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Title: Adventures of Captain Kettle
Author: C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605931.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Adventures of Captain Kettle
C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne


"THE shore part must lie entirely with you, sir," said Captain Kettle.
"It's mixed up with the Foreign Enlistment Act, and the Alabama case,
and a dozen other things which may mean anything between gaol and
confiscation, and my head isn't big enough to hold it. If you'll be
advised by me, sir, you'll see a real first-class solicitor, and stand
him a drink, and pay him down what he asks right there on the bar
counter, and get to know exactly how the law of this business stands
before you stir foot in it.

  "The law here in England," said the little man with a reminiscent
sigh, "is a beastly thing to fall foul of: it's just wickedly
officious and interfering; it's never done kicking you, once it's got
a fair start; and you never know where it will shove out its ugly hoof
from next. No, Mr. Gedge, give me the States for nice comfortable law
where a man can buy it by the yard for paper money down, and straight
pistol shooting is always remembered in his favour."

  The young man who owned the SS. Sultan of Borneo tapped his blotting
paper impatiently. "Stick to the point, Kettle. We're in England now,
and have nothing whatever to do with legal matters in America. As for
your advice, I am not a fool; you can lay your ticket on it I know to
an inch how I stand. And I may tell you this: the shipment is arranged

  "I'd like to see us cleared," said Captain Kettle doubtfully.

  "No one will interfere with the clearance. The Sultan of Borneo will
leave here in coal, consigned to the Havana. A private yacht will meet
her at sea, and tranship the arms out of sight of land."

  "Tyne coal for Cuba? They'd get their coal there from Norfolk,
Virginia, or else Welsh steam coal from Cardiff or Newport."

  "It seems not. This contract was placed long before a ship was asked
for to smuggle out the arms."

  "Well it looks fishy, anyway."

  "I can't help that," said Gedge irritably. "I'm telling you the
naked truth, and if truth as usual looks unlikely, it's not my fault.
Now have you got any more objections to make?"

  "No, sir," said Captain Kettle, "none that I can see at present."

  "Very well, then," said Gedge. "Do you care to sign on as master for
this cruise, or are you going to cry off?"

  "They'll hang me if I'm caught," said Kettle.

  "Not they. They'll only talk big, and the British Consul will get
you clear. You bet they daren't hang an Englishman for mere smuggling
in Cuba. And besides, aren't I offering to raise your screw from
twelve pound a month to fourteen so as to cover the risk? However, you
won't get caught. You'll find everything ready for you; you'll slip
the rifles ashore; and then you'll steam on to Havana and discharge
your coal in the ordinary hum-drum way of business. And there's a ten
pound bonus if you pull the thing off successfully. Now then, captain,
quick: you go or you don't?"

  "I go," said Kettle gloomily. "I'm a poor man with a wife and
family, Mr. Gedge, and I can't afford to lose a berth. But it's that
coal I can't swallow. I quite believe in what you say about the
contract; only it doesn't look natural. And it's my belief the coal
will trip us up somewhere before we've done, and bring about trouble."

  "Which of course you are quite a stranger to?" said Gedge slily.

  "Don't taunt me with it, sir," said Captain Kettle. "I quite well
know the kind of brute I am; trouble with a crew or any other set of
living men at sea is just meat and drink to me, and I'm bitterly
ashamed of the taste. Every time I sit underneath our minister in the
chapel here in South Shields I grow more ashamed. And if you heard the
beautiful poetical way that man talks of peace and green fields, and
golden harps, you'd understand."

  "Yes, yes," said Gedge; "but I don't want any of your excellent
minister' sermons at second hand just now, Captain, or any of your own
poetry, thanks. I'm very busy. Good morning. Help yourself to a cigar.
You haul alongside the coal shoots at two o'clock, and I'll be on
board to see you at six. Good morning." And Mr. Gedge rang for the
clerk, and was busily dictating letters before Kettle was clear of the

  The little sailor went down the grim stairs and into the street, and
made towards the smelling Tyne. The black cigar rested unlit in an
angle of his mouth, and he gnawed savagely at the butt with his eye-
teeth. He cursed the Fates as he walked. Why did they use him so
evilly that he was forced into berths like these? As a bachelor, he
told himself with a sneer, he would have jumped at the excitement of
it. As the partner of Mrs. Kettle, and the father of her children, he
could have shuddered when he threw his eye over the future. For a week
or so she could draw his half-pay and live sumptuously at the rate of
seven pounds a month. But afterwards, if he got caught by some angry
Spanish war-steamer with the smuggled rifles under his hatches, and
shot, or hanged, or imprisoned, or otherwise debarred from earning
income at his craft, where would Mrs. Kettle be then? Would Gedge do
anything for her?

  He drew the cigar from his lips, and spat contemptuously at the bare
idea. With the morality of the affair he troubled not one jot. The
Spanish Government and the Cuban rebels were two rival firms who
offered different rates of freight according to the risk and he was
employed as carrier by those who paid the higher price. If there was
any right or wrong about the question, it was a purely private matter
between Mr. Gedge and his God. He, Owen Kettle, was as impersonal in
the business as the ancient Sultan of Borneo herself; he was a mere
cog in some complex machinery; and if he was earning heaven, it was by
piety inside the chapel ashore, and not by professional exertions (in
the interests of an earthly employer) elsewhere.

  He took ferry across the filthy Tyne, and walked down alleys and
squalid streets where coal dust formed the mud, and the air was sour
with foreign vapours. And as he walked he champed still at the unlit
cigar, and brooded over the angularity of his fate. But when he passed
between the gates of the dock companies premises, and exchanged words
with the policeman on guard, a change came over him. He threw away the
cigar stump, tightened his lips, and left all thoughts of personal
matters outside the door-sill. He was Mr. Gedge's hired servant; his
brain was devoted to furthering Gedge s interests; and all the acid of
his tongue was ready to spur on those who did the manual work on
Gedge's ship.

  Within a minute of his arrival on her deck, the Sultan of Borneo was
being unmoored from the bollards on the quay; within ten, her winches
were clattering and bucking as they warped her across to the black,
straddling coal-shoots at the other side of the dock; and within half
an hour the cargo was roaring down her hatches as fast as the railway
waggons on the grimy trestle overhead could disgorge.

  The halo of coal dust made day into dusk; the grit of it filled
every cranny, and settled as an amorphous scum on the water of the
dock; and labourers hired by the hour, toiled at piece-work pace
through sheer terror at their employer.

  If his other failings could have been eliminated, the little
skipper, with the red-peaked beard, would certainly have been, from an
owner's point of view, the best commander sailing out of an English
port. No man ever wrenched such a magnificent amount of work from his
hands. But it was those other failings which kept him what he was, the
pitiful knockabout ship-master. Living from hand to mouth, never
certain of his berth from one month's end to another.

  That afternoon Captain Kettle signed on his crew, got them on board,
and with the help of his two mates kicked the majority of them into
sobriety; he received a visit and final instructions from Mr. Gedge at
six o clock; and by night-fall he had filled in his papers, warped out
of dock, and stood anxiously on the bridge watching the pilot as he
took the steamboat down through the crowded shipping of the river. His
wife stood under the glow of an arc lamp on the dock head and waved
him good-bye through the gloom.

  Captain Kettle received his first fright as he dropped his pilot
just outside the Tyne pier heads. A man of war's launch steamed up out
of the night, and the boarding officer examined his papers and asked
questions. The little captain, conscious of having no contraband of
war on board just then, was brutally rude; but the naval officer
remained stolid, and refused to see the insults which were pitched at
him. He had an unpalatable duty to perform; he quite sympathised with
Kettle's feelings over the matter; and he got back to his launch
thanking many stars that the affair had ended so easily.

  But Kettle rang on his engines again with very unpleasant feelings.
It was clear to him that the secret was oozing out somewhere; that the
Sultan of Borneo was suspected; that his course to Cuba would be beset
with many well-armed obstacles; and he forthwith made his first ruse
out of the long succession which were to follow.

  He had been instructed by Gedge to steam off straight from the Tyne
to a point deep in the North Sea, where a yacht would meet him to hand
over the consignment of smuggled arms. But he felt the night to be
full of eyes, and for a Havana-bound ship to leave the usual steam-
lane which leads to the English Channel, was equivalent to a
confession of her purpose from the outset. So he took the parallel
rulers and pencilled off on his chart the stereotyped course, which
just clears Whitby and Flamboro' Head; and the Sultan of Borneo was
held steadily along this, steaming at her normal nine knots; and it
was not till she was out of sight of land off Humber mouth, and the
sea chanced to be desolate, that he starboarded his helm and stood off
for the ocean rendezvous.

  A hand on the foretopsail yard picked up the yacht out of the grey
mists of dawn, and by eight bells they were lying hove-to in the
trough, with a hundred yards of cold grey water tumbling between them.
The transhipment was made in two lifeboats, and Kettle went across and
enjoyed an extravagant breakfast in the yacht's cabin. The talk was
all upon the Cuban revolution. Carnforth, the yacht's owner, brimmed
with it.

  "If you can run the blockade, Captain," said he, "and land these
rifles, and the Maxims, and the cartridges, they'll be grateful enough
to put up a statue to you. The revolution will end in a snap. The
Spanish troops are half of them fever-ridden, and all of them
discouraged. With these guns you are carrying, the patriots can shoot
their enemies over the edges of the island into the Caribbean Sea. And
there is no reason why you should get stopped. There are filibustering
expeditions fitted out every week from Key West, and Tampa, and the
other Florida ports, and one or two have even started from New York

  "But they haven't got through?" suggested Captain Kettle. "Not all
of them," Mr. Carnforth admitted. "But then you see they sailed in
schooners, and you have got steam. Besides, they started from the
States, where the newspapers knew all about them, and so their arrival
was cabled on to Cuba ahead; and you have the advantage of sailing
from an English port."

  "I don't see where the pull comes in," said Kettle gloomily. "There
isn't a blessed country on the face of the globe more interfering with
her own people than England. A Yankee can do as he darn well pleases
in the filibustering line; but if a Britisher makes a move that way,
the blessed law here stretches out twenty hands and plucks him back by
the tail before he's half started. No, Mr. Carnforth, I'm not sweet on
the chances. I'm a poor man, and this means a lot to me that's why I'm
anxious. You're rich; you only stand to lose the cost of the
consignment; and if that gets confiscated it won't mean much to you."

  Carnforth grinned. "You pay my business qualities a poor compliment,
Captain. You an bet your life I had money down in hard cash before I
stirred foot in the matter. The weapons and the ammunition were paid
for at fifty per cent. above list prices, so as to cover the trouble
of secrecy, and I got a charter for the yacht to bring the stuff out
here which would astonish you if you saw the figures. No, I'm clear on
the matter from this moment, Captain, but I'll not deny that I shall
take an interest in your future adventures with the cargo. Help
yourself to a cigarette." (sic)

  "Then it seems to me," said Kettle acidly, "that you'll look at me
just as a hare set on to run for your amusement?"

  The yacht-owner laughed. "You put it brutally," he said, "but that's
about the size of it. And if you want further truths, here's one: I
shouldn't particularly mind if you were caught."

  "How's that?"

  "Because, my dear skipper, if the Spanish captured this consignment,
the patriots would want another, and I should get the order. Whereas,
if you land the stuff safely, it will see them through to the end of
the war, and my chance of making further profit will be at an end."

  "You have a very clear way of putting it," said Captain Kettle.

  "Haven't I? Which will you take, green chartreuse or yellow?"

  "And Mr. Gedge? Can you tell me, sir, how he stands over this

  "Oh, you bet, Gedge knows when to come in out of the wet. He's got
the old Sultan underwritten by the insurance and by the Cuban agents
up to double her value, and nothing would suit his books better than
for a Spanish cruiser to drop upon you."

  Captain Kettle got up, reached for his cap, and swung it
aggressively on to one side of his head.

  "Very well," he said, "that's your side of the question. Now hear
mine. That cargo's going through, and those rebels or patriots, or
whatever they are, shall have their guns if half the Spanish navy was
there to try and stop me. You and Mr. Gedge have started about this
business the wrong way. Treat me on the square and I'm a man a child
might handle; but I'd not be driven by the Queen of England, no, not
with the Emperor of Germany to help her."

  "Oh, look here, Captain," said Carnforth, "don't get your back up."

  "I'll not trade with you," replied Kettle.

  "You're a fool to your own interests."

  "I know it," said the sailor grimly. "I've known it all my life. If
I'd not been that, I'd not have found myself in such shady company as
there is here now."

  "Look here, you ruffian, if you insult me I'll kick you out of this
cabin, and over the side into your own boat."

  "All right," said Kettle; "start in." Carnforth half rose from his
seat and measured Captain Kettle with his eye. Apparently the scrutiny
impressed him, for he sank back to his seat again with an embarrassed
laugh. "You're an ugly little fiend," he said.

  "I'm all that," said Kettle.

  "And I'm not going to play at rough and tumble with you here. We've
neither of us anything to gain by it. And I've a lot to lose. I
believe you'll run that cargo through now that you're put on your
mettle, but I guess there'll be trouble for somebody before it's dealt
out to the patriot troops. Gad, I'd like to be somewhere on hand to
watch you do it." "I don't object to an audience," said Kettle.

  "By Jove, I've half a mind to come with you."

  "You'd better not," said the little sailor with glib contempt.
"You're not the sort that cares to risk his skin, and I can't be
bothered with dead-head passengers."

  "That settles it," said Carnforth. "I'm coming with you to run that
blockade; and if the chance comes, my cantankerous friend, I'll show
you I can be useful. Always supposing, that is, we don't murder one
another before we get there."

  A white mist shut the Channel sea into a ring, and the air was noisy
with the grunts and screams of steamers' syrens. Captain Kettle was
standing on the Sultan of Borneo's upper bridge, with his hand on the
engineroom telegraph, which was pointed at "Full speed astern";
Carnforth and the old second mate stood with their chins over the top
of the starboard dodger; and all three of them peered into the
opalescent banks of the fog.

  They had reason for their anxiety. Not five minutes before, a long
lean torpedo-catcher had raced up out of the thickness, and slowed
down alongside with the Channel spindrift blowing over her low super-
structure in white hail storms. An officer on the upper bridge in
glistening oilskins had sent across a sharp authoritative hail, and
had been answered: "Sultan of Borneo; Kettle, master; from South
Shields to the Havana."

  "What cargo?" came the next question.




  "Then Mr. Tyne Coal for the Havana, just heave to whilst I send away
a boat to look at you. I fancy you will be the steamboat I'm sent to
find and fetch back."

  The decks of the uncomfortable warship had hummed with men, a pair
of boat davits had swung outboard, and the boat had been armed and
manned with naval noise and quickness. But just then a billow of the
fog had driven down upon them, blanket-like in thickness, which closed
all human vision beyond the range of a dozen yards and Captain Kettle
jumped like a terrier on his opportunity. He sent his steamer hard
astern with a slightly ported helm, and whilst the torpedo catcher's
boat was searching for him towards the French shore, and sending vain
hails into the white banks of the mist, he was circling slowly and
silently round towards the English coast.

  So long as the mist held, the Sultan of Borneo was as hard to find
as a needle in a cargo of hay. Did the air clear for so much as a
single instant, she would be noticed and stand self-confessed by her
attempt to escape; and as a result, the suspense was vivid enough to
make Carnforth feel physical nausea. He had not reckoned on this
complication. He was quite prepared to risk capture in Cuban waters,
where the clamour of distance and the dazzle of helping
insurrectionists would cast a glow of romance over whatever occurred.
But to be caught in the English Channel as a vulgar smuggler for the
sake of commercial profit, and to be haled back for hard labour in an
English gaol, was a different matter. He was a member of Parliament,
and he understood the details in all their niceties.

  But Captain Kettle took the situation differently. The sight of the
torpedo-catcher stiffened all the doubt and limpness out of his
composition; his eye brightened and his lips grew stiff; the scheming
to escape acted on him like a tonic; and when an hour later the Sultan
of Borneo was steaming merrily down Channel at top speed through the
same impenetrable fog, the little skipper whistled dance music on the
upper bridge, and caught the notion for a most pleasing sonnet. That
evening the crew came aft in a state of mild mutiny, and Kettle
attended to their needs with gusto.

  He prefaced his remarks by a slight exhibition of marksmanship. He
cut away the vane which showed dimly on the fore-topmast truck with a
single bullet, and then, after dexterously reloading his revolver,
lounged over the white rail of the upper bridge with the weapon in his

  He told the malcontents he was glad of the opportunity to give them
his views on matters generally. He informed them genially that for
their personal wishes he cared not one decimal of a jot. He stated
plainly that he had got them on board, and intended by their help to
carry out his owner's instructions whether they hated them or not. And
finally he gave them his candid assurance that if any cur amongst them
presumed to disobey the least of his orders, he would shoot that man
neatly through the head without further preamble.

  This elegant harangue did not go home to all hands at once, because
being a British ship, the Sultan of Borneo's crew naturally spoke in
five different languages, and few of them had even a working knowledge
of English. But the look of Kettle's savage little face as he talked,
and the red torpedo beard which nagged beneath it, conveyed to them
the tone of his speech, and for the time they did not require a more
accurate translation. They had come off big with the intention of
forcing him (if necessary with violence) to run the steamer there and
then into an English port; they went forward again like a pack of
sheep, merely because one man had let them hear the virulence of his
bark, and had shown them with what accuracy he could bite if
necessary. "And that's the beauty of a mongrel crew," said Kettle
complacently. "If they'd been English, I'd have had to shoot at least
two of the beasts to keep my end up like that."

  "You're a marvel." Carnforth admitted. "I'm a bit of a speaker
myself, but I never heard a man with a gift of tongue like you have

  "I'm poisonous when I spread myself," said Kettle.

  "I wish I was clear of you," said Carnforth, with an awkward laugh.
"Whatever possessed me to leave the yacht and come on this cruise I
can't think."

  "Some people never do know when they're well off," said Kettle.
"Well, sir, you're in for it now, and you may see things which will be
of service to you afterwards. You ought to make your mark in
Parliament if you do get back from this trip. You'll have something to
talk about that men will like to listen to, instead of merely
chattering wind, which is what most of them are put to, so far as I
can see from the papers. And now, sir, here's the steward come to tell
us tea's ready. You go below and tuck in. I'll take mine on the bridge
here. It won't do for me to turn my back yet awhile, or else those
beasts forrard will jump on us from behind and murder the whole lot
whilst we aren't looking."

  The voyage from that time onwards was for Captain Kettle a period of
constant watchfulness. It would not be true to say that he never took
off his clothes or never slept; but whether he was in pyjamas in the
chart-house, or whether he was sitting on an up-turned ginger-beer
case under the shelter of one of the upper bridge canvas dodgers, with
his tired eyes shut and the red peaked beard upon his chest, it was
always the same, he was ever ready instantly to spring upon the alert.

  One dark night an iron belaying-pin flew out of the blackness of the
forecastle and whizzed within an inch of his sleeping head; but he
roused so quickly that he was able to shoot the thrower through the
shoulder before he could dive back again through the forecastle door.
And another time when a pondering gale had kept him on the bridge for
forty-eight consecutive hours, and a deputation of the deck hands
raided him in the chart-house on the supposition that exhaustion would
have laid him out in a dead sleep, he woke before their fingers
touched him, broke the jaw of one with a camp-stool, and so maltreated
the others with the same weapon, that they were glad enough to run
away even with the exasperating knowledge that they left their
taskmaster undamaged behind them.

  So, although this all-nation crew of the Sultan of Borneo dreaded
the Spaniards much, they feared Captain Kettle far more, and by the
time the steamer had closed up with the island of Cuba, they had
concluded to follow out their skipper's orders, as being the least of
the two evils which lay before them. Carnforth's way of looking at the
manner was peculiar. He had all a healthy man's appetite for
adventure, and all a prosperous man's distaste for being wrecked. He
had taken a strong personal liking for the truculent little skipper,
and, other things being equal, would have cheerfully helped him; but
on the other hand, he could not avoid seeing that it was to his own
interests that the crew should get their way, and keep the steamer out
of dangerous waters. And so, when finally he decided to stand by non-
interferent, he prided himself a good deal on his forbearance, and
said so to Kettle in as many words.

  That worthy mariner quite agreed with him. "It's the very best thing
you could do, sir," he answered. "It would have annoyed me terribly to
have had to shoot you out of mischief's way, because you've been kind
enough to say you like my poetry, and because I've come to see, sir,
you're a gentleman."

  They came to this arrangement on the morning of the day they opened
out the secluded bay in the southern Cuban shore where the contraband
of war was to be run. Kettle calculated his whereabouts with niceness,
and, after the midday observation, lay the steamer to for a couple of
hours, and himself supervised his engineers whilst they gave a good
overhaul to the machinery. Then he gave her steam again, and made his
landfall four hours after sunset.

  They saw the coast first as a black line running across the dim grey
of the night. It rose as they neared it, and showed a crest fringed
with trees, and a foot steeped in white mist, from out of which came
the faint bellow of surf. Captain Kettle, after a cast of two, picked
up his marks and teamed in confidently, with his side-lights dowsed,
and three red lanterns in a triangle at his foremast head. He was
feeling pleasantly surprised with the easiness of it all.

  But when the steamer had got well into the bight of the bay, and all
the glasses on the bridge were peering at the shore in search of
answering lights, a blaze of radiance suddenly flickered on to her
from astern, and was as suddenly eclipsed, leaving them for a moment
blinded by its dazzle. It was a long truncheon of light which sprouted
from a glowing centre away between the heads of the bay, and they
watched it sweep past them over the surface of the water, and then
sweep back again. Finally, after a little more dalliance, it settled
on the steamer and lit her, and the ring of water on which she swam,
like a ship in a lantern picture.

  Carnforth swore aloud, and Captain Kettle lit a fresh cigar. Those
of the mongrel crew who were on the deck went below to pack their

  "Well, sir," said Kettle cheerfully, "here we are. That's a Spanish
gunboat with search light, all complete"--he screwed up his eyes and
gazed astern meditatively--"She's got the heels of us too; by about
five knots I should say. Just look at the flames coming out of her
funnels. Aren't they just giving her ginger down in the stoke hold?
Shooting will begin directly, and the other blackguards ashore have
apparently forgotten all about us. There isn't a light anywhere."

  "What are you going to do?" asked Carnforth.

  "Follow out Mr. Gedge's instructions, sir, and put this cargo on the
beach. Whether the old Sultan goes there too, remains to be seen."

  "That gunboat will cut you off in a quarter of an hour if you keep
on this course."

  "With that extra five knots she can do as she likes with us, so I
shan't shift my helm. It would only look suspicious."

  "Good Lord!" said Carnforth, "as if our being here at all isn't
suspicious itself."

  But Kettle did not answer. He had, to use his own expression, "got
his wits working under forced draught," and he could not afford time
for idle speculation and chatter. It was the want of the answering
signal ashore which upset him. Had that showed against the black
background of hills, he would have known what to do.

  Meanwhile the Spanish warship was closing up with him hand over
fist, and a decision was necessary. Anyway, the choice was a poor one.
If he surrendered he would be searched, and with that damning cargo of
rifles and machine guns and ammunition under his hatches, it was not
at all improbable that his captors might string him up out of hand.
They would have right on their side for doing so.

  The insurrectionists were not "recognized belligerents"; he would
stand as a filibuster confessed; and as such would be due to suffer
under that rough and ready martial law which cannot spare time to feed
and gaol prisoners.

  On the other hand, if he refused to heave to, the result would be
equally simple; the warship would sink him with guns inside a dozen
minutes; and reckless dare-devil though he might be, Kettle knew quite
well there was no chance of avoiding this.

  With another crew he might have been tempted to lay his old steamer
alongside and try to carry her by boarding an sheer hand to hand
fighting; but, excepting for those on watch in the stronghold, his
present set of men were all below packing their belongings into
portable shape, and he knew quite well that nothing would please them
better than to see him discomfited. Carnforth was neutral; he had only
his two mates, and the engineer officers to depend upon in all the
available world; and he recognised between draughts at his cigar that
he was in a very tight place.

  Still the dark shore ahead remained unbeaconed, and the Spaniard was
racing up astern, lit for battle, with her crew at quarters; and the
guns run out and loaded. She leapt nearer by fathoms to the second,
till Kettle could hear the panting of her engines as she chased him
down. His teeth chewed on the cigar butt, and dark rings grew under
his eyes. He could have raged aloud at his impotence.

  The war steamer ranged up alongside, slowed to some forty
revolutions so as to keep her place, and an officer on the top of her
chart-house hailed in Spanish.

  "Gunboat ahoy," Kettle bawled back; "you must speak English or I
can't be civil to you."

  "What ship is this?"

  "Sultan of Borneo, Kettle, master. Out of Shields."

  "Where for?"

  "The Havana."

  Promptly the query came back: "Then what are you doing in here?"

  Carnforth whispered a suggestion. "Fresh water, run out; condenser
water given all hands dysentery; put in here to fill up tanks."

  "I thank you, sir," said Kettle in the same undertone, "I'm no hand
at lying myself, or I might have thought of that before." And he
shouted the excuse across to the spokesman on the chart-house roof.

  To his surprise they seemed to give weight to it. There was a short
consultation, and the steamers slipped along over the smooth black
waters of the bay on parallel courses.

  "Have you got dysentery bad aboard?" came the next question.

  Once more Carnforth prompted, and Kettle repeated his words: "Look
at my decks," said he. "All my crew are below. I've hardly a man to
stand by me."

  There was more consultation among the gunboat's officers, and then
came the fatal inquiry: "What's your cargo, Captain?"

  "Oh, coals," said Captain Kettle resignedly.

  "What? You're bringing Tyne coal to the Havana?'

  "Just coals," said Captain Kettle with a bitter laugh.

  The tone of the Spaniard changed. "Heave to at once," he ordered,
"whilst I send a boat to search you. Refuse, and I'll blow you out of
the water."

  On the Sultan of Borneo's upper bridge Carnforth swore. "Eh--ho,
Skipper," he said, "the game's up, and there's no way out of it. You
won't be a fool, will you, and sacrifice the ship and the whole lot of
us? Come, I say, man, ring off your engines, or that fellow will
shoot, and we shall all be murdered uselessly. I tell you, the games's

  "By James!" said Kettle, "is it? Look there"--and he pointed with
outstretched arm to the hills on the shore ahead. "Three fires!" he
cried. "Two above one in a triangle, burning like Elswick furnaces
amongst the trees. They're ready for us over yonder, Mr. Carnforth,
and that's their welcome. Do you think I'm going to let my cargo be
stopped after getting it this far?" He turned to the Danish
quartermaster at the wheel, with his savage face close to the man's

  "Starboard," he said. "Hard over, you bung-eyed Dutchman. Starboard
as far as she'll go."

  The wheel engines clattered briskly in the house underneath, and the
Sultan of Borneo's head swung off quickly to port. For eight seconds
the officer commanding the gunboat did not see what was happening, and
that eight seconds was fatal to his vessel. When the inspiration came,
he bubbled with orders, he starboarded his own helm, he rang "full
speed ahead" to his engines, and ordered every rifle and machine gun
on his bridge to sweep the British steamer's bridge. But the space of
time was too small. The gunboat could not turn with enough quickness;
on so short a notice the engines could not get her into stride again;
and the shooting, though well intentioned and prodigious in quantity,
was poor in aim. The bullets whisped through the air, and pelted on
the plating like a hailstorm, and one of them flicked out the brains
of the Danish quartermaster on the bridge; but Kettle took the wheel
from his hands, and a moment later the Sultan of Borneo's stem crashed
into the gunboat's unprotected side just abaft the sponson of her
starboard quarter gun.

  The steamers thrilled like kicked biscuit-boxes, and a noise went up
into the hot night sky as of ten thousand boiler makers, all heading
up their rivets at once.

  On both ships the propellers stopped as if by instinct, and then in
answer to the telegraph, the grimy collier backed astern. But the war-
steamer did not move. Her machinery was broken down. She had already
got a heavy list towards her wounded side, and every second the list
was increasing as the sea water poured in through the shattered
plates. Her crew was buzzing with disorder. It was evident that the
vessel had but a short time longer to swim, and their lives were sweet
to them. The had no thought of vengeance. Their weapons lay deserted
on the sloping decks. The grimy crews from the stoke holds poured up
from below, and one and all they clustered about the boats with
frenzied haste to see them floating in the water.

  There was no more to be feared at their hands for the present.

  Carnforth clapped Kettle on the shoulder in involuntary admiration.
"By George," he cried, "what a daring scoundrel you are. Look here.
I'm on your side now if I can be of any help. Can you give me a job?"

  "I'm afraid, sir" said Captain Kettle, "that the old Sultan's work
is about done. She's settling down by the head already. Didn't you see
those rats of men scuttling up from forrard directly after we'd rammed
the Don? I guess that was a bit of a surprise packet for them anyway.
They thought they'd get down there to be clear of the shooting, and
they found themselves in the most ticklish part of the ship."

  "There's humour in the situation," said Carnforth. "But the case
will keep. For the present it strikes me that this old steamboat is
swamping fast."

  "She's doing that," Kettle admitted. "She'll have a lot of plates
started forrard, I guess. But I think she's come out of it very
creditably, sir. I didn't spare her, and she's not exactly built for a

  "I suppose it's a case of putting her on the beach?"

  "There's nothing else for it," said Kettle with a sigh. "I should
like to have carried those blessed coals into the Havana if it could
have been done, just to show people ours was a bona fide contract, as
Mr. Gedge said, in spite of its fishy look. But this old steamboat's
done her whack, and that's the square truth. It will take her all she
can manage to reach shore with her dry decks. Look, she's in now
nearly to her forecastle head. Lucky the shore's not steep to here, or

  From beneath there came a bump and a rattle, and the steamer for a
moment halted in her progress, and a white-crested wave surged past
her rusty flanks. Then she lifted again and swooped further in, with
the propeller still squattering astern; and then once more she
thundered down again into the sand; and so lifting and striking, made
her way in through the surf.

  More than one of the hands was swept from her decks, and reached the
shore by swimming; but as the ebb made, the hungry seas left her
stranded dry under the morning's light, and a crowd of
insurrectionists waded out and climbed on board by ropes which were
thrown to them.

  They were men of every tint, from the grey black of the pure negro
to the sallow lemon tint of the blue-blooded Spaniard. They were
streaked with wounds, thin as skeletons, and clad more with nakedness
than with rags; and so wolfish did they look that even Kettle, callous
little ruffian though he was, half regretted bringing arms for such a
crew to wreak vengeance on their neighbours.

  But they gave him small time for sentiment of this brand. They
clustered round him with leaping hands, till the morning sea-fowl fled
affrighted from the beach. El Senor Capitan Inglese was the saviour of
Cuba, and let everyone remember it. Alone, with his unarmed vessel, he
had sunk a warship of their hated enemies; and they prayed him (in
their florid compliment) to stay on the island and rule over them as

  But the little sailor took them literally. "What's this?" he said;
"you want me to be your blooming king?"

  "El rey!" they shouted. "El rey de los Cubaos!"

  "By James," said Kettle, "I'll do it. I was never asked to be a king
before, and I'm just out of a berth right now, and England will be too
hot to hold me yet awhile. Yes, I'll stay and boss you, and if you can
act half as ugly as you look, we'll give the Dons a lively time. Only
remember there's no tomfoolery about me. If I'm king of this show, I'm
going to carry a full king's ticket, and if there's any man tries to
meddle without being invited, that man will go to his own funeral
before he can think twice. And now we'll just begin business at once.
Off with those hatches and break out that cargo. I've been at some
pains to run these guns out here, so be careful carrying them up the
beach. Jump lively now, you black-faced scum."

  Carnforth listened with staring eyes. What sort of broil was this
truculent little scamp going to mix in next? He knew enough of Spanish
character to understand clearly that the offer of the crown was merely
an empty civility; he understood enough of Kettle to be sure he had
not taken it as such, and would assert his rights to the bitter end.
And when he thought of what that end must inevitably be he sighed over
Owen Kettle's fate.


"WE will garrotte el Seor Kettle with due form and ceremony," said
the mulatto, with an ugly smile. "The saints must have sent us this
machine on purpose." He threw away the cigarette stump from his yellow
fingers, and began to knot a running bowline on the end of a raw hide
rope. "I will do myself the honour of capturing him. He covered me
with that revolver of his this morning, and put me to shame before the
men. I have not forgotten."

 "And the other Englishman?" said the ex-priest. "He fought well for
us in the morning. He is brave."

 "And so is far too dangerous to be left alive, padre, after we
garrotte the sailor."

 "My dear Cuchillo," said the ecclesiastic, "you are so abominably
bloodthirsty. But I suppose you are right. I will come with you, and
if the man shows trouble, I will shoot him where he sits." He and the
mulatto got up as he spoke, and the other men rose also, and the six
of them left the ingenio silently on the side away from the camp. The
jungle growths of the ruined plantation swallowed them out of sight.
They held along their way silently and confidently, like men well
skilled in woodcraft. With primitive cunning they had arranged to make
their attack from the rear.

 The noise of their chatter ceased, and from the distance there went
up into the hot tropical night faint snatches of the "Swanee River,"
sung by a Louisiana negro, who had grown delirious from a wound.

 In the meanwhile the two Englishmen were taking their tobacco barely
a couple of hundred yards away. They had built a small fire of green
wood, and were sitting in the alley of smoke as some refuge from the
swarming mosquitos; and the conversation ran upon themselves and their
own prospects.

 "I don't want to mess about with a crown," Captain Kettle was saying.
"A cheese-cutter cap's good enough for me; or, seeing that Cuba's hot,
a pith helmet might be preferable, if we are going in for luxury." He
peered through the smoke wreaths at the camp of revolutionists, a
naked bivouac chopped from amongst the canes, and strewn with sleeping
men who moaned in their dreams. The ruined ingenio at the further side
had its white walls smeared with smoke. The place ached with poverty
and squalor.

 "Not that there seems much luxury here," he went on. "These beauties
haven't a sound pair of breeches among them, and if it wasn't for the
rifles and ammunition we brought ashore from the poor old Sultan, sir,
I'd say they'd just starve to death before they kicked the Spaniards
out of the island. But if ugliness means pluck, there should be none
better as fighting men; and when we get to bossing them properly,
you'll see we shall just make this revolutionary business hum. You are
going to stay on and help, Mr. Carnforth?"

 The big man in the shooting coat gave a rueful laugh. "You've got my
promise, Kettle. I don't see any way of backing out of it."

 "I thank you for that, sir," said the sailor with a bow. "When I come
to be formally made King of these Cubans, you shall find I am not
ungrateful. I am not a man to neglect either my friends or my enemies.

 "You shall sign on as Prime Minister, Mr. Carnforth, when we get the
show regularly in commission, and I'll see you make a good thing out
of it. Don't you get the notion it'll be a bit like the dreary
business you were used to in Parliament in England. Empty talk is not
to my taste, and I'll not set up a Parliament here to encourage it.
I'm going to hold a full king's ticket myself, and it won't do for any
one to forget it."

 "You seem very anxious for power, Captain."

 "It's a fact, sir," said the other with a sigh. "I do like to have
the ordering of men. But don't you think that's the only reason I'm
taking on with this racket. I'm a man with an income to make, and I'm
out of a berth elsewhere. I'm a man with a family, sir."

 "I am a bachelor," said Carnforth, "and I'm thanking heaven for it
this minute. Doesn't it strike you, Captain, that this is no sort of a
job for a married man? Can't you see it's far too risky?"

 "Big pay, big risk; that's always the way, sir, and as I've faced
ugly places before and come out top side, there's no reason why I
shouldn't do it again here. Indeed, it's the thought of my wife that's
principally pushing me on. During all the time we've been together,
Mr. Carnforth, I've never been able to give Mrs. Kettle the place I'd

 "She was brought up, sir, as the daughter of a minister of religion,
and splendidly educated; she can play the harmonium and do crewel
work; and, though I'll not deny I married her from behind a bar, I may
tell you she only took to business from a liking to see society." He
looked out dreamily through the smoke at the fireflies which were
winking across the black rim of the forest.

 "I'd like to see her, Mr. Carnforth, with gold brooches and chains,
and a black satin dress, and a bonnet that cost twenty shillings,
sitting in Government House, with the British Consul on the mat before
her, waiting till she chose to ask him to take a chair and talk She'd
fill the position splendidly, and I've just got to wade in and get it
for her."

 The little man broke off and stared out at the fireflies, and
Carnforth coughed the wood-smoke from his lungs and rammed fresh
tobacco into his pipe. He was a man with a fine sense of humour, and
he appreciated to the full the ludicrousness of Kettle's pretensions.
The sailor had run a cargo of much wanted contraband of war on to the
Cuban beach, had sunk a Spanish cruiser in the process, and had
received effusive thanks.

 But he had taken the florid metaphor of the country to mean a literal
offer, and when in their complimentary phrase they shouted that he
should be king, a king from that moment he intended to be. The comedy
of the situation was irresistible.

 But at the same time, Mr. Martin Carnforth was a man of wealth, and a
man (in England) of assured position; and he could not avoid seeing
that by his present association with Captain Owen Kettle, he was
flirting with ugly tragedy every moment that he lived. Yet here he was
pinned, not only to keep in the man's society, but to help him in his
mad endeavours.

 He would gladly have forfeited half his fortune to be snugly back in
St. Stephen's, Westminster, clear of the mess; but escape was out of
the question; and, moreover, he knew quite well that trying to make
Kettle appreciate his true position would be like an attempt to reason
with the winds or the surf on an ocean beach. So he held his tongue,
and did as he was bidden. He was a man of physical bravery, and the
rush of actual fighting that morning had come pleasantly to him.

 It was only when he thought of the certain and treacherous dangers of
the future, and the cosy niche that awaited him at home in England,
that his throat tickled with apprehension, and he caressed with
affectionate fingers the region of his carotids. And if he had known
that at that precise moment the ex-priest and the mulatto they called
el Cuchillo, and the others of the insurgent leaders, were stalking
him with a view to capture and execution, it is probable that he would
have felt even still more disturbed.

 "We did well in that fight this morning," said Kettle presently, as
he drew his eyes away from the light-snaps of the fireflies, and shut
them to keep out the sting of the wood-smoke. "You've been shot at
before, sir?"

 "Never," said Carnforth

 "You couldn't have been cooler, sir, if you'd been at sea all your
life, and seen pins flying every watch. Do you know, I've been
thinking it over, and I'm beginning to fancy that perhaps our black
and yellow mongrels weren't quite such cowards as I said. I know they
did scuttle to the bushes like rabbits so soon as ever a gun was
fired; but then their business is to shoot these Spanish soldiers and
not get shot back, and so, perhaps, they were right to keep to their
own way.

 "Anyway, we licked them, and that means getting on towards Mrs.
Kettle's being a queen. But that murdering the wounded afterwards was
more than I can stand, and It has got to be put a stop to."

 "You didn't make yourself popular over it."

 "I am not usually liked when I am captain," said Kettle grimly.

 "Well, skipper, I don't, as a rule, agree with your methods, as you
know, but here I am with you all the way. Your excellent subjects are
a great deal too barbarous for my taste."

 "They are holy brutes, and that's a fact," said Captain Kettle, "and
I expect a good many of them will be hurt whilst I'm teaching them
manners. But they've got to learn this lesson first of all: they're to
treat their prisoners decently, or else let them go, or else shoot
them clean and dead in the first instance whilst they're still on the
run. I am a man myself, Mr. Carnforth, that can do a deal in hot
blood; but afterwards, when the poor brutes are on the ground, I want
to go round with sticking plaster, and not a knife to slit their

 "It will take a tolerable amount of trouble to drum that into this
crew. A Spaniard on the war-path is not merciful; an African is a
barbarian; but make a cross of the two (as you get here) and you turn
out the most unutterable savage on the face of the earth."

 "They will not be taught by kindness alone," said Captain Kettle,
suggestively. "I've got heavy hands, and I shan't be afraid to use
them. It's a job," he added with a sigh, "which will not come new to
me. I've put to sea with some of the worst toughs that ever wrote
their crosses before a shipping master, and none of them can ever say
they got the top side of me yet."

 He was about to say more, but at that moment speech was taken from
him. A long raw-hide rope suddenly flickered out into the air like a
slim, black snake; the noose at its end for an instant poised open-
mouthed above him; and then it descended around his elbows, and was as
simultaneously plucked taut by unseen hands behind the shelter of the
jungle. Captain Kettle struggled like a wild cat to release himself,
but four lithe, bony men threw themselves upon him, twisted his arms
behind his back, and made them fast there with other thongs of raw

 Carnforth did nothing to help. At the first alarm, that burly
gentleman had looked up and discovered a rifle muzzle, not ten feet
off, pointing squarely at his breast. The voice of the ex-priest came
from behind the rifle, and assured him in mild, unctuous tones that
the least movement would secure him a quick and instant passage to one
or other of the next worlds. And Martin Carnforth surrendered without
terms. When the four men had finished their other business, they came
and roped him up also.

 The mulatto strode out from the cover and flicked the ashes of a
cigarette into Kettle's face. "El rey," he said, "de los Cubanos must
have his power limited. He has come where he was not wanted, he has
done what was forbidden, and shortly he will taste the consequences."

 "You gingerbread coloured beast," retorted Captain Kettle; "you shame
of your mother, I made a big mistake when I did not shoot you in the

 The mulatto pressed the lighted end of his cigarette against Kettle's
forehead. "I will trouble you," he said, "to keep silence for the
present. At dawn you will be put upon trial, and then you may speak.
But till then (and the sun will not rise for another three hours yet),
if you talk, you will earn a painful burn for each sentence.

 "You are a man accustomed to having your own way, Seor; I am
another; and, as at present I possess the upper hand, your will has
got to bend to mine. The process, I can well imagine, will be
distasteful to you. It was distasteful to me when I looked down your
revolver muzzle over the affair of those prisoners. But I do not think
you will be foolish enough to earn torture uselessly."

 Kettle glared, but with an effort held his tongue. He understood he
was in a very tight place. And for the present the only thing
remaining for him was to bide his time. He quite recognised that he
was in dangerous hands. The mulatto was a man of education, who had
been brought up in an American college; and who had learned in the
States to hate his white father, and loathe his black mother with a
ferocity which nothing but that atmosphere could foster.

 He was a fellow living on the borderland of the two primitive
colours, and his whole life was soured by the pigment in his skin. As
a white man he would have been a genius; as a black he would have
become a star; but as a mulatto he was merely a suave and brilliant
savage, thirsting for vengeance against the whole of the human race.
He had entered this Cuban revolution through no taint of patriotism,
but merely from the lust for cruelty. By sheer daring and ability he
had raised himself from the ranks to supreme command of the
revolutionists, and he was not likely to let the situation slip from
his fingers for even a few short hours, without exacting a bitter

 Carnforth lifted up his voice in expostulation, but was quick
silenced by the promise of branding from the cigarette end if he did
not choose to hold his tongue. Quiet fell over the group. The only
sounds were scraps the "Swanee River," sung by the wounded negro in
his delirium from somewhere in the distance--

  "Still longing for the old plantation.

  And for the old folks at home."

came the words in a thin quavering tenor, and Carnforth, with a sigh,
thought how well he could endorse them.

 The first glow of morning saw the camp aroused, and half an hour
later the Court was ranged. The self-styled judges sat under the
white-washed piazza of the ruined house; the motley troops faced them
in an irregular ring twenty yards away; and the two prisoners, with an
armed man to guard each, stood on the open ground between.

 El Cuchillo was himself principal spokesman, and proceedings were
carried on in Spanish and English alternately. The crime of Captain
Kettle was set forth in a dozen words. He had stopped the rightful
execution of prisoners, and had let them go free.

 "You had no place to gaol them," said Carnforth in defence.

 The mulatto pointed a thin yellow finger at the sun-baked ground in
front of the piazza. "We have the earth," he said. "Give them to the
earth, and she will keep them gaoled so fast that they will never
fight against us more. It is a war here to the knife on both sides.
The Spanish troops kill us when they catch, and we do the like by
them; it is right that it should be so. We do not want quarter at
their hands; neither do we wish them to remain alive upon Cuba. Three
Spanish soldiers were ours a few hours ago. Our cause demanded that
their lives should have been taken away. And yet they were set free."

 "Yes," broke in Kettle, "and, by James! that's a thing you ought to
sing small about. Here's you: six officers and a hundred and fifty
men, all armed. Here's me: a common low-down, foul-of-his-luck
Britisher, with a vinegar tongue and a thirty-shilling pistol. You
said the beggars should be hanged; I said they shouldn't; and, by
James! I scared the whole caboodle of you with just one-half an ugly
look, and got my own blessed way. Oh, I do say you are a holy crowd."

 Carnforth stamped in anger. It seemed to him that this truculent
little sailor was deliberately inviting their captors to murder the
pair of them out of hand. He understood that Kettle was bitterly
disappointed at having his bubble about the kingship so ruthlessly
pricked, but with this recklessness which was snatching away their
only chance of escape, he could have no sympathy. He was unprepared,
however, for his comrade's next remark.

 "Don't think I'd any help from Mr. Carnforth here. He's a Member of
Parliament in London, and is far too much of a gentleman to concern
himself with your fourpenny ha'penny matters here. He warned me before
I began, that being king of the whole of your rotten island wasn't
worth a dish of beans; but I wouldn't believe him till I'd seen how it
was for myself.

 "I'm here now through my own fault; I ought to have remembered that
niggers, and yellow-bellies, and white men who have forgotten their
colour, could have no spark of gratitude. I'll not deny, too, that I
got to thinking about those fire-flies, and so wasn't keeping a proper
watch; but here I am, lashed up snug, and I guess you're going to make
the most of your chance. By James! though, if you weren't a pack of
cowards, you'd cast me adrift, and give me my gun again!"

 "Speaking as a man of peace," said the ex-priest, "I fancy you are
safest as you are, amigo."

 "I'd be king of this crowd again inside three minutes if I was
loose," retorted Kettle.

 El Cuchillo snapped his yellow fingers impatiently. "We are wasting
time," he said. "Captain Kettle seems still to dispute my supreme
authority. He shall taste of it within the next dozen minutes; and if
he can see his way to resisting it, and asserting his own kingship, he
has my full permission to do so. Here, you: go into the ingenio, and
bring out that machine."

 A dozen ragged fellows detached themselves from the onlookers, and
went through a low stone doorway into a ruined sugar house. In a
couple of minutes they reappeared, dragging with noisy laughter a
dusty cumbersome erection, which they set down in the open space
before the piazza.

 It was made up of a wooden platform on which was fastened a chair and
an upright. On the upright was a hinged iron ring immediately above
the chair. A screw passed through the upright into the ring, with a
long lever at its outside end, on either extremity of which was a
heavy sphere of iron. If once that lever was set on the twirl, it
would drive the screw's point into whatever the iron ring contained
with a force that was irresistible.

 The mulatto introduced the machine with a wave of his yellow fingers.
"El garrotte," he said. "A medival survival which I did not dream of
finding here. Of its previous history I can form no idea. Of its
future use I can give a simple account. It will serve to ease us of
the society of this objectionable Captain Kettle."

 "Great heavens, man," Carnforth broke out; "this is murder."

 "Ah," said el Cuchillo, "I will attend to your case at the same time.
You shall have the honour of turning the screw which gives your friend
his exit. In that way we shall secure your silence afterwards as to
what has occurred."

 "You foul brute," said Carnforth, with a shout, "do you think I am an
assassin like yourself?"

 The mulatto took a long draught at his cigarette. "What a horrible
country England must be to live in, if all the people there have
tongues as long as you two. Seor, if you do not choose to accept my
suggestion for pinning you to silence, I can offer you another. Refuse
to take your place at the screw, and I promise that you shall be stood
up against the wall of this ingenio and be shot inside the minute. The
choice stands open before you."

