter of principle, I wouldn't look at this business at the
money. 'Not good enough,' would be my word. But even
principle goes under when it comes to friends--the right sort, I
mean. This Pinkerton is frightened, and he seems sick; the
medico don't seem to care a cent about his state of health; and
you've got to figure how you would like it if he came to die.
Remember, the risk of this little swindle is all yours; it's no sort
of risk to Mr. Pinkerton. Well, you've got to put it that way
plainly, and see how you like the sound of it: my friend
Pinkerton is in danger of the New Jerusalem, I am in danger of
San Quentin; which risk do I propose to run?"
"That's an ugly way to put it," I objected, "and perhaps hardly
fair. There's right and wrong to be considered."
"Don't know the parties," replied Nares; "and I'm coming to
them, anyway. For it strikes me, when it came to smuggling
opium, you walked right up?"
"So I did," I said; "sick I am to have to say it!"
"All the same," continued Nares, "you went into the opium-
smuggling with your head down; and a good deal of fussing
I've listened to, that you hadn't more of it to smuggle. Now,
maybe your partner's not quite fixed the same as you are;
maybe he sees precious little difference between the one thing
and the other."
"You could not say truer: he sees none, I do believe," cried I;
"and though I see one, I could never tell you how."
"We never can," said the oracular Nares; "taste is all a matter of
opinion. But the point is, how will your friend take it? You
refuse a favour, and you take the high horse at the same time;
you disappoint him, and you rap him over the knuckles. It
won't do, Mr. Dodd; no friendship can stand that. You must be
as good as your friend, or as bad as your friend, or start on a
fresh deal without him."
"I don't see it!" said I. "You don't know Jim!"
"Well, you WILL see," said Nares. "And now, here's another
point. This bit of money looks mighty big to Mr. Pinkerton; it
may spell life or health to him; but among all your creditors, I
don't see that it amounts to a hill of beans--I don't believe it'll
pay their car-fares all round. And don't you think you'll ever
get thanked. You were known to pay a long price for the
chance of rummaging that wreck; you do the rummaging, you
come home, and you hand over ten thousand--or twenty, if you
like--a part of which you'll have to own up you made by
smuggling; and, mind! you'll never get Billy Fowler to stick his
name to a receipt. Now just glance at the transaction from the
outside, and see what a clear case it makes. Your ten thousand
is a sop; and people will only wonder you were so damned
impudent as to offer such a small one! Whichever way you
take it, Mr. Dodd, the bottom's out of your character; so there's
one thing less to be considered."
"I daresay you'll scarce believe me," said I, "but I feel that a
"You must be made some way different from me, then,"
returned Nares. "And, talking about me, I might just mention
how I stand. You'll have no trouble from me--you've trouble
enough of your own; and I'm friend enough, when a friend's in
need, to shut my eyes and go right where he tells me. All the
same, I'm rather queerly fixed. My owners'll have to rank with
the rest on their charter-party. Here am I, their representative!
and I have to look over the ship's side while the bankrupt walks
his assets ashore in Mr. Speedy's hat-box. It's a thing I
wouldn't do for James G. Blaine; but I'll do it for you, Mr.
Dodd, and only sorry I can't do more."
"Thank you, captain; my mind is made up," said I. "I'll go
straight, RUAT COELUM! I never understood that old tag
"I hope it isn't my business that decides you?" asked the
"I'll never deny it was an element," said I. "I hope, I hope I'm
not cowardly; I hope I could steal for Jim myself; but when it
comes to dragging in you and Speedy, and this one and the
other, why, Jim has got to die, and there's an end. I'll try and
work for him when I get to 'Frisco, I suppose; and I suppose I'll
fail, and look on at his death, and kick myself: it can't be
helped--I'll fight it on this line."
"I don't say as you're wrong," replied Nares, "and I'll be hanged
if I know if you're right. It suits me anyway. And look here--
hadn't you better just show our friends over the side?" he
added; "no good of being at the risk and worry of smuggling for
the benefit of creditors."
"I don't think of the creditors," said I. "But I've kept this pair so
long, I haven't got the brass to fire them now."
