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expressed—not hostile, but keenly provoca- Rick felt his way aft along the weather rail. tive. Ban Hoag had faced the world alone, He saw the wan glow of the binnacle light, unguided; the other boy had not.
It was a
and, framed in it, the pinched and anxious call to a heritage.
face of Dutchy, who had heard him, apThat night Rick went aft.
parently, and was peering into the gloom.
“T's only me." CHAPTER XV
The face took on a relieved look at a
familiar voice. Rick went on: IN THE SKIPPER'S ROOM
"Late on me dishes to-night. Skipper and THE swinging lamp cast fitful lights and Manuel through yet?" shadows into dim corners of the forecastle. "Must be, by now. They 're in the cabin A shapeless hulk of blanket on a bunk showed I guess-settin' over the empty dishes. I where Hamlin was sleeping, before his night hears 'em talkin' together a spell back.”
“Don't care to leave dishes till mornin'. I'll slip down an' get them."
Dutchy turned back solicitously to his wheel and the compass-card, and Rick edged into the companion.
There was no light on the steps or in the passage. The door into the after cabin was closed; but through the cracks above and beneath it, there shone a thin line of yellow
brilliance; and from "PERCHED ON HER WIRE STAYS, THEY FELL TO EAGER TALK"
behind it came a hum
of conversation. watch. Across from Rick, Ban Hoag lay The boy clung to the starboard side of the motionless, pretending sleep.
companionway and felt his way softly along The clock on the bulkhead struck twice.
M'Guire's door was open. It was the time.
He groped inside and over to the table. Rick slid softly to the deck and stood up. With a mighty relief, an unwarrantable elaHoag gave no sign. From the dim gray tion, he drew the wallet from his shirt and hulk came a very peaceful sigh. The big laid it very gently on the table. man stirred, changing his position; thrust an Almost immediately he heard M'Guire's arm over the edge of his bunk; was still again. voice through the shallow bulkhead beside Rick waited, to make sure, one hand pressed him: tightly over a bundle that lay cool against the "Manuel, just lay open that door—it's hot skin of his chest. Then Ban's whisper here. They 're all abed, anyways, but the sounded in his ear:
helmsman, an' he can't hear us." "Go get 'em-Rick!"
There came a shuffling sound, the scrape of So his bare feet started noiselessly toward a chair, and light footsteps—the snap of a the ladder. He mounted stealthily and latch. Then the blackness that had wrapped came out into the night.
him became faint twilight; and through the There was no fog, but it was very dark. skipper's open door Rick saw a shaft of gold The schooner lay close-hauled on a gentle, flooding the passageway and the stairs. He wet northeasterly. One could never tell was trapped! where sea stopped and sky began. The Despair caught and tried to hold him. world was the inside of a pitch-black dome That baleful yellow streak beyond the doorin which the Laughing Lass seemed to swim way in his eyes-he instinctively threw out a suspended, a vague gray mass of wood and hand to the table to steady himself. It fell shadowy canvas.
upon a leather holster.
He had never used a gun, had hardly ever its place between others, and then saw the held one in his hands before. But eagerly he skipper's towering form pass out into the clutched at M'Guire's revolver, slipping it brilliance of the passage. out of the case. His palm curled naturally The boy prayed that he would shut the around the butt, and a finger slipped out over door-in vain. A chair squeaked again. the guard and rested lightly on the trigger. “Now listen here, you.” Turned pages
How did one know whether or not the rustled. M'Guire started reading: “ 'A bulthing was loaded? Rick had no idea, and he lion bar o' gold is usually about the size of an doubted the wisdom of experiments-they ordinary building brick, an'weighs about might be noisy. But he contented himself eight hunderd troy ounces.' Now stan' by with the protective feel of it; and he crouched there's more yet: ‘The price o' gold is fixed down under the table and laid his ear to the by internat’nal agreement at $20.67 per bulkhead.