 "Mr. Carnforth," said Captain Kettle, "you mustn't be foolish. You
must officiate over me exactly as you are asked, or otherwise you'll
get shot uselessly. Gingerbread and his friends mean business. And if
you still think you're taking a liberty in handling the screw (in
spite of what I say) you may fine yourself a matter of ten shillings
weekly, and hand it across to Mrs. Kettle. I make no doubt she would
find that sum very useful."

 "This is horrible," said Carnforth.

 "It will be horrible for Mrs. Kettle and my youngsters, sir, if you
don't act sensibly and man the lever as Gingerbread asks. If you get
planted here alongside of me, I don't know any one at all likely to
give them a pension. It would afford me a great deal of pleasure just
now, Mr. Carnforth, if I knew my family could still keep to windward
of parish relief."

 "Of course," said Carnforth with a white face, "I will see your wife
and children are all right if I get clear; but it is too ghastly to
think of purchasing even my life on these terms."

 "You seem slow to make up your mind, Seor," broke in the mulatto.
"Allow me to hasten your decision." He gave some directions, and the
men who had brought out the garrotte took Captain Kettle and sat him
on the chair. They opened the iron ring, which screeched noisily with
its rusted hinge, and they clasped it, collar-fashion, about his neck.
Then they led Carnforth up to the back of the upright, and cast off
the lashing from his wrists.

 "Now, Seor Carnforth," said the yellow man. "I want that person
garrotted. If you do it for me, I will give you a safe conduct down to
any sea-port in Cuba which you may choose. If I have to set on one of
my own men to do the work, you will not have sight to witness it. I
will stick you up against that white wall, yonder, and have you shot,
out of hand. Now, Seor, I have the honour to ask for your decision."

 "Come, sir, don't hesitate," said Captain Kettle. "If you don't
handle the screw, remember some one else will."

 "That will be a flimsy excuse to remember afterwards."

 "You will be paying a weekly fine, and can recollect that carries a
full pardon with it."

 "Pah!" said Carnforth, "what is ten shillings a week?"

 "Exactly," said Kettle. "Make it twelve, sir, and that will hold you
clear of everything."

 "What feeble, dilatory people you English are," said el Cuchillo. "I
must trouble you to make up your mind at once, Seor Carnforth."

 "He has made it up," said Kettle, "and I shall go smiling, because I
shall get my clearance at the hands of a decent man. I'd have taken it
as a disgrace to be shoved out of this world by a yellow beast like
you, you shame of your mother."

 The mulatto blazed out with fury. "By heavens," he cried, "I've a
mind to take you out of that garrotte even now and have you burnt."

 "And we should lose a pleasant little comedy," said the ex-priest.
"No, amigo; let us see the pair of them perform together."

 "Go on," said the mulatto to Carnforth.

 "Yes," said Kettle in a lower voice. "For God's sake go on and get it
over. It isn't very pleasant work for me, this waiting. And you will
make it twelve shillings a week, sir?"

 "I will give your wife a thousand a year, my poor fellow. I will give
her five thousand. No; I am murdering her husband, and I will give her
all I have, and go away to start life afresh elsewhere. I shall never
dare to show my face again in England or carry my own name." He
gripped one of the iron spheres and threw his weight upon the lever.
The bar buckled and sprang under his effort, but the screw did not

 "Quick, man, quick," said Kettle in a low, fierce voice. "This is
cruel. If you don't get me finished directly, I shall go white or
something, and those brutes will think I'm afraid."

 Carnforth wrenched at the lever with a tremendous effort. One arm of
the bar bent slowly into a semi-circle, but the lethal screw remained
fast in its socket. It was glued there with the rust of years.

 Carnforth flung away from the machine. "I have done my best," he said
sullenly to the men on the piazza, "and I can do no more. You have the
satisfaction of knowing that you have made me a murderer in intent, if
not in actual fact; and now, if you choose, you can stick me up
against that wall and have me shot. I'm sure I don't care I'm sick of
it all here."

 "You shall have fair treatment," said el Cuchillo, "and neither more
nor less. You have tried to obey my orders, and Captain Kettle is at
present alive because of the garrotte's deficiency, and not by your
intention." He gave a command, and the men released the iron collar
from Kettle's neck. "I will have the machine repaired by my armourer,"
he said, "and in the meanwhile you may await my pleasure out of the

 He gave another order, and the men laid hands upon their shoulders
and led them away, and thrust them into a small arched room of
whitened stone, under the boiler-house of the ingenio. The window was
a mere arrow-slit; the door was a ponderous thing of Spanish oak,
barred with iron bolts which ran into the stone work; the place was
absolutely unbreakable. And there they waited, moodily taciturn.

 The silence had lasted a dozen hours, although it was plain that each
of the prisoners was busily thinking. At last Kettle spoke.

 "If I could only get a rhyme to 'brow,'" he said, "I believe I could
manage the rest."

 "What?" asked Carnforth.

 "I want a word to rhyme with 'brow,' sir, if you can help me."

 "What in the world are you up to now?"

 "I've been filling up time, sir, whilst we've been here, by hammering
out a bit of poetry about those fireflies. I got the idea of it last
night, when we saw them flashing in and out against the black of the

 "You don't owe them much gratitude that I can see, skipper. According
to what you said, if you hadn't been looking at them, you'd have been
more on the watch, and wouldn't have got caught."

 "Perfectly right, sir. And so this poem should be all the more
valuable when it's put together. I'm running it to the tune of
'Greenland's icy mountains,' my favourite air, Mr. Carnforth. I'm
trying to work a parallel between those fireflies switching their
lights in and out, and a soul, sir. Do you catch the idea?"

 "I can't say I do quite."

 Captain Kettle rubbed thoughtfully at his beard. "Well, I'm a trifle
misty about it myself," he admitted; "but it will make none the worse
poetry for being a bit that way, if I can get the rhymes all right."

 "'Plough' might suit you," Carnforth suggested.

 "That's just the word I want, sir. 'The fields of heaven to plough.'
That would be the very occupation the soul of the man I'm thinking
about would delight in; something restful and in the agricultural
line. I wanted to give him a good time up there. He was due for it,"
he added thoughtfully, and then he closed his eyes and fell to making
further poetry.

 Martin Carnforth knew the little ruffian's taste for this form of
exercise, but it seemed to him jarringly out of place just then. "I am
in no mood for verse now," he commented with a frown.

 "I am," said Kettle, and tapped out the metre of a new line with a
finger tip upon his knee. "It always takes a set-to with the hands, or
a gale of wind, or a tight-corner of some kind, to work me up to
poetry at all. And the worse the fix has been, the better I can rhyme.
I find it very restful and pleasant, sir, to send my thoughts over a
bit of a sonnet after times like these."

 "Then you ought to turn out a masterpiece now," said Carnforth, "and
enjoy the making of it."

 Kettle took him seriously. "I quite agree with you there, sir," he
said, and puckered his forehead and went on with his work.

 Carnforth did not say any more, but turned again to brooding. Every
time he looked at the matter, the more he cursed himself for leaving
his snug pinnacle in England. The utmost boon he could have gamed in
Captain Kettle's society was not to be caught. Dangers, hardships, and
exposures he was discovering are much pleasanter to hear of from a
distance, or to read about in a well-stuffed chair by a warm fireside.
The actual items themselves had turned out terribly squalid when
viewed at first hand.

 At last he broke out again. "Look here, skipper," he said, "I'm fond
enough of life, but I don't think I want to earn it by playing
executioner. I'd prefer to let this rebel fellow parade me and bring
out his platoon."

 Kettle woke up from his work. "I'm not sweet on wearing the iron
collar again, and that's a fact. It's horrible work waiting to have
your backbone snapped without being able to raise a finger to
interfere. I'm not a coward, Mr. Carnforth, but I tell you it took all
the nerve I'd got to sit quiet in that chair without squirming whilst
you were getting ready the ceremonial.

 "It's no new thing for me to expect being killed before the hour was
through. I've had trouble of all kinds with all sorts of crews, but
I've always had my hands free and been able to use them, and I will
say I've most always had a gun of some sort to help me. I might even
go so far as to tell you, sir (and you may kick me for saying it if
you like), I've felt a kind of joy regularly glow inside me during
some of those kind of scuffles. Yes, sir, that's the kind of animal I
am: in hot blood I think no more of being killed than a terrier dog

 "If there was only a chance of being knocked on the head in hot
blood," said Carnforth, "I'd fight like a cornered thief till I got my

 "And Mrs. Kettle would lose her twelve shillings a week if---By
James! sir, here they come for us."

 He leapt up from the bench on which he had sat, and whirled it above
his head. With a crash he brought it down against the whitened wall of
the cell, and the bench split down its length into two staves. He gave
one to Carnforth, and hefted the other himself like a connoisseur.

 "Now, sir, you on one side of the door and me on the other. They
can't reach us from the outside there. And if they want us out of here
we've got to be fetched."

 Carnforth took up his stand, and shifted his fingers knowingly along
his weapon. He was a big man and a powerful one, and the hunger for
fighting lit in his eye.

 "Horatius Cockles and the other Johnnie holding the bridge," quoth
he. "We can bag the first two, and the others will fall over them if
they try a rush. What fools they were to untie our wrists and shins!
But our fun won't last long. As soon as they find we are awkward, they
will go round to the window-slit and shoot us down from there."

 "We aren't shot yet," said Kettle grimly, "and I'm wanting to do a
lot of damage before they get me. Look out!"

 The bolts grated back in the rusty staples, and the heavy door
screamed outwards on its hinges. A negro came in, whistling merrily.
The two halves of the bench flew down upon his head from either side
with a simultaneous crash.

 A white man's skull would have crunched like an eggshell under that
impact, but the African cranium is stout. The fellow toppled to the
ground under the sheer tonnage of the blows, and he lay there with the
whistle half frozen on his lips, and such a ludicrous look of surprise
growing over his features that Carnforth burst into an involuntary
laugh. Kettle, however, was more businesslike. The negro had a machete
dangling from his hip, and the little sailor darted out and snatched
it from its sheath. He jumped back again to cover with slim activity,
and a couple of pistol bullets which followed him made harmless grey
splashes on the opposite wall. Then there was a pause in the
proceedings, and Carnforth felt his heart thumping noisily against his
watch as he waited.

 Presently a brisk footstep made itself heard on the flagging outside,
and the voice of the mulatto leader spoke through the doorway.

 "If you come out now, one of you shall be garotted, and the other
shall go free. If I have more trouble to fetch you, you shall both be
roasted to death over slow fires."

  "If--if--if!" retorted Kettle. "If your mother had stuck to her
laundry work and married a nigger, she'd have kept a very great rascal
out of the world. If I'd the sense of a sheep I'd come to you at once,
and my poor wife would have twelve bob a week for life. If you want to
talk, you frightened lump of gingerbread, come in here and do it, and
don't squall out there like a cat on a garden wall."

 The suave voice of the ex-priest made a comment. "Saints deliver us
from these Englishmen's tongues. Truly they are not fit to live; but
why should we send our terriers into the rat pit? A little careful
shooting through the window yonder will soon limit their capers, and
if the shooting is carefully done, neither will be any the worst as a

 El Cuchillo answered him savagely. "Then do you see to it. The big
man you may shoot as you please, but if you kill the sailor, look to
yourself. That man is in my debt, and I want him in my hands alive, so
that I may pay it."

 "Amigo," said the unfrocked priest, "you may trust to my shooting. I
will pink him most scientifically in one leg and the right arm, and I
will guarantee that you shall get him in perfect condition to have
your satisfaction on."

 "Do so," said the mulatto, and the other marched briskly away on his
rope-soled sandals. But in the meantime Kettle's active brain had
formed a plan, and in dumb show he had telegraphed it across to
Carnforth at the opposite flank of the doorway.

 Of a sudden the pair of them rushed out simultaneously. Kettle handed
the machete to his companion, and sprang upon the yellow man with
greedy fingers. His feet he kicked away from beneath him, and at the
same instant grappled him by the throat. It was a trick he had many a
time before played upon mutinous seamen, and he had dragged the
mulatto back into the cell almost before the man had time to struggle.
Carnforth followed closely upon their heels leaving signatures behind
him written redly with the machete.

 Captain Kettle bumped the mulatto's head against the wall as a way of
quieting him and keeping his way from dangerous weapons, and then
threw him on to the floor. He extracted a revolver and a knife from
the man's belt, and looked up to see the face of the ex-priest staring
at him from the window. Then he sat himself on the chest of his
prisoner, and prepared to treat for terms.

 A shot rang out across the bivouac outside, and then another. The man
at the window-slit turned away his face. There was a minute's pause,
and then a dropping fire began, the sound of it coming from two
distinct quarters.

 The ex-priest's head went out of sight. It was the last they ever saw
of him. Some one outside the doorway shouted "Los Espaoles!" and
there was the scuffle of bare feet running away and fading into the
distance. And, meanwhile, outside the windows the crackle of rifles
grew more noisy, and cries rose up of men in pain. The light in the
vaulted room grew faintly blue, and the air was soured with powder

 "By James!" said Kettle, "the Spanish regular troops have raided the
camp, and the whole lot of them are fighting like a parcel of cats.
Hark to the racket. Here's a slice of luck."

 "I don't see it," said Carnforth. "If we're out of the fire we're
into the frying-pan. Sinking that Spanish warship was an act of
piracy, and we shall be strung up if the Dons catch us, without the
prelude of a trial. Listen! There's a Maxim come into action. Listen!
I wonder which way the fight's going. They're making row enough over
it. I'm going to get to the window and have a look."

 "It's tempting," said the little sailor wistfully, "but I think, sir,
you'd better not. If you're seen we shall be gastados, as they say,
anyway. Whereas, if the rebels are licked, the Dons may march off
again without knowing we are here. It's a chance. By James! though,
I'd like to have a look. Hark to that. They're at hand-grips now. Hear
'em swear. And hear 'em scream."

 "Some of them are beginning to run. Hark to that crashing as they're
making their way through the cane."

 "And hark to those shouts. It's like a lot of cockneys at a foxhunt."

 "These Dagos always yell blue murder when they're in a fight," said
Kettle contemptuously.

 "The Maxim's stopped," said Carnforth with a frown.

 They listened on for awhile with straining ears, and then: "Perhaps
that means the rebels have rushed it."

 "They may have run. But the Dons ought to be browning the cover if
they've cleared the camp. The fools! A Maxim would shoot through half
a mile of that cane-jungle."

 "Short of ammunition," said Kettle, "or perhaps it's jammed." A bugle
shrilled out through the hot air, and its noise came to them there in
the hot, dark room. "That means cease fire, and the Spaniards have
won. Our mongrels had no bugles. Well, it's been a quick thing I
wonder what next!"

 There was a dull murmur of many voices. Then orders were shouted, and
noise came as of moving men, and a few more scattered shots rang out,
most of them answered by cries or groans.

 "Hullo?" said Kettle.

 A weak voice from beneath him made explanation. "They are shooting
their prisoners, Seores--the men who were my comrades. It is the
custom--the custom of Cuba."

 "So you have concluded to come to life again, have you?" asked the
little sailor. "I thought I'd bumped you harder. What do you expect to
be done with, eh?"

 "I am in your hands," said the mulatto sullenly.

 "That's no lie," said Kettle, "and I've a perfect right to kill you
if I wish. But I don't choose to dirty my hands further. You've only
acted according to your nature. And--when it came to me being able to
move, I've beaten you every time. But now we'll have silence, please,
for all hands. If those Spaniards are going to search this old sugar
house, they'll do it, and up on a string we go the three of us; but
there's no need to entice them here by chattering."

 Their voices stopped, and the noises from without buzzed on. Of all
the trials he had gone through Carnforth felt that waiting to be the
most intolerable of all. The Spanish soldiery were looking to their
wounds and hunting through the bivouac. Some (to judge from their
talk) had gathered round the rusted garrotte and were examining it
with interest. And a few strolled up to the ruined ingenio, and smoked
their cigarettes under its piazza. Any moment the room beneath the
boiler house might be peeped upon.

 The sun beat down upon the stonework and the heat grew. The voices
gradually drew away, till only the hum of the insects remained. And so
an hour passed.

 Another hour came and went without disturbance, and still another;
and then there came the sound of a quavering tenor voice singing a
scrap from the "Swanee River" from close outside the walls!

 "Oh, take me to my kind ole mudder! Dere let me live and die."

 "That Yankee nigger," said Kettle, in a whisper. "He was wounded and
delirious before we came and he's been hidden amongst the cane. They
can't have seen him before; but, poor devil, they'll shoot him now."

 But no quietening rifle-shot rang out, and wonder grew on the faces
of all three. They waited on with straining ears, and Carnforth raised
his eyebrows in an unspoken question. Kettle nodded, and the big man
rose gingerly to his feet, and peeped from the corner of the window-
slit. He turned round with rather a harsh laugh. "The place is empty,"
he said. "I believe they've been gone these three hours."

 Captain Kettle leapt to his feet and made for the door. "Quick," he
cried, "or we shall have the rebels back again, and I'll own that I
don't want to fight the whole lot of them again just now. We'll leave
Gingerbread in here till his friends come to fetch him; and you and I,
sir, will slip down to the beach, and get off in one of the old
Sultan's quarter-boats."

 They passed outside the door, and closed and bolted it after them.

 "By the way," said Captain Kettle, "you couldn't happen to think of a
rhyme to 'gleam,' could you?"

 "No," said Carnforth.

 "Well, I'll hammer it out on the road down, and then I'll have
finished that sonnet, sir. But never mind poetry just now. I'll say
the piece to you when we've got to sea. For the present, Mr.
Carnforth, we must just pick up our feet and run."

 And so they went off to the quarter-boat, and ten minutes later they
were running her down the beach and into the sea.


I THINK it may be taken as one of the most remarkable attributes of
Captain Owen Kettle that, whatever circumstances might betide, he was
always neat and trim in his personal appearance. Even in most affluent
hours he had never been able to afford an expensive tailor; indeed, it
is much to be doubted if, during all his life, he ever bought a scrap
of raiment anywhere except at a ready-made establishment; but in spite
of this, his clothes were always conspicuously well-fitting, carried
the creases in exactly the right place, and seemed to the critical
onlooker to be capable of improvement in no point whatsoever. He
looked spruce even in oilskins and thigh boots.

 Of course, being a sailor, he was handy with his needle. I have seen
him take a white drill jacket, torn to ribands in a rough and tumble
with mutinous members his crew, and fine-draw the rents so wonderfully
that all traces of the disaster were completely lost. I believe, too,
he was capable of taking a roll of material and cutting it out with
his knife upon the deck-planks, and fabricating garments ab initio;
and though I never actually saw him do this with my own eyes, I did
hear that the clothes he appeared in at Valparaiso were so made, and I
marvelled at their neatness.

 It was just after his disastrous adventure in Cuba; he trod the
streets in a state of utter pecuniary destitution; his cheeks were
sunk, and his eyes were haggard; but the red torpedo beard was as trim
as ever; his cap was spick and span; the white drill clothes with
their brass buttons were the usual miracle of perfection; and even his
tiny canvas shoes had not so much as a smudge upon their pipe-clay
Indeed, in the first instance I think it must have been this
spruceness, and nothing else, which made him find favour in the eyes
of so fastidious a person as Clotilde La Touche.

 But be this as it may, it is a fact that Donna Clotilde just saw the
man from her carriage as he walked along the Paseo de Colon, promptly
asked his name, and, getting no immediate reply, dispatched one of her
admirers there and then to make his acquaintance. The envoy was
instructed to find out who he was, and contrive that Donna Clotilde
should meet the little sailor at dinner in the Caf of the Lion d'Or
that very evening.

 The dinner was given in the patio of the cafe where palm fronds
filtered the moonbeams, and fireflies competed with the electric
lights; and at a moderate computation the cost of the viands would
have kept Captain Kettle supplied with his average rations for ten
months or a year. He was quite aware of this, and appreciated the
entertainment none the worse in consequence. Even the champagne,
highly sweetened to suit the South American palate, came most
pleasantly to him. He liked champagne according to its lack of
dryness, and this was the sweetest wine that had ever passed his lips.

 The conversation during that curious meal ran in phases. With the
hors d'oeuvres came a course of ordinary civilities; then for a space
there rolled out an autobiographical account of some of Kettle's
exploits, skilfully and painlessly extracted by Donna Clotilde's nave
questions; and then, with the cognac and cigarettes, a spasm of
politics shook the diners like an ague.

 Of a sudden one of the men recollected himself, looked to this side
and that with a scared face, and rapped the table with his knuckles.

 "Ladies," he said imploringly, "and Seores, the heat is great. It
may be dangerous.

 "Pah!" said Donna Clotilde, "we are talking in English."

 "Which other people besides ourselves understand even in Valparaiso."

 "Let them listen," said Captain Kettle. "I hold the same opinions on
politics as Miss La Touche here, since she has explained to me how
things really are, and I don't care who knows that I think the present
Government, and the old system, rotten. I am not in the habit of
putting my opinions in words, Mr. Silva, and being frightened of
people hearing them."

 "You," said the cautious man dryly, "have little to lose here,
Captain. Donna Clotilde has much. I should be very sorry to read in my
morning paper that she had died from apoplexy--the arsenical variety--
during the course of the preceding night."

 "Pooh," said Kettle, "they could never do that."

 "As a resident in Chili," returned Silva, "let me venture to disagree
with you, Captain. It is a disease to which the opponents of President
Quijarra are regularly addicted whenever they show any marked
political activity. The palm trees in this patio have a reputation,
too, for being phenomenally long-eared. So, if it pleases you all,
suppose we go out on the roof? The moon will afford us a fine
prospect--and--the air up there is reputed healthy."

 He picked up Donna Clotilde's fan and mantilla. The other two ladies
rose to their feet; Donna Clotilde, with a slight frown of reluctance,
did the same; and they all moved off towards the stairway Silva laid
detaining fingers upon Captain Kettle's arm.

 "Captain," he said, "if I may give you a friendly hint, slip away now
and go to your quarters."

 "I fancy, sir," said Captain Kettle, "that Miss La Touche has
employment to offer me."

 "If she has," retorted Silva, "which I doubt, it will not be
employment you will care about."

 "I am what they call here 'on the beach,'" said Kettle, "and I cannot
afford to miss chances. I am a married man, Mr. Silva, with children
to think about."

 "Ah!" the Chilian murmured thoughtfully. "I wonder if she knows he's
married? Well, Captain, if you will go up, come along, and I'm sure I
wish you luck."

 The flat roof of the Caf of the Lion d'Or is set out as a garden,
with orange trees growing against the parapets, and elephants' ears
and other tropical foliage plants stand here and there in round green
tubs. Around it are the other roofs of the city, which, with the
streets between, look like some white rocky plain cut up by steep
canons. A glow comes from these depths below, and with it the blurred
hum of people. But nothing articulate gets up to the Lion d'Or, and in
the very mistiness of the noise there is something indescribably

 Moreover, it is a place where the fireflies of Valparaiso most do
congregate. Saving for the lamps of heaven, they have no other
lighting on that roof. The owners (who are Israelites) pride
themselves on this: it gives the garden an air of mystery; it has made
it the natural birthplace of plots above numbering; and it has brought
them profit almost beyond belief. Your true plotter, when his ecstasy
comes upon him, is not the man to be niggardly with the purse. He is
alive and glowing then; he may very possibly be dead to-morrow; and in
the meanwhile money is useless, and the things that money can buy--and
the very best of their sort--are most desirable.

 One more whispered hint did Mr. Silva give to Captain Kettle as they
made their way together up the white stone steps.

 "Do you know who and what our hostess is?" he asked.

 "A very nice young lady," replied the mariner promptly, "with a fine
taste in suppers."

 "She is all that," said Silva; "but she also happens to be the
richest woman in Chili. Her father owned mines innumerable, and when
he came by his end in our last revolution, he left every dollar he had
at Donna Clotilde's entire disposal. By some unfortunate oversight,
personal fear has been left out of her composition, and she seems
anxious to add it to the list of her acquirements."

 Captain Kettle puckered his brows. "I don't seem to understand you,"
he said.

 "I say this," Silva murmured, "because there seems no other way to
explain the keenness with which she hunts after personal danger. At
present she is intriguing against President Quijarra's Government.
Well, we all know that Quijarra is a brigand, just as his predecessor
was before him. The man who succeeds him in the Presidency of Chili
will be a brigand also. It is the custom of my country. But
interfering with brigandage is a ticklish operation, and Quijarra is
always scrupulous to wring the necks of any one whom he thinks at all
likely to interfere with his peculiar methods."

 "I should say that from his point of view," said Kettle, "he was
acting quite rightly, sir."

 "I thought you'd look at it sensibly," said Silva. "Well, Captain,
here we are at the top of the stair. Don't you think you had better
change your mind, and slip away now, and go back to your quarters?"

 "Why, no, sir," said Captain Kettle. "From what you tell me, it seems
possible that Miss La Touche may shortly be seeing trouble, and it
would give me pleasure to be near and ready to bear a hand. She is a
lady for whom I have got considerable regard. That supper, sir, which
we have just eaten, and the wine, are things which will live in my

 He stepped out on to the roof, and Donna Clotilde came to meet him.
She linked her fingers upon his arm, and led him apart from the rest.
At the further angle of the gardens they leant their elbows upon the
parapet, and talked, whilst the glow from the street below faintly lit
their faces, and the fireflies winked behind their backs.

 "I thank you, Captain, for your offer," she said at length, "and I
accept it as freely as it was given. I have had proposals of similar
service before, but they came from the wrong sort. I wanted a Man, and
I found out that you were that before you had been at the dinner-table
five minutes."

 Captain Kettle bowed to the compliment. "But," said he, "if I am
that, I have all of a man's failings."

 "I like them better," said the lady, "than a half-man's virtues. And
as a proof I offer you command of my navy.

 "Your navy, Miss?"

 "It has yet to be formed," said Donna Clotilde, "and you must form
it. But once we make the nucleus other ships of the existing force
will desert to us, and with those we must fight and beat the rest.
Once we have the navy, we can bombard the ports into submission till
the country thrusts out President Quijarra of its own accord, and sets
me up in his place."

 "Oh," said Kettle, "I didn't understand. Then you want to be Queen of


 "But a President is a man, isn't he?"

 "Why? Answer me that."

 "Because--well, because they always have been, Miss."

 "Because men up to now have always taken the best things to
themselves. Well, Captain, all that is changing; the world is moving
on; and women are forcing their way in, and taking their proper place.
You say that no State has yet had a woman-president. You are quite
right. I shall be the first."

 Captain Kettle frowned a little, and looked thoughtfully down into
the lighted street beneath. But presently he made up his mind, and
spoke again.

 "I'll accept your offer, Miss, to command the navy, and I'll do the
work well. You may rely on that. Although I say it myself, you'd find
it hard to get a better man. I know the kind of brutes one has to ship
as seamen along this South American coast, and I'm the sort of brute
to handle them. By James! yes, and you shall see me make them do most
things, short of miracles.

 "But there's one other thing, Miss, I ought to say, and I must
apologise for mentioning it, seeing that you're not a business person,
I must have my twelve pound a month, and all found. I know it's a lot,
and I know you'll tell me wages are down just now. But I couldn't do
it for less, Miss. Commanding a navy's a strong order and, besides,
there's considerable risk to be counted in as well."

 Donna Clotilde took his hand in both hers.

 "I thank you, Captain," she said, "for your offer, and I begin to see
success ahead from this moment. You need have no fear on the question
of remuneration."

 "I hope you didn't mind my mentioning it," said Kettle nervously. "I
know it's not a thing generally spoken of to ladies. But you see,
Miss, I'm a poor man, and feel the need of money sometimes. Of course,
twelve pound a month is high, but--"

 "My dear Captain," the lady broke in, "what you ask is moderation
itself; and, believe me, I respect you for it, and will not forget.
Knowing who I am, no other man in Chili would have hesitated to ask"--
she had on her tongue to say "a hundred times as much," but suppressed
that and said--"more. But in the meantime," said she, "will you accept
this hundred-pound note for any current expenses which may occur to

 A little old green-painted barque lay hove-to under sail,
disseminating the scent of guano through the sweet tropical day. Under
her square counter the name El Almirante Cochrane appeared in clean,
white lettering. The long South Pacific swells lifted her lazily from
hill to valley of the blue water, to the accompaniment of squealing
gear and a certain groaning of fabric. The Chilian coast lay afar off,
as a white feathery line against one fragment of the sea-rim.

 The green-painted barque was old. For many a weary year had she
carried guano from rainless Chilian islands to the ports of Europe;
and though none of that unsavoury cargo at present festered beneath
her hatches, though, indeed, she was in shingle ballast, and had her
holds scrubbed down and fitted with bunks for men, the aroma of it had
entered into the very soul of her fabric, and not all the washings of
the sea could remove it.

 A white whaleboat lay astern, riding to a grass-rope painter, and
Seor Carlos Silva, whom the whaleboat had brought off from the
Chilian beach, sat in the barque's deckhouse talking to Captain

 "The Seorita will be very disappointed," said Silva.

 "I can imagine her disappointment," returned the sailor. "I can
measure it by my own. I can tell you, sir, when I saw this filthy,
stinking old windjammer waiting for me in Callao, I could have sat
down right where I was and cried. I'd got my men together, and I guess
I'd talked big about El Almirante Cochrane, the fine new armoured
cruiser we were to do wonders in. The only thing I knew about her was
her name, but Miss La Touche had promised me the finest ship that
could be got, and I only described what I thought a really fine ship
would be. And then, when the agent stuck out his finger and pointed
out this foul old violet-bed, I tell you it was a bit of a let down."

 "There's been some desperate robbery somewhere," said Silva.

 "It didn't take me long to guess that," said Kettle, "and I concluded
the agent was the thief, and started in to take it out of him without
further talk. He hadn't a pistol, so I only used my hands to him, but
I guess I fingered him enough in three minutes to stop his dancing for
another month. He swore by all the saints he was innocent, and that he
was only the tool of other men; and perhaps that was so. But he
deserved what he got for being in such shady employment."

 "Still, that didn't procure you another ship?"

 "Hammering the agent couldn't make him do an impossibility, sir.
There wasn't such a vessel as I wanted in all the ports of Peru. So I
just took this nosegay that was offered, lured my crew aboard, and put
out past San Lorenzo island, and got to sea. It's a bit of a come
down, sir, for a steamer-sailor like me," the little man added with a
sigh, "to put an old wind-jammer through her gymnastics again. I
thought I'd done with 'main-sail haul' and raw hide chafing gear, and
all the white wings nonsense for good and always."

 "But, Captain, what did you come out for? What earthly good can you
do with an old wreck like this?"

 "Why, sir, I shall carry out what was arranged with La Touche. I
shall come up with one of President Quijarra's Government vessels,
capture her, and then start in to collar the rest. There's no
alteration in the programme. It's only made more difficult, that's

 "I rowed out here to the rendezvous to tell you the Cancelario is at
moorings in Tampique Bay, and that the Seorita would like to see you
make your beginning upon her. But what's the good of that news, now?
The Cancelario is a fine new warship of 3,000 tons. She's fitted with
everything modern in guns and machinery; she's three hundred men of a
crew, and she lays always with steam up and an armed watch set. To go
near her in this clumsy little barque would be to make yourself a
laughing-stock. Why, your English Cochrane wouldn't have done it."

 "I know nothing about Lord Cochrane, Mr. Silva. He was dead before my
time but whatever people may have done to him, I can tell any one who
cares to hear, that the man who's talking to you now is a bit of an
awkward handful to laugh at. No, sir, I expect there'll be trouble
over it, but you may tell Miss La Touche we shall have the Cancelario,
if she'll stay in Tampique Bay till I can drive this old lavender box
up to her."

 For a minute Silva stared in silent wonder. "Then, Captain," said he,
"all I can think is, you must have enormous trust in your crew."

 Captain Kettle bit the end from a fresh cigar. "You should go and
look at them for yourself," said he, "and hear their talk, and then
you'd know. The beasts are fit to eat me already."

 "How did you get them on board?"

 "Well, you see, sir, I collected them by promises--fine pay, fine
ship, fine cruise, fine chances, and so on; and when I'd only this
smelling bottle here to show them, they hung back a bit. If there'd
been only twenty of them, I don't say but what I could have hustled
them on board with a gun and some ugly words. But sixty were too many
to tackle; so I just said to them that El Almirante Cochrane was only
a ferry to take us across to a fine war steamer that was lying out of
sight elsewhere; and they swallowed the yarn, and stepped in over the

 "I can't say they've behaved like lambs since. The grub's not been to
their fancy, and I must say the biscuit was crawling; and it seems
that, as a bedroom, the hold hurt their delicate noses; and, between
one thing and another, I've had to shoot six of them before they
understood I was skipper here. You see, sir, they were most of them
living in Callao before they shipped, because there's no extradition
there; and so they're rather a toughish crowd to handle."

 "What a horrible time you must have had!"

 "There has been no kid-glove work for me, sir, since I got to sea
with this rose garden; and I must say it would have knocked the poetry
right out of most men. But, personally, I can't say it has done that
to me you'd hardly believe it, sir, but once or twice, when the whole
lot of the brutes have been raging against me, I've been very nearly
happy. And afterwards, when I've got a spell of rest, I've picked up
pen and paper, and knocked off one or two of the prettiest sonnets a
man could wish to see in print. If you like, sir, I'll read you a
couple before you go back to your whale-boat."

 "I thank you, skipper, but not now. Time is on the move, and Donna
Clotilde is waiting for me. What am I to tell her?"

 "Say, of course, that her orders are being carried out, and her pay
being earned."

 "My poor fellow," said Silva, with a sudden gush of remorse, "you are
only sacrificing yourself uselessly. What can you, in a small sailing
vessel like this, do with your rifles against a splendidly armed
vessel like the Cancelario?"

 "Not much in the shooting line, that's certain," said Kettle,
cheerfully. "That beautiful agent sold us even over the ammunition.
There were kegs put on board marked 'cartridges,' but when I came to
break one or two so as to serve out a little ammunition, for practice
be hanged if the kegs weren't full of powder. And it wasn't the stuff
for guns even; it was blasting powder, same as they use in the mines.
Oh, sir, that agent was the holiest kind of fraud."

 Silva wrung his hands. "Captain," he cried, "you must not go on with
this mad cruise. It would be sheer suicide for you to find the

 "You shall give me news of it again after I've met her," said Captain
Kettle. "For the present, sir, I follow out Miss La Touche's orders,
and earn my 12 a month. But if you're my friend, Mr. Silva, and want
to do me a good turn, you might hint that, if things go well, I could
do with a rise to 14 a month when I'm sailing the Cancelario for

 The outline of Tampique Bay stood out clearly in bright moonshine,
and the sea down the path of the moon's rays showed a canal of silver,
cut through rolling fields of purple. The green-painted barque was
heading into the bay on the port tack; and at moorings, before the
town, in the curve of the shore, the grotesque spars of a modern
warship showed in black silhouette against the moonbeams. A slate-
coloured naphtha-launch was sliding out over the swells towards the

 Captain Kettle came up from below, and watched the naphtha-launch
with throbbing interest. He had hatched a scheme for capturing the
Cancelario, and had made his preparations; and here was an
interruption coming which might very well upset anything most
ruinously. Nor was he alone in his regard. The barque's topgallant
rail was lined with faces; all her complement were wondering who these
folk might be who were so confidently coming out to meet them.

 A Jacob's ladder was thrown over the side; the slate-coloured launch
swept up, and emitted--a woman. Captain Kettle started, and went down
into the waist to meet her. A minute later he was wondering whether he
dreamed, or whether he was really walking his quarter deck in company
with Donna Clotilde La Touche. But meanwhile the barque held steadily
along her course.

 The talk between them was not for long.

 "I must beseech you, Miss, to go back from where you came," said
Kettle. "You must trust me to carry out this business without your

 "Is your method very dangerous?" she asked.

 "I couldn't recommend it to an Insurance Company," said Kettle,

 "Tell me your scheme."

 Kettle did so in some forty words. He was pithy, and Donna Clotilde
was cool. She heard him without change of colour.

 "Ah," she said, "I think you will do it."

 "You will know one way or another within an hour from now, Miss. But
I must ask you to take your launch to a distance. As I tell you, I
have made all my own boats so that they won't swim; but, if your
little craft was handy, my crew would jump overboard and risk the
sharks, and try to reach her in spite of all I could do to stop them.
They won't be anxious to fight that Cancelario when the time comes, if
there's any way of wriggling out of it."

 "You are quite right, Captain; the launch must go; only I do not. I
must be your guest here till you can put me on the Cancelario."

 Captain Kettle frowned. "What's coming is no job for a woman to be in
at, Miss."

 "You must leave me to my own opinion about that. You see, we differ
upon what a woman should do, Captain. You say a woman should not be
president of a republic; you think a woman should not be sharer in a
fight; I am going to show you how a woman can be both." She leant her
shoulders over the rail, and hailed the naphtha-launch with a sharp
command. A man in the bows cast off the line with which it towed; the
man aft put over his tiller, and set the engines a-going; and, like a
slim, grey ghost, the launch slid quietly away into the gloom. "You
see," she said, "I'm bound to stay with you now," and she looked upon
him with a burning glance.

 But Kettle replied coldly. "You are my owner, Miss," he said, "and
can do as you wish. It is not for me now to say that you are foolish.
Do I understand you still wish me to carry out my original plan?"

 "Yes," she said curtly.

 "Very well, Miss, then we shall be aboard of that war-steamer in less
than fifteen minutes." He bade his second mate call aft the crew; but
instead of remaining to meet them, he took a keen glance at the
barque's canvas, another at her wake, another at the moored cruiser
ahead, and then, after peering thoughtfully at the clouds which sailed
in the sky, he went to the companion-way and dived below. The crew
trooped aft and stood at the break of the quarterdeck, waiting for
him. And in the meanwhile they feasted their eyes with many different
thoughts on Donna Clotilde La Touche.

 Presently Captain Kettle returned to deck, aggressive and cheerful,
and faced the men with hands in his jacket pockets. Each pocket bulged
with something heavy, and the men, who by this time had come to
understand Captain Kettle's ways, began to grow quiet and nervous. He
came to the point without any showy oratory.

 "Now, my lads," said he, "I told you when you shipped aboard this
lavender-box in Callao, that she was merely a ferry to carry you to a
fine war-steamer which was lying elsewhere. Well, there's the steamer,
just off the starboard bow yonder. Her name's the Cancelario, and at
present she seems to belong to President Quijarra's Government. But
Miss La Touche here (who is employing both me and you, just for the
present) intends to set up a Government of her own; and, as a
preliminary, she wants that ship. We've to grab it for her."

 Captain Kettle broke off, and for a full minute there was silence.
Then some one amongst the men laughed, and a dozen others joined in.

 "That's right," said Kettle. "Cackle away, you scum. You'd be singing
a different tune if you knew what was beneath you."

 A voice from the gloom--an educated voice--answered him. "Don't be
foolish, skipper. We're not going to ram our heads against a brick
wall like that. We set some value on our lives."

 "Do you?" said Kettle. "Then pray that this breeze doesn't drop (as
it seems likely to do) or you'll lose them. Shall I tell you what I
was up to below just now? You remember those kegs of blasting powder?
Well, they're in the lazaret, where some of you stowed them; but
they're all of them unheaded, and one of them carries the end of a
fuse. That fuse is cut to burn just twenty minutes, and the end's

 "Wait a bit. It's no use going to try and douse it. There's a pistol
fixed to the lazaret hatch, and if you try to lift it that pistol will
shoot into the powder, and we'll all go up together without further
palaver. Steady, now, there, and hear me out. You can't lower away
boats, and get clear that way. The boat's bottoms will tumble away so
soon as you try to hoist them off the skids. I saw to that last night.
And you can't require any telling to know there are far too many
sharks about to make a swim healthy exercise."

 The men began to rustle and talk.

 "Now, don't spoil your only chance," said Kettle, "by singing out. If
on the cruiser yonder they think there's anything wrong, they'll run
out a gun or two, and blow us out of the water before we can come near
them. I've got no arms to give you; but you have your knives, and I
guess you shouldn't want more. Get in the shadow of the rail there,
and keep hid till you hear her bump. Then jump on board, knock
everybody you see over the side, and keep the rest below."

 "They'll see us coming," whimpered a voice. "They'll never let us

 "They'll hear us," the Captain retorted, "if you gallows-ornaments
bellow like that, and then all we'll have to do will be to sit tight
where we are till that powder blows us like a thin kind of spray up
against the stars. Now, get to cover with you, all hands, and not
another sound. It's your only chance."

 The men crept away, shaking, and Captain Kettle himself took the
wheel, and appeared to drowse over it. He gave her half a spoke at a
time, and by invisible degrees the barque fell off till she headed
dead on for the cruiser. Save for the faint creaking of her gear, no
sound came from her, and she slunk on through the night like some
patched and tattered phantom. Far down in her lazaret the glowing end
of the fuse crept nearer to the powder barrels, and in imagination
every mind on board was following its race.

 Nearer and nearer she drew to the Cancelario, and ever nearer. The
waiting men felt as though the hearts of them would leap from their
breasts. Two of them fainted. Then came a hail from the cruiser:
"Barque, ahoy, are you all asleep there?"

 Captain Kettle drowsed on over the wheel. Donna Clotilde, from the
shadow of the house, could see him nodding like a man in deep sleep.

 "Carrajo! you barque, there! Put down your helm. You'll be aboard of
us in a minute."

 Kettle made no reply: his hands sawed automatically at the spokes,
and the glow from the binnacle fell upon close, shut eyes. It was a
fine bit of acting.

 The Chilians shouted but they could not prevent the collision, and
when it came, there broke out a yell as though the gates of the Pit
had been suddenly unlocked.

 The barque's crew of human refuse, mad with terror, rose up in a
flock from behind the bulwarks. As one man they clambered over the
cruiser's side and spread about her decks.

 Ill provided with weapons though they might be, the Chilians were
scarcely better armed. A sentry squibbed off his rifle, but that was
the only shot fired. Knives did the greater part of the work, knives
and belaying-pins, and whatever else came to hand. Those of the watch
on deck who did not run below were cleared into the sea; the berth
deck was stormed; and the waking men surrendered to the pistol nose.

 A couple of desperate fellows went below, and cowed the fireman and
engineer on watch. The mooring was slipped, steam was given to the
engines, and whilst her former crew were being drafted down into an
empty hold, the Cancelario was standing out at a sixteen-knot speed
towards the open sea under full command of the raiders. Then from
behind them came the roar of an explosion and a spurt of dazzling
light, and the men shuddered to think of what they had so narrowly
missed. And as it was, some smelling fragments of the old guano barque
lit upon the after deck, as they fell headlong from the dark sky

 Donna Clotilde went on to the upper bridge, and took Captain Kettle
by the hand.

 "My friend," she said, "I shall never forget this." And she looked at
him with eyes that spoke of more than admiration for his success.

 "I am earning my pay," said Kettle.

 "Pah!" she said, "don't let money come between us. I cannot bear to
think of you in connection with sordid things like that. I put you on
a higher plane. Captain," she said, and turned her head away, "I shall
choose a man like you for my husband."

 "Heaven mend your taste, Miss," said Kettle; "but--there may be
others like me."

 "There are not."

 "Then you must be content with the nearest you can get."

 Donna Clotilde stamped her foot upon the planking of the bridge.

 "You are dull," she cried.

 "No," he said, "I have got clear sight, Miss. Won't you go below now
and get a spell of sleep? Or will you give me your orders first?"

 "No," she answered, "I will not. We must settle this matter first.
You have a wife in England, I know, but that is nothing. Divorce is
simple here. I have influence with the Church; you could be set free
in a day. Am I not the woman you would choose?"

 "Miss La Touche, you are my employer."

 "Answer my question."

 "Then, Miss, if you will have it, you are not."

 "But why? Why? Give me your reasons? You are brave. Surely I have
shown courage too? Surely you must admire that?"

 "I like men for men's work, Miss."

 "But that is an exploded notion. Women have got to take their place.
They must show themselves the equals of men in everything."

 "But you see, Miss," said Kettle, "I prefer to be linked to a lady
who is my superior--as I am linked at present. If it pleases you, we
had better end this talk."

 "No," said Donna Clotilde, "it has got to be settled one way or the
other. You know what I want. Marry me as soon as you are set free, and
there shall be no end of your power. I will make you rich; I will make
you famous. Chili shall be at our feet; the world shall bow to us."

 "It could be done," said Kettle with a sigh.

 "Then marry me."

 "With due respect, I will not," said the little man.

 "You know you are speaking to a woman who is not accustomed to be

 Captain Kettle bowed.

 "Then you will either do as I wish, or leave this ship. I give you an
hour to consider it in."

 "You will find my second mate the best navigating officer left," said
Kettle, and Donna Clotilde, without further words, left the bridge.

 The little shipmaster waited for a decent interval, and then sighed,
and gave orders. The men on deck obeyed him with quickness. A pair of
boat davits were swung out-board, and the boat plentifully victualled
and its water-breakers filled. The Cancelario's engines were stopped,
and the tackles screamed as the boat was lowered to the water, and
rode there at the end of its painter. Captain Kettle left the bridge
in charge of his first officer, and went below. He found the lady
sitting in the commander's cabin, with head pillowed upon her arms.

 "You still wish me to go, Miss?" he said.

 "If you will not accept what is offered."

 "I am sorry," said the little sailor, "very sorry. If I'd met you,
Miss, before I saw Mrs. Kettle, and if you'd been a bit different, I
believe I could have liked you. But as it is--"

 She leapt to her feet, with eyes that blazed.

 "Go!" she cried. "Go, or I will call upon some of those fellows to
shoot you."

 "They will do it cheerfully, if you ask them," said Kettle, and did
not budge.

 She sank down on the sofa again with a wail.

 "Oh, go," she cried. "If you are a man, go, and never let me see you

 Captain Kettle bowed, and went on deck.

 A little later he was alone in the quarter-boat. The Cancelario was
drawing fast away from him into the night, and the boat danced in the
cream of her wake.

 "Ah, well," he said to himself, "there's another good chance gone for
good and always. What a cantankerous beggar I am." And then for a
moment his thoughts went elsewhere, and he got out paper and a stump
of pencil, and busily scribbled an elegy to some poppies in a
cornfield. The lines had just flitted gracefully across his mind, and
they seemed far too comely to be allowed a chance of escape. It was a
movement characteristic of his queerly ordered brain. After the more
ugly moments of his life, Captain Owen Kettle always turned to the
making of verse as an instinctive relief.


EVEN before he left Jeddah, Captain Kettle was quite aware that by
shipping pilgrims on the iron decks of the Saigon for transit across
the Red Sea, he was transgressing the laws of several nations,
especially those of Great Britain and her Dependencies. But what else
could the poor man do? Situated as he was, with such a tempting
opportunity ready to his hand, he would have been less than human if
he had neglected to take the bargain which was offered. And though the
list of things that has been said against Captain Owen Kettle is both
black and long, I am not aware that any one has yet alleged that the
little sailor was anything more or less than human in all his many

  Cortolvin came to the chart-house and put this matter of illegality
to him in plain words when the engines chose to break down two days
out of Jeddah, and the Saigon lolled helpless in the blazing Red Sea

  Cortolvin up to that time had not made himself remarked. He had
marched on board from the new Jeddah quay where the railway is, and
posed as an Arab of the Sahara who was glorying in the newly-acquired
green turban of a Hadji; he was nicked on the mate's tally as a
"nigger," along with some three hundred and forty other dark-skinned
followers of the Prophet; and he had spent those two days upon an
orthodox square of ragged carpet, spread on the rusted iron plating of
the lower fore deck.

  When the pilgrims had mustered for victualling, he had filed in with
the rest, and held out a brass lotah for his ration of water, and a
tattered square of canvas for his dole of steamed rice. You could
count his ribs twenty yards away; but he'd the look of a healthy man;
and when on mornings he helped to throw overboard those of his fellow-
pilgrims who had died during the night, it was plain to see that he
was a fellow of more than ordinary muscular strength.

