“I understand that you did good work in the _Prince Alfred_ in time of
trouble,” said Lord Hawkes, looking at me with approval. He was manager
of the Prince Line, and, when he sent for any of us to tell us that we
had done well, it was time to–well, he didn’t often do that, and I
must have shown some embarrassment.
I remained silent, holding my cap in my hands and looking at Boldwin,
my skipper, who had done me the honor to report me favorably in the log
“I hear, also,” continued Lord Hawkes, “that you are a good diver, a
master workman under water—-”
“Pardon me, your lordship,” I interrupted, “I’m but a licensed ship’s
officer, and what I don’t know about diving would fill a dozen empty
“Well, at all events, you showed resource. Yes, my good Garnett, you
are a man of infinite resource. There’s no doubt about that, and that’s
what I’m coming to. You are also resolute in time of trouble, and the
two qualities are what I need in the work I am going to send you to
Bill Boldwin looked scared. He didn’t want to lose his mate. He had
simply spoken for me that I might get in the good books of the company,
not get away from his ship.
The manager of the Bay Line seemed to be studying some papers upon the
desk before him while we two stood respectfully in front as became
seamen in the presence of our mighty ruler. Boldwin was keen on lords.
I hadn’t associated with them to any great extent myself, but I was
willing–no matter what might be said about them.
“The _Princess Heraldine_, our Cape liner, left port August the fifth,”
said Lord Hawkes. “She had aboard in her safe the famous Solander
diamond, a stone nearly as large as the Cullinan and worth something
like a round half-million dollars. Also she had about three million
more in various stones uncut and consigned to the firm here. In running
up the West African coast, she broke her crank shaft and drove it
through her bottom, tearing the compartment to pieces, and forcing
Captain Sumner to head for Lagos in the hope of beaching her before she
sank. He managed to get her into ten fathoms on that low, sandy coast,
and she went down about a mile or two offshore.
“All the passengers were saved, but by some oversight the combination
of the safe was lost at the time they needed it, owing to the agent,
Grimes, being either too frightened or too ill to remember it.
“Captain Sumner–the only other man aboard who knew the
combination–was unable to either leave the bridge at the critical
moment of her sinking, owing to the necessity of saving the passengers
in the small boats, or tell any one before the _Heraldine_ suddenly
settled and went down, carrying five of the crew and the entire
contents of the safe along with her.”
Lord Hawkes looked up at me shrewdly as he finished and gazed into my
I saw no necessity for a reply. There was a few minutes’ silence, then
he went on:
“The wrecking company is now on the way there, but there has been some
trouble experienced with them and with the underwriters. Therefore
we’ve deemed it worth while to send a ship–one of our regular Cape
boats on her lay-up voyage–to Lagos, and try for the safe.
“The ship is a total loss, and will be covered all right, but the
diamonds are not insured, owing, as I have said, to some disagreement
with the underwriters lately, and it has been just our luck to lose
them this voyage.
“You are to take the _Prince John_, and go to Lagos. There you will
find the wrecking crew waiting orders. You are to see that we get that
safe intact–you understand? We want that safe _just as it was before
it went to the bottom_. Your orders are here.” And he handed me a
folded document. “You will leave at once.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” I said, somewhat bewildered, but getting the lay of
the thing straight enough. “Is that all, sir?”
“That’s all. If you wish anything regarding details, you will see Mr.
Smith of the main office. I wish again to impress you that this mission
It struck me so at once. A few millions in diamonds in ten fathoms–in
a ten-ton safe! Yes, that was something worth looking after. It was
important, all right. Seemed easy enough. Any one who knows anything
about wrecking, knows that ten fathoms isn’t too deep to work, although
it’s some little ways down. It depends also upon other conditions,
which might or might not prevail. I’d get that safe easy enough–yank
it aboard all standing, as we say at sea.
Well, within two days I was standing on the bridge of the _Prince
John_, and wondering how the poor fellows in Africa managed to keep a
ship of her class afloat long enough to lay her up.
It was the company’s policy to have their African steamers laid up at
Cape Town–helped labor, local progress, and all that sort of thing. In
reality they got the work done for about half what it would cost them
The _Prince John_ could make ten knots under most favorable
circumstances, but as this was her lay-up voyage, she, as might be
imagined, was not doing her best. I think she rammed along about eight,
most of the way down; and McDougal, the chief engineer, was working
like a machinist from daylight till dark to get her to do that.
We carried only the crew of six seamen and ten firemen, with two
engineers, a donkeyman, a pair of mates, a cook, and galley boy. Just
two dozen of us all told; and, while I had never commanded a ship of
any size before, I was not suffering much from swelled cranium as I
stood upon the bridge and gave orders.
Low-powered, black-sided, with the regulation Clyde bow and round
stern, she was no better than a tramp. We carried extra diving and
hoisting gear for the wrecking crew that had preceded us. Our winches
were heavy, and built for working in the African trade where a ship
must handle her own cargo. They would be useful in the work ahead.
My mates, Simpson and Dennison, were good men, and knew their little
book all right. Simpson had a very red nose, and looked as if he
liquored on the sly, but he never showed groggy on duty, so I had no
chance to call him down. He would continue the voyage as captain after
I got that safe up and on its way to England. Dennison was young and
boyish. He was a good lad, and never slept in his watch on deck–at
least I never caught him.
The run was uneventful, and we were sooner or later close to the West
African coast, running through an oily sea, and pointing for Lagos.
One hot and stifling morning after I had worked the sight, I was
sitting in a deck chair at the pilot-house door, thinking of Lucy
Docking, and how I might make a saving of fifteen pounds a month out of
a salary fixed at twelve. This mathematical problem was unfinished when
Dennison hailed me from the bridge.
“Vessel right ahead, sir, anchored about a mile and a half offshore,”
It was our friends, the wrecking crew, and we had arrived.
The topmasts of the _Heraldine_ stuck clear of the oily sea. She had
been a three-masted ship with square rig forward and fore and aft upon
the main and mizzen. She had sails upon her spars already bent after
the old-time style of low-powered ships. She lay easily in about ten or
twelve fathoms, and had a slight list to port owing to her settling a
bit upon her bilge.
Being very flat and wide-bottomed, she looked almost ready to rise and
continue her voyage lying as she did in that smooth sea, and being
unhurt save for that gash in her bilge where the broken crank tore
through, thrashing her life out before the engineer could shut off
I pictured for a moment the huge flail, the piston with the broken
crank attached, the pieces not less than half a ton, whirling up and
down under the full pressure of her cylinders with nothing to stop
it. There must have been a wild mess in that engine room with a crazy
hammer going full tilt like that.
As in most single-screw ships, her crank must have thrown down when
connected but a foot or two above her bilge, and when it tore loose it
must have struck full power at each and every wild throw of the piston.
My business was not to raise her, however. She was not worth it, having
insurance, and being better as a total loss. I was after getting into
the treasure room situated just beneath the main deck forward of the
The room, from the drawings furnished by her builders, was an iron
compartment ten by fifteen feet. At one end of it–the forward one–was
built the huge safe. This was bolted down, and to the beams.
It was not a new affair, having done duty for years in the African
trade, but it had a very effective combination lock of the usual kind,
and, as one would have to open the strong-room door before being able
to get to the combination of the safe, it was considered perfectly
competent to carry any amount of treasure.
Mr. Haswell, of Haswell & Jones, submarine experts, came aboard from
the powerful wrecking tug, which lay near us. He was a little man, but
quite fat. Red hair and whiskers gave his pale face a peculiar sickly
tint, but he was not a sickly man. He was reckoned one of the best
deep-water workers in England, and could stand a very high pressure for
a long time. Little pale eyes looked shrewdly at me as he presented
his card, coming aboard as he did from a boat rowed by six sturdy
blacks–“kroo boys,” he called them. I met him at the side, and shook
“We’re ready to begin whenever you say,” he said. “I got the firm’s
letter, and have only just arrived myself. They told me you had the
gear aboard with you.”
“Yes, I have plenty of gear, all right,” I answered, “and you can
commence work to-day if you want to. This place is too cold for me, and
I’d just as soon get away from here the next day, if possible.”
“It’s some hot, all right, but one don’t notice it below so much. I
suppose those derricks you’ve got will hold all right–what?” And he
gazed at our hoisting gear.
The thermometer was one hundred and six under the after awning, and not
a breath of air stirring. The hot, sandy coast shone like a white band,
fringing the blue water, and I wondered what kind of weather it was on
that white, sandy shore.
We went over the gear together, and then sat sweating and panting for
air, while the steward brought us something cool to drink–that is,
as cool as could be procured. Then I went with Mr. Haswell aboard the
wrecking tug, and was introduced to the working force.
Ten white men and twenty blacks were the outfit. This with what I had
was enough to raise the ship had we so wished. Only two of the white
men were divers–Williams, a sturdy fellow weighing nearly three
hundred; and Mitchell, a short, powerful man, about two hundred and
fifty. Both were under forty, and had done plenty of deep-water work.
They looked upon the job as trifling.
“We’ll blow the deck off to-morrow, and then tear out a side of the
room,” said Haswell. “After that we can disconnect the safe, and you
can get your winches to do the rest. In three days we ought to cover
The hot, oily calm continued. The night was something fierce to
contemplate. The sun came out again like a molten ball of metal, and
Haswell donned his suit lazily, while the air pumps, manned by four
blacks, were started.
A ladder reaching a fathom down under the sea was fastened to the tug’s
side, and Haswell lowered himself over upon it, and waited for his
helmet. This was fastened by Williams, and then the air was started.
As it whistled into the dome, the front glass was screwed on, and the
little man was shut off from us. Slowly he went down and swung clear,
dropping out of sight in a storm of bubbles which rose from his helmet.
I took out the water glass. This was a cylindrical bucket with a glass
bottom. By jamming one’s head into the bucket and sinking the bottom of
the affair under the sea to a depth of three or four inches, objects
could be seen about twice as distinctly as without it–this owing to
the fact that in the open the reflection and motion of the light upon
the always moving sea surface, prevent the gaze from following objects
In order to use the water glass it was, of course, necessary to get
close to the sea.
I dropped into the small boat lying alongside the wrecking tug, and
leaned far over the gunwale, peering down. The long, easy swell, the
sure sign of an immense calm area of sea, came slowly from the westward
and rolled the boat gently but enough to keep me from getting a good
look until I caught my balance. Then I managed to get the glass down
firmly, and hold it about four inches under with my head in the bucket.
At first I could make out little or nothing. The sea was not very clear
at the spot, owing to the close proximity of the low, sandy shore where
the surf rolled incessantly, stirring up the bottom. Soon I could make
out the outline of the deck below where the flying bridge rose within
three fathoms of the surface.
The _Heraldine_ was drawing about twenty-two feet when she sank, and
her flying bridge was fully twenty-five to thirty above the sea. I
tried to see farther, but could make out nothing at all.
The lines of the diver led toward the fore part of the ship, and moved
slightly. Williams, who tended them, sat listlessly upon the rail of
the tug, and gave or drew in as the occasion called. I kept looking to
see things, but could make out nothing further in the way of the wreck.
A huge shadow passed under me–a long, dark shape. It was a gigantic
shark nosing about the wreck.
I called out to Williams.
“No fear,” he replied lazily; “they won’t hurt him in that dress–might
if he was naked.”
The shark passed along forward, and sank down out of sight. Then
Haswell signaled that he was coming up.
He came slowly, and I watched the lines coming in. Soon the metal
helmet appeared, and then he climbed with seeming difficulty up the
ladder, helped by Williams. When he came above the rail, he hung over
it, and his front glass was unscrewed, the pumps stopped working, and
we came close to hear the news.
“Located her all right,” he said. “You can fix up about twenty pounds
of number two gelatine–better put it in a tube, and be sure to make
the wires fast–have to pull it through some wreckage down there.”
“See anything of a big shark?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, I gave him a poke in the stomach with a stick–he won’t
bother me in this dress–but I did get nipped by one of those poisonous
snakes–see?” And he held out his hand, where a small trickle of blood
ran down from the second joint of his forefinger.
Williams gave an exclamation. The natives looked at him anxiously.
“I’ll come aboard and rest a while before going down again,” said
Haswell. And he was helped aboard, and undressed.
His finger swelled while this was being done, and, by the time he stood
in his flannels, he had a hand that was fast turning black. Williams
said little. The poisonous water snakes that infest certain tropical
seas close to the river mouths were known to him. Those in the Indian
Ocean are especially dangerous.
Haswell gazed at the blackening finger, and shook his head.
“Better give me some whisky,” he said. He drank, and sat down.
Williams stood near, and Mitchell came up.
“That’s a bad bite,” said Mitchell.
“Well, I suppose there’s no use waiting any longer–cut it off, and be
quick,” said Haswell.
Mitchell, iron-nerved and steady, cut the finger off close to the hand,
and stopped the flow of blood with a strong bandage. The swelling
continued, and the arm began to pain greatly.
“Cut away the hand,” said Haswell, white and shaky, but showing an
amazing coolness. He realized his danger. Mitchell performed another
Within an hour they had his arm off at the elbow, and Haswell was
turning blue all over.
It was an uncanny thing–right there in that bright sunshine, a man
done a mortal injury by some foul sea vermin that had attacked him in
the depths. I had heard of the sea snakes that come down the African
rivers and go well offshore, but had never seen one. Those in the
Indian Ocean I had seen often, and remembered that they were about four
or five feet long and a few inches in circumference.