Indeed, I believe that was my only reason for entering upon a
transaction which was now outside my interest, but which (as it
chanced) repaid me fifty-fold in entertainment. Fowler and
Sharpe were both preternaturally sharp; they did me the honour
in the beginning to attribute to myself their proper vices; and
before we were done had grown to regard me with an esteem
akin to worship. This proud position I attained by no more
recondite arts, than telling the mere truth and unaffectedly
displaying my indifference to the result. I have doubtless stated
the essentials of all good diplomacy, which may be rather
regarded, therefore, as a grace of state, than the effect of
management. For to tell the truth is not in itself diplomatic,
and to have no care for the result a thing involuntary. When I
mentioned, for instance, that I had but two hundred and forty
pounds of drug, my smugglers exchanged meaning glances, as
who should say, "Here is a foeman worthy of our steel!" But
when I carelessly proposed thirty-five dollars a pound, as an
amendment to their offered twenty, and wound up with the
remark: "The whole thing is a matter of moonshine to me,
gentlemen. Take it or want it, and fill your glasses"--I had the
indescribable gratification to see Sharpe nudge Fowler
warningly, and Fowler choke down the jovial acceptance that
stood ready on his lips, and lamely substitute a "No--no more
wine, please, Mr. Dodd!" Nor was this all: for when the affair
was settled at fifty dollars a pound--a shrewd stroke of business
for my creditors--and our friends had got on board their
whaleboat and shoved off, it appeared they were imperfectly
acquainted with the conveyance of sound upon still water, and I
had the joy to overhear the following testimonial.
"Deep man, that Dodd," said Sharpe.
And the bass-toned Fowler echoed, "Damned if I understand
Thus we were left once more alone upon the Norah Creina; and
the news of the night, and the lamentations of Pinkerton, and
the thought of my own harsh decision, returned and besieged
me in the dark. According to all the rubbish I had read, I
should have been sustained by the warm consciousness of
virtue. Alas, I had but the one feeling: that I had sacrificed my
sick friend to the fear of prison-cells and stupid starers. And no
moralist has yet advanced so far as to number cowardice
amongst the things that are their own reward.
LIGHT FROM THE MAN OF WAR.
In the early sunlight of the next day, we tossed close off the
buoy and saw the city sparkle in its groves about the foot of the
Punch-bowl, and the masts clustering thick in the small
harbour. A good breeze, which had risen with the sea, carried
us triumphantly through the intricacies of the passage; and we
had soon brought up not far from the landing-stairs. I
remember to have remarked an ugly horned reptile of a modern
warship in the usual moorings across the port, but my mind
was so profoundly plunged in melancholy that I paid no heed.
Indeed, I had little time at my disposal. Messieurs Sharpe and
Fowler had left the night before in the persuasion that I was a
liar of the first magnitude; the genial belief brought them
aboard again with the earliest opportunity, proffering help to
one who had proved how little he required it, and hospitality to
so respectable a character. I had business to mind, I had some
need both of assistance and diversion; I liked Fowler--I don't
know why; and in short, I let them do with me as they desired.
No creditor intervening, I spent the first half of the day
inquiring into the conditions of the tea and silk market under
the auspices of Sharpe; lunched with him in a private
apartment at the Hawaiian Hotel--for Sharpe was a teetotaler in
public; and about four in the afternoon was delivered into the
hands of Fowler. This gentleman owned a bungalow on the
Waikiki beach; and there in company with certain young
bloods of Honolulu, I was entertained to a sea-bathe,
indiscriminate cocktails, a dinner, a hula-hula, and (to round
off the night), poker and assorted liquors. To lose money in the
small hours to pale, intoxicated youth, has always appeared to
me a pleasure overrated. In my then frame of mind, I confess I
found it even delightful; put up my money (or rather my
creditors'), and put down Fowler's champagne with equal
avidity and success; and awoke the next morning to a mild
headache and the rather agreeable lees of the last night's
excitement. The young bloods, many of whom were still far
from sober, had taken the kitchen into their own hands, vice the
Chinaman deposed; and since each was engaged upon a dish of
his own, and none had the least scruple in demolishing his
neighbour's handiwork, I became early convinced that many
eggs would be broken and few omelets made. The discovery of
a jug of milk and a crust of bread enabled me to stay my
appetite; and since it was Sunday, when no business could be
done, and the festivities were to be renewed that night in the
abode of Fowler, it occurred to me to slip silently away and
enjoy some air and solitude.