  He came to Captain Kettle in the chart-house to report that the
pilgrims contemplated seizing the Saigon so soon as ever the engines
were once more put in running order. "They've declared a Jehad against
you, if you know what that is," said Cortolvin.

  "A holy war, or some such skittles, isn't it?" said Kettle.

  "That's about the size of it," said the Hadji. "You'll have to look
out if you intend to remain master of this steamboat."

  "I don't require any teaching of my business from passengers," said
Captain Kettle stiffly.

  "All right," said Cortolvin, "have it your own way. But I think you
might be decently grateful. I've risked my life by coming to give you
news of what was in the wind. And you can't pretend that the
information is not useful. You've a coolie crew who will be absolutely
foolish if trouble comes--these Lascars always are that way. You've
just your two white engineers and two white mates to back you up, and
the five of you wouldn't have a show. You've three hundred and forty
fanatics to deal with, who are all fighting bred, and fighting fit.
They're all well armed, and they wouldn't a bit object to die
scrimmaging in such a cause.

  "You know it's part of their creed that if they peg out whilst
fighting giaours, they go slick to paradise by lightning express. That
wily old camel-driver of Mecca painted his heaven as just the sort of
dandy place to suit this kind of cattle, and as most of them have a
beast of a time on this earth, they're anxious to move along upstairs
whenever a decent opportunity offers to get there."

  "They'll be an ugly crowd to tackle: I grant that."

  "They are so, and don't you forget it. I might point out, Captain,
that, personally speaking, I'd have been a lot safer if I'd stayed
down on the lower foredeck yonder, and held my tongue. They'd have got
you to an absolute certainty if they'd ambushed you as was intended,
and I could have kept out of the actual throat-cutting and preserved a
sound skin. They've all got profound respect for me; I'm a very holy

  "And as it is?"

  Hadji Cortolvin shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, I chip in with you."

  "Will you tell me why?"

  "Cousinship of the skin, I suppose. You're white by birth, and I
believe I should turn out to be white also if I kept out of the sun
for awhile, and had several Turkish baths. Of course I've a snuff-
coloured hide on me now, and during this last two years I've been
living with men of colour, and following their ways, and thinking
their thoughts. Funny, isn't it? I come across you; I don't know you
from Adam; I can't say I particularly like what I've seen of you; and
yet here am I, rounding on my former mates, and chipping in with you,
on the clear knowledge that I shall probably get killed during the
next few hours for my pains."

  "May I ask your name?" said Kettle. "I believe, sir," he added with
a bow, "that you are a gentleman."

  The Hadji laughed. "So far as I recollect, I was that once, Captain.
Sorry I haven't a card on me, but my name's W.H. Cortolvin, and I
lived near Richmond in Yorkshire before I was idiot enough to go
wandering off the Cook's tourist routes into the middle of Arabia."

  "I'm Welsh myself," said Kettle, "but I've known men from Yorkshire.
Shake hands, sir, please. Will you have a whisky peg?"

  "Pour it out, Captain. I haven't tasted a Christian drink for thirty
weary months. And you've got a chattie hung up in the draught of a
port! Cool water, ye gods! Bismillah! But it is good to be alive

  Captain Kettle looked with distaste at the Hadji's attire.

  "Won't you sling that filthy nightgown thing of yours overboard," he
asked, "and have a wash? I can rig you out with some pyjamas from the
slop chest."

  But Cortolvin would not change his dirt and squalor just then. He
had worn it too long to be affected by it; "and," said he, "I don't
want to advertise the fact that I'm an Englishman just at present. If
my dear friends down yonder on the lower deck knew it, they'd not wait
for the engines to be repaired. They'd fizzle up just like gunpowder
there and then, and the whole lot of us white men would be pulled into
tassels before we'd time to think."

  "I don't know about that," said Kettle. "I've faced some of the
ugliest crowds that have floated on the seas before this, and they
thought they were going to have it all their own way; but they found
that when it came to shooting, that I could keep my end up very

  He waved his guest to a deck chair, placed a box of cheroots
hospitably open on the chart-table, and then he went outside the
chart--house, and leant over the bridge-deck rail. The awning above
him threw a clean-cut shade which swung to and fro as the Saigon
rolled over the faint oily swell; and outside its shelter the sun's
rays fell like molten brass, and the metal-work was hot enough to
raise a blister. The air was motionless and stagnant, and greasy with
the smell of humanity. The whole fabric of the steamer shimmered in
the dancing heat.

  For the dense mass of pilgrims below, the situation approached the
intolerable. Left to itself, the rusted iron deck beneath their bare
skins would have grown hot enough to char them. Nothing but a constant
sluicing with water made it in any way to be endured. And as the water
from alongside came up to them as warm as tea, it did but little to

  The African can withstand most temperatures which are thrown from
above on to the face of this planet, but even the African can at times
die from heat as glibly as his betters. Even as Kettle watched, one of
the pilgrims, a grizzled headed Hafisa from the Western Soudan, was
contorted with heat apoplexy; breathed stertorously for a minute or
so; and then lay still, and immediately became a prey to flies
innumerable. Two of his nearest comrades bestirred themselves to look
at him, pronounced that life was extinct, stood up, and with an effort
carried the body out of the press, and heaved it over the hot iron
bulwark into the oily sea beneath. It is not good that the dead should
remain with the quick even for minutes in circumstances such as those.

  And whilst the bearers carried him away, an old white-haired negro
from Sokoto stood upon his feet swaying to the roll of the ship, and
faced the heat-blurred East with bowed head. Aloud he bore witness
that God was great; and that Mahomet was the Prophet of God; and that
of mortals, each man's fate was writ big upon his forehead. And then
the rest of the pilgrims bent their foreheads to the torturing deck
plates, and made profession of the faith following his words.

  Captain Kettle, from his stand against the rail of the bridge deck,
pitied the heathen, and thought with a complacent sigh of a certain
obscure chapel in South Shields; but at the same time he could not
avoid being impressed by the heathens' constancy. They might die, but
they forbore to curse God in doing it, and the omission gave him an
insight into the workings of fatalism which made him think more of
what Cortolvin had said.

  Every man amongst the pilgrims had sword or spear, or mace, or rifle
within grip of his fist; and as a fighting force--with fatalism to
back them he began to realise that they could make a very ugly company
to manoeuvre against. A regulation of the pilgrim trade requires that
all weapons shall be taken from this class of passengers during the
voyage, but Kettle had omitted to disarm them through sheer contempt
for what they could do. If they choose to fight amongst themselves,
that was their own concern; it never even occurred to him as they came
off Jeddah quay, noisy and odorous, that they would dare to contend
against his imperial will; but now he sincerely wished that the means
of serious offence were not so handy to their fingers.

  I do not say that he was afraid, for, knowing him well, I honestly
believe that the little ruffian has never yet feared man that was born
of woman; but the safety of the Saigon was a matter just then very
near to his heart, and he had forebodings as to what might happen to

  He went back again inside the chart-house, sat himself upon the
sofa, and ran a finger round inside the collar of his white drill

  "Do you like the cheroots, sir?" he said to his tattered guest

  "Nice cheroots," said Cortolvin: "wonder how many I'll smoke. Those
True Believers are a pretty tough crowd, aren't they. There's one
Soudanese fellow in a Darfur suit of mail. Did you notice him? He's
been a big war sheik in his day. He helped to smash up Hicks Pasha's
army, and commanded a thousand men at the storming of Khartoum; but he
got sick of Mahdiism about a year back, and set out to perform the
Hadji. When it comes to fighting, you'll see that man will shine."

  "He shall have my first shot," said Kettle.

  "It surprises me," said Cortolvin, "that you ever went in for this
pilgrim-carrying business at all. You must have been pretty hard
pushed, Captain."

  "Hard wasn't the word for it," said the shipmaster with a sigh. "I
met misfortune, sir, in Chili. I disagreed with my employer, who was a
lady, and went off cruising in a boat by myself. A tea steamer picked
me up and put me in Colombo. I got from there to Bombay as second mate
of a tramp, but I couldn't stand the old man's tongue, and went ashore
without my wages. I guess, sir, I'm no good except in command; I can't
take an order civilly.

  "Well, in Bombay I'd a regular nip gut time of it. I bummed round
the agent's offices till I almost blushed to look at their punkah-
coolies; but I'd no papers to show that would do me any good; and none
of them would give me a ship the size of a rice mat.

  "At last, when I was getting desperate, and pretty near put to going
to sea before the mast, a Cardiff man I once knew came to the
lodgings, and gave me a tip. He'd been master of a country steamer:
he'd been sacked (he didn't deny it) for drunkenness; he'd not drawn a
sober breath for months, and didn't see any prospect of changing his
habits; and there was the berth vacant, and I might have it for the

  "The pay wasn't much; only 100 rupees a month and percentage on
profits; and the owner was a Parsee. I'd never been low enough down to
sign on under a black man before, but I guess I was past being very
nice in my tastes just then. The owner was fat and oldish, and wore a
thing on his head like a top hat turned upside down, and I will say I
did not give him much politeness. But he knew his place; he sahib'd me
quite respectful; and he said he'd be honoured if I'd take his steamer
under my charge. 'She was all he'd got,' he said; 'he loved her like
his life, and he'd not trust her to any one except a pukka sahib.'

  "Of course he lied a good deal--all natives do that--and he fixed up
our bargain so that I'd little to win and he'd a good deal, which is
those Parsees' way. But I will say he was always most respectful, and
in the matter of victualling he really surprised me. Why, he actually
put Bass's ale on board at four annas the bottle!

  "We cleared from Bombay in corn, and cottons, and earthenware,
consigned to Jeddah, and the owner told me I'd have no trouble in
getting a cargo of dates and coffee to bring back. But the Jeddah
merchants seemed to think different. I cut down freights to near
vanishing point, but they wouldn't look at them anyhow. I couldn't get
a ton of cargo on board for any spot in the known globe--no, not if I
offered to carry it for nothing. The Saigon might have swung there at
moorings till the bottom rotted out of her; and expenses were running
up all the time.

  "The climate was sickly too; I'd lost my serang before I'd been
there a week, and two more of the coolies died in the next ten days.
So when this cargo of pilgrims offered, I tell you I just jumped at
it. Of course this old wreck was not fitted for the trade. She's
small, she's iron decks, she's only two boats, and she's not near
enough water tanks. There'd be big penalties if she was caught. But I
shipped a second rice steamer and signed that charter-party smiling.

  "It wasn't as if I'd got to go through the Ditch to one of the
Morocco ports; the pilgrims had only to be taken across to Kosseir;
and squaring an Egyptian custom officer is only a case of how much

  "You do know your trade," said Cortolvin.

  "The under side of it," said Kettle, with a sigh. "A man with luck
like mine has to. He never gets on with the decent steamboat lines,
where everything is square and above board. He can only get the little
hole and corner owners, who you've got to make dividends for somehow
and no questions asked, or else just up and take the dirty sack.

  "I'm a man," he added, with a frown, "that can do the job well, and
they know it, and keep me to it. But I despise myself all the time. It
isn't in my nature, Mr. Cortolvin. Put me ashore, give me a farm, and
let me bend yellow gaiters and a large-pattern coat, and there
wouldn't be a straighter, sweeter-natured man between here and

  The Hadji swept the perspiration from his forehead with the back of
a grimy knuckle.

  "There's no accounting for taste, Captain. I'm the owner of acres
near Richmond, and if I chose I could ride about my park, and see the
farms, and live the life of a country gentleman just in the way you
think you'd like. But I tired of it."

  "Perhaps you have no wife, sir," suggested the sailor. His guest
gave a short laugh.

  "Oh, Lord, yes," he said. "I've a wife."

  He paused a minute, and then threw his half-smoked cheroot savagely
out into the sunshine.

  "You can take it from me that I have a wife, Captain. But--well, you
see, I've always been an Arabic scholar, and I thought I'd come out to
the Hedjaz to study dialects for a year or so. It would be a pleasant
change after the milk and honey of a country life. I don't seem to
have got killed, and I think I've liked it on the whole. It's been
exciting, and I know more about bastard Arabic than any European
living now that poor Palmer's dead, if that's any satisfaction. If I
chose to go home now, I could pose as no end of a big boss in that
line. The only thing is, I can't quite make my mind up whether to risk
it. By God, yes," he added, with a stare out into the baking sunshine
beyond the doorway; "oh, yes, I've a wife."

  Captain Kettle did not quite follow all this, so he said politely
and vaguely: "Well, of course, you know your own affairs best, sir."
Then he took a long and steady look at his guest. "You'll excuse me,
sir, but your name seems familiar. I wonder if you'd got that beard
and some of your hair off whether I should recognise you."

  "I fancy not."

  "Cortolvin," the little man mused. "I'm sure I've seen that name
before somewhere."

  The Hadji laughed. "I am afraid that neither I nor any of my people
have been celebrated enough to have come into public notice, skipper;
but we had a namesake some years back who was famous. A horse named
Cortolvin won the Grand National in '67. That's what you'll have got
in your mind."

  Captain Kettle stiffened. "I beg your pardon, sir," he said, with
acid politeness, "but I don't see you've earned a right to insult me.
When I am at sea I am what circumstances make me. When I am ashore in
England, I would have you know I am a different person. I am a regular
attender at chapel, and a man who (outside business matters) tries to
keep entirely straight. In England, sir, I take an interest in neither
pocket-picking, horse-racing, nor sacrilege; and I have it on the word
of a minister I sit under that there is very little to choose between
the three."

  Cortolvin faced the situation with ready tact. That this truculent
little ruffian, who could flirt with homicide without a second
thought, should so strongly resent the imputation of being interested
in a horse-race, did not surprise him much He had met others of the
breed before. And he smoothed down Captain Kettle's ruffled feelings
with the easy glibness of a man of the world. But the needs of the
moment were again recurring to him with violence, and he broke off
artistically to refer to them.

  "Don't you think," he said, "my fellow pilgrims will bear a little
attention now, skipper?"

  "I will be off and make up a bit of a surprise packet for them,"
said Kettle. "Excuse me, sir, for two minutes, whilst I go and give
instructions to my chief."

  And he swung on his pith helmet and left the charthouse.

  The sun climbed higher into the fleckless sky, and lolled above the
Saigon in insolent cruelty. The Red Sea heat grew, if anything, yet
more dreadful. The men's veins stood out in ropes upon their streaming
bodies, and it scorched them to draw in a breath. Drink, too, was
scarce. The Hedjaz is a region almost waterless; the desert at the
back drains up all the moisture; and the Saigon had left Jeddah with
her tanks only half filled. She had to depend upon her condenser, and
this was small. And in the tropics, condenser-water must be dealt out
in a sparing ration, or a dozen hours may easily see a whole ship's
company down with raging dysentery.

  The Saigon carried a spar-deck amidships, and the pilgrims were
grouped in two bodies forward and aft of this, on the iron plating of
the fore and main decks. The spar-deck was officially reached from
these lower levels by a couple of slender iron ladders; but it was not
unscaleable to a fairly active climber. There was an alley-way passing
beneath the spar-deck, but this could easily be closed by the iron
doors in the two bulk-heads, which fastened inside with heavy clamping

  The chief engineer came into the chart-house, and hitched up his
grimy pyjamas, and mopped his face with a wad of cotton waste. He
looked meaningly at the whisky-bottle, but Kettle ignored his glance.

  "Well, Mr. McTodd?" said he.

  "I'm a' ready for the pagans, sir, when ye're willing to gi' the

  "What are your engines like now?"

  "A wee bittee less fit for the scrap-heap than they were a dozen
hours back, but no' very much to boast of." Mr. McTodd spat out into
the sunshine. "They're the rottenist engines ever I fingered," said
he, "and that's what I think of them. A man ought to have double my
pay to be near them. They're just heartbreaking."

  "You knew she wasn't the P. and O. when you signed on."

  "We're neither of us here, Captain Kettle, because we were offered
fatter berths."

  Kettle frowned. "I'll trouble you, Mr. McTodd, to attend to the
matter in hand. You have those steam-pipes ranged?"

  "Both forrard and aft."

  "Commanding both ladders?"

  "Just like that."

  "And you've plenty of steam?"

  "Ye can hear it burring through the escape this minute if ye'll use
your ears. It's been vera exhausting work toiling down yonder in that
a'ful heat."

  "Well, Mr. Cortolvin here assures me that the niggers will begin to
play up the minute we get under weigh, so you see we know where we
are, and must be ready for them. I shall want you and the second
engineer on deck, of course, so you must arrange for one of your crew
to run the engines till we've got the business settled."

  "I've a greaser down yonder who can open the throttle," said McTodd
gloomily; "but he's got no notion of nursing sick engines like these,
and as like as not he'll drive them off their bed-plates in a score of
revolutions. Ye'd better let me keep the engine-room myself, Captain.
I'm a sick man, and I'm no fit for fighting with my throat as dry as
it is now."

  Captain Kettle poured out a liberal two fingers of whisky and handed
it across. "Now, Mac," said he, "wet your neck, and let's have no more
of this nonsense. You'll have to fight for your life inside ten
minutes, and you'll do it better sober."

  The engineer eyed the whisky and poured it slowly down its appointed

  "Mon," he said, "ye've an a'ful poor opinion o' my capaacity. I'll
just be off and give yon coolie greaser some instructions, and get my
side-arms, and be with you again in forty clock-ticks."

  "I pity the nigger that comes to hand grips with McTodd," said
Kettle, when the grimy man in the grey pyjamas had left the chart-
house. "He's an ugly beggar to handle when he's sober as he is now.
We'll get ready now, sir, if you please. You go to the after end of
the bridge deck with McTodd and the second mate, and I'll look after
the forrard end with the old mate and the second engineer. When they
try to rush the ladder, McTodd will give them the steam, and they'll
never be able to face it. All you and the second mate have to do is to
see they don't climb up over the rail."

  "I wish it could be avoided," said Cortolvin sadly. "That high
pressure steam will scald some of them horribly."

  "It will do more than that," said Kettle. "It will strip the meat
clean off their bones."

  "I have lived amongst those men or their sort for two solid years,
and many of them have shown me kindnesses."

  "You should have thought of that, sir, before you came to me here in
the chart-house."

  "I did think of it; but I couldn't be a renegade to my colour; and
so I came. But, Captain, will you let me speak to them? Will you let
me tell them that their scheme is known and prepared for? Will you let
me explain to them what they will have to face if they start an

  Captain Kettle frowned. "You will understand that I am not
frightened of the beasts?" he said.

  "I quite know that," said Cortolvin, "and I am sorry to spoil a
fight. But it is their lives I am begging for."

  "Very well," said Kettle, "you can fire away. I don't speak their
bat, and it's as well they should know from some one what they have to
look forward to. Here's a life-preserver which you may find useful.
It's the only weapon I have to offer you. My own pistol is the only
gun we have in the ship."

  The pair of them went outside the chart-house and walked to the head
of the forward ladder. A newly-fitted steam-pipe, with the joints all
greasy with white lead, lay on the deck planks, and the second
engineer stood beside it with thumbs in his waist-strap On the deck
below, the pilgrims no longer squatted on their carpets, but stood
together in knots, and talked excitedly. Cortolvin clapped his hands,
and the sea of savage faces turned towards him.

  There were representatives in that mob from half the Mahommedan
peoples of Northern Africa. There were lean Arab camel-breeders of the
desert, jet-black farmers from the Great Lakes and the Upper Nile,
Hasas from the Western Soudan, limp Fellaheen from Lower Egypt, an
Egba who had served in the British Police Force at Lagos, merchants
from the back of the Barbary States, workers in metal from Sokoto, and
weavers from Timbukhtu.

  They were not all holders of the title of Hadji; for though by
Mahommedan law every male must make the Mecca pilgrimage at least once
in a lifetime, unless debarred by poverty or lameness, the journey may
be done by deputy. And these deputies, fierce, truculent ruffians, who
had lived their lives amongst incessant wars and travel, were perhaps
the most dangerous of all the lot.

  The black men listened to their late associate with a momentary hush
of surprise. He spoke to them in fluent Arabic. He did not appeal to
their better feelings; he knew his audience. He said it was written
that if they tried this thing, if they attempted to capture the
steamer, they should surely fail; that all things were prepared to
give them battle; and that a horrible death awaited those who
persisted in their design.

  And then he tried to point out the nature of the Saigon's defences,
but there he failed. It is ill work to explain the properties of high
pressure steam to savages. A murmur rose amongst them; which grew.
They let out their voices, and roared defiance. And then the great
black mass of them rushed for the iron ladder.

  Captain Kettle clapped a whistle to his lips and blew it shrilly.

  "Now then, Mr. Cortolvin," he cried, "away with you aft to help
McTodd. These cattle here want something more than talk, and I'm going
to give it them."

  In answer to his whistle, steam had been turned on from below. The
second engineer unhitched his thumbs from his waist-belt, took a lump
of waste in each grimy hand, and lifted the iron pipe. It was well
jointed, and moved easily, and he turned the nozzle of it to sweep the
ladder. In that baking air, the steam did not condense readily; it
travelled three yards from the nozzle of the pipe before it became
even thinly visible; and it impinged upon the black naked bodies, and
burned horribly without being seen.

  At first they did not flinch. With a dreadful valour they faced the
torment, and fought with each other to be first upon the rungs, and
then when those in front would have held back, the mob behind pressed
them irresistibly onwards. In a moment or so the first rank began to
go down before that withering blast, and then others trod on them and
fell also, till the hill of writhing black humanity grew to half the
height of the iron ladder. And in the meantime others of the pilgrims
were trying to storm the bridge deck at other points; but on the port
side, the gray-headed old mate fighting baresark with an axe, and to
starboard, Captain Kettle, with pistol and knuckle-duster, battled
like wild cats to keep the sacred planking inviolate.

  What was going on at the after end of the Saigon, they could not
tell. From behind them came the roar of the fighting Hasa, and the
savage war-cries of the desert, just as they rose up from before their
faces. But in its first flush, the fight was too close for any man's
thoughts to wander from his own immediate adversaries.

  It seemed, however, that the battle was over first in the after part
of the steamer, and whether this was because the attack there was less
heartful, or because Mr. McTodd's artillery was more terrible cannot
now be known. The question was debated much afterwards without coming
to a decision. But, anyway, by the time Captain Kettle's adversaries
had ceased to rage against him, Cortolvin was free to come and stand
by his side as interpreter.

  The wounded lay sprawling and writhing about the iron decks; below
them the survivors--and scarcely one of these was without his scald--
huddled against the doors of the forecastle; and the grimy second
engineer held the belching steam pipe upwards, so that a grey pall
hung between the Saigon and the sun.

  "Now, sir," said Kettle, "kindly translate for me. Tell those
animals to chuck all their hardware over the side, or I'll cook the
whole lot of them like so many sausages."

  Cortolvin lifted up his voice in sonorous Arabic.

  "It was written," he cried, "that the giaour should prevail. It is
written also that those amongst you having wit shall cast your weapons
into the sea. It is written, moreover, that those others of you who do
not on this instant disarm, shall taste again the scorching breath of

  A stream of weapons leapt up through the air and fell into the
swells alongside with tinkling splashes.

  "It would be a weariness to guard you," Cortolvin went on. "Swear by
the beard of the Prophet to make no further attempt against this ship,
or we shall gaol you fast in death."

  A forest of trembling black hands shot up before him.

  "We swear!" they cried.

  "Then it is written that you keep your vow," said Cortolvin. "God is
great! See now to your sick." He turned to Kettle and touched his
ragged turban, after the manner of an officer reporting. "The mutiny
is ended, sir," he said.

  Captain Kettle swung himself lightly on to the upper bridge and
telegraphed "Full speed ahead" to the engine; the propeller swirled in
the oily swells; and the Saigon gathered way. Sullen and trembling,
the pilgrims began to tend their hurts, and presently McTodd with a
large copper kettle in his hand descended amongst them, and
distributed oil and surgical advice.

  "There was none actually killed at my end," said Cortolvin.

  "I dropped four," said Kettle. "I had to. It was either me or them.
And my old mate axed half a dozen before they let him be. We'd a tight
time here whilst it lasted."

  "It will require a good lump of backshish to explain it all
satisfactorily at Kosseir."

  "Oh, I can't go near there now after this. No custom house for me,
sir. I shall just run in-shore a dozen miles short of it, and put the
beggars on the beach in my boats, and let them get into Kosseir as
best they can. I suppose you'll come back with me?"

  "I suppose so. Anyway, I can't go on with them. It is the first time
any of them have discovered I was not a genuine Arab."

  "I can imagine," said Kettle drily, "they'd give you a lively time,
if they had you to themselves for five minutes. The Sons of the
Prophet don't admire having Europeans messing about the Kaaba. But I
owe you something, sir, and I shall be happy to go out of my way to
serve you. I will drop you at Suakim, or at Aden, or at Perim, where I
am going to coal, whichever you please."

  "But what about yourself?"

  "Oh, I shall be all right. I am seldom in need of a nursery-maid,

  "But if this affair gets into the newspapers, inquiries will be
made, and you'll very possibly find yourself in an ugly hole."

  "It won't get into the newspapers," said Kettle thoughtfully. "The
pilgrims can't tell, my officers daren't for their own sakes, and you
leave me to see my coolies don't. Newspapers," he repeated dreamily;
"queer the hint should have come like that."

  "What hint? What are you talking about?"

  "I remembered then where I'd seen your name, sir. It was in the
Times of India's general news column."

  "What was said?"

  "Well, sir, I suppose you'd better be told. But you must hold up for
a hardish knock. Will you come into the chart house for a minute, and
have a peg?"

  "No, get along, man, get along."

  "I think it was about your wife, sir. Does she hunt?"

  "All the season."

  "Then it will be her. I remember now it said Richmond in Yorkshire,
and the name was Mrs. W.H. Cortolvin. She's broken her neck, sir."

  Cortolvin clutched at the white rail of the bridge. "My God!" he
cried, "dead! Julia dead! is that all, Captain?"

  "It was only a two-line paragraph. You'll please understand how
sorry I am to carry such sad news, Mr. Cortolvin."

  "Thanks, skipper, thanks." He turned away and walked to the end of
the bridge and stayed there for a while, leaning against an awning
stanchion, and staring at the baking levels of the Red Sea which were
slipping past the Saigon's rusty flanks. And then he came back again
and stood at Kettle's side, looking down at the Pilgrims anointing
their scalds below.

  "I've learned to be something of a fatalist, Captain," he said,
"when I was amongst these people. This is how I sum up the situation.
'It was written that my wife should die whilst I was away. It was
written also that I should live. God ordered it all. God is great.'"

  Captain Kettle gripped his hand in sympathy. "I'm sorry for you,
sir; believe me, I am truly sorry. If you think a bit of poetry about
the occasion would help you at all, just you say, and I'll do it. I'm
in the mood for poetry now. All things put together, we've been
through a pretty heavy time during these last few hours."

  "Thanks, skipper, thanks," said Cortolvin. "I know you mean well.
And now if you don't mind I'll leave you. I think I'd like to be alone
for a bit."

  "You do, sir. Go and lie down on my bunk. I'll have you a beautiful
elegy written by the time you're back on deck again. It will comfort


CORTOLVIN came out under the bridge deck awning up through the baking
heat of the companion way, and dropped listlessly into a deck chair.
He was dressed in slop chest pyjamas of a vivid pattern, and had a
newly-shaven chin, which stood out refreshingly white against the rest
of his sun-darkened countenance.

  "Well," said Captain Kettle, as he shoved across the box of
cheroots, "are we any nearer getting under way?"

  "I looked in at the engine room as I came past," said the tall man
with a laugh, "and the chief had a good deal to say. I gathered it was
his idea that the fellow who last had charge of those engines ought to
die a cruel and lingering death."

  "It's a sore point with McTodd when she breaks down. But did he say
how long it would be before he could give her steam again? I'm a bit
anxious. The glass is tumbling hand over fist; and what with that, and
this heat, there's small doubt but what we'll have a tornado
clattering about our ears directly. There's the shore close aboard, as
you can see for yourself, and if the wind comes away anywhere from the
east'ard, it'll blow this old steamboat half way into the middle of
Africa before we can look round us. It's a bad season just now for

  The clattering of iron boot-plates made itself heard on the brass-
bound steps of the companion way. "That'll be the chief coming to
answer for himself," said Cortolvin.

  Mr. Neil Angus McTodd always advertised his calling in the attire of
his outward man, and the eye of an expert could tell with sureness at
any given moment whether Mr. McTodd was in employment or not, and, if
so, what type of steamboat he was on, what was his official position,
what was his pay and what was the last bit of work on which he had
been employed.

  The present was the fourth occasion on which the Saigon's machinery
had chosen to break down during Captain Kettle's two months of
command, and after his herculean efforts in making repairs with
insufficient staff and materials, Mr. McTodd was unpleasant both to
look upon and associate with. He was attired in moist black boots,
grey flannel pyjama trousers stuffed into his socks, a weird garment
of flannel upon his upper man, a clout round his neck, and a peaked
cap upon his grizzled red hair, anointed with years of spraying oil.
His elbows and his forehead shone like dull mirrors of steel, and he
carried one of his thumbs wrapped up in a grimy, crimson rug. His
conversation was full of unnecessary adjectives, and he was inclined
to take a cantankerous view of the universe.

  "They'd disgrace the scrap-heap of any decent yard, would the things
they miscall engines on this rotten tub," said he, by way of preface.

  "They are holy engines, and that's a fact," said Kettle. "How long
can you guarantee them for this time?"

  The engineer mopped his neck with a wad of cotton waste. "Ten
revolutions, if you wish me to be certain. It's a verra dry ship,

  "And how many more? We shall want them. There's a tornado coming

  "I'm no' anxious to perjure mysel', Captain, but they might run on
for a full minute, or they might run on for a day. There's a
capreciousness about the rattle-traps that might amuse some people,
but it does not appeal to me. I'm in fear of my life every minute I
stand on the foot-plates."

  "I'd not have taken you for a frightened man."

  "I'm no' that as a usual thing, but the temperature of yon engine-
room varies between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and thirty of
the Fahrenheit scale, and it's destroying to the nerves. All the
aqueous vapour leaves the system, and I'm verra badly in need of a
tonic. Is yon whusky in the black bottle, Captain?"

  "Take a peg, Mac."

  "I'll just have a sma' three fingers now ye mention it." He laid the
thickest part of his knotty knuckles against the side of the tumbler,
and poured out some half a gill of spirit. "Weel," said he, "may we
get as good whusky where we are going to," and enveloped the dose with
a dextrous turn of the wrist. After which ambiguous toast, he wiped
his lips with the cotton waste, and took himself off again to the
baking regions below; and presently a dull rumbling, and a tremor of
her fabric, announced that the Saigon was once more under way.

  The little steamer had coaled at Perim Island, in the southern mouth
of the Red Sea, had come out into the Indian Ocean through the Straits
of Bah-el-Mandeb, had rounded Cape Guardafui, and was on her way down
to Zanzibar in response to the cabled orders of her Parsee owner in
Bombay. Cortolvin was still on board as passenger. His excuse was that
he wanted to inspect the Island and City of Zanzibar before returning
to England and respectability; his real reason was that he had taken a
fancy to the little ruffian of a slipper, and wished to see more of

  "Cheerful toast, that of McTodd's," said Cortolvin.

  "Those engines are enough to discourage any man," said Kettle, "and
the heat down there would sour the temper of an archangel."

  Cortolvin loosened a couple more buttons of his pyjamas, and bared
his chest. "It's hard to breathe even here, and I thought I'd learnt
what heat was out in those Arabian deserts. There's a tornado coming
on, that's certain."

  "It will clear the air," said Kettle. "But it will be a sneezer when
we get it. Mr. Murgatroyd!" he called.

  The old, grizzled-headed mate thrust down a purple face from the
head of the upper bridge ladder--"Ay, aye?"

  "Get all the awnings off her," the shipmaster ordered; "put extra
grips on the boats, and see everything lashed fast that a steam crane
could move. We're in for a bad breeze directly."

  "Ay, aye," mumbled the mate, and clapped a leaden whistle to his
mouth, and blew it shrilly. A minute later he reported; "A big steamer
lying-to just a point or two off the starboard bow, Captain. I haven't
seen her before because of the haze." He examined her carefully
through the bridge binoculars, and gave his observations with heavy
deliberation. "She's square-rigged forrard, and has a black funnel
with a red band--no, two red bands. Seems to me like one of the German
mail boats, and I should say she was broke down."

  Captain Kettle rose springily from his deck chair, and swung himself
on to the upper bridge. Cortolvin followed.

  A mist of heat shut the sea into a narrow ring. Overhead was a
heavy, purply darkness, impenetrable as a ceiling of brick. The only
light that crept in came from the mysterious unseen plain of the
horizon. From every point of the compass uneasy thunder gave forth now
and then a stifled bellow; and, though the lightning splashes never
showed, sudden thinnings of the gloom would hint at their nearness.
The air shimmered and danced with the baking heat, and, though lurid
greys and pinks predominated, the glow which filled it was constantly
changing in hue.

  The scene was terrifying, but Kettle regarded it with a satisfied
smile. The one commercial prayer of the shipmaster is to meet with a
passenger steamer at sea, broken down, and requiring a tow, and here
was one of the plums of the ocean ready to his hand and anxious to be
plucked. The worse the weather, the greater would be the salvage, and
Captain Kettle could have hugged himself with joy when he thought of
the tropical hurricane's nearness.

  He had changed the Saigon's course the instant he came on the
bridge, and had pulled the syren string and hooted cheerfully into the
throbbing air to announce his coming. The spectral steamer grew every
moment more clear, and presently a string of barbaric colours jerked
up to the wire span between her masts. There was no breath of wind to
make the flags blow out; they hung in dejected cowls, but to Kettle
they read like the page of an open book.

  "Urgent signal H.B.!" he cried, and clapped the binoculars back in
the box, and snapped down the lid. "H.B., Mr. Cortolvin, and don't you
forget having seen it. 'Want immediate assistance,' that means."

  "You seem to know it by heart," said Cortolvin.

  "There's not a steamboat officer on all the seas that doesn't. When
things are down with us, we take out the signal book, and hunt up H.B.
amongst the urgent signals, and tell ourselves that some day we may
come across a Cunarder with a broken tail-shaft, and be able to give
up the sea and be living politely on 200 a year well invested, within
the fortnight. It's the steamboat officer's dream, sir, but there's
few of us it ever comes true for."

  "Skipper," said Cortolvin, "I needn't tell you how pleased I'll be
if you come into a competence over this business. In the meanwhile if
there's anything I can do, from coal-trimming upwards, I'm your most
obedient servant."

  "I thank you, sir," said Kettle. "And if you'd go and carry the news
to the chief, I'll be obliged. I know he'll say his engines can't hold
out. Tell him they must. Tell him to use up anything he has sooner
than get another breakdown. Tell him to rip up his soul for struts and
backstays if he thinks it'll keep them running. It's the one chance of
my life, Mr. Cortolvin, and the one chance of his, and he's got to
know it, and see we aren't robbed of what is put before us. Show him
where the siller comes in, sir, and then stand by, and you'll see Mr.
McTodd work miracles."

  Cortolvin went below, and Kettle turned to the old mate. "Mr.
Murgatroyd," said he, "get a dozen hands to rouse up that new manilla
out of the store. I take you from the foredeck, and give you the
afterdeck to yourself. I'll have to bargain with that fellow over
there before we do anything, and there'll be little enough time left
after we've fixed upon prices. So have everything ready to begin to
tow. We'll use their wire."

  "Ay, aye," said the mate. "But it won't do to tow with wire,
Captain, through what's coming. There's no give in wire. A wire hawser
would jerk the guts out of her in fifteen minutes."

  Kettle tightened his lips. "Mr. Murgatroyd," said he, "I am not a
blame' fool. Neither do I want dictation from my officers. I told you
to rouse up the manilla. You will back the wire with a double bridle
of that."

  "Ay, aye," grunted the mate; "but what am I to make fast to? Them
bollards aft might be stepped in putty for all the use they are.
They'd not tow a rowboat through what's coming. I believe they'd draw
if they'd a fishing-line made fast to them."

  "I should have thought you'd been long enough at sea to have known
your business by this time," said Kettle unpleasantly. "D'ye think
that every steamboat that trades is a bran new 'Harland and Wolff'?"

  "Well," said the mate sullenly, "I'm waiting to be taught."

  "Pass the manilla round the coaming of the after hatch, and you
won't come and tell me that's drawn while this steamboat stays on the

  "Ay, aye," said the mate, and stepped into his slippers and shuffled
away. Captain Kettle walked briskly to the centre of the upper bridge
and laid a hand on the telegraph. He gave crisp orders to the Lascar
at the wheel, and the Saigon moved in perfect obedience to his will.

  Ahead of him the great slate-coloured liner lay motionless on the
oily sea. Her rail was peopled with the anxious faces of passengers.
Busy deck-hands were stripping away the awnings. On the high upper
bridge were three officers in peaked caps and trim uniform of white
drill, talking together anxiously.

  The little Saigon curved up from astern, stopped her engines, and
then, with reversed propeller, brought up dead, so that the bridges of
the two steamers were level, and not more than twenty yards apart. It
was smartly done, and (as Kettle had intended) the Germans noticed it,
and commented. Then began the barter of words.

  "Howdy, Captain," said Kettle, "I hope it's not a funeral you've
brought up for? This heat's been very great. Has it knocked over one
of your passengers?"

  A large-bearded man made reply: "We haf seen a slight mishap mit der
machinery, Captain. My ingeneers will mend."

  "Oh, that's all right. Thought it might be worse. Well, I wish you
luck, Captain. But I'd hurry and get steam on her again if I were you.
The breeze may come away any minute now, and you've the shore close
aboard, and you'll be on it if you don't get your steamboat under
command again by then, and have a big loss of life. If you get on the
beach it'll surprise me if you don't drown all hands."

  Captain Kettle put a hand on the telegraph as though to ring on his
engines again, but the bearded German, after a preliminary stamp of
passion, held up his hand for further parley. But for the moment the
opportunity of speech was taken from him. The passengers were either
English, or for the most part understood that tongue when spoken; and
they had drunk in every word that was said, as Kettle had intended;
and now they surged in a writhing, yelling mob at the foot of the two
bridge ladders, and demanded that assistance should be hired, let that
cost what it might.

  There was no making a hail carry above that frightened uproar, and
the German shipmaster raved, and explained, and reasoned for full a
dozen moments before he quelled it. Then, panting, he came once more
to the end of his; bridge, and addressed the other steamer.

  "Dose bassengers vas nervous," said he, "because dey thought dere
might come some leetle rain squall; so I ask you how mooch vould you
take my rope und tow me to Aden or Perim?"

  "Phew!" said Kettle "Aden! That's wrong way for me, Captain. Red
Sea's where I've come from, and my owner cabled me to hurry and get to

  "Vell, how mooch?"

  "We'll say 100,000 as your passengers seem so anxious."

  "Hondred tousand teufeuls? Herr Gott, I haf not Rhodes on der

  "Well, Captain take the offer or leave it. I'm not a tow-boot, and
I'm in a hurry to make my passage. If you keep me waiting here five
minutes longer, it will cost you 120,000 to be plucked in anywhere."

  The shipmaster on the other bridge went into a frenzy of
expostulation; he appealed to all Captain Kettle's better feelings; he
dared him to do his worst; he prayed him to do his best. But Kettle
gazed upon the man's gesticulating arms, and listened to his frantic
oratory unmoved. He lit a cheroot, and leant his elbows on the white
railing of the bridge, and did not reply by so much as a single word.

  When the other halted through breathlessness, even then he did not
speak. He waved his hand towards the fearsome heavens with their lurid
lights, and pointed to the bumping thunder, which made both steamers
vaguely tremble, and he let those argue for him. The clamour of the
passengers rose again in the breathless, baking air, and the Captain
of the liner had to yield. He threw up his arms in token of surrender,
and a hush fell upon the scene like the silence of death.

  "My gompany shall pay you hondred tousand pound, Captain, und--you
haf der satisfaction dot you make me ruined man."

  "I have been ruined myself," said Kettle, "heaps of times, and my
turn for the other thing seems to be come now. I'll run down closer to
you, Captain, or do you bid your hands heave me a line from the
fo'c's'le head as I come past. You've cut it pretty fine. You've no
time left to get a boat in the water. The wind may come away any
moment now."

  Captain Kettle was changing into another man. All the insouciance
had gone from him. He gave his orders with crispness and decision, and
the mates and the Lascars jumped to obey them. The horrible danger
that was to come lay as an open advertisement, and they knew that
their only way to pass safely through it--and even then the chances
were slim--was to obey the man who commanded them to the uttermost

  The connection between the steamers had been made, the shaky steel-
wire hawser had been hauled in through a stern fair-lead by the
Saigon's winch, and the old mate stood ready with the shackle which
would link it on to the manilla.

  The heavens yielded up an overture like the echo of a Titan's groan.
"Hurry there, you slow-footed dogs!" came Kettle's voice from the

  The Lascars brought up the eye of the hawser, and Murgatroyd
threaded it on the pin of the shackle. Then he cried "All fast," and
picked up a spike, and screwed home the pin in its socket. Already the
engines were on the move again, and the Saigon was steaming ahead on
the tow-line. It was a time for hurry.

  The air thickened and grew for the moment if anything more hot, and
the tornado raced down upon them as a black wall stretching far across
the sea, with the white water gleaming and churning at its foot. It
hit the steamers like a solid avalanche, and the spindrift in it cut
the faces of the men who tried to withstand it, as though whips had
lashed them.

  The coolie quartermaster clung on to the Saigon's wheel-spokes, a
mere wisp of limp humanity, incapable of steering or of doing anything
else that required a modicum of rational thought. The little steamer
fell away before the blast like a shaving in a dry street; the tonnage
of the tornado heeled her till her lee scuppers spouted green water
in-board; and she might well have been overturned at the very outset.
But Kettle beat the helpless Lascar from his hold; and spoked the
wheel hard up, and the engines, working strongly, brought her round
again in a wallowing circle to face the torrent of hurricane.

  She took five minutes to make that recovery, and when she was
steaming on again, head to the thunderous gusts, the tale of what she
had endured was written in easy lettering. On both fore and main
decks, the bulwarks were gone level with the covering boards; the
raffle of crates, harness casks, gang planks, and so on, that a small
trader carries in view to the sky, had departed beyond the ken of man;
and, indeed, those lower decks were scoured clean to the naked rusted
iron. The port life-boat hung stove from bent davits, and three of the
coolie crew had been swept from life into the grip of the eternal sea.

  Cortolvin fought his way up on to the upper bridge step by step
against the frantic beating of the wind, and, without being bidden,
relieved at the lee spokes of the wheel. Captain Kettle nodded his
thanks. The Saigon had no steam steering-gear, and in some of the
heavier squalls the wheel threatened to take charge, and pitch the
little shipmaster clean over the spokes.

  Amid the bellowing roar of the tornado, speech, of course, was
impossible, and vision, too, was limited. No human eye could look into
the wind, and even to let it strike the face was a torture. The sea
did not get up. The crest of any wave which tried to rise was cut off
remorselessly by the knives of the hurricane, and spread as a stinging
mist throughout the wind. It was hard indeed to tell where ocean
ceased and air began. The whole sea was spread in a blurr of white and

  The big helpless liner astern plucked savagely at the Saigon's tail,
and the pair of them were moving coastwards with speed. Left to
herself, and steaming full speed into the gale, the little Saigon
would have been able to maintain her position, neither losing ground
nor gaining any. With the heavy tow in charge, she was being driven
towards the roaring surf of the African beach with perilous speed.

  It was possible to see dimly down the wind, and when Cortolvin
turned his face away from the stinging blast of the tornado, he could
understand with clearness their exact position. Close astern was the
plunging German liner, with her decks stripped and deserted, and only
the bridge officers exposed. Beyond was cotton-white sea; and beyond
again were great leaping fountains of whiteness where the tortured
ocean roared against the yellow beach.

  Thirty minutes passed, each second of them brimmed with frenzied
struggle for both man and machinery. The tornado raged, and boomed,
and roared, and the backward drift was a thing which could be measured
with the eye.

  Then the old mate heaved himself up the bridge ladder by laborious
inches. His clothes were whipping from him in tattered ribbons; his
hat was gone; and the grizzled hair stood out from the back of his
head like the bristles of a broom. He clawed his way along the rail,
and put his great red face close to Kettle's ear. "We can't hold her,"
he roared. "She is taking us ashore. We shall be there in a dozen
minutes, and then it will be 'Jones' for the lot of us."

  Captain Kettle glared, but made no articulate reply. If he could
have spared a hand from the wheel-spokes, it is probable that Mr.
Murgatroyd would have felt the weight of it.

  The old fellow bawled at him again. "The hands know it as well as
me, and they say they're not going to be drowned for anybody. They say
they're going to cast off the hawser."

  This time Captain Kettle yelled back a reply. "You thing!" he cried.
"You putty man, get back to your post! If you want to live, keep those
niggers' fingers off the shackle. By James, if that tow is cast off
I'll turn the Saigon for the beach, and drown the whole crew of you
inside three minutes. By James! yes, and you know me, and you know
I'll do it too. You ham-faced jelly-fish, away aft with you, and save
your blooming life!"

  The man winced under the little Captain's tongue, and went away, and
Captain Kettle looked across the wheel at his assistant.

  Cortolvin shrugged his shoulders, and glanced backward at the beach,
and nodded. Kettle leant across and shouted:

  "I know it, sir, as well as you do. I know it as well as they do.
But I've got a fortune in tow yonder, and I'd rather die than set it
adrift. It isn't one fortune either; it's a dozen fortunes, and I have
just got to grab one of them. I'm a married man, sir, with a family,
and I've known what it wa to watch and see 'em hungry. You'll stand by
me, Mr. Cortolvin?"

  "It seems I promised. You know I've been long enough with
Mohammedans, skipper, to be somewhat a fatalist. So I say: 'God is
great! And our fates are written on our foreheads, and no man can
change by an inch the path which is foreordained he should tread.' But
they are queer fates some of them. I went away from England because of
my wife; I step out of the middle of Arabia, and stumble across you,
and hear that he is dead, I look forward to going home and living a
peaceful country life; and now it appears I'm to be drowned obscurely,
out of the touch of newspapers. However, I'll be consistent. I won't
grumble, and you may hear me say it aloud: 'La Allah illah Allah!'"

  Captain Kettle made no reply. Through the infernal uproar of the
tornado he did not hear much of what was said, and part of what did
reach his ears was beyond his comprehension. Besides, his mind was not
unnaturally occupied with more selfish considerations.

  Astern of him, in the German liner, were some thousand passengers,
who were all assets for salvage. The detail of human life did not
enter much into his calculations. He had been brought up in a school
where life is cheap, and not so pleasant and savoury a thing that it
is set much store on. The passengers were part of the ship, just as
much as were her engines, and the bullion which he hoped she carried.

  The company which owned her was responsible for all; their credit
would be damaged if all or a part of her was lost, and he, Owen
Kettle, would reap a proportionate reward if he could drag her into
any civilised port. And when he thought of the roaring beach so
terribly close astern, he bit his beard in an agony of apprehension
lest the fates should steal this fortune from him.

  And, meanwhile, the line of surf was growing ever nearer. So close,
indeed, were they to the hateful shore that, when for a moment the
fountains of white water subsided where the breakers raged upon the
beach, they could see dimly beyond through the sea smoke, palm trees,
and ceibas and great silk cotton woods, whipping and crashing before
the insane blast of the tornado.

  All hands on the Saigon's deck had many minutes before given
themselves up for as good as dead. Their only chance of salvation lay
in casting off the tow rope, and no one dare touch the linking
shackle. They quite knew that their savage little skipper would fulfil
his threat if they disobeyed his orders. Indeed, old purple-faced
Murgatroyd himself sat on the hatch-coaming with an opened clasp-
knife, and vowed death on any one who tampered with either shackle or
manilla. The clumsy mate had swallowed rough words once, but he
preferred drowning to living on and hearing Captain Kettle address him
as a coward.