Haswell, with remarkable nerve, faced his end unflinchingly. It was
wonderful to see him sitting there, unafraid, with his arm three times
its natural size at the shoulder where the last bandage of Mitchell had
“I reckon I’ll last about an hour longer,” he finally said.
“It’s–no–use.” His strength was leaving him, and he spoke haltingly,
in hardly more than a whisper.
They gave him more whisky, and waited. Then Williams took down his last
words in reference to his family affairs, and Haswell laid himself down
on a transom. Two hours later he was stone dead.
That was a beginning that would have shaken the nerve of many men.
Mitchell had his partner sewn up in canvas, and they buried him far out
at sea, rowing off in the small boat.
The next day Williams started down. He found the location of the strong
room, and was careful to wear heavy gloves while working. Then he
placed the charge.
The crack that followed was not loud–deep down as it was. A storm of
bubbles arose to the surface, and the sea lifted a few inches just over
the place where the gelatine exploded. Then Mitchell prepared to go
down and examine the result.
The oily sea heaved and sank with the long swell, and there was
nothing to indicate that there would be any trouble. Nothing could
move the wreck. Mitchell went under at eleven that morning, and, after
he had been down half an hour, Williams signaled him. He received no
answer. With some anxiety, the big man started to haul line, when, to
the horror of all, the two lines–hose and life line–came in easily
without anything at their end.
The hose showed a clean cut well down near the helmet, and the life
line showed a ragged cut or break which stranded it out a full foot.
Mitchell was left below, cut off from us as clean as if he had been
left upon the moon.
Williams strove with all haste to get into another suit, but it was
a good ten minutes before he did so. He went down with a man of his
outfit holding line for him, and came back in ten minutes with a white
face and staring eyes.
“Whole side of the room fell on him,” he said; “cut his hose and–and
left him there. Give me a line, I’ll get him out.”
“Dead?” I whispered.
He looked up at me from the circular hole in the helmet, and seemed to
think me mad.
“Dead? Of course, he’s dead–a ton or two of iron on top of him, and no
air–sure he’s dead. We’ll have to put the line to the winch to haul
him out from under it.”
We buried Mitchell as we had Haswell, hauling him from under the
wreckage by a line to our steam winch, and afterward carrying him well
out to sea, where he was weighted and sunk. It was bitter work, and all
the time that hot sun shone down upon us until the seams of the decks
warped and the tar ran out of the lanyards.
Williams was shaken. The next day he refused to go down, and pleaded a
rest necessary. His men were silent and awed. I could say nothing to
urge them on, as I felt that they had endured enough for a few days, at
Then Williams was taken with the African fever, and there was no one
left who would go below for any amount of money offered. The horror of
the thing had shaken the nerves of the entire outfit. There might be
millions below there, but no man of that crew would touch them just
at present, and we were lying there in that oily sea, eating up the
company’s money and cursing at the strange chance that had made our
expedition so fatal.
* * * * *
At the end of a week Williams was so bad that I gave him up as a factor
to help us. At times he was delirious, and raved horribly. His men
were for abandoning the work, and putting into Lagos, and from there
clearing for home.
I refused to hear of such a thing, although I was a bit worked up at
the outcome of what had at first appeared to be an easy job. To send
North for more divers was to delay the work months. To await the coming
of the next coast steamer meant delay of at least three weeks–and
even then there was no certainty of help from her. She didn’t carry
divers, and, although she would naturally give me any aid in her power,
belonging to our company as she did, I felt that I would rather not ask
anything from her skipper until the last act.
A man named Rokeby of the tug’s working crew offered to tend line for
me if I chose to go down. He assured me that the pressure at fifty
or even sixty feet would not injure me. I might suffer some from the
splitting headache natural to the pressure, but that was all. I could
blow open the safe or get chains fast to it, or cut it adrift somehow.
I thought over the matter while Williams raved and rolled in his
sweltering bunk, and the sun shone down upon that dead ocean full of
crawling life and hidden treasure.
“Gimme the gloves and plenty of air,” I finally said, after waiting
three days, hoping that some of the wrecking crew would get their nerve
They all showed willingness to work if I went down, and I was soon
incased in the suit of Williams.
If you think I was not nervous, you should have had an inside photo
of my mind as I stood there upon the rounds of the ladder waiting for
Rokeby to screw fast the front glass. I would have given it up but for
the looks of the men. They seemed to gaze upon me with a sort of awe
and amazement, but they made no comment whatever.
The kroo boys swung the pump handles with a will, and when I heard
the hiss of the air I must say my heart gave two jumps and came near
landing overboard–at least, it felt that way; but I would have died
rather than let those men see that I was afraid. Such is the ego, the
vanity of us all.
“Shall I screw her on, sir?”
The voice was Rokeby’s, and it aroused me from the contemplation of the
thing to do. I tried to look bored and annoyed.
“Yes, screw it down–mind the lines tenderly, and pull me right up if I
give the signal,” I said.
“Aye, aye, sir,” he answered, and he screwed in the front glass.
The air whistled into the helmet back of my head, and the noise aroused
me to a sense of the danger should it suddenly cease. I put one foot
and then another upon the ladder rungs, and went down until I swung off.
It seemed as if I was about to fly off into space, and for a few
moments I almost lost my balance. Then my heavy leaden shoes sank me
straight down, and I dropped slowly until my feet touched something.
The light had gradually faded as I left the surface, and where I now
stood it seemed to be pitch dark. The pressure of the air appeared to
swell my head, and a roaring was in my ears. Then I determined to do
something, and bent forward to see if I could.
Gradually the dim outline of the ship’s deck took form before the
glass–that is, the deck in my immediate vicinity. I could make out the
rail, and began pulling myself along by it. Soon I came to the pilot
house forward, and recognized it by feeling the panels of the glass
front with my hands.
I knew that I was just about right in regard to position, and started
for the rail to get over the side and down to the place where the
blow-out had been made. I carefully swung one leg over and then
another, amazed at the ease with which I lifted the immense leaden
shoes. Then guiding my air hose and line clear of the rail, I slipped
off, and dropped down to the bottom far below.
In spite of the fact that I had now been under several minutes, I could
not make out objects well enough to do anything; but determined to try
to feel for the opening to the safe. After ten minutes spent groping
about, I felt an immense hole in the ship’s side, my fingers going
carefully around the edges where the torn plates told of the force of
I entered and felt for the sides of the room within where the blast
had torn out the iron and held it hanging to drop upon the unfortunate
Mitchell. I now saw I could do nothing without more light, and
carefully made my way out to the sea floor, where I signaled to haul me
I came slowly, and as I did so my brain appeared swelling until it
seemed no longer possible to hold it within my skull. The pain was
intense, and I hardly noticed the growing light until I was at the foot
of the ladder. Then I climbed up, being dragged bodily by my life line.
The front was taken off my helmet, and I spoke.
“It’s all right,” I panted, “get the lamp out, and stand by to send me
down the tools I’ll need.”
Rokeby gave me a small drink of whisky, and the rest soon had the
electric lamp ready. I went below again. This time I had no trouble in
finding my way, for the light from the spark penetrated the sea for
several feet about me.
In the watery darkness I made out the hole, and saw the damage done by
the charge. The entire wall of the compartment had been blown in, and,
in going into the room, Mitchell had gotten under it so that he had
dislodged an immense piece of plate which had fallen upon him, and cut
off his air and line.
I went forward cautiously, and poked the lamp ahead of me. It seemed
a long way to the safe, but I finally came up against it, and made out
its outline in the lamplight. Its edge stood out sharply. Beyond was
the inky blackness of a tomb.
I saw that it would be necessary for me to blow it loose from the
beams, as I was not good enough workman to cut or loosen the bolts.
Making a hasty but pretty good examination of the bottom and sides,
I determined to go back aboard and study it out. A little powder
underneath would loosen the floor bolts, and then, with a stout chain
about it, we might start the winches to haul it through the opening,
which I saw would have to be enlarged at the bottom. I came up, and was
satisfied for the day.
The next morning I had recovered my nerve to a great extent, and was
eager to get to work. The men were also better pleased at the prospect.
My head had bothered me all night, but now eased up, as I donned the
So far I had seen neither fish nor crawling reptile. The bottom was not
very soft, however, and was so covered with weed and sea growths that
it may have harbored many things not visible to the eye at that depth.
I kept to the gloves, not daring to risk my hands after Haswell’s fatal
The first shot tore the bottom off the compartment, and left the safe
hanging by the bolts against the bulkhead. The second shot broke away
these, and, when I went down again, I found the safe had dropped down
to the deck below, the powder, or rather nitrogelatine, having torn
the deck away for the space of fifteen feet or more, leaving ragged
splinters of deck planking sticking forth.
The electric lamp showed the mass below me as I stood at the edge of
the hole, and I very carefully drew my line and air so that they would
not foul when I dropped over. Then I went down and found the safe
intact, but in a very difficult position to handle.
The next blast required a large charge, in order to blow the side out
down to the lower deck, as it was impossible to drag that safe up
through the hole. I placed fifty pounds of gelatine in two charges just
abreast the safe on the outside of the hull, and blew away the plates
until a trolley car could almost have entered the hole in the ship’s
I was all ready now for getting slings upon the treasure, and I could
hardly wait until the next day.
The wreck was in very bad shape below from the effects of the blasts,
but I was nearly done now. Another day might find the diamonds upon the
deck of the old ship above me. I managed to pass turns of a heavy chain
around the safe, and stop them up so that they could be hocked to the
fall. Then I got the tackle down, and by means of a whip to the tug
started the mass of metal outboard.
It came along all right, and I thought it would go clear. Then
something suddenly stopped it below, and I had to go down again to
clear it. It was fast in the hole, having jammed against the edge so
that no amount of pulling would break it clear.
I lost no time getting another tackle to it, and rigged it to lift it
end up, and turn it over, then the first fall would pull it out and
clear. I was getting pretty well used to being below by this time, and
the headache was lessening. I found that I could remain under fully
half an hour now, and work most of that time.
The last time I went below I had a premonition that all was not as
it should be down there, and I went along very carefully. I made my
way into the ship’s hull, and was just getting the new tackle set up
taut and ready, when the whole ship heeled suddenly to port. The safe
slewed sideways and slid down the now slanting deck, blocking the hole
entirely across, but leaving my lines and tackle clear.
I signaled to come up at once. Then my line jerked, hauled me close up
to the opening, and there I jammed, stuck so I could not get back. I
signaled frantically for help, and they pulled me with all their might.
But they might as well have tried to lift the wreck itself. I was
During the next few minutes I thought a great deal. The horror of my
situation dawned upon me. I was fast below there–not a chance for
getting out. There seemed nothing to do, but wait placidly for the end.
The next few minutes were hours to me. I could signal with the line,
but that was all. They knew I was alive, and they knew something must
have happened by the heeling of the sunken wreck.
The blasting had probably blown away the sandy bottom under her, and
she had simply cast over and slid the stuff to leeward.
There was plenty of room to take that safe out endways, but it was now
so fixed that some one would have to slew it around before that could
be done. My lamp was still burning, and the blackness lost some of its
terrors in that pitiful light.
I was in the hull of a lost ship, and I felt that I was indeed a lost
man. Memories came and went with lightning-like rapidity. I thought of
Lucy Docking, and wondered how she would take my death. Then I began to
feel the effects of the pressure, and my head grew flighty.
I dreamed of beautiful blue skies and green fields, the shore, the
mountains; and all the time Lucy was with me, going from place to
place. I was not unhappy. There was a feeling of contentment with the
woman I had chosen, and it was all real, so real that I only awoke
under the vicious pulling upon my life line by the men above.
Then the horror of my situation came back to me, and the roaring in my
ears told me of my predicament. I gazed out of the front glass into the
dark medium about me, the rays of the lamp making sharp outlines and
I remembered the safe. It lay jammed across the hole, and, while I
was too feeble to take great interest, I recall watching it with a
sort of fascination. I felt its sides, its edges. Then the combination
attracted me, shining as it did in the dim light, like a bit of white
in the surrounding blackness. I lazily turned the knob, whirled it
about. And all the time they were pumping air to me under the pressure
of fifty feet of water.
I felt at the aperture above where the edge of the safe shut off the
opening. There was nearly a foot of clear room, but this was not enough
for my figure, incased as it was in the suit. It was ample for the life
line and hose to pass through without any interruption at all, and all
I had to do was to live long enough for them to get that safe away.
Surely some one would come down, and try to sling it again properly.
I lay with my front glass to the opening, and held the lamp so that
the rays would shine outside. There I watched and tried to control the
thoughts that kept coming with a surging feeling of dread that made my
heart thump all the harder. Drowsiness would come, and the whirling
in my brain would get me back again to the land and beautiful dreams.
Then the jerking and hauling, and trying to dislodge me would arouse me
again, and I would come back to the present.
I remember watching through the opening, and seeing forms passing.
These must have been fish, or denizens of the sea. They flitted through
the range of the lamp like sudden ghosts, the light striking their
bodies, and then disappearing into the blackness without.
The lamp suddenly went out.
I was seized with the wildest terror at the inky blackness about me.
The full horror of it all now came with greater force. That tiny
spark had kept me up wonderfully. It had seemed like a ray of hope.
I put out my hands with muscles shaking and trembling, feeling that
inexorable edge of iron that shut me off from life.
Would Rokeby try it? Would he try to save me?
That was the final thought. I tried to put myself in his place. I would
do much for a man dying by inches–dying where he might be saved if one
would take a little risk. He might get below in time yet. He might get
a whip upon that safe, and, with the powerful wrecking tug working her
winches, upset the huge square of steel, and drag it out of the way.