I turned seaward under the dead crater known as Diamond
Head. My way was for some time under the shade of certain
thickets of green, thorny trees, dotted with houses. Here I
enjoyed some pictures of the native life: wide-eyed, naked
children, mingled with pigs; a youth asleep under a tree; an old
gentleman spelling through glasses his Hawaiian Bible; the
somewhat embarrassing spectacle of a lady at her bath in a
spring; and the glimpse of gaudy-coloured gowns in the deep
shade of the houses. Thence I found a road along the beach
itself, wading in sand, opposed and buffeted by the whole
weight of the Trade: on one hand, the glittering and sounding
surf, and the bay lively with many sails; on the other,
precipitous, arid gullies and sheer cliffs, mounting towards the
crater and the blue sky. For all the companionship of
skimming vessels, the place struck me with a sense of solitude.
There came in my head what I had been told the day before at
dinner, of a cavern above in the bowels of the volcano, a place
only to be visited with the light of torches, a treasure-house of
the bones of priests and warriors, and clamorous with the voice
of an unseen river pouring seaward through the crannies of the
mountain. At the thought, it was revealed to me suddenly, how
the bungalows, and the Fowlers, and the bright busy town and
crowding ships, were all children of yesterday; and for
centuries before, the obscure life of the natives, with its glories
and ambitions, its joys and crimes and agonies, had rolled
unseen, like the mountain river, in that sea-girt place. Not
Chaldea appeared more ancient, nor the Pyramids of Egypt
more abstruse; and I heard time measured by "the drums and
tramplings" of immemorial conquests, and saw myself the
creature of an hour. Over the bankruptcy of Pinkerton and
Dodd, of Montana Block, S. F., and the conscientious troubles
of the junior partner, the spirit of eternity was seen to smile.
To this mood of philosophic sadness, my excesses of the night
before no doubt contributed; for more things than virtue are at
times their own reward: but I was greatly healed at least of my
distresses. And while I was yet enjoying my abstracted
humour, a turn of the beach brought me in view of the
signal-station, with its watch-house and flag-staff, perched on
the immediate margin of a cliff. The house was new and clean
and bald, and stood naked to the Trades. The wind beat about
it in loud squalls; the seaward windows rattled without mercy;
the breach of the surf below contributed its increment of noise;
and the fall of my foot in the narrow verandah passed unheard
by those within.
There were two on whom I thus entered unexpectedly: the
look-out man, with grizzled beard, keen seaman's eyes, and
that brand on his countenance that comes of solitary living; and
a visitor, an oldish, oratorical fellow, in the smart tropical array
of the British man-o'-war's man, perched on a table, and
smoking a cigar. I was made pleasantly welcome, and was
soon listening with amusement to the sea-lawyer.
"No, if I hadn't have been born an Englishman," was one of his
sentiments, "damn me! I'd rather 'a been born a Frenchy! I'd
like to see another nation fit to black their boots." Presently
after, he developed his views on home politics with similar
trenchancy. "I'd rather be a brute beast than what I'd be a
liberal," he said. "Carrying banners and that! a pig's got more
sense. Why, look at our chief engineer--they do say he carried
a banner with his own 'ands: "Hooroar for Gladstone!" I
suppose, or "Down with the Aristocracy!" What 'arm does the
aristocracy do? Show me a country any good without one! Not
the States; why, it's the 'ome of corruption! I knew a man--he
was a good man, 'ome born--who was signal quartermaster in
the Wyandotte. He told me he could never have got there if he
hadn't have 'run with the boys'--told it me as I'm telling you.
Now, we're all British subjects here----" he was going on.
"I am afraid I am an American," I said apologetically.
He seemed the least bit taken aback, but recovered himself; and
with the ready tact of his betters, paid me the usual British
compliment on the riposte. "You don't say so!" he exclaimed.
"Well, I give you my word of honour, I'd never have guessed it.
Nobody could tell it on you," said he, as though it were some
form of liquor.
I thanked him, as I always do, at this particular stage, with his
compatriots: not so much perhaps for the compliment to
myself and my poor country, as for the revelation (which is ever
fresh to me) of Britannic self-sufficiency and taste. And he was
so far softened by my gratitude as to add a word of praise on
the American method of lacing sails. "You're ahead of us in
lacing sails," he said. "You can say that with a clear
"Thank you," I replied. "I shall certainly do so."
At this rate, we got along swimmingly; and when I rose to
retrace my steps to the Fowlery, he at once started to his feet
and offered me the welcome solace of his company for the
return. I believe I discovered much alacrity at the idea, for the
creature (who seemed to be unique, or to represent a type like
that of the dodo) entertained me hugely. But when he had
produced his hat, I found I was in the way of more than
entertainment; for on the ribbon I could read the legend:
"I say," I began, when our adieus were paid, and we were
scrambling down the path from the look-out, "it was your ship
that picked up the men on board the Flying Scud, wasn't it?"