  The shore lay steep-to, but the back-wash creamed far out into the
sea. Already the stern of the German liner was plunging in the
whitened water, and destruction seemed a question of seconds.

  Then a strange thing happened. It seemed as though the Finger of God
had touched the wind; it abated by visible graduations, and the drift
of the steamers grew more slow; it eased to a mere gale, and they held
their place on the lip of the boiling surf; and then with a gasp it
sank into quietude, and a great oily swell rose up as if by magic from
the bowels of the deep, and the little Saigon forged ahead and drew
the helpless passenger liner away from the perilous beach. Those
tropical hurricanes of the Eastern Seas progress in circles, and this
one had spurned them from its clutch, and let them float on a charmed
ring of calm.

  Cortolvin bowed over the wheel in silent thankfulness, but the
shipmaster rejoiced aloud.

  "How's that, umpire?" said he. "By James! wasn't it worth hanging on
for? I've got a wife, sir, and kids, and I'm remembering this moment
that they'll always have full bellies from now onwards, and good
clothes, and no more cheap lodgings, but a decent house semi-detached,
and money to plank down on the plate when they go to chapel on
Sundays. The skipper of that Dutchman will be ruined over this last
half-hour's job, but I can't help that. It's myself I have to think of
first; one has to in this world, or no one else will; and, Mr.
Cortolvin, I'm a made man. Thanks to McTodd---"

  From below there came a sudden whirr of machinery as though the
engines had momentarily gone mad, and then a bumping and a banging
which jarred every plate of the Saigon's fabric, and then a silence,
broken only by the thin distant scream of a hurt man. Presently the
boom of steam broke out from the escape pipe beside the funnel, and a
minute later the chief engineer made his way leisurely up on to the

  He was bleeding from a cut on the forehead and another gash showed
red amongst the grime on his stubbly cheek. He was shredding tobacco
with a clasp-knife as he walked, and seemed from his manner to be a
man quite divorced from all responsible occupations. He halted a
minute at the head of the bridge ladder, replaced a tobacco cake in
the pocket of his pyjama coat, and rolled up the shreddings in the
palms of his crackled hands. Then he filled a short briar pipe, lit
it, and surveyed the available universe.

  "Yon'll be the tornado, 'way ahead there, I'm thinking," said he.

  "Are those blame' engines broke down again?" asked Kettle sharply.

  "Aye, ye may put it they're broke down."

  "Then away with you below again, Mr. McTodd, and get them running
again. You may smoke when we bring up in Aden."

  McTodd puffed twice more at his pipe, and spat on the wheel grating.

  "By James!" said Kettle, "do you hear me?"

  "My lugs are a bit muzzy, but I can hear ye for a' that, Captain.
Only thing is, I can't do as you'd like."

  Captain Kettle stiffened ominously. "Mr. McTodd," he said, "if you
force me to take you in hand, and show you how to set about your work,
you'll regret it."

  "Man," said the engineer, "I can do some kind of impossibeelities.
Ye've seen me do them. Ye've seen me keep them palsied rattle-traps
running all through that blow. But if ye ask me to make a new
propeller out of rod iron and packing cases, I'll have to tell you
that yon kind of meeracle's beyond me."

  "My great James!" said Kettle, "you don't mean to tell me the
propeller's gone?"

  "Either that, or else all the blades have stripped off the boss. If
ye'd been below on my foot-plates, ye'd have kenned it fine. When it
went those puir engines raced like an auld cab-horse tryin' to gallop,
and they just got tied in knots, and tumbled down, and sprawled
fifteen ways at once. I was on the platform, oiling, when they jumped,
and that second of mine tried to get at the throttle to close her

  "Well, get on, man, get on."

  "Weel, he didn't, that's all; he's lying in the lowpressure crank
pit this minute, and the top of his skull'll be to seek somewhere by
the ash lift. Mon, I tell ye, yon second o' mine's an uncanny sight.
So I had to do his work for him, and then I blew off my boilers and
came up here.

  "It would have been verra comforting to my professional conscience
if I could have steamed her into Aden. But I'm no' as sorry as I might
be for what's happened. I have it in mind that yon Parsee owner of
ours in Bombay'll lose siller over this breakdown, and I want that
beggar punishing for all the work he's given me to do on a small wage.
Mr. Cortolvin, ha' ye a match?"

  A hail came from the liner astern.

  "Saigon ahoy! Keep our hawser taut."

  "You're all right for the present," Kettle shouted back.

  "Der vind might return onless you get in the middle of him."

  "Then if it does," retorted Kettle, "you'd better tell your
passengers to say their prayers You'll get no further help from me.
I'm broken down myself. Lost my propeller, if you want to know."

  "Her lieber Got!"

  "I shouldn't swear if I were you," said Kettle. "If the breeze comes
this way again, you'll be toeing the mark in the other place inside
five minutes." He turned and gave an order: "After deck, there. Mr.
Murgatroyd, you may cast off their rope; we've done towing."

  Now after this, a variety of things might have happened. Amongst
them it was quite possible that both steamers, and all in them, might
have been spewed up as battered refuse high upon the African beach.
But as Providence ordered it, the tornado circled down on them no
more; a light air came off the shore which filled their scanty canvas,
and gave them just steerage way; and they rode over the swells in
company, as dry as a pair of bridge-pontoons, and about as helpless.
All immediate danger was swept away; nothing but another steamer could
relieve them; and in the meantime it was a time for philosophy.

  Captain Kettle did not grumble; his fortune was once more adrift and
beyond his grasp; the Parsee in Bombay would for a certainty dismiss
him from employment; and Mrs. Kettle and her family must continue to
drag along on such scanty doles as he could contrive to send them. All
these were distressing thoughts, but they were things not to be
remedied; and he took down the accordion and made sweet music, which
spread far over the moving plains of ocean.

  But Mr. McTodd had visions of more immediate profit. He washed with
soap until his face was brilliant, put on a full suit of slop-chest
serge, took boat, and rowed over to the rolling German liner. It was
midnight when he returned, affluent in pocket and rather deep in
liquor. He went into the chart-house, without invitation, smiled
benignly, and took a camp-stool.

  "They thought they would get me down into the mess-room over
yonder," said he, "and I'll no' deny it was a temptation. I could ha'
telled those Dutch engineers a thing or two. But I'm a' for business
first when there is siller ahead. So I went aft to the saloon. They
were at dinner, and there were puir appetites among them. But some one
spied me standing by the door and lugged me into a seat, and gave me
meat and drink--champagne, no less!--and set me on to talk. Lord! once
I got my tongue wagging, you should have seen them. There was no more
eating done. They wanted to know how near death they'd been, and I
telled 'em; and there was the Old Man and all the beautiful brass-
edged officers at the ends of the tables fit to eat me for giving the
yarn away. But a (hic) fat lot I cared. I set on the music, and they
sent round the hat. Losh! There was twenty-four pound English when
they handed it over to me. Skipper, you should go and try it for

  "Mr. McTodd," said the little sailor, "I am not a dashed mendicant!"

  The engineer stared with a boiled eye, and swayed on his camp-stool.
He had not quite grasped the remark.

  "I'm Scotch mysel'!" exclaimed he, at length.

  "Same thing," said Kettle; "I'm neither. I'm a common, low-down
Englishman, with the pride of the Prince of Wales, and a darned ugly
tongue; and don't you forget it either."

  McTodd pulled a charred cigar stump from his waist-coat pocket and
lit it with care. He nodded to the accordion.

  "Go on with your noise," said he.

  Captain Kettle's fingers began to twitch suggestively; and
Cortolvin, in order to keep the peace, offered to escort McTodd to his

  "I thank ye," said the engineer; "it's the climate. I have malaria
in the system, and it stays there in spite of all that drugs can do,
and effects the perambulatory muscles of the lower extremities.
Speaking of which, ye'll na doot have seen for yoursel'---"

  "Oh, you'd better come along to bed," said Cortolvin.

  "Bide a wee, sonny," said the man in the blue serge solemnly.
"There's a thought come to me that I've a message to give. Do ye ken
anybody called Calvert?"

  "Archie Calvert, by any chance?"

  "'Erchie' was the name he gave. He said he kenned ye weel."

  "We were at Cambridge together."

  "Cambridge, were ye? Weel, I should have been a D.V. of A-berdeen
mysel' if I'd done as my father wished He was a Free Kirk meenister of

  "Yes, but about Calvert?"

  "Ou ay, Calvert! Erchie Calvert, as ye say. Weel, I said we'd you
aboard, and this Calvert--Erchie Calvert--said he'd news for you about
your wife."

  "All right, never mind that now. She's dead, I know, poor woman. Let
me help you down to your bunk."

  "Dinna be so offensive, man, and bide a wee to hear ma news. Ye're
no a widow after all--widowman, that is. Your guid wife didna dee as
ye think. She'd a fall from a horse, which'll probably teach her to
leave horse-riding alone to men in the future; and it got in the
papers she was killed; but it seems a shaking was all she earned. And,
talking of horses, now, when I was a bairn in Ballindrochater---"

  Cortolvin shook him savagely by the arm. "My God!" he cried; "do you
mean to say she's not dead?"

  "Aren't I telling you?"

  Cortolvin passed a hand wearily over his eyes. "And a minute ago,"
he whispered, "I thought I was going home." His hand dropped limply to
his side, and his head slid to the chart-house deck in a dead faint.

  McTodd swayed on the camp-stool and regarded him with a puzzled eye.
"Losh!" he said, "here's him drunk as well as me. Two of us, and I
never kenned it. It's a sad, immoral world, skipper. Vera sad,
skipper, I say. Here's Mr. Cortolvin been--Oh, Lord, and he isn't
listening either."

  Captain Kettle had gone out of the chart-house. The thud of a
propeller had fallen upon his ear, and he leant over the Saigon's
rail, and sadly watched a triangle of lights draw up through the cool,
purple night. A cargo steamer freighted with rails for the Beira
railway was coming gleefully towards them from out of the north, to
pick up the rich gleanings which the ocean offered.


"YOU'VE struck the wrong man," said Captain Kettle. "I'm most kinds of
idiot, but I'm not the sort to go ramming my head against the French
Government for the mere sport of the thing."

  "I was told," said Carnegie wearily, "that you were a man that
feared nothing on this earth, or I would not have asked you to call
upon me."

  "You were told right," said Kettle. "But those that spoke about me
should have added that I'm not a man who'll take a ticket to land
myself in an ugly mess unless someone pays my train fare, and gives me
something to spend at the other end. I'm a sailor, sir, by trade or
profession, whichever you like to name it, and on a steamboat, when a
row has been started, I'll not say but what I've seen it through more
than once out of sheer delight in wrestling with an ugly scrape. Yes,
sir, that's the kind of brute I am at sea.

  "But what you propose is different; it's out of my line; it's gaol-
breaking, no less; with a spell of seven years in the jug, if I don't
succeed, and no kind of credit to wear, or dollars to jingle, if I do
carry it through as you wish. And may I ask, sir, why I should
interest myself in this Mr. Clare? I never heard of him till I came in
this room half an hour ago in answer to your advertisement."

  "He is unjustly condemned," Carnegie repeated, as though he were
quoting from a lesson. "He is suffering imprisonment in this
pestilential place--er--Cayenne, for a fault which some one else has
committed; and unless he is rescued he will die there horribly. I am
appealing to your humanity, Captain. Would you see a fellow-countryman

  "I have only to look in the glass for that," retorted Kettle. "Most
people's kicks come to me when I am anywhere within hail. And you'll
kindly observe, sir, that I have nothing but your bare word to go on
for Mr. Clare's innocence. The French Courts and the French people, by
your own admitting, took a very different view of the matter. They
said with clearness that he did sell those plans of fortresses to the
Germans, and, knowing their way of looking at such a matter, it only
surprises me he wasn't guillotined out of hand."

  "It is my daughter who is sure of his guiltlessness in the matter,"
said Carnegie with a flush. "And," he added, "I may say that she is
the chief person who wishes for his escape."

  Captain Kettle bowed, and fingered the tarnished badge on his cap.
He had a chivalrous respect for the other sex.

  "And it was she who made me advertise vaguely for a seafaring man
who had got daring and the skill to carry out so delicate a matter. We
had two hundred answers in four posts: can you credit such a thing?"

  "Easily," said Kettle. "I am not the only poor devil of a skipper
who's out of a job. But a hundred pounds is not enough, and that's the
beginning and the end of it. There's two ways of doing this business,
I guess, and one of them's fighting, and the other's bribery. Well,
sir, a man can't collect much of an army for twenty five-pun' notes;
and as for bribery, why it's hardly enough to buy up a deputy Customs
inspector in the ordinary way of business, let alone a whole squad of
Cayenne warders with a big idea of their own value and importance.

  "Then there's getting out to French Guiana, and getting back, and
steamer fare for the pair of us would come to more than a couple of
postage stamps. And then where do I come in? You say I can pocket the
balance. But I'm hanged if I see where the balance is going to be
squeezed from. No, sir; a hundred pounds is mere foolishness, and the
kindest thing I can do is to go away without further talk. By James!
sir, I can say that if you'd given me this precious scheme as your
own, there's a man in this room who would have had a smashed face for
his impudence; but, as you tell me there's a lady in the case, I'll
say no more."

  Captain Kettle stood up, thrust out his chin aggressively, and swung
on his cap. Then he took it off again, and coughed with politeness.
The door opened, and the girl they had been speaking about came into
the room. She stepped quickly across and took his hand.

  "Captain Kettle," she said, "I could not leave you alone with my
father any longer. I just had to come in and thank you for myself. I
knew you would be the man to help us in our trouble. I knew it from
your letter."

  The little sailor coughed again, and reddened slightly under the
tan. "I'm afraid, miss," he said, "I am useless. As I was explaining
to your--Mr. Carnegie, before you came in, the job is a bit outside my
weight. You see, when I answered that advertisement, I thought it was
something with a steamboat that was wanted, and for that sort of
thing, with any kind of crew that signs on, I am fitted and no man
better. But this---"

  "Oh, do not say it is beyond you. Other prisoners have escaped from
the French penal settlements. It only requires a strong, determined
man to arrange matters from the outside, and the thing is done."

  Kettle fidgetted with the badge on his cap. "With respect, miss,"
said he, "what any other man could do, I would not shy at; but the
thing you've got here's impossible; and the gentleman will just have
to stay where he is and serve out the time he's earned."

  "But, sir," the girl broke out passionately, "he has not earned it.
He was accused unjustly. He was condemned as a scapegoat to shield
others. They were powerful--he was without interest; and all France
was shrieking for a victim. Mr. Clare was a subordinate in a
Government office through which these plans of fortresses had passed.
He was by birth half an Englishman, and so it was very easy to raise
suspicion against him. They forged great sheaves of evidence; they
drew off attention from the real thieves; they shamed him horribly;
and then they sent him off to those awful Isles de Salut for life.
Yes, for life--till age or the diseases of the place should free him
by death. Can you think of anything more frightful?"

  "Mr. Clare is fortunate in having such a friend."

  "A friend!" she repeated. "Has not my father told you? I am his
promised wife. Fancy the irony of it? We were to have been married the
very day he was condemned. It was my money and my father's which
defended him at the trial, and it nearly beggared us. And now I will
spend the last penny I can touch to get him free again."

  Captain Kettle coughed once more. "It was upon a question of money
that Mr. Carnegie and I split, miss. I said to him a hundred pounds
would not work it, and there's the naked truth."

  "But it must," she cried; "it must! You think us mean--niggardly.
But it is not that; we can raise no more. We are at the end of our
funds. Look around at this room; does this look like riches?"

  It did not. They were in a grimy Newcastle lodging, au troisieme,
and at one side of the room the flank of a bedstead showed itself in
outline against a curtain. The paper was torn and the carpet was
absent, and from the shaft of the stairway came that mingled scent of
clothes and fried onion which is native to this type of dwelling.

  Carnegie himself was a faded man of fifty. His daughter carried the
recent traces of beauty, but anxiety had lined her face, and the pinch
of res august had frayed her gown. All went to advertise the truth of
what the girl had been saying, and Kettle's heart warmed towards her.
He knew right well the nip of poverty himself. But still, he did not
see his way to perform impossibilities, and he lifted up his voice and
said so with glum frankness.

  "I am not remembering for a minute, miss," he explained, "that I am
a fellow with a wife and children dependent on my earnings; I am
looking at the matter as though I might be Mr. Clare's relative, and I
have got nothing new to tell you. A hundred pounds will not do it, and
that is the end of the matter."

  The girl wrung her hands, and looked pitifully across at her father.

  "Well," said Carnegie with a heavy sigh, "I will scrape up a hundred
and twenty, though that will force us to go hungry. And that is final,
Captain. If my own neck depended upon it, I could not lay hands on

  Captain Owen Kettle's face wore a look of pain. He was a man of
chivalrous instincts; it irked him to disoblige a lady; but the means
they offered him were so terribly insufficient. He did not repeat his
refusal aloud, but his face spoke with eloquent sympathy.

  The girl sank into one of the shabby chairs despairingly. "If you
fail me, sir," she said, "then I have no hope."

  Kettle turned away, still fingering the tarnished badge on his cap,
and stared drearily through the dingy window panes. A silence filled
the room. Carnegie broke it.

  "Other men answered the advertisement," he suggested.

  "I know they did," his daughter said; "and I read their letters, and
I read Captain Kettle's, and if there is one man who could help us out
of all those that answered, he is here now in this room. My heart went
out to him at once when I saw his application. I have never heard of
him before, but, when I read the few pages he sent, it came to me that
I knew him intimately from then onwards, and that he and no other in
all the world could do the service which we want. Sir," she said,
addressing the little sailor directly, "I learnt from that letter that
you made poetry, and I felt that the romance of this matter would
carry you on where any other man with merely commercial instincts
would fail."

  "Then you like poetry, miss?"

  "I write it," she said, "for the magazines, and sometimes it gets
into print."

  "Would you mind shaking hands with me?" asked Captain Kettle.

  "I want to do so," she answered, "if you will let that mean the
signing of our contract."

  Captain Kettle held out his fist. "Put it there, miss," said he.
"The French Government is a lumping big concern, but I've bucked
against a Government before and come out top side, and, by James! I'll
do it again. You stay at home, miss, and write poetry, and get the
magazines to print it, instead of those rotten adventure yarns they're
so fond of, and you'll be doing Great Britain a large service. What
the people in this country need is nice rural poetry to tell them what
sunsets are like, and how corn grows, and all that, and not cut-throat
stories they might fill out for themselves from the morning newspapers
if they only knew the men and the ground.

  "If I can only know you're at home here, miss, doing that, I can set
about this other matter with a cheerful heart I don't think the money
will be of much good; but you may trust me to get out to French Guiana
somehow, even if I have to work my way there before the mast; and I'll
collar hold of Mr. Clare for you and deliver him on board a British
ship in the best repair which circumstances will permit. You mustn't
expect me to do impossibilities, miss; but I'm working now for a lady
who writes poetry for the magazines, and you'll see me go that near to
them you'll probably be astonished."

  Turn now to another scene. There is a certain turtle-backed isle in
the Caribbean Sea sufficiently small and naked to be nameless on the
charts. The Admiralty hydrographers mark it merely by a tiny black
dot; the American chart-maker has gone further and branded it as
"shoal," which seems to hint (and quite incorrectly) that there is
water over it at least during spring tides.

  The patch of land, which is egg-shaped, measures some 180 yards
across its longer diameter, and, although no green seas can roll
across its face, it is sufficiently low in the water for the spindrift
to whip every inch of its surface during even the mildest of gales. On
these occasions the wind lifts great layers of sand from off the roof
of the isle, but ever the sea spews up more sand against the beaches;
and so the bulk of the place remains a constant quantity, although the
material whereof it is built is no two months the same.

  As a residence the place is singularly undesirable, and it is
probable that, until Captain Owen Kettle scraped for himself a
shelter-trench in the middle of the turtle back of sand, the isle has
been left severely alone by man throughout all the centuries.

  Still human breath was hourly drawn in the immediate neighbourhood,
and when the airs blew towards the isle, or the breezes lay stagnant,
sharp human cries fell dimly on Kettle's ear to tell him that men near
at hand were alive, and awake, and plying their appointed occupations.
The larger wooded island, which lay a long rifle shot away, was part
of the French penal settlement of Cayenne; and the cries were the
higher notes of its tragic opera. But they affected Captain Kettle not
at all. He was there on business; he had been at much pains to arrive
at his present situation, and had earned a bullet sear across the
temple during the process; and, as some time was to elapse before his
next move became due, he was filling up the intervening hours by the
absorbing pursuit of literature.

  He squatted on the floor of his sandpit, with his teeth set in the
butt of a cold cigar, and rapped out the lines of sonnets, and
transferred them to a sheet of sea-stained paper. He used the stubby
bullet of a revolver cartridge from lack of more refined pencil, and
his muse worked with lusty pace--as, indeed, it was always wont to do
when the world went more than usually awry with him.

  To even catalogue the little scamp's adventures since his parting
with Miss Carnegie in the Tyneside lodging, would be to write a
lengthy book; and they are omitted here in toto, because to detail
them would of necessity compromise worthy men, both French and
English, who do not wish their traffic with Kettle to be publicly

  Suffice it to say, then, that he made his way out to French Guiana
by ways best known to himself; pervaded Cayenne under an alias, which
the local gendarmerie laid bare; exchanged pistol shots with those in
authority to avoid arrest; and, in fact, put the entire penal colony,
from the governor down to the meanest convict, into a fever of unrest
entirely on his especial behalf. He was put to making temporary head-
quarters in a mangrove swamp, and completing his preparations from
there, and, to say the least of it, matters went hardly with him. But
at last he got his preliminaries settled, and left his bivouac among
the maddening mosquitoes, and the slime, and the snaky tree roots, and
took to the seas again in a lugsail boat, which he annexed by force of
arms from its four original owners.

  A cold minded person might say that the taking of that boat was an
act of glaring piracy; but Kettle told himself that, so far as the
French of Cayenne were concerned, he was a "recognised belligerent,"
and so all the manoeuvres of war were candidly open to him. He had no
more qualms in capturing that lugsail boat from a superior force than
Nelson once had about taking large ships from the French in the Bay of

  He had a dept of tinned meats cachd by one of his agents up a
mangrove creek, and under cover of night he sailed up and got these on
board, and built them in tightly under the thwarts of his boat so that
they would not shift in the seaway. And finally, again cloaked by
friendly darkness, he ran on to the beach of the turtle-backed isle,
hid his boat in a gully of the sand, scooped out a personal residence
where he would be visible only to God and the sea-fowl and sat himself
down to wait for an appointed hour.

  By day the sun grilled him, by night the sea mists drenched him to
the skin, and at times gales lifted the surface from the Caribbean and
sent it whistling across the roof of the isle in volleys of stinging
spindrift. Moreover, he was constantly pestered by that local ailment,
chills-and-fever, partly as a result of two or three trifling wounds
bestowed by the gendarmerie, and partly as payment for residence in
the miasmatic mangrove swamps; so that, on the whole, life was not
very tolerable to him, and he might have been pardoned had he cursed
Miss Carnegie for sending him on so troublesome an errand. But he did
not do this. He remembered that she was occupying herself at home in
Newcastle with the creation of poetry for the British magazines
according to their agreement, and he forgot his discomforts in the
glow of a Mcenas. It was the first time he had been a bona fide
patron of letters, and the pleasure of it intoxicated him.

  A fortnight passed by--he had given Clare a fortnight in the message
he smuggled into the convict station for him to make certain
preparations--and at the end of that space of time Captain Kettle
rolled his MS. inside an oilskin cover, and addressed it to Miss
Carnegie--in case of accidents. He put beckets on the top of his cap,
slipped his revolver into these, and put the cap on his head; and
then, stripping to the buff, he left his form and got up on to the
sand, and walked down its milk-warm surface to the water's edge.

  The ripples rang like a million of the tiniest bells upon the fine
shingle, and the stars in the velvet night above were reflected in the
water. It was far too still a night for his purpose--far too
dangerously clear. He would have preferred rain, or even half a gale
of wind. But he had fixed his appointment, and he was not the man to
let any detail of added danger make him break a tryst. So he waded
down into the lonely sea, and struck out at a steady breast stroke for
the Isle de Salut, which loomed in low black outline across the waters
before him.

  A more hazardous business than this part of the man's expedition it
would be hard to conceive. There were no prisoners in the world more
jealously guarded than those in the pestilential settlement ahead of
him. They were forgers, murderers, or what the French hate still more,
traitors and foreign spies; and once they stepped ashore upon the
beach they were there for always. They were all life-sentence men.
Until ferocious labour or the batterings of the climate sent them to
rest below the soil, they were doomed to pain with every breath they

  Desperate gaoling like this makes desperate men, and did any of the
prisoners--even the most cowardly of them--see the glimmer of a chance
to escape, he would leap to take it even though he knew that a certain
hailstorm of lead would pelt along his trail. And as a consequence the
rim of the isle bristled with armed warders, all of them marksmen, who
shot at anything that moved, and who had as little compunction in
dropping a prisoner as any other sportsman would have in knocking over
a partridge.

  To add to Captain Kettle's tally of dangers, the phosphorescence
that night was peculiarly vivid; the sea glowed where he breasted it;
his wake was lit with streams of silver fire; his whole body stood out
like a smoulder of flame on a cloth of black velvet. His presence
moved upon the face of the waters as an open advertisement. He was an
illuminated target for every rifle that chose to sight him, and, far
worse, he was a fiery bait bright enough to draw every shark in the
Caribbean. And sharks swarmed there. His limbs crept as he swam with

  To move fast was to increase the phosphorescence; to move slow was
to linger in that horrible suspense; and I think it is one of the
highest testimonials to Kettle's indomitable courage when I can say
that not once during that ghastly voyage did he either hurry, or
scurry, or splash. He was a prey to the most abominable dread; he
expended an hour and a half over an hour's swim, and it seemed to him
a space of years; and when he grounded on the beach of the Isle de
Salut he was almost fainting from the strain of his emotions, and for
awhile lay on the sand sobbing like a hysterical schoolgirl.

  But a sound revived him and sent full energy into his limbs again
without a prelude. From the distance there came to him the noise of
shod feet crunching with regulation tread along the shingle. He was
lying in the track of a sentry's beat.

  By instinct his hand dragged the revolver from its beckets on his
cap, and then he rose to his feet and darted away like some slim pink
ghost across the beach into the shelter of the thickets. He lay there
holding his breath, and watched the sentry pace up on his patrol. It
was evident that the man had not seen him; the fellow neither glanced
towards the cover nor searched the beach for foot-tracks; and yet he
carried his rifle in the crook of his arm ready for a snap shot, and
flickered his eyes to this side and to that like a man habitually
trained to sudden alarms and a quick trigger finger. His every
movement was eloquent of the care with which the Isle de Salut was

  Kettle waited till the man had gone off into the dark again and the
soundless distance, and then stepped out from his ambush, and ran at
speed along the dim, starlit beach. The sand-pats sprang backwards
from his flying toes, and the birds in the forest rim moved uneasily
as he passed. The little man was sea-bred first and last; he had no
knowledge of woodcraft; a silent stalk was a flight far beyond him;
and he raced along his way, revolver in hand, confident that he could
shoot any intruding sentry before a rifle could be brought to bear.

  Of course, the discharge of weapons would have waked the isle, and
brought the whole wasps' nest about his ears. But this was a state of
things he could have faced out brazenly. Throughout all his stormy
life he had never yet shirked a mele, and perhaps immunity from
serious harm had given him an overestimate of the percentage of
bullets which go astray. At any rate, the thrill of brisk fighting was
a pleasure he well knew, and he never went far out of his way to avoid

  But, as it was, he sped along his path unnoticed. The blunders of
chance threaded him through the shadows and the chain of sentries so
that no living soul picked up the alarm, till at last he pulled up
panting at the edge of the open space which edged in the grim convict
barrack itself.

  And now began a hateful tedium of waiting. The day he had fixed with
Clare was the right one; the hour of the rendezvous was vague. He had
said "as near midnight as maybe" in his message; but he was only able
to guess at the time himself, and he expected that Clare was in a
similar plight. Anyway, the man was not there, and Kettle gnawed his
fingers with impatience as he awaited him.

  The night under the winking stars was full of noise. In the forest
trees the jarflies and the tree-crickets and the katydids kept up
their maddening chorus. The drumming mosquitoes scented the naked man
from afar, and put every inch of his body to the torment. The moist,
damp heat of the place made him pant to get his breath. The prison
itself was full of the uneasy rustling of men sleeping in discomfort,
and at regular intervals some crazy wretch within the walls cried out,
"Dieu, Dieu, Dieu!" as though he were a human cuckoo clock condemned
to chime after stated lapses of minutes.

  An hour passed, and still the uneasy night dozed on without notice
that a prisoner was trying to escape. Another hour went by, and
Captain Kettle began to contemplate the possibilities of attacking the
grim building with his own itching fingers, and dragging Clare forth
in the teeth of whatever opposition might befall. "Dieu, Dieu, Dieu!"
rang out the tormented man within the walls, and then from round the
further angle of the place a figure came running, who stared wildly
about him as though in search of some one.

  Kettle stepped out from his nook of concealment, a clear, pale mark
in the starlight. The runner swerved, stopped, and hesitated. Kettle
beckoned him, and the man threw away his doubt and raced up. The
little sailor stretched out a moist hand. "You'll be Mr. Clare, sir, I


  "I am very pleased to have the honour of meeting you. I'm Captain
Kettle, that was asked as a favour by Miss Carnegie---"

  "Let us get away quick. They will be after me directly, and if they
catch me I shall be shot. Mr. Kettle, quick, where is your boat?"

  But the little naked man did not budge. "I am accustomed, sir," he
said stiffly, "to having my title."

  "I don't understand. Oh, afterwards; but let us get away now at

  "Captain Kettle, sir."

  "Captain Kettle, certainly. But this waiting may cost us our lives."

  "I am not anxious to take root here, sir, but as for the boat,
you've a good swim ahead of you before we reach that." And he told of
the way he had come. "There was no other plan for it, Mr. Clare. It
would have been sheer foolishness to have brought my boat to this
island with all these busy people with guns prowling about. I had just
got to leave her at my head-quarters, and you must make up your mind
to swim and risk the sharks if you wish to join her."

  "I am open to risking anything," said Clare. "It's neck or nothing
with me after what I did five minutes back in that hell over yonder.
One of the warders---" He broke off and dragged a hand across his
eyes. "Look here, Captain, we are bound to be seen if we go round by
the beach. Come with me and I'll show you a track through the woods."

  He started off into the cover without waiting for a reply, and
Kettle with a frown turned and followed at his heels. Captain Kettle
preferred to do the ordering himself, and this young man seemed apt to
assert command. However, the moment was one for hurry. The night was
beginning to thin. So he got up speed again, and the trees and the
undergrowth closed behind him.

  "Dieu, Dieu, Dieu!" cried out the tormented prisoner within the
walls as a parting benediction.

  Some men, like the historical Dr. Fell, have the knack, unknown to
themselves, of inspiring dislike in others, and Clare had this effect
on Captain Owen Kettle. The little sailor's dislike was born at the
first moment of their meeting. It grew as he ran through the forest of
the Isle de Salut; and even when Clare fell upon a sentry and beat the
sense out of him as neatly as he could have done it himself, Kettle
failed to admire or sympathise with him.

  On the return swim to the turtle-backed island he came very near to
wishing that a shark would get the man, although such a calamity would
have meant his own almost certain destruction; and when they lay
together, packed like a pair of sardines in the shelter pit, under the
intolerable sunshine of the succeeding day, it was with difficulty he
could keep his hands off this fellow whom he had gone through so much
to help.

  Clare put in what talking was done; the sailor preserved a sour,
glum silence. He felt that if he gave his vinegary tongue the freedom
it wished for, nothing could prevent a collision.

  He argued out with himself the cause for this dislike during the
succeeding night. They had got the boat in the water, had mastheaded
the lug, and were running north-west before a snoring breeze towards
the British West Indian Islands. He himself, with mainsheet in one
hand, and tiller in the other, was in solitary command. Clare was
occupied in baling back the seas to their appointed place.

  For a long time the utmost he could discover against the man was
that on occasions he "was too bossy," and with bitter satire he
ridiculed himself for a childish weakness. But then another thought
drifted into his mind, and he picked it up, and weighed it, and
balanced it, and valued it, till under the fostering care it grew, and
the little sailor felt with a growl and a tightening of the lips that
he had now indeed a legitimate cause for hate.

  What mention had this fellow Clare made of Miss Carnegie?
Practically none. He, Kettle, had stated by whom he was sent to the
rescue, and Clare had received the news with a casual "Oh!" and a
yawn. He had offered further information (when the first scurry of the
escape was over, and they were cachd in the sandpit) upon Miss
Carnegie's movements, and her condition as last viewed in Newcastle,
and Clare had pleaded tiredness and suggested another hour for the
recital. Was this the proper attitude for a lover? It was not. Was
this meet behaviour for the future husband of such a woman as Miss
Carnegie, who was not only herself, but who also wrote poetry for the
magazines? Ten thousand times over, it was not.

  He sheeted home the lug a couple of inches in response to a shift of
the breeze, and opened his lips in speech.

  "Miss Carnegie, sir," he began, "is a lady I esteem very highly."

  "She is a nice girl," assented the man with the baler.

  "She is willing to beggar herself to do you service, sir."

  "Yes. I know she is very fond of me."

  "And I should like to know if you are equally fond of her?"

  "Steady, Captain, steady. I don't quite see what you have got to do
with it." He paused and looked at the sailor curiously. "Look here, I
say, you seem to talk a deuce of a deal about Miss Carnegie. Are you
sweet on her yourself?"

  Captain Kettle glared, and it is probable that, if such an action
would not have swamped the boat, he would have dropped the tiller and
left the marks of his displeasure upon Clare's person without further
barter of words. But, as it was, he deigned to speak.

  "You dog!" he said, "if you make a suggestion like that again, I'll
kill you. You've no right to say such a thing. I just honour Miss
Carnegie as though she were the Queen, or even more, because she
writes verse for the magazines, and the Queen only writes diaries. And
besides, there could be nothing more between us: I'm a married man,
sir, with a family. But about this other matter. It seems to me I'm
the party that kind of holds your fate just at present, young man. If
I shove this tiller across, the boat'll broach to and swamp, and,
whatever happens to me--and I don't vastly care--it's a sure thing you
will go to the place where there's weeping and gnashing of teeth.
How'd you like that?"

  "Not a bit. I want to live. I've gone through the worst time a human
being can endure on that ghastly island astern there, and I'm due for
a great lot of the sweets of life to make up for it. And if it
interests you to know it, Captain--I do owe you something personally,
I suppose, and you have some right to be in my confidence--if it
interests you to hear such a thing, I may tell you I shall probably
marry Miss Carnegie as soon as I get back to her."

  "Then you do love her?"

  "I don't quite know what love is. But I like her well enough, if
that will do for you. Hadn't we better take down a reef in the lug? I
can hardly keep the water under."

  "By James! you leave me to sail this boat," said Kettle, "and attend
to your blessed baling, or I'll knock you out of her."

  The conversation languished for some hours after this, and Kettle,
with every nerve on the strain, humoured the boat as she raced before
the heavy following seas, whilst the ex-convict scooped back the water
which eternally slopped in green streams over her gunwale. It was
Clare who set up the talk again.

  "Did she know anything about those plans of the French fortresses?"

  "Miss Carnegie had the most definite ideas on the subject."

  "I suppose she'd found out by that time that I really did get hold
of them out of the office myself, and sell them to the Germans?"

  For one of the few times in his life Captain Kettle lied. "She knew
the old yarn from start to finish."

  "Well, I was a fool to muddle it. With any decent luck I ought to
have brought off the coup without anybody being the wiser. I could
have lain quiet a year or two till the fuss blew over, and then had a
tidy fortune to go upon, and been able to marry whom I pleased, or not
marry at all. Eh--well, skipper, that bubble's cracked, and I suppose
the best thing I can do now is to marry old Carnegie's girl after

  "Then you've quite made up your mind to marry this lady?"


  "That's what you say," retorted Kettle. "Now you hear me. Miss
Carnegie thinks you are in love with her, and you are not that by many
a long fathom; so there goes item the first. In the second place, she
thought you were sent to Cayenne unjustly, whereas, by your own
showing, you're a dirty thief, and deserved all you got. And, thirdly,
I don't approve of squeezing fathers-in-law as an industry for young
men newly out of gaol."

  "You truculent little ruffian, do you dare to threaten me?"

  "I'd threaten the Emperor of Germany if I was close to him and
didn't like what he was doing. Here you! Don't you lift that baler at
me, or I'll slip some lead through your mangy hide before you can
wink. Now you'll just understand; for the rest of this cruise, till we
make our port, you stay forrard, and I'm on the quarter deck. If you
move aft I'll shoot you dead, and thank you for giving me the chance.
But if you get ashore all in one piece, I'll spike your guns in
another way."

  "How?" asked the man sullenly.

  "You'll find out when you get there," said Kettle grimly. "And now
don't you speak to me again. You aren't wholesome. Get on with your
baling. D'you hear me, there? Get on with that baling: I don't want my
boat to be swamped through your cursed laziness."

* * * * * *

  Now, to which port it was of the British West India Islands that the
lugsail boat and its occupants arrived I never quite made out, and
indeed the method in which Captain Kettle "spiked" Mr. Clare's "guns"
was hidden from me till quite recently. A week ago, however, a letter
of his drifted into my hands, and, as it seems to explain all that is
necessary, I give it here exactly as it left his pen.




              NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND.

      "HONOURED MADAM,--Am pleased to report have carried out part of
yr esteemed commands. Went to Cayenne, as per instructions, and took
Mr. Clare away from French Government, they not consenting. Landed him
in good condition at this place. Having learnt that he did steal those
plans, and, moreover, he saying he did not care for you the way he
ought, have taken the liberty to guard lest he should trouble you in
future. To do this, found old coloured washer-woman here (widow) who
was proud to have white husband. Him objecting, I swore to tell French
Consul if he did not marry, and get him sent back to Cayenne. So he
married. She weighs 250 lbs. I enclose copy of their marriage lines,
so you can see all is correct.

      "Trust you will excuse liberty. He has made one escape; you have
made another.

      "The weather is very sultry here, but they say there is fine
scenery up-country.

      "Shall get English magazines some day, when things blow over a
bit, and I can come that way again, to look for your poetry.

      "Hoping this finds you in good health as it leaves me at

       "Yrs obedient.

         O. KETTLE,


    "1 Inclosure.


"NO, Mr. Carnforth," said Kettle; "it would be lying if I was to say I
knew anything about pearl-fishing. I've heard of it, of course; who
hasn't? And, for the matter of that, I've had on a diving-suit myself,
and gone down and examined a ship's bottom to see if the diver that
had been sent down to look at some started plates had brought up a
true report. But I've never done more than pass through those North
Australian seas. They tell me the pearl-fishing's worked from small
luggers of some ten or fourteen tons, sailing out of Thursday Island."

  "It is," said the big man. "And---"

  "Well, sir, you'd better get another captain. I'm a steamer sailor
by bringing up, and on a steamer I know my business, and can do it
with any other man alive. But you'd not find me much good on a little
windjammer like a Thursday Island pearler. I'm a hard-up man, Mr.
Carnforth, and desperately in want of a berth; I hope, too, you'll not
think it undue familiarity when I say that I like you personally; but,
honestly, I don't think you'd better engage me as your skipper for
this trip. You could get a so much better man for your money."

  Carnforth laughed. "My dear Kettle," he said, "I don't think I ever
came across a fellow with less real notion of looking after his own
interests. As you are aware, I know your peculiar qualifications
pretty thoroughly; I'm an eminently practical business man; I offer
you a handsome salary with both eyes open; and yet you refuse because
you are afraid of robbing me of my money."

  "Mr. Carnforth," said the little sailor stiffly, "I have my own
ideas of what's right. You have seen me at sea using violence and ugly
words. But you will kindly remember that I was in service of an
employer then, and was earning his pay by driving his crew. It's
another thing now; we are ashore here, and I would have you know that
ashore I am a strict chapel member, with a high-pressure conscience,
and a soul that requires careful looking after. I could never forgive
myself if I thought I was taking your pay without earning it

  "If you'll let me get a word in edgeways," said the other irritably,
"and not be so beastly cocksure that you can rob me--which you could
no more do than fly--perhaps you'd understand what I'm offering, and
not sneeze at a good chance. The lugger is your own invention, and so
is the idea that I'm merely going pearl-fishing in the ordinary way.
My notion is to go pearl-poaching, which is a very different matter;
to get rich quick, and take the risks and climb over them; and to go
at the business in a steamer with a strong enough crew to--ar--do
what's needful."

  "And you're already a rich man," said Kettle, "with a fine position
in the country, and a seat in Parliament. Some people never do know
when they're well off."

  "Some people don't," said Carnforth, "and you're another of them,
skipper. For myself, I do a mad thing now and again because--oh,
because I like the excitement and flurry of it. But you!--You go and
refuse a profitable billet that would fit you down to the boots,
merely for the sake of a whim. A quarter of an hour ago you told me
you were practically destitute--ar--'on the streets' your own words
were; and here you are chucking up a certain twenty pounds a month,
and a possible ninety, when it's ready to your hand."

  "I didn't know about the steamer," said Kettle, "and that's a fact."

  "Well, I'm telling you now, Captain, and if you don't take charge of
her upper bridge, it will be your own fault. Why, man, there isn't a
job between here and New Jerusalem that would suit you better! and
besides, I'm keen to go there myself, and you are the one man in the
world I want to have as a shipmate, and I ask you to come as a
personal favour. I'm sick of this smug, orderly, frock-coated life
here. Nature intended me for a pirate, and fate has made me a
successful manufacturer. I've tasted the wild unregenerate life of the
open air once under your auspices, and rubbed against men who were
men, and I want to be there again. I'm tired of fiddling amongst men
and women who are merely dollar-millers and dress-pegs. I'm sick of
what they call success. I'm sick of the whole blessed business."

  Captain Kettle thought of Mrs. Kettle and her children in the
squalid house in South Shields, with the slender income and the slim
prospects, and he sighed drearily. But he did not utter those thoughts
aloud. He said, instead, that he was very grateful to Mr. Carnforth
for his magnificent offer, and would do his best to earn thoroughly
the lavish income which was held out to him.

  Carnforth reached out and gripped his hand. "Thanky, Kettle," he
said; "and mind, I'm going to try and lug you into a competency over
this. You might just as well have given way before. I always get my
own way over this sort of thing. And now probably you'd like to hear a
bit more about the poaching ground?"

  "If you please, sir."

  "Well, I can't quote you latitude and longitude off hand, but I'll
show you the whereabouts of the place marked on the chart afterwards.
It's Japan way, and the Japs have chosen to claim all the bits of reef
thereabouts, and to proclaim a sort of close season against all
foreign pearlers. Now the place I've got news of is in their area, but
so far it has never been fished. It's enormously rich, and it's
absolutely virgin. Why, man, if we can put in six months' work there
undisturbed, we can easily carry off a million pounds' worth of shell
and pearls."

  "Six months!" said Kettle. "That's a big order. I've no doubt that
with a decent steamer and a few rifles we could beat off one of their
gunboats when we get there, and do, say, a week's fishing. But if that
gunboat steams back to Nagasaki, or wherever her port is, and brings
out a whole blessed navy at her heels, we may find the contract
outside our size. Of course, if you are going to fit out a real big
steamboat, with a gun or two, and a hundred men---"

  Carnforth laughed. "Wait a bit," said he. "You're going ahead too
fast. There's no question of fighting a whole navy. In fact we mustn't
fight at all if there's any means of wriggling out of it. I believe
fighting would amount to piracy, and piracy's too lively even for my
tastes. Besides, if we got very noisy, we'd have some cruiser of the
British China Squadron poking her ugly nose in, and that's a thing we
couldn't afford to risk at any price."

  "Then how are you going to manage it?"

  "What we must hope for is to be left undisturbed. There's every
chance of it. The reef is out of all the steam-lanes and circle
tracks, and the Jap's gunboat patrol is not very close. In fact the
place has only been newly charted. It was found quite by accident by
the skipper of a sea-sealing schooner, and he missed the plum because
he happened to have been a brute to one of his hands."

  "But I thought you said this reef was out of all ship tracks?"

  "Don't hustle me. The schooner had been sealing off the Commander
Islands. She was coming home and got into heavy weather. She was blown
away three days by a gale, and picked up the surf of this reef one
morning at daybreak, ran down into the lee, and lay there till the
breeze was over. The reef wasn't charted, and the skipper, who was 'on
the make,' wondered how he could gather dividends out of it. In the
off-sealing season he was in the Thursday Island trade, and his
thoughts naturally ran upon pearls and shell. He'd a diving suit on
board, and he rowed into the lagoon, made one of his crew put on the
suit, and sent him down.

  "Now observe the result," said Carnforth with sly relish, "of being
too severe on one's hands. This sailor, who was sent down in the
diving-suit, had been having a dog's time of it on the sealing
schooner, and when he got on the floor of the lagoon and saw the place
round him literally packed with shell that had never been touched by
human fingers, he made up his mind that the time had come to repay old
scores. So when he came up out of the water again, he said, sulkily
enough, that there was nothing below but seaweed and mud; and the boat
rowed back out of the lagoon; and the schooner let draw her forestay-
sail sheet and ran away on her course.

  "The skipper reported the new reef, and in due course it got on the
charts; and the sailor kept holding his tongue till he could find a
market for his information. He didn't find one at once; he had to wait
two years, in fact; and then he found me. I guess that skipper would
be easier on his hands in future if he only knew what he'd lost, eh,

  The sailor frowned.

  "A shipmaster, sir, has to get the full amount of work out of his
hands, or he's neglecting his duty. I can picture that schooner, Mr.
Carnforth, and I picture her Old Man hearing what he's missed, and
still carrying on the driving game. The things we have to ship as
sailors are beasts, and you have to treat them as such; and if you can
show me a master who's popular in the fore-castle, I can show you a
man who's letting his hands shirk work, and not earning his owner's

  "H'm!" said Carnforth. "I've seen you handle a crew, and I know your
theories and little ways, and I know also that you're far too
obstinate an animal to change your opinions in a hurry. I've a pretty
strong will myself, and so I can sympathise with you. However, we'll
let that matter of ethics slide for the present, and go into the
question of ways and means"--and on the dry detail of this they talked
till far into the night.

  Here, however, the historian may for awhile withhold his pen, since
those in the shipping interest can fill the gap for themselves, whilst
to all others these small questions of ways and means would be
infinitely tedious.

  The yacht's voyage out to Japanese waters may also be omitted. The
English papers announced its commencement in one of the usual formal
paragraphs: "Mr. Martin Carnforth, M.P. for the Munro division of
Yorkshire, has started in his fine steam yacht the Vestris for a
lengthened tour in China seas to study Oriental questions on the spot,
and will probably he absent some considerable time."

  The official log kept on board was meagre and scanty being confined
to arid statements of distances run, and the ordinary meteorological
happenings of the ocean; and towards the latter entries, even these
were skilfully fictitious. Indeed, when the vessel neared the scene of
action, her yellow funnel changed to black with a crimson band, a
couple of squarish yards were crossed on her foremast, her dainty gaff
sails vanished and were replaced by serviceable trysails, and the
midship house was soiled by the addition of a coat of crude white lead
above the trimly polished teak, and straddled over by a clumsy iron
bridge defended by ill-fitting canvas dodgers and awnings.

  There was no making the expert believe, of course that she was a
mere trader that had always been a trader. But to the nautical eye she
was unsuspicious; she looked one of those ex-yachts that have been
sold out of the petticoat-cruising service of Cowes, and been adapted
to the more homely needs of the mercantile marine; and in the
Mediterranean, the Australian seas, and China waters, there are many
of this breed of craft making a humble living for their owners. A
couple of weeks neglect will make any brasswork look un-yachtlike, and
a little withholding of the paint brush soon makes all small traders
wonderfully kin.