But if he was coming down, he should have come hours ago. As a matter
of fact, I had already been down half an hour, and I could stand it
for at least twice that long yet. But it seemed to me that I had been
abandoned, that they were too cowardly to try to save me. My whirling
brain and roaring ears told me a story of days of suffering, of
Would Rokeby try it?
I remembered how it struck me when Mitchell’s line came up cut off
from him. I knew what that poor fellow had gone through; what he had
suffered, at least, for a few moments down there.
No, I would hardly blame Rokeby for not trying it. It was too dangerous
for any one to try. And yet—-
That latent hope, that feeling that there would be something at last,
kept me from dying. The air was still coming down, and I was in no
I tried to make myself think that I was in no danger at all; that all
would be well when Rokeby came down, and got a hold of the safe. But I
knew in my heart that the men above, the whole general crew, were not
the men to help.
As a record of fact, the men above were awed at the disaster, and
only Rokeby’s steadiness saved my life. He had the pumps kept going,
and finally decided that he would have to take a chance down there,
or let me die like a hooked fish. He was man enough to overcome the
nerve-shaking dangers that had beset us, and he put on another suit.
Then, with his breath fairly gone from fright, he went down to help me.
He had never gone below before, except under most favorable conditions
and in very shallow water. Still, he knew what to do, and he managed
to get a good man above to tend line for him. He found things in bad
shape at the opening, but lost no more time than he could help getting
a purchase to the end of that safe, and the winches started. In half
an hour they had dragged it clear of the ship, and I was hauled aboard
insensible, but still alive.
Before I had regained my senses, they had the safe fast aboard the old
hooker, and I had the satisfaction of staggering on deck to view it.
There it was, all right, perfectly intact. I had saved the company
several millions, and it had cost the lives of two men, and nearly my
There was not a moment lost in getting away from that hot, unhealthy
coast. We got under way that very evening with Williams still stricken
with the fever, and myself too weak to sit up, but I would not stop a
“Get her under way at once,” I said, and the mates needed no urging.
The wrecking tug, under full steam, came alongside, and the safe was
slung carefully over to her deck, where it was bolted down and made as
fast as a sailor could make it. I put a metal line about it, and sealed
it up, not even willing to trust to the safe combination that had
withstood the blasts and the sea.
“Good-by, and a pleasant voyage to the Cape for you,” I said to my
former shipmates. They steamed away to the southward to lay the old
ship up for repairs, and we, in the mighty wrecker, _Viking_, under
full power and making fifteen knots the hour, stood back for old
England, where we arrived safe enough a short time later.
A TWO-STRANDED YARN
“Captain Gantline?” The words escaped me like a shot from a gun.
“Sure as eggs–‘n where did you come from?” said that stout seaman. He
stood at the bar of Bill’s place on Telegraph Hill, drinking rum. His
eyes, crinkled up at the corners like the ripples of a ship’s cutwater
in a smooth sea, were bloodshot and liquor-soaked. Old man Gantline was
broad of beam and shorter than myself–no real good seaman is tall–and
he raised his empty glass and hammered upon the bar with it.
“Gimme another drink,” said he to the barkeeper. Then he turned to me.
“So it’s you fer sure, old man–well, well, what a small world it is,
after all! Take a nip–I’m sure glad to see you–an’ how’d it happen?”
I saw that old Gantline was getting drunk. It was a shame. The old
skipper was a crack packet skipper. I was amazed at him, for he was not
a drinking man. I wondered what made him do it. The barkeeper was now
opening another bottle, and I knew the old sailor had drunk much.
“I blew in from New York around the Cape last week,” I said.
“Must ‘a’ been blowin’ some, hey, then–kinder quick passage–what?”
“Oh, I don’t mean I made the run in a week–we were one hundred and
sixty days–but I’ve been here in Frisco a week. And I’ve spent all the
money I saved from the munificent owners of the British ship _Glenmar_,
who rated me as second mate at thirty per–or, rather, five pun ten a
month. I tried to eat something since I came in to make up for what
I didn’t get at sea. Those Englishmen are sure on short commons, all
right–but I haven’t been drinking. I don’t drink.”
“I do,” said Gantline.
“I see it,” I answered; “but it don’t seem to do you any good, though
it isn’t for me to tell you so, I know. A drink or two don’t hurt any
one much, but pour it in, and come with me, and listen to my tale of
woe. I need some one who knows something to listen to me–I’m broke.”
“Well, I dunno as I might jest as well,” sighed Gantline. “I’ll take a
couple more noggins–then you can come down to the ship with me.”
“Sure, that’s just what we’ll do–go down aboard–hurry up and poison
yourself sufficiently,” I said, and waited until he had soaked down a
few more drafts of liquid fire. Then, as he was growing unsteady, I
linked his arm in my own, and we went slowly down Market Street until
we came to the water front.
“That’s her layin’ out there–_Silas Tanner_–four masts–or are they
five? Sink me if I kin count ’em, Clew! You count ’em for me–seems
like there’s more’n half a dozen sticks risin’ outen her–hey? Maybe
Slade’s stuck more in her, thinkin’ four ain’t enough—-”
“What? A schooner? You in a schooner–how’d you come to go in a
fore-and-after, Gantline? You, an old square-rigger!”
“That’s hit, thash hit, Clew–me, an old seaman, in a coaster–for’n
aft–Chinks for passengers–cabin, too–ladies aft–I’m clear drunk,
Clew–an’ I don’t care ‘f ‘am–nuff to make a man drunk,” mumbled
It was high time to get him to his ship. I hailed a small boat, and got
him aboard, and then we went out to the _Tanner_–four-masted schooner,
now riding at anchor off Market Street, San Francisco, waiting for a
tide and something I could not guess as yet.
She was heavily loaded, all right, and I wondered at the old man’s
conduct the more. The idea of him forgetting himself at the last
minute! It was too much. And with a mate like Slade–Slade, who had
sailed in several ships with me, the best mate I had known for many a
year. We drew alongside.
“Lower down the side ladder–the skipper’s coming up,” I sang out, and
a head came to the high rail. It was the mate’s.
“Christopher Columbus! How’d this happen?” asked Slade. “And how–how’d
you turn up? I’m glad to see you, old man–pass him up–look out he
don’t fall overboard.”
We managed to get the skipper on deck, and then below to his bunk,
Slade questioning me all the time, and asking about times gone by.
Then, after we had the old man safely stowed, we came on deck together,
and Slade told me the trouble.
“Bound out for Guam with cargo and fifty coolies–Chinks–for labor
there. We got a passenger’s license, and take out several first class
to Manila, besides. Loaded down with general cargo, and two safes full
of silver for circulation at Agaña–about ten thousand dollars.”
“Well, what’s the trouble?” I asked.
“The old man don’t like the coolie idea,” Slade went on. “He hates
Chinks. We got all loaded up, and then the owners sent word that we
must provide quarters for fifty men–Chinamen, too, at that–and the
old man threw a fit. He’d have quit the ship, but he’s bought into
her, and can’t do it. We had to clear out the alleyways under the
poop, knock ports in the sides, and build up a line of shelves for
’em to sleep on–twenty-five on a side, and right next the after
saloon—couldn’t get them below–see the doors we cut in the bulkhead?
Lets ’em out on deck. It’s a government contract, and it’s good pay,
all right–but them dirty coolies! It’s a shame to make an old fellow
like Gantline carry them–he hates’ em so.”
“Who’s second under you?” I asked.
“Nobody–thought you’d come for it. Isn’t that what you’re here for?”
“Not that I know of,” I answered. “But I’ll take it if the old man says
so, all right, all right. I’ve been ashore long enough–broke, too.”
“Sure thing,” said Slade. “You’re as good as signed on right now–soon
as he gets over it he’ll ask you to go–never saw the old man like that
before, and it’s a pity, too. ‘Never thought I’d run a slaver,’ says
he–and I don’t much blame him, either.”
“I’ll send down my dunnage in the morning,” I said. “How about the
“Well, we’ll get them, all right. Whisky Bill’s attended to it–we’ll
get ten men–all we need with the engine for handling line.”
I hastened ashore to settle my affairs and get my dunnage down to the
In payment for my last week’s board I gave my landlord a whale’s
tooth, carved prettily–or, rather, I left it behind for him to accept
gracefully, and before daylight in the morning I was aboard the
_Tanner_. Gantline was so glad to see me come that he almost forgot his
headache. I signed for the voyage and went on duty.
The decks of the schooner were somewhat disordered that morning she was
to leave. Honolulu was her first stop, and there was much to go on deck
for that shorter run. The crimp had just brought down the men, and we
mates upset each seaman’s bag of dunnage, and scattered the contents
about the gangway. We searched for hidden liquor and firearms, well
knowing a sailor’s habits, and we knocked things about a little hunting
for them. The poor, half-sober devils could separate their belongings
afterward as best they might.
The result of the search was that, after the mate had confiscated a few
bottles of stuff and a couple of out-of-date revolvers and ammunition,
the general pile divided up among the men was enough to refill each bag
again, the effort of sorting personal belongings at that moment being
entirely too laborious to entertain.
Slade took two bottles, and managed to secrete them upon his person
while the eye of the skipper was diverted to a passenger who had just
appeared. Slade was slanting toward the forward cabin with the goods,
closely followed by his emulating second officer, when the voice of the
old man roared out orders for me to see to getting the baggage of the
passengers below without delay. I turned, somewhat disappointed, just
as Slade entered the door of the saloon and winked slowly and meaningly
With some small encomiums pronounced upon the untimely work cut out
for me, I turned to the gangway, and ordered up a few men in tones and
language I should hate to repeat.
As I did so I suddenly came face to face with the passenger who had
come from behind a cab and started down the gangway plank to the ship’s
deck. She put her lorgnette up to her eyes and gazed smilingly at me.
Then she was joined by a younger woman, a girl about twenty, who took
the older woman’s arm, led her down the plank to the deck, and went
right into the door of the forward cabin, leaving me staring as though
I had seen a ghost.
“I don’t got no good eyes, den, if dat ain’t de purtiest gal I ever
see,” said a Dutchman who was waiting to hear further orders from me.
Another man, with a loose lip, looked up and scratched his head.
“Get, you squareheads–get a move on before something happens to you,”
“I do love to hear them swear so,” said the elder lady, as she reached
the door. “They’re such romantic fellows–so bold–oh, dear, just hear
what that man—-”
“Come along, auntie, come back where the captain is. I never heard such
language before, and I don’t think it a bit romantic–no, not at all.
It’s all dreadfully vulgar, and all that–but that man–well, well, he
does say some amusing things, even if they are not what they should be.”
Miss Aline MacDonald led her aunt aft, and I breathed easier. That she
had flung me a sort of compliment was certain. I knew it. I had more
queer ways of cussing out a Dutchman than any Yankee mate afloat–I
Gantline met them as they entered, and extended his hand.
“Come aft, ladies, come aft, and I’ll have the stewardess show you your
rooms at once–hope they’ll suit you–best in the ship. Of course, we
don’t compete with the steamers, but a voyage in this schooner will be
worth two in a steamer as a health restorer. If things ain’t the way
you like them, sing out–I’ll do the best I can.” And he led the way
aft to where a Kanaka woman took them in charge. Then I ducked into the
mate’s room, and joined Slade for a few minutes. He had already pulled
“Ain’t adverse none to passengers,” said he, pouring out the liquor,
“but you may sink me if that old un don’t come near the limit–you hear
“Give me a drink and shut up about passengers,” I grinned. “The old
one’s all right. She appreciated my education–sort of goo-gooed at me
while I was laying out some language–quick with the booze, before the
old man gets wise to it.”
We hurried back on deck in time to take charge of things, and we were
soon ready and waiting for the coolies, who were to come aboard from
the tug that would tow us out to sea.
The tug _Raven_ took our towline and we warped out, swung around, and
were headed for the open sea within a few minutes. The engineer had
steam up in the donkey, and the winches turned. Our crew were used to
fore-and-aft canvas, and Slade took the turns as the halyards came to
the revolving drums, being helped, as I may say, by his second mate,
who held the peak as he held the throat.
We snatched stoppers upon them as the sails came to the mastheads, and
in less time than it takes to tell we had all save the headsails on
the _Tanner_, and were standing out. The tug dropped back, and came
alongside, taking her lines.
“Stand by fer yore passengers,” bawled a red-headed fellow, grinning
from the pilot house.
I now saw a crowd of yellow-tails gathering on the tug’s deck.
Fifty-seven of them, all told, led by a giant yellow man in a skullcap
and long, braided cue. A chattering babble of Chink talk, and the big
fellow hustled the crowd to the rail, up the schooner’s side, and on
deck in less than a minute.
Bundles, packages, clothes, came with them, and Slade gave up the
premeditated job of searching them in a few moments as he saw the
yellow men gather up their belongings and crowd about the break of the
poop, jamming in a mass right under the edge from where Gantline leaned
over and gazed down at them in sour amazement and distrust.
“Me makee dem tlake-a down, down,” cooed the giant leader in a
sing-song voice, pointing with his hand at the crowd of Chinamen.
“Yes, git below–git out an’ be quick about it,” snarled the old man
from above him. “You’re blockin’ the decks–slam ’em in the alleyways,
git ’em out the way,” he continued to Slade and myself.
“No lika men high, a-a-h, aye, makee down, down,” sang the giant, with
a glint in his little slits of eyes.
He was an ugly animal. Talk about your Oriental being a degenerate!