ounce.' There, Manuel! Can ye multiply M’Guire and his mate had been talking all eight hunderd by that figger? I done it last this time, of course; and their voices had night. It gives sixteen thousan' five hunbeen plainly audible. Rick had not heard a derd an' thirty-six dollars. I says fifteen word; his ears had been deaf to everything thousan' fur a round sum. There!" but the slight rustle of his own movements. The pause that followed was so long that Now he listened. Manuel was speaking: Rick feared the discussion was closed. But
“Can thees stuff be handle easy, Capitan then he thought that Manuel would be reFortee?"
tracing the printed words with his skinny Rick heard the other's grunt.
forefinger, and waited. "Like pie, Manuel, like pie. It 's in blocks He was right. The book was closed and the size of ornery clay bricks—heftier, but laid on the table. not too bad to handle. Each one o' them “That ees a good sum, capitan-feefteen weighs goin' on sixty pound-an easy load fur t'ousan' dollar. Eenough for to make soft
An' how much d' ye think one of bed for one man, two-three men, all they them bricks is worth? Just give a guess,
lifes, yes? Manuel," said the skipper. "Don't be “Steel—I don' see quite the plan. How makin' it no million, 'cause that don't stand does one know thees sheep come? How can to reason. An' don't make it so small, or one fin' her? An' thees brick of gold-shall I 'll be laffin' at yer.
they not be guard so careful? Ees eet not a There was silence for a minute. Then quite beeg"Manuel's quiet voice came slowly to the ear, “Now hold on!” There was heavy annoyhushed with tension:
ance in the captain's voice. “Don't be “I don' rightlee know a-tall, mio capitan. buzzin' in me ear with them scairt questions You tell me--no?”.
-I ain't told ye the story yet. Now keep “Fif-teen-thou-san'-dol-lars!" said M'Guire. yer mouth shet till that I tells ye from the
Again silence. Then, "Don't ye believe start. Now listen careful. it?”' roared the captain.
"This here Glendale - I was third officer "Eet seem a quite beeg value.”
aboard of her fur two year.
I knows every A chair went back against the locker with rivet an' stanchion in her. She's got a new a bang. Rick heard M'Guire's defiant mut- skipper-name 's Baldwin since I was ter—then the heavy scuffle of his feet.
aboard; but that don't matter none. I could The footsteps stopped. From his place find me way aboard of her, from forepeak to under the table Rick saw a huge shadow poop, in the dark-an' have. I knows where loom up into the doorway, pause there. her radio shack lays, just at the after break
For some unaccountable reason the boy felt o'the superstructure an' for'd o' number four those small eyes fastened upon him, piercing hold. I knows the stuff 'll be in number four the weird half-darkness.
-Keefe put weight cargo there always; she
sets better. An' this Baldwin 'll do likewise. CHAPTER XVI
An' listen, Manuel. They 's a door cut in
the steel bulkhead o' number four hold. THE TRUTH
She's a fire door, an she leads up a ladder to a But MÖGuire's eyes were blinded by the gratin' on deck 'longside that shack. D'ye sudden shadows; he groped his way across to begin to see? Now wait." the bunk and leaned over it, reaching about. Rick's body was strung tense as a steel Rick heard a book being withdrawn from wire. He wiped the palm of his right hand
on his trousers and grasped the gun again. “So we gets 'em with us. Now listen.
"I 'll go clean back to the start o'things, to We meets this Glendale. I can tell her by make it plain to ye, Manuel. The Glendale's her lights——they 's on the after corners o' last trip this side they bounced me. This the bridge, instead of for'd like most. Ye Bolles, the manager, says I stole ten cases o’ takes command o' the schooner. I 'm a spice. He lied. It 's twelve I got whiles deck-hand. Dutchy 's dead sick with fits, they 's on shore leave-an' made good money say.