  Re-christening of course is but a clumsy device, and one which is
(the gentle novelist notwithstanding) most seldom used. A ship at her
birth is given a name, and endowed with a passport in the shape of
"papers." Without her papers she cannot enter a civilised port; she
could not "clear" at any custom house; and to attempt doing so would
be a blatant confession of "something wrong." So when the paint
brushes went round, and the name Vestris on counter, boats, and
lifebuoys were exchanged for Governor L. C. Walthrop (which seemed to
carry a slight American flavour) a half sigh went up from some of the
ship's company, and a queer little thrill passed through the rest,
according to their temperaments. They were making themselves sea
pariahs from that moment onwards, until they should deem fit to
discard the alias.

  Captain Kettle himself finished lettering the last of the lifebuoys
and put down his brush, and shook his head.

  Carnforth was watching him from a deck chair. "You don't like it?"
he said.

  "I never did such a thing before," said Kettle; "and I never heard
of it being done and come to any good. We're nobodies now, and it's
every one's business to meddle with a nobody. If you're a somebody,
only the proper people can interfere."

  "I can't help it," said Carnforth. "The Vestris is well known at
home, and I'm well known too; and we've just got to see this business
through one way or the other, under purser's names. She's the Governor
L. C. Walthrop, and I'm Mr. Martin, and you can be what you like."

  "I'll still use my own name, sir. I've carried it a good many years
now, through most kinds of weather; and it's had so many stones thrown
at it that a few more won't hurt. If we get through with this little
game, all right: if we get interrupted, I guess the only thing left
will be to attend our own funerals. I'm not going to taste the inside
of a Japanese gaol at any price."

  "I never saw such a fellow as you for looking at the gloomy side of
things," said Carnforth, irritably.

  "It's the gloomy side that's mostly come my way, sir."

  "I wish to goodness I'd never been idiot enough to come out here on
this hairbrained scheme."

  "Why!" said Kettle in surprise, "you've got the remedy to your hand.
You give your orders, Mr. Carnforth, and I'll bout-ship this minute
and take you home."

  "And don't you want to go through with it, skipper?"

  "I don't see my tastes need be mentioned," said the sailor, stiffly.
"You're my owner, sir. I'm here to do as I'm bid."

  "Captain Owen Kettle," said the other, with a laugh that had got
some sour earnest at the back of it, "you're a cantankerous little
beggar. I sailed with you before, and found you the most delightful of
shipmates. I sail with you now, and you keep me always at boat-hook's
length away from you. Be hanged if I see what I've done to stiffen

  "Sir," said Kettle, "on the Sultan of Borneo you were my guest; on
this yacht you are my owner: there's all the difference in the world."

  "You wish to point out, I suppose, that a shipmaster looks upon an
owner as his natural enemy, as he does the Board of Trade. Still I
don't think I personally have deserved that."

  "I am as I have been made, sir, and I suppose I can't help it."

  "You are a man with some wonderfully developed weaknesses. However,
as to turning back, I'm not going to stultify myself by doing that
now. We'll see the thing through now, whatever happens."

  Martin Carnforth nodded curtly, and got up and walked the deck. He
was conscious of a fine sense of disappointment and disillusionment.
He had started off on this expedition filled with a warm glow of
romance. He had been grubbing along at distasteful business pursuits
for the larger part of his life, and adventure, as looked at from the
outside, had always lured him strongly. Once in Kettle's company he
had tasted of the realities of adventure amongst Cuban revolutionists;
had got back safely, and settled down to business again for a time:
and then once more had grown restless. He had the virus of adventure
in his blood, and he was beginning to learn that it was a cumulative

  So, once more he had started off, but this time he was being chilled
from the outside. Properly treated, the prospects of the trip would
have been rosy enough. Handled by Captain Owen Kettle, the whole
affair was made to assume the aspect of a commercial speculation of
more than doubtful sanity. And, as he walked, he cursed Kettle from
his inmost heart for bringing him to earth and keeping him there
amongst sordid considerations.

  The little mariner himself was seated in a deck-chair under an
awning, turning in the frayed sleeve of a white drill jacket. His
sewing tackle stood in a pictured tin biscuit box on the deck beside
him. He unripped the old stitches with a pocket knife, and re-sewed
the sleeve with exquisite accuracy and neatness. His fierce eyes were
intent on the work. To look at his nimble fingers, one would think
that they had never held anything more deadly than the ordinary
utensils of tailoring. Carnforth broke off his walk, and stood for a
moment beside him.

  "Skipper," he said, "you're a queer mixture. You've lived one of the
most exciting lives any man's ever gone through, and yet you seem to
turn your more peaceful moments to tailoring or poetry indifferently,
and enjoy them with gusto."

  "Mr. Carnforth," said the little sailor, "I guess we're all
discontented animals. We always like most what we get least of."

  "Well, I suppose that's intended to sum up my character as well as
your own," said Carnforth, and sat down and watched the sewing.

  The mate on the yacht's upper bridge picked up the reef with his
glasses that evening a couple of hours after sundown. The night was
velvet black, with only a few stars showing. A sullen ground swell
rolled the seas into oily hills and valleys, and the reefs ahead
showed themselves in a blaze of phosphorescence where the swell broke
into thunderous surf. It seemed as though the yacht was steaming
towards the glow and din of some distant marine volcano. The watch
below were all on deck, drawn there by curiosity, and along one
bulwark the watch on duty were handling the deep sea lead. At
intervals came the report, trolled in a minor key, of "No bottom."

  The engines were running half speed ahead, and presently they
stopped, and the order was given for the yacht to lay-to where she was
till daybreak. A light breeze had sprung up, bringing with it a queer,
slender taint into the sweet, sea air.

  For a long time Carnforth had been snuffling diligently. "I'm sure I
smell something," he said at last.

  "It's there," said Kettle. "Have you ever been in a north country
Norwegian port, sir?"

  "By Jove! yes, skipper. It's just the same. Decaying fish."

  "There's not another stink like it on this earth. You know what it
means here?"

  "I suppose some other fellows are in the lagoon before us, and
they're rotting out shell."

  "That's it," said Kettle; "and we're going to have our work cut out
to get a cargo. But we'll do it, Mr. Carnforth, never you fear. I
suppose there'll be trouble, but that'll have to be got over. We've
not come all this way to go back with empty holds."

  Carnforth looked at the little man slily. Here was a very different
Captain Kettle from the fellow who had been mending the white drill
coat half a dozen hours before. He was rubbing his hands, his eye was
bright, his whole frame had stiffened. He was whistling a jaunty tune,
and was staring keenly out at the phosphorescent blaze of the
breakers, as though he could see what was behind them, and was
planning to overcome all obstacles. An hour before, Martin Carnforth
had been cursing the tedium of his expedition. A little chill went
through him now. Before many more hours were past he had a strong
notion he would be scared at its liveliness. He had seen Captain
Kettle's methods before when things went contrary to his plans and

  Slowly the night dragged through, and by degrees the blackness
thinned. The Eastern waters grew grey, and the sky above them changed
to dull sulphur yellow. Then a coal of crimson fire burned out on the
horizon, and grew quickly to a great half-dish of scarlet; and then
the rest of the sun was shot up, as an orange pip is slipped from the
fingers; and it was brilliant, staring, tropical day.

  For full an hour the yacht had been under weigh at half steam with
lead going, circling round the noisy reefs. The place was alive with
the shouts of breakers and the scream of sea-fowl. Inside, beyond the
hedge of spouting waters, were three small turtle-backs of yellow
sand, and a lugger at anchor.

  The water outside was clear as bottle-green glass, and of enormous
depth. The only entrance to the lagoon was a narrow canal between the
reefs, shown up vividly by the gap in the ring of creaming surf. It
was not likely that any one from the lugger would lend a hand for
pilotage--or be trusted if they offered. So Kettle steamed the yacht
to some half-mile off the entrance, called away the whale-boat, and
went off in her himself with a crew and a couple of leadsmen to survey
the channel. He did it with all deliberation; returned; took his perch
in the forecrosstress, where he could see the coral floor through the
clear water beneath, and conned the yacht in himself. Carnforth leant
over the bridge-end and watched.

  The coral floor with its wondrous growths came up towards him out of
the deep water. The yacht rolled into the pass on the backs of the
great ocean swells, and the reef-ends on either side boomed like a
salute of heavy guns. The white froth of the surges spewed up against
her sides, and the spindrift pattered in showers upon her deck planks.
The stink of the place grew stronger every minute.

  Then she shot through into a mirror of still, smooth water, slowed
to half-speed, and with hand lead going diligently, steamed up to an
anchorage in sixteen fathoms off one of the sandy islets. A white
whale-boat put off from the lugger, rowed by three Kanakas, and by the
time the yacht's cable was bitted a man from her had stepped up the
accommodation ladder, and was looking about him on deck.

  He was a biggish man in striped pyjamas, bare-footed, roughly-
bearded, and wearing a crumpled pith helmet well-down on the back of
his head. His face was burnt to a fine mahogany colour by the sun,
and, dangling over his chest at the end of a piece of fine sinnet, was
a gold-rimmed eye-glass which glittered like a diamond when it caught
the sun. He touched his helmet to Kettle. "You've brought a fine day
with you, Captain," said he.

  "Rather warm," said Kettle. "I haven't looked at the glass this
morning. I hope it's going to keep steady."

  The visitor glanced round and sized up the yacht and its resources.
"Oh, I should say it's likely to for the present. You've a nice little
boat here and a likely looking lot of men. You'll be having ten of a
crew, all told, Captain, eh?"

  "Thirteen," said Kettle.

  "Humph, it's an unlucky number. Well, Captain, if I were you I
wouldn't stay here too long. The weather's a bit uncertain, you know,
in these seas."

  "We want some pearls and shell before we go."

  "I might have guessed that. Well, it's a nuisance from our point of
view, because we thought we'd the lagoon to ourselves, and intended to
skim it clear ourselves if the Japs didn't interrupt. But, take the
tip, Captain, and don't be too greedy. If you stay too long, the glass
may fall suddenly and---"

  "Take care, my lad," snapped Kettle; "I'm a man that accepts threats
from no man living."

  "Oh, all right," said the stranger carelessly. "But who have we
here?" And he stuck the glass into his eye and whistled.

  Captain Kettle made a formal introduction. "My owner, sir, Mr.
Martin, of New York."

  "Humph," said the visitor; "you used to be Carnforth up at
Cambridge, didn't you? M. Carnforth, I remember, and M. might possibly
stand for Martin."

  Captain Kettle smiled grimly, and Carnforth swore.

  "Bit of a surprise to find you pearl-poaching, Carnforth. I see your
name in the Australian papers now and again, and got a notion you were
something big at home. Had a bust up?"

  "No," said Carnforth. "I'm all right there. Come below and have a
drink and a talk. By the way it's awfully rude of me; I haven't
tumbled yet to who you are."

  "Never mind my name," said the visitor coolly. "I don't suppose
you'd remember me. I was a reading man up there and you weren't. You
did your best to torment my life out. I took a big degree and made a
fizzle of after life. You got ploughed and became a commercial
success. So you see we've little enough in common; and, besides, I was
here first, and I resent your coming."

  "Oh, rubbish, man! Come below and have a cocktail."

  "Thanks, no. I prefer not to be under the tie of bread and salt
with--er--trade rivals." He dropped his eye-glass, and walked to the
head of the accommodation ladder. "Look here, Master Carnforth," he
said. "I'll give you a useful tip. Clear out!" Then he went down into
his whale-boat, and the brown men pulled him back to the lugger.

  "Curse that beggar's impudence," said Carnforth hotly. "I wonder who
the deuce he is?"

  "Maybe we'll find out," said Kettle. "I tried to catch your eye
whilst he was speaking. If I had my way, he'd be on board now, kept
snug till we were through with our business here. He'd have been a lot
safer that way."

  "Oh, no!" said Carnforth. "We couldn't have done the high-handed
like that on the little he said. Wonder who he can be, though? Some
poor beggar whose corns I trod on up at Cambridge. Well, anyway,
twenty years and that beard have completely changed him out of memory.
However, if he chooses to come round and be civil, he can; and if he
doesn't, I won't worry. And now, Captain--pearls. The sooner we get to
work, the more chance we have of getting a cargo under hatches and
slipping away undisturbed."

  "Right-o," said Captain Kettle. "They've got the other two
sandbanks, and, by the stink, they're doing a roaring business. We'll
bag this empty one near us, and set about fishing this very hour, and
plant our shell to rot there. It'll smell a bit different to a rose
garden, Mr. Carnforth, but it'll be a sight more valuable."

  Then began a period of frantic toil and labour. Every man on board
was "on shares," for it had pleased Carnforth's whim to use this old
buccaneer's incentive. Half of the profits went to the ship, and the
rest to the crew. Each man had so many shares, according to his
rating. Carnforth himself, in addition to his earnings as owner,
earned also as an ordinary seaman, and sweated and strained like any
of the hands. From an hour before daybreak to an hour after sunset he
was away in the boats, under the dews of morn and eve, or the blazing
torrent of midday sunshine. Every night he tumbled into his bed-place
dog-tired, and exulting in his tiredness. Every morning he woke eager
for the fierce toil. He was unshaven, sunburnt, blood-smeared from the
scratches of the shell, filthy with rank sea mud. But withal he was
entirely happy.

  Kettle toiled with equal vigour, working violently himself, and
violently exhorting the others. Neither his arms nor his tongue were
ever tired. But he was always neat, and seldom unclean. Dirt seemed to
have an antipathy for the man, and against his dishevelled owner he
looked like a park dandy beside a rag-picker.

  At the other side of the lagoon the white man from Cambridge, and a
white friend, and their crew of ten Kanakas, worked with similar
industry. The ring of the lagoon was some half mile in diameter, with
lanes of deep water running through its floor where divers could not
work. There was no clashing of the two parties. One of these water
lanes seemed to set out a natural boundary, and neither transgressed
it. On each submarine territory there was enough shell to work on for
the present, and each party toiled with the same frantic energy, and
spread out the shell on the sun-baked sandbanks and poisoned Heaven
with the scent of decay. But there was no further intercourse between
the two bodies of men, nor indeed any attempt at it. How the others
were doing, the yacht's party neither knew nor cared. Theirs was a
race against time for wealth, and not one striver amongst them all had
leisure to be curious about his neighbours.

  In a nicer life, the smells of the place would have offended them
monstrously; here they were a matter for congratulation. The more the
putrefaction, the more the profit. They ripped the shells from the
sea, and spread them upon the beaches. The roasting sun beat upon the
spread-out shell-fish, and melted away their soft tissues in horrible

  The value was all a gamble. There might be merely so much mother-o'-
pearl for inlay work; or seed pearls, such as the Chinese grind up for
medicine; or larger pearls of any size and colour and shape, from the
humble opalescent sphere worth its meagre half-a-crown, to the black
pearl worth its score of pounds, or the great pear-shaped pink pearl
worth a prince's ransom. It was all a gamble, but none the less
fascinating for that. Carnforth was mad over the work; Kettle, with
all his nonchalance gone, was nearly as bad.

  But the process of realising their wealth was none too fast, and, in
fact, seemed to them tedious beyond words. Every filled shell, with
its latent possibilities of treasure lying out there upon the sand,
was so much capital left in a perilously insecure investment. They
were so bitterly afraid of interruptions. The dark shadow of Japan was
always before their eyes.

  Still at last came the first moment of realisation. They had toiled
a month, and they had collected that day the fruits of their first
day's labour. The mother-o'-pearl shell was packed in the hold; the
little crop of pearls stood in a basin on the cabin table, and they
gloated over them as they supped.

  Carnforth stirred them lovingly with the butt of his fork. "Pretty
little peas, aren't they, skipper?"

  "For those they amuse, though I like to see a bit more colour in a
woman's ornaments myself."

  "Matter of taste and matter of fashion. Pearls are all the rage just
now. Diamonds are slightly commonplace; but women will spend their
money on something, and so the price of pearls is up."

  "So much the better for us, sir. It's a pity, though, that some of
them seem a bit off colour, like that big grey chap for instance."

  "Grey, man! Why, that's a black pearl, and probably worth any ten of
the rest put together."

  "Well," said Kettle, "I don't set up for being a pearl merchant.
Poaching them's trouble enough for me."

  "Pass the biscuit, will you?" said Carnforth, yawning, "I suppose
that little lot--is worth--worth--anything over--a thousand pounds,"
and with that he dropped back dead asleep in his chair with a forkful
of food in mid-air. Captain Kettle finished his meal, but he, too, man
of wire though he was, suddenly tumbled forward and went to sleep with
his head on the table. It was no new thing for them to do. They had
dropped off like this into unconsciousness more than once during that
month of savage toil.

  The next day they had a smaller crop ready to glean--a bare five
hundred pounds' worth, in fact. But they did not lament. There would
be an enormous quantity ready for the morrow.

  That further realisation of their wealth, however, never came.
During the night another lugger sailed into the lagoon, and upset all
their plans. She was the consort of the lugger commanded by the
Cambridge man, and she had taken away to a safe place their first crop
of pearls and shell. Further, she was manned by fourteen whites, all
armed, and all quite ready to defend what they considered their
poachers' monopoly. As a consequence, they pulled across to the yacht
some two hours before daybreak, and Carnforth and Captain Kettle found
themselves waked by three men who carried Marlin repeating rifles, and
were quite ready to use them if pressed.

  But the little sailor was not easily cowed. "By James!" he cried,
"this is piracy!"

  "It'll be a funeral," said the man with the eye-glass, "if you don't
bring your hand out from under that pillow, and bring it out empty.
Now, don't risk it, skipper. I'm a good snap shot myself, and this is
only a two-pound trigger."

  Captain Kettle did not chuck his life away uselessly. He let go his
revolver and drew out his hand. "Well," he said, "what are you grimy
pirates going to do next? By the look of you, you've come here to
steal our soap and hair brushes."

  "Carnforth," shouted the man with the eye-glass, "come in here and
be told what's going to happen. I say, you fellows, bring Carnforth
into the skipper's room."

  Martin Carnforth came into Kettle's room sullenly enough, with his
hands in his pockets.

  "Now I'll give you the whole case packed small," said the spokesman.
"A crowd of us found this place, and discovered the pearls and the
shell. We were all badly in want of a pile, and we took the risks, and
started in to get it. Most of us went away with the first cargo, and
only two white men were left with a few Kanakas. Then you came. You
were told you're not wanted, but you gently hinted at force majeure,
and were allowed to stay. Finally the rest of our crowd comes back,
and ***** it's force majeure on the other side, and now you've got to
go. If you've the sense of oysters, you'll go peacefully. There isn't
enough for all of us; at any rate we don't intend to share."

  "Mr. Carnforth," said Kettle, "I told you we'd better have bottled
that dirty man with the window-pane eye who's been talking."

  "Look here," said Carnforth hotly. "This is all nonsense. We've got
as much right here as you."

  "Right!" said the pearler. "Right had better not enter into the
question. We're all a blooming lot of poachers, if it comes to that.
You know that, Mr. Martin, or Carnforth, or whatever you choose to
call yourself for the time being. You come here under a purser's name;
your yacht is guyed out like a Mediterranean tunny fisher; and I guess
you look upon the thing much as you did bagging knockers and brass
doorplates in the old days at Cambridge--half the fun's in dodging the

  "You're taking the wrong sort of tone," interrupted Carnforth. "I'm
not used to being hectored at like this."

  "I can believe it," said the pearler drily. "You are a successful

  "And let me tell you this. You've got the upper hand for the
present, that I admit. You may even force us out of the lagoon. But
what then? I guess the account would not be closed; and when a man
chooses to make me his enemy, I always see that he gets payment in
full sooner or later."

  "All right," said the man with the eye-glass--"pay away. Don't mind

  "A hint at one of the Japanese ports as to what was going on would
soon upset your little game."

  "Not being fools," said the pearler coolly, "of course we've thought
of that. We've---"

  A hail came down from the saloon sky-light outside, from the deck
above. "Scoot, boys, scoot! The Philistines be upon us."

  "What's that?" shouted the man with the eye-glass.

  "Well, it's one of those confounded Jap gunboats, if you want to
know. Hurry, and we shall just get off. We'll leave these fools to pay
the bill."

  "Hmnph!" said the pearler, "that settles the matter another way. I
must go, and I suppose you'll try to hook it too. Ta, ta, skipper;
you're a good sort--I like you. By-bye, Carnforth, can't recommend the
Jap gaols. Hope you get caught, and that'll square up for your giving
me a bad time at Cambridge."

  He followed the others out on deck, and a moment later their whale-
boat was pulling hard for where the luggers rode lazily at their
anchors. Carnforth and Kettle went after him, and the engineers and
the yacht's crew, who had been held down in the forecastle at rifle's
muzzle, came on deck also.

  It did not require any pressing to get the engine-room staff to
their work. The boilers were cold; but never were fires lit quicker.
Parrafin, wood, small coal, grease, anything that would burn, was
coaxed into the furnace door. The cold gauges began to quiver, but as
every man on board well knew, no human means could get a working steam
pressure under half an hour.

  On deck the crew had run the boats up to davits, had hove short by
hand, and then stood like men on the drop, waiting their fate. The
luggers had mastheaded their yards, and were beating down the lagoon
against a spanking breeze. One after the other they tumbled out
through the passage, and swung on the outer swell; and then, with
their lugs goose-winged, fled like some scared sea-fowl out over the
blue sun-scorched waters.

  But though the yacht had canvas, Kettle knew that she could not beat
to windward, and so dare not break his anchor out of the ground till
the engineers had given her steam. There was nothing for it but to
wait with what patience they could.

  The Japanese gunboat had been sighted far enough off, and, as she
was coming up from the farther side of the ring of reefs, she had to
circle round them before she could gain the only entrance. Moreover,
her utmost paper pace was eight knots, and she happened to be foul,
and so her advance was slow. But still, to the watching men it seemed
that she raced up like a Western Ocean greyhound.

  The sun rose higher. The stink of the rotting shellfish came to them
in poisonous whiffs. At another time it would have spoken of wealth in
sweet abundance. But now they disregarded it. Prison and disgrace were
the only things before them, and these filled the mind.

  Then the chief engineer called up to the bridge through the voice-
tube that he could give her enough steam for steerage way in another

  "Foredeck there!" cried Kettle. "Break out that anchor! By hand!"
and the men laboured with the handgear, so as to save the precious
steam. Then a thought flashed across Captain Kettle's brain, and he
quickly gave it to Carnforth. "It's only a beggarly chance, sir, but
we'd better try it, I suppose?"

  "Yes," said Carnforth.

  "If only we hadn't painted out those names, we might have done it
more safely. As it is, we must risk it. Off with you below, sir, and
get into some decent clothes. You'd give the whole show away if you
stayed up on the bridge here in those filthy rags. You may be a yacht
owner, sir, but, by James! you look far more like an out-of-work coal-

  Carnforth ran down the ladder, and Kettle gave crisp orders to the
hands on deck, who disappeared also, and presently came back dressed
as spruce yachtsmen, in white trousers, white drill jumpers, and straw
hats; and by that time the yacht was under way, and steaming slowly to
the pass.

  The gunboat was coming in with her crew at quarters, officers with
swords on, and everything cleared for action. The Japanese flag ran up
to her peak.

  Promptly an English royal yacht club burgee broke out at the
poacher's main truck, and a British blue ensign fluttered up to her
poopstaff, and dipped three times in salute.

  Carnforth came up on to the bridge. "Now, sir," said Kettle, "you
must do the talking. I guess it's got to be lies, and lying's a thing
I can't do."

  "What shall I say?"

  "Say what's needed," replied Kettle concisely; "and don't say it
wrong. Remember, sir, you're lying for your liberty. It's neck or
nothing. She's got two big guns trained on us, and a shot from either
would send us to Jones before we could get in a smack in return."

  "What ship's that?" came the hail in perfect English.

  "Steam yacht Vestris. Lord Martin owner," said Carnforth, who knew
the value of titles on the foreigners. "I'm Lord Martin."

  "What are you doing in here?"

  "Been watching those poachers."

  "Heave to and explain."

  "I shall do nothing of the sort, and if you dare to fire on me I
will bring the British fleet about your ears."

  The Japanese spokesman gasped and consulted with a superior, and the
steamers drew abreast.

  "But you must heave to."

  "I shall do nothing of the kind."

  "But you are in forbidden waters."

  "Then you should put up a notice to say so. I shall report this to
my Admiralty in London."

  "Go it," said Kettle, sotto voce. "For blooming cheek, give me an

  "But you must stop," said the Japanese, "or I shall be compelled to

  "You can do as you please," said Carnforth. "I shall report you to
your commander-in-chief at Nagasaki. I never came across such
insolence. You heard my name--Lord Martin. You'll hear more of it
before long."

  Steam was rising in the gauges, and the yacht was getting into her
stride of twelve knots. She sped out through the passage, and rolled
in the trough of the glistening swells beyond. The crew of the warship
still stood to their guns, but the officers were in a dilemma. These
pestilential Britishers always did make such a row if any of their
vessels were fired on; and this apparently was a yacht, though
grotesquely unkempt, and tricked out with a black and red funnel; and,
moreover, she was owned by a peer of the realm.

  A last despairing howl came over the waters: "Are you noble?"

  "Yes, haven't I told you? Lord Martin. You'll know it better when
you're next in port."

  And that was the last word. The gunboat turned and steamed out after
them, but her turning circle was large and her speed slow. By midday
she was hull down astern; by evening her mast trucks were under the

  Carnforth strutted the deck complacently. "Rather a gorgeous bluff,
eh, skipper?" he said at last.

  "You're the only man on the ship that could have done it," said
Kettle admiringly. "It takes a parliamentary education to lie like

  Again the silence grew between them, and then Carnforth said
musingly: "I wonder who that Cambridge man was?"

  "He seemed to hate you pretty tenderly."

  "He did that. I suppose I must have played some practical joke on
him. Well, I know I used to be up to all sorts of larks in those days,
skipper, but that's long enough ago, now, and all that sort of
foolishness is past."

  Captain Kettle laughed. "Have you done with pearl-poaching, sir? Or
are you going to have another try at it? But don't paint out the name
of your ship next time. If that Jap had had the eyes of a mole he'd
have seen the change, and he'd have taken his chances and fired.
Governor L.C. Walthrop is no name for an English milord's yacht."


CAPTAIN KETTLE had been thanking Carnforth for getting him command of
the Atlantic liner Armenia. "But," he went on, "qualifications, sir,
are all my eye. Interest's the thing that shoves a shipmaster along.
Yes, Mr. Carnforth, interest and luck. I've got qualifications by the
fathom, and you know pretty well what they've ever done for me. But
you're a rich man and an M.P.; you've got interest; you come up and
give me a good word with an owner, and look, the thing's done."

  "Well, I sincerely wish you a long reign," said Carnforth. "The
Armenia's the slowest and oldest ship on the line, but she was the
best I could get the firm to give you. It's seldom they change their
captains, and they promote from the bottom, upwards. You've got all
the line before you, Kettle, and the rest must depend on yourself. I'd
sincerely like to see you commodore of the firm's fleet, but you'll
have to do the climbing to that berth by your own wit. I've done all I

  "You've done more for me, sir, than any other creature living's
done, and believe me, I'm a very grateful fellow. And you can bet I
shall do my best to stick to a snug berth now I've got it. I'm a
married man, Mr. Carnforth, with children; I've them always at the
back of my memory; and I've known what it is to try all the wretched
jobs that the knockabout shipmaster's put to if he doesn't choose his
belongings to starve. The only thing I've got to be frightened of now
is luck, and that's a thing which is outside my hands, and outside
yours, and outside the hands of every one else on this earth. I guess
that God above keeps the engineering of luck as His own private
department; and He deals it out according to his good pleasure; and we
get what's best for us."

  Now the S.S. Armenia, or the old Atrocity, as she was more
familiarly named, with other qualifying adjectives according to taste,
was more known than respected in the Western Ocean passenger trade. In
her day she had been a flier, and had cut a record; but her day was
past. Ship-building and engine-building are for ever on the improve,
and with competition, and the rush of trade, the older vessels are
constantly getting outclassed in speed and economy.

  So heavy stoke-hold crews and extravagant coal consumption no longer
made the Armenia tremble along at her topmost speed. The firm had
built newer and faster boats to do the showy trips which got spoken
about in the newspapers; and in these they carried the actresses, and
the drummers, and the other people who run up heavy wine bills and
insist on expensive staterooms; and they had lengthened the Armenia's
scheduled time of passage between ports to what was most economical
for coal consumption, and made her other arrangements to match. They
advertised first-class bookings from Liverpool to New York for 11 and
upwards, and passengers who economised and bought 11 tickets, fondly
imagining that they were going to cross in one of the show boats, were
wont to find themselves consigned to berths in inside cabins on the

  The present writer (before Captain Kettle took over command) knew
the Armenia well. A certain class of passenger had grown native to
her. On outward trips she was a favourite boat for Mormon missionaries
and their converts. The saints themselves voyaged first-class, and
made a very nasty exhibition of manners; their wives were in the
second cabin; and the ruck of the converts--Poles, Slavs, Armenians,
and other noisesome riff-raff--reposed in stuffy barracks far below
the water-line, and got the best that could be given them for their
contract transport price of three-pound-ten a head. Besides the
Mormons (and shunning them as oil does water) there were civilised
passengers who shipped by the Armenia either because the cheap tariff
suited their purses, or because an extra couple of days at sea did not
matter to them, and they preferred her quiet regime to the hurry and
noise, and dazzle, and vibration of the crowded and more popular

  On to the head of this queer family party, then, Captain Owen Kettle
was pitchforked by the Fates and Mr. Carnforth, and at first he found
the position bewilderingly strange. He was thirty-seven years of age,
and it was his debut as an officer on a passenger boat. The whole
routine was new to him. Even the deck hands were of a class strange to
his experience, and did as they were bidden smartly and efficiently,
and showed no disposition to simmer to a state of constant mutiny. But
newest of all, he came for the first time in contact with an official
called a Purser (in the person of one Mr. Reginald Horrocks) at whose
powers and position he was inclined to look very much askance.

  It was Mr. Horrocks who welcomed him on board, and the pair of them
sized one another up with diligence. Kettle was suspicious, brusque,
and inclined to assert his position. But the Purser was more a man of
the world, and, besides, he was by profession urbane, and a cultivator
of other people's likings. He made it his boast that he could in ten
minutes get on terms of civility with the sourest passenger who was
ever put into an undesirable room; and he was resolved to get on a
footing of geniality with the new skipper if his art could manage it.
Mr. Horrocks had sailed on bad terms with a captain once in the days
of his novitiate, and he did not wish to repeat the experience.

  But Kettle was by nature an autocrat, and could not shake down into
the new order of things all at once. The Armenia was in dock, noisy
with stevedores working cargo, when the new Captain paid his first
preliminary visit of inspection. Horrocks was in attendance, voluble
and friendly, and they went through every pelt of her, from the sodden
shaft-tunnel to the glory-hole where the stewards live. The Purser was
all affability, but Kettle resented his tone, and at last, when they
had ended their excursion, and walked together into the chart-house on
the lower bridge, the little sailor turned round and faced the other,
and put the case to him significantly.

"You will kindly remember that I am Captain of this ferry," he said.

  "You're Captain all the way, sir," said Horrocks genially. "My
department is the care of the passengers as your deputy, and the
receiving in of stores from the superintendent purser ashore; and I
wish to handle them all according to your orders."

  "Oh," said Kettle, "you'll have a pretty free hand here. I don't
mind telling you I'm new to this hotel-keeping business. I've been in
cargo boats up to now."

  "Well, of course, Captain, a Purser's work is a profession to
itself, and the details are not likely to have come in your way. I
suppose I'd better run things on much as before to start with, and
when you see a detail you want changed, you tell me, and I'll see it
changed right away. That's where I come in; I'm a very capable man at
carrying out orders. And there's another thing, Captain; I know my
place: I'm just your assistant."

  Captain Kettle pressed the bell. "Purser," said he, "I believe we
shall get on well. I hope we shall; it's most comfortable that way." A
bare-headed man in a short jacket knocked, and came in through the
chart-house door. "Steward, bring a bottle of whisky, and put my name
on it, and keep it in the rack yonder; and bring some fresh water and
two glasses--Purser, you'll have a drink with me?"

  "Well, here's plenty of cargo," said Kettle, when the whisky came.

  "Here's plenty of passengers and a popular ship," said the Purser.

  But if Mr. Horrocks was civil and submissive in words on the
Armenia, it was because he had mastered the art of only saying those
things which are profitable, and keeping his private thoughts for
disclosure on more fitting occasions. When he sat at tea that night
with his wife across in their little house in New Brighton, he
mentioned that the new captain did not altogether meet with his august
approval. "He's a queer savage they've got hold of, and no mistake
this time," said he; "a fellow that's lived on cargo boats all his
life, and never seen a serviette, and doesn't know what to do with his
entertainment money."

  "Tell the firm," suggested Mrs. Horrocks.

  "Not much. At least, not yet. He's new, and so naturally they think
he's a jewel. I'm not going to make myself unpopular by complaining
too soon. Give this new old man string enough, and he'll hang himself
neatly without my help."

  "Like the last?"

  "Oh, this one's worse than him. In fact I'm beginning to be sorry I
ever did get our last old man the push. He was all right so long as I
didn't make my perquisites too big. But as for this one, I don't
suppose he'll understand I've a right to perquisites at all."

  "But," said Mrs. Horrocks, "you're Purser. What does he suppose you
live on? He must know that the pay don't go far."

  "Well he didn't seem to know what a Purser was, and when I tried to
hint it to him, he just snapped out that he was Captain of this
blooming ship."

  "And then?"

  Mr. Horrocks shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, I agreed right away. May
as well tickle a fool as tease him, my dear. He thinks because he's a
splendid seaman--and he may be that, I'll admit--he's fit to skipper a
Western Ocean passenger boat. He's a lot to learn yet, and I'm the man
that's going to educate him."

  Now the exasperating part of it was, that not only did this process
of "education" promptly begin, but Captain Kettle knew it. Never
before had he had any one beneath him on board ship who had dared to
dispute his imperial will, and done it successfully. There was no
holding this affable purser, no pinning him down to a specific
offence. If he mapped out a plan of action, and Captain Kettle
objected to it, he was all civility, and would give it up without
argument. "Certainly, sir," he would say. "You're Captain on this
boat, as you say, and I'm Purser, and I just know my place." And then
afterwards would invariably come a back thrust which Captain Kettle
could never parry.

  There were three long tables in the saloon headed by the Captain,
the Purser and the Doctor; and when the passengers came on board at
Liverpool or New York, it was Mr. Horrocks who arranged their meal
places. He had a nice discrimination, this Purser, and from long habit
could sum up a passenger's general conversational qualities at a
glance. He knew also Captain Kettle's tastes and limitations, and when
that redoubtable mariner had been making things unpleasant, he
rewarded him with dinner companions for the next run who kept him in a
state of subdued frenzy. It was quite an easy thing to do, and managed
craftily, it was a species of torture impossible to resent.

  In fact it may be owned at once that as a conversational head to a
liner's table, Captain Kettle did not shine. The situation was new and
strange to him. Up till then he had fought his way about the seas in
cargo tramps, with only here and there a stray passenger; and, at
table, professional topics had made up the talk, or, what, was more
common, glum, scowling silence had prevailed.

  Here, on this steam hotel, he suddenly found himself looked up to as
a head of society. His own real reminiscences of the sea he kept back:
he felt them to be vastly impolite; he never dreamed that they might
be interesting.

  His power of extracting sweet music from the accordion he kept
rigidly in the background. Accordions seemed out of place somehow with
these finicking passengers. He felt that his one genteel taste was for
poetry, but only once did he let it slip out. It was half-way across
the Atlantic on a homeward trip, and conversation had lagged. The
Purser's and the Doctor's tables were in a rattle of cheerful talk:
Kettle's was in state of boredom. In desperation he brought out his
sacred topic.

  At once every ear within range started to listen: he saw that at
once. But he mistook the motive. The men around him--they were mostly
American--thought that the whole thing was an effort of humour. It
never occurred to them that this vinegary-faced little sailor actually
himself made the sentimental rhymes he quoted to them: and when it
dawned upon them that this was no joke, and the man was speaking in
sober, solemn earnest, the funniness of it swept over them like a
wave. The table yelped with inextinguishable laughter.

  Of a sudden Captain Kettle realised that he was his passengers'
butt, and sat back in his chair as though he was getting ready for a

  In his first torrent of rage he could with gusto have shot the lot
of them; but to begin with he was unarmed; and, in the second place,
passengers are not crew: and moreover, after the first explosion, the
laughter began to die away. One by one the diners looked at the grim,
savage, little face glaring at them from the end of the table, and
their mirth seemed to chill. The laughter ended, and an uncomfortable
silence grew, and remained to the finish of the meal.

  During the succeeding meals, moreover, up till the end of the
voyage, that silence was very little encroached upon at the Captain's
end of the middle table. Any one who ventured to speak had the benefit
of Captain Kettle's full gaze, and found it disconcerting. Even to
passengers on a modern steam ferry the Captain is a person of some
majesty, and this one had a look about him that did not invite further

  That batch of passengers dispersed to the four corners of the earth
from Queenstown and Liverpool, and the Armenia saw them no more; but
news of the fracas somehow or another reached the head-quarters'
office, and a kindly hint was given to Captain Kettle that such scenes
would be better avoided for the future.

  "I quite know that passengers are awkward cattle to deal with," said
the partner who put it to him, "but you see, Captain, we make our
living by carrying them, and we can't afford to have our boats made
unpopular. You should use more tact, my dear skipper. Tact; that's
what you want. Stand 'em champagne out of your entertainment
allowance, and they'll stand it back, and run up bigger bills with the
wine steward. It all means profit, Captain, and those are the ways you
must get it for us. We aren't asking you to drum round for cargo now.
Your game is to make the boat cheery and comfortable for passengers,
so that they'll spend a lot of money on board, and like it, and come
again and spend some more. Tumble?"

  The captain of the Armenia heard, and intended to conform. But,
admirer of his though I must conscientiously write myself, I cannot
even hope that in time he would have shaken down fitly into the berth;
for, to tell the truth, I do not think a more unsuitable man to govern
one of these modern steam hotels could be found on the seas of either
hemisphere. However, as it happened, the concession was not demanded
of him. His luck, that cruel, evil fortune, got up and hit him again,
and his ship was cast away, and he saw himself once more that painful
thing, a shipmaster without employ. More cruel still, he found himself
at the same time in intimate touch with a great temptation.

  The fatal voyage was from New York home, and it was in the cold, raw
spring-time when passenger lists are thin. The day before sailing a
letter addressed "Captain Kettle, S.S. Armenia," made its appearance
on the chart-house table. How it got there no one seemed to know, but
with the crowd of stevedores and others working cargo, it would have
been very easy for a messenger from the wharf to slip it on board
unobserved. The letter was type-written, and carried the address of an
obscure saloon in the Bowery. It said:

      "There is a matter of $50,000 (10,000) waiting for you to earn
with a little pluck and exertion. You can either take the game or
leave it, but if you conclude to hear more, come here and ask the
barman for a five-dollar cocktail, and he will show you right inside.
It you are frightened, don't come. We've got no use for frightened
men. We can easy find a man with more sand in him somewhere else."

  The little sailor considered over this precious document for the
full of an hour. "Some smuggling lay," was his first conclusion, but
the sum of money appeared too big for this; then he was half-minded to
put down the whole thing as a joke; then as a lure to rob him. The
final paragraph and the address given, which was in the worst part of
New York city, seemed to point shrewdly to this last. And I believe
the prospect of a scrimmage was really the thing that in the end sent
him off. But any way, that evening he went, and after some difficulty
found the ruffianly drinking shop to which he had been directed.

  He went inside and looked inquiringly across the bar.

  The shirt-sleeved barman shifted his cigar. "Well, mister, what can
I fix up for you?"

  "You're a bit proud of your five-dollar cocktails here, aren't you?"

  The man lowered his voice. "Say, are you Captain Cuttle?"

  "Kettle! confound you."

  "Same thing, I guess. Walk right through that door yonder, and up
the stair."

  Captain Kettle patted a jacket pocket that bulged with the outline
of a revolver. "If any one thinks they are going to play larks on me
here, I pity 'em."

  The barman shrugged his shoulders. "Don't blame you for coming
'heeled,' boss. Guess a gun sometimes chips in handy round here. But I
think the gents upstairs mean square biz."

  "Well," said Kettle, "I'm going to see," and opened the door and
stumped briskly up the stairway.

  He stepped into a room, barely furnished, and lit by one grimy
window. There was no one to receive him, so he drummed the table to
make his presence known.

  Promptly a voice said to him:

  "Hawdy, Captain? Will ye mind shuttin' the door?"

  Now Kettle was not a man given to starting, but he started then. The
place was in the worst slum of New York. Except for a flimsy table and
two battered chairs, the room was stark empty, and this voice seemed
to come from close beside him. Instinctively his fingers gripped on
the weapon in his jacket pocket.

  He slewed sharply round to make sure he was alone, and even kicked
his foot under the table to see that there was no jugglery about that,
and then the voice spoke to him again, with Irish brogue and Yankee
idiom quaintly intermingled.

  "Sure, Captain, I have to ask yer pardon for keepin' a brick wall
right here between us. But I've me health to consider, an' I reckon
our biz will be safest done this way."

  The little sailor's grim face relaxed into a smile. His eye had
caught the end of a funnel which lay flush with the wall.

  "Ho!" he said. "That's your game, is it? A speaking tube. Then I
suppose you've got something to say you are ashamed of?"

  "Faith, I'm proud of it. A pathriot is never ashamed of his cause."

  "Get to business," said Kettle. "My time's short, and this waiting-
room of yours is not over savoury."

  "It's just a little removal we wish you to undertake for us,
Captain. You have gotten a Mr. Grimshaw on your passenger list for
this run to Liverpool."

  "Have I?"

  "It's so. He's one of the big bosses of your British Government."

  "Well, supposing I have?"

  "He's been out here as a sort of commissioner, and he's found out
more than is good for him. He sails by the Armenia to-morrow, and if
you can--well--so contrive that he doesn't land at the other side, it
means you are set up for life."

  Captain Kettle's face stiffened, and he was about to break out with
something sharp. But he restrained himself and asked instead: "What's
the figure?"

  "$50,000--say 10,000 of your English sovereigns."

  "And how do I know that I should get paid?"

  The answer was somewhat astounding. "You can pocket the money here,
right now," said the voice.

  "And once I got paid what hold would you have on me? How do you know
I'd shove this Grimshaw over the side? That I suppose is what you

  The voice chuckled. "We've agents everywhere, Captain. We'd have you
removed pretty sharp if you tried to diddle us."

  "Oh, would you?" snapped Kettle. "I've bucked against some tolerably
ugly toughs in my time and come out top side, and shouldn't mind
tackling your crowd for the sheer sport of the thing. But look here,
Mr. Paddy Fenian, you've got hold of the wrong man when you came to
me. By James! yes, you skulking, cowardly swine! You face behind a
wall! Come out here and talk. I won't lift my hands. I'll use my feet
to you and kick your backbone through your hat. You'd dare to ask me
to murder a man, would you?"

  Captain Kettle's eloquence had an unlooked-for effect. The voice
from the speaking tube laughed.

  The sailor went on afresh and spoke of the unseen one's ancestors on
both sides of the house, his personal habits, and probable future. He
had acquired a goodly flow of this kind of vituperation during his
professional career, and had been compelled to keep it bottled up
before the passengers on the liner. He felt a kind of gusto in letting
his tongue run loose again, and had the proud consciousness that each
of his phrases would cut like the lash of a whip.

  But the unseen man apparently heard him unruffled. "Blow off steam,
skipper," said he; "don't mind me."

  Kettle looked round the empty room dejectedly. "You thing!" he said.
"I could make a man with more spirit than you out of putty."

  "Of course you could, skipper," said the voice with the brogue; "of
course you could. I don't really exist. I'm only a name, as your
beastly Saxon papers say when they abuse me. But I can hit, as they
know, and I can draw cheques, as you can find out if you choose. You
can have your pay yet if you see fit to change your mind, and 'remove'
spy Grimshaw between here and Liverpool. We've plenty of money, and
you may as well have it as any one else. It's got to be spent

  "I'd give a lot to wring your neck," said Kettle. He tapped at the
wall to test its thickness.

  "You tire me," said the voice "Why can't you drop that? You can't
get at me; and if you go outside and set on all the police in New York
city, you'll do no good. The police in this city know which side their
bread's margarined. I'm the man with the cheque-book, sonny, and you
bet they are not the sample of fools that'd go and try to snuff me

  "This is no place for me," said Kettle. "It seems I can't lug you
out of the drain where you live, and if I stay in touch of your breath
any longer, I shall be poisoned. I've told you who I consider your
mother to be. Don't forget." And the little bearded sailor strode off
down the stair again and into the street. He had no inclination to go
to the police, having a pious horror of the law, and so he got a
trolley car which took him down to the East River, and a ferry which
carried him across to his ship.

  The time was 2 a.m. and the glow of the arc lamps and the rattle of
winch chains, and the roar of working cargo went up far into the
night. But noise made little difference to him, and even the episode
he had just gone through was not sufficient to keep him awake.

  The master of a Western Ocean ferry gets little enough of sleep when
he is on the voyage, and so on the night before sailing he stores up
as much as may be.

  As it chanced, Mr. Grimshaw took steps to impress himself on Captain
Kettle's notice at an early stage of the next day's proceedings. The
ship was warping out of dock with the help of a walking-beam tug, and
a passenger attempted to pass the quartermaster at the foot of the
upper bridge ladder. The sailor was stubborn, but the passenger was
imperative, and at last pushed his way up, and was met by Kettle
himself at the head of the ladder.

  "Well, sir?" said that official. "I've come to see you take your
steamer out into New York Bay, Captain."

  "Oh, have you?" said Kettle. "Are you the Emperor of Germany by any

  "I am Mr. Robert Grimshaw."

  "Same thing. Neither you nor he is Captain here. I am. So I'll
trouble you to get to Halifax out of this before you're put.
Quartermaster, I'll log you for neglect of duty."

  Grimshaw turned and went down the ladder with a flushed cheek.
"Thank you, Captain," he said, over his shoulder. "I've got influence
with your owners. I'll not neglect to use it."

  It chanced also that Captain Kettle had been cutting down his
Purser's perquisites more ruthlessly than usual in New York, and that
worthy man thirsted for revenge. He had taken Mr. Grimshaw's measure
pretty accurately at first sight, and was tolerably sure that eight
days of his conversation would irritate his skipper into a state of
approaching frenzy. So he portioned off the commissioner to the end
right hand chair at the Captain's table, and promised himself pleasant
revenge in overlooking the result.

  Captain Kettle worked the Armenia outside the bar and came down to
dinner. Horrocks whispered in his ear as he came down the companion.
"Mr. Grimshaw's the man on your right, sir. Had to give him to you.
He's some sort of a big bug in the government at home, been over in
New York inquiring into the organisation of those Patlander rebels."

  Kettle nodded curtly and went on to his seat. The meal began and
went on. Mr. Grimshaw made no allusion to the previous encounter. He
had made up his mind to exact retaliation in full, and started at once
to procure it. He had the reputation in London of being a "most
superior person," and he possessed in a high degree the art of being
courteously offensive. He was a clever man with his tongue, and never
overstepped the bounds of suavity.

  How the wretched Kettle sat through that meal he did not know. Under
this polished attack he was impotent of defence. Not a chance was
given him for retort, and all the thrusts went home. He retired from
the dinner table with a moist perspiration on his face, and an earnest
prayer that the Armenia would carry foul weather with her all the way
up to Prince's landing stage, so that he might be forced to spend the
next seven or eight days on the chilly eminence of the upper bridge.