"You may say so," said he. "And a blessed good job for the
Flying-Scuds. It's a God-forsaken spot, that Midway Island."
"I've just come from there," said I. "It was I who bought the
"Beg your pardon, sir," cried the sailor: "gen'lem'n in the white
"The same," said I.
My friend saluted, as though we were now, for the first time,
"Of course," I continued, "I am rather taken up with the whole
story; and I wish you would tell me what you can of how the
men were saved."
"It was like this," said he. "We had orders to call at Midway
after castaways, and had our distance pretty nigh run down the
day before. We steamed half-speed all night, looking to make
it about noon; for old Tootles--beg your pardon, sir--the captain
--was precious scared of the place at night. Well, there's nasty,
filthy currents round that Midway; YOU know, as has been
there; and one on 'em must have set us down. Leastways,
about six bells, when we had ought to been miles away, some
one sees a sail, and lo and be'old, there was the spars of a full-
rigged brig! We raised her pretty fast, and the island after her;
and made out she was hard aground, canted on her bilge, and
had her ens'n flying, union down. It was breaking 'igh on the
reef, and we laid well out, and sent a couple of boats. I didn't
go in neither; only stood and looked on; but it seems they was
all badly scared and muddled, and didn't know which end was
uppermost. One on 'em kep' snivelling and wringing of his
'ands; he come on board all of a sop like a monthly nurse. That
Trent, he come first, with his 'and in a bloody rag. I was near
'em as I am to you; and I could make out he was all to bits--
'eard his breath rattle in his blooming lungs as he come down
the ladder. Yes, they was a scared lot, small blame to 'em, I
say! The next after Trent, come him as was mate."
"Goddedaal!" I exclaimed.
"And a good name for him too," chuckled the man-o'-war's
man, who probably confounded the word with a familiar oath.
"A good name too; only it weren't his. He was a gen'lem'n born,
sir, as had gone maskewerading. One of our officers knowed
him at 'ome, reckonises him, steps up, 'olds out his 'and right
off, and says he: ''Ullo, Norrie, old chappie!' he says. The
other was coming up, as bold as look at it; didn't seem put
out--that's where blood tells, sir! Well, no sooner does he 'ear
his born name given him, than he turns as white as the Day of
Judgment, stares at Mr. Sebright like he was looking at a
ghost, and then (I give you my word of honour) turned to, and
doubled up in a dead faint. 'Take him down to my berth,' says
Mr. Sebright. ''Tis poor old Norrie Carthew,' he says."
"And what--what sort of a gentleman was this Mr. Carthew?" I
"The ward-room steward told me he was come of the best
blood in England," was my friend's reply: "Eton and 'Arrow
bred;--and might have been a bar'net!"
"No, but to look at?" I corrected him.
"The same as you or me," was the uncompromising answer:
"not much to look at. I didn't know he was a gen'lem'n; but
then, I never see him cleaned up."
"How was that?" I cried. "O yes, I remember: he was sick all
the way to 'Frisco, was he not?"
"Sick, or sorry, or something," returned my informant. "My
belief, he didn't hanker after showing up. He kep' close; the
ward-room steward, what took his meals in, told me he ate nex'
to nothing; and he was fetched ashore at 'Frisco on the quiet.
Here was how it was. It seems his brother had took and died,
him as had the estate. This one had gone in for his beer, by
what I could make out; the old folks at 'ome had turned rusty;
no one knew where he had gone to. Here he was, slaving in a
merchant brig, shipwrecked on Midway, and packing up his
duds for a long voyage in a open boat. He comes on board our
ship, and by God, here he is a landed proprietor, and may be in
Parliament to-morrow! It's no less than natural he should keep
dark: so would you and me in the same box."
"I daresay," said I. "But you saw more of the others?"
"To be sure," says he: "no 'arm in them from what I see. There
was one 'Ardy there: colonial born he was, and had been
through a power of money. There was no nonsense about
'Ardy; he had been up, and he had come down, and took it so.
His 'eart was in the right place; and he was well-informed, and
knew French; and Latin, I believe, like a native! I liked that
'Ardy; he was a good-looking boy, too."
"Did they say much about the wreck?" I asked.