Ye hails the Glendale an' asks peron them too, from a friend o' mine on India mission to run 'longside fur a doctor. We Wharf. Never mind that. Just after this, lays 'longside of her just so 's our main topBolles gives me the hook, I hears him an' mast is flush with the after break of her some others talkin' as how the Glendale will superstructure, right by that radio shack bring this stuff along on her next trip. So I an' the gratin'. gets the schooner with what I'd made on the "We hist's Dutchy aboard an' lays him in spices, an’I gets ye an' the rest. But I tells a cabin, which 'll be in the for'd end o' the ye nothin'. I ships ye because ye knows the superstructure, out o'the way. Whiles ye 're hang o' radio work an' such—that 's the only talkin'—they 'll all be gathered round himpart I could n't figger meself. But I tells ye I sneaks to the shack. nothin' nor them neither. I knows what “I ’ve rigged a block an' basket on a line I'm about, an' I plans accordin'.
over the main truck to Gabe on deck. He “This here Glendale will take the west- passes me the end an' I makes it fast. I bound summer track, which brings her off ducks into the shack right there an' I lays just so'th'd o’the Banks an' past Cape Sable. out the wireless like ye told me—an' ef I got charts an' books tells me that, an' I ben they 's a operator there I lays him out too, aboard of her fur fifteen trips. But I ain't workin' fast but quiet. goin' to shoot out there an' stand by. She “Ye got to keep 'em talkin', up for'd might be delayed an' leave me cruisin' around there. Dutchy 's got to carry on somethin' fur nothin', or they might ship the stuff by fearful an' keep 'em interested. I takes that another boat, they might. That way ain't line an' basket into number four hold an' I sure enough, not by a hang sight. So I puts loads her just once—with four hunderd in along the coast an' reads the papers. Ye pounds o' gold. Gabe hauls away. seen me go. An' last Thursday night I finds her over the gratin'. We lowers very gentle that bit. I knowed it 'd be there, soon 's to the deck, an' 'e unloads. Ef they 's time, she put out from Liverpool. Them ciphers we goes again-I 'll have sneaked for'd to see. abaft the dollar sign, an' Baldwin sayin' he If not, well enough. don't give a snap of his finger—that makes "Bimeby Dutchy 'll get over his fits, with good readin'. So I finds it an' I shows it to the medicine, maybe. I 've passed the line ye an' tells ye there 's our bloomin' fortunes, back an' shet the gratin'. The door to the mine an' yours an' thems up for'd-for the radio shack is closed tight on the mess in takin'. An' ye tells me ye don't see how!" there. We all climbs back aboard, ye
On the last word M'Guire's hand hit the thankin' Baldwin kindly, me layin' low in the table-top so that the dishes clashed.
shadder. No chance him nor no one else "Yes, yes, capitan- so far, good. But-"
knowin' me. I 'll have shaved clean. "Wait, ye lunkhead! Ye've but heard the "I'll lay a hunderd to one they don't half of it.”
notice them missin' bricks till they hits the "I listen, capitan.”
dock an' opens hatches. In time they 'll find “We 're due to meet that sea-wagon to- the radio shack. Ef the operator 's able to morrow night, accordin' to my reckonin'- speak,-an' that's not sartin after I've done an' I've figgered to a hair. To-morrow after- with him,—they'll know. But that 's all noon we gets the hands aft an' we tells them the good it 'll do them, with a smashed wirethis. They can either bear a hand an' take less gear an' us gone. Ef he don't talk, the they share o' the profit, or they can stick hull thing 's just a bloomin' mystery, like, their hands an' feet in irons an' lay quiet until they makes port an' notes a busted case
a whiles we do the job-in which case they gets or two in number four hold. Then some nothin' but a free passage to South Americky smart Aleck 'll have a cute idea. An' they 'll
a an' the boot upon arrival. But they 'll come. know. I knows Gabe Hamlin an' I knows that snipe “But listen. Where 'll we be? Headin' they calls Dutchy. The two brats may straight fur Los Perevas on the Platte, maywhimper—they ain't needed, anyways. be there a'ready ef the wind holds good. In
Los Perevas gold is gold an' no questions from the newspaper—I got it here in my—" asked. Could ye use yer share, Manuel?" Rick's heart stood still. A chair grated on
Throughout this narrative Rick's hopes the cabin deck, and M'Guire's heavy feet had sunk. True, the plan was wildly risky. came quickly down the passage. Again that Any one of a thousand things might occur big shadow obscured the doorway. that would block the scheme or reveal it and “I must of left my wallet in here,” the make capture easy.