Well, that fellow was nothing degenerate physically. He was six
feet four, and about half as wide across the hulking shoulders. A
thin-lipped mouth ran clear across his face; his nose was flat, like an
African’s. A whitish-blue scar had ripped his pleasing features from
eye to chin on the starboard side, and his head was enormous.
The hair was shaved close up to the limits of that skullcap of black
silk, and from under its lower end there dropped a cue about a fathom
long, all done up with silk cords and stuff, until a pretty little
black tassel was plaited into the end, surmounted by a Matthew Walker
knot and a couple of Turks’ heads.
He was something to notice, all right, and his voice was grand.
Nothing of the nervous squeak of the coolie about it. It sang along
with flutelike notes that bristled full of “I’s” and “Ah’s,” until you
thought he was singing it to his men in a sort of deep bass or baritone.
Understand him? Did you ever know any white man who could understand a
Chink if that fellow didn’t talk for him to understand it? No, we took
it for granted that the “boss” coolie was on the level, and was arguing
with the herd to corral them into the alleyways where they belonged. He
understood the skipper right enough.
A stout yellow man edged from the press about the door of the forward
house, and came to the big man’s side. A soft gabble, then a yell, then
the herd took the alleyways on the jump, and inside of ten seconds
there was not a yellowskin on deck.
“Got ’em trained, all right enough,” said Slade, with a grin. “The old
man needn’t worry about ’em if the big one goes at it that way.”
“Fifty-seven Chinks on a dead man’s chest–and I’ll bet my month’s pay
they’ve a bottle of rum–maybe a hundred,” I ventured. “What’s the big
“Sink me, if I know! The old man called him ‘Yaller Dog,’ and he’s
that, all solid. Let it go at that. I’d sure like to have him in my
watch. What a man he’d make on a earing in a blow!”
“Shall we deal them their rice raw or cooked?” I asked. “I suppose they
won’t eat it if it’s cooked in the galley, and then they’d be trying to
build fires under the cabin or in the lazaret to boil it.”
“No; let ’em eat it or throw it overboard. What do you care? Turn the
men to, and choose the watch, and then I’ll go below for a rest.”
I did so, and soon the Farallones were disappearing in the east astern.
The first two days out there was so much to do aboard that I hardly
had time to observe things. The decks were lumbered up with all kinds
of gear, and a load of stuff for Honolulu, which took all our time to
secure. The men were under the union scale of the West Coast–that is,
thirty dollars per month–and there was nothing off on account of our
going deep-water in her, for we were not by any means coasting at all,
as our course lay directly across the Pacific Ocean, and the itinerary
took in a voyage of seven thousand miles.
I hated the fore-and-aft canvas. I knew its value on short runs and in
smooth seas, but when it comes to deep water and a rough old ocean,
with a twenty-five-knot wind increasing to fifty, give me the square
canvas with double topsails, that men can handle.
However, we were very fast. The _Tanner_ could do fifteen knots free
on a wind that would jam a square-rigger close and by. Her four masts
were of the usual type, all the same, and her gaff-topsails were high
on the hoist, giving her a tall appearance.
The first day under all sail, with the wind abeam, she rolled off
thirteen and fourteen knots an hour, and kept her decks awash under
a perfect torrent of foam, dragging her rail through a solid mass of
suds. She simply ran, shoved her sharp nose out through it, and slipped
over the long, smooth, rolling swell with a plunging lift that felt
The steam winches for handling line were good. With drums turning,
all one had to do was to snatch the halyard in the deck block, grab a
turn on the drum, and up went anything that could go. Then a stopper
on the line, and to the belaying pin–and all was done. There was no
hee-hawing, no singing of sailor’s chanteys, no sailoring of the type
we had known in our earlier days; but I am free to admit that I would
rather have had the steam winches–especially when it came on to blow
and we had to reef her down.
The Chinks were allowed on deck from eight bells in the morning until
eight at night; and they were always getting in the way.
Miss MacDonald and her aunt came on deck most of the time, and sat
wrapped in rugs near the wheel, where the old man entertained them with
tales of the sea. They were greatly interested in the Chinamen.
I found my watch on the poop not at all disagreeable during daylight,
for Miss Aline was good to look at. She was of medium height, with
brown hair that curled in spite of the sea wind, and she was solidly
and strongly built, her figure having lines that told of sturdiness
rather than delicate beauty. But although she was not what one would
call fat, or even stout, she was certainly not thin, and her rounded
face was rosy with health.
Her mouth had a peculiar gentleness of expression, and when she showed
her white teeth to me and flushed a bit upon recognizing the master
handler of fluent oaths, I thought her about as good as they come. I
was a bit embarrassed, but I was only second greaser, and as such could
not sit at the table with her, so I said little.
I told Slade, however, that his hands were unfit to pass salt junk to
a lady–and, for a wonder, he washed them in fresh water before going
below! He was mate, and could sit in with the skipper, while I walked
the deck above and made mental comments upon the irony of fate that
shoved in a fellow like him to entertain a girl that he could not speak
to without stammering like a drunken man, while I—–
It was in my watch during dinner that I had the first real chance
to see our coolie boss. The second week, after things had settled
themselves, and the routine of the ship took the place of the frantic
scramble to get things shipshape, I stood at the break of the poop,
which in the _Tanner_ was very low–not more than four feet above
the deck, as is the case in many schooners–and as I stood there up
popped Yellow Dog, the giant Chink, from the door of the alleyway to
starboard. The beggar was so tall that he was almost on a level with
myself, in spite of the difference in the decks, and I found his eyes
close to mine as he turned and saw me.
“Have any trouble in the passageway?” I asked him, thinking he might
have been a bit mixed in straightening out that gang below in the
He gave me a look, a slanting glance from the corners of his little,
screwed-up eyes, and then he turned his back upon me as if I had been
bilge water, and offended his senses.
“Hey, Yellow Dog! What’s the matter with you? Are you tongue-tied?
Don’t you know enough of ship’s etiquette to answer an officer when he
speaks?” I spat at him.
“I tlakee captain man–not you,” he sang, in his musical voice, and he
forthwith strode to the galley, where a Kanaka cook was busy with the
“You great big Yellow—-” But there is no use of telling what I
remarked to him as he went along that deck. As the officer in command
at the moment, I was not a little offended by this high-handed way of a
common Chink, more especially as I was inquiring for the welfare of his
The cook heard my note of temper, and refused the giant admittance
to his galley’s sacred precincts, whereupon Yellow Dog seized him by
the scruff of the neck, and tossed him into the lee scuppers. He was
about to pitch a pot of hot water on top of him, but I interposed an
objection to this action in the shape of a belaying pin which, flung
by my right arm under full swing, struck Yellow Dog fairly upon the
skull-cap, and, bounding off, flew overboard.
The giant staggered, caught himself from falling, then he stood very
straight, and gave me a look that for cold fury expressed more than I
had ever dreamed possible in a Chink.
“Killee you fo’ that,” he hissed.
“Go on, do your killing, Yellow Dog,” I snapped. “But take care you
don’t get something yourself–and the next time I speak to you aboard
here, if you don’t answer at once you’ll find something else bounding
off your dome that you’ll remember for a long time. Now send your mess
kids to that galley, and the cook will hand you out your rice and
The men of my watch stopped work where they were, and grinned at the
big Chinaman. Their contempt for the race was more than my own, and I
knew I had the hearty approval of the sailors. At the same time I was
sorry that the thing had happened, for the Chinamen who were already
on deck passed the word along, and by the time I had finished talking
the whole gang of them were standing about, with looks upon their faces
that told of trouble.
It was a bad beginning for a long voyage.
Gantline came on deck as soon as he could finish his dinner, and wanted
to know what the trouble was about, but that was all he said. He
found no fault with my remarks nor with my actions. A ship’s officer
must maintain discipline, and discipline cannot be maintained without
Miss MacDonald came up with her aunt, and I went below to my dinner.
As I passed the door of the forward house leading into the cabin, the
stout Chink who seemed to be a close chum of the big leader glared
at me. He had a sinister face, with little slits of eyes that looked
slantwise, like the eyes of a wolf.
His moustaches were thin and straight along his lip, until they reached
the corners of his wide mouth, then they suddenly dropped straight
down, and hung like the tusks of a walrus, two thin, black points
of hair about six inches long. They gave him the appearance of some
carnivorous animal, fierce, saturnine and dangerous.
Instead of slamming him for his insolence, I pretended not to see him,
and passed in, yet the look stayed with me, and I remembered it at
intervals. He was a wolf, all right, a human wolf–but I was to find
that out later.
“What do you think of our passengers–the coolies?” I asked Jack, the
steward, who sat at my mess next the carpenter, Oleson.
“Watch them, Mr. Garnett, watch them,” he warned. “I’ve seen some
mighty bad Chinks leaving the coast lately. These men belong to
tongs–hatchet men–and if you’ll take my word for it you will
find plenty of long, black-barreled guns tucked somewhere in their
dunnage. But the hatchet is their game for those they have a grudge
against–hatchets don’t make a noise at night.”
“They won’t get about the decks in my watch, to use any hatchets, or
guns, either, for that matter,” I answered. “I’ll tuck them in snug to
bed at eight bells.”
“Hatchet’s a bad thing at night,” put in Oleson. “I’ll put a heavy
staple on their door after they turn in.”
In my watch below I read ancient magazines until I fell asleep. In my
dreams I saw that stout Chinaman’s face with the pointed whiskers and
slant eyes peering down over me. In his hand was a little, thin-bladed
hatchet, like a tomahawk, and as I reached up for him I awoke with a
start, shivering in spite of the heat.
The door of my cabin was closed, and my window, or port, was but half
open, sliding as it did upon sills about five feet above the main deck.
A shadow passed even as I looked up, but when I sprang out of my bunk
and slammed the glass open, there was nothing near the opening.
Just twenty or thirty feet distant forward two of the crew were working
on some gear, and the light was still strong enough to recognize them
as Jim and Bill, of Slade’s watch. Then the bells of the dogwatch
struck, and I went on deck, swearing at myself for a nervous fool.
I refused to take a gun which hung over my bunk, hating the idea of
doing such a thing, for guns always spelled trouble in all ships I had
ever been in, and I hated the idea of using one. I went on the poop,
and Miss MacDonald was sitting there with her aunt, chatting with the
“Keep her steady as she goes–sou’west half west,” said Gantline, as I
“Aye, aye, sir,” I answered, and was about to go aft to the wheel, when
the young lady spoke to me.
“I have just asked the captain to allow me to read a chapter from the
Bible to those Chinamen,” she said, “and, if you will assist me, we
will gather them close together on the deck there”–pointing to the
main deck. “I can stand upon the edge and see them better. You don’t
know whether they can speak or understand English, do you?”
“I think they understand me at times,” I ventured, “but I’m a bit
doubtful about the kind of talk you will toss them.”
“Toss them? What do you mean?” she asked.
“Why, I mean–well, they understand the kind of English we use at
times–I don’t know how to explain–it isn’t a written language—-”
“I should sincerely hope not,” said Miss MacDonald meaningly.
“Yes, but, my dear, it is so expressive–I heard you talking to them
during dinner to-day,” interrupted her aunt.
I blushed a little. “Well, then, that’s what I mean,” I said. “I don’t
want to say that I think you are wasting time reading to them–you know
they have a religion of their own–one that antedates ours–they won’t
take it right.”
“That’s a question we won’t discuss at present,” said Miss MacDonald.
“There are many Christianized Chinamen at home, and they seem to
appreciate it very much.”
“Always, if there’s a pretty woman to teach them,” I snapped.
There was a silence after this. I had been rude, I suppose, but I was
only telling the truth. I went to the break, or edge, of the schooner’s
poop, and called the watch, which had been mustering on deck.
“Get the coolies aft to the mast,” I ordered.
The men passed the word along, and two or three Chinks who understood
English as well as I did came slouching aft. Gradually about two
dozen stood or congregated near enough to hear, but Yellow Dog and
his slant-eyed chum of the walrus mustaches seemed to decline the
“Couldn’t you get the large man, their leader, to come also?” asked the
“Not without dragging him lashed fast,” I protested.
“Very well,” she said, with just a bit of temper in her voice.
Gantline had gone below, and I was in charge of the deck until supper
was over. The reading would not take long, and the steward was already
bringing the cabin mess aft along the gangway. The young lady read
calmly, and with a peculiarly sweet voice, that attracted the attention
of the men, but not of the coolies.
The Chinks stood about, and some gazed out over the sea, some grinned
openly up at her, with a smile that told of tolerance for an imbecile.
Miss MacDonald, senior, went below to prepare for supper.
Before the girl had finished, Yellow Dog came aft, and gazed at her in
open admiration. He made some remark to his stout friend, and they
both smiled sardonically, but their attitude was not particularly
I found some business at the spanker sheet, and when I came forward to
where the girl stood, she was finishing.
“There is only one way to treat heathen, Mr. Garnett,” she said, “and
that is to be always kind, universally even-tempered, and gentle with
them. They have had a hard road for many generations, and take to
kindness, as all lower creatures do. They will only get stubborn if you
use hard words and roughness. I know something about their habits, for
I’ve taught the school at home, where we had twenty pupils, all grown
At this I protested. I confess I was hot.
“If you are kind to them they will think you’re afraid of them,” I
declared. “If you mule-lick them, hog-strap them, and generally beat
the devil out of them, they’ll do as you tell them–not otherwise. I’m
not running a school aboard here, if you please, and while I will give
you any assistance you want or can get, I go on the log right now that
as far as we handle these men, we must beat them and lick them into
submission. There’s no other way at sea. It’s brutal, but the other way
will turn out more brutal. I’m not responsible for them being in this
ship–but I’ll see they get to their port of discharge, all right, if I
have to flay them alive!”