"There wasn't much to say, I reckon," replied the man-o'-war's
man. "It was all in the papers. 'Ardy used to yarn most about
the coins he had gone through; he had lived with book-makers,
and jockeys, and pugs, and actors, and all that: a precious low
lot!" added this judicious person. "But it's about here my 'orse
is moored, and by your leave I'll be getting ahead."
"One moment," said I. "Is Mr. Sebright on board?"
"No, sir, he's ashore to-day," said the sailor. "I took up a bag
for him to the 'otel."
With that we parted. Presently after my friend overtook and
passed me on a hired steed which seemed to scorn its cavalier;
and I was left in the dust of his passage, a prey to whirling
thoughts. For I now stood, or seemed to stand, on the
immediate threshold of these mysteries. I knew the name of the
man Dickson--his name was Carthew; I knew where the money
came from that opposed us at the sale--it was part of Carthew's
inheritance; and in my gallery of illustrations to the history of
the wreck, one more picture hung; perhaps the most dramatic
of the series. It showed me the deck of a warship in that distant
part of the great ocean, the officers and seamen looking
curiously on; and a man of birth and education, who had been
sailing under an alias on a trading brig, and was now rescued
from desperate peril, felled like an ox by the bare sound of his
own name. I could not fail to be reminded of my own
experience at the Occidental telephone. The hero of three
styles, Dickson, Goddedaal, or Carthew, must be the owner of
a lively--or a loaded--conscience, and the reflection recalled to
me the photograph found on board the Flying Scud; just such a
man, I reasoned, would be capable of just such starts and
crises, and I inclined to think that Goddedaal (or Carthew) was
the mainspring of the mystery.
One thing was plain: as long as the Tempest was in reach, I
must make the acquaintance of both Sebright and the doctor.
To this end, I excused myself with Mr. Fowler, returned to
Honolulu, and passed the remainder of the day hanging vainly
round the cool verandahs of the hotel. It was near nine o'clock
at night before I was rewarded.
"That is the gentleman you were asking for," said the clerk.
I beheld a man in tweeds, of an incomparable languor of
demeanour, and carrying a cane with genteel effort. From the
name, I had looked to find a sort of Viking and young ruler of
the battle and the tempest; and I was the more disappointed,
and not a little alarmed, to come face to face with this
"I believe I have the pleasure of addressing Lieutenant
Sebright," said I, stepping forward.
"Aw, yes," replied the hero; "but, aw! I dawn't knaw you, do
I?" (He spoke for all the world like Lord Foppington in the old
play--a proof of the perennial nature of man's affectations. But
his limping dialect, I scorn to continue to reproduce.)
"It was with the intention of making myself known, that I have
taken this step," said I, entirely unabashed (for impudence
begets in me its like--perhaps my only martial attribute). "We
have a common subject of interest, to me very lively; and I
believe I may be in a position to be of some service to a friend
of yours--to give him, at least, some very welcome
The last clause was a sop to my conscience: I could not
pretend, even to myself, either the power or the will to serve
Mr. Carthew; but I felt sure he would like to hear the Flying
Scud was burned.
"I don't know--I--I don't understand you," stammered my
victim. "I don't have any friends in Honolulu, don't you know?"
"The friend to whom I refer is English," I replied. "It is Mr.
Carthew, whom you picked up at Midway. My firm has
bought the wreck; I am just returned from breaking her up; and
--to make my business quite clear to you--I have a
communication it is necessary I should make; and have to
trouble you for Mr. Carthew's address."
It will be seen how rapidly I had dropped all hope of interesting
the frigid British bear. He, on his side, was plainly on thorns at
my insistence; I judged he was suffering torments of alarm lest
I should prove an undesirable acquaintance; diagnosed him for
a shy, dull, vain, unamiable animal, without adequate defence--
a sort of dishoused snail; and concluded, rightly enough, that
he would consent to anything to bring our interview to a
conclusion. A moment later, he had fled, leaving me with a
sheet of paper, thus inscribed:--
I might have cried victory, the field of battle and some of the
enemy's baggage remaining in my occupation. As a matter of
fact, my moral sufferings during the engagement had rivalled
those of Mr. Sebright; I was left incapable of fresh hostilities; I
owned that the navy of old England was (for me) invincible as
of yore; and giving up all thought of the doctor, inclined to
salute her veteran flag, in the future, from a prudent distance.