  And now we come to the story of how Captain Owen Kettle's luck again
buffeted him.

  The Armenia was steaming along through the night, to the
accompaniment of deep and dismal hootings from the syren. A fog spread
over the Atlantic and the bridge telegraph pointed to "Half-speed
ahead," as the Board of Trade directs. The engine-room, however, had
private instructions as usual, and kept up the normal speed.

  On the forecastle head four look-out men peered solemnly into the
fog, and knew that for all the practical good they were doing they
might just as well be in their bunks.

  On the bridge, in glistening oilskins, Kettle and two mates stared
before them into the thickness, but could not see as far as the
foremast. And the Armenia surged along at her comfortable fourteen
knots, with the five hundred people asleep beneath her deck. The
landsman fancies that on these occasions steamships slow down or stop;
the liner captain knows that if once he did so he would have little
chance of taking his ship across the Atlantic again. A day lost to one
of these ocean ferries means in coal and food, and wages, and so on, a
matter of 1,000 or so out of the pockets of her owners, and this is a
little sum they do not care to forfeit without strong reason. They
expect their captains to drive the boats along as usual, and make up
for the added risk by increased watchfulness and precaution, and a
keen noting of the thermometer for any sudden fall which should
foretell the neighbourhood of ice.

  Now the Armenia was skirting the edge of the Banks, on the
recognised steam-lane to the Eastward, which differs from that leading
West; and by all the laws of navigation there should have been nothing
in the way. Nothing, that is, except fishing schooners, which do not
matter, as they are the only sufferers if they haven't the sense to
get out of the way.

  But, suddenly, through the fog ahead there loomed out a vast shape,
and almost before the telegraph rung its message to the engine-room,
and certainly before steam could be shut off, the Armenia's bow was
clashing and clanging and ripping and buckling as though it had
charged full tilt against a solid cliff.

  The engines stopped, and the awful tearing noises ceased, save for a
tinkling rattle as of a cascade of glass, and: "There goes my blooming
ticket," said Kettle bitterly. "Who'd have thought of an iceberg as
far south as here this time of year!" But he was prompt to act on the

  "Now, Mr. Mate, away forward with you, and get the carpenter, and go
down and find out how big the damage is." The crew were crowding out
on deck. "All hands to boat-stations. See all clear for lowering away,
and then hold on all. Now, keep your heads, men. There's no damage,
and if there was damage there's no hurry. Put a couple of hands at
each of the companion-ways, and keep all passengers below. We can't
have them messing round here yet awhile."

  The Purser was standing at the bottom of the upper bridge ladder
half-clad, cool, and expectant. "Ah, Mr. Horrocks, come here."

  The Armenia had slipped back from the berg by this time and lay
still, with the fog dense all around her. "Now it's all up with the
old Atrocity, Purser: look how she's by the head already. Get your
crew of stewards together, and victual the boats. Keep 'em in hand
well, or else we shall have a stampede and a lot of drowning. I'll
have the boats in the water by the time you're ready, and then you
must hand up the passengers, women first."

  "Aye, aye, sir."

  "Wait a minute. If any one won't do as he's bid, shoot. We must keep

  The Purser showed a pistol. "I put that in my pocket," said he,
"when I heard her hit. Good-bye, skipper; I'm sorry I haven't been a
better shipmate to you."

  "Good-bye, Purser," said Kettle; "you aren't a bad sort."

  Mr. Horrocks ran off below, and the chief officer came back with his
report, which he whispered quietly in the shipmaster's ear. "It's
fairly scratched the bottom off her. There's sixty feet gone, clean.
Collision bulkhead's nowhere. There's half the Atlantic on board

  "How long will she swim?"

  "The carpenter said twenty minutes, but I doubt it."

  "Well, away with you, Mr. Mate, and stand by your boat. Take plenty
of rockets and distress lights, and if the fog lifts we ought to get
picked up by the Georgic before morning. She's close on our heels
somewhere. If you miss her and get separated, make for St. John's."

  "Ay, aye, sir."

  "So long, Mr. Mate. Good luck to you."

  "Good-bye, skipper. Get to the inquiry if you can. I'll swear till
all's blue that it wasn't your fault, and you may save your ticket

  "All right, Matey, I see what you mean. But I'm not going to shoot
myself this journey. I've got the missis and the kids to think about."

  The Mate ran off down the ladder, and Kettle had the upper bridge to
himself. The decks of the steamer glowed with flares and blue lights.
A continuous stream of rockets spouted from her superstructure far
into the inky sky. The main fore-deck was already flush with the
water, and on the hurricane deck aft, thrust up high into the air,
frightened human beings bustled about like the inhabitants of some
disturbed ant-hill.

  Pair by pair the davit tackles screamed out, and the liner's boats
kissed the water, rode there for a minute to their painters as they
were loaded with the dense human freight, and then pushed off out of
suction reach, and lay to. Dozen by dozen the passengers left the
luxurious steam hotel, and got into the frail open craft which danced
so dangerously in the clammy fog of that Atlantic night. Deeper the
Armenia's fore part sank beneath the cold waters as her forward
compartments swamped.

  From far beneath him in the hull, Kettle could hear the hum of the
bilge pumps as they fought the in-coming sluices; and then at last
those stopped, and a gush of steam burred from the twin funnels to
tell that the engineers had been forced to blow off their boilers to
save an explosion.

  A knot of three men stood at the head of port gangway ladder
shouting for Kettle. He went gloomily down and joined them. They were
the purser, the second mate, and Mr. Grimshaw.

  Kettle turned with a blaze of fury on his suave tormentor. "Into the
boat with you, sir. How do you dare to disobey my orders and stay
behind when the passengers were ordered to go? Into the boat with you,
or, by James! I'll throw you there."

  Mr. Robert Grimshaw opened his lips for speech.

  "If you answer me back," said Kettle, "I'll shoot you dead."

  Mr. Grimshaw went. He had a tolerable knowledge of men, and he
understood that this ruined shipmaster would be as good as his word.
He picked his way down the swaying ladder to where the white-painted
lifeboat plunged beneath, finding footsteps with clumsy landsman's
diffidence. He reached the grating at the foot of the ladder, and
paused. The lifeboat surged up violently towards him over a sea, and
then swooped down again in the trough.

  "Jump, you blame' fool," the second mate yelled in his ear, "or the
steamer will be down under us." And Grimshaw jumped, cannoned heavily
against the boat's white gunwale, and sank like a stone into the black

  At a gallop there flashed through Captain Kettle's brain a string of
facts. He was offered 10,000 if this man did not reach Liverpool; he
himself would be out of employ, and back on the streets again; his
wife and children would go hungry. Moreover, he had endured cruel
humiliation from this man, and hated him poisonously. Even by letting
him passively drown he would procure revenge and future financial
easement. But then the memory of that Irish-American at the speaking
tube in the Bowery came back to him, and the thought of obliging a
cowardly assassin like that drove all other thoughts from his mind. He
thrust Horrocks and the second mate aside, and dived into the waters
after this passenger.

  It is no easy thing to find a man in a rough sea and in an inky
night like that, and for long enough neither returned to the surface.
The men in the lifeboat, fearing that the Armenia would founder and
drag them down in her wash, were beginning to shove off, when the two
bodies showed on the waves, and were dragged on board with boat-hooks.

  Both were insensible, and in the press of the moment were allowed to
remain so on the bottom gratings of the boat. Oars straggled out from
her sides, frantically labouring, and the boat fled over the seas like
some uncouth insect.

  But they were not without a mark to steer for. Rockets were
streaming up out of another part of the night, and presently, as they
rode on over that bleak watery desert, the outline of a great steamer
shone out, lit up like some vast stage picture. The other boats had
delivered up their freights, and been sent adrift. The second mate's
boat rowed to the foot of her gangway ladder.

  "This is the Georgic," said a smart officer, who received them. "You
are the last boat. We've got all your other people unless you've lost

  "No," said the second mate. "We're all right. That's the Old Man
down there with his fingers in that passenger's hair."


  "No, I saw 'em both move as we came alongside."

  "Well, pass 'em up and let's get 'em down to our doctor. Hurry now.
We wanted to break the record this passage, and we've lost a lot of
time already over you."

  "Right-o," said the Armenia's second mate drearily, "though I don't
suppose our poor old skipper will thank us for keeping him alive.
After piling up the old Atrocity, he isn't likely to ever get another

  "Man has to take luck as he finds it at sea," said the Georgic's
officer, and shouted to the rail above him "All aboard, sir."

  "Cast off that boat!" "Up gangway," came the orders, and the Georgic
continued her race to the East.


IF anyone had announced in the Captains' Room at Hallett's that a man
could leave that sanctum shortly before turning-out time, and be
forthwith kidnapped in the open streets of South Shields, every master
mariner within hearing would have put him down contemptuously as a
gratuitous liar. All opinions in the Captains' Room were expressed
strongly, and with due maritime force of language.

  The place seemed to its frequenters the embodiment of homeliness and
security. There was a faint smell of varnish in the atmosphere, and
always had been within the memory of the oldest habitu, and
shipmasters came back to the odour with a sigh of pleasure, as men do
return to the neighbourhood of an old and unobtrusive friend. Captains
met in that room who traded to all parts of the globe, talked, and
soon found acquaintances in common. It was a sort of informal club,
with no subscription, and an unlimited membership. The holding of a
master's "ticket" was the only entrance qualification, and it was not
considered polite to ask your neighbour whether he was at that moment
in or out of employment.

  If you were a genuine master mariner, but of an unclubable
disposition, you did not go to the Captains' Room at Hallett's a
second time, and always made a point of getting rather red and
speaking of it contemptuously when the place was mentioned afterwards.
If you did not hold a master's ticket, even if you were that dashing
thing, a newly-fledged mate, the bar-maiden on guard spotted you on
the instant, and said "that door was private," and directed you to the
smoke-room down the passage.

  Into this exclusive chamber Captain Owen Kettle had made his way
that day after tea, and over two modest half pints of bitter beer had
done his share in the talk and the listening from 8 till 10.30 of the
clock. He had exchanged views with other shipmasters on cargoes,
crews, insurances, climates, and those other professional matters
which the profane world (not in the shipping interest) finds so
dreary; and had been listened to with deference. He was a man who
commanded attention, and though you might not like what he said, you
would not dream of refusing to hear it.

  That special night, however, Captain Kettle's personal views on
maritime affairs were listened to with even more deference than usual.
A large, red-haired man swung into the Captains' Room some few minutes
after Kettle had seated himself, and, after ordering his beverage and
a cigar, nodded with a whimsical smile in Kettle's direction, and
asked him how he liked the neighbourhood of Valparaiso as a residence.

  "I forget," said the little sailor, drily enough.

  "All right, Captain," said the red-haired man, "don't you mind me. I
never remember too much myself either. Only you did me a good turn out
there, although you probably don't know it, and I'd be proud if you'd
have a drink or a smoke with me now in remembrance."

  "You're very polite, Captain."

  "Don't mention it, Captain," said the red-haired man, and struck the
bell. "Same? Half a pint of bitter, please, miss, and one of your best
fourpenny smokes."

  The general talk of the Captains' Room, which had halted for the
moment, went on again. One worthy mariner had recently failed to show
a clean bill of health in Barcelona, and had been sent to do twenty
days' penance at the quarantine station, which is in Port Mahon,
Minorca. As a natural consequence, he wanted to give his views on
Spain and Spanish government with length and bitterness, but somehow
the opportunity was denied him. The red-haired man put in a sentence
or two, and a question, and it was Kettle's opinion on the matter to
which the Captains' Room found itself listening.

  A salvage point was brought up by a stout gentleman in the Baltic
timber trade who was anxious to air his sentiments; but the red-haired
man skilfully intervened, and "Kettle on Salvage" was asked for and
heard. And so on all through the evening. The red-haired man did his
work cleverly, and no one resented it.

  Now, Kettle was a man who liked being listened to, and there was no
doubt that his vanity was tickled by all this deference from his
professional equals. There is no doubt also that the smug security of
Hallett's lulled his usual sense of wariness, which may in part
account for what happened afterwards. And so, without further excuse
for him, it is my painful duty to record that an hour after he left
the Captains' Room, the little sailor was entrapped and kidnapped by
what to a man of his knowledge, was one of the most vulgar of

  He emptied his tumbler, stood up, and said he must be going. The
red-haired man looked at the round cabin clock on the wall, and
mentioned that it was his time also; and together they went outside
into the damp, dark main street of South Shields.

  "Going back to your ship, Captain?" asked the big stranger.

  "Why, no, Captain," said Kettle. "I live here, and I'm off home."

  "Then I suppose I must say good-night. Hope to meet you again,
though. What boat are you on now, Captain?"

  "Well, I'm putting in a bit of a spell ashore just now, Captain.
Fact is, I haven't come across any employment quite to my taste
lately. 'Tisn't every shipowner I care to serve under."

  "No," said the red-haired man. "They are brutes, most of them. But,
look here, Captain, there'd be no offence in my getting you the
refusal of a berth, would there?"

  Kettle flushed. "Captain," he said, "you're very good. You see, I'm
married, with children, and I've never earned enough to put anything
by. Between men, I don't mind telling you I'm on my beam ends. If I
can't get hold of an advance note this week, it will mean going to the
pawnshop for Mrs. Kettle's next Sunday's dinner."

  The red-haired man sighed. "Well, Captain," he said, "you needn't
thank me. It's just my duty to my employers to put this thing in your
way. But we'll not speak of it here in the open. Come along off to my

  "Right," said Kettle. "Where have you got her?"

  "She's lying at a buoy in the river. We can get a boat from the

  Nothing much more was said between them. The big red-haired man
seemed indisposed for further talk, and Kettle was too proud to ask
questions. Together they walked with their short seaman's stride down
the wet, new streets of the seaport, and Captain Kettle made his brain
ache by hoping that this would not be another item to add to his long
list of disappointments. He had not earned a day's wage for six
months, and he was in such straits for want of money that he was
growing desperate.

  They got down to the steps and took a waterman's boat. They turned
up the piece of plank which lay in the stern sheets, and sat on the
dry side, and then pushed off into the dark river. The red-haired man
picked up the yoke lines, and steered the boat amongst the dense
shipping: past tiers of coasting schooners, and timber droghers, and
out-of-work clinker-built tugs; past ungainly iron steam tramps,
fishing craft, dredgers, and the other resting traffic of the Tyne;
and finally rounded up under a frieze of sterns, and ran alongside the
gangway of a 200 ton steam yacht.

  "Hullo," said Kettle, "pleasure?"

  "Well, hardly that," said the red-haired man. "Step aboard, Captain,
and I'll pay off the waterman."

  "He'd better wait to take me ashore again."

  "No, let him go. We may have a long talk. I'll put you ashore in one
of my own boats when you go. Now, Captain, here we are. Come below to
my room."

  "You've got steam up, I see," said Kettle, as they walked aft along
the white, wet decks.

  "My orders," said the red-haired man.

  "Sail soon?"

  "May start any minute. We never know. My owner's a rare one for
changing his mind."

  "Huh," said Kettle, "might be a woman."

  "Devilish like a woman," said the red-haired man, drily. He opened a
door at the foot of the companionway, and turned an electric light
switch. "This is my room, Captain. Step right in. A drop of whisky
would be a good thing to keep out the cold whilst we talk. Excuse me a
minute while I go and get a couple of tumblers. I guess the steward's
turned in."

  Kettle seated himself on a velvet-covered sofa, and looked round at
the elaborate fittings of the cabin. "Satin-wood panels," he
commented, "nickel battens to put the charts on, glass backed book
case, and silk bunk curtains: no expense spared anywhere. Lord! who
wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea? But the old man said she wasn't
pleasure! I wonder what the game is? Contraband, I guess: many a
yacht's great on that. Well, anyway, I've got to hear."

  The red-haired man came back with two half-filled tumblers and a
water-jug. "Here's the poison," said he; "mix it according to your own

  "That's rather more than my usual whack," said Kettle, eyeing the
tumbler; "but it's a cold, wet night, so here's--By the way, Captain,
I'm afraid I've forgotten your name?"

  "My name?" said the red-haired man. "Oh, yes. I'm Douglas--Captain

  "Captain Douglas," said Kettle, thoughtfully. "No, I can't say I
recall it at present. Well, sir, anyway, here's your very good health
and prosperity."

  "Same," said the red-haired man, and absorbed his whisky and water
with the dexterity of an artist. Out of politeness Captain Kettle
finished his tumbler also; there is an etiquette about these matters.

  Silence filled the cabin for a minute or so, broken only by the
distant clatter of a shovel on a fire-bar, and Kettle looked at the
cabin clock. It was half-past eleven, and Mrs. Kettle would be
expecting him home. "Hullo," he said, "firing up? Oh, I suppose you've
got to keep steam in the donkey boiler, whilst you're in harbour, to
run your dynamo. By the way, you were talking about some employment
you could put in my way, Captain?" he added suggestively.

  "Employment!" said Douglas uneasily. "Oh, was I? Employment! Yes, to
be sure. Well, you see, Captain, it was my owner I was speaking for,
and I've been thinking it over, and perhaps on the whole you'd better
see her for yourself."

  "Her?" said Kettle. "Is there a woman at the head of this concern?"

  "A lady, call her. But look here, Captain, you're getting sleepy.
Why not turn in here for the night, and see her yourself in the

  Kettle yawned, and his head nodded. "I am sleepy, and that's a fact,
though I don't know why I should be. But it wouldn't do for me to turn
in here for the night. Mrs. Kettle's expecting me at home, and I've
never broken word to her since I was married. I should take it as
kind, Captain, if you could give me some notion about this piece of
employment now, so that I could see whether it's worth---" He yawned
again, and struggled with his heavy eyelids--"You must understand,
please, Captain, that time is scarce with me; I must get employment at
once. I can't stand by and see my missus and youngsters hungry."

  Captain Douglas swore, and hit the table with his fist. "It's
beastly hard," he said, "and I hate myself for bringing you here."

  "What's that noise overhead?" said Kettle. "What are your crew doing
on deck? He tried to rise, but fell back stupidly on the sofa. A harsh
bell clanged from somewhere beneath, and the slop-slop of water came
to him through the yacht's side.

  "She's swinging round in the stream, and someone's rung 'stand by'
to the engine room."

  "Sounds like it," the red-haired man admitted.

  Again Kettle tried to rise, and with an immense effort tottered to
his feet; but he had been given a drug too powerful for even his iron
will to fight against; and he swayed, and then pitched helplessly
sideways on to the carpet.

  Tue last flickering gleams of consciousness were passing away from
him, but the truth of what had happened had flashed upon him at last.
"Shanghaied," he murmured; "by James! yes, Shanghaied, that's what
this means. Well, I pity the man--that shanghaied me. By--James--yes."
He breathed stertorously a time or two more, as though trying to get
out other words, and then dropped off into a deathly stupor.

  Then the door of the state-room creaked slyly open, and the red-
haired man started violently. He turned and saw a tall, dark woman
just crossing the threshold. "Donna Clotilde!" he said nervously. "I
thought you were ashore. Then it was by your orders---"

  "That the yacht was got under way? Si, Seor. I saw you come on
board with the man we have been hunting for these last two years, and
as soon as the pair of you got below, I sent word to the mate to call
all hands, and get out of the Tyne as soon as the pilot could manage
it." She knelt beside Kettle's prostrate body, and passed her hand
caressingly over his damp forehead. "You are sure you have not
overdone it?" she asked.

  "I am sure of nothing like that," he answered grimly. "But I gave
him the dose you measured out yourself, so what's done is your own
affair. I only added enough whisky to drown the taste, and the poor
little beggar drank it all down at one mouthful."

  "I don't see that you need pity him much. He will be all right when
he wakes."

  "When he wakes it will be at sea, and I have heard him speak of his
wife and kids. That's why I pity him, Donna Clotilde. Incidentally I'm
a bit sorry for myself." He stooped over the prostrate man, and took a
revolver from the back pocket of his trousers. "Look there! You see
the fellow took a gun with him even to Hallett's. It's grown to be a
habit with him. He's a dead shot, too, and doesn't mind shooting."

  "I didn't think you were a coward."

  "You know quite well I'm not, Seorita. But this Captain Kettle will
remember that I was the fellow that decoyed him on board, and he'll be
pretty anxious to square up the account when he wakes."

  "You are well paid on purpose to cover all risks," said the woman
with some contempt.

  "And I shall be earning my pay," said the red-haired man doggedly.
"This small person here's a holy terror. Well, I must be getting on
deck to see the pilot take her down the river. Here, I'll put him on
the bed before I go. He'll sleep it off more comfortably there."

  "You shall not touch him," said Donna Clotilde. "I will do all
that's needful. I have waited for this moment for three long years."

  "You must be pretty keen on him if you can sit by him when he does
not know you."

  "I have loved him since the first moment we met and he knows it; and
I do not mind who else knows it also. I am entirely without shame in
the matter: I glory in it. I am not one of your cold-blooded European

  "Well," he said, "you're paying me to run this yacht, and I must be
off up to see the pilot take her out of the river without losing us
any paint." And he went out of his room, and left Donna Clotilde La
Touche alone with this man by whom she was so fiercely attracted.

  The yacht steamed out between Tyne pier heads, and the pilot left
her in the coble which had been towing stern first alongside. Her
destination was the Mediterranean, but she did not port her helm at
once. Instead, she held on straight out into the North Sea, and then
turned off to make the Mediterranean, North about; that is, through
the Pentland and round Scotland. She kept clear of Ireland also,
making a course for herself through the deeper wilderness of the North
Atlantic, avoiding the North-and-South traffic of the Bay, and in fact
sighting scarcely a single vessel till the red-haired man at last
starboarded his helm and put her East for the Straits.

  The voyage was not one of monotony. Captain Kettle lay for the first
twenty-four hours in a state of snoring unconsciousness, and when he
did come to his wits again, found himself in a cabin alone. He got up
and stretched. His limbs were heavy and languid, but he was not
conscious of having received any hurt. He clapped a hand to the region
of his loins and nodded his grim head significantly. His pistol was

  He looked in the glass and saw that his face above the red torpedo
beard was drawn and white, and that his eyes were framed in black,
dissipated-looking rings. There was an evil taste in his mouth too,
which even a bottleful of water did not allay. However, all of these
were minor details; they might be repaired afterwards. His first
requirement was revenge on the man who had lured him aboard.

  His natural instincts of tidiness made him go through the ceremony
of toilette, and then he put on his cap, and, spruce and pale, went
out through the luxurious cabin and passageways of the yacht, and
found his way on deck.

  The time was night; the cold air was full of moonshine; and fortune
favoured him insomuch that the red-haired man whom he sought was
himself standing a watch. He walked up to him without any concealment,
and then, swift as light, slung out his right fist, sending every
ounce of his weight after it, and caught the red-haired man squarely
on the peak of the jaw.

  The fellow went down as if he had been pole-axed, and Kettle was
promptly on top of him. The three other hands of the watch on deck
were coming fast to their big captain's assistance, and Kettle made
the most of his time. He had been brought up in a school where he was
taught to hit hard, and hit first, and keep on hitting, and moreover
he was anatomically skilled enough to know where to hit with most
effect. He had no time then for punctilious fighting; he intended to
mark his man in return for value received; and he did it. Then the
three lusty deck hands of the watch came up and wrenched him off, and
held him for their officer in turn to take vengeance on.

  Kettle stood in their grip, panting and pale, and exultant.

  "You great ugly red-polled beggar!" he said, "I've made your face
match your head, but you needn't thank me for it. You'd dare to
Shanghai me, would you? By James! I'll make your ship a perfect hell
till I'm off it."

  "You hit a man when he's not looking."

  "Liar!" said Kettle. "You saw me plain enough. If you were half a
sailor you'd never have been hit."

  "You're half my size. I couldn't fight you."

  "Tell your hands to set me adrift, and try."

  The big man was tempted, but he swallowed down his inclination. He
ordered the men who were holding Captain Kettle to set him free and go
away forward again, and then he thrust his own fists resolutely in his

  "Now," he said, when they were alone, "I own up to having earned
what you've given me, and I hope that'll suit you, for if it doesn't,
I'll shoot you like a rat with your own gun. You've handled me in a
way no other man has done before, and so you can tickle your pride
with that, and simmer down. If you want to know, I was a man like
yourself, hard up; and I was paid to kidnap you, and I'd have
kidnapped the devil for money just then."

  "I know nothing about the devil," said Kettle acidly; "but you've
got me, and you couldn't very well find a worse bargain. If you are
not a fool, you will set me ashore at once."

  "I shall act entirely by my owner's orders."

  "Then trot out your owner, and I'll pass the time of day with him
next. I'm not particular. I'll kill the whole blooming ship's company
if I don't get my own way."

  "Man, don't you be a fool. You can't hit a woman."

  "A woman?"

  "Yes, I told you before--Donna Clotilde. You know her well enough."

  "Donna Clotilde who?"

  "La Touche."

  The stiffening seemed suddenly to go out of the little man. He
stepped wearily across the deck, and leant his elbows on the yacht's
polished topgallant rail. "By James!" he murmured to the purple arch
of the night. "By James! that--that woman. What a ruddy mess." And
then he broke off into dreary musing. He had known this Donna Clotilde
La Touche before; had entered her employ in Valparaiso; had helped her
revolutionary schemes by capturing a warship for her. In return she
had conceived a mad infatuation for him.

But all the while he regarded her merely as his employer. In the end
he had been practically set adrift at sea in an open boat as a penance
for not divorcing his own wife and marrying her. And now she was come
to add to his other troubles by beginning to persecute him again. It
was hard, bitterly hard.

  By some subtle transference of thought, the woman in her berth below
became conscious of his regard, grew restless, woke, got more
restless, dressed, came on deck, and saw this man with whom she was so
fiercely enamoured, staring gloomily over the bulwarks. With her
lithe, silent walk she stepped across the dewy decks under the
moonlight, and, without his hearing her, leant on the rail at his side
and flung an arm across his shoulders.

  Captain Kettle woke from his musing with a start, stepped coldly
aside, and saluted formally. He had an eye for a good-looking woman,
and this one was deliciously handsome. He was always chivalrous
towards the other sex, whatever might be their characters; but the
fact of his own kidnapping at the moment of Mrs. Kettle's pressing
need, made him almost as hard as though a man stood before him as his

  "Miss La Touche," he said, "do you wish me to remember you with

  "I do not wish you to have need to remember me at all. As you know,
I wish you to stay with me always."

  "That, as I have told you before, miss, is impossible, for more
reasons than one. You have done me infinite mischief already. I might
have found employment by this time had I stayed in South Shields, and
meanwhile my wife and children are hungry. Be content with that, and
set me ashore."

  "I repeat the offer I made you in South America. Come with me, get a
divorce, and your wife shall have an income such as she never dreamed
of, and such as you never could have got her in all your life
otherwise. You know I am not boasting. As you must know by this, I am
one of the richest women in the world."

  "Thank you; but I do not accept the terms. Money is not everything."

  "And meanwhile remember, I keep you on board here, whether you like
it or not; and, until you give way to what I want, your wife may
starve. So if she and your children are in painful straits, you must
recollect that it is entirely your fault."

  "Quite so," said Kettle. "She will be content to starve when she
knows the reason."

  Donna Clotilde's eyes began to glitter.

  "There are not many men who would refuse if I offered them myself."

  "Then, miss, I must remain curious."

  She stamped her foot. "I have hungered for you all this time, and I
will not give you up for mere words. You will come to love me in time
as I love you. I tell you you will, you must, you shall. I have got
you now, and I will not let you go again."

  "Then, miss," said Kettle grimly, "I shall have to show you that I
am too hot to hold."

  She faced him with heaving breast. "We will see who wins," she

  "Probably," said Captain Kettle, and took off his cap. "Good-night,
miss, for the present. We know how we stand: the game appears to begin
between us from now." He turned deliberately away from her, walked
forward, and went below; and, after a little waiting, Donna Clotilde
shivered, and went back to her own luxurious state room.

  But if she was content to spend the rest of the night in mere empty
longing, Captain Kettle was putting his time to more practical use. He
was essentially a man of action.

  Cautiously he found his way to the steward's storeroom, filled a
case with meat tins and biscuit, and then coming on deck again, stowed
it away in the lifeboat, which hung in davits out-board, without being
noticed. With equal success he took the boat's beaker forward, filled
it from a water tank, and got it fixed on its chocks again, still
without being seen. The moon was behind clouds, and the darkness
favoured him. He threw down the coils of the davit falls on deck, cast
off one from where it was belayed, took a turn and carried the bight
to the other davit so that he could lower away both tackles at once.

  But he was not allowed to get much further. The disused blocks
screamed like a parcel of cats as the ropes rendered through them;
there was a shrill whistle from the officer of the watch; and half a
dozen men from various parts of the deck came bounding along to

  Captain Kettle let go both falls to overhaul as they chose, picked
up a greenheart belaying-pin out of the pin rail, and stood on the
defensive. But the forward fall kinked and jammed, and though the
little man fought like a demon to keep off the watch till he got it
clear, they were too many for him, and drove him to the deck by sheer
weight of numbers. He had cracked one man's forearm in the scuffle,
laid open another's face, and smashed in the front teeth of a third,
and they were rather inclined to treat him roughly, but the red-haired
skipper came up, and by sheer superior strength picked him up, kicking
and struggling, and hustled him off below whether he liked it or no.

  The lifeboat dangled half-swamped from the forward davit tackle, and
all hands had to be piped before they could get her on board again;
and by the time they had completed this job, there was another matter
handy to occupy their attention A fireman came up from below, white-
faced and trembling:

  "The yacht's half full of water," he said.

  Now that their attention was called to it, they noticed the sluggish
way she rode the water.

  "She must have started a plate or something," the fireman went on
excitedly. "We've got both bilge pumps running and they won't look at
it. The water's coming in like a sluice."

  "Carpenter," sang out the red-haired man, "come below with me and
see if we can find anything," and he led the way to the companion.
Between decks they could hear the water slopping about under the
flooring. It seemed a bad, an almost hopeless case.

  Instinctively the red-haired man went to his own room to pocket his
valuables, and by chance he was moved to lift up the door in the floor
which covered the bath beneath it. Ah, there was the mischief. The sea
cock which filled the bath was turned on to the full, and the iron tub
was gushing water on every side. The next state-room was empty, but
the bath cock there was also turned on to the full; and after going
round the ship, and finally entering Kettle's room (and covering him
with a revolver), and turning off his water supply, he found that the
sea had been pouring inboard from no fewer than eight separate

  "And this is your work, you little fiend, I suppose?" said the red-
haired man savagely.

  "Certainly," said Captain Kettle. "Shoot me if you like, put me
ashore if you choose, but don't grumble if you find me a deuced ugly
passenger. I'm not in the habit of being made to travel where I don't

  That afternoon Kettle contrived to set the yacht afire in three
separate places, and a good deal of damage was done (and night had
fallen again) before the scared crew managed to extinguish the flames;
and this time Donna Clotilde intervened. She asked for Kettle's parole
that he would attempt no further mischief; and when this was flatly
refused, incontinently put him in irons. The lady was somewhat
tigerish in her affections.

  A second time Captain Kettle managed to get the yacht in a blaze, at
the imminent peril of immolating himself, and then, from lack of
further opportunity to make himself obnoxious, lay quiet in his lair
till such time as the yacht would of necessity go into harbour to
coal. The exasperated crew would cheerfully have murdered him if they
had been given the chance, but Donna Clotilde would not permit him to
be harmed. She was a young woman who, up to this, had always contrived
to have her own way, and she firmly believed that she would tame
Kettle in time.

  When the yacht passed the Straits she had only four days' more coal
on board, and the executive (and Kettle) expected that she would go
into Gibraltar and lay alongside a hulk to rebunker. But Donna
Clotilde had other notions. She had the yacht run down the Morocco
coast, and brought to an anchor. So long as she had Captain Kettle in
her company upon the waters, she did not vastly care whether she was
moving or at a standstill.

  "You cannot escape me here," she said to him when the cable had
roared from the hawse pipe, and the dandy steamer had swung to a rest.
"The yacht is victualled for a year, and I can stay here as long as
you choose. You had far better be philosophical and give in. Marry me
now, and liking will come afterwards."

  Kettle looked at the tigerish love and resentment which blazed from
her black eyes, and answered with cold politeness that time would show
what happened: though, to tell the truth, indomitable though he was as
a general thing, he was at that time feeling that escape was almost
impossible. And so for the while he more or less resigned himself to

  Under the baking blue of a Mediterranean sky this one-sided
courtship progressed, Donna Clotilde alternating her ecstasies of
fierce endearment by paroxysms of invective, and Kettle enduring both
with equal coldness and immobility. The crew of the yacht looked on,
stolidly non-interferent, and were kept by their officers at cleaning
and painting, as necessary occupiers to the mind. But one or other of
them, of their own free will, always kept an eye on their guest,
whether he was on deck or below. He had given them a wholesale taste
of his quality, and they had an abject dread of what he might be up to
next if he was left alone. They quite understood that he would destroy
the yacht and all hands if, by doing so, he could regain his personal

  But others, it seems, besides those already mentioned in this
narrative, were taking a lively interest in the smart yacht and her
people. She was at anchor in the bay of the Riff coast, and the gentry
who inhabited the beach villages, and the villages in the hills behind
the beach, had always looked upon anybody and anything they could grab
as their just and lawful prey. The Sultan of Morocco, the war-ships of
France, Spain and elsewhere, and the emissaries of other Powers had
time after time endeavoured to school them in the science of
civilisation without effect, and so they still remain today, the only
regularly practicing pirates in the Western World.

  The yacht was sighted first from the hills; was reported to the
beach villages; and was reconnoitred under cover of night by a tiny
fishing-boat. The report was pleasing, and word went round. Bearded
brown men collected at an appointed spot, each with the arms to which
he was best accustomed; and when darkness fell, four large boats were
run dawn to the feather edge of the surf. There was no indecent hurry.
They did their work with method and carefulness, like men who are used
to it; and they arrived alongside the yacht at 3 a.m., confidently
expecting to take her by surprise.

  But the crew of the yacht, thanks to Captain Kettle's vagaries, were
not in the habit of sleeping over soundly; they never knew what piece
of dangerous mischief their little captive might turn his willing hand
to next; and, as a consequence, when the anchor watch sang out his
first alarm, not many seconds elapsed before every hand aboard was on
deck. The yacht was well supplied with revolvers and cutlasses, and
half a minute sufficed to get these up from below and distributed, so
that when the Riffians attempted to board, the defenders were quite
ready to give them battle.

  Be this how it may, however, there is no doubt as to which side got
the first advantage. The yacht's low freeboard made but a small
obstacle to a climber from the large boats alongside, and neither the
deck hands nor the stokehold crew were any of them trained fighting
men. In their 'prentice hands the kicking revolvers threw high, and
were only useful as knuckledusters, and till they had thrown them
down, and got their cutlasses into play, they did hardly any execution
to speak about. The Riff men, on the other hand, had been bred and
born in an atmosphere of skirmish, and made ground steadily.

  At an early point of the scuffle, Captain Kettle came on deck with a
cigar in his mouth, and hands in his pockets, and looked on upon
matters with a critical interest, but did not offer to interfere one
way or the other. It was quite a new sensation to him, to watch an
active fight, without being called upon to assist or arbitrate.

  And then up came from below Donna Clotilde La Touche, dressed and
weaponed, and without a bit of hesitation, flung herself into the
turmoil She saw Kettle standing on one side, but neither besought nor
commanded him. She would have died sooner than ask for his help then,
and be met with a refusal.

  Into the mle she went, knife and pistol, and there is no doubt
that her example, and the fury of her rush, animated the yacht's crew,
and made them stronger to drive the wall of their assailants back. To
give Donna Clotilde her due, she was as brave as the bravest man, and,
moreover, she was a certain shot at moderate range. But, after her
revolver was empty and the press closed round her, it was not long
before an expert hand twisted the knife from her grasp, and then the
end came quickly. An evil-smelling man noted her glorious beauty, and
marked her out as his special loot. He clapped a couple of sinewy arms
around her, and bore her away towards the bulwarks and his boat.

  Some one had switched on the electric deck lights, and the fight was
in a glow of radiance. Everything was to be clearly seen. Donna
Clotilde was being dragged resisting along the decks, and Kettle
looked on placidly smoking his cigar. She was heaved up on the
bulwarks; in another moment she would be gone from his path for ever.

  Still her lips made no sound, though her great, black eyes were full
of wild entreaty. But the eyes were more than Kettle could stand. He
stooped and picked up a weapon from amongst the litter on deck, and
rushed forward and gave a blow, and the Riffian dropped limply, and
Donna Clotilde stood by the yacht's bulwark breathless and gasping.

  "Now you get away below," he ordered curtly. "I'll soon clear this
rabble over the side."

  He watched to see her obey him, and she did it meekly. Then he gave
his attention to the fight. He broke a packet of cartridges which lay
on the deck planks, picked up and loaded a revolver, and commenced to
make himself useful to the yacht's crew; and from that moment the
fortune of the battle turned.

  Captain Owen Kettle was (and is) a beautiful fighter, and this was
just his fight. Against his cool-headed ferocity the Riffians gave way
like sand before waves. He did not miss a blow, he did not waste a
shot; all his efforts went home with the deadliest effect. His voice,
too, was a splendid ally. The yacht's crew had been doing their utmost
already: they had been fighting for their bare lives. But with
Kettle's poisonous tongue to lash them, they did far more; they raged
like wild beasts at the brown men who had invaded their sacred
decking, and drove them back with resistless fury.

  "Hump yourselves, you lazy dogs!" Kettle shouted. "Keep them on the
move. Drive them over the bows. Murder those you can reach. Am I to do
all this job myself? Come on, you mongrels."

  The red cutlasses stabbed and hacked, and the shrieks and yells and
curses of the fight grew to a climax; and then the Riffians with a
sudden panic gave way, and ran for the side, and tumbled over into
their boats. There was no quarter asked or given. The exasperated
yachtsmen cut down all they could reach even whilst they were
escaping; and when the sound had gone, they threw after them the
killed and wounded, to be rescued or lost as they chose. Afterwards,
having a moment's respite, they picked up their revolvers again,
loaded them, and kept up a spattering, ill-aimed fire till the boats
were out of reach. Then when they turned to look to their own killed
and hurt, they found a new crisis awaiting them.

  Captain Kettle was on the top of the deck-house which served as a
navigating bridge, ostentatiously closing up the breach of the
revolver after reloading it. He wished for a hearing, and after what
they had seen of his deadly marksmanship, they gave it to him without
demur. His needs were simple. He wanted steam as soon as the engineers
could give it him, and he intended to take the yacht into Gibraltar
right away. Had anybody an objection to raise?

  The red-haired man made himself spokesman. "We should have to go to
Gib. anyway," said he. "Some of us want a doctor badly, and three of
us want a parson to read the funeral service. Whether you can get
ashore once we do run into Gib., Captain, is your own concern."

  "You can leave that to me safely," said Captain Kettle. "It will be
something big that stops me from having my own way now."

  The men dispersed about their duties, the decks were hosed down, and
the deck lights switched off. After awhile Donna Clotilde came gliding
up out of the darkness, and stepped up the ladder to the top of the
deck-house. Kettle regarded her uneasily.

  To his surprise she knelt down, took his hand, and smothered it with
burning kisses. Then she went back to the head of the ladder. "My
dear," she said, "I will never see you again. I made you hate me, and
yet you saved my life. I wish I thought I could ever forget you."

  "Miss La Touche," said Kettle, "you will find a man in your own
station one of these days to make you a proper husband, and then you
will look back at this cruise and think how lucky it was you so soon
sickened, and kicked me away from you."

  She shook her head and smiled through her tears. "You are generous,"
she said. "Good-bye. Goodbye, my darling. Good-bye." Then she went
down the ladder, and Kettle never saw her again.

  A quartermaster came up and took the wheel. The windlass engine had
been clacking, and the red-haired man called out from forward, "All

  "Quartermaster," said Kettle.

  "Yessir," said the quartermaster.

  "Nor' nor' west and by west."

  "Nor' no' west n'b' west it is, sir," said the quartermaster


CAPTAIN OWEN KETTLE folded the letter-card, put it in his pocket, and
re-lit his cigar. He drew paper towards him, and took out a stub of
pencil and tried to make verse, which was his habit when things were
shaping themselves awry, but the rhymes refused to come. He changed
the metre: he gave up labouring to fit the words to the air of "Swanee
River," and started fresh lines which would go to the tune of
"Greenland's Icy Mountains," a rhythm with which at other times he had
been notoriously successful. But it failed him now. He could not get
the jingle; spare feet bristled at every turn; and the field of
poppies on which his muse was engaged became every moment more and
more elusive.

  It was no use. He put down the pencil and sighed, and then, frowning
at himself for his indecision, took out the letter-card again, and
deliberately re-read it, front and back.

  Captain Kettle was a man who made up his mind over most matters with
the quickness of a pistol shot; and once settled, rightly or wrongly,
he always stuck to his decision. But here, on the letter card, was a
matter he could not get the balance of at all; it refused to be
dismissed, even temporarily, from his mind; it involved interests far
too large to be hazarded by a hasty verdict either one way or the
other; and the difficulty in coming to any satisfactory conclusion
irritated him heavily.

  The letter-card was anonymous, and seemed to present no clue to its
authorship. It was type-written; it was posted, as the stamp showed,
in Newcastle; it committed its writer in no degree whatever. But it
made statements which, if true, ought to have sent somebody to penal
servitude; and it threw out hints which, true or untrue, made Captain
Kettle heir to a whole world of anxiety and trouble.

  It is an excellent academic rule entirely to disregard anonymous
letters, but it is by no means always an easy rule to follow. And
there are times when a friendly warning must be conveyed anonymously
or not at all. But Kettle did not worry his head about the ethics of
anonymous letter writing as a profession; his attention was taken up
by this type-written card from "Wellwisher," which he held in his

  "Your ship goes to see never to reach port. There is an insurance
robbery cleverly rigged. You think yourself very smart, I know, but
this time you are being made a common gull of, or, if you like it
better, a catspaw."

  And the writer wound up by saying: "I can't give you any hint of how
it's going to be done. Only I know the game's fixed. So keep your
weather eye skinned, and take the Sultan of Labuan safely out and
back, and maybe you'll get something more solid than a drink.


"Your Well-wisher."

  Captain Kettle was torn, as he read, by many conflicting sentiments.
Loyalty to Mr. Gedge, his owner, was one of them. Gedge had sold him
before, but that was in a way condoned by this present appointment to
the Sultan of Labuan. And he wanted very much to know what were Mr.
Gedge's wishes over the matter.

  His own code of morality on this subject was peculiar. Ashore in
South Shields he was as honest as a bishop; he was a strict chapel
member; he did not even steal matches from the Captains' Room at
Hallett's, his house of call, which has always been a recognised
peculation. At sea he conceived himself to be bought, body and soul,
by his owner for the time being, and was perfectly ready to risk body
and soul in earning his pay.

  But the question was, how was this pay to be earned?

  Up till then he would have said: "By driving the Sultan of Labuan
over the seas as fast as could be done on a given coal consumption; by
ruthlessly keeping down expense; and, in fact, by making the steamer
earn the largest possible dividend in the ordinary way of commerce."
But this type written letter card hinted at other purposes, which he
knew were quite within the bounds of possibility, and if he was being
made into a catspaw---

  He hit the unfinished poems on the table a blow with his fist. "By
James!" he muttered, "a catspaw? I didn't think of it in that light
before. Well, we'd better have a clear understanding about the

  He got up, crammed the blue letter-card into his pocket, and took
his cap.

  "My dear!" he called down to Mrs. Kettle, who was engaged on the
family wash in the kitchen below, "I've got to run up to the office to
see Mr. Gedge. I don't think I quite understand his wishes about
running the boat. Get your tea when it's ready. I don't want to keep
you and the youngsters waiting."

  Captain Kettle thought out many things as he journeyed from South
Shields to the grimy office of his employer in Newcastle, but his data
were insufficient, and he was unable to get hold of any scheme by
which he could safely approach what was, to say the very least of it,
a very delicate subject. Mr Gedge had hired him as captain of the
Sultan of Labuan, had said no word about losing her, and how was he to
force the man's confidence? It looked the most unpromising enterprise
in the world. Moreover, although in the outer world he was as brave a
fellow as ever lived, he had all a shipmaster's timidity at tackling a
shipowner in his lair, and this, of course, handicapped him.

  In this mood, then, he was ushered upon Gedge in his office, and saw
him signing letters and casting occasional sentences to a young woman
who flicked them down in shorthand.

  The shipowner frowned. He was very busy. "Well Captain," he said,
"what is it? Talk ahead. I can listen whilst I sign these letters."

  "It's a private question I'd like to ask you about running the

  "Want Miss Payne to go out?"

  "If I might trouble her so far."

  Gedge jerked his head towards the door. "Type out what you've got,"
he said. The shorthand writer went out and closed the glass door after
her. "Now, Kettle?"

  Captain Kettle hesitated. It was an awkward subject to begin upon.

  "Now then, Captain, out with it quick. I'm in the devil of a hurry."

  "I wish you'd let me know a little more exactly--in confidence, of
course--how you wish me to run this steamboat. Do you want me to--I

  "Well, get on, get on."

  "When do you want her back?"

  Gedge leant back in his chair, tapped his teeth with the end of his
pen. "Look here, Gaptain," he said, "you didn't come here to talk rot
like this. You've had your orders already. You aren't a drinking man,
or I'd say you were screwed. So there's something else behind. Come,
out with it."

  "I hardly know how to begin."

  "I don't want rhetoric. If you've got a tale, tell it, if not---"
Mr. Gedge leant over his desk again and went on signing his letters.

  Captain Kettle stood the rudeness without so much as a flush. He
sighed a little, and then, after another few moments' thought, took
the letter-card from his pocket and laid it on his employer's table.
After Gedge had conned through and signed a couple more sheets, he
took the card up in his fingers and skimmed it over.

  As he read, the colour deepened in his face, and Kettle saw that he
was moved, but said nothing. For a moment there was silence between
them, and Gedge tapped his teeth and was apparently lost in thought.
Then he said, "Where did you get this?"

  "Through the post."

  "And why did you bring it to me?"

  "I thought you might have something to say about it."

  "Shown it to anyone else?"

  "No, sir; I'm in your service, and earning your pay."

  "Yes; I pulled you out of the gutter again quite recently, and you
said you'd be able to get your wife's clothes out of pawn with your
advance note."

  "I'm very grateful to you for giving me the berth, sir, and I shall
be a faithful servant to you as long as I'm in your employ. But if
there's anything on, I'd like to be in your confidence. I know she
isn't an old ship, but---"

  "But what?"

  "She's uneconomical. Her engines are old-fashioned. It wouldn't pay
to fit her with triple expansions and new boilers."

  "I see. You appear to know a lot about the ship, Captain--more than
I do myself, in fact. I know you're a small tin saint when you're
within hail of that Ebenezer, or Bethel, or whatever you call it here
ashore, but at sea you've got the name for not being over-particular."

  "At sea," said the little sailor with a sigh, "I am what I have to
be. But I couldn't do that. I'm a poor man, sir; I'm pretty nearly a
desperate man; but there are some kinds of things that are beyond me.
I know it's done often enough, but--you'll have to excuse me. I can't
lose her for you."

  "Who's asking you?" said Gedge cheerily. "I'm not. Don't jump at
conclusions, man. I don't want the Sultan of Labuan lost. She's not my
best ship, I'll grant: but I can run her at a profit for all that; and
even if I couldn't, I am not the sort of man to try and make my
dividends out of Lloyd's. No, not by any means, Captain; I've got my
name to keep up."

  Captain Kettle brought up a sigh of relief. "Glad to hear it, sir;
I'm glad to hear it. But I thought it best to have it out with you.
That beastly letter upset me."

  Gedge laughed slily. "Well, if you want to know who wrote the
letter, I did myself."