“I think you are perfectly horrible–perfectly, brutal to say such
things,” said Miss MacDonald. “Are all seamen brutes? Does the captain
stand for such things aboard here?”
“There is only one way to do with cattle of this sort,” I insisted.
“I don’t want the job–I’d rather run in a bunch of snakes. But a
ship’s bound to be run the way ships are run. There isn’t any new way
to run a ship, believe me. It’s all been tried out hundreds of years
before you were born. Perhaps some day, when we don’t need ships, the
brotherly-love racket will work all right; but not these days.”
“I don’t believe it, anyhow,” said the lady, “and I’m amazed that a man
of apparent intelligence should say such things. You should do unto
others as you would have them do unto you–always.”
“Quite so,” I assented, somewhat nettled at the idea that a young lady
should give me points on running a ship. “I always do, always do unto
the crew or those coolies the same as I would expect them to do to
me–if I was the same kind of rascal they are–and if our places were
exchanged. There can be only one man in charge of the deck, the watch
officer, and he’s responsible for everything that happens. And if I
would be so bold as to give you a bit of advice, I should say to you,
for God’s sake don’t try any foolishness on those yellow-skins while
they are under my charge. It’ll only make trouble, and there’ll be
enough of that, anyhow, by the way things look.”
“What do you mean?” asked Miss Aline.
“I mean that Yellow Dog, as the skipper calls him, that big Chink, is
not liking ship’s discipline already. If you will go near the door
of the alleyway when they open it you will smell the fumes of opium
strong enough to knock you down. They don’t pretend to obey orders, and
the company makes us carry them and take care of them like they were
babies. We can’t even search them or offer any kind of protest–they’d
refuse to come if the contract was not drawn that way.”
“Well, be kind to them, be always lenient with them,” said Miss Aline,
in a tone so different, so pleading that I gave up. “Don’t yell at them
like I heard you to-day. It isn’t dignified, it isn’t right–you will
be good to them, now, won’t you?–just try it and see if it don’t work.”
“Ho, well, I’ll try to do the best I can, of course,” I answered,
thinking of the stout pirate with the hangers. “Yes, I’ll try to
be just as kind as I possibly can–of course, I’ll promise you
that–that’s the skipper’s orders, you know.”
The steward had already brought the mess things for the cabin, and
the lady went below to join her aunt and the old man–and Slade. The
mate was not standing for my line of talk, as I could see by the way
Miss Aline spoke, and it made me warm to think that a mate of Slade’s
attainments should be so mushy as to snicker and grin when I told him
how things stood.
“‘Keep solid with the passengers’–that’s one of the old rules in the
express steamers, you know–‘keep right with the ladies,'” he said,
grinning at me when I mentioned the missionary work the young lady
had undertaken. “And, by the way, lend me a couple of your clean
collars–you won’t need them right away, and I do.”
“I’ll do nothing of the kind,” I answered shortly.
“Oh, don’t get rattled because I’ve got the inside route. Don’t be mad,
old man, because I’ve gained the weather of you. All’s fair in the
game. And between you and me, if the Chink gets gay with you, bang him
on the nut for fair, and I’ll slip in with you–if it’s dark. But you
don’t want to queer me below. Now, be sane, and come across with those
collars. I’m young and single–and mate, see?”
“Go to the devil!” I answered, but I knew Slade would go to my room,
instead, and nail those white-laundered collars I had kept clean.
That night, when I turned in, I found that, indeed, Slade had been
below, and had rummaged my things about most unkindly, taking my linen.
I turned in with a feeling of resentment at his luck in position, but
I dismissed the feeling quickly as the absurdity of the affair dawned
upon me, for, after all, I was not thinking of women at all, and had no
right to under the present high salary I was drawing.
Rolling into my bunk, I was instantly asleep. In my dreams I saw that
walrus-looking Chink. His long black feelers hung down over me, the
points piercing my vitals like tusks. I gave a yell and awoke!
The lamp was burning dimly, as it always did in my room at night, ready
for the sudden call to the deck, and I could see everything distinctly
the moment I opened my eyes. A face was just leaving the glass of my
window. I sprang out of the bunk, and peered out through the glass. At
that instant there was a heavy rat-tat-tat upon the door, and the voice
of Jim Douglas, of Slade’s watch, called to me that it was eight bells,
and time to turn out. I threw open the door.
“Did you look in through my window?” I asked him.
“No, sir; I wouldn’t do anything like that, sir,” said the seaman.
He was a good-looking young Scotchman of twenty-four, tall and strong,
with an honest face. I knew he was telling the truth.
“That’s all,” I said, and he went on his way.
I looked at the gun that hung over my shelf at the bunk head. It was
one I took off a dago named Louis, of my watch, and it was a heavy gun,
forty-five caliber, and long in the barrel.
“Perfectly absurd to think of it,” I muttered to myself. I pulled on my
coat, and started for the deck, when something, some instinct, told me
to take the weapon.
“Sentiment be hanged!” I said out loud, and tucked the revolver in a
rear pocket. Then I made the deck, and found Slade standing at the
mizzen waiting for me.
“We’ll raise the land before morning,” said he. “She’s been running
like a scared rat all night. Keep a lookout, and when you sight
anything sing out to the old man–he’ll be on deck probably, but he’s
been acting queer lately, and you better watch him. We’ll heave her to
for a pilot, and you know the rest.”
“All right,” I answered.
The soft, damp air of the trade wind made the decks soaking wet. The
low hum through the rigging added to the murmuring of the side wash.
The creaking of sheet blocks and slight straining of the gear were
the only noises that broke the stillness of the peaceful night. The
schooner was running along rapidly, heeling gently to the wind, and
everything drawing. The rolling motion was slight, for the wind was
strong enough to hold her steady.
The voices of the watch forward sounded above the murmuring, and I
could see the glow of a pipe belonging to some one who disregarded the
ship’s discipline sufficiently to smoke while on duty. I took my place
at the mizzen rigging to con the vessel, and stood there silently for a
long time watching the foam rushing past her, now and then gazing far
ahead to see if I could raise the lights of Pearl Harbor. The wind was
almost astern, and the headsails were consequently not doing much work.
I listened to the slatting, and then sang out:
“Haul down the jib topsail and roll it up.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” came the response, and the men went to the forecastle
Aft at the wheel the shadow of a man holding the spokes was the only
sign of life on deck. I took my place again at the weather rigging, and
waited for the report from forward.
A heavier swell than usual rolled the schooner, and I turned to look
aft. At that instant something whizzed past my ear, and struck with a
chugging sound into the backstay. My ear stung sharply, and something
warm ran down my neck. I saw a form vanish behind the mast, and called
I knew I had been struck, and drew my gun, springing toward the figure,
which dashed silently across the deck as I gained the mast. I fired
at it without hesitation, and the fellow let out a scream, gained the
rail, and plunged over the side.
I was at the rail in an instant, but saw nothing in the foam. A
moment’s silence followed, and then a sound of steps and a rising
murmur of voices told me of the alarm.
Gantline was on deck in less time than it takes to tell it, and he
roared out: “What’s the matter?”
Slade sprang from the door of the forward cabin, calling out that he
was coming. Men from forward rushed aft. Then, from out of the doors
of the alleyways, a stream of figures poured forth, flowing like a
black tide onto the main deck. A sudden roar of voices followed, and I
recognized the high-pitched tones of our coolies.
“All hands–help! All hands aft–quick!” I yelled, and fired into the
black figures who swarmed up the poop and crowded upon me.
As I fired, I heard the shrill screams of the elder Miss MacDonald,
and then there was indiscriminate firing. I yelled to Slade, and he
answered once. The crowd surged over me, and I was down, with a dozen
panting heathens on top of me. In a minute it was all over. Some one
passed a line about my arms, and, kick as I might, they soon had me
snug and fast. Gantline roared out orders from the wheel, and I heard
the crack of a pistol at rapid intervals. Then a roaring, surging mob
rolled over him–and there was the schooner luffing to under full sail,
her head sheets thrashing and the canvas thundering in the stiff breeze.
They had taken her. We were overpowered, all right. The men forward
stood it out but a moment longer, and surrendered.
When I could see again I noticed the giant form of Yellow Dog standing
near the wheel, and two of his men at the wheel spokes. He sang out
orders in his musical bass voice, and the sheets were quickly trimmed
in. The schooner now headed well up with the wind abeam, and pointed
away across the Pacific, far to the northward of Hawaii. Yellow Dog had
taken her easily.
I was hauled below, and tossed into the forward cabin. Here I found
Slade lashed fast, like myself. He was hurt by a bullet that had torn
his thigh, and was bleeding. Upon a transom lay Gantline, trussed from
head to foot in line, and the old skipper was swearing fiercely at the
ill fortune that had overtaken his ship.
I noticed a few Chinks standing near the door of the after cabin, and
they looked at us casually, seeming to regard us not at all. Then I
heard the soft voice of Miss Aline pleading with Yellow Dog. But of
course she might have pleaded with the sea with as much effect. Then
the sounds died away, and we lay there, waiting for daylight and what
Daylight came, and the schooner still held her way under all sail
except the jib topsail that I had hauled down before the fracas. She
now lay at a sharp angle, and felt the trade wind upon her starboard
Yellow Dog came into the forward cabin. He stopped a moment near me,
then kicked me savagely, muttering strange sounds in his own language.
I told him fluently in good seaman’s English just what I thought of
him, and if he did not understand me he was something dense, for I’ve
had every kind of human under the sun on my ship’s deck, and I have so
far failed to notice any who could not understand me when I let off a
few pieces of literature or oratory.
Yellow Dog seemed rather pleased than otherwise, for he called his man,
the walrus-mustached one, and grinned while they held a confab. I took
it that something choice would be handed me within a very short time.
When I had a chance to ask the skipper, he told us we were within forty
miles of Pearl Harbor. From the way we nosed into the breeze, the
schooner was now heading northwest across the ocean, giving the harbor
a wide berth.
“What’ll they do?” I asked him.
“Sink her, with us aboard–take the ten thousand dollars in the safe,
and make a get-away with it. They’ll turn up ashore in some deserted
place, and that’ll be about all. Then they’ll divide the swag,
separate, and Yellow Dog will go his way–probably back to China. It’s
not much money when you think of it for a white man, but it’s a whole
heap for a Chink.”
After the day had well advanced we heard noises on deck. The foresail
was lowered, or, rather, let go by the run, the noise of tearing gear
sounding plainly. Topsails, staysails, and everything forward except
the jib were cut away. Then the spanker was lowered, and left threshing
about, half up, with the sheet hauled amidships. The jib was hauled
to the mast, and the schooner lay hove to in the trade swell, riding
easily upon the sea, and remaining very steady.
We heard them getting out the boats, and there was much noise from aft
where the safe was fast to the deck in the captain’s cabin. Finally a
terrific explosion took place there, and after that the noises died
“Blew it,” said Slade.
A smell of smoke now began to be apparently in the confined air of the
“Good Lord! Are they going to fire us?” asked the mate.
“Safest way, I suppose. Knock a hole in her bottom first, set her on
fire, and then get out,” I said.
“But the girl?” asked Slade.
“Oh, Yellow Dog will take care of her–probably take her along with him
in the boats.”
“Not if I know it. Man, do you know what that means?” he panted,
straining at his wrist lashings.
“Well, it’s a mighty bad outlook, but if you can stop it, sing out;
I’ll help,” I said.
The smoke grew more dense in the confined space. The noise of hoisting
gear died away, and the shouts of men from a distance told that they
already had the small boats over, and were alongside.
Slade strained away at his lines, and I did, also, but we were fast.
Gantline muttered on the transom, and began to choke with the smoke.
Suddenly a form burst into the room. It was Oleson, the carpenter. He
slashed at our lashings with a heavy knife, and in a moment we were
We dragged ourselves out on deck, crawling to keep below the rail, so
that we could not be seen from the small boats. Two forms lay right in
front of a door–two of our men who had been killed. Not a sign of a
wounded Chink, or dead one, either. They had taken them along if there
“I cut loose,” said Oleson; “rubbed the lashings on a broken bottle
they left on deck near me. They’ve knocked a few holes in her, and
it’s up to us to stop them up before the schooner sinks. She’s on
fire forward–whole barrel of oil poured over her decks and lit up
“Looks like they have her either way, then,” said Gantline. “But we’ll
try the fire first, and take a chance at her settling under us.”
I peeped over the rail and saw the boats–three of them–about a
mile distant. Then Slade and I ran below aft. The two passengers had
apparently gone with them, and the cabin was empty. Gantline, with
Oleson and six men left alive aboard, fought the fire, and we joined
Half an hour’s work and we had the fire out, but it had played the
mischief with the running gear, having burned up plenty of line that
lay on the deck. Oleson and Slade went below forward, while Gantline
and I went after to find where they had knocked holes in her bottom.
The sound of rushing water told us the position of the leak almost
before we reached the lower deck. They had not done much of a job,
having cut squarely into her just below the water line, trusting to the
fire to finish their work for them.
Calling all hands, we jammed a mattress into the hole, and then passed
a tarpaulin down on the outside. Oleson spiked planks over the wad,
and we had a fair stopper on the place. Then we set to work to get the
canvas on her.
Yellow Dog, finding that the schooner was not burning quickly, put back
in his boat to see what the trouble was. We were then at the gear, and
he soon saw us. His men sent the boat along with a will, and they drew
close aboard in a few minutes.