M'Guire was relying on skipper called back. "Stand by, Manuel, vacant decks, on the absence of guards, on whiles I gets it.” his ability to put the wireless and the opera- This time M'Guire felt his way over to the tor out of commission silently, on the inability table. The big hands moved about in the of the ship's doctor to see through Dutchy's litter just above Rick's head. sham, on the chance that Manuel could “Here she is. Now you wait.” center attention on the sick man long enough The clumsy footsteps slouched away, out to effect the theft. The entire project was of the room, down the corridor, into the after one wild, desperate gamble.
cabin, where they stopped; and a vague Granted. But there seemed nothing in- movement indicated the man had regained sane about it. Provided luck smiled, the his chair. thing seemed humanly possible of achieve- “Now look here_" ment—at least as far as getting away from Rick waited. He knew perfectly well the Glendale's sides was concerned. And what was coming. M'Guire would refer to fifteen thousand for one gold brick! Rick the date on the clipping, do over his computacould see Gabe Hamlin's eyes glitter, could tions for Manuel's benefit, and show him hear him grunt his willingness to take the they had been correct. Rick waited, expectchance.
ing this, not understanding the delay. Yet the boy knew that big ships carry spare There was a sudden wild shout of blasparts for almost everything. He had heard phemous wrath. Then silence; and finally, of a radio shack being carried clean over- after endless waiting, the skipper's voice board and a new set installed in the chart- again, a slow and ominous drawl. room in two days. If that could happen, “Manuel they was nigh on seven hunderd then destroyers would comb the seas. The dollars in that wallet. It 's gone. Ain't Laughing Lass had no power. She would that strange! Only one man besides me be helpless.
knowed I carried money, Manuel. Only one But M'Guire had not thought of this, and man knowed where. Only one. Manuel, the bos'n therefore would not consider it. have ye any sort o' notion as to where that They had, perhaps, never seen tall men with money 's gone-ye black, thievin', furrin dog?" silver badges and steel shackles. Their eyes A chair crashed. Silence. would be filled with the yellow light of gold. The words were like a death-knell to the They would look at nothing but their dreams. boy behind that thin partition. His mind But Manuel was speaking.
groped and floundered with this monstrous “I see now, capitan. Eet ees a good plan, thing. He caught the meaning of MÖGuire's I theenk. Eet ees what you say-reesky- accusation; knew that so far as the money yes? But who would not take the reesk for went, he himself was safe. that beautiful gold! Eet ees one good plan, But a sickening suspicion gnawed at a Capitan Fortee. But one thing steel I don' corner of his brain. Manuel could not
How shall you meet thees Glendale? possibly have stolen the money. Rick had Shall she not get by us on the wide ocean, seen the wallet slipped under Ban Hoag's een the dark?”
bunk mattress. There was just one living Rick heard the dishes clatter as M'Guire's soul, besides himself, who knew its wherearm swept a place clear on the table.
abouts; and that was the man, the boy, who “Look at this here chart, ye coot! D’ ye had put it there. The first inkling of his mean to tell me I ain't man enough to figger friend's treachery struck Rick with the distance? I knows that hooker's speed- physical shock of a knife-thrust. she 'll make fourteen in the weather we ben He waited, sick with misery, while nothing havin'. Now look at that red line that 's happened. He waited, because there was the summer route from Ushant to this side, nothing else to do but wait. Yet all at once an' everything takes it. Baldwin 'll hold her the grim silence of those rooms grew strangely nose to it as Keefe allus did. Now what day ominous. He felt suddenly that something, 'd she leave Liverpool? Where's that bit he could not say what, was going on-some