  Kettle started. He was obviously incredulous.

  "Well, to be accurate, I did it by deputy. You hae yer doots, eh?
Hang it, man; what an unbelieving Jew you are." He pressed one of the
electric pushes by the side of his desk, and the shorthand writer came
in and stood at the doorway.

  "Miss Payne, you typed this letter-card, didn't you?" he asked, and
Miss Payne dutifully answered "Yes."

  "Thank you. That'll do. Well, Kettle, I hope you're satisfied now? I
sent this blessed card because I wanted to see how deep this shore
going honesty of yours went, which I've heard so much about; and now I
know, and you may take it from me that you'll profit by it financially
in the very near future. The shipmasters I've had to do with have been
mostly rogues, and when I get hold of a straight man I know how to
appreciate him. Now, good-bye, Captain, and a prosperous voyage to
you. If you catch the mid-night mail to-night from here, you'll just
get down to Newport tomorrow in time to see her come into dock. Take
her over at once, you know; we can't have any time wasted. Here, good-
bye. I'm frantically busy."

  But, busy though he might be, Mr. Gedge did not immediately return
to signing his letters after Captain Kettle's departure. Instead, he
took out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead and wiped his hands,
which for some reason seemed to have grown unaccountably clammy: and
for awhile he lay back in his writing chair like a man who feels
physically sick.

  Captain Kettle, however, went his ways humming a cheerful air, and
as the twelve o'clock mail roared out that night across the high-level
bridge, he settled himself to sleep in his corner of a third-class
carriage, and to dream the dreams of a man who, after many
vicissitudes, has at last found righteous employment. It was a new
experience for him and he permitted himself the luxury of enjoying it
to the full.

  A train clattered him into Monmouthshire some twelve hours later,
and he stepped out on Newport platform into a fog raw and fresh from
the Bristol Channel. His small, worn portmanteau he could easily have
carried in his hand, but there is an etiquette about these matters
which even hard-up shipmasters, to whom a shilling is a financial
rarity, must observe; and so he took a four-wheeler down to the
agent's office, and made himself known. The Sultan of Labuan, it
seemed, had come up the Usk and gone into dock barely an hour before,
and so Kettle, obedient to his orders, went down at once to take her

  It was not a pleasant operation, this ousting another man from his
livelihood, and as Kettle had been supplanted a weary number of times
himself, he thought he knew pretty well the feelings of the man whom
he had come to replace. His reception, however, surprised him.
Williams, the former master of the Sultan of Labuan, handed over his
charge with an air of obvious and sincere relief, and Kettle felt that
he was being eyed with a certain embarrassing curiosity. The man was
not disposed to be verbally communicative.

  "You look knocked up," said Kettle.

  "Might well be," retorted Captain Williams. "I haven't had a blessed
wink of sleep since I pulled my anchors out of Thames mud."

  "Not had bad weather, had you?"

  "No, weather's been right enough. Bit thickish, that's all."

  "What's kept you from having a watch below, then?"

  "'Fraid of losing the ship, Captain. I never been up before the
Board of Trade yet, and don't want to try what it feels like."

  "Oh!" said Kettle, with a sigh, "it's horrible; they're brutes. I
know. I have been there."

  "So I might have guessed," said Williams drily.

  "Look here," said Kettle, "what are you driving at?"

  "No offence, Captain, no offence. I'll just shut my head now. Guess
I've been talking too much already. Result of being over-tired, I
suppose. Let's get on with the ship's papers. They are all in this tin

  "But I'd rather you said out what you got to say."

  "Thanks, Captain, but no. This is the first time we've met, I

  "So far as I remember."

  "Well, there you are then; personally you no doubt are a very nice
pleasant gentleman, but still there's no getting over the fact that
you're a stranger to me; and anyway, you're in Gedge's employ, and I'm
not; and there's a law of libel in this country which gets up and hits
you whether you are talking truth or lies."

  "English laws are beastly, and that's a fact."

  "Reading about them in the paper's quite enough for me. Now,
Captain, suppose we go ashore with these papers, and I can sign off
and you can sign on. Afterwards we'll have a drop of whisky together,
if you like, just to show there's no ill-will."

  "You are very polite, Captain," said Kettle. "I'm sure I don't like
the notion of stepping in to take away your employment. But if it
hadn't been me, he'd have got someone else."

  The other turned on him quickly.

  "Don't think you're doing me a bad turn, Captain, because you
aren't. I was never so pleased to step out of a chart-house in my
life. Only thing is, I hope I aren't doing you a bad turn by letting
you step in."

  "By James!" said Kettle, "do speak plain, Captain; don't go on
hinting like this."

  "I am maundering on too much, Captain, and that's a fact. Result of
being about tired out, I suppose. But you must excuse me speaking
further: there's that confounded libel law to think about. Now,
Captain, here's the key of the chart-house door, and if you'll let me,
I'll go out first and you can lock it behind you. You'll find one of
the tumblers beside the water-bottle broken; it fell out of my hand
this morning just after I'd docked her; but all the rest is according
to the inventory; and I'll knock off three-pence for the tumbler when
we square up."

  They plunged straightway into the aridities of business, and kept at
it till the captaincy had been formally laid down and handed over, and
then the opportunity for further revelations was gone.

  Captain Williams was clearly worn out with weariness; responsibility
had kept him going till then, but now that responsibility had ended he
was like a man in a trance. His eyes drooped; his knees failed
drunkenly; he was past speech; and if Kettle had not by main force
dragged him off to a bed at a temperance hotel, he would have toppled
down incontinently and slept in the gutter like one dead. As it was he
lay on the counterpane in the heaviest of sleep, the picture of a
strong man worn out with watching and labour, and for a minute or so
Kettle stood beside the bed and gazed upon him thoughtfully.

  "By James!" he muttered, "if I could make you speak, Captain, I
believe you could tell a queerish tale."

  But Kettle did not loiter by this taciturn bedside. He had signed on
as master of the Sultan of Labuan; he was in Mr. Gedge's employ, and
earning Mr. Gedge's pay; and every minute wasted on a steamer means
money lost. He went briskly across to the South dock and set the
machinery of business to work without delay. There was grumbling from
mates, engineers, and crew that they had been given leisure for
scarcely a breath of shore air, but Kettle was not a man who courted
popularity with his underlings by offering them indulgences. He stated
that their duty was to get the water ballast out and the coal under
hatches in the shortest time on record, and mentioned that he was the
man who would see it done.

  The men grumbled, of course; behind their driver's back they swore;
two deck hands and three of the stokehold crew deserted, leaving their
wages, and were replaced by others from the shipping office; and still
the work went remorselessly on, under the grey glow of the fog so long
as the daylight lasted, and then under the glare of raw electric arc
lamps. The air was full of gritty dust and the roar of falling coal. A
waggon was shunted up, dandled aloft in hydraulic arms, ignominiously
emptied end first, and then put to ground again and petulantly sent
away to find a fresh load, whilst its successor was being nursed and
relieved. Two hundred tons to the hour was what the hydraulic staith
could handle, but for all that it did not break the coal unduly.

  In the forehold the trimmers gasped and choked as they steered the
black avalanches into place; and presently another of the huge
staithes crawled up along the dock wall, and with a gasping tank-loco
and a train of waggons in attendance, and then the Sultan of Labuan
was being loaded through the after hatch also. It was a triumph of
machinery and organisation, and tired men in a dozen departments
cursed Kettle for keeping them at such a remoreless pressure over
their tasks.

  Down to her fresh-water Plimsol the steamer was sunk, and then the
loading ceased. Even Kettle did not dare to overload. He knew quite
well that there were the jealous eyes of a Seaman and Fireman's Union
official watching him from somewhere on the quays, and if she was
trimmed an inch above her marks the Sultan of Labuan would never be
let go through the outer dock-gate. So the burden was limited to its
legal bounds; and Kettle got his clearance papers with the same
fierce, business-like bustle; and came back and stepped lightly up on
to the tramp's upper bridge.

  The pilot was there waiting for him, half admiring, half repelled;
the old blue-faced mate and the carpenter were on the forecastle-head;
the second mate was aft; the chief himself and the third engineer were
at the throttle and the reversing gear below. The ship's entire
complement had quite surrendered to the sway of this new task-master,
and stood in their coal-grime and their tiredness ready to jump at his

  Bristol Channel tides are high, and the current of the Usk is swift.
It was going to be quick work if they did not miss the tide, and the
pilot, who had no special stake in the matter, said it could not be
done. Kettle, however, thought otherwise, and the pilot in consequence
saw some seamanship which gave him chills down the back.

  "By gum! Captain," he said, when they were fairly out of the river,
"you can handle her."

  "Wait till I know her, pilot, and then I'll show you."

  "Haven't got nerves enough. Look you, Captain, you'll be having a
bad crumple-up if you bustle a big loaded steamboat about docks at
that rate."

  "Never bent a plate in my life."

  "Well, I hope you never will. Look you, now, you're a little tin
wonder in the way of seamanship."

  "Quartermaster," said Kettle, "tell my steward to bring two goes of
whisky up here on the bridge. Pilot, if you say such things to me,
you'll make me feel like a girl with a new dress, and I want a drop of
Dutch courage to keep my blushes back."

  "Well," said the pilot when the whisky came, "here's lots of cargo,
Captain, and good bonuses."

  "Here's deep-draught steamers for you, pilot, and plenty of water
under 'em."

  The whisky drained down its appointed channels, and the pilot said:
"By the bye, I've this for you, Captain," and brought out a letter-

  "Typewritten address," said Kettle. "No postmark on the stamp. Who's
it from?"

  "Man I came across. Look you, though, I didn't know him; but he said
there was a useful tip in the letter which it would please you to have
after you sailed."

  Kettle tore off the perforated edges, and looked inside the card.
Here was another anonymous communication, also from "Well-wisher,"
and, as before, warning him against the machinations of Gedge. "Got no
idea who the man was who gave it you?" he asked.

  "Well, I did have a bit of talk with him and a drink, and I rather
gathered he might have had something to do with insurance; but he
didn't say his name. Why, isn't he a friend of yours?"

  "I rather think he is," said Kettle; "but I can't be quite sure
yet." He did not add that the anonymous writer guaranteed him a
present of 50 if the Sultan of Labuan drew no insurance money till he
had moored her in Port Said.

  From the very outset the voyage of the Sultan of Labuan was
unpropitious. Before she was clear of the Usk it was found that three
more of her crew had managed to slip away ashore, and so were gone
beyond replacement. Whilst she was still in the brown, muddy waters of
the Bristol Channel, there were two several breakdowns in the engine-
room which necessitated stoppages and anxious repairs. The engines of
the Sultan of Labuan were her weak spot, for otherwise her hull was
sound enough. But these machines were old, and wasteful in steam, and
made all the difference in economy which divides a profit from a loss
in these modern days of fierce sea competition.

  With Murgatroyd, the old blue-faced mate, Kettle had been shipmates
before, and there existed between the two men a strong dislike and a
certain mutual esteem. They interviewed over duty matters when the
pilot left. "Mr. Murgatroyd," said the little skipper, "you'll keep
hatches off, and do everything for ventilation. This Welsh coal's as
gassy as petroleum."

  "Ay, aye," rumbled the mate; "but how about when heavy weather
comes, and the decks are full of water?"

  "You'll have fresh orders from me before then. Get hoses to work now
and sluice down. The ship's a pig-stye!"

  "Ay, aye; but the hands are dog-tired."

  "Then it's your place to drive them. I should have thought you'd
been long enough at sea to know that. But if you aren't up to your
business, just say, and I'll swop you over with the second mate right

  The old mate's face grew purpler. "If you want a driver," he said,
"you shall have one;" and with that he went his ways and roused the
tired deck-hands to work, after the time-honoured methods.

  But if Captain Kettle did not spare his crew, he was equally hard on
himself. He was at sea now and wearing his sea-going conscience, which
was an entirely different piece of mental mechanism from that which
regulated his actions ashore. He had received Mr. Gedge's precise
instructions to run the coal boat in the ordinary method, and he
intended to do it relentlessly and to the letter.

  He had had his doubts about Mr. Gedge's real wishes before, and even
the episode of Miss Payne, the typewriter, had not altogether deceived
him; but the second letter from "Well-wisher," which the pilot brought
on board, cleared the matter up beyond a doubt. There was not the
faintest chance that Gedge had written that; there was not the
faintest reason to disbelieve now that Gedge wished his uneconomical
steamboat off his hands, and had arranged for her never again to come
into port.

  Now, properly approached--say with sealed orders to be opened only
at sea--I think there is very little doubt but what Captain Kettle
would have undertaken to carry out this piece of nefarious business
himself. The average mariner thinks no more of "making the insurance
pay" than the average traveller does of robbing his fellow countrymen
by the importation of Belgian cigars and Tauchnitz novels from a
Channel packet. And with Kettle, too, loyalty to an employer, so long
as that employer treated him squarely, ranked high. But for a second
time "Well-wisher" had repeated the word "catspaw," and for his
purpose he could not have used a better spur. The little captain s
face grew grim as he read it. "By James!" he muttered, "if that's the
game he's trying to play, I'll make him rue it."

  However, though at the beginning of a voyage it may be easy to make
a resolve like this, it is not so easy to carry it into practical
effect. If the machinery was on board, human or otherwise, for making
the Sultan of Labuan fail to reach port, it was not at all probable
that Kettle would find it before he saw it in working order. When
arrangements for a bit of barratry of this kind are gone about
nowadays, they are performed with shrewdness. Your ingenious
gentleman, who makes a devil of clockwork and guncotton to blow out a
steamer's bottom, or makes a compact with one of her crew to open the
bilge-cocks, is dexterous enough to cover up his trail very
completely, having a wholesome awe of the law of the land, and a large
distaste for penal servitude.

  Moreover, Captain Owen Kettle was not the man to receive gratuitous
information on such a point from his underlings. To begin with, he was
the Sultan of Labuan's captain, and, by the immemorial etiquette of
the sea, a ship's captain is always a man socially apart. He is a
dictator for the time being, with supreme power of life and death; is
addressed as "Sir"; and would be regarded with social awe and coldness
by his own brother, if the said brother were on board as one of the
mates or one of the assistant engineers.

  With the chief engineer alone, although he does not sit at meat with
him, may a merchant captain unbend, and with the chief of the Sultan
of Labuan Kettle had picked a difference over a commission on
bunkering not ten minutes after he had first stepped on board. He had
the undoubted knack of commanding men; he could look exactly after his
employer's property; but he had an unfortunate habit for making
himself hated in the process.

  Over that initial episode of washing the coal-grime from the ships'
outer fabric, he had already come into intimate contact with his crew.
The tired deck-hands had refused duty; clumsy old Murgatroyd had
endeavoured to force them into it in his usual way, and had been
knocked down in the scuffle and trampled on; when up came Kettle,
already spruce and clean, and laid impartially into the whole grimy
gang of them with a deck-scrubber. They were new to their little
skipper's virtues, and thought at first that they would treat him as
they had already treated the fat old mate, and as a consequence
bleeding faces and cracked heads were plentiful, and curses went up,
bitter and deep, in half the tongues of Europe. But Kettle still
remained spruce and clean, and aggressive and untouched.

  It takes some art thoroughly to thrash a dozen savage full-grown men
with a light broom without breaking the stick or knocking off the
head, and the crew of the Sultan of Labuan were not slow to recognise
their Captain's ability. But at the same time they were not inspired
with any overpowering love for him.

  In the course of that night an iron belaying-pin whisked out of the
darkness, and knocked off his cap as he stood on the upper bridge, and
just before the dawn a chunk of coal whizzed up and smashed itself
into splinters on the wheelhouse wall, not an inch from his ear. But
as Kettle replied to the first of these compliments by three prompt
revolver shots almost before the thrower had time to think, and rushed
out and caught the second assailant by the neck-scruff and forced him
to eat up every scrap of coal that had been thrown, the all-nation
crew decided that he was too ugly to tackle usefully, and tacitly
agreed to let him alone for the future, and to do their lawful work.
The which, of course, was exactly what Kettle desired.

  By this time the Sultan of Labuan had run down the Cornish coast,
had rounded Land's End, and was standing off on a course which would
make Finisterre her next land-fall. The glass was sinking steadily;
the seascape was made up of blacks and whites and lurid greys; but
though the air was cold and raw, the weather was not any worse than
need have been expected for the time of year. The hatches were off,
and a good strong smell of coal-gas billowed up from below and mingled
with the sea scents.

  With all a northern sailor's distrust for a "Dago," Kettle had
spotted his spruce young Italian second mate as Gedge's probable tool,
and watched him like the apple of his eye. No man's actions could have
been more innocent and normal, and this, of course, made things all
the more suspicious. The engineer staff, who had access to the bilge-
cocks, and could arrange disasters to machinery, were likewise, ex-
officio, suspicious persons, but as it was quite impossible to
overlook them at all hours and on all occasions, he had regretfully to
take them very largely on trust.

  Blundering, incompetent old Murgatroyd, the mate, was the only man
on board in whose honesty Kettle had the least faith, simply because
he considered him too stupid to be intrusted with any operation so
delicate as barratry, and to Murgatroyd he more or less confided his

  "I hear there's a scheme on board to scuttle this steamboat," he
said, "because she's too expensive to run. Well, Mr. Gedge, the owner,
gave me orders to run her, and he told me he made a profit on her. I'm
going by Mr. Gedge's words, and I'm going to take her to Port Said.
And let me tell you this: if she stops anywhere on the road, and goes
down, all hands go down with her, even if I have to shoot them myself.
So they'd better hear what's in the wind, and have a chance to save
their own skins. You understand what I mean?"

  "Ay," grunted the mate.

  "Well, just let word of it slip out--in the right way, you

  "Ay, aye. Hadn't we better get the hatches on and battened down?
She's shipping it green pretty often now, and the weather's worsening.
There's a good slop of water getting down below, and they say it's all
the bilge pumps can do to keep it under."

  "Mr. Meddle Murgatroyd," Kettle snapped, "are you master of this
blamed ship, or am I? You leave me to give my orders when I think fit,
and get down off this bridge."

  "Ay," grunted the mate, and waddled clumsily down below.

  The old man's suggestion about the hatches had touched upon a sore
point. Kettle knew quite well that it was dangerous to leave the great
gaps in the deck undefended by planking and tarpaulin. A high sea was
running, and the heavily-laden coal-boat rode both deep and sodden.
Already he had put her a point and a half to westward of her course,
so as to take the on-coming seas more fairly on the bow.

  But still he hung on to the open hatches. The coal below was gassy
to a degree, and if the ventilation was stopped it would be terribly
liable to explosion. The engine and boiler rooms were bulkheaded off,
and there was no danger from these; but the subtle coal gas would
spread over all the rest of the vessel's living quarters--as the smell
hinted--and a carelessly lit match might very comfortably send the
whole of her decks hurtling into the air. Kettle had no wish to meet
Mr. Gedge's unspoken wishes by an accident of this sort.

  However, it began to be plain that as they drew nearer to the Bay
the weather worsened steadily, and at last it came to be a choice
between battening down the hatches both forward and aft, or being
incontinently swamped. Hour after hour Kettle in his glistening
oilskins had been stumping backwards and forwards across the upper
bridge, watching his steamboat like a cat, and holding on with his
order to the very furthest moment. But at last he gave the command to
batten down, and both watches rushed to help the carpenter carry it
out. The men were horribly frightened. It seemed to them that in that
gale, and with that sea running, it was insane not to have battened
her down long before.

  The hands clustered on the lurching iron decks with the water
swirling against them waist-high, and shipped the heavy hatch covers,
and got the tarpaulins over; and then the Norwegian carpenter keyed
all fast with the wedges, working dike some amphibious animal half his
time under water.

  The Sultan of Labuan carried no cowl ventilators to her holds, and
even if these had been fitted they would have been carried away. So
from the moment of battening down, the gas which oozed from the coal
mixed with the air till the whole ship became one huge explosive bomb,
which the merest spark would touch off. Captain Kettle called his mate
to him and gave explicit orders.

  "You know what a powder hulk is like, Mr. Mate?"

  "Ay," said Murgatroyd.

  "Well, this ship is a sight more dangerous, and we have got to take
care if we do not want to go to Heaven quick. It's got to be 'all
lights out' aboard this ship till the weather eases and we can get
hatches off again. Go round now and see it done yourself, Mr.
Murgatroyd, please. Watch the doctor dowse the galley fire, and then
go and take away all the forecastle matches so the men can't smoke.
Put out the side lights, the masthead light, and the binnacle lamps.
Quartermasters must steer as best they can from the unlit card."

  "Ay, aye. But you don't mean the side lights, too, do ye? There's a
big lot of shipping here in the Bay, and we might easy get run down"--
"The old man caught an ugly look from Kettle's face and broke off. And
grumbling some ancient saw about "obeying orders if you break owners,"
he shuffled off down the ladder.

  Heavier and heavier grew the squalls, carrying with them spindrift
which beat like gravel against the two oil-skinned tenants of the
collier's upper bridge; worse and worse grew the sea. Great green
waves reared up like walls, crashed on board, and filled the lower
decks with boiling, yeasty surge. The funnel-stays and the scanty
rigging hummed like harp strings to the gale.

  Deep though she was in the water, there were times when her stern
heaved up clear, and the propeller raced in a noisy catherine wheel of
fire and foam. On every side, ahead, abeam, and astern, were nodding
yellow lights, jerked about by unseen ships over thunderous, unseen
waves. It was a regular Biscay gale, such as all vessels may count on
in that corner of the seas one voyage out of eight, a gale with heavy
seas in the midst of a dense crowd of shipping. But there was nothing
in it which seamanship under ordinary circumstances could not meet.

  Captain Kettle hung on hour after hour under shelter of the dodgers
on the upper bridge, a small, wind-brushed figure in yellow oilskins
and black rubber thigh boots. About such a "breeze" in an ordinary way
he would have thought little. Taking his vessel through it with the
minimum of danger was only part of the daily mechanical routine. But
he stood there, a prey to the liveliest anxiety.

  The thousand and one dangers in the Bay appeared before him
magnified. If the ship for any sudden and unavoidable reason went
down, the odds were that he himself and all hands would be drowned;
but at the same time Gedge would be gratified in so easily touching
the coveted insurance money. The fear of death did not worry the
little skipper in the very least degree whatever, but he had a most
thorough objection to being in any way Mr. Gedge's catspaw.

  Twice they had near escapes from being run down. The first time was
from a sudden blundering Cardiff ore steamer, which was driving north
through the thick of it, with very little of herself showing except
two stumpy masts and a brine-washed smokestack. She would have
obviously drowned out any look-out on her fore deck, and the bridge
officers got too much spindrift in their eyes to see with any
clearness. But time is money, and even Cardiff ore steamers must make
passages, and so her master drove her blindly ahead full steam, slap-
slop-wallow, and trusted that other people would get out of his way.

  Kettle's keen eyes picked her up out of the sea mists just in time,
and ported his own helm, and missed her sheering bow with the Sultan
of Labuan's quarter by a short two fathoms. A touch in that insane
turmoil of sea would have sent both steamers down to the shells and
the flickering weed below; but there was no touch, and so each went
her way with merely a perfunctory interchange of curses, which were
blown into nothingness by the gale. Escapes on these occasions don't
count, and it is etiquette not to speak about them ashore afterwards.

  The second shave was from a big white-painted Cape liner, which came
up from astern, lit like a theatre, and almost defying the very gale
itself. Her look-outs and officers were on the watch for lights. But
the unlit collier, which was half her time masked by the seas like a
half-tide rock, never struck their notice.

  Kettle, with all a shipmaster's sturdy dislike for shifting his helm
when he legally had the right of the road, held on till the great
knife-like bow was not a score yards from his taffrail. But then he
gave way, roared out an order to the quartermaster at the wheel, and
the Sultan of Labuan fell away to starboard. As if the coal-boat had
been a magnet, the Cape liner followed, drawing nearer hand over fist.

  Changing direction further was as dangerous as keeping on as he was,
so Kettle bawled to the quartermaster to "Steady on that," and then
the great, white steam-hotel suddenly seemed to wake to her danger,
and swerved off on her old course again. So close were they, that
Kettle fancied he could hear the quick, agitated rattle of her wheel
engines as they gave her a "hard down" helm. And he certainly saw
officers on her high upper-bridge peering at him through the drifting
sea-smoke with a curiosity that was more than pleasant.

  "Trying to pick out the old tub's name," he mused grimly, "so as to
report me for carrying no lights. By James, I wish some of those dandy
passenger-boat officers could try this low-down end of the tramping
trade for a bit."

  Night went and day came, grey, and wet, and desolate. The heavier
squalls had passed away, but a whole gale still remained, and the sea
was, if anything, heavier. The coal-boat rarely showed all of herself
at once above the waters. Her progress was a succession of dives, her
decoration (when she was visible) a fringe of spouting scuppers. Watch
had succeeded watch with the dogged patience of sailor-men; but watch
after watch Kettle hung on behind the canvas dodgers at the weather
end of the bridge. He was red-eyed and white-cheeked, his torpedo
beard was foul with sea salt, he was unpleasant to look upon, but he
was undeniably very much awake, and when the accident came (which he
concluded was Mr. Gedge's effort to realise the coal-boat's
insurance), he was quite ready to cope with emergencies.

  From somewhere in the bowels of the ship there came the muffled boom
of an explosion; the bridge buckled up beneath his feet, so that he
was very nearly wrenched from his hold; and the iron main deck, which
at that moment happened to be free of water, rippled and heaved like a
tin biscuit-box moves when it is kicked. There was a tinkle of broken
glass as some blown-out skylights crashed back upon the deck.

  He looked forward and he looked aft, and to his surprise he saw that
both hatches were still in place, and that very little actual damage
was visible, and then he had his attention occupied by another matter.
From the stokehold, from the forecastle and from the engine-room the
frightened crew poured out into the open, and some scared wretch cried
out to "lower away zem boats."

  Here was a situation that needed dealing with at once, and Kettle
was the man to do it. From beneath his oilskins he lugged out the
revolver which they knew so painfully already, and showed it with
ostentation. "By James!" he shouted, "do you want to be taught who's
captain here? I'll give cheap lessons if you ask."

  His words reached them above the hooting and brawl of the gale, and
they were cowed into sullen obedience.

  "Carpenter, take a couple of men and away below with you and see
what's broke. You blessed split-trousered mechanics, away down to your
engine-room or I'll come and kick you there. The second mate and his
watch get tarpaulins over those broken skylights. Where's Mr.
Murgatroyd? In his bunk, I suppose, as usual: not his watch: no affair
of his if the ship's blown to Heaven when he's off duty. Here,
steward, go and turn out Mr. Murgatroyd."

  The men bustled about after their errands, and the engines, which
had stopped for a minute, began to rumble on again. Captain Kettle
paraded the swaying bridge and awaited developments.

  Presently the bare-headed steward fought his way up the bridge-
ladder against the tearing wind, an bawled out some startling news.
"It's Mr. Murgatroyd's room that's been blown up, sir. 'E's made a
'orrid mess of. Chips says 'e picked up 'is lighted pipe in the alley
way, sir, ant it must 'a' been 'im that fired the gas."

  "The blamed old thickhead," said Kettle savagely.

  "'E was arskin' for you, sir, was the mate, though we couldn't
rightly make out what 'e said."

  "He won't be pleased to see me. Smoking, by James! was he!"

  "The mate's burnt up like a piece of coke," said the steward
persuasively. "'E cawn't last long."

  The carpenter came up on the bridge. "Dose blowup vas not so bad for
der old ship, sir. She nod got any plates started dot I can see. Dey
have der bilge-pumps running, but dere's nod much water. Und der mate,
sir. He say he vould like to see you. He's in ver' bad way."

  "All right," said Kettle, "I'll go and see him." He called up the
Italian second mate on to the bridge and gave over charge of the ship
to him, and then went below.

  The author of all the mischief, the stupid old man, who through
sheer crass ignorance had gone to bed and smoked a pipe in this powder
mine, lay horribly injured in the littered alley-way, with a burst
straw cushion under the shocking remnants of his head. Most of his
injuries were plain to the eye, and it was a marvel that he lingered
on at all. It was very evident that he could not live for long, and it
was clear, too, that he wanted to speak.

  Kettle's resentment died at the sight of this poor charred cinder of
humanity, and he knelt on the litter and listened. The sea noises and
the ship noises without almost drowned the words, and the old mate's
voice was very weak. It was only here and there he could pick up a

  "Nearly got to wind'ard of you, skipper ... It was me ... Gedge paid
me fifty pound for the job ... scuttle her ... after Gib... would 'a'
done it, too ... in spite of your blooming teeth."

  The old fellow broke off, and Kettle leant near to him. "How were
you going to scuttle her?" he asked.

  There was no answer. A second time he repeated the question, and
then again a third time. The mate heard him. The sea roared outside,
the wind boomed overhead, the cluttered wreckage clanged about the
alley-way. The old man was past speech, but he opened an eye, his one
remaining eye, and slowly and solemnly winked.

  It was his one recorded attempt at humour during a lifetime, and the
effort was his last. His jaw dropped, wagging to the thud of the ship,
his eye opened in a glassy, unseeing stare, and he was as dead a thing
as the iron deck he lay upon.

  "Well, matey," said Kettle, apostrophising the poor charred form,
"we've been shipmates before, but I never liked you. But, by James!
you had your points. You shall be buried by a pukka parson in Gib.,
and have a stone put over your ugly old head, if I have to pay for it
myself. I think I can hammer out a bit of verse, too, which'll make
that stone a thing people will remember.

  "By James! though, won't Gedge be mad over this! Gedge will think I
spotted the game you were plotting for him, and murdered you out of
hand. Well that's all right, and it won't hurt you, matey. I want
Gedge to understand I'm a man that's got to be dealt straight with. I
want Mr. Blessed Gedge to understand that I'm not the kind of lamb to
make into a catspaw by any manner of means. I bet he does tumble to
that, too. But I bet also that he sacks me from this berth before I've
got the coals over into the lighters at Port Said. By James! yes,
Gedge is a man that sticks to his plans, and as he can't lose the
Sultan of Labuan with me as her skipper, he'll jerk another old man
into the chart-house on the end of a wire, who'll do the job more to
his satisfaction."

  The Norwegian carpenter came up, and asked a question.

  "No, no, Chips; put the canvas away. I want you to knock up some
sort of a box for the poor old Mate, and we'll take him to Gib., and
plant him there in style. I owe him a bit. We'll all get safe enough
to Port Said now."


"THE boat's an old P. and O. lifeboat," said Mr. McTodd, "diagonal-
built of teak, and quite big enough for the purpose. Of course
something with steam in her would be better, because we're both
steamermen; but that's out of the question. That would mean too many
to share. So the thing is, can you buy this lifeboat and victual her
for the trip? I'm no' what ye might call a capitalist myself just for
the moment."

  Captain Kettle eyed the grimy serge of his companion with disfavour.
"You don't look it," he said. "That last engine-room you got sacked
from must have been a mighty filthy place."

  "'Twas," said McTodd. "But as it happened, I didn't get the sack. I
ran from her here in Gib., because I'd no wish to get back to England
and have this news useless in my pocket. And, of course, I had to let
slide the eight pound in wages that was due to me."

  "By James! it's beginning to look like business when a Scottie runs
away from siller that he's righteously earned."

  "Well, I'm no' denying it was a speculation. It's a bit of a
speculation, if ye come to reckon up, asking a newly-sacked sea-
captain to join in such a venture."

  Kettle's face hardened. "See here," he said, "keep a civil tongue in
your head or go out of this lodging. I'm to be treated with respect,
or I don't deal with you."

  "Then let my clothes alone and be civil yourself. It's a mighty dry
shop this, Captain."

  "I've no whisky in the place nor spare money to buy it. If we're to
go on with this plan of yours, we shall want every dollar that can be

  "That's true, and neither me nor 'Tonio have ten shillings between

  Kettle gave up pacing the room and sat himself on the edge of the
table and frowned. "I don't see the use of taking either Antonio, if
that's his name, or your other Dago. I don't like the breed of them.
You and I would be quite enough to handle an open boat, and quite able
to take care of ourselves. If the wreck's got the money on her, and we
finger it, we'll promise to bring them back their share all right; and
if the thing's a fizzle, as it's very likely to be, well, they'll be
saved a very unpleasant boat cruise."

  "It's no go," said the engineer, "and you may make up your mind to
have them as shipmates, Captain, or sit here on your tail where you
are. D'ye think I've any appetite for Dagos myself? No, sir, no more
than you. I don't trust them no more than a stripped thread. And they
don't trust me. They wouldn't trust you. They would no' trust the
Provost of Edinboro' if he was to make similar proposals to them."

  "Then have you no idea where this steamboat was put on the ground?"

  "Man, I've telled ye 'no' already."

  "Seems to me you don't know much, Mr. McTodd."

  "I don't. What I know is this: I came ashore here after a vera
exhausting trip down the Mediterranean, just for a drink to fortify
the system against the chills on the run home. I went to a little dark
shebeen, where I kenned the cut-throat in charge, and gave the name of
the ship I wanted sending back to, in case sleep overcame me, and
settled down for an afternoon's enjoyment. Ye'll ken what I mean?"

  "I know you're a drunken beast when you get the chance for an

  "I have my weaknesses, Captain, or maybe I'd no have left
Ballindrochater, where my father was Free Kirk Meenister. We both have
our weaknesses, Captain Owen Kettle, and it's they that have brought
us to what we are."

  "If you don't leave me alone and get on with your yarn," said Kettle
acidly, "you'll find yourself in the street."

  "Oh, I like your hospitality fine, and I'll stay, thanks. Weel, I'd
just settled myself down to a good square drink at this Spaniard's
shebeen, when out of a dark corner comes 'Tonio and the other Dago,
bowing and taking off their hats as polite as though I'd been an
archbishop at the very least.

  "I'd met 'Tonio in Lagos. He was greaser on a branch boat there, and
I was her second engineer. He's some English, and he did the talking.
The other Dago knew nothing but his own unrighteous tongue, and just
said see-see when 'Tonio explained to him what was going on, and
grinned like a bagful of monkeys. I give 'Tonio credit: he spat out
his tale like a man. He and his mate were in the stokehold of a Dago
steamboat coming from the River Plate to Genoa, and calling at some of
the Western Islands en route. One night they were just going off
watch, and were leaning over the rail to get a breath of cool air
before turning in. They were steaming past some rocky islands, and
there in plain sight of them was a vessel hard and fast ashore. There
was no mistake about it: they both saw her: a steamboat of some
fifteen hundred tons. And what was more, the other Portugee, 'Tonio's
friend, said he knew her. According to him she was the Duncansby Head.
He'd served in her stokehold three voyages, and he said he'd know her

  "A Dago's word isn't worth much for a thing like that," said Kettle.

  "Wait a bit. The pair of them stayed where they were and looked at
the rest of the watch on deck. The second mate on the bridge was
stating ahead sleepily; the quarter-master at the wheel was nodding
and blinking at the binnacle; the look-out on the forecastle was
seated on a fife-rail, snoring; no one of these had seen the wreck.
And so they themselves didn't talk. Their boat was running short of
coal, and so she put into Gib. here to rebunker; and from another Dago
on the coal-hulk, who came abroad to help trim, they got some news.
The Duncansby Head had shifted her cargo at sea, had picked up heavy
weather and got unmanageable, and had been left by her crew in the
boats. The mate's boat and the second mate's boat were picked up; the
old nnan's boat had not been heard of. It was supposed that the
Duncansby Head herself had foundered immediately after she was

  "Yes, all that's common gossip on the Rock. Mulready was her
skipper: J.R. Mulready: I'd known him years."

  "Weel, poor deevil, it's perhaps good for him he's drowned."

  "Yes, I suppose it is. He's saved a sight of trouble. D'ye know,
Mac, Jimmy Mulready and I passed for mate the same day, and went to
sea with our bran-new tickets in the same ship, him as mate, me as

  "The sea's an awful poor profession for all, except a shipowner that
lives ashore."

  "'Tis. Yes, that's a true word. It is. And so Antonio and his mate
told the other Dago that they'd seen the wreck?"

  "Not much. They kept their heads shut. There was money in the idea
if it could only be worked, and a Portugee likes dollars as much as a
white man. So there you have the whole yarn, except that they got to
know that the Duncansby was on her way home after a long spell of
tramping when she got into trouble, and carried all the money she'd
earned in good solid gold in the chart-house drawer."

  "It sounds a soft thing, I'll not deny," said Kettle. "But why
should Mr. Antonio and his friend come to you?"

  "They ran from their ship here in Gib., and laid low till she had
sailed. It was the natural thing for them to do. But when they began
to look round them in cold blood, they found themselves a bit on the
beach. They'd no money; there's such a shady crowd here in Gib. that
everything's well watched, and they couldn't steal; and so there was
nothing for it but to take a partner into the concern. Of course,
being Dagos, they weren't likely to trust one of their own sort."

  "Not much. And so they came to you?"

  "They knew me," said the engineer. "And I came to you because I knew
you, Captain. I'm no navigator myself, though I can make shift to
handle a sail boat, so a navigator was wanted. I said to myself the
man in all creation for this job is Captain Kettle, and then what
should I do but run right up against you."

  "Thank you, Mac."

  "But there's one other thing you'll have to do, and that's buy, beg,
borrow or steal the ship to carry the expedition, because the rest of
us can't raise a blessed shilling amongst us. It needn't be a big
outlay. That old P. and O. lifeboat which I was talking about would
carry us fine, and I think three five pound notes would buy her."

  "Very well," said Kettle. "And now let's get a move on us. There's
been enough time spent in talk, and the sooner we're on that wreck the
less chance there is of any one else getting there to overhaul her
before us."

  It would be unprofitable to follow in detail the fitting out of this
wrecking expedition upon insufficient capital, and so be it briefly
stated that the old lifeboat (which had passed through many hands
since she was cast from the P. and O. service) was purchased by dint
of haggling for an absurdly small sum, and victualled and watered for
eighteen days. The Portuguese, who still refused to disclose the
precise location of the wreck, said that it might take a fortnight to
reach her, and prudence would have suggested that it was advisable to
take at least a month's provisions. But the meagreness of their
capital flatly forbade this, and they were only able to furnish the
boat with what would spin out to eighteen days on an uncomfortably
short ration. They trusted that what pickings they might find in the
storerooms of the wreck herself would provide them for the return

  With this slender equipment then, they sailed forth from Gibraltar
Bay, an obvious party of adventurers. They were bombarded by the
questions and the curious stares of all the shipping interest on the
Rock; they were flatly given to understand by a naval busybody (who
had been bidden carry his inquisitiveness to the deuce) that they had
earned official suspicion, and would be watched accordingly; and if
ever ill-wishes could sink a craft, that ancient P. and O. lifeboat
was full to her marks.

  The voyage did not begin with prosperity. There is always a strong
surface current running in through the Straits, and just then the
breezes were light. The lifeboat was a dull sailer, and her people in
consequence had the mortification of keeping Carnero Point and the
frowning Rock behind in sight for three baking days. The two
Portuguese were first profane, then sullen, then frightened; some
saint's day, it appeared, had been violated by the start; and they
began first to hint at, and then to insist, on a return. To which
Kettle retorted that he was going to see the matter through now, if he
had to hang in the Straits for the whole eighteen days, and subsist
for the rest of the trip upon dew and their belts; and in this McTodd
backed him up.

  Once started and away from the whisky bottle, there was nothing very
yielding about Mr. McTodd. Only one compromise did Kettle offer to
make. He would stand across and drop his Portuguese partners on the
African shore if they on their part would disclose the whereabouts of
the wreck; and in due time, when the dividends were gathered, he
faithfully promised them their share. But to this they would not
consent. In fact, there was a good deal of mutual distrust between the
two parties.

  At last, however, a kindly slant of wind took the lifeboat in
charge, and hustled her wetly out into broad Atlantic; and when they
had run the shores of Europe and Africa out of sight, and there was
nothing round them but the blue heaving water, with here and there a
sail and a steamer's smoke, then Senhor Antonio saw fit to give
Captain Kettle a course.

  "We was steamin' froma Teneriffe to Madeira when we saw thosea rocks
with Duncansby Head asho'."

  "H'm," said Kettle. "Those'll be the Salvage Islands."

  "Steamah was pile up on de first. 'Nother island we pass after."

  "That's Piton Island, if I remember. Let's have a look at the
chart." He handed over the tiller to McTodd, took a tattered Admiralty
chart from one of the lockers, and spread it on the damp floor
gratings. The two Portuguese helped with their brown paws to keep it
from fluttering away. "Yes, either Little Piton or Great Piton. Which
side did you pass it on?"

  Antonio thumped a gunwale of the lifeboat.

  "Kept it on the port hand going North, did you? Then that'll be
Great Piton, and a sweet shop it is for reefs according to this chart.
I wish I'd a Directory. It will be a regular cat's dance getting in.
But I say, young man, isn't there a light there?"

  "Lighta? I not understand."

  "You savvy--lighthouse--faro--show-mark-light in dark?"

  "Oh, yes, lighta-house. I got there. No, no lighta-house."

  "Well, there's one marked here as 'projected,' and I was afraid it
might have come. I forgot the Canaries were Spanish, and Madeira was
Portugee, and that these rocks which lie halfway would be a sort of
slack cross between the pair of them. Maana's the motto, isn't it,
'Tonio? Never do to-day what you hope another flat will do for you to-

  "Si, si, maana," said the Portuguese, who had not understood one
word in ten of all this. "Maana we find rich, plenty too--much rich.
God sava Queen!"

  "Those Canary fishing schooners land on the Salvages sometimes,"
said McTodd, "so I heard once in Las Palmas."

  "Then there'll be fleas on the islands whatever else there is," said
Kettle. "I guess we got to take our chances, Mac. If the old wreck's
been overhauled before we get there, it's our bad luck; if she hasn't
been skimmed clean, we'll take what there is, and I fancy we shall be
men enough to stick to it. It isn't as if she was piled up on some
civilised beach, with coastguards to take possession and all the rest
of it. The islands are either Spanish or Portugee. They belong to a
pack of thieves anyway; and we've just as much right to help ourselves
as anyone else has. What we've got to do at present is to shove this
old ruin of a lifeboat along as though she were a racing yacht. At the
shortest we've got seven hundred miles of blue water ahead of us."

  Open-boat voyaging in the broad Atlantic may have its pleasures, but
these, such as they were, did not appeal to either Kettle or his
companions. They were thorough-going steamer sailors; they despised
sails; and the smallness of their craft gave them qualms, both mental
and physical. By day the sun scorched them with intolerable glare and
violence; by night the clammy sea mists drenched them to the bone.

  For a larger vessel the weather would have been accounted
favourable; for their cockle-shell it was once or twice terrific. In
two squalls that they ran into, breaking combers filled the lifeboat
to the thwarts, and they had to bale for their bare lives. They were
cramped and sore from their constrained position and want of exercise;
they got sea sores on their wrists and salt-grime on every inch of
their persons: they were growing gaunt on the scanty rations; and, in
fact, a better presentation of a boat full of desperate castaways it
would be hard to hit upon. Flotillas of iridescent, pink-sailed
nautilus scudded constantly beside them, dropping as constantly
astern; and these made their only company. Except for the nautilus,
the sea seemed desolate.

  In this guise, then, they ended their voyage, which had spun out to
nigh upon a thousand miles through contrary winds and the necessity
for incessant tacking; and in the height of one blazing afternoon
there rose the tops of the islands out of a twinkling turquoise.

  These appeared at first as mere dusty black rocks sticking up out of
the calm blue--Great Salvage Island to the northward, and Great Piton
to the south and beyond--but they grew as the boat neared them, and
presently appeared to be built upon a frieze of dazzling feather
whiteness. The lifeboat swept on to reach them, climbing and diving
over the rollers. She had canvas decks, quartermast high, contrived to
throw off the sprays; and over these the faces of her people peered
ahead, wild and guant, salt-crusted and desperate.

  Great Salvage Island grew abeam and passed away astern. Great Piton
lay close ahead now, fringed with a thousand reefs, each with its
spouting breakers. The din of the surf came to them loudly up the
wind. A flock of sea-fowl, screaming and circling, sailed out to
escort them in; and ahead, behind the banks of breakers, drawing them
on as water will draw a choking man, was the rusted smokestack and
stripped masts of a derelict merchant steamer.

  There is a yarn about an open boat, which had voyaged twelve hundred
miles over the lonely Pacific, coming upon a green atoll, and being
sailed recklessly in through the surf, and drowning every soul on
board; and the yarn is easy believable. Captain Kettle and his
companions had undergone horrible privations; here, at last, was the
isle of their hopes and the treasure (as it seemed) in full view; but,
by some intolerable fate, they were barred from it by relentless walls
of surf. Kettle ran in as close as he dared, and then flattened in his
sheets, and sailed the lifeboat close-hauled along the noisy line of
the breakers to the Norrard, looking for an opening.

  The two Portuguese grumbled openly, and when not a ghost of a
landing-place showed, and Kettle put her about to sail back again,
even the cautious McTodd put up his word to "run in and risk it."

  But Kettle, though equally sick as they were of the boat and her
voyage, had all a sailor's dislike for losing his ship, whatever she
might be, and cowed them all with voice and threats; and at last his
forbearance was rewarded. A slim passage through the reefs showed
itself at the southern end of the island; and down it they dodged,
trimming their sheets six times a minute, with an escort of dangers
always close on either hand; and finally ran into a rocky bay which
held comparatively smooth water.

  There was no place to beach the boat; they had to anchor her off;
but with a whip on the cable they were able to step ashore on a ledge
of stone, and then haul the boat off again out of harm's way.

  It may be thought that they capered with delight at treading on dry
land again; but there was nothing of this. With their cramped limbs
and disused joints, it was as much as they could do to hobble, and
every step was a wrench. But the lure ahead of them was great enough
to triumph over minor difficulties. Half a mile away along the rocks
was the Duncansby Head, and for her they raced at the top of their
crippled gait. And the sea-fowl screamed curiously above their heads.

  They scratched and tore themselves in this frantic progress over the
sharp volcanic rocks, they choked with thirst, they panted with their
labour; but none of these things mattered.

  The deserted steamer, when they came to her, was lying off from the
shore on the other side of a lake of deep water. But they were fit for
no more waiting, and each, as he came opposite her, waded in out of
his depth, and swam off with eager strokes. Davit-falls trailing in
the water gave them an entrance way, and up these they climbed with
the quickness of apes; and then, with one accord, they made for the
pantry and the steward's store-room. The gold which had lured them was
forgotten; the immediate needs of their famished bodies were the only
things they remembered. They found a cheese, a box of musty biscuits,
and a filter full of stale and tepid water; and they gorged till they
were filled, and swore they had never sat to so delicious a meal.

  With repletion came the thoughts of fortune again, and off they went
to the chart-house to finger the coveted gold. But here was a
disappointment ready and waiting for them. They had gone up in a body,
neither nationality trusting the other, and together they ransacked
the place with thoroughness. There were papers in abundance, there
were clothes furry with mildew, there was a broken box of cheap
cigars; but of money there was not so much as a bronze piece.

  "Eh, well," said Kettle, sitting back on the musty bedclothes, "we
have had our trouble for nothing. Some one's been here first and
skimmed the place clean."

  McTodd pounced upon the ruffled blanket and caught something which
he held between his black thumb and finger.

  "Look," he said, "that's not a white man's flea. That's Spanish or
Portugee. And neither 'Tonio nor his mate brought it here, because
they have been washed clean on the trip. You remember what I said
about fishing schooners from Las Palmas, skipper? We have had our
trouble for nothing. Some one's been here first, and skimmed the place

  "By James! yes. And look on the floor there. See those cigarette
ends! They're new and dry. If the old man had been a cigarette smoker,
he wouldn't have chucked his butts on his chart-house deck; and even
if he had done, they'd have been washed to bits when she was hove down
on her beam ends. You can see by the decks outside that she's been
pretty clean swept. No, it's those fishermen, as you say, who have
been here before us."