We were now without arms, and he seemed to be satisfied that he would
get us without trouble. It was blowing fresh, and the schooner was
drifting bodily to leeward.
We crammed the oil-soaked stuff from her decks into the donkey boiler,
and as the fire was already burning, and steam was almost up, we
waited, while some of us hoisted the headsails and swung her head off
before the wind. The mizzen was swayed up, and in a few minutes the
schooner was under good headway, sliding along at four or five knots,
and keeping the boat at a distance.
“Now, then, my hearty, we’ll soon fix you,” said Gantline.
Between moments of desperate work we had a chance to see that the other
boats were also coming back after us. At the present rate we were
holding our own, and Yellow Dog stood no chance to catch us, but he
kept on, and managed to get within a couple of hundred yards.
From here he opened fire upon us with the heavy six-shooters, and we
heard the spat of the lead in the canvas, but for ourselves we kept
below the rail, and the power of a revolver was not enough to bother us
Soon Oleson announced that we could put the halyards to the winches,
and we sent the foresail and mainsail up in no time. Then we set the
spanker and had all the lower canvas on her.
The schooner lay well over under the pressure, and we sent her along a
good ten knots, while we cleared up the gear and made things shipshape.
The boats were soon black specks in the sunshine.
“Now, then, let’s get to work on that yellow boy right,” said the old
“No, don’t let him get too far away from us,” said Slade. “The two
ladies are in that boat with the big Chink, and we better attend to it
We hauled our wind and began reaching back, the boat with Yellow Dog
being kept right under the jibboom end.
“I reckon I’ll take the wheel and you go forward, Mr. Garnett,” said
“Will you run him down?” I asked.
“Without any mistake at all–if you’ll give me the course right when he
gets in close,” said the captain.
“But the ladies, the passengers?” said Slade.
“We’ll do the best we can for them–just as well to get killed that way
as to get away with those fellows, isn’t it?”
The men took to the idea at once, and we grouped close under the
shelter of the windlass, watching the schooner run. She was going a
full ten, and rising and falling with a rhythmic motion, her side,
where the patch was, being almost clear of the sea.
Yellow Dog saw us, and knew what we intended to do. He swung his boat
around and pulled dead into the wind’s eye, knowing that if we missed
him we would not get a chance to strike again until we beat well up
to windward of him. He would make it warm on deck as we came close,
and Gantline took the precaution to place a few boards against the
binnacle, so that he could crouch behind them when the firing began. I
was to wave my hand which way he should steer, and he was to keep me in
We drew rapidly up to the boat. Yellow Dog stood up in the stern, and
held a long, black-barreled revolver in his hand.
We crouched lower, and the schooner bore down upon the boat. I waved
my hand to starboard, and Gantline gave her a few spokes. Yellow Dog
backed water, and the boat would have gone clear of the cutwater, but
at that instant a heavier puff of wind heeled the schooner over, and
she luffed to a trifle, her cutwater rising upon a swell.
Then, with the downward plunge, she shored through the small boat,
striking it fairly amidships.
I was so taken up with the affair that I poked my head too far over the
rail, and a bullet ripped my cheek open, knocking me head over heels
with the shock.
I scrambled to my feet, furious with the pain and excitement. The
fragments of the small boat drifted alongside, the after part going to
leeward, and dragging along the channels. I saw Slade spring upon the
rail for an instant, and then plunge overboard.
Holding my bleeding face with one hand, I ran to the forechannels, and
saw Yellow Dog grasp the chains as they washed past. He had a mighty
grip, and that hand hold of his was a wonder. He drew himself into the
chains, and, without waiting, clambered up and over the rail, springing
to the deck right in front of me as I backed away.
Oleson saw him coming, and so did a seaman named Wales. The three of us
closed on him, and dragged him down, and we rolled in the lee scuppers,
a fighting, snarling pile of humanity, while Gantline let the wheel go,
and ran to help us.
Yellow Dog tossed the three of us off with the ease of a man throwing
aside children, and would have taken charge in another moment, but
Gantline, running up behind him with a handspike, swung the bar down
with full force upon that little skullcap, and the giant Chink
stretched out harmless. We had him trussed before the schooner had
stopped her headway into the breeze.
Then we ran to the side, and looked for Slade. He was swimming easily
about a hundred yards astern, holding the form of Miss Aline with one
hand, and keeping her head clear of the water. All about were the forms
of swimming Chinamen.
Quickly backing the headsails, we sent the schooner astern, drifting
down upon the mate. I made a line fast to a life buoy, and flung it far
out. After what seemed a long time, we finally had the mate fast to it,
and were hauling him in. Soon he was taken aboard, and Miss MacDonald
was carried below. Then we went to work trying to pick up the Chinks.
Many of these refused to come aboard, preferring to die in the sea.
Some we caught and dragged up forcibly. We caught most of them, and
then hauled our wind for the two boats that were now almost out of
Within a couple of hours we had the first alongside, and she
surrendered. In it was Miss Aline’s aunt, and she was passed below
insensible. The other boat took longer to get, but we finally got
her alongside, and the men out of her. Forty-seven Chinks stood the
muster. We had lost ten of them and two of our men in the fracas. Miss
MacDonald came out of her faint, and from her room, where she had
locked herself. She fell into the arms of her niece.
“Oh, the brave men, those romantic sailors, those heroes!” she cried,
in an ecstasy of joy, and she gave me a look worth millions.
“Hush!” said Miss Aline. “Perhaps if those heroes had been a little
more gentle there would have been no trouble–but I am glad we are
saved. Mr. Slade risked his life for me.”
The Kanaka cook crawled from the lower hold, where he had hidden at
the first outcry, and the stewardess came from the lazaret. We came
into Honolulu that evening with the police flag flying, and turned the
big Chink over to the authorities for treatment. His lieutenant of the
walrus mustaches was missing.
Miss Aline came on deck to look around. She saw Slade, and went to him.
What she said to him was none of my business, but Slade was a good man
and a good mate. Afterward she came to the mizzen where I stood like a
“I suppose you’ll not make the rest of the voyage with us?” I asked.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Oh–er–I don’t know; maybe you don’t care so much for the heathen.
Brotherly love and kindness–fine theory, all right, but we’re not just
ready to put it in practice–willing to wait, you know, until it comes
our way–perhaps a bit afraid—-”
“You are very much mistaken, sir,” she broke in. “You will find out
your error, too, I think, before we get through. I am firmly convinced
that your own actions with that poor heathen are as much at fault as
his, and that if you had not treated him so roughly he would never have
done what he did.”
I grinned. I couldn’t help it. Slade was winking at me from the door
of the forward house. Oh, well, here was a good woman gone wrong in
her theories, and I would not be insolent enough to disagree with her.
I let it go at that. I was willing to wait until she had finished the
voyage–for Slade’s sake. He was a sly dog, that Slade.
We found about two thousand dollars of the money taken among the men
captured. The rest was a total loss, and Gantline bemoaned his fate, as
it fell upon him to a certain extent.
We cleared, leaving the big Chinaman to stand trial with two others as
accessories, and the police absolved me absolutely from all blame in
“No loafing around the ship,” I called to the little yellow chap who
was sitting near the spring line which held the schooner _Tanner_ to
the wharf at Honolulu. The man paid not the slightest attention to me.
“Hey, there, sonny! Move out! Beat it; make a getaway, you savvy?” I
bawled in a louder tone.
Then he arose, and instead of a young fellow I was amazed to find him
at least ten years older than myself–and I had been a ship’s officer
some years. He walked slowly to the vessel’s side, and gazed up at me
where I stood near the break of the poop, holding to a backstay.
She was a modern, short-poop schooner. The sallow little man was not
a Chinaman, nor of Kanaka breed, but a full-blooded Japanese. He was
stout, strong, yellow of skin, and his black hair was too long for his
country’s custom, sticking out from under the rim of a brown derby that
had seen its best days. His eyes were slitlike, keen little eyes, but
there was nothing repulsive in them. They attracted me. For one thing,
he had an open frankness, an honest and fearless look, and his face was
“What you doin’ on the dock, Togi?” I asked, eying him humorously.
“If your august presence will listen, I’ll tell you,” he answered
“Sure, Michael, let her go, and don’t mind my gigantic–er–august
self,” I sniggered.
“In the first place,” he said, “I’m not sonny, being, if your honorable
temper allows, a man of forty. If fine schooner says so, I go with
you as far as Tokyo. There I am the humble cousin of the Honorable
Baron Komuri, son of a Samurai, under the former emperor. I should
like indeed to sail with you, and will—-” Here he stopped a moment,
“Go on, king, old man; don’t let anything stop you from telling your
yarn. Sing it out, and I’ll listen if it breaks a bone.”
“No, no; not king, old man; just Mister Komuri–if your presence allows
me to correct. Your humble servant is but a plain man. Better be plain
man than dead lion, as your excellent books say. I accept plain man,
and go that way if so ship says.”
“We are not going to Tokyo, but if you see the skipper he’ll take you
clear to Manila for a hundred or two yen. You savvy him yen. Must pay,
“Ah, that is of what I wish to tell your honorable self. Allow me to
make myself so humble to tell I have not the yen you ask. I have not
“Nothing doing, kiddo; on your way,” I said remorselessly.
“But I sit on dock end waiting—-”
“Waiting for what?”
“Waiting for two hundred yen to fly up and knock me dead. I wait and no
yen fly up to strike me on the cranium. Now I go with fine ship, and
work like plain man.”
“You have a sense of humor, king,” said I, “and sink me if I don’t try
to get you a job wrastling the dishes aft. How about it? Can you sling
the pots–are you a number-one pot-wrastler?”
“I never wrastle; a little jujutsu sometimes when necessary for take
care, but I work at anything your august self tells. If honorable
commander tells me to wrastle pots, I try him so. I pretty good with
sword or short knife—-”
“Not so fast, king; this isn’t a man-of-war; no fighting here. All the
fracasing done here is done by my august self and the other mate, Mr.
Bill Slade, both, as you say, honorable men, and some hustlers when it
comes right down to handling cloth in a blow. What I want–honorable
ship wants–is a man to give the eats aft–savvy? Bring in the hash
from honorable cook in galley–see? Set dish on table, wash dish off
table. You know.”
“But I am soldier–son of Samurai. I do not like dishwork; but if no
other way, I do mean work to get to Tokyo,” he said sadly.
“You’re on,” I hastened to say. “You’re on, king, but in the future you
will be known as Koko. Savvy?”
“As Mister Komuri,” he interrupted, with a look from those slits of
eyes that called my attention.
“No misters aboard here but my honorable self and mate. Rules of
honorable ship, you know. Sorry, but august skipper has discipline,
and you are soldier. You savvy? We’ll compromise on Komuri. How’s
that–just plain Komuri, steward, hash boy, hey?”
“Your august self, yes; to common men, Mister Komuri, yes.”
“Get aboard, then,” I said. “Go forward to the galley. The cook–that
big Kanaka there–he’ll give you the line. In the meantime I’ll square
it with the boss.”
Mister Komuri sprang over the rail, and made his way as directed. It
was easy to see that he had been in ships before, as what Japanese
hasn’t, since they are a race of seamen.
Our new member took hold without further orders, and I saw him not
again until the land was well astern, and we were on our way to Guam,
with forty-seven chink coolies below, and two lady passengers aft.
This was the second part of our run, the first being from Frisco, where
we had shipped the coolies under the leadership of their gigantic
foreman, who had tried to take the ship and landed in jail for his
pains. The few thousand dollars we now carried in the safe aft was not
worthy of anxiety in regard to protection. Our voyage promised to be
Among our crew were two new hands we had shipped at Honolulu to
help run the ship, also to take care of the Chinese we carried. Our
experience with the coolies had taught us that being short-handed was
not either good or safe. Our arms were now ready, being, as they were,
riot guns full of buckshot, and reliable six-shooters of heavy caliber.
This going out with nearly half a hundred Chinks with but three men in
a watch was all right if the Chinks were good, but we had found they
were not to be trusted. With the leader of the uprising in jail for
murder, and his lieutenant killed, we hoped for an easy life.
We now had four men in watch, with the engineer for the ever-ready
steam winch bunking in his engine house with banked fires and enough
steam always ready to handle line. We were really carrying a full crew
for a schooner, and the expense of the engine was extra, there being
now enough men to handle her canvas easily without the aid of the
One of the new men was a strange-looking fellow, who was neither dago
nor Dutchman. Just what he was I don’t know, except that he was crafty,
watchful, and dodged all work possible. He had a way of looking at you
with eyes that seemed to fathom your inmost thoughts, an affected way
of appearing to understand, and his peculiar silences gave support to
the look. It deceived the old man.
It deceived both Slade and myself at first, but afterward we grew more
discerning, peered deeper into his meaning, and saw–nothing. He was
just a petty, crafty sea lawyer who was looking for trouble to carry
back to the coast, where they love to get masters and mates mixed up in
courts for some violation of the shipping articles.
This fellow’s name was Dodd–Alfred Dodd–and he was called Alf by his
shipmates. Komuri seemed to sense danger the moment he jostled the
seaman in the gangway the first day out. I heard the row from the deck,
and it was short.
“Hey, Jack,” yelled Dodd to the regular steward we had signed on in
Frisco, “Jack, you seem to belong to the nobility now–can’t hand a man
a pot of coffee during the mid-watch no more, hey? Let the king do it.”
“Not king; just plain Mister Komuri,” purred our little helper, as he
“What’s the matter?” asked Dodd. “Don’t four-flush at your title, hey?”
“Aw, give us rest,” said Jack, who was good-natured and liked the
little yellow man, for Komuri did all his work now, and there was no
“I don’t know if honorable sailor means wrong by four-flush,” said
Komuri quietly, “but if he does the finger of Fate will point at him.”
“Wow! Fate will point at me! What der you think o’ that?” sneered Dodd.
“Let’s hope you ain’t Fate, sonny, or I might p’int my own fair hand at
you in return.”
“If honorable seaman will step out to the fore end of ship I’ll show
him just what a son of Samurai means. It will take short time.”
“Sure, king; I’ll go you that explanation, all right. Come right along
while the watch are getting their whack. No one will notice us.”
Komuri jumped like a tiger without warning. He sprang upon the fellow,
and had a strangle hold of his wrist, and twisted over his neck until
I thought he was getting killed. I had to stop laughing to run up and
stop the fracas. Dodd was sweating with pain, and cursing furiously,
absolutely helpless. It was so quickly done that I wondered at it. Of
course, a strong man might grab the small fellow and jerk him out of
his shoes, but that was not Dodd.
“Drop it!” I commanded, and the second steward let go at once, smiling.
“Now, get below, and quit this fooling,” said I, and the sailor waited
for no further orders. “You can show me some of your tricks, you
Japanese juggler, when we have more time,” I said to the little man.
“You interest me considerable. Get to the hash, and don’t waste time
with a fool like that.”
Of course, it might be expected that a man of Komuri’s parts would be
gallant, for it seems always the case when a man is able and unafraid
that he is sure to love with more passion than discernment. Komuri was
not an exception.
Not being at the first table with the passengers, I had small
opportunity to see how he treated Miss MacDonald, but from what Slade
told me I was concerned. The small chap was always in attendance upon
the ladies when they were on deck. He was politeness itself, and he
busied himself with all kinds of little efforts to make them more
comfortable than they were.
“If honorable ladies will allow, I fix the rugs in chairs,” he would
say, and although the weather was tropical, a rug made a softer seat
when they took the air on deck, which they did nearly all daytime while
we ran our westing down beneath the tropic of Cancer.
With a good full month or six weeks before us, and a fair wind on the
starboard quarter all the time, we had a stretch of water to cross
that put one in mind of steamers. The ship ran steadily day and night
at about from eight to ten knots an hour. We seldom touched a sheet
or halyard except to set it up, and the gentle heeling with the trade
swell made the voyage seem like a yachting trip.
Komuri had much time to devote to the comfort of the ladies, and the
elder one seemed to like him very much indeed. He told them stories of
the warlike Samurai, and honor and self-respect stood out plainly in
them all. It was not a bad thing, except that he always seemed to be
something of a hero, and no steward either second or first should be
such a thing where there are seamen around waiting for the job.
“I have always believed that you heathen were very able people,” said
Miss Aline, “and if you were treated properly you would be just as
gentle and tractable as the European races.”
“Heathen,” said Komuri calmly, “are those who do not accept your own
honorable views. Who knows which is right? It is a word we never use in
She looked at him a moment, and said: “You are quite incorrigible. I
hope you are not really bad, after all.”
“Honorable lady must see by how I do–not how I talk; she judge humble
self most true. Her heart right,” said the Japanese, which I thought
was going some for a second steward, especially when I remembered how
Slade stood, or wished to stand, in a certain quarter. I thought it
best to let the humble steward see he was going far enough.
“Say, king, old man,” I interrupted, “Jack wants you to get busy with
the potatoes for dinner. He’s waiting for the peelings.”
Komuri nodded to me respectfully.
“At once, august mate, I go,” he said, and went.
“Quite a superior steward, that Japanese boy,” said the elder lady to
“Oh, he’s a wonder, all right,” I assented; “but his place is in the
galley, and not on the quarter-deck–if I may be allowed to speak of
“And I do hope you will treat him kindly–not as you did the Chinese
man who went bad,” said Miss Aline.
“No fear of it–not the king. He wouldn’t stand roughing–and don’t
call for it. You see, while he goes with the Chinks altogether too much
for their own good, and talks altogether too much for his own, he is
not a Chinaman. Oh, no; he is far removed from the coolie Chinks, as
far as the skipper himself. He’s just a plain little fighting man, that
a good-sized mate like myself could bite in two; but I know him–just
what he’d do.”
“Why, what?” asked Miss Aline.
“I’d hate to tell you,” I grinned.
“You may be a good seaman, but you’re somewhat stupid,” said Miss
Aline, and I laughed outright at her humor.
“What do you think of this fine weather?” asked her aunt to change the
“It’s good as it goes, but it’s the hurricane season, and we can’t
count on it lasting all the way, you know,” I said. “Maybe we’ll hook
right into a typhoon before—-”
“Oh, you always want something rough, something bad,” put in Miss
Aline. “I never saw such a man. Why do you always look for trouble?
Don’t you find it often enough without hunting it always?”
“Sure as eggs,” I said; “but I’m only telling you what I believe, what
the signs show me. I’m not trying to frighten you at all.”
“I think you are perfectly horrid,” said the young woman.
“I hope I’m wrong, at least,” I answered. But as I scanned the perfect
sky I felt that indeed I was trespassing upon the feelings of the
passengers too much, in spite of the fact that I had a mercury glass to
observe in Slade’s room.
The coolies came on deck in the daytime now, and sat in rows along the
waterways, eating their rice and chewing some sort of stuff to fill in
the interval between meals. They chattered a lot, and appeared not to
feel abashed at their former behavior.
At these times the old man would come on deck–it being about the time
he’d take the noon sight–and gaze down at them dismally. He hated
Chinks, and their presence in his ship was more than he could get used
“What good are Chinks, anyway?” he would say.
“Somebody’s got to do the work in hot countries, and you can’t always
get the blacks. They are just like mules, carabao buffalo, or jacks.
They’ll work on ten cents a day and get fat; they don’t know any
better,” I’d tell him.
But he would shake his old, shaggy head and mutter:
“What good, what good, anyway?”
As a matter of fact, they did no harm aboard besides befouling the air
of the alleyways with their eternal opium smoking. They had nothing at
all to do with the men forward, and the only person who appeared to
be able to hold intercourse with them was Komuri. He understood their
lingo or singsong way of telling it, and he would talk to them for
hours during the evening after the supper things were washed up, and
Jack, the steward, had turned in.
I was a bit suspicious of this, for I don’t like men of the after
guard to be intimate with either the crew or the passengers. It starts
something before long, and the voyage across the Pacific is a long one
if nothing else. Slade commented upon the Japanese often, and he rather
disliked our little second steward for his untiring efforts in behalf
of the ladies. Slade was a jealous man, although he was a seaman from
clew to earing, and his attentions to Miss Aline were more and more
marked as the schooner sped on her course.
“Why shouldn’t I get married?” he used to say to me when we had a
chance to be together, which was seldom enough. “Why shouldn’t I get a
wife, and take up the simple life of the farmer? I’ve been through all
the hardness of seagoing, and I’m tired of it. What is a man, after
all, if he sticks to it? He gets to be a skipper of some blamed hooker
that’ll make him a couple of thousand a year when he is too old to
enjoy spending it. Then he loses her, maybe, and then where is he? A
fit subject, for the sailors’ home. No, I’m going to marry that woman
and get a berth ashore. You watch me.”
Of course, I encouraged him all I thought necessary. I even grinned
at times when I thought of the picture he would make as a husband of a
woman like Miss Aline MacDonald–after he had been on the beach for a
year or two.
And so we ran our westing down, and drew near the one hundred and
sixtieth meridian to the northward of the Marshall Islands. Here the
trade failed us for a wonder, and began to get fitful and squally. At
times it would come with a rush, and then die away altogether, the
squalls being accompanied by rain. A mighty swell began to heave in
from the southeast diagonally across the trade swell, and it lumped up
some, heaving the schooner over and rolling her down to her bearings
when the wind failed to hold her.
The glass fell, and the air became sultry, the sun glowing like a ball
of red copper in the hazy atmosphere. The squall clouds grew heavier,
and when the sun shone between them it sent long rays, fan-shaped,
through the mist.
The old man came on deck, and viewed the sea with a critical eye. It
was nearly eight bells, and Slade was on watch. I came out and watched
them take the sun for meridian altitude–both of them sometimes did
this together–and when the bells struck off, Slade came down from the
poop, and joined me on the main deck.
“What’d you make of the weather, old man?” he asked.
“Looks dirty to me; glass falling and the hot squalls coming from that
quarter–whew! Look at it!”
As I spoke a huge roller swept under the schooner, lifting her skyward,
and then dropping her slowly down the side. It was an enormous sea–a
hill of water full forty feet high–and it rolled like a living
mountain, a mighty mass that made nothing of the trade swell, and told
of some tremendous power behind it.
The sea ran swiftly, with a quick, live feeling. As sure as death there
was awful wind somewhere in that peaceful ocean, driving with immense
force and resistless power.
Slade looked askance at the topsails. As he gazed the old man sang out
“Clew up the topsails and roll them up snug. Put extra gaskets on them!”
Then came the main and mizzen along with the outer jibs, and by the
time the watch had their dinner we were close reefing the mizzen and
taking the bonnet out of the foresail.
Miss Aline was on deck, as the sudden motion was so extraordinary that
to remain below meant to be seasick. Her aunt came up from a hasty
meal, and clung to the poop rail and watched us work.
“Oh, those gallant men!” she murmured to her niece. “See how they climb
like monkeys upon that awful sail. Romantic heroes! Yes, Aline, they
are wonderful, and the way that officer talks to them is a revelation.
Just hear him.”
I was at that moment holding forth to a couple of squareheads upon
the evident virtues of passing reef points properly, and I may have
slipped my etiquette a bit, for my language was such that I was almost
persuaded to follow it with action. But I had heard enough. I stopped.
The men went on lazily, growling at the work.
“Reefing a ship in a dead calm,” grumbled one, “ten minutes for the
eats, and then we’ll loose these here p’ints out ag’in, and take the
sail to the winch.”
I was too angry to hear more. Here was an old lady putting me queer
with men who ought to know better than talk when they were expected to
hurry. At least they should not criticize their officers.
“Get along, you Scandaluvian sons of Haman! Get those points in lively,
or the squall’ll break before you know it–an’ I’ll be the rain,
thunder, and lightning!” I roared.
I refused to look at the two passengers, and went to the forward end
of the poop, and looked down at the Chinks, who were seated in the
waterways eating their rice and long-lick–molasses. Just what to do
with these fellows seemed to me a problem. We could hardly lock them in
now, and if trouble came along quickly they would be in it, right in
The old man came from below, and gazed solemnly across the misty sea,
and I went to him.
“How about it?” he asked. “Hadn’t we better house them Chinks now,
before it’s too late? They’ll die of suffocation in those alleyways
with the ports shut fast–I suppose you shut the ports in, didn’t you?”
“Sure. Everything is snugged in below. Komuri saw to it. He knows how
to talk to the Mongolians–tell them they must keep the ports shut.
But I don’t like leaving them on deck, even if it is hot enough to
roast potatoes on the deck planks. How’s the glass, sir?”
“Bottom dropped out of it somehow; mercury concave and ‘way down.
There’s some unusual disturbance knocking about this sea. There’s
trouble ahead–typhoon season, you know. Nothing but wind moves that
awful swell. Look at that!”
A hill of water rolled majestically onward, catching us under the
counter, and sending us along its great, smooth crest, then dropping us
again as we had hardly steering way under the short canvas.
“I’d like to know which way it’s coming–lay our course to drift out
of it, or run, but who knows–who knows before it strikes? I wish you
would see to the gear forward. I don’t want things to get loose. And
take charge. No, sir; don’t let anything out of the way happen while
you’re on deck.”
I saw the old man was getting nervous. The low pressure and the
sultriness were telling on him. He knew what was coming well enough,
and fretted under it. It was hard waiting, even for an old seaman like
himself. Slade came on deck, and puffed carelessly at his pipe, gazing
about, and then going aft to chat with the ladies. He was always ready
to cheer them up. Nothing would happen–positively nothing. There
was no use of their getting nervous at the heavy swell. It had often
happened before–a heavy swell and no wind, ‘way out here in the middle
of the Pacific. No telling where the storm might be, but, of course it
wouldn’t be near us–oh, no.
Oleson came aft to me.
“Shall I lock in the Chinks?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “Lock ’em up, put a padlock on both doors, and see
that they don’t get loose again until this is over.”
Oleson went to Komuri. The Jap listened to him, and then repeated the
order, passing the word like a seaman should, without comment. The
Chinks followed him into their quarters in the alleyways, and Oleson
locked the doors on the outside, putting extra padlocks on them. The
alleyways were upon the main deck, and shut off from the lazaret by a
“If honorable mate will let me open those ports inside, Chinese men
will be able to breathe better–air very hot in there,” said Komuri.
“All right, king; go ahead. And if she lists over and drowns them like
rats in a trap you’ll be the man to loose them–see?” I warned him.
“I’ll take care them, me,” said Komuri. “If honorable ship, she turns
over, me, Komuri, will see to ports. Very hot inside there.”
I turned away and watched the horizon. The haze was thickening, and the
squalls were beginning to come with more force than before. A sudden
spurt of wind sang hoarsely in the rigging, and a drift of spray flew
The men were still at work making things snug when I heard a murmuring,
a moaning, vast, filling the air, then dying away again. It was all
about us, seemingly upon all sides. Then again I heard a harplike note
of great volume. The horizon disappeared in the southeast, and the
blue-steel bank of vapor shut off the sunlight. It grew dark and gloomy.
“She’s coming along all right in a few minutes,” said Slade, who came
near to me and passed on to his room. He came on deck in a couple of
minutes, with an oilskin coat buttoned fast about him, and he sweltered
in its heat. I still stood at the weather rigging.
“Go get your rain clothes on,” he said, coming to relieve me.
“Nix! Let her go as it is–better wet with salt water than sweat,” I
The skipper came forward. He suggested that the two passengers go
below, and Jack, the steward, with Komuri to assist him, managed to get
them below without protest, although it was something like ninety-six
or seven in that saloon.
A white streak spread upon the sea. The squall struck, snoring away
with a vigor that told of more coming. The spumedrift flew over us.
Then another, and another furious blast of wind bore down upon the
schooner, and she lay slowly over until her rail was submerged.
In five minutes the hurricane was roaring over us, and the _Tanner_ lay
upon her beam ends while we struggled with the mizzen, and held the
wheel hard up to throw her off, the weight of the wind holding her down
with a giant hand.
Yelling and struggling, all hands now tried to get that mizzen in. It
was a waste of time. I saw the skipper clinging to the boom and using
his knife upon the canvas, and did likewise. With a thundering roar the
sail split, torn to ribbons. We could not make ourselves heard in the
chaos of sound, but waved frantically our orders and helped as only
good seamen can.
But the _Tanner_ refused to go off. She lay flat out with her
cross-trees in the lift of the sea, and she hung there. The
forestaysail burst with a crack that we heard aft, and vanished as if
it had been snow in a jet of steam. The bonneted foresail held with the
wind roaring over the top of it, spilling away, but still keeping full
enough to keep from slatting and bursting. It was the heaviest canvas
and brand new, and all the time squall after squall bore upon the
straining ship, roaring, screaming with the blast of a gun as the puffs
came and went.
That wind was like a wall of something solid. To move in it was
enough to tax the strength. It pressed one against what was to
leeward–pressed him, held him and bore upon him like a weight of
something solid. To let go meant to run the risk of being blown bodily
away into the sea.
We clung along the weather rail, and hung on with both hands, watching
the white smother fore and aft, but unable to look to windward for an
instant against the blast. The outfly and uproar was so tremendous that
all sounds were lost in it. I found myself near Slade and the old man,
all three clinging to the rail, and gasping for breath. The skipper’s
gray head shone bare in the blast, and the white foam flecked it, and
dripped from his beard, his ruddy cheeks glowing red in contrast. His
teeth were set, and he was just holding on.
For a long time we three hung there, and did nothing but try to survive
the fury of that hurricane. The forward part of the schooner was
blotted out, and I just remember that to leeward, where I could look,
the surge boiled and foamed clear up to the hatch coamings.
I thought of the women below, and knew they were safe for the time
being. Then I remembered the starboard alleyway, and the ports that
Komuri had left open to give the Chinks air. The alleyway was now
completely submerged; the ports far below the surface of the sea, the
Chinamen were caught there like rats in a trap.
The narrow space must even now be filling up, and I thought of the poor
coolies struggling against that door the carpenter had so securely
locked and fastened upon them. They could never break it open, for upon
it we had placed our safety against another uprising, and the double,
two-inch planks bolted crossways would stand more than the weight of
the crowd that would be able to surge against it. The alleyway could
fill entirely without any water getting below.
I grabbed Slade by the arm, and pointed at the lower deck.
“The Chinks–below–can’t get out!” I roared against the hurricane.
Slade grinned a sickly grin and nodded. Then he ducked his head
against the wind and bellowed back:
“Can’t help it–can’t go there–sure death!”
I fancied I could hear the outcries of the imprisoned men, but the
deep, bass undertone of the hurricane roared away overhead and swept
away the impression.
It was sickening to think of it. Fully twenty men were in that
alleyway, and the four eight-inch ports were letting in four streams of
sea water, for the Chinamen would not know enough to jam them full of
clothes or anything they could get hold of, being little better than
animals in point of intelligence.
If the schooner would only pay off she would right herself and let the
openings come above the sea level; but she hung there dead, beaten down
by a blast so terrific that it seemed like a solid wall of something
heavy tearing upon her and crushing her life out. It took the breath
away, and I found myself gasping, trying to get air to breathe, sucking
in the flying drift and spray, and choking, holding one hand over my
nose and mouth to keep from actually drowning in the smother.
It seemed as if we had already been hove down a full hour, and I was
tiring. The schooner held doggedly broadside in the trough of the
sea, which was now appalling in height, and was breaking solidly over
her high rail and upturned side. We could not last much longer in the
dangerous position, and I began to believe we were lost. Our hatches
were closed, and no water could get below unless something gave way,
but it was certain something would go before long under that strain.
I looked hopelessly at the man at the wheel, who had passed a lashing
upon his waist, and was straddling the shaft, clinging to the spokes
with desperation. I wondered if he still held the wheel hard up, but
knew that in her present knocked-down state it would make little
difference, for she would not steer without some headsail to swing her
out and off that mighty sea.
I crawled along the rail, fighting my way hand over hand, passing the
skipper and gaining the edge of the poop. I yelled to Douglas, who was
the man straddling the wheel shaft, but he only shook his head and
ducked from the squalls.
While I bawled for him to tell me what helm she carried, I was aware
of a figure crawling from the companionway to the after cabin. It
came creeping up just under me, up the almost perpendicular deck, and
it looked like a big monkey until it came right into me, and then I
recognized Komuri, our little steward.
Komuri was yellow, a pasty yellow, and his wrinkled face looked old and
haggard. He was only partly dressed, and he clawed the rail frantically
for a hand hold. He looked the worst-scared Jap I had ever seen or
dreamed of. He climbed close to me.
“Men locked in–all die–ports open,” he screeched in my ear.
“I know–can’t help it–door under water–no tools,” I yelled in
reply, and he howled something that ended in a screech that was
unintelligible, for over it all sounded that deep, bass roar,
thundering, booming, vibrating into chaos all sounds.
I watched him, and he climbed past me, making his way forward with
amazing speed, considering he was crawling along a wall which had been
the deck. He made the break of the poop, and disappeared, going in the
direction of the forward house, although how he ever expected to get
there was beyond reason.
Something made me follow him, and soon Slade and myself were at the
edge of the poop, and gazing down at the partly submerged door of the
starboard alleyway. While we looked, Komuri came climbing along the
rail of the ship, disappearing now and then under the solid water that
swept her, but, to our amazement, still keeping hold of the pins, and
gaining slowly toward us.
In one hand he held Oleson’s ax, and he was coming toward us, coming to
do a piece of work we had already given up as impossible.
No word was spoken as Komuri struggled up to where we clung and gasped
for breath, half drowned in the rush of water.
I passed the end of a line about him after a fashion, and he dropped
off to starboard down the steep slant, and instantly went under as a
huge sea fell over the schooner.
We held the line. Then we saw him again, and he was hacking away at the
door, chopping at the lock and staple while he swung scrambling with
his feet against the planks. Slade thoughtfully dropped down other
lines, and made them fast.
I could see little of what was going on. The seas were breaking over
us now with tremendous volume, and it seemed only a question of a few
minutes before the schooner must go down, anyhow, for she couldn’t lie
on her beam ends very long without something giving way.
The work of getting at those Chinks appeared to me now a useless labor.
We would all be where there was no caste, no coolies, in a short time.
And yet such is the habit of a seaman, he works on against certain
failure at times, when ordinary folk would accept the verdict and quit.
I held Komuri until my arms were nearly paralyzed, and I was fainting
with exertion and lack of air. The first thing I knew of what he had
done was when a Chink came climbing monkey fashion up one of the lines,
followed by another and another, their yellow faces pasty and drawn,
and their pigtails streaming after them. They clung along the weather
side, and lashed themselves fast to whatever they could find. I saw the
dark figures of a couple fade away in the smother to leeward, and knew
they had gone to where all Chinks go sooner or later, but the rest came
up and clung for life there in the strident breath of the typhoon, and
the booming roar drowned out even their shrieks and yelps.
I tried to haul Komuri up again, but could not. I howled for Slade
to help me, but he was separated by a row of Chinks, and couldn’t
reach me. I hammered the nearest Chinaman over the head in frantic
desperation to make him haul line and save the little Jap, but the
fellow only ducked the blows, which were too weak to hurt much.
Komuri, exhausted, could not climb back. He could no longer help
himself; and he was trusting to me to get him up from the white smother
beneath that was drowning him. The madness of my weakness came over
me. I had been a bucko mate with ready hand, and could take them by
and large as they came from the dock to the forecastle, but here I was
weakening, holding to a line at the end of which was the bravest little
man I had even seen, the gamest little fighter–Komuri, son of Samurai,
the fighting class of the Japanese.
And Komuri was going to his death because I couldn’t help him. On and
on I struggled with the line, bellowing curses, but I could get little
or no line over the pin, and I was growing surely weaker and weaker.
Then I stopped, and tried to see if there was any chance to help, any
chance to save the little hero. I saw Komuri dangling in the foam, his
face upturned to me, and a smile upon his yellow, wrinkled visage. He
waved feebly to me, and I knew he was signaling for me to haul him
up–and was wondering why I didn’t.
“Oh, my God, you poor little devil!” I howled. “It’s too bad–too bad!”
A gigantic sea crashed over the schooner, a mountain of water. I passed
the line about my waist, and snatched a turn to keep from being washed
away. That was the last I remembered for some time.
When I regained my senses I was lying on the deck, and Slade was
dragging me by the arm toward the cabin doors. The roar of the
hurricane still boomed over us–the wild rush of the sea–but it came
from aft now, and I knew they had at last got her off the wind, and
were running her either to hell or safety.
Ten minutes later I was struggling up the companionway again to the
deck, where the old man was now conning her, and watching her run
seventeen knots an hour before a series of hurricane squalls that
simply lifted her almost bodily out of the sea.
I saw we had passed the center of the cyclone, for we had the wind
almost directly opposite from where it was when we lay knocked down. I
got to the shelter of the mizzen, and from there watched the men at the
wheel hold her as she ran. Some one had loosed a bit of canvas forward,
but it had blown away, and the ribbon streamers stretched and cracked
until they vanished in the blast.
“How’d you do it?” I yelled to Slade, who clung in the lee.
“Squalls let up sudden–hit the center–she righted, and then ran off
when we hit the other side of it!” howled the mate.
“Where’s Komuri?” I howled.
“Don’t know–must have gone to leeward. Some Chinks gone, too–you came
That was all I could get from Slade. But I knew all that was
necessary. Komuri had gone to the port of missing ships. He had died
as a Samurai should, facing his end fearlessly, fighting to the last
for others in the hope to save them, the ones he had tried to help by
giving them air and leaving their ports open when they should have
been closed. He had known his responsibility, and had done what we had
failed to do.
There were three Chinamen missing, but our own men were safe. They had
got under the side of the engine house, where they were protected from
both the sea and wind. They clung there until the vessel righted, and
then turned to with a will to save the ship.
We ran the _Tanner_ all that day and the following night, keeping her
before a mighty sea that almost overran us. She steered well once she
got off before it, and after we got canvas on her forward she was safe
enough. It had been a close squeak for all hands, and we breathed
easier as she ran out of the disturbance and came again upon her
course. A week later we ran her in behind the reef of Guam, and came to
anchor off the town of Agaña, where we were to discharge part of our
cargo and the Chinese.
In behind the barrier we ran her without further incident, and as
the wind fell we rolled up the canvas and let her drift into fifteen
fathoms before letting go the hook.
The ladies came on deck for the first time since the typhoon, and gazed
happily at the beautiful island crowned with green, tropical foliage–a
welcome relief to the eye that had seen only the blue water for so
long. They were to leave us here, and we were to go on to Manila,
coming later to take them back upon the return voyage. It would give
them three months on Guam.
“Where is our little Jap, Kamuri–we haven’t seen him for a week?”
asked Miss Aline. “He was nice about getting our things together–we
really must have him help us ashore.”
“Hasn’t Slade told you?” I said.
“No. What do you mean?” she asked in surprise.
“Komuri is dead–lost in the typhoon–he saved the Chinks,” I answered.
Both women gasped their surprise.
“I am so sorry!” exclaimed the younger.
“And he was so good,” said her aunt. “I wondered why Mr. Slade hadn’t
spoken of him before. I suppose it’s because Mr. Slade feels that he is
now to be your guardian and must protect you from all ill news–oh, I
forgot–you hadn’t heard. Yes, Mr. Slade is the man. He saved Aline’s
life, you know, and they are to be married after we get back. Strange
he didn’t tell you.”
I thought so, too. Slade was a sly dog–and he had used my collars,
also, in his wooing. I was–well, I was ready to congratulate any man
who could make up his mind to marry.
But I turned away so abruptly that I thought I had to apologize to
Slade afterward, to keep from getting in a row with him. But Slade
understood, and squeezed my hand.
“There’s some of that port left over below,” he said, and he led the
He filled two glasses to the brim, handing me one.
“To your health–and that of Miss Aline,” I said stiffly, feeling that
there was something to say, or do.
“No,” said Slade slowly, thoughtfully, “to the best man.”
“Sure–to me, the best man at the wedding?” I said, in feigned surprise.
“Oh, no,” corrected the mate. “Not at all–although you are not so bad,
old chap.” He raised his eyes and looked straight into mine. “We drink
to the best man in the ship–who was in the ship–to Komuri.”
And we drained our glasses.