Such was my inclination, when I retired to rest; and my first
experience the next morning strengthened it to certainty. For I
had the pleasure of encountering my fair antagonist on his way
on board; and he honoured me with a recognition so
disgustingly dry, that my impatience overflowed, and (recalling
the tactics of Nelson) I neglected to perceive or to return it.
Judge of my astonishment, some half-hour later, to receive a
note of invitation from the Tempest.
"Dear Sir," it began, "we are all naturally very much interested
in the wreck of the Flying Scud, and as soon as I mentioned
that I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, a very
general wish was expressed that you would come and dine on
board. It will give us all the greatest pleasure to see you
to-night, or in case you should be otherwise engaged, to
luncheon either to-morrow or to-day." A note of the hours
followed, and the document wound up with the name of "J.
Lascelles Sebright," under an undeniable statement that he was
"No, Mr. Lascelles Sebright," I reflected, "you are not, but I
begin to suspect that (like the lady in the song) you are
another's. You have mentioned your adventure, my friend; you
have been blown up; you have got your orders; this note has
been dictated; and I am asked on board (in spite of your
melancholy protests) not to meet the men, and not to talk about
the Flying Scud, but to undergo the scrutiny of some one
interested in Carthew: the doctor, for a wager. And for a
second wager, all this springs from your facility in giving the
address." I lost no time in answering the billet, electing for the
earliest occasion; and at the appointed hour, a somewhat
blackguard-looking boat's crew from the Norah Creina
conveyed me under the guns of the Tempest.
The ward-room appeared pleased to see me; Sebright's brother
officers, in contrast to himself, took a boyish interest in my
cruise; and much was talked of the Flying Scud; of how she
had been lost, of how I had found her, and of the weather, the
anchorage, and the currents about Midway Island. Carthew
was referred to more than once without embarrassment; the
parallel case of a late Earl of Aberdeen, who died mate on
board a Yankee schooner, was adduced. If they told me little of
the man, it was because they had not much to tell, and only felt
an interest in his recognition and pity for his prolonged ill-
health. I could never think the subject was avoided; and it was
clear that the officers, far from practising concealment, had
nothing to conceal.
So far, then, all seemed natural, and yet the doctor troubled me.
This was a tall, rugged, plain man, on the wrong side of fifty,
already gray, and with a restless mouth and bushy eyebrows: he
spoke seldom, but then with gaiety; and his great, quaking,
silent laughter was infectious. I could make out that he was at
once the quiz of the ward-room and perfectly respected; and I
made sure that he observed me covertly. It is certain I returned
the compliment. If Carthew had feigned sickness--and all
seemed to point in that direction--here was the man who knew
all--or certainly knew much. His strong, sterling face
progressively and silently persuaded of his full knowledge.
That was not the mouth, these were not the eyes, of one who
would act in ignorance, or could be led at random. Nor again
was it the face of a man squeamish in the case of malefactors;
there was even a touch of Brutus there, and something of the
hanging judge. In short, he seemed the last character for the
part assigned him in my theories; and wonder and curiosity
contended in my mind.
Luncheon was over, and an adjournment to the smoking-room
proposed, when (upon a sudden impulse) I burned my ships,
and pleading indisposition, requested to consult the doctor.
"There is nothing the matter with my body, Dr. Urquart," said I,
as soon as we were alone.
He hummed, his mouth worked, he regarded me steadily with
his gray eyes, but resolutely held his peace.
"I want to talk to you about the Flying Scud and Mr. Carthew,"
I resumed. "Come: you must have expected this. I am sure
you know all; you are shrewd, and must have a guess that I
know much. How are we to stand to one another? and how am
I to stand to Mr. Carthew?"
"I do not fully understand you," he replied, after a pause; and
then, after another: "It is the spirit I refer to, Mr. Dodd."
"The spirit of my inquiries?" I asked.
"I think we are at cross-purposes," said I. "The spirit is
precisely what I came in quest of. I bought the Flying Scud at
a ruinous figure, run up by Mr. Carthew through an agent; and
I am, in consequence, a bankrupt. But if I have found no
fortune in the wreck, I have found unmistakable evidences of
foul play. Conceive my position: I am ruined through this
man, whom I never saw; I might very well desire revenge or
compensation; and I think you will admit I have the means to
He made no sign in answer to this challenge.
"Can you not understand, then," I resumed, "the spirit in which
I come to one who is surely in the secret, and ask him, honestly
and plainly: How do I stand to Mr. Carthew?"