  "Weel," said McTodd, rubbing his thumb tightly into his finger's
end, "if I were a swearer I could say a deal."

  "The Dagos are swearing enough for the whole crowd of us, to judge
by the splutter of them. The money's gone clean. It's vexing, but
that's a fact. Still, I don't like to go back empty-handed."

  "I'm as keen as yoursel'. There's that eight pound of my wages I
left when I ran in Gib. that's got to be made up somehow. What's wrong
with getting off the hatches and seeing how her cargo's made up?"

  "She's loaded with hides. I saw it on the manifest. There was Jimmy
Mulready's scrawl at the foot of it. That photo there above the bed-
foot will be his wife. Poor old Jimmy! He got religion before I did,
and started his insurance, too, and, if he's kept them both up, he and
his widow ought be all right--By James! did you feel that?"

  McTodd stared round him.

  "What?" he asked.

  "She moved."

  "I took it for sure she was on the ground."

  "So did I. But she isn't. There, you can feel her lift again."

  They went out on deck. The sun was already dipping in the western
sea behind the central hill of the island, and in another few minutes
it would be dark. There is little twilight so far south. So they took
cross bearings on the shore, and watched intently. Yes, there was not
a doubt about it. The Duncansby Head floated, and she was moving
across the deep-water lake that held her.

  "Mon!" said the engineer enthusiastically, "ye've a great head, and
a great future before you. I'd never have guessed it."

  "I took it for granted she'd beaten her bottom out in getting here;
but she's blundered in through the reefs without touching; and, if
she's come in, she can get out again, and we're the fellows to take

  "With engines."

  "With engines, yes. If she's badly broken down in the hardware shop,
we're done. I'd forgotten the machinery, and that's a fact. We'll find
a lantern, and I'll go down with you, Mac, and give them an inspect."

  The two Portuguese had already sworn themselves to a standstill, and
had gone below and found bunks; but the men from the little island in
the North had more energy in their systems, and they expended it
tirelessly. McTodd overhauled every nut, every bearing, every valve,
every rod of the engines with an expert's criticism, and found nothing
that would prevent active working; Kettle rummaged the rest of the
ship; and far into the morning they foregathered again in the chart-
house and compared results.

  She had been swept, badly swept; everything movable on deck was
gone; cargo had shifted, and then shifted back again till she had lost
all her list and was in proper trim; the engines were still workable
if carefully nursed; and in fact, though battered, she was entirely
seaworthy. And while with tired gusto they were comparing these
things, weariness at last got the better of them, and first one and
then the other incontinently dropped off into the deadest of sleep.

  That the Duncansby Head had come in unsteered and unscathed through
the reefs, and therefore under steam and control could be got out
again, was on the face of it a very simple and obvious theory to
propound; but to discover a passage through the rocks to make this
practicable was quite another matter. For three days the old P and O.
lifeboat plied up and down outside the reefs, and had twenty narrow
escapes from being smashed into staves. It looked as if Nature had
performed a miracle, and taken the steamer bodily into her arms and
lifted her over at least a dozen black walls of stone.

  The two Portuguese were already sick to death of the whole business,
but for their feelings neither Kettle nor McTodd had any concern
whatever. They were useful in the working of the boat, and therefore
they were taken along, and when they refused duty or did it with too
much listlessness to please, they were cuffed into activity again.
There was no verbal argument about the matter. "Work or Suffer" was
the simple motto the two islanders went upon, and it answered
admirably. They knew the breed of the Portuguese of old.

  At last, by dint of daring and toil, the secret of the pass through
the noisy spouting reefs was won; it was sounded carefully and
methodically for sunken rocks, and noted in all possible ways; and the
P. and O lifeboat was hoisted on the Duncansby's davits. The
Portuguese were driven down into the stokehold to represent the double
watches of a dozen men and make the requisite steam; McTodd fingered
the rusted engines like an artist; and Kettle took his stand alone
with the team wheels on the upper bridge.

  They had formally signed articles, and apportioned themselves pay,
Kettle as Master, McTodd as Chief Engineer, and the Portuguese as
firemen, because salvage is apportioned pro rata, and the more pay a
man is getting, the larger is his bonus. On which account (at McTodd's
suggestion) they awarded themselves paper stipends which they could
feel proud of, and put down the Portuguese for the ordinary fireman's
wages then paid out of Gibraltar, neither more nor less. For, as the
engineer said: "There was a fortune to be divided up somehow, and it
would be a pity for a pair of unclean Dagos to have more than was
absolutely necessary, seeing that they would not know what to do with

  Captain Kettle felt it to be one of the supreme moments of his life
when he rang on the Duncansby's bridge telegraph to "Half speed
ahead." Here was a bid for fortune such as very rarely came in any
shipmaster's way; not getting salvage, the larger part of which an
owner would finger, for mere assistance, but taking to port a vessel
which was derelict and deserted--the greatest and the rarest plum that
the seas could offer. It was a thought that thrilled him.

  But he had not much time for sentimental musings in this strain. A
terribly nervous bit of pilotage lay ahead of him; the motive power of
his steamer was feeble and uncertain; and it would require all his
skill and resourcefulness to bring her out into deep blue water.
Slowly she backed or went ahead, dodging round to get a square
entrance to the fairway, and then with a slam Kettle rang on the
telegraph to "Full speed ahead" so as to get her under the fullest
possible command.

  She darted out into the narrow winding lane between the walls of
broken water and the roar of the surf closed round her. Rocks sprang
up out of the deep--hungry black rocks, as deadly as explosive
torpedoes. With a full complement of hands and a pilot for years
acquainted with the place, it would have been an infinitely dangerous
piece of navigation; with a half power steamer, which had only one man
all told upon her decks, and he almost a stranger to the place, it was
a miracle how she got out unscathed. But it was a miracle assisted by
the most brilliant skill. Kettle had surveyed the channel in the
lifeboat, and mapped every rock in his head; and when the test came,
he was equal to it. It would be hard to come across a man of more iron

  Backing and going ahead, to get round right-angled turns of the
fairway, shaving reefs so closely that the wash from them creamed over
her rail, the battered old tramp steamer faced a million dangers for
every fathom of her onward way; but never once did she actually touch
and in the end she shot out into the clear, deep water, and gaily hit
diamonds from the wave tops into the sunshine.

  It is possible for a man to concentrate himself so deeply upon one
thing that he is deaf to all else in the world, and until he had
worked the Duncansby Head out into the open, Captain Kettle was in
this condition. He was dimly conscious of voices hailing him but he
had no leisure to give them heed. But when the strain was taken off,
then there was no more disregarding the cries. He turned his head, and
saw a hall-sunk raft, which seven men with clumsy paddles were
frantically labouring towards him along the outer edge of the reefs.

  Without a second thought he rang off engines, and the steamer lost
her way and fell into the trough and waited for them. From the first
he had a foreboding as to who they were: but the men were obviously
castaways: and he was bound to rescue them.

  Ponderously the raft paddled up and got under the steamer's lee.

  Kettle came down off the bridge and threw them the end of a
halliard, and eagerly enough they scrambled up the rusted plating, and
clambered over the rail. They looked around them with curiosity, but
with an obvious familiarity. "I left my pipe stuck behind that
stanchion," said one, "and, by gum, it's there still."

  "Fo'c's'le door's stove in," said another; "I wonder if they've
scoffed my chest."

  "You Robinson Crusoes seem to be making yourselves at home," said

  One of the men knuckled his shock of hair. "We was on her, sir, when
she happened her accident. We got off in the Captain's boat, and she
was smashed to bits landing on Great Salvage yonder. We've been living
there ever since on rabbits and gulls and cockles till we built that
raft and ferried over here. It was tough living, but I guess we were
better off than the poor beggars that were swamped in the other

  "The other two boats got picked up."

  "Did they, though? Then I call it beastly hard luck on us."

  "Captain Mulready was master, wasn't he? Did he get drowned when
your boat went ashore?"

  The sailor shrugged his shoulders. "No, sir. Captain Mulready's on
the raft down yonder. He feels all crumpled up to find the old ship's
afloat, and that you've got her out. She'd a list on when we left her
that would have scared Beresford, but she's chucked that straight
again; and who's to believe it was ever there?"

  Kettle grated his teeth. "Thank you, my lad," he said. "I quite see.
Now get below and find yourself something to eat, and then you go
forrard and turn to." Then, leaning his head over the bulwark, he
called down: "Jimmy!"

  The broken man on the raft looked up. "Hullo, Kettle, that you?"

  "Yes. Come aboard."

  "No, thanks. I'm off back to the island. I'll start a picnic there
on my own. Good luck, old man."

  "If you don't come aboard willingly, I'll send and have you fetched.
Quit fooling."

  "Oh, if you're set on it," said the other tiredly, and scrambled up
the rope. He looked round with a drawn face. "To think she should have
lost that list and righted herself like this! I thought she might turn
turtle any minute when we quitted her; and I'm not a scary man

  "I know you aren't. Come into the chart-house and have a drop of
whisky. There's your missis's photo stuck up over the bed-foot. How's

  "Dead, I hope. It will save her going to the workhouse."

  "Oh, rats! It's not as bad as that."

  "If you'll tell me, why not? I shall lose my ticket over this job,
sure, when it comes before the Board of Trade; and what owner's likely
to give me another ship?"

  "Well, Jimmy, you'll have to sail small, and live on your

  "I dropped that years ago, and drew out what there was. Had to--with
eight kids, you know. They take a lot of feeding."

  "Eight kids, by James!"

  "Yes, eight kids, poor little beggars, and the missus and me all to
go hungry from now onwards. But they do say workhouses are very
comfortable nowadays. You'll look in and see us sometimes--won't you,
Kettle?" He lifted the glass which had been handed him. "Here's luck
to you, old man, and you deserve it. I bought that whisky from a
chandler in Rio. It's a drop of right, isn't it?"

  "Here, chuck it," said Kettle.

  "I'm sorry," said Captain Mulready, "but you shouldn't have had me
on board. I should have been better picnicking by myself on Great
Piton yonder. I can't make cheerful shipmate for you, old man."

  "Brace up," said Kettle.

  "By the Lord, if I'd only been a day earlier with that raft," said
the other musingly, "I could have taken her out, as you have done, and
brought her home, and I believe the firm would have kept me on. There
need have been no inquiry; only 'delayed' that's all; no one cares so
long as a ship turns up some time."

  "It wouldn't have made any difference," said Kettle, frowning. "Some
of those lousy Portuguese have been on board and scoffed all the

  "What money?"

  "Why, what she'd earned. What there was here in the chart-house

  The dishevelled man gave a tired chuckle. "Oh, that's all right. I
put in at Las Palmas, and transferred it to the bank there, and sent
home the receipt by the B. and A. mailboat to Liverpool. No, I'm
pleased enough about the money. But it's this other thing I made the
bungle of, just being a day too late with that raft."

  Kettle heard a sound, and sharply turned his head. He saw a grimy
man in the doorway. "Mr. McTodd," he said, "who the mischief gave you
leave to quit your engine-room? Am I to understand you've been
standing there in that doorway to listen?"

  "Her own engineer's come back, so I handed her over to him and came
on deck for a spell. As for listening, I've heard every word that's
been said. Captain Mulready, you have my very deepest condolences."

  "Mr. McTodd," said Kettle with a sudden blaze of fury, "I'm captain
of this ship, and you're intruding. Get to Hamlet out of here." He got
up and strode furiously out of the door, and McTodd retreated before

  "Now keep your hands off me," said the engineer. "I'm as mad about
the thing as yourself, and I don't mind blowing off a few pounds of
temper. I don't know Captain Mulready, and you do, but I'd hate to see
any man all crumpled up like that if I could help it."

  "He could be helped by giving him back his ship, and I'd do it if I
was by myself. But I've got a Scotch partner, and I'm not going to try
for the impossible."

  "Dinna abuse Scotland," said McTodd, wagging a grimy forefinger.
"It's your ain wife and bairns ye're thinking about."

  "I ought to be, Mac, but, God help me! I'm not."

  "Varra weel," said McTodd; "then, if that's the case, skipper, just
set ye doon here and we'll have a palaver."

  "I'll hear what you've got to say," said Kettle more civilly, and
for the next half-hour the pair of them talked as earnestly as only
poor men can talk when they are deliberately making up their minds to
resign a solid fortune which is already within their reach. And at the
end of that talk, Captain Kettle put out his hand and took the
engineer's in a heavy grip. "Mac," he said, "you're Scotch, but you're
a gentleman right through under you're clothes."

  "I was born to that estate, skipper, and I no more wanted to see yon
puir deevil pulled down to our level than you do. Better go and give
him the news, and I'll get our boat in the water again, and

  "No," said Kettle, "I can't stand by and be thanked. You go. I'll
see to the boat."

  "Be hanged if I do!" said the engineer. "Write the man a letter.
You're great on the writing line: I've seen you at it."

  And so in the tramp's main cabin below, Captain Kettle penned this

    "To Captein J.R. Mulready.

      "DEAR JIMMY,--Having concluded not to take trouble to work
Duncansby Head home, have pleasure in leaving her to your charge. We,
having other game on hand, have now taken French leave, and shall now
bear up for Western Islands. You've no call to say anything about our
being on board at all. Spin your own yarn, it will never be

    "Yours truly.

    "O. KETTLE (Master).

    "p.p. W.A. McTODD (Chief

    Engineer), O.K.

      "P.S.--We taken along these two Dagos. If you had them they
might talk when you got them home. We having them, they will not talk.
So you've only your own crowd to keep from talking. Good luck, old

  Which letter was sealed and nailed up in a conspicuous place before
the lifeboat left en route for Grand Canary.

  It was the two Portuguese who felt themselves principally aggrieved
men. They had been made to undergo a great deal of work and hardship;
they had been defrauded of much plunder which they quite considered
was theirs, for the benefit of an absolute stranger in whom they took
not the slightest interest; and, finally, they were induced "not to
talk" by processes which jarred upon them most unpleasantly.

  They did not talk, and in the fulness of time they returned to the
avocation of shovelling coal on steam vessels. But when they sit down
to think, neither Antonio nor his friend (whose honoured name I never
learned) regard with affection those little islands in the Northern
Sea, which produced Captain Owen Kettle and his sometime partner, Mr.
Neil Angus McTodd.


THERE was considerable trouble and risk in bringing the lifeboat up
alongside, but it must be granted that she was very unhandy.

  The gale that had blown them out into the Atlantic had moderated,
certainly, though there was still a considerable breeze blowing, but
the sea was running as high as ever, and all Captain Kettle's skill
was required to prevent the boat from being incontinently swamped.
McTodd and the two Portuguese baled incessantly, but the boat was
always half water-logged. In fact, from constitutional defects she had
made very wet weather of it all through the blow.

  It was the part of the steamer to have borne down and given the
lifeboat a lee in which she could have been more readily handled, and
three times the larger vessel made an attempt to do this, but without
avail. Three times she worked round in a wallowing circle, got to
windward, and distributed a smell of farmyard over the rugged furrows
of ocean, and then lost her place again before she could drift down
and give the smaller craft shelter. Three times did the crew of the
lifeboat, with maritime point and fluency, curse the incompetence of
the rust-streaked steamer and all her complement.

  "By James!" said Kettle savagely, after the third attempt, "are they
all farmers on that ship? I've had a nigger steward that knew more
about handling a vessel."

  "She's an English ship," said McTodd, "and delicate. They're nursing
her in the engine-room. Look at the way they throttle her down when
she races."

  "The fools on her upper bridge are enough for me to look at," Kettle
retorted. "Why didn't they put a sailorman aboard of her before she
was kicked out of port? By James! if we'd a week's water and victual
with us in the lifeboat here, I'd beat back for the Canaries as we
are, and keep clear of that tin farmyard for bare safety's sake."

  "We haven't a crumb nor a drink left," said the engineer, "and I'd
not recommend this present form of conveyance to the insurance
companies." A wave-top came up from the tireless grey sea, and slapped
green and cold about his neck and shoulders. "Gosh! there comes more
of the Atlantic to bale back into place. Mon, this is no' the kind of
navigation I admire."

  Meanwhile the clumsy tramp-steamer had gone round in a jagged circle
of a mile's diameter, and was climbing back to position again over the
hills and dales of ocean. She rolled, and she pitched, and she
wallowed amongst the seas, and to the lay mind she would have seemed
helplesness personified; but to the expert eye she showed defects in
her handling with every sheer she took among the angry waste of

  "Old man and the mates must be staying down below out of the wet,"
said Kettle, contemptuously as he gazed. "Looks as if they've left
some sort of cheap Dutch quartermaster on the upper bridge to run her.
Don't tell me there's an officer holding an English ticket in command
of that steamer. They aren't going to miss us this time, though if
they know it."

  "Looks like as if they were going to soss down slap on top of us,"
said McTodd, and set to taking off his coat and boots.

  But the cattle-steamer, if not skilfully handled, at any rate this
time had more luck. She worked her way up to windward again, and then
fell off into the trough, squattering down almost out of sight one
minute, and, in fact, showing little of herself except a couple of
stumpy, untidy masts and a brine-washed smokestack above the seascape,
and being heaved up almost clear the next second, a picture of rust
streaks and yellow spouting scuppers.

  Both craft drifted to leeward before the wind, but the steamer
offered most surface, and moved the quicker, which was the object of
the manoeuvre. It seemed to those in the lifeboat that they were not
going to be missed this time, and so they lowered away their sodden
canvas, shipped tholepins, and got out their oars. The two Portuguese
firemen did not assist at first, preferring to sit in a semi-dazed
condition on the wet floor gratings; but McTodd and Kettle thumped
them about the head, after the time-honoured custom, till they turned
to, and so presently the lifeboat, under three straining oars, was
holding up towards her would-be deliverer.

  A man on the cattle-boat's upper bridge was exhibiting himself as a
very model of nervous incapacity, and two at any rate of the castaways
in the lifeboat were watching him with grim scorn.

  "Keeping them on the dance in the engine-room, isn't he?" said
McTodd. "He's rung that telegraph bell fifteen different ways this
last minute."

  "That man isn't fit to skipper anything that hasn't got a tow-rope
made fast ahead," said Kettle, contemptuously. "He hasn't the nerve of
a pound of putty."

  "I'm thinking we shall lose the boat. They'll never get her aboard
in one piece."

  "If we get among their cow pens with our bare lives we shall be
lucky. They're going to heave us a line. Stand by to catch it quick."

  The line was thrown and caught. The cattle-steamer surged up over a
huge rolling sea, showing her jagged bilge-chocks clear; and then she
squelched down again, dragging the lifeboat close in a murderous
cuddle, which smashed in one of her sides as though it had been made
from egg-shell. Other lines were thrown by the hands who stood against
the rail above, and the four men in the swamping boat each seized an

  Half climbing, half hoisted from above, they made their way up the
rusted plating, and the greedy waves from underneath sucked and
clamoured at their heels. It was quite a toss-up even then whether
they would be dragged from their hold; but human muscles can put forth
desperate efforts in these moments of desperate stress; and they
reached the swaying deck planks, bruised and breathless and gasping,
but for the time being safe.

  The cattle-boat's mate, who had been assisting their arrival, sorted
them into castes with ready perception. "Now, you two Dagos," he said
to the Portuguese, "get away forrard--port side--and bid some of our
firemen to give you a bunk. I'll tell the steward to bring you along a
tot of rum directly." He clapped a friendly hand on McTodd's shoulder.
"Bo's'n," he said, "take this gentleman down to the mess-room, and
pass the word to one of the engineers to come and give him a welcome."
And then he turned as to an equal, and shook Kettle by the hand. "Very
glad to welcome you aboard, old fellow--beg pardon, 'Captain' I should
have said; didn't see the lace on your sleeve before. Come below with
me, Captain, and I'll fix you up with some dry things outside, and
some wet things in, before we have any further chatter."

  "Mr. Mate," said Kettle, "you're very polite, but hadn't I better go
up on the bridge and say 'howdy' to the skipper first?"

  The mate of the cattle-boat grinned and tucked his arm inside
Captain Kettle's and dragged him off with kindly force towards the
companion-way. "Take the synch from me, Captain, and don't. The old
man's in such a mortal fear for the ship, that he's fair cryin' with
it. If he'd had his way, I don't fancy he'd have seen your boat at
all. He said it was suicide to try and pick you up with such a sea
running. But the second mate and I put in some ugly talk, and so he
just had to do it. Here's the companion. Step inside, and I'll shut
the door."

  "Pretty sort of Captain to let his mates boss him."

  "Quite agree with you, Captain; quite agree with you all the way.
But that's what's done on this ship, and there's no getting over it.
It's not to my liking either--I'm an old Conway boy, and was brought
up to respect discipline. However, I daresay, you'll see for yourself
how things run before we dump you back on dry mud again. Now, here we
are at my room, and there's a change of clothes in that drawer beneath
the bed, and underwear below the settee here. You and I are much of a
build, and the kit's quite at your service till your own is dry

  The mate was back again in ten minutes--dripping, cheerful,
hospitable. "Holy tailors!" said he, "how you do set off clothes!
Those old duds came out of a slop-chest once, and I've been ashamed of
their shabbiness more years than I care to think about; but you've a
way of carrying them that makes them look well fitting and quite new.
Well, I tell you I'm pleased to see a spruce man on this ship. Come
into the cabin now and peck a bit. I ordered you a meal, and I saw the
steward as I came past the door trying to hold it down in the fiddles.
The old girl can roll a bit, can't she?"

  "I should say your farmyard's getting well churned up."

  "You should just go into those cattle decks and see. It's just Hades
for the poor brutes. We're out of the River Plate, you know, and we've
carried bad weather with us ever since we got our anchors. The beasts
were badly stowed, and there were too many of them put aboard. The old
man grumbled, but the shippers didn't take any notice of him. They'd
signed for the whole ship, and they just crammed as many sheep and
cows into her as she'd hold."

  "You'll have the Cruelty to Animals people on board of you before
you're docked, and then your skipper had better look out."

  "He knows that, Captain, quite as well as you do, and there isn't a
man more sorry for himself in all the Western Ocean. He'll be fined
heavily, and have his name dirtied, so sure as ever he sets a foot
ashore. Legally, I suppose, he's responsible; but really he's no more
to blame than you. He is part of the ship, just as the engines, or the
mates, or the tablespoons are; and the whole bag o' tricks was let by
wire from Liverpool to a South American Dago. If he'd talked, he'd
have got the straight kick out from the owners, and no further
argument. You see they are little bits of owners."

  "They're the worst sort."

  "It doesn't matter who they are. A skipper has got to do as he's

  "Yes," said Kettle with a sigh, "I know that."

  "Well," said the mate, "you may thank your best little star that
you're only here as a passenger. The grub's beastly, the ship stinks,
the cook's a fool, and everything's as uncomfortable as can be. But
there's one fine amusement ahead of you, and that's try and cheer up
the other passenger."


  "No, bon fide passenger, if you can imagine any one being mug
enough to book a room on a foul cattle-loaded tramp like this. But I
guess it was because she was hard up. She was a governess, or
something of that sort, in Buenos Ayres, lost her berth, and wanted to
get back again cheap. I guess we could afford to cut rates and make a
profit there."

  "Poor lady."

  "I've not seen much of her myself. The second mate and I are most of
the crew of this ship (as the old man objects to our driving the
regular deck hands), and when we're not at work, we're asleep. I can't
stop and introduce you. You must chum on. Her name's Carnegie."

  "Miss Carnegie," Kettle repeated, "that sounds familiar. Does she
write poetry?"

  The mate yawned. "Don't know. Never asked her. But perhaps she does.
She looks ill enough."

  The mate went off to his room then, turned in, all standing, and was
promptly asleep. Kettle, with memories of the past refreshed, took
paper and a scratchy pen, and fell to concocting verse.

  He wondered, and at the same time he half dreaded, whether this was
the same Miss Carnegie whom he had known before. In days past she had
given him a commission to liberate her lover from the French penal
settlement of Cayenne. With infinite danger and difficulty he had
wrenched the man free from his warders, and when, finding him a
worthless fellow, had by force married him to an old Jamaican negress,
and sent the girl their marriage lines as a token of her release. He
had had no word or sign from her since, and was in some dread now lest
she might bitterly resent the liberty he had taken in meddling so far
with her affairs.

  However, like it or not, there was no avoiding the meeting now, and
so he went on--somewhat feverishly--with his writing.

  The squalid meal entitled tea came on, and he had to move his
papers. A grimy steward spread a dirty cloth, wetted it liberally with
water, and shipped fiddles to try and induce the table-ware to keep in
place despite the rolling. The steward mentioned that none of the
officers would be down, that the two passengers would meal together,
and in fact did his best to be affable; but Kettle listened with cold
inattention, and the steward began to wish him over the side whence he
had come.

  The laying of the table was ended at last. The steward put on his
jacket, clanged the bell in the alley-way, and then came back and
stood swaying in the middle of the cabin, armed with a large tin tea-
pot, all ready to commence business. So heavy was the roll, that at
times he had to put his hand on the floor for support.

  Captain Kettle watched the door with a haggard face. He was
beginning to realise that an emotion was stirred within him that
should have no place in his system. He told himself sternly that he
was a married man with a family; that he had a deep affection for both
his wife and children; that, in cold fact, he had seen Miss Carnegie
in the flesh but once before. But there was no getting over the memory
that she made poetry, a craft that he adored; and he could not forget
that she had already lived in his mind for more months than he dared

  His conscience took him by the ear, and sighed out the word Love. On
the instant, all his pride of manhood was up in arms, and he rejected
the imputation with scorn; and then, after some thought, formulated
his liking for the girl in the term Interest. But he knew full well
that his sentiment was something deeper than that. His chest heaved
when he thought of her.

  Then, in the distance, he heard her approaching. He wiped the
moisture from his face with the mate's pocket-handkerchief. Above the
din of the seas, and the noises from the crowded cattle pens outside,
he could make out the faint rustle of draperies, and the uncertain
footsteps of some one painfully making a way along hand over hand
against the bulkheads. A bunch of fingers appeared round the jamb of
the door, slender white fingers, one of them decked with a queer old
ring, which he had seen just once before, and had pictured a thousand
times since. And then the girl herself stepped out into the cabin,
swaying to the roll of the ship.

  She nodded to him with instant recognition. "It was you they picked
up out of the boat? Oh, I am so glad you are safe."

  Kettle strode out towards her on his steady sea legs, and stood
before her, still not daring to take her hand. "You have forgiven me?"
he murmured. "What I did was a liberty, I know, but if I had not liked
you so well, I should not have dared to do it."

  She cast down her eyes and flushed. "You are the kindest man I ever
met," she said. "The very kindest." She took his hand in both hers,
and gripped it with nervous force. "I shall never forget what you did
for me, Captain."

  The grimy steward behind them coughed and rattled the teapot lid,
and so they sat themselves at the table, and the business of tea
began. All of the ship s officers were either looking after the work
entailed by the heavy weather on deck, or sleeping the sleep of utter
exhaustion in their bunks. And so none joined them at the meal. But
the steward incessantly hovered at their elbows, and it was only
during his fitful absences that their talk was anything like

  "You said you liked poetry," the girl whispered shyly when the first
of those opportunities came. "I wrote the most heartfelt verses that
ever came from me over that noble thing you tried to do for a poor
stranger like me."

  Captain Kettle blushed like a maid. "For one of the magazines?" he

  She shook her head sadly. "It was not published when I left England,
and it had been sent back to me from four magazine offices. That was
nothing new. They never would take any of my stuff."

  Kettle's fingers twitched suggestively. "I'd like to talk a minute
or so with some of those editors. I'd make them sit up."

  "That wouldn't make them print my poems."

  "Wouldn't it, miss? Well, perhaps you know best there. But I'd
guarantee it'd hinder them from printing anything else for awhile, the
inky-fingered brutes. The twaddling stories those editors set up in
type about lowdown pirates and detective bugs are enough to make one

  It appeared that Miss Carnegie's father had died since she and
Kettle had last met, and the girl had found herself left almost
destitute. She had been lured out to Buenos Ayres by an advertisement,
but without finding employment, and, sick at heart, had bought with
the last of her scanty store of money a cheap passage home in this

  She would land in England entirely destitute; and although she did
not say this, spoke cheerfully of the future, in fact, Kettle was torn
with pity for her state. But what, be asked himself with fierce scorn,
could he do? He was penniless himself; he had a wife and family
depending on him; and who was he to take this young unmarried girl
under his charge?

  They talked long on that and other days, always avoiding vital
questions; and, meanwhile, the reeking cattle-boat wallowed north
carrying with her, as it seemed, a little charmed circle of evil
weather as her constant companion.

  Between times, when he was not in attendance on Miss Carnegie,
Kettle watched the life of the steamer with professional interest, and
all a strong man's contempt for a weak commander. The 'tween decks was
an Aceldama. In the heavy weather the cattle pens smashed, the poor
beasts broke their legs, gored one another, and were surged about in
horrible meles. The cattle-men were half incapable, wholly mutinous.
They dealt out compressed hay and water when the gangways were
cleared, and held to it that this was the beginning and end of their
duty. To pass down the winch chain, and haul out the dead and wounded,
was a piece of employment that they flatly refused to tamper with.
They said the deck hands could do it.

  The deck hands, scenting a weak commander, said they had been hired
as sailor-men, and also declined to meddle; and, as a consequence,
this necessary sepulture business was done by the mates.

  In Kettle's first and only interview with the cattleboat's captain
he saw this operation going on through a hatchway before his very
face. The mate and the second mate clambered down by the battens, and
went along the filthy gangway below, dragging the winch chain after
them. The place was cluttered with carcases and jammed with broken
pens, all surging together to the roll of the ship. The lowings and
the groans of the cattle were awful. But at last a bight of rope was
made fast round a dead beast's horns, and the word was given to haul.
The winch chattered and the chain drew. The two men below, jumping to
this side and that for their lives, handspiked the carcase free of
obstacles, and at last it came up the hatch, almost unrecognisable.

  A mob of men, sulky, sullen, and afraid, stood round the hatch, and
one of these, when the poor remains came up, and swung to the roll of
the ship over the side, cut the bow-line with his knife, and let the
carcase plop into the racing seas. The chain clashed back again down
between the iron coamings of the hatch, and the two mates below went
on with their work. No one offered to help them. Not one, as Kettle
grimly noted, was made to do so.

  "Do your three mates run this ship, Captain?" asked Kettle at last.

  "They are handy fellows."

  "If you ask me, I should call them poor drivers. What for do they
put in all the work themselves, when there are that mob of deck hands
and cattle-hands standing round doing the gentleman as though they
were in the gallery of a theatre?"

  "There was some misunderstanding when the crew were shipped. They
say they never signed on to handle dead cattle."

  "I've seen those kind of misunderstandings before, Captain, and I've
started in to smooth them away."

  "Well?" said the Captain of the cattle-boat.

  "Oh, with me!" said Kettle truculently, "they straightened out so
soon as ever I began to hit. If your mates know their business, they'd
soon have that crew in hand again."

  "I don't allow my mates to knock the men about. To give them their
due, they wanted to; they were brought up in a school which would
probably suit you, Captain, all three of them; but I don't permit that
sort of thing. I am a Christian man, and I will not order my fellow
men to be struck. If the fellows refuse their duty, it lies between
them and their consciences."

  "As if an old sailor had a conscience!" murmured Kettle to himself.
"Well, Captain, I'm no small piece of a Christian myself, but I was
taught that whatever my hand findeth to do to do it with all my might,
and I guess bashing a lazy crew comes under that head."

  "I don't want either your advice or your theology."

  "If I wasn't a passenger here," said Kettle, "I'd like to tell you
what I thought of your seamanship, and your notion of making a
master's ticket respected. But I'll hold my tongue on that. As it is,
I think I ought just to say I don't consider this ship's safe, run the
way she is."

  The captain of the cattle-boat flushed darkly. He jerked his head
towards the ladder. "Get down off this bridge," he said.


  "You hear me. Get down off my bridge. If you've learnt anything
about your profession, you must know this is private up here, and no
place for blooming passengers."

  Kettle glared and hesitated. He was not used to receiving orders of
this description, and the innovation did not please him. But for once
in his life he submitted. Miss Carnegie was sitting under the lee of
the deckhouse aft, watching him, and somehow or other he did not
choose to have a scene before her. It was all part of this strange new
feeling which had come over him.

  He gripped his other impulses tight, and went and sat beside her.
She welcomed him cordially. She made no secret of her pleasure at his
presence. But her talk just now jarred upon him. Like other people who
see the ocean and its traffic merely from the amateur's view, she was
able to detect romance beneath her present discomforts, and she was
pouring into his ear her scheme for making it the foundation of her
most ambitious poem.

  In Kettle's mind, to build an epic on such a groundwork was nothing
short of profanation. He viewed the sea, seamen, and sea duties with
an intimate eye; to him they were common and unclean to the furthest
degree; no trick of language could elevate their meanness. He pointed
out how she would prostitute her talent by laying hold of such an
unsavoury subject and extolled the beauty of his own ideal.

  "Tackle a cornfield, Miss," he would say again and again, "with its
butter-yellow colour, and its blobs of red poppies, and the green
hedges all round. You write poetry such as I know you can about a
cornfield, and farmers, and farm buildings with thatched roofs, and
you'll wake one of these mornings (like all poets hope to do some day)
and find yourself famous. And because why, you want to know? Well,
Miss, it is because cornfields and the country and all that are what
people want to hear about, and dream they've got handy to their own
back door-step. They're so peaceful, so restful. You take it from me,
no one would even want to read four words about this beastly cruel sea
and the brutes of men who make their living by driving ships across
it. No, by Ja---No, Miss, you take it from a man who knows, they'd
just despise it." And so they argued endlessly at the point, each
keeping an unchanged opinion.

  Perhaps of all the human freight that the cattle-boat carried, Mr.
McTodd was the only one person entirely happy. He had no watch to
keep, no work to do; the mess-room was warm, stuffy, and entirely to
his taste; liquor was plentiful; and the official engineers of the
ship were Scotch and argumentative. He never came on deck for a whiff
of fresh air, never knew a moment's tedium; he lived in a pleasant
atmosphere of broad dialect, strong tobacco, and toasting oil, and
thoroughly enjoyed himself; though when the moment of trial came, and
his thews and energies were wanted for the saving of human life, he
quickly showed that this Capua had in no way sapped his efficiency.

  The steamer had, as has been said, carried foul weather with her all
the way across the Atlantic from the River Plate, as though it were a
curse inflicted for the cruelty of her stevedores. The crew forgot
what it was like to wear dry clothes, the afterward lived in a state
of bone-weariness. A harder captain would have still contrived to keep
them up to the mark; but the man who was in supreme command was feeble
and undecided, and there is no doubt that vigilance was dangerously

  A fog, too, which came down to cover the sea, stopped out all view
of the sun, and compelled them for three days to depend on a dead
reckoning; and (after the event) it was said a strong current set the
steamer unduly to the westward.

  Anyway, be the cause what it may, Kettle was pitched violently out
of his bunk in the deep of one night, just after two bells, and from
the symptoms which loudly advertised themselves, it required no expert
knowledge to tell that the vessel was beating her bottom out on rocks,
to the accompaniment of a murderously heavy sea. The engines stopped,
steam began to blow off noisily from the escapes, and what with that,
and the cries of men, and the clashing of seas, and the beating of
iron, and the beast cries from the cattle-decks, the din was almost
enough to split the ear. And then the steam syren burst into one vast
bellow of pain, which drowned all the other noises as though they had
been children's whispers.

  Kettle slid on coat and trousers over his pyjamas, and went and
thumped at a door at the other side of the alleyway.

  "Miss Carnegie?"


  "Dress quickly."

  "I am dressing, Captain."

  "Get finished with it, and then wait. I'll come for you when it's

  It is all very well to be cool on these occasions, but sometimes the
race is to the prompt. Captain Kettle made his way up on deck against
a green avalanche of water which was cascading down the companion-way.
No shore was in sight. The ship had backed off after she had struck,
and was now rolling heavily in a deep trough. She was low in the
water, and every second wave swept her.

  No one seemed to be in command. The dim light showed Kettle one
lifeboat wrecked in davits, and a disorderly mob of men trying to
lower the other. But some one let go the stern fall so that the boat
shot down perpendicularly, and the next wave smashed the lower half of
it into splinters. The frenzied crowd left it to try the port quarter-
boat, and Kettle raced them across the streaming decks and got first
to the davits. He plucked a greenheart belaying pin from the rail, and
laid about him viciously.

  "Back, you scum!" he shouted: "get back, or I'll smash in every face
amongst you. Good Lord, isn't there a mate or a man left on this
stinking farmyard? Am I to keep off all this two-legged cattle by

  They fought on; the black water swirling waist deep amongst them
with every roll, the syren bellowing for help overhead, and the ship
sinking under their feet; and gradually, with the frenzy of despair,
the men drove Kettle back against the rail, whilst others of them cast
off the falls of the quarter-boat's tackles preparatory to letting her
drop. But then, out of the darkness, up came McTodd and the steamer's
mate, both shrewd hitters, and men not afraid to use their skill, and
once more the tables were turned.

 The other quarter-boat had been lowered and swamped; this boat was
the only one remaining.

  "Now, Mac," said Kettle, "help the mate take charge, and murder
every one that interferes. Get the boat in the water, and fend off.
I'll be off below and fetch up Miss Carnegie. We must put some hurry
in it. The old box hasn't much longer to swim. Take the lady ashore,
and see she comes to no harm."

  "Oh, ay," said McTodd, "and we'll keep a seat for yerself, skipper."

  "You needn't bother," said Kettle. "I take no man's place in this
sort of tea-party." He splashed off across the streaming decks, and
found the cattle-boat's captain sheltering under the lee of the
companion, wringing his hands. "Out, you blitherer," he shouted, "and
save your mangy life! Your ship's gone now: you can't play hash with
her any more." After which pleasant speech he worked his way below,
half swimming, half wading, and once more beat against Miss Carnegie's
door. Even in this moment of extremity he did not dream of going in

  She came out to him in the half swamped alley-way, fully dressed.
"Is there any hope?" she asked.

  "We'll get you ashore, don't you fear." He clapped an arm round her
waist, and drew her strongly on through the dark and the swirling
water towards the foot of the companion. "Excuse me, Miss," he said;
"this is not familiarity. But I have got the firmer sea-legs, and we
must hurry."

  They pressed up the stair, battling with great green cascades of
water, and gamed the dreadful turmoil on deck. A few weak stars
gleamed out above the wind, and showed the black wave tops dimly.
Already some of the cattle had been swept overboard, and were swimming
about like the horned beasts of a night-mare. The din of surf came to
them amongst the other noises, but no shore was visible. The steamer
had backed off the reef on which she had struck, and was foundering in
deep water. It was indeed a time for hurry. It was plain she had very
few more minutes to swim.

  Each sea now made a clean breach over her, and a passage about the
decks was a thing of infinite danger. But Kettle was resourceful and
strong, and he had a grip round Miss Carnegie and a hold on something
solid when the waters drenched on him, and he contrived never to be
wrested entirely from his hold.

  But when he had worked his way aft, a disappointment was there ready
for him. The quarter-boat was gone. McTodd stood against one of the
davits, cool and philosophical as ever.

  "You infernal Scotchman, you've let them take away the boat from
you," Kettle snarled. "I should have thought you could have kept your
end up with a mangy crowd like that."

  "Use your eyes," said the engineer. "The boat's in the wash below
there at the end of the tackles with her side stove in. She drowned
the three men that were lowered in her because they'd no' sense enough
to fend off."

  "That comes of setting a lot of farmers and firemen to work a

  "Aweel," said McTodd, "steamers have been lost before, and I have it
in mind, Captain, that you've helped."

  "By James! if you don't carry a civil tongue, you drunken Geordie,
I'll knock you some teeth down to cover it.

  "Oh, I owed you that," said McTodd, "but now we're quits. I bided
here, Captain Kettle, because I thought you'd maybe like to swim the
lady off to the shore, and at that I can bear a useful hand."

  "Mac," said Kettle, "I take back what I said about your being
Scotch. You're a good soul." He turned to the girl, still shouting to
make his voice carry above the clash of the seas and the bellow of the
syren, and the noises of the dying ship: "It's our only chance, Miss--
swimming. The life-buoys from the bridge are all gone--I looked. The
hands will have taken them. There'll be a lot of timber floating about
when she goes down, and we'll be best clear of that. Will you trust to

  "I trust you in everything," she said.

  Deeper and deeper the steamer sank in her wallow. The lower decks
were swamped by this, and the miserable cattle were either drowned in
their stalls or washed out of her. There was no need for the three to
jump--they just let go their hold, and the next incoming wave swept
them clear of the steamer's spar deck, and spurned them a hundred
yards from her side.

  They found themselves amongst a herd of floating cattle, some
drowned, some swimming frenziedly; and with the inspiration of the
moment laid hold of a couple of the beasts which were tangled together
by a halter, and so supported themselves without further exertion. It
was no use swimming for the present. They could not tell which way the
shore lay. And it behoved them to reserve all their energies for the
morning, so well as the numbing cold of the water would let them.

  Of a sudden the bellow of the steamer's syren ceased, and a pang
went through them as though they had lost a friend. Then came a dull
muffled explosion. And then a huge, ragged shape loomed up through the
night, like some vast monument, and sank swiftly straight downwards
out of sight beneath the black, tumbled sea.

  "Poor old girl!" said McTodd, spitting out the sea water; "they'd a
fine keg of whisky down in her mess room."

  "Poor devil of a skipper!" said Kettle; "it's to be hoped he's
drowned out of harm's way, or it'll take lying to keep him any rags of
his ticket."

  The talk died out of them after that, and the miseries of the
situation closed in. The water was cold, but the air was piercing and
so they kept their bodies submerged, each holding on to the bovine
raft, and each man sparing a few fingers to keep a grip on the girl.
One of the beasts they clung to quickly drowned; the other, strange to
say, kept its nostrils above water, swimming strongly, and in the end
came alive to the shore, the only four-footed occupant of the steamer
to be saved.

  At the end of each minute it seemed to them that they were too
bruised and numbed to hang on another sixty seconds; and yet the next
minute found them still alive and dreading its successor. The sea
moaned around them, mourning the dead; the fleet of drowned cattle
surged helplessly to this way and to that, bruising them with rude
collisions; and the chill bit them to the bone, mercifully numbing
their pain and anxiety. Long before the dawn the girl had sunk into a
stupor, and was only held from sinking by the nervous fingers of the
men; and the men themselves were merely automata, completing their
task with a legacy of will.

  When from somewhere out of the morning mists a fisher boat sailed up
manned by ragged, kindly Irish, all three were equally lost to
consciousness, and all three were hauled over the gunwale in one
continuous, dripping string. The grip of the men's fingers had endured
too long to be loosened for a sudden call such as that.

  They were taken ashore and tended with all the care poor homes could
give; and the men, used to hardships, recovered with a dose of warmth
and sleep.

  Miss Carnegie took longer to recover, and, in fact, for a week lay
very near to death. Kettle stayed on in the village, making almost
hourly inquiries for her. He ought to have gone away to seek fresh
employment. He ought to have gone back to his wife and children, and
he upbraided himself bitterly for his neglect of these duties. But
still he could not tear himself away. For the future--Well, he dreaded
to think what might happen in the future.

  But at last the girl was able to sit up and see him, and he visited
her, showing all the deference an ambassador might offer to a queen I
may go so far as to say that he went into the cottage quite
infatuated. He came out of it disillusioned.

  She listened to his tale of the wreck with interest and surprise.
She was almost startled to hear that others, including the captain and
two of the mates, were saved from the disaster besides themselves, but
at the same time unfeignedly pleased. And she was pleased also to hear
that Kettle was subpoenaed to give evidence before the forthcoming

  "I am glad of that," she said, "because I know you will speak with a
free mind. You have told me so many times how incompetent the captain
was, and now you will be able to tell it to the proper authorities."

  Kettle looked at her blankly. "But that was different," he said. "I
can't say to them what I said to you."

  "Why not? Look what misery and suffering and loss of life the man
has caused. He isn't fit to command a ship."

  "But Miss," said Kettle, "it's his living. He's been brought up to
seafaring, and he isn't fit for anything else. You wouldn't have me
send out the man to starve? Besides, I'm a shipmaster myself, and you
wouldn't have me try to take away another master's ticket? The
cleverest captain afloat might meet with misfortune, and he's always
got to think of that when he's put up to give evidence against his

  "Well, what are you going to do then?"

  "Oh, we've got together a tale, and when the old man is put upon his
trial, the mates and I will stick to it through thick and thin. You
can bet that we are not going to swear away his ticket."

  "His ticket?"

  "Yes; his master's certificate--his means of livelihood."

  "I think it's wrong," she said excitedly; "criminally wrong. And
besides, you said you didn't like the man."

  "I don't; I dislike him cordially. But that's nothing to do with the
case. I've my own honour to think of, Miss. How'd I feel if I went
about knowing I'd done my best to ruin a brother captain for good and

  "You are wrong," she repeated vehemently. "The man is incompetent by
your own saying, and therefore he should suffer."

  Kettle's heart chilled.

  "Miss Carnegie," he said "I am disappointed in you. I thought from
your poetry that you had feelings; I thought you had charity; but I
find you are cold."

  "And you!" she retorted, "you that I have set up for myself as an
ideal of most of the manly virtues, do you think I feel no
disappointment when I hear that you are deliberately proposing to be a

  "I am no liar," he said sullenly. "I have most faults, but not that.
This is different; you do not understand. It is not lying to defend
one's fellow shipmaster before an Inquiry Board."

  The girl turned to the pillow in her chair and hid her face. "Oh,
go!" she said, "go! I wish I had never met you. I thought you were so
good, and so brave, and so honest, and when it comes to the pinch, you
are just like the rest! Go, go! I wish I thought I could ever forget

  "You say you don't understand," said Kettle. "I think you
deliberately won't understand, Miss. You remember that I said I was
disappointed in you, and I stick to that now. You make me remember
that I have got a wife and family that I am fond of. You make me
ashamed I have not gone to them before."

  He went to the door and opened it. "But I do not think I shall ever
forget," he said, "how much I cared for you once. Good-bye, Miss."

  "Good-bye," she sobbed from her pillow; "I wish I could think you
are right, but perhaps it is best as it is."

  In the village street outside was Mr. McTodd, clothed in rasping
serge, and inclined to be sententious. "They've whisky here," he said
with a jerk of the thumb--"Irish whisky, that's got a smoky taste
that's rather alluring when you've got over the first dislike. I'm out
o' siller mysel' or I'd stand ye a glass, but if ye're in funds I
could guide ye to the place."

  Kettle was half tempted. But with a wrench he said "No," adding that
if he once started he might not know when to stop.

  "Quite right," said the engineer, "you're quite (hic) right,
skipper. A man with an inclination to level himself with the beasts
that perish should always be abstemious." He sat against a wayside
fence and prepared for sleep.

  "Like me," he added solemnly, and shut his eyes.

  "No," said Kettle to himself; "I won't forget it that way. I guess I
can manage without. She pretty well cured me herself. But a sight of
the missis will do the rest."

* * * * * *

  And so Captain Owen Kettle went home to where Mrs. Kettle kept house
in the bye-street in South Shields, that unlovely town on the busy
Tyneside; and a worrying time he had of it with that estimable woman,
his wife, before the explanations which he saw fit to give were passed
as entirely satisfactory. In fact, he was not quite forgiven for his
escapade with Miss Carnegie, or for that other involuntary excursion
with Donna Clotilde La Touche, till such time as he had acquired
fortune from a venture on the seas, and was able to take Mrs. Kettle
away from her unsavoury surroundings, to settle down in comfort in a
small farmstead on the Yorkshire moors, with a hired maid to assist at
the housework. But that was not until some considerable time after he
was wrecked with Mr. McTodd on the Irish coast; and between the two
dates he assisted to make a good deal more history, as is (or will be)
elsewhere related